While doing your research and looking up names, there are a few important
things to keep in mind.
The majority of New Buffalo residents are of German origin and the following tips will help you along the way.
1) The names and places listed on many documents are filled with
spelling errors. It is a good possibility that you will find several records
for one person, and each one has a different spelling. This can be very
frustrating since you may have to try different combinations before you
find a person you are looking for.
The records on this website are exactly as they were originally recorded.
2) When a child was born, it was German tradition to give them a first and middle name. The first name was usually the name of a saint and was given for spiritual purposes. This name was often used repeatedly in the same family. For instance, all or some of the male children in a family would have the first name of George. This is a symbolic name and after the baptism, the child would be referred to by their middle name. This is very important in doing research because many hours may be spent trying to find someone by this first name when every record after their birth contains their middle name. My advice is to try all combinations of the full name and see what results you get.
3) Also, the spelling and variations of German names are endless.
If you are searching for the name “Ludwig” there is a good chance that
in America that person was “Lewis” or “Louis”.
The names “Karl” and “Carl” seem to interchange on different records for the same person and often refer to someone named Charles.
Here are a few others that are very popular:
Henrick or Henrich = Henry
Jakob = Jacob
Johan or Johann or Johannes (many variations) = John or Hans
Dietrich = Dieter
Nicholas or Nicholaus = Nickel or Claus
Gottfried = Godfrey or Geofrey
Frederick or Frederich = Fritz
Christian = Christ
Elizabeth = Eliz, Eliza, Lis, Lizzie
Magdalena = Matta, Lina, Molly
Maria = Mary (popularly nicknamed Polly or Molly)
Caroline or Carolina = Lina
Wilhelmina = Mina
Most of these make sense and are some form of the original name. As a general rule, I’ve found that the majority of immigrants from Germany did change the name they went by in one form or another.
Many last names were also changed upon arrival to America. This happened for many different reasons and can cause problems in your research as I have found in my own family tree. For example: The surname “Kruger” was changed by some members of the family to “Krueger” and “Lau” was changed to “Lowe”. A common mistake is to totally discount variations of a name.
4) Some German customs that may be helpful:
“Sr.” and “Jr.” were often used to distinguish between the older and younger of two people with the same name. This could be grandfather and grandson, uncle and nephew, or even two people in the same area who are unrelated.
It was common practice for a male child to be named after his paternal
grandfather, and the second male child was named after his maternal grandfather.
The third son could be named after his father or the father’s oldest brother.
After that, it extends to great grandparents of father and mother.
This practice is also true for female children. The first born daughter would be named after her father’s mother…and so on.
Also, if a child died in infancy, the name was often reused.