Need advice on Mueller versus Müller

+8 votes
I am working on a profile for a person born 1840 Hessen, Germany.  Her last name in the US was Mueller.  And I know these are essentially the same name, but is the correct German form of Mueller-Müller?

I want to make sure I have the correct form from the start so I don't have to change the LNAB later.  I have not yet found her baptism record.

Thank you!
in Genealogy Help by Emma MacBeath G2G6 Pilot (895k points)

Thank goodness for the Other Last Names field.  As you noted I try to get the LNAB as found on a birth or christening record; though, when finding six different records on a person 3 different spellings are not uncommon.  The further back we go, the more we see this as those that could write often used phonetic spellings.  Another reason I've found is when dealing with church or parish records where those who documented names tried to assimilate all Wilson, Welson and Willson names the same, Burton, Bertan, Birtun names the same, Willet, Willit, Willits, the same, etc.  IOW: when searching we need to keep in mind typical variants and sometimes a bit of imagination is required as we look for documents that contain multiple members of the same family.

When I lived in Germany in 1960, a man sued the telephone company to have his name spelled with its proper Umlaut in the phone book, and he won. As I remember, the company thought the alphabetic listing would be easier if no Umlauts were used, which strikes me as odd, because dictionaries have always had a rule for handling that.

3 Answers

+11 votes
Best answer
I lived in Germany a couple years. A word with an umlaut -- ä, ö, ü -- can be spelled, when the umlaut character is not available, as ae, oe, and ue. So, yes, an American Mueller would be a German Müller.
selected by Jen Wiesner
While this treatment of umlaute is true for regular vocabulary it does not hold for person and place names. There one has to follow established practice. There are plenty of notable German Muellers around who do not use an umlaut in their names.

Helmut, you say,  "There one has to follow established practice." 

What is the established practice? Thank you :-)

I meant to go with what the family and official documents use. In the case of the Muellers I listed in my comment to Martin's response the individuals did not use an umlaut and documents for them didn't either although here and there an umlaut may have been used by others. Take for instance Goethe, his grandfather spelled his name Göthe, but everybody thereafter used Goethe except for one edition of his works in the mid 19th century which used the umlaut. His signature of course is known and he signed "Goethe". So nobody in Germany nowadays would use the umlaut for his name. Or Jakob von Uexküll (pronounced [ˈʏkskʏl]), there you have both usages in the same name. Clearly, Üxküll would be wrong.
+6 votes
If born in Germany then definitely LNAB Müller, even if you haven't found a record. You can always add Mueller.
by anonymous G2G6 Pilot (257k points)

Not necessarily, see:

Unfortunately, the only way to be sure are documents showing what form of the name was used. 

Fair enough, although I'd still stick with the umlaut until I knew better.
+2 votes
Emma I have had several emails with German cousins and they have all said basically the same thing.  Both are correct it is really up to the writer if they want to do ue or umlat u.  More and more ue is being adopted because of computer and texting ease vs umlats which are not internationally accepted.  To a person they have told me to use the oe, ue et versions for LNAB because they will be more internationally accepted and searched for.    

I am sure others will have a different view but some of these folks are college professors and one is even a language expert.

and the umlat is not accepted in some login programs
by Laura Bozzay G2G6 Pilot (707k points)

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