Question of the Week: Do you have German roots?

+50 votes

Do you have German roots?

I do. Biologically, I have a Holstein line that traces to there.  And Langholf(f), through my adopted lines also (though technically that's more Prussia).

How about you?

PS: Check out our German Roots Project!

in The Tree House by Eowyn Walker G2G Astronaut (1.8m points)
edited by Eowyn Walker
My grandfather, Peter Voiss, was born near Bonn in 1882. He emigrated to the US in 1902 at the age of 20. Have been unable to find much info on his life in Germany.
Yes, genetically more than 50%.  There is Schulz, Willman, Gutjahr and Lude on my mothers side and Stolzenburg and Heigl on my Fathers side.  The rest is English and Dutch.
Yes, my name sake, Teeter. It appears to be from Dieter and from the Bade Baden area of Germany. We know nothing since we cannot confirm when Jacob George Teeter came over but know it's in the mid 1700's. There are others on my mother's side ended up in P.A.
Yes, I have German roots on the paternal side. A notation of 4/7/1752 in the church book in the Village of Baiertal in the Neckar valley region indicate that Mathias Wecker with wife and 5 children left their home for the new land. He was awarded 200 acres bounty grant on Broad River between the mouth Second Creek and the site of Ruff's Ferry in SC.
I skimmed through the project page but didn't find an answer: is German Roots just for the area of the modern country, or for any place that used the language?
Good question J, I'm part of the German Roots Project and I'm sure Kylie our project coordinator will answer if I'm wrong, but we've always said that any person who ethnically spoke the German Language (regardless of area of 'Wohnort' they could put the {{German Roots Sticker}} on the profile.

Historically significant profiles get the Project box {{German Roots}} and become Project protected does that help?
My mother's father's family come from Germany. They are Uehling.
According to my DNA and what I know about my family I am 76% German, most of my family came from Prussian Empire, Elmer side from Switzerland.

 Good question Eowyn. My family emigrated from Silesia around 1840. By language and customs, I agree that I have German roots. At the time my family left, Silesia was a province of the Kingdom of Prussia. Now the region is a part of Poland. I'm comfortable with the tags 'German_Roots', but not so much with 'Germany'.

I'm researching my husband's German roots and I'm stumped. His 3rd great grandfather is named Arcadius Voiss who's father I belive is a Peter Voiss according to a passport I read in Arcadius's handwriting but the "P" in Peter looked like "D". Arcadius was said to be born in Kerpen, Germany Nov. 27th 1869. The paper said both his father and mother were also born in Kerpen, Germany but there wer eno birthdates. Arcadius immigrated to America and owned his own store as a druggist. I'm not sure if our info matches up because of the dates but I just though I'd reach out anyways.

112 Answers

+18 votes
Great question Eowyn! Yes I do have German ancestors, my paternal grandmother's father's grandfather and his wife were from Hesse, Germany. They came to America and John Diegmiller became the first shoemaker of the village of Fulda, Ohio. They had one son and nine daughters. On my maternal grandfather's side he has a set of German ancestors, they came to Pittsburgh and that's all I know about them really besides their two sons. Someday I would love to find out who their parents were and every detail of their lives in Germany.
by Anonymous Rodgers G2G6 Mach 4 (44.1k points)
+15 votes
Melcher? Ha - Yes! That's pretty darned German. I know quite a bit about where my family, and the area my immigrants, came from in 1866 (Erden, Zeltingen-Rachtig and the general area of the Mosel Valley) . I suspected that was all of my German heritage, but through a lot of recent research (helped along by WikiTree), I have found several different ancestors from Gemany in my tree, spread all over the many branches of my tree.
by Matt Melcher G2G6 Mach 1 (14.9k points)
Schlossberg - castle on a hill.  We are German
+11 votes

Rabenstein, Becker, Habsburg, Swartz (Schwartz), Yingling (Juengling), Pitzer, Kupferschmidt, Stambach, Mahl, Abt, Weibel, Fischer, Glunt, Gmeinder, Zepp, Seifert, Schirmann . . . not many German-speakers in my tree smiley

by Kathy Rabenstein G2G6 Pilot (271k points)
My father's family line is from Germany. The name is Becker.
Kathy Rabenstein: Smiles. Big and Broad. Only a little Smirky.

"Prove the numbers."  Shocking. Not!

Ironic. Eager.  -- Yup. Verges on Playful!

Lucky family, Kathy, --more peaceful. Right?
SOS--yes another one of those weak starts:

My father was Germany-born, he and his mother agreed years later. His birth name is Rudolf Berg. He later "took" his mother's husband's last name, Hilse.

That said, He was illegitimate and always knew that. I have no idea how to start looking for his line. He was b. in January (12?) c.1906-7, claiming Frankfurt as place of birth.

That said, there are several towns of that name in Germany. I have not found dates or registration information for them.

It's over a hundred years since his DOB. His mother's last name, Berg, had to have been his surname until his grandmother brought him to the girl (his mother) four to seven years after he was born. (His GM then left to go home, ultimately and within 2 years, she died.) He was thus left in his mother's home in the USA for the first time, speaking only German and probably bewildered by these unknown relatives. I can only hope he had empathy from his birth mother. (That seems unlikely however, since his mother dropped him in his grandmother's care "forever".) Her name was Rosa Baer.

How would YOU start to work on trying to figure out anything normal or regular about his birth mother's family lines? I can't imagine it. Her name is Anna Elisabeth/Elizabeth Berg, and in the USA, she married a Robert Gustav Hilse. Her husband is not genetically linked to my father.

I'm willing to do this work, but I need to be tipped into the correct biographical lake in order to do work. PLEASE HELP!!!
+12 votes
I do! My paternal branches are mostly German. Surnames Haese, Hueppauff, Frost, Jantke, Luhrmann, Mattfeld (Mattfield), Creydt, Meyne, Hasenbalg, Albers, and more. A lot are from Hesse, Germany, but also Silesia, and Stettin, Pommern (now Szcezin, Poland).

Researching German ancestors has been frustrating but also very rewarding. The history of Germany is fascinating. I would never have known if I had not have started researching my family tree.
by Kylie Haese G2G6 Mach 7 (75.6k points)
I have a line from Stettin, Pommern I have hit a brick wall with.  The last name - when written in the United States - was Yess.  Not sure what it would have been in Stettin.  He immigrated to the United States in 1850.
I have seen the surname Voss in Stettin records. Could even be Hess. He immigrated only 1 - 2 years after my ancestor. What port did he embark from do you know? Usually either Hamburg or Bremen ports.
Julie, that Yess would begin with a J (pronounced like an initial Y).  But there are a couple possibilities.
Kylie, I believe the port was Hamburg.
Kathy, I have one document where it was spelled "Jess" and another document where it was spelled "Gess", but each was used only once on documents. The remainder of the times, even on land purchases, etc were all Yess.  Definitely was "Anglicized", but I'm not familiar with possible surnames might match up in Pommern area.  

His name was August Yess b. 1829 in Stettin.
The letter Y is vanishingly rare in the German language.  Z is common, Y is rare - the opposite of English.  On a German keyboard, the positions of the Y and Z keys are reversed from the American/English layout for just that reason.  If you haven't already, try Jess.  The Yess spelling may be an attempt to get English speakers to pronounce the name more or less correctly.
Is the spelling Jenke or Jenke from Poland (Prussia)   Which is correct having trouble finding anything, also the names of Schmoker, and Kippen. Any help appreciated. Schmoker came to Queensland Australia.
I, too, have hit a brick wall regarding my great grandparents, who came from "near Stettin", leaving Hamburg April 1882, through Liverpool, England, arriving Philadelphia May, 1882 aboard the SS Illinois.  Their names were Gustav Meier/Meyer and wife Augusta (nee Ratzlaff or Retzlaff), with 3 children and an infant daughter that died in passage.  My grandfather was born in Milwaukee, WI in 1885, and baptized Evangelical Lutheran.  They were from Prussia/ "Preis" on documents.  Any ideas where to search further?
August Yess might be Gustav Jess or Joss (fairly common) in German records.
+10 votes
Yes.  Baumgart, Hansel, Dollenger, and Mende(?).  They are on my mom's side.  My Baumgarts came to America from Germany in 1854 and settled in Maryland.  My Hansels came to America from Germany between 1870 and 1910 and settled in Maryland.  My Dollengers came to America from Germany in 1835 and settled in Maryland.  My second great grandmother Anna Mende came to America from Germany before 1899.  It is unknown if Mende was her real surname or if it was shortened.  I have a couple of postcards in my possession that was sent to her from her family in Germany.  One does call her Mende.
by Laurie Segers G2G6 Mach 1 (13.0k points)
+9 votes
Yes! I have two separate main lines. They were both from the same area which I find curious because one emigrated to the US in 1717 and the other in the 1890s. I always wonder if they knew each other way back when! They both came from Baden-Frieburg-Black Forest area. They are also both brick walls, grrrrr. The Reams I can only trace with certainty to 1811 in Reading, Pennsylvania. The Thoene (now Tenny) to about 1875. My great-grandfather was an orphan living with relatives (who?)
by Lucy Selvaggio-Diaz G2G6 Pilot (560k points)
That is curious! I have a similar thing in my tree... :)
+10 votes
I do very much so.  My paternal side is solid German, from Westfalen region  near Paderborn, and others from the Baden region. My surname was originally spelled as Stratmann.
by James Stratman G2G6 Mach 8 (84.6k points)
edited by James Stratman
oh, I have a great aunt that married a Harry Stratmann! He was probably from Berlin and she was born in Breslau, Germany 1904. I’m sure pretty sure Harry is a nickname for something, but I don’t know what :(

Yes, Stratmann, isn't the most common name in America but more common in Germany. There were quite a number in the St. Louis area also. I guess they could be from all over Germany but my ancestors were from Wunnenberg, Germany near Paderborn. There's a well-known actress, comedienne, and author named Cordula Stratmann from Germany, from Dusseldorf.

The German for Harry is Heinrich or Henrich, if you're from the very North of Germany.
Thank you, M. Lohmeyer! I’ll try searching that way. :)
Yes! my paternal grandfather was from Schleswig-Holstein, possibly what is now known as Rensburg.  Not certain if the last name is spelled Kock or Koch.  First name: Henry. DOB 08Feb1872. I have photos of houses and people, the names of siblings, but have never found his parents.  Brick wall.
And Heinrich may be shortened to Heinz as a familiar (my grandfather was called this).
KocK would be extremely uncommon; Koch (cook) is very common.
Is that where Heinz ketchup comes from?
+10 votes
Yes and on both sides of my family.  Steinhauer, Ruemenapp, Breitenstein, Haase, Nachtweiy, Oyer to name a few.  My grandmother Ruemenapp was the first child  born in the United States.  My maternal side was from  Eichsfelt, Kreuzeler.  My paternal was from Hanover, Rheinland-Pfalz, and Bavaria.
by Laura Nixon G2G6 Mach 1 (11.5k points)
Haase, do you know much about that surname?
No I don't.  I have a Casparus Casper Haase born 27 Jun 1776 in Kreuzebra,Thüringen wth a father named Joannes Sebastian born about 1745.

Casparus is my mother's 2nd great-grandfather. I have no other details.

Oyer might be an anglicization of Heuer.  Ruemenapp doesn't look terribly German unless it is a dialect with which I am unfamiliar (very possible).  Nachtweiy is also likely a misspelled name.  Wei- is common enough, but not Weiy.  I wonder if it might be something like Nachtweih.

Well, that is the information I have.  The ship record I found listed Krenzebor, Hannover as place of residence.  I have seen multiple spellings of the name Ruemenapp, which I'm sure is Americanized.  Rumenab is another spelling I have seen with locations in Kirchenbuch St. Sergius Und Bachus, Kreuzebra and Kreuzebra, , Thüringen, Germany,  I assure you, my grandmother's family is German.  

Oyer I have seen spelled Hauer, Eue, and Heur.  The Oyers were in Hanover also.  It is difficult to search as some relatives in the same generation, brothers and uncles, changed the spelling of their name.

+10 votes
I sure do. My great grandmother on my father's material side was from Germany. She met her future husband on the boat coming over from the UK. She spoke nary a word of English, and he spoke nary a word of German. But they fell in love, landed in Canada, got married and had a slew of children and the rest is history. check out the profile below --

by Steve Maxted G2G2 (2.8k points)

Now that is a great story! It is the stuff romance novels are made of laugh 

+10 votes
Yes, and it's my only brick wall in my whole family tree!  My great grandfather went by the name of Oswald Fuchs.  He was born 15 Aug 1856 in the area of Germany that was called Saxony at the time.  He died in a tragic paper mill accident near my home town on July 15, 1894, leaving behind my Great grandmother, Emma (Coddington) and my grandfather, aged 4 and his twin brothers, aged 2.

I have not been able to find out when he arrived in the States, how and where he met his wife and when or where they were married.  She was an immigrant from Sheffield, England.

One possible clue to my great grandfather's past may lie in the name that was on my grandfather's birth certificate, Frederick William Claude Fuchs.  Emma anglicized their last name to Fox and my grandfather was always known as Claude Fox.  My mother was completely unaware of any of this and was very surprised when she found Grandpa's birth certificate after he passed away!
by V Combs G2G6 (7.8k points)
I have a line of oldest sons on a branch all with the first name Carl (Charles in English), and it appears that the first given name is rarely the name they go by, but more a tradition or family name they pass on. I have even seen 2 sons with the same first given name.
you may very well be correct. I know of a Tammy fuchs genealogist. maybe married name she is on face book I am sure you could talk to her. she is heavily into native American genealogy.
Germans have a very bad historical habit of doing this. It pays to research individuals by second given name and last name in documents and online. This naming pattern has a name which escapes me for the moment
+8 votes
Yes. My maternal grandmother (Unruh, Smith/Schmidt) was from Kansas Mennonites.
+11 votes
I have been lucky that my paternal German Roots have been easier to trace because 1) I live in the same city that my German ancestors lived in. Therefore, it's easier to visit graveyards, read the newspapers and church records on microfilm, ect. 2) German records can go back pretty far. One can do research without reading that old German script. 3) Germans like to help people find their families in Europe. I have never visited Germany but received the most wonderful letters from people in my ancestral villages. It took over forty years but now that the records are digitized at my LDS library, I am able to find more of them.Overall, my paternal German Roots are in Hesse-Darmstadt and Baden. I also have one line (my Mom's Grandfather) that were Germans that lived in Russian, Poland & Volhynia.
by Maggie N. G2G6 Pilot (908k points)
I read somewhere that, alot of records from Stettin, Pommern, now Szcecin Poland were thrown out when their archive was getting too full. Not sure if that is true or not, but my research is made more difficult by looking for German records in a now Polish speaking place, with a historical place name. I also have no evidence to support the family myth that my surname was originally spelt Hase. It seems likely, but I can't know for sure. It is very frustrating.

I plan on visiting Germany and Poland one day. :) maybe i will find out then.

I have the pleasure of a couple of people in my tree from Baden, I found records online easily for them. I think some German places have kept better archival records than others.
Hase means "rabbit" or "hare."  So it is a German word, but usually I have seen the name Haas.
Yes, so it may have started as a nickname. I have never come across haas in variations in documents etc, but I have seen Hese Heese and Heesse. We pronounce Haese, Hazy, and apparently Hase is/was pronounced Hussee. So Haas or Hass you would think would not be variants.
Absolutely right if you pronounce it Haese (with a final schwa).  Haas is unlikely a variant.
+8 votes
I would say yes grandmothers name Brown then it turns to Braun
by Anonymous Meador G2G3 (3.0k points)
I have been tracing cousins in the early 19th century.  Rabenstein => Rabenstine => Robenstine => Robinson.  How far we've ranged!

But the people who get the worst of it had the surname Gottschalk, which I have seen mangled in more ways than I can count.  The rough translation would be God's joke.

I love when families maintained their ethnic names.
+9 votes
I am proud to say I am a descendant of the Second Germana Colony in Virginia in 1717. My line is Thoma that became Thomas. There is now a huge project on the site of the Germana colonies with archeological digs finding the original buildings and artifacts.

These groups of immigrants came from Neuenburg, Bishopric of Speyer now Baden-Wurttemburg, Germany.
by Virginia Fields G2G6 Pilot (747k points)
Reading this has given me another idea to break through a brick wall.  The town in Pennsylvania where my family settled in the 1700s is called Manheim (German Mannheim).  I bet that would be a good place to start looking for that line in Germany.  Thanks!
+7 votes
Yes, on two sides. And when I go back far enough, they're from the same region, and have the same surname.
+7 votes

Yes, but I'm Dutch so having some German ancestors isn't unlikley. Untill now I found two ancestors from Germany. 

My sixt greath-grandfather Gerhard Heinrich Weijmar was born in Darmstad Hessen, he came to the Netherlands as a soldier somewhere around 1750. 

My fourth greath grand mother Theodora Offenberg most likley came from Emmerik, wich is next to the Dutch border she came to the Netherlands somewhere early 1800s.

Based on names and religion I might have more possible German ancestors but the connection with Germany hasn't been made.

by Erik Giezen G2G1 (1.6k points)
+5 votes
Ja ! ..My grandmother Hazel Kahl (married L. Baraboo 1927). I've traced her family back to Johaken Kahl circa 1783, Germany.

C'est Bon Magnifique !
by Gerald Baraboo G2G Astronaut (1.1m points)
+5 votes
My maternal grandmothers family the Browns came from Germany. There last name was originally Braun and they come from Wurttemberg Germany or that's where my ancestor Johann Braun was born. My maternal Grandfather is also descended from this line and my grandmother is twice so I decend from Johann at least three times. I also have other ancestors from Germany but cant say for sure exactly what parts of Germany.
by Dustin Smith G2G2 (2.2k points)
+5 votes

My mother, a Schmidt/Richter (long story!) was born in Braunau, Sudetenland

My grandmother, also Schmidt, was born in Wehrsdorf, Kreis Bautzen.

My grandfather, a Zacharias, born in Breslau.

So many places and all so confusing due to border changes and name changes.
by Angela Herman G2G6 Mach 1 (16.0k points)
+5 votes
My great-great-great grandfather was a German sailor.  According to family lore, he accidentally shot the captain who was either testing the guards or stealing from the stores.  He supposedly had to jump ship in America and his family came to join him.  I have been able to confirm his employment on the Norddeutscher Lloyd shipping line, the separate arrivals of he and his wife (with children).  Somehow the family decided to migrate from New York down to Alabama by 1870.  I have long been fascinated by this family because the rest of my tree is 95% British Isles as best I can tell.  

After many years, some helpful German researchers found their birth records in Germany so now I have a few generations back in Germany.  Not only that, my immigrant ancestor was first cousin one removed to Louise Rump Ebert, first lady of Germany in the Weimar Republic.  I imagine he never knew that, since the family had been separated by an ocean for 50 years.  

I wrote more about them here (with pictures):
by Clay Blankenship G2G Crew (940 points)
Clay Blankeship, Do you think that your family migrated from New York to Mobile,Alabama? Blankenship is a respectable name down here. The Blankenship family has been in the hardware business in Mobile forever, it seems.
Hi Howard,

No, the Rump family came to north Alabama.  My Blankenship line is totally separate but also came into north Alabama way back around 1820.  I don't know of any in my tree that lived in Mobile.  


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