Showing posts with label surname: Bergmann. Show all posts
Showing posts with label surname: Bergmann. Show all posts

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Where exactly are they from?

Obituaries can provide very valuable clues for discovering the origins of immigrant ancestors. However, you need to be careful with information that may have become lost in translation as it passed from the original immigrants to their children or newspaper editors who may not have known your ancestors' language as well or at all.

For example, the first paragraph of Henry Kappmeier's obituary1 provides information about where he and his wife were born.
Mr. H. Kappmeier was born at Furstenthum Waldech at Pyrmont, Germany, Dec. 14, 1830. He came to America in 1854 and married Maria Bergmann of Koenigriech, Hannover, April 11, 1858. Their marriage took place in the now Chicago Avenue Evangeical Lutheran church, Rev. Hartman officiating at the ceremony.
If you are not familiar with German, you may assume that Henry was born in a village called Furstenthum Waldech and his wife in a town called Koenigriech. A simple mistake was made either by Henry's descendants or the newspaper. Furstenthum and Koenigriech are not the names of places, but are the words Fürstentum, meaning "Principality", and Königreich, meaning "Kingdom". Henry was from the Principality of Waldeck and Maria was from the Kingdom of Hanover.

When dealing with a foreign language, the first and most important rule is not to make any assumptions. If you are having trouble locating a place with Google Maps, it might be worthwhile checking a good dictionary like BEOLINGUS, an online German dictionary. Some of the words that you think are just part of a place name may have a meaning that will help you better interpret your records.

1. A copy of the original obituary from the Beecher Herald (Beecher, IL) can be found at Karens-Gen.Com.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Surname Saturday - Bergmann

Some names require a lot of digging to discover their meaning or origin. Surnames derived from place names often fall into this class as they can reflect the entire history of a region. English place names come from every period of its history, with many having obscure Celtic or even pre-Celtic origins. Other surnames have very transparent meanings. Bergmann is one such name. The name consists of two parts berg and mann which in German translate to "mountain" and "man", respectively. As a compound, the term is used for "miner", possibly offering a clue to your ancestors' occupation. Berg is also a common element in many German place names (Königsberg, Nürnberg) and can easily be confused with burg "fortress" (discussed here). This confusion is particularly common for English speakers who do not distinguish between short vowels /i, u, e/ followed by /r/ and thus pronounce burg and berg the same way.

Besides German, these same elements are also common in other Germanic languages. Berg also means "mountain" in Dutch and Swedish, while Danish has bjerg. The name Bergman without double /n/ is also a common Swedish surname, as with the director Ingmar Bergman and the actress Ingrid Bergman.