Identifying Place Names in German documents
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==== Introduction ====
==== Introduction ====
What do these names have in common: ''Geminipontis''? ''Duobus Pontibus''? ''Biponte''? ''Deuxponts''? ''2brücken''? ''Czweynbrucken''? ''Tzweinbrucken''? Each place refers to the locality name ''Zweibrücken ''as found in original German documents. Interpreting place names can be a challenge for all researchers. It becomes the "highest priority" to determine the correct spelling of a place name. Indeed, without such knowledge, it is virtually impossible to proceed.<br> When you find two or three German family researchers huddled in a library around one microfilm reader in animated conversation and with puzzled looks on their faces,
What do these names have in common: ''Geminipontis''? ''Duobus Pontibus''? ''Biponte''? ''Deuxponts''? ''2brücken''? ''Czweynbrucken''? ''Tzweinbrucken''? Each place refers to the locality name ''Zweibrücken ''as found in original German documents. Interpreting place names can be a challenge for all researchers. It becomes the "highest priority" to determine the correct spelling of a place name. Indeed, without such knowledge, it is virtually impossible to proceed.<br> When you find two or three German family researchers huddled in a library around one microfilm reader in animated conversation and with puzzled looks on their faces,they trying to determine the correct spelling of a place name [or surname]. Place names as they occur in German documents are not really misspelled. They reflect the language, dialect, the education, and sometimes even the frugality of the scribe. The location (place) where the document was written must also be taken into consideration. Researchers should ask these questions? In what language was the place name written? Has the name been Latinized? Was the document written near the boundaries of another language area, for example: France ? Denmark, or Poland? Was the document recorded in a German colony in Russia or Hungary? When was the document written? Is the handwriting difficult to decipher? thename been abbreviated? The answers to these and numerous other questions will help you determine the spelling of a given name so you can locate the place name on modern maps and in modern gazetteers.<br> German research is first of all locality" research, then surname research. To begin genealogical research in Germany, Switzerland, Austria, and other German-speaking areas in Europe it is necessary to know the exact place of origin. In many areas of Germany "even the slightest error in the locality searched could easily produce a pedigree of incorrect lineage." A surname can be very common in any given area. Search for complete family units, specific time periods, verify the location, and search all available records to build a correct pedigree.
==== Phonetic Spellings ====
==== Phonetic Spellings ====
Revision as of 17:42, 13 February 2012
IDENTIFYING PLACES NAMES IN GERMAN DOCUMENTS
What do these names have in common: Geminipontis? Duobus Pontibus? Biponte? Deuxponts? 2brücken? Czweynbrucken? Tzweinbrucken? Each place refers to the locality name Zweibrücken as found in original German documents. Interpreting place names can be a challenge for all researchers. It becomes the "highest priority" to determine the correct spelling of a place name. Indeed, without such knowledge, it is virtually impossible to proceed.
When you find two or three German family researchers huddled in a library around one microfilm reader in animated conversation and with puzzled looks on their faces,they may be trying to determine the correct spelling of a place name [or surname]. Place names as they occur in German documents are not really misspelled. They reflect the language, dialect, the education, and sometimes even the frugality of the scribe. The location (place) where the document was written must also be taken into consideration. Researchers should ask these questions? In what language was the place name written? Has the name been Latinized? Was the document written near the boundaries of another language area, for example: France ? Denmark, or Poland? Was the document recorded in a German colony in Russia or Hungary? When was the document written? Is the handwriting difficult to decipher? Could the name have been abbreviated? The answers to these and numerous other questions will help you determine the spelling of a given name so you can locate the place name on modern maps and in modern gazetteers. Luckily, modern resources, like "reverse-sort indexes" and phonetic gazetteers available on the Internet, can simplyfy the search.
German research is first of all locality" research, then surname research. To begin genealogical research in Germany, Switzerland, Austria, and other German-speaking areas in Europe it is necessary to know the exact place of origin. In many areas of Germany "even the slightest error in the locality searched could easily produce a pedigree of incorrect lineage." A surname can be very common in any given area. Search for complete family units, specific time periods, verify the location, and search all available records to build a correct pedigree.
When a phonetic spelling of a place name is given, it can mislead the researcher to the extent that it is impossible to proceed with the research on a certain ancestral line. Gerhard Jeske, retired reference consultant at the Family History Library once recounted an interesting account of a perplexing place name problem brought to the library by a German patron. It shows how misleading a phonetic spelling can be.
Some time ago a patron came to the Family History Library with a German research problem and asked a reference consultant for assistance. The problem was to find records of a place in Germany by the name of "Viceneck." When the reference consultant looked at the given spelling of this place name, he knew immediately that this was a phonetic spelling. He was sure that a place with such spelling would not be listed in any of the German gazetteers, but he checked the gazetteers anyway to satisfy the patron.
After the gazetteers had been searched without being successful in finding this place, the reference consultant began to analyze the problem to determine what the German spelling for this place could be. Viceneck is not a Germany spelling but a phonetic American spelling. The German spelling could be Weisneck, Weissneck, Weisnek, Weissnek, Weisseneck, Weissenek, Weisnick, Weissnick, Weisnik, Weissnik, Weisnich, Weissnich, etc.
The reference consultant then check the gazetteers for many different spellings but could not find any of them, and he realized that such place does not exist. He wanted to get a clue and find out what was wrong with the spelling of this place name in order to help the patron with this research problem. The consultant asked the patron how the spelling of this place name was obtained and who had given the name to the patron. He was informed that the name of the place was given by word of mouth by a living relative from Germany who did not speak English too well.
When the patron asked this relative where his ancestor was born, the answer given was: "Weiss nicht." The answer had been given in the German language. "Weiss nicht" translated into English means "I don't know." The patron, who didn't know the German language thought that "Weiss nicht" was the place where the ancestor was born, which phonetically spelled would be recorded as "Viceneck."
Places by the same name
Phonetic spellings of place names is only one of several difficulties in trying to determine correct spellings for places of origin for ancestors from Europe. Another difficulty is that there are sometimes several places by the same spelling in the same province or canton of a German-speaking country. More often there are places by the same spelling found in different provinces or cantons of a certain country. It is also possible that the place name could refer to a place name in a German-speaking area outside of Germany. Problems of this nature are often difficult but not uncommon.
The gazetteer of the 1871 Empire of Germany is titled Meyers Orts- und Verkehrs- Lexikon. This gazetteer lists:
35 places by the name of Rosenberg
44 places by the name of Kirchberg
60 places by the name of Bruch
32 places by the name of Bruck
48 places by the name of Bühl
75 places by the name of Holzhausen
81 places by the name of Grünhof
96 places by the name of Weinberg
100 places by the name of Moos
308 places by the name of Neuhof
347 places by the name of Neumühle
In a recent article in the German periodical Saarländische Familienkunde Bernd Gölzer discusses some of the common errors that can occur in family history research. Focusing on place names he identifies some of the problems that have occurred in the compilation of local family books and family histories when the wrong assumptions have been made by the authors. He illustrates with the place name "Brücken," denoting the word "bridge." He notes that in the church books of Niederkirchen, "Brücken" stands for "Osterbrücken," in the church registers of Mimbach, it stands for "Ohmbachbrücken," and in the court records of Blieskastel, it stands for "Bliesbrücken." He also questions why researchers only search records of Kutzenhausen by Augsburg or Herbitzheim an der Blies when they find these names listed in a family book, when the same place names can be found in the bordering areas of France. He suggests that authors compiling local family books and family histories should clearly identify small localities, such as mills and farms to make searching easier for other researchers.
In another example from this same article Gölzer mentions the entry of the marriage of Georg Pitz of Biernbach and Anna Gitinger from Kirkel. The author of one town family book has assumed Biernbach is the same as Birnbach im Rottal. This false assumption has misled many researchers. He explains that "Biernbach" is generally known as "Bierbach bei Blieskastel," and there the marriage entry Bietz-Gutdücken will be found, noting the spelling variation of the surnames.
In "Place Names in German-Speaking countries", Gerhard Jeske gives this research example:
Family Tradition might say that an ancestor who spoke German came to the United States from Europe in 1825 from a place by the name of Baden. If this ancestor came from Germany, there are at least three possibilities as to the place of origin.
1) The ancestor may have come from the former grand duchy of Baden.
2) His place of origin might be the city of Baden, now known as Baden-Baden, which is a district city in the Schwarzwald area (Black Forest) in the former Grand Duchy of Baden, now in the German state of Baden-Württemberg.
3) The ancestor could have come from the village of Baden in the district (Kreis) of Achim in the former Prussian province of Hannover, now in the German state of Niedersachsen.
In addition to these three possibilities in Germany, there are two more possibilities, one in Switzerland and one in Austria.
1) The ancestor may have come from the city of Baden in the Canton of Aargau, Switzerland.
2) His place of origin might be the city of Baden in Niederösterreich (Lower Austria), Austria.
In such cases every possible effort should be made by the researcher to find some facts in addition to family tradition as to the place of origin of the ancestor, by searching existing records in the United States which might tell where the ancestor originated in Europe.
Gazetteers and Place Name Dictionaries
Did your ancestor come from Schweindorf [Hog village]; Black Cat [Schwarze Katze, Pomerania]; Sumatra [in Brandenburg]; Over-seas [Übersee, Bavaria]; White Flea [Weisse Floh]; Yorkstown [Brandenburg]; Pommern [in Rhineland]; To the Seven Electors [zu den sieben Kurfürsten, Silesia]; or did he live in one of the 20 places in Germany called Amerika? These are just a few of the unusual place names found in German gazetteers.
A "gazetteer" is a geographic dictionary. Genealogists use gazetteers to obtain information such as, where, in a certain country, their research is centered, where a given place is found, how its name is spelled, or, if the place is small, where, in a nearly town or village, parish, court, or civil records can be located.5 Place name dictionaries provide examples from documents showing the evolution of a place name and its many spelling variations.
When an exact place of origin is known and the researcher wants to find it, gazetteers must be checked. Gerhard Jeske identifies some of the important gazetteers for Germany, Switzerland, Austria, and German settlements in other European countries . Many others are available in print and also on the internet.
Gazetteers - Germany
Meyers Orts- und Verkehrs- Lexikon des Deutschen Reichs [FHL 943 E5mo; Film 496,640 and 496,641; fiche 6000001 to 6000029).
Müllers Grosses Deutsches Ortsbuch [FHL 943 E5m]
Gemeinde und Ortslexikon des Deutschen Reichs [FHL 599,563].
Amtliches Gemeinde- und Ortsnamenverzeichnis der Deutschen Ostgebiete under fremder Verwaltung [FHL 943.8 E5b; film 824,243].
Kleiner historischer Städtenamen-Schlüssel für Deutschland und die ehemaligen deutschen Gebiete [FHL 943 E5ve].
Schweizerisches Ortslexikon [FHL 949.4 E8s].
Geographisches Lexikon der Schweiz [FHL 949.4 E5g; film 599,323]
Historisches-Biographisches Lexikon der Schweiz [FHL 030.494 H629a].
Ortsverzeichnis von Österreich [FHL 943.6 E5o]
Müllers Ortsbuch für das Land Österreich [FHL 943.6 E5om].
Verzeichnis der Post- und Telegraphenämter in Österreich, Ungarn, und in Bosnien-Hercegovina sowie der Österreichischen Postanstalten im Fürstentum Liechtenstein und in der Levante [FHL 943.6 E5a]
German Settlements in other European Countries
Deutsch-fremdsprachiges (fremdsprachig-deutsches) Ortsnamenverzeichnis [FHL 940 E5kt; film 583,457 and 590,387]
Gemeindeverzeichnis für Mittel- und Ostdeutschland und die früheren deutschen Siedlungsgebiete im Ausland. [FHL 940 E5v].
Place Name Dictionaries
The following are examples of place name dictionaries available for German areas. Many others are available.
• Germany - General:
Förstemann, E.Altdeutsches Namenbuch, II Die Ortsnamen, 3 Aufl. Bonn 1913-16.
Krieger, A. Topographisches Wörterbuch des Grossherzogtums Baden. Heidelberg, 1904.
Karlsruhe Stadtamt. Eingemeindungen und Namesnänderungen von badischen Gemeinden. [Name changes and incorporations of towns in Baden, Germany. [FHL 1180442].
Enders, Lieselott. Historisches Ortslexikon für Brandenburg. Teil VIII. Uckermark. [FHL 943.15 E5e v. 8].
Lehmann, Rudolf. Historisches Ortslexikon für die Niederlausitz. Band 2. Die Kreise Cottbus, Spremberg, Guben und Sorau. Marburg, 1979. [DD 491 .L395 L39 Bd. 2]
Kaufmann, Henning. Rheinhessische Ortsnamen. Die Städte, Dörfer, Wüstungen, Gewässer und Berge der ehemaligen Provinz Rheinhessen und die sprachgeschichtliche Deutung ihrer Namen. Munich: Wilhelm Fink Verlag, 1976. [DD 801 .P491 R485].
• Palatine [Pfalz]
Dolch, Martin and Albrecht Greule. Historisches Siedlungsnamenbuch der Pfalz. Speyer, 1991. [LOC DD 801 .P43 D65].
Königliche Preußische Regierung. Verdeutschung polnischer Ortsnamen 1867-1919. [Germanization of Polish place names in Posen and other ethnic Polish areas during the rise of Prussian authority in Germany]. [FHL 474893-474909; 474920-474921].
Dittmaier, Heinrich, Melchers, P., Bach, Adolf. Rheinische Flurnamen: [Dictionary of Rhenish field names. Bonn: Ludwig Röhrscheid Verlag, 1963. [FHL 943.42 E2].
Slownik etymologiczny nazw geograficznych Slaska [Etymological dictionary of place names in Silesia, Poland, formerly in Germany]. Warsaw, 1968- [FHL 943.85 E2r vols. 1-9].
Research Examples Using Gazetteers
Since gazetteers are incomplete it is important to check more than one gazetteer to find certain places. The importance of checking several gazetteers is illustrated in three examples provided by Gerhard Jeske in "Place Names in German-Speaking Countries".
A place from which an ancestor came was given as Gellen, Brandenburg, Prussia. Meyers gazetteer did not list a place by this spelling in the former Prussian province of Brandenburg, but there were three places listed by this spelling in other parts of Germany, two of which were in Prussia. These places were:
1. Gellen, Oldenburg, Germany
2. Gellen, Westpreussen (West Prussia), Prussia
3. Gellen, Pommern (Pomerania), Prussia
Other places in connection with this research problem were given as Jädickendorf and Nordhausen, both in Brandenburg, Prussia. When checking Meyers gazetteer for Nordhausen, reference was made to Göllen. Checking the gazetteer for Göllen reference was found to Jädickendorf. According to these findings the given spelling of Gellen was wrong and the correct spelling should be Göllen.
Meyers gazetteer indicated that there is no parish in Göllen. Trying to find the parish for Göllen another gazetteer was checked. This gazetteer, Gemeindelexikon für den Freistaat Preussen (Gazetteer for the Free State of Prussia), year 1932, microfilm 806,636 did not list a place by the name of Göllen as given in Meyers, but here it was spelled Gellen, and the parish was given as Nordhausen for Evangelical church records and Königsberg/Neumark for Catholic church records.
Next, maps were checked. The map of the German Empire of 1871 [FHL 068,814] page 246 gave the place as Göllen. Another map (#53) published by GEO Center in Stuttgart, Germany listed it as Gellen. The gazetteer Amtliches Gemeinde- und Ortsnamenverzeichnis der Deutschen Ostgebiete unter fremder Verwaltung was also checked, and here the place was also given as Gellen. However, in part B of this gazetteer on page 813 reference was made that the former spelling of Gellen was Göllen.
Example No. 2
A patron wanted to find out where the town of Kleinich, now in the state of Rheinland-Pfalz, was formerly located. Meyers gazetteer was checked but a place by the name of Kleinich was not listed. Then Müllers gazetteer was checked and here Kleinich was found. However, this gazetteer does not indicate the former state or province in which the places were located before World War II. Next the German General Atlas (Deutscher General Atlas), [FHL Ref Q 943 E3m] was checked and on page 71 Kleinich was found. In addition a place by the name of Oberkleinich, south of Kleinich, and a place by the name of Thalkleinich, north of Kleinich, were found in the atlas.
All three of these places are listed in Müllers gazetteer, but only one of them, Thalkleinich, is listed in Meyers gazetteer. When the gazetteer of Prussia was checked it was found that Kleinich was formerly spelled with a "C," Cleinich. This was the reason why it was not found in Meyers under "K," Kleinich. Oberkleinich was also spelled with a 'C," Obercleinich, but Thalkleinich was spelled with "k." The spellings of the places as listed in the Prussian gazetteer (on microfilm 475,861) were also found in Meyers gazetteer and the former province in which these three places were located was Rhineland, Prussia.
Example No. 3
A birth and christening record from the Evangelical parish of Gontkowitz Kreis Militsch, Schlesien (Silesia), Prussia, now G¹dkowice, Wroc³aw, Poland for the year 1839 indicated that the residence of the parents was Nr. Woidnikowe. The residences of the godparents were listed as Ob. Woidnikowe and N. Woidnikowe. The abbreviations N. and Nr. Stand for the descriptive word "Nieder" meaning "lower" and the abbreviation Ob. stands for the descriptive word "Ober," meaning "upper." The birth record was very legible, omitting the possibility of misinterpreting the handwriting.
Listed below are some of the most common reasons why place names cannot be found when the given spelling is wrong:
1. Misinterpretation of handwriting.
2. Incorrect spellings given by those recording the information, including official scribes, ministers, and civil registrars.
3. Localities have been absorbed by larger towns.
4. Places are no longer in existence because of destruction by nature or through wars.
5. Place name changes have occurred over the years.
Taking these possibilities into consideration, 12 different gazetteers were checked to find Nieder and Ober Woidnikowe, but none of these gazetteers listed the places. Following is a list of gazetteers that were checked:
1. Meyers Orts- und Verkehrs-Lexikon des Deutschen Reichs. [FHL 943 E5mo].
2. Gemeindelexikon für die Provinz Schlesien. [FHL 943 E5kp vol. 6]
3. Gemeindelexikon für den Freistatt Preussen, Provinz Niederschlesien. [FHL 943 E5fp Vol. 6]
4. Müllers Grosses Deutsches Ortsbuch. [FHL 943 E5m]
5. Amtliches Gemeinde- und Ortsnamenverzeichnis der Deutschen Ostgebiete unter fremder Verwaltung. [FHL 943.8 E5b Vol. 2]
6. Historisch-geographisches Wörterbuch des deutschen Mittelalters. [Ref 943 E5oe].
7. Henius Grosses Orts- und Verkehrs-Lexikon für das Deutsche Reich. [943 E5ho]
8. Namensänderungen ehemals preussischer Gemeinde von 1850 bis 1942. [FHL 943 E5vf].
9. Deutsch-fremsprachiges (fremdsprachig-deutsches) Ortsnamenverzeichnis. [Q 940 E5kt].
10. Gemeinde und Ortslexikon des Deutschen Reichs (1901). [FHL 599,563]
11. Slownik Geograficzny Królestwa Polskiego. [FHL 943.8 E5c]
12. Spis Miejscowosci Polskieg Rzeszypospolitej Ludowej. [943.8 E5s]
13. Kowallis, Otto. A Genealogical Guide and Atlas of Silesia.
Checking Detailed Maps
In some cases certain places, especially those that are misspelled can only be found by checking detailed maps of different time periods. This was done to find Nieder and Ober Woidnikowe.
A map of the province of Schlesien, scale 1:300,000 was checked [FHL 943.85 E7s] but Nieder and Ober Woidnikowe were not found on this map. However, the map listed the parish of Gontkowitz and a number of other localities that were mentioned in the birth records of Gontkowitz for the years 1838-1849. Just a few miles north of Gontkowitz the places of Nieder and Ober Wiesenthal were found. It seemed that these place names were the spellings for Nieder and Ober Woidnikowe. However, no proof could be found that this assumption was correct.
The map of the German Empire of 1871 [FHL film 068,814) was also checked. This map has a scale of 1:100,000 and is more detailed that the individual map of Schlesien. The area of Gontkowitz parish is shown on page 375. Checking this map brought the same results. The localities mentioned in the birth records of Gontkowitz, including Nieder and Ober Wiesenthal were found, but Nieder and Ober Woidnikowe were not on it. In addition several others maps and atlases of different time periods were checked but it was impossible to find Nieder and Ober Woidnikowe.
The time period involved with the problem of finding Nieder and Ober Woidnikowe was the year 1839. A search was made to find an earlier gazetteer. The search was successful and the gazetteer Die Gemeinde und Gutsbezirke des Preussischen Staates and ihre Bevölkerung was found on microfilm 491,037; 491,038; 491,039; and 491,041. This gazetteer had been prepared according to the census that was taken on 1 December 1871 and it was published in 1874.
The province of Schlesien (Silesia) was found on film 491,039 and the place name index on page 497 indicated that Nieder Woidnikowe is listed in section V under number 138 and under number 230. Ober Woidnikowe was listed to be found in Section V under number 139 and number 231. Section V of the gazetteer covers the district of Militsch. The reason for having two entries of each locality in the gazetteer is that they are listed under both rural communities [Landgemeinden] and Farm Districts [Gutsbezirke].
The gazetteer indicated that Nieder Woidnikowe had a population of 370 on 1 December 1871. The population of Ober Woidnikowe was 223. A comparison with Meyers Orts- und Verkehrs- Lexikon des Deutschen Reichs of the population of Nieder and Ober Wiesenthal was made to find out the difference. Meyers was printed in 1913 and listed a population of 366 for Nieder Wiesenthal and 220 for Ober Wiesenthal. For both places together there was a difference of only 7 people. This observation stressed the fact that Nieder and Ober Woidnikowe and Nieder and Ober Wiesenthal could be the same places as was assumed earlier.
Nieder and Ober Woidnikowe are now located in the province of Wroc³aw, powiat [district]
of Milicz, Poland. According to the parish inventory of Wroc³aw Schematyzm Archidiecezji Wroc³awskiej [FHL 943.853 K22w] the Polish name of Ober Woidnikowe is Wodników Górny, which belongs to the parish of G¹dkowice. Reference was made to the German spellings, Nieder and Ober Woidnikowe.
This example is a good illustration of how important it is to check several different gazetteers to find certain places in Germany and neighboring countries. An excellent overview of German gazetteers and how to use them can be found inA Genealogical Handbook of German Researchby Larry O. Jensen.
Places names in foreign languages
Place names can take a variety of forms when applied to different languages. Note these endings of German place names and the changes that can occur when applied to various languages.
-dorf = ville [French] = wieƒ [Polish] = village
-hof = -gaard [Danish] = farm
-feld = mark [Danish] = field
-wald = -fôret [French] = forest
-mühle = mølle [Danish] = mill
-holz = skov [Danish] = grove
Below are a few French place names and their German equivalents:
Aspach le Haut [Upper] = Oberaspach
Blanche Eglise = Weisskirchen [White church]
Basse Rentgen = Niederrentgen
Bellefosse = Schöngrund
Petite Rosselle = Kleinrosseln
Zabern = Saverne
Both Polish and Russian are highly inflected languages. This means that endings are added to stems of words to signal changes in meanings. Nouns, adjectives and pronouns can be declined and change the structure of a word. A place name can take on a different look when various endings are added. This can be confusing to researchers even if the Polish or Russian equivalent name of the place is known. Some common place name forms in Germany and Polish are:
Ober = górny = upper
Unter = dolny = lower
Gross = wielki = large
Neu = nowy = new
German and equivalent Sorbic place names from the German Postal Directory. Wendish (Sorbic) areas of Germany include these:
Latinization of Place Names
Latin names for localities are found frequently in parish register entries. Villa nova (Latin); Villeneuve (French); and Neuhof (German), and Newtown or Newton (English) are names for the same place. . Latin or Greek place names are very common in University matriculation records. (see illustration). The Latin prepositions "ex" [from or out of] and "de" [from] often precede the Latin places names. Latinized place names when following a preposition commonly have these endings: -anus, -inus, and -ensis. Examples of Latin places names:
Parthenopolis = Magdeburg
Regiomont(i)um or "ex Regiomontanus" = Königsberg or "from Königsberg"
Borussia = Prussia
Marchia = Mark Brandenburg
Gryphiberga = Greiffenberg, Schlesien, Prussia
Guelferbytum or Wolfenbuttela = Wolfenbüttel, Braunschweig
Thomas Otto Achelis in "Die Bedeutung der Universitätsmatrikeln für den Familienforscher" [The importance of University Registers for the Family Researcher] states that students often gave the name of a larger, more well-known city as their place of origin instead of their native village or birthplace. Place names in Latin can be found on the internet at Orbis Latinus online .
Key to Locating Places Names
Often the first letter of a given spelling for a certain place name is incorrect, but many times other letters in the middle of the place name are also incorrect. Some place names may have additional letters at the end which should not be there, other place names may have letters missing that should be there. The researcher who is familiar with German place names may recognize the correct name of a misspelled town or village, but often it is very difficult and sometimes almost impossible to determine the correct spelling of a given place name. The examples below from actual research problems indicate how certain letters may have been used by the scribe and how they appear in modern gazetteers.
Letters A and E
Example: Aichberg, Württemberg found in gazetteer as Eichberg
Letters B and P
Example: Bermesens, Pfalz, Bavaria was the place name given in United States records. It was identified as Pirmasens in German gazetteers.
Letters C and K
Calbine, Arswaldy, Brandenburg = Kölpin, Arnswalde, Brandenburg
Letters C and Z
Example: Cyzow was found in the gazetteer as Züssow, Pommern.
Letters Ch and G
Bercheim = Bergen
Letters Ch, Ck & K
Nache = Nack
Letters Cz and Sch
Ca czulin (parish Zirke) Posen = Katschulin
Letters D and T
Breedsen = Brietzen, Schlesien
Letters E and A
Gutmeudingen = Gutmadingen
Letters E and I
Borodeeno, Bessarabia = Borodino, Bessarabia
Letters Ei and I
Letters F and V
Alfertissen = Alverdissen
Letters F and Pf
Rhinefalls = Rheinpfalz
Letters F and W
Letters F and Ph
Letters G and K
Igen = Ecken, Schleswig-Holstein
Letter H (it can be added to a word or omitted).
Hoen-Selchow = Hohenselchow, Pommern
Letters I and E
Posin = Posen
Letters I and Ei
Kris = Kreis [district]
Letters I and Y
Baiern = Bayern
Letters I and J
Gierrup = Gjerrup
Letters J and Y
Letters J and I
Letters K and C
Letters K and Ch
Tükskov = Tüchschau, Schleswig-Holstein
Letters K and G
Aklitten, East Prussia = Auglitten, Ostpreussen
Letters Ks and X
Rocksheim = Roxheim, Pfalz
Letters L and N
Letters M and N
Letters N and M
Letters O and U
Bookheim, Friberg = Buchheim, Freiburg, Baden
Letters Ow and Au
Schwiesow = Schwiesau
Letters P and B
Stoppen Holstein in United States records is identified as Stubben Kr. Stormarn,
Letters Ph and F
Letters p and ss (Transcribers mistakenly deciphered ß as p)
Prupia [Prußia]= Prussia
Hepe [Heße]= Hessen
Letters Qu and Kw or Kv
Quars [German] is the same as Kvaers [Danish]
Letters R and H
Letters S and Z
Elsens = Elsenz, Pfalz
Letters Sch and Sz
Borschymman, East Prussia = Borszymmen, Ostpreussen
Letters Sch and Ch
Letters Sch and S
Schwanstrup = Svanstrup [Also note that w and v are interchangeable].
Letters Sch and Cz
Letters Sch and G
Letters Sch and Sk
Scheldegaard [German] is found in Danish gazetteers as Skeldegaard.
Letters Sh and Sch
Bamesh Leebow = Böhmisch Liebau
Letters T and D
Alfertissen = Alverdissen
Letters Ts and Z
Letters Tsch, Tzsch and Z
Letters Tz and Z
Letters T and Th
Tedinghaused = Thedinghausen
Letters U and O
Stulp = Stolp, Pommern
Letters U and V
Letters V and F
Letters V and U
Faverby = Fauerbye, Schleswig-Holstein
Letters V and W
Vestermølle = Westermühle, Schleswig-Holstein
Letters W and V
Letters W and M
Letters X and Z
Letters X and Chs
Hexum = Hechtsheim
Letters Y and J
Letters Y and I
Bylevelt = Bielefeld, Westfalen
Letters Z and C
Letters Z and S
Zelnowo = Sellnowo
Note: Vowel sounds can be substituted in a variety of combinations: For example:
ai = aj = ay = ei = ej = ey = eih = eu = äu = oi = oy = ei
aa = ah = a
ä = ae = äh = aeh = ee = eh = ö = öh = e
ie = ih = j = ü = ue = üh = ueh = ui = uy = y = i
o = oh = oa
French and equivalent German names for villages in Alsace (Moselle) can be found on the Internet.
Kowallis, Gay P. The Danish Genealogical Helper, p. 3.
Jeske, p. 2.
Jeske, p. 2.
Reschke, Horst A. "Prussia Gazetteer, a vital tool in German research," in German Genealogical Digest.
Jeske, p. 2-3.
C. Russell Jensen, p. 35.
1. Ferguson, Laraine K. "Census Records in Northern Germany, Pt. 1 Schleswig-Holstein" in German Genealogical Digest Vol. 6 No. 4 (Winter 1990).
2. Gardner, Duncan B. German Towns in Slovakia and Upper Hungary. A Genealogical Gazetteer. Lakewood, Ohio, 1988.
3. Gölzer, Bernd. "Fehler in der Familienforschung" in Saarländische Familienkunde, Vol. 9, pp. 96-107.
4. Heintz, A. "Verschollene Ortsnamen" in Mitteilungen des Historischen Vereins der Pfalz 5 (1875), pp. 49-122.
5. Jensen, Larry O. A Genealogical Handbook of German Research. Revised Edition. Pleasant Grove, Utah: 1978.
6. Jensen, C. Russell Ph.D. Parish Register Latin: An Introduction. Vita Nova Books, 1988.
7. Jeschke, Gerhard. Place Names in German-Speaking Countries. Unpublished manuscript.
8. Kowallis, Gay P. and Elly Poulsen. The Danish Genealogical Helper. Everton Publishers.
9. Minert, Roger. Spelling Variations in German Names: Solving Family History Problems Through Applications of German and English Phonetics. Woods Cross, Utah, 2000.
10. Ortell, Gerald. A. Polish Parish Records of the Roman Catholic Church, Their Use and Understanding in Genealogical Research. Genun Publishers, 1989.
11. Schlyter, Daniel M. A Handbook of Czechoslovak Genealogical Research, Genun Publishers, 1990.
12. Shea, Jonathan D. Russian Language Documents from Russian Poland. A Translation Manual for Genealogists. Genun Publishers, 1989.
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