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German Name Changes?

There are some places in Germany especially the northwest region that have a custom of changing surnames. If you research in Hanover, Westphalia, and Oldenburg, you need to be aware of this custom. Surnames changed based upon the farms, usually of a certain status. Individuals and families who managed those farms would often take on the surname associated with that farm. The right to manage these farms was often passed from one generation to the next but not always. In some cases, a woman maybe in the line to inherit the management of the farm and then her husband would change his surname to hers which was usually the same name associated with that of the farm. Sometimes name changes will be explained and reflected in church records and are usually indicated when the record lists multiple surnames. Some farms use the practice of ultimogeniture, where the youngest inherits the farm. This is much different from what one would traditionally think. For example, if a father is unable to support younger members of his family then the management would pass to the youngest member of the family. Also, this might happen when the youngest son comes of age, the father would be considered ready to retire and then turn over the management of the farm. Refer to this list of list of German Farm words that would be of great help when referring to German Farms.

 

Coat of Arms in Germany?

One must first understand how family crests or coat of arms were used and how they originated. A family crest and coat of arms are pretty much the same thing. In Germany, a family crest or coat of arms is called a "Wappen." They were not always used and were primarily used by nobility and assigned by nobility. When one was used, it was specific to one person in particular. They were not usually assigned to an entire group of people or a family. Often the components of the family crest or coats of arms have a particular meaning and will reflect or reveal something very specicifc to that one indiviual. Furthermore it is improper to just adopt or assume the Family Crest or Coat of Arms of another person as again they are intended to reflect one individual in particular.

 

 

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