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what?
07-13-2014, 04:50 PM
Which family names do Americans perceive as typically German?

I am NOT interested in the most common German surnames. I need a character surname that will make American readers think that this character is from Germany or has German ancestors.

Some names look and sound prototypically French, because they contain letter combinaitions that we regard as French, e.g. names ending in -aux (Michaux). The most common French name, on the other hand, Martin, is so common in other countries as well that it does not necessarily signify a French origin to us.

So what is German on that level of letters and sounds? Is it the umlaut in Müller, or the "sch" and "dt" in Schmidt? What signifies a German name?

Helix
07-13-2014, 04:58 PM
I was about to answer this, then I remembered I'm not American.

Damn.

alleycat
07-13-2014, 04:59 PM
If you used a name with a German accent mark that would be a definitive clue that the person is possibly German, something like BÖHLER.

There are so many people with German ancestry in the US that most German names won't surprise us.

Bauer is the first one that came to mind. Then Hach. Because I know people with these names.

Los Pollos Hermanos
07-13-2014, 05:15 PM
I remember reading somewhere (but can't recall where) that German is the most common ancestry group in the US as a whole, although I assume that varies from place to place?

When I needed German surnames in my story, I raided my family tree. ;) Then, when I needed more, I raided my trusty friend Google.

I've been sniffing around on this website today to help name a new minor character:
http://surnames.behindthename.com/names/usage/german

Mr Lehman features heavily in my current scene...

what?
07-13-2014, 05:16 PM
I was about to answer this, then I remembered I'm not American.

Damn.

Thank you for controlling yourself.

amergina
07-13-2014, 05:18 PM
Any surname that starts with Sch (Schneider, Schultz, etc.), Herr, Kautz... Warner,Wegener, etc. Busch. Bausch.

Really, any German Surname, actually. There are plenty of folks with German ancestry here. It's not exactly uncommon.

Maybe Google German-American social club and take a look at the names of the folks who run them?

what?
07-13-2014, 05:21 PM
Thank you for the answers.


Mr Lehman
Wouldn't Lehmann (with two "n") make it even mor German?

Ken
07-13-2014, 05:24 PM
Any surname that starts with Sch

seconded

Los Pollos Hermanos
07-13-2014, 05:31 PM
I stuck with the single N based on something a guy I used to work with told me. He's American and we commented on his surname - Smith - being about as English as you could get. Turns out his paternal line was originally Schmidt, but had anglicised the name early on to fit in once in the US.

Lehman looks less German than Lehmann, imho. This minor character is American (I never go into his background as it's not necessary for the story), but I've been careful with my American characters that any surnames mentioned reflect the diversity of the country. I set some of it in Switzerland, so I googled Swiss-German surnames for that. English/other UK surnames are even easier for my "local" settings!

King Neptune
07-13-2014, 05:46 PM
Hohenstauffen and Hohenzolleren are pretty thoroughly German, but many AMericans wouldn't recognise them. Most Americans would think of Schmidt as German, and Schultz is another.

what?
07-13-2014, 05:57 PM
I stuck with the single N based on something a guy I used to work with told me. He's American and we commented on his surname - Smith - being about as English as you could get. Turns out his paternal line was originally Schmidt, but had anglicised the name early on to fit in once in the US.

Lehman looks less German than Lehmann, imho. This minor character is American (I never go into his background as it's not necessary for the story), but I've been careful with my American characters that any surnames mentioned reflect the diversity of the country. I set some of it in Switzerland, so I googled Swiss-German surnames for that. English/other UK surnames are even easier for my "local" settings!
Makes total sense. I once read that many names, not only of German origin, were anglicized by the immigration authorities, especially names that (appeared) to refer to occupations, such as Schmidt/Smith.

Los Pollos Hermanos
07-13-2014, 06:03 PM
It didn't just happen in the US - in the UK the Germans on my mum's side and the Italians on my dad's side anglicised their surnames to fit in.

EarlyBird
07-13-2014, 06:04 PM
Schroeder...with two dots over the o.

melindamusil
07-13-2014, 06:12 PM
Makes total sense. I once read that many names, not only of German origin, were anglicized by the immigration authorities, especially names that (appeared) to refer to occupations, such as Schmidt/Smith.

There were also a lot of German-sounding names that were Anglicized during WWII, to separate "German-Americans" from "Germans".

Xelebes
07-13-2014, 06:17 PM
A Sorbian last name. Wowčer (Wowtscher), Pohonč (Pohontsch), Młynk (Melnich), Burik (Burich), Hornčer (Hörntscher), Kowar, Korčmar (Körtschmarr), Smoler (Schmöller), Čiban (Schieban). I don't know many North Americans with Sorbian last names. I assume you want the read to think that they are from German, not necessarily of wholly German ancestry.

King Neptune
07-13-2014, 07:15 PM
A Sorbian last name. Wowčer (Wowtscher), Pohonč (Pohontsch), Młynk (Melnich), Burik (Burich), Hornčer (Hörntscher), Kowar, Korčmar (Körtschmarr), Smoler (Schmöller), Čiban (Schieban). I don't know many North Americans with Sorbian last names. I assume you want the read to think that they are from German, not necessarily of wholly German ancestry.

Sorbian names are too Slavic for most people to consider them German. After all, Sorbs are Slavs.

Chase
07-13-2014, 07:17 PM
Hohenstauffen and Hohenzolleren are pretty thoroughly German, but many AMericans wouldn't recognise them.

Except a U.S. soldier stationed at Cook Barracks in Göppingen directly below Ruine Hohenstauffen might think the names were quite Germanic. I have lots of photos.

Thanks for the memory.:D

Xelebes
07-13-2014, 07:30 PM
Sorbian names are too Slavic for most people to consider them German. After all, Sorbs are Slavs.

You are meaning to tell me that a Gerhard Körtschmarr from Potsdam would not have you thinking he was a German? Korĉmer would certainly have them guessing they were from Prague or Warsaw than Potsdam.

snafu1056
07-13-2014, 07:35 PM
Schultz. Thats the most stereotypical German name that comes to mind. Maybe Kruger too. And of course, anything with "von" in it, but that might drift into cartoonish territory.

Cyia
07-13-2014, 08:03 PM
Schultz is an obvious one, as is Schmidt.

My cousin's German dad is named Bauhaus.

snafu1056
07-13-2014, 08:06 PM
I remember reading somewhere (but can't recall where) that German is the most common ancestry group in the US as a whole, although I assume that varies from place to place?


Yeah. I believe Germans were the first big immigrant wave into the US. They just kept coming after that. Certainly among white people Germans are the majority here.

Bolero
07-13-2014, 09:00 PM
It didn't just happen in the US - in the UK the Germans on my mum's side and the Italians on my dad's side anglicised their surnames to fit in.

As did the Royal Family :)

Under the usual way of surnames coming down the male line, George V had the surname of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha until he changed it to Windsor. - see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/House_of_Windsor

And a bit more on topic. If it were me I'd avoid surnames needing umlauts purely because of the "fun" of typing them.

Incidentally, out of curiosity, would the surname of Hanover
a) look Germanic in the US
b) Ring bells regarding the Boston Tea Party?

Gringa
07-13-2014, 09:23 PM
anything with "von" in front of it

aruna
07-13-2014, 09:58 PM
Schroeder...with two dots over the o.

No -- Schroeder would be the correct anglicized version. The e replaces the Umlaut; so Schröder becomes Schroeder. Schröeder does not exist!

ETA: Shoot, I was wrong -- it DOES exist: see posts below. Though this would mean that transliterated into English it would have to be spelled Schroeeder!

King Neptune
07-13-2014, 09:58 PM
You are meaning to tell me that a Gerhard Körtschmarr from Potsdam would not have you thinking he was a German? Korĉmer would certainly have them guessing they were from Prague or Warsaw than Potsdam.

It would depend on how it is pronounced, but that thing over the "c" would make me think Prague before I would think of anything German. Linguistically Sorbia is Slavic, not German.

King Neptune
07-13-2014, 10:04 PM
As did the Royal Family :)

Under the usual way of surnames coming down the male line, George V had the surname of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha until he changed it to Windsor. - see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/House_of_Windsor

Yes, and Battenberg is pretty thoroughly German.



Incidentally, out of curiosity, would the surname of Hanover
a) look Germanic in the US
b) Ring bells regarding the Boston Tea Party?

A. Hanover as a mixed feeling about it. There the Hanovers like the kings George, but it isn't foreign looking.
B. Do you mean in reference to Gerorge III, or was one of the meetng places on Hanover Street in Boston?

J.Emerson
07-13-2014, 10:41 PM
As said before, Sch- immediately evokes German for me. Schroeder and Schmidt come to mind. As does Schrodinger's cat (no clue how to add the umlat). But that's a different subject ;)

wendymarlowe
07-13-2014, 11:25 PM
I worked in the file room of a medical office in Wisconsin for a while when I was in high school, in a very Germanic area. The "S-Sch" section of the files was longer than A-H put together. Lucky for you, I have my high school yearbook handy:

Bauer
Beitzel
Fischer
Glaeser
Holschbach
Klein
Knauf
Knier
Marquardt
Meissner
Mueller
Rusch
Schaefer
Scherer
Schiesel
Schiffer
Schmidt
Schneider
Schuette
Schultz
Schulze
Schumacher
Schwalbe
Schweda
Stahl
Wenzel
Wetenkamp

Those are the ones that jump out at me as not unique (i.e. I knew at least a few people with those last names) and - as best as I can guess - German descent. I didn't double-check, though, so worth looking up anyway :-)

Karen Junker
07-13-2014, 11:39 PM
I'd second 'Schultz' -- I think it was the name of a character on a TV show which often runs reruns here--Hogan's Heroes -- he was a sergeant.

When I tell people my last name, they almost always say, "Oh, is that German?" because of the German aircraft manufacturer of the same name. The junkers were also a class of royalty in Bavaria, I think.

Feel free to use it, if you like.

Bolero
07-13-2014, 11:41 PM
B. Do you mean in reference to Gerorge III, or was one of the meetng places on Hanover Street in Boston?

Reference to George III and House of Hanover. Hadn't heard of Hanover St.
(Between educational fashions and moving house and hence schools, my school history jumped around a bit in period and totally missed out anything from the end of the Renaissance to the end of the Napoleonic War..... Made up some of it on my own reading but for 18th century have read the least.)

what?
07-14-2014, 11:45 AM
Thank you, everyone. Very helpful replies.


No -- Schroeder would be the correct anglicized version. The e replaces the Umlaut; so Schröder becomes Schroeder. Schröeder does not exist!
You are right with Schröder => Schroeder, but Schröeder does exist, too. See https://www.google.de/search?q=%22schr%C3%B6eder%22 or http://www.verwandt.de/karten/absolut/schr%25C3%25B6eder.html

If it were me I'd avoid surnames needing umlauts purely because of the "fun" of typing them.
löl, Ī göt the ümläüts rīght hërë ön m˙ Gërmän kë˙böärd :-) Sö nö pröblëm.

The junkers were also a class of royalty in Bavaria, I think.
All over German speaking countries a "Junker" was a young noble who had not (yet) received the accolade (i.e. was not yet made a knight) or more generally any officiant at a court. The Middle High German word that your name is derived from is "junc herre", literally "a young lord".

Later, in the military, Junker was the term for an officer candiate.

aruna
07-14-2014, 12:07 PM
I have some more German names which might be recognisable now to a few more Americans:

Schweinsteiger
Müller (Mueller)
Klose
Lahm
Götze (or Goetze)
Neuer

;)

what?
07-14-2014, 12:13 PM
I have some more German names which might be recognisable now to a few more Americans:

Schweinsteiger
Müller (Mueller)
Klose
Lahm
Götze (or Goetze)
Neuer

;)

Ha, yes, maybe :-)

The link to your homepage does not work, btw. Maybe it should be .com instead of .co.uk ?

aruna
07-14-2014, 12:13 PM
. If it were me I'd avoid surnames needing umlauts purely because of the &quot;fun&quot; of typing them.</p>If the word has an Umlaut you just remove it and replace it with an e -- simple! My real life surname has an Umlaut in German but when I lived in the UK I used the anglicized version for everything. Sometimes it was a bit difficult, for instance whenever I had to "prove" myself with ID and the names did not seem to match. But it was OK in the end.

King Neptune
07-14-2014, 04:38 PM
Reference to George III and House of Hanover. Hadn't heard of Hanover St.
(Between educational fashions and moving house and hence schools, my school history jumped around a bit in period and totally missed out anything from the end of the Renaissance to the end of the Napoleonic War..... Made up some of it on my own reading but for 18th century have read the least.)

Don't worry about what you missed. You can do some quick study whenever that period comes up.

Cath
07-14-2014, 09:14 PM
Derail moved to TIO. Please continue.

Trebor1415
07-15-2014, 05:34 AM
Schultz. Thats the most stereotypical German name that comes to mind. Maybe Kruger too. And of course, anything with "von" in it, but that might drift into cartoonish territory.


Schultz is the very first one I thought of as well. If you want a sterotypical German name (in the U.S. view) that's what I'd use.

Debbie V
07-16-2014, 01:56 AM
My husband's family has the name Scholz, in case you want a variation on the traditional Schultz.

I believe Baum is also German, and it combines well with others.

jeseymour
07-16-2014, 02:03 AM
Schultz.

I seeeee nothing. :)

flapperphilosopher
07-17-2014, 09:04 PM
I think "sch" and "tz" generally give away a name's German origin pretty easily (even though I'm sure it's not always 100% accurate). My last name is Krentz and everyone who's commented on it has always been like "is that German?" right away (and of course yes, yes it is).