Deitsch Girl, Displaced!

Reconnecting to my cultural heritage and sharing its wealth with the world!
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2018 Deitscher Zammelaaf! — PA Dutch 101

Guder Daag Blog Leser! Well, ‘sis widder Matz un in Lebanon Kaunty sell mehnt ass es widder Zeit fer der Zammelaaf iss. Des Yaahr alles waerrd uff die Lebanon High Schul sei. Der Zammelaaf iss en arrig gude Gelegeheit viel iwwer unsre Schprooch, Kuldur, Kunscht, Gschicht, un Esse zu lanne un zu erlewe. Es gebt […]

via 2018 Deitscher Zammelaaf! — PA Dutch 101

Branding: Kitschy Keepsakes or Honored Heritage

A group of continental Europeans settled in North America during the 17th century. They lived side by side with the native population learning their hunting and fishing techniques and, at times, intermarrying. They established successful farmlands. After more than a century of living this way, the English considered them an enemy of the state and drove them from their lands.

Sounded very familiar until that last sentence, didn’t it? Well it should. Other than a few very distinct differences, we Deitsche and the Acadians have many things in common. The biggest difference, of course, is that the Acadians established their own colony in the Maritime provinces and were actually expelled from their lands by the British. Many migrated to Louisiana and are now known as Cajuns. I believe that having their own colony helped preserve their identity. We Deitsch lived within the Pennsylvania colony and, in most ways, assimilated into that society publicly while maintaining our way of life privately.

So, why am I writing about the Acadians on my Deitsch blog? Because I want it understood that we have as much right to a distinct ethnic identity as the Acadians in Canada and the Cajuns in America. I don’t want my readers to think that I am inciting a racial pride fixation here but I am tired and disappointed of Deitsch culture being dismissed as something old, backwards, or, worse, a tourist attraction. We deserve as much cultural respect as a people as Italian-Americans or Irish-Americans.

The distinction is that we are already an American group that developed within the American identity. We didn’t come from any of the current existing European countries. Instead, most of our ancestors hail from regions now within present day Germany, Switzerland, France and the Netherlands. Much like the Acadians developed within the Maritime provinces and their French language evolved independent from Quebecois, the Deitsch became its own subset of colonial Americans and our language evolved as its own dialect mixing German and English. Just as the Acadians ended up in several Canadian provinces and areas of Maine, Louisiana, and Texas, we Deitsch have established ourselves across the United States with the largest populations still in southeast Pennsylvania where we originally settled. (This is why the term Pennsylvania German/Dutch no longer works and I prefer Deitsch.)

Webster defines culture as the beliefs, customs, arts, etc., of a particular society, group, place, or time; a particular society that has its own beliefs, ways of life, art, etc.; or a way of thinking, behaving, or working that exists in a place or organization. Most notably, the plain sects (i.e. Amish and Mennonites) of the Deitsch are perfect examples of this definition having remained isolated from the general populations. But even we fancy folk exemplify that description.

Let’s examine that definition. Having just passed the New Year, what Deitsch house is without the annual pork and kraut feast. I’d say that’s a pretty important custom. And, speaking of food, where else will you find shoofly pie, pot pie (as in the stew), and chow chow (a pickled mix of vegetables). As far as arts, we have fraktur and hex signs that set us apart from any other cultural group out there. Additionally, I would say that you’ll be hard-pressed to find someone of Deitsch heritage who doesn’t have a strong work ethic and won’t accept failure as an option.

I’m sure my readers are thinking, “that’s all well and good, Deitsch Girl, but what about genetic background?” Well, guess what, there is an ongoing ‘Project to Learn More about the Genetic Genealogy and Anthrogenealogy of our Pennsylvania Deutsch Ancestors’ being conducted by Charles F. Kerchner, Jr. (P.E. Retired). The hypothesis is “that some people, or sub-groups, within the Pennsylvania Deutsch/German (aka PA Dutch) ethnic group may have a small but detectable percentage of Asian genetic content in their genome, of non-recent origin in a genealogist’s time frame, possibly introduced into their ancestor’s genomes from the major invasions of southern Germany by tribes from Asia such as the Huns and Mongol hordes which invaded Europe at various times during the period of 1600-700 years ago, or of even older more ancient origin such as from the Scythians, or all of these sources.” You can find the full study by clicking on this link: Personally, I’d like to see this study developed further. I hesitate to accept it as definitive proof of a genetic fingerprint of the Deitsch specifically because I would venture to guess that Germans from the regions noted would have the same genetic marker. It appears that volunteers for the study are still being accepted and I encourage those who qualify to sign up to further this important piece of Deitsch research.

This subject is important to me. Too often, I see the Deitsche portrayed as caricatures or tourist attractions instead of as the dignified ethnic group we are. I suppose any attention that perpetuates the existence of my people is worthy but I want to ensure that with the misinformation and kitschy souvenirs, more folks understand that there is a rich history and heritage that should be equally, if not more, explored. For my part, I designate “Deitsch” on any form I complete that asks for ethnicity and try to correct any flawed information I see out there.

Notes: Information on Acadians found at

Kutztown Folk Festival 2013

Annual PA German Zammelaaf

  • Date: Saturday, March 16
  • Time: 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 a.m.
  • Place: New Covenant Christian School, 452 Ebenezer Road, Lebanon, PA 17046

The Annual PA German Zammelaaf (festival) has a new location for 2013.  Previously held at HACC in Lebanon, it will be held at New Covenant Christian School, 452 Ebenezer Road (Rt. 72N), Lebanon, PA 17046, from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. on Saturday, March 16.  For anyone interested in Pennsylvania German history, culture and language, this festival is a “not-to-be-missed” event, which attracts people from various parts of Pennsylvania as well as surrounding states.

This year, Andulhea has been invited to participate, and will have a table set up to help advertise our society’s existence, its mission, and its various collections and projects.

The Deitsche and the Groundhog


Sound like an Aesop’s Fable? Well, it’s not. It’s a true story. Groundhog Day is just another festival or tradition that would seem to be as American an apple pie but it’s really more Deitsch as shoefly pie! That’s right, the Deitsche brought Groundhog Day to America! The only difference is that we know it as der Grundsaudaag.

The tradition arose from the notion that if the weather was fair on February 2nd (or approximately that date), the second half of winter would be harsh. And, vice versa. So generally speaking, when the first half of winter is mild, the second half will be harsh, but if the first half of winter is harsh, the second half will be mild. But, let’s examine the history behind this belief.

February 2nd is a cross quarter day or a day that falls half way between a solstice and an equinox. Pagans, both ancient and current, acknowledge these days as a holiday following the Wheel of the Year. When our German ancestors arrived in the 1700s, they brought the traditions of Candlemas (which is ultimately derived from the pagan holiday Imbolc or Imbolg). Imbolc was traditionally a time of weather divination. Remember, Paganism is a nature based religion, and even more importantly, our ancestors were agricultural folk. Knowing the coming weather patterns was extremely important to the planning of the chores around the farms and homesteads. Some groups watched for serpents to emerge, others watched for badgers. Our European German ancestors used the badger to predict the coming weather. (Both the badger and the groundhog burrow and when these ancestors arrived in the colonies noticed the similarity and adopted the groundhog as the species was more prevalent than their former prognosticator of choice.) Both had the same message – the reactions of the animals emerging from their winter dens provided clues as to whether or not winter was destined to end early or stick around.

The earliest American reference comes to us from Morgantown, Berks County, PA on February 4, 1841, from storekeeper James Morris’s diary:

Last Tuesday, the 2nd, was Candlemas day, the day on which according to the Germans, the Groundhog peeps out his winter quarters and if he sees his shadow he pops back for another 6 weeks nap, but if the day be cloudy he remains out, as the weather is to be moderate.

But, why the Deitsche? Because the burrows of the badger or groundhog match the concept of the Nine Worlds of Teutonic Mythology. Many peasant types of medieval Europe protested to be Christian but the vast majority held fast and hard to their Pagan roots specifically and especially when it came to their livelihood – farming and stewarding the land for sustenance. When our ancestors came to the colonies in the 17th and 18th centuries, they came with these very same beliefs. And, the European Germans were raised under the Teutonic mythos. The natural progression was for our people to turn to a burrowing animal on the cross quarter day between the Winter Solstice and the Spring Equinox in order to determine if they should start getting their plows ready now or if they still had a few weeks to pass.

In the Urglaawe tradition, der Grundsaudaag is a major holiday. It consists of cleaning of the hearth, the honoring of maternal spirits and female creative energies, the creating of the Butzemann (or scarecrow), and the start of Spring Cleaning.

While we all know about Puxatawny, Pennsylvania, let us not neglect that there are other locations that celebrate as well. They include Quarryville, Lancaster County, the Anthracite Region of Schuykill County, the Sinnamahoning Valley, the Lehigh Valley, and Bucks County. And, outside of Pennsylvania, areas in Maryland, Virginia, Illinois, Georgia, and even Ontario and Nova Scotia, have resident groundhog prognosticators. The official celebration began on February 2, 1886, in Puxatawny.

Personally, I’m hoping tomorrow will be overcast!

Schreiwer, Robert L. and Ammerili Eckhart. A Dictionary of Urglaawe Terminology. 2012 Print

It’s Called Folk-Lore

Groucho Marx once quipped, “If a black cat crosses your path, it signifies that the animal is going somewhere.” Very true indeed! But to some, having a black cat cross in front of them is enough to send them retreating to safer ground. The Deitsche have a long history of beliefs that some would see as superstitions. However, among us, these notions are really just something we’ve been raised with or heard about growing up in the Deitscherei. So you could really consider them folk-lore. Or, if we still give in to their activity, a set of collective habits found among my people.

Mr. Webster defines superstition as

a: a belief or practice resulting from ignorance, fear of the unknown, trust in magic or chance, or a false conception of causation, or

b: an irrational abject attitude of mind toward the supernatural, nature, or God resulting from superstition

Ok, yes, we have a long history of belief in folk healing, known as Braucherei or Pow-Wow. And, yes, we hold a storied belief in witchcraft, known as Hexerei. (I’ll discuss the distinction between the two in a later post as that deserves its own forum.) I suppose some would see these as superstitions. But, more and more people today find themselves indulging in meditation or natural supplements or even Reiki. My personal inclination is that we have always understood that certain behaviors yield certain results and we’ve retained them. The rest of society is finally catching up!

This week’s post will provide a sampling of the folk-lore and beliefs held by the Deitsche. Some of these beliefs were brought to the colonies with our ancestors, others developed as we cultivated and acclimated to our new land. Some of these, I know are still followed, others are from a bygone time. In no way is this list exhaustive and some of the behaviors may seem unenlightened (and even down-right humorous).

Courting Customs

No young man was considered desirable unless he had at least a horse and buggy, so he would be able to take his sweetheart to local gatherings on holidays, and church services on Sundays. Saturday evenings were considered the proper “date night;” although it would seem that many times, a “date” would extend through the entire day of Sunday as well.

This led to a unique custom. Because of the distance between homes, it would seem that our ancestors consented to a form of premarital shacking up. The custom of bundling was quite prevalent among the Deitsche. As one source describes it

for young persons between whom there is a courtship, or treaty of marriage, to lye [sic] together, the woman having her petticoats on, and the man his breeches; and afterwards, if they do not fall out, they confess the covenant at the church, in the midst of the congregation, and to the minister, who then declares the marriage legal….In Pennsylvania, however, superfluous clothing was frequently dispelled with…bundling received judicial recognition by the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania…ruled that in that part of the country where the custom was known to prevail, ‘that the female being in bed with a man, or different men, was not conclusive evidence as to her want of chastity,’ and, on appeal, the decision was sustained.

How scandalous!

A drop of blood from the little finger of the left hand in a glass of water drunk by a girl will supposedly cause said girl to fall in love with the blood donor.

If you put sugar under the armpits until it gets warm and then put it into a drink, it will act as an aphrodisiac. (I wouldn’t suggest sharing this secret if it’s successful!)

Married Life

Weddings usually occurred at the minister’s home and he furnished light refreshments as well. The ceremony was attended by a very small group and, most of the time, the trip itself wasn’t even known to most. Once the bride and groom and their small group of attendants returned to the temporary or permanent future home of the newlyweds, dancing and other such festivities lasted well into the night past midnight.

Of two couples wed by the same clergy on the same day, one will be unhappy. (Make sure your officiant isn’t double booked!)

The bride would customarily furnish the household linens, bedding, etc. and the groom was expected to secure a home with a some land.

One was never to take an old broom into a new house or one could expect bad luck to follow. Additionally, the new broom was to be carried across the meadow to avert evil consequences. Additionally, to have luck in married life, a married couple should step over a broom on entering their house (and you thought that was an African-American custom!).

Many times, the young wife participated in the heavy work of farming including plowing, threshing grain, clearing fields, etc. And, it was her responsibility to gather herbs, roots, barks, and flowers that would later be used for their medicinal properties.

Cleaning and Other Domestic Chores

Saturday was the cleaning-up day of the week including the washing of pavements! There is also much written about the corresponding custom of white-washing in the Spring. This task included removal of every article from the house and spreading a white-wash over the walls, using a brush, and scrubbing the windows and floors.

If you want a cake to be light, always stir the batter in the same direction.

The Formal Living Room

It would seem that the Deitsche created this custom. It was only on Sundays – when homes would receive guests after church services – that the parlor or best room was opened up. Under normal circumstances, this room was shut off from use by the family to the extent of some even having lockable shutters on them.

How to Tell if You’re Getting Visitors

If someone drops a fork at the table, a male visitor will be arriving; drop a knife, expect a female guest.

If a rooster crows, someone is coming; if two hens start fighting, you guessed it, expect women.

If someone at your table helps themselves to more food while he still has food on his plate, your visitor will be hungry.

When a cat washes her face, you’ll be getting visitors. (This also indicates that the weather will be clearing.)

Child-Birth and Raising Children

Pregnant women were typically seen and treated by older women in the community with skill and experience in midwivery. And, in some cases, it’s known that no such assistance was available and the mother-to-be gave birth successfully alone. Deitsch women are a strong lot!

Infants were left in cradles and only taken out when occasions demanded so. However, children were allowed to nurse for a longer period than is now the usual.

Some other interesting beliefs about children include:

A child will have colic if the empty cradle is rocked.

If a child is permitted to see his reflection in a mirror before his 1st birthday, he will become arrogant.

To cut an infant’s fingernails may cause her to become a thief later in life. Also putting an old diaper (I’m assuming they’re talking about cloth diapers) on a new baby will turn the child into a thief.

When several teaspoonfuls of its own baptismal water are given to a child, it will tend to make the child smart and maybe a good singer.

A child born in January will be able to see ghosts.

Payment of the doctor’s fee in full will prevent the child from growing. (Try convincing your insurance company of that!) But be sure to pay the bill in full before the woman goes into labor or it will be a difficult birth.

To kiss a baby on the mouth before he cuts teeth will cause the child to teethe hard.

Wash a child’s face with its own urine to make her beautiful or him handsome. It may also remove freckles.

Home Remedies (of the non-medicinal kind)

There were several suggestions of running one’s finger through his toes and then smelling the finger to ease a cold, sore throat, etc.

To cure constipation, “get a chicken, nice or otherwise, kill it without shedding blood; boil it, feathers and all – make soup out of it – this when eaten, will cure constipation.” (Nope, it doesn’t matter if the chicken was nice or not!)

To cure epilepsy, swallow the heart of a rattle-snake.

To prevent headaches, one should dress by putting their right sock on first.

Want to stop hiccups? (I love this one!) Bend forward so that your hands touch the floor and say, “O hiccup, I wish that you were in my buttocks.”

To stop sneezing, look at the tip of your nose with both eyes or press your index finger hard below your nose.

If you get a sprain, or dislocation, rub it downward.

To ensure a good nights rest, place your bed so that it orients in the north-south direction.

Good Luck/Bad Luck

himmelsbriefThe Deitsche carry Himmelsbrief (Letter of Protection) much the way Catholics wear the Crucifix or Jews place a Mezuzah at the door post.

If you don’t want visitors, don’t let the dog roll on the floor.

When your left ear burns or rings, someone you know speaks bad of you; if it’s the right ear, they’re speaking good.

A large wife and a large barn bring luck to any man.

To memorize something, put the closed book under your pillow while you sleep at night; leaving the book open will cause you to forget what you have learned from it.

It is luckier to put on both socks first, then the shoes.

One should never give another a gift if she has negative emotions tied to the gift giving occasion as those emotions can attach themselves to the gift and cause trouble for the recipient (even if the emotions are unintentional). It would be better to have another provide the gift on the giver’s behalf. An example would be when an infertile woman who wants children gets invited to a baby shower; although she may be happy for the expetant couple, she will most likely still have some resentment that it isn’t her. That resentment could get transferred to the gift and subsequently bring bad luck to the child.

Weather Forecasting

Many animals besides the groundhog have been used in forecasting the weather. They include the ass (the four-legged variety), beaver, bear, bull, cat, cattle, chipmunk, deer, dog, fox, squirrel, goat, horse, mole, mouse, rabbit, sheep, and wolf. And, the Deitsche use birds of all sorts as well as trees, shrubs and grasses, clouds, fog, and frost, the moon, sun and stars as well.

A cat lying on its side who turns its face upwards predicts stormy weather.

Woolly caterpillars foretell the severity of winter by its coloring. If the ends are black, the beginning and end of winter will be harsh; if the middle, likewise the middle of winter will be bad.

Thick husks on corn predict a severe winter.

A dog lying on his back indicates a change to stormy weather.

If the tops of trees are bare while the sides are still covered in the fall, the winter will be mild; if the leaves fall first from the sides of the trees, the winter will be harsh.

Death and Funerals

Upon the death of a person in a house, all the mirrors of the house were turned around to face the wall; otherwise, the first person to see their reflection was next to pass. (There’s no indication how long one would wait until the mirrors were turned right side out.)

It was customary to throw stones on graves of those who committed suicide or met a violent death or were buried in unconsecrated ground; failing to do so, would leave the passer-by in danger of meeting the spirit of the departed on his journey.

If anyone looks back during the funeral procession, there will soon be another.

On Dreaming

Tell someone what you dreamed about before breakfast the day after the dream and it will come true.

If you dream of a funeral, it means a wedding.

Dream of milk and you will fall “violently” in love.

What you dream on the first night in a strange house will come true. Same for dreams on Friday nights.

Over the years, we Deitsche have kept what works and discarded what doesn’t as pure superstition. I know I still look for the woolly worms every Autumn!

Hoffman, W. J. Folk-Lore of the Pennsylvania Germans. Forgotten Books, 2007. Print
Aurand, A. Monroe. Popular Home Remedies and Superstitions of the Pennsylvania Germans. The Aurand Press, Lancaster, PA. Print

What’s in a Name?

empty family tree

That famous English bard posed this question by way of Juliet many years ago. Of course, we all know that the circumstances around the names in that story led to a tragic outcome. My exploration of that same question will hopefully instead lead to awareness and a lot less drama!

As I noted in an earlier post, Pennsylvania Dutch is a misnomer. Pennsylvania German is more accurate and Deitsch is even better! The Dutch (those who immigrated from Holland) predominantly settled in New Amsterdam, now known as New York. They’re the folks with windmills and wooden shoes! Surnames with Dutch ancestry include Bosch, Dahl, Dreyer, Hansen, Heyman, Jacobs, Roosevelt, and Snyder, to list a few.

The Germans who would later become known as Deitscherei immigrated to southeastern Pennsylvania and inland counties including Northampton, Berks, Lancaster, Lehigh, Montgomery, and Bucks. Some very early Palatine German refugees were settled in New York by the British but the vast majority of them migrated to Pennsylvania within a short time of arriving in the colonies.

This week, I wanted to share common Deitsch surnames (and their derivations) with everyone. If one, or several, of these names shows up on a family tree and you can trace your lineage to colonial Southeastern or South Central Pennsylvania, you’ve probably got Deitsch blood running through your veins.

Typically, Deitsch surnames fall into three categories:

  1. Names derived from personal names,
  2. Names derived from occupations, and
  3. Names derived from
    1. places of residence or origination or
    2. personal traits.

These personal names exist today in Pennsylvania, some of them changed little since the immigrations. Some examples (and their meanings) are:

  • Albrecht: of distinguished race (Deitsch, Albright)
  • Bernhard: strong as a bear
  • Conrad: bold in council
  • Dietrich: ruler of people
  • Eberhart: strong as a boar
  • Eckert: strong sword
  • Garman: spearman
  • Gebhard: generous giver (Deitsch, Kephart)
  • Gerhard: stong spear
  • Gottschalk: servant of God
  • Hartman: strong man
  • Heidrich: of noble rank
  • Hildebrandt: battle-sword
  • Hubert: bright of intellect
  • Reinhard: strong in counsel
  • Reinhold: ruler of council
  • Trautman: follower of the Walkyrie Thrudr.

In most cases, however, these double-stem names were shortened by dropping the second stem. This resulted in such names as:

  • Kuhn (from Kunrat)
  • Hein (from Heinrich)
  • Ott (from Ottman)
  • Traut (from Trautmann)
  • Bär, Barr (from Berhard).

And, at times diminutive suffixes were added creating new variations of these names. Adding “i” we have the names Bürki (from Burkhard), Ebi (from Ebarhard), Egli (from Agilbrecht), Hägi (from Haginbert), Lichti (from Ludger; Deitsch Light), Stäheli (from Stahal), Welti (from Walther), and Geissle (from Gisalhart; Deitsch, Yeissley). Adding “izo” yields Boss and Butz (from Bodomar), Dietz (from Dietrich), Fritz and Fritschi (from Friedrich), Heintz (from Heinrich), Kuntz (from Kunrat; Deitsch, Koons and Kuhns), Landis, Lentz, and Lantz (from Landfrid), Lutz (from Ludwig), Seitz (from Siegfrid; Deitsch, Sides), Tietz (from Dietrich), and Waltz (from Walther). The suffix “iko” gives us Frick (from Friedrich), Illig (from Hildebrand), Kündig (from Gundobert), and Leidig (from Luithart). Tacking on “ilo” we get Ebli and Eberli (from Ebarhard), Bechtel (from Berchtold), Bickel (from Botger), Diehl (from Dietrich), Hirzel (from Hieruzleip; Deitsch, Hartzell), Hubeli (from Hugubert), Markel and Märgli (from Markwald), Meili (from Maganhard), Nägeli (from Nagalrich), Rubli (from Hrodebert), Schnäbeli (from root Sneo–snow; Deitsch, Snavely). And adding “z” plus “l” we get Künzel (from Kunrat), Reitzel (from Ricohard: Richard), and Tietzel (from Dietrich).

From all the above forms, adding the suffixes (indicating a family line) “mann,” “inger,” and “ler,” we get: Bausman, Beidleman, Denlinger, Dietzinger, Gehringer, Grissinger, Heintzelman, Hirtzler, Hollinger.

In addition to the purely German personal names we also have many names taken from Biblical characters and from the lives of saints: Bartel (from Bartholomaeus), Klause (Nicholas), Martin, Theiss, and Theissen (Matthias), Peters, Hensel (Johannes), Jäggi and Jäckli (Jacobus; Deitsch Yeagy and Yackley), Jörg, Jorges (George; Deitsch, Yerrick and Yerkes), Bastian (Sebastisn), Flory (Florus), and Johst (Justus; Deitsch, Yost).

The second class of Pennsylvania-German family names are derived from the occupation of the individual. Among the best known are:

  • Becker: baker
  • Baumgartner: orchard-grower
  • Brunner: well-digger
  • Fischer, Gerber: tanner, currier; Deitsch, Garver
  • Glöckner: bell-ringer; Deitsch Klackner, Kleckner
  • Heilman: doctor
  • Huber: one who owns a “hube”–a small farm
  • Jäger: hunter
  • Kärcher: carter
  • Kohler, Koehler: coal-burner; Deitsch, Kaler, Cayler
  • Kaufman: merchant
  • Maurer: mason
  • Metzger: butcher
  • Lehmann: one under feudal tenure
  • Müller, Probst: provost
  • Sauter, Suter: shoemaker
  • Schaffner: steward
  • Schenck: cup-bearer
  • Scherer: barber
  • Schlegel: one who hammers
  • Schmidt: smith
  • Schneider: tailor
  • Schreiber: writer
  • Schreiner: joiner
  • Schütz: shooter or archer; Deitsch, Sheets
  • Schultz: mayor
  • Siegrist: sexton
  • Spengler: tin-smith
  • Steinmetz: stone-cutter
  • Wagner: wagoner
  • Wannemaker: basket-maker
  • Weber: weaver
  • Wirtz: landlord
  • Widmeyer, Widmer: one who has land from church or monastery
  • Ziegler: brick-maker
  • Zimmerman: carpenter.

The first subdivision of names in the third class comprises those which denote the place where one lives or from where one comes:

  • Bach, Bacher, Bachman: who live near a brook
  • Berner: from Berne, Switzerland
  • Berger: lives on mountain
  • Beyer: a Bavarian
  • Boehm: a Bohemian
  • Brubacher: village in Zürich
  • Detweiler: village in Canton Zurich
  • Diefenbach: Tiefenbach, in Canton Uri, Switzerland
  • Dieffendörfer: from Tiefendorf
  • Frick: in Aargau, Switzerland
  • Haldi, Haldeman: from Halden, common name for village in Switzerland
  • Hofstetter: name of several villages in Zürich, St. Gall, and Berne
  • Longenecker: village in Berne
  • Oberholtzer: several villages in Berne
  • Schollenberger: castle and village, Zürich
  • Schwab: a Swabian; Deitsch Swope
  • Zürcher: from Zürich.

During the Middle Ages the houses were not numbered as now, but had signs painted on them, something that would identify it for anyone looking for a family. So it follows that from these many names were derived:

  • Baum: tree
  • Bieber: beaver
  • Engel: angel
  • Faust: fist
  • Fuchs: fox
  • Haas: hare
  • Hahn: rooster
  • Hertzog: duke; Deitsch, Hartsook
  • Kalb: calf; Deitsch, Kulp, Culp
  • Ritter: knight
  • Vogel: bird
  • Voegli: little bird; Deitsch, Feagley
  • Wolf: wolf.

Finally we have names given from personal peculiarities. These include:

  • Braun: dry
  • Fröhlich: cheerful; Deitsch, Frailey
  • Hoch: tall
  • Jüng: young
  • Kahl: bald
  • Klein: small
  • Krause: curly
  • Kurtz: short
  • Lang: long
  • Reich: rich
  • Roth: red
  • Rothaermel: red-sleeve
  • Schwartz: black
  • Weiss: white

The names above are German Palatinate or Swiss in orgin. There are Deitsch name that are of French Huguenot origin as well, which by combined German and English influence have often received a not very elegant or melodious form. Examples are Lemon (Le Mon), Bushong (Beauchamp), and Shunk (Jean); the original Fierre was changed to German Faehre, and later became anglicised into Ferree. Other Huguenot names in Pennsylvania are Fortune, Correll, Florcy, De Frehn, Farney, Ruby, Bevier, Bertalot, Lefevre, Levan, Erny (this name may be Swiss), Gobain, and Hubert. (Little side note here, Liz Lemon, a character from NBC’s 30Rock, played by Tina Fey, comes from the Deitscherei, specifically White Haven, Luzerne County, Pennsylvania; apparently the writers of the show intended her to be of French Huguenot ancestry! Not surprising considering Fey herself hails from Upper Darby, Pennsylvania, and most likely would have been exposed to Deitsch culture.)

The number of differences in spelling even the simplest names is often surprisingly vast. For example, for the original Graf we find today Graaf, Graff, Groff, Groft, Graft, and Grove. Likewise, Baer gives us Bear, Bare, and Bair. Of course, the inconsistencies of English spelling are largely responsible for this. There were three ways in which the change of names took place: first, by translation or more accurately mis-translation; second, by spelling German sounds according to English methods (hooked on phonics, anyone?); and third, by analogy that wasn’t completely understood.

Do you see a family name in the lists above? Well, then, you probably hail from the Deitscherei, at least in part!

Source: Aurand, A. Monroe. Early Life of the Pennsylvania Germans. Forgotten Books, 2007. Print

Winter Institute at Landis Valley Museum

Learn the art and artisanry of some traditional Deitsch crafts at the Winter Institute at the Landis Valley Museum in Lancaster County. Click on the link for the brochure with class information and fees….

Winter Institute

A Few Deitsch Flu Remedies (Cross Post)

My friend Rob posted an excellent piece on traditional flu remedies among the Deitsche. I personally take my echinacea tincture immediately followed by my elderberry elixir on a regular basis once a day this time of year as a preventive. And, I double the dosage whenever someone around me is sick! I have not gotten the flu shot and, while everyone around me is coming down with the flu, I’ve been feeling great! Here’s to good health!

Deitsch Flu Remedies

Disclaimer: This post is not intended to substitute for medical advice or care. If you are exhibiting symptoms of the flu, get yourself to a doctor!