Naming Patterns

German families often used the following pattern for naming children.  Again, though, there were several variations used, and often the pattern was disrupted by other circumstances.   When a duplicate name occurred in these patterns, the next name in the pattern was usually used.  Often when a child died in infancy, his/her name was reused for the next child of the same gender. (I have seen this occurrence in my own research) Too, a child's name was sometimes repeated when a spouse died and the surviving spouse remarried and had more children.  This would result in half-siblings with the same name. 




father's father


mother's mother


mother's father


father's mother 






father's father's father


father's father's mother


mother's father's father


mother's father's mother


father's mother's father


father's  mother's mother


mother's mother's father 


mother's mother's mother

Birth/ Baptismal Names

Two names were usually given to a child at birth or baptism.  In Germany, the first name - what we often refer to as a given name - was a spiritual name, usually to honor a favorite saint.  The spiritual name was often used repeatedly in families.  The second name - what we now would refer to as a middle name - was a secular or call name, and was the name by which the person was known.  One of the most common and heavily used saint's names for males was "Johann" (with no "s"), and for females, "Johanna" or "Anna". 

                  Thus as in an actual historical German family that I have researched, we see the how male children named:

        The Fatherís name was: Johann Jacob Barnhart

                               Johann Christian Barnhart b. 1737

                                Johann Jacob Barnhart b. 1749
                               Johann Heinrich "Henry" Barnhart b. 1754

                                Johann Phillip Sebastian Barnhart b.1759

               Respectively, these children would be known as Christian, Jacob, Heinrich (Henry), and Philip)


          Below we see the girls name in this family do not follow the same formulaic pattern:

                                Catherina Elizabeth Barnhart b. 1739
                                 Maria Elizabeth Barnhart b. 1751
                       Respectively, these children would be known as Catherine and Maria (Mary),


Again, these patterns were not always carved in stone, but it is helpful to understand the basic custom when researching German families.  You may know your ancestor was called Henry, and thus assume his name was Henry Something Barnhart, when in fact, his name was Johann Heinrich Barnhart.  If his parents were called William and Catherine, their full names may have been Johann William and Anna Catherine. 


As you can see my example of the particular Barnhart family did not follow the formulaic pattern above but you can imagine that researching ancestry among the Germanic peoples was difficult indeed. Know too, that each of Jacob's sons had sons also named in a similar manner with frequent repetition of the names John, Johann, Jacob or Henry,  (MH)


I copied most of the information above from a website named "Riepe Roots" , because their research is sound and because my own research echoes this.  I thank them for writing it so well.


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