Our Ancestral Villages and Towns
Genealogy and How suggests that a little research on the literal meaning of German town names can provide some insight as to how our ancestors lived in the "old country." From what I've learned about our own ancestors' homes, it is often not as simple as looking up words in a German-English dictionary. While some names are based on a local geographic feature, others are named after early inhabitants, or are based on the old Roman town names. Most have become distorted over the centuries.
Below is a summary of some of the information I've found. Note that the linked English translations are very crude.
Becherbach: Krauss family
Becher: This probably refers to the "Pechbrennern" (pitch burners) that were used there.
The Becherbach area has been inhabited since neolithic times. Roman roads criss-cross the region. Today it is in the state of Rheinland-Pfalz, Germany.
• Official Becherbach website
• Becherbach Wikipedia entry (English translation)
• For more information about the Krauss family start here.
Bregenz: Einsle family
Bregenz is a town in Austrian Alpine state of Vorarlberg. The area has been settled for thousands of years. The city of "Brigantium" was founded by the Romans in 15 BC. The name Bregenz is derived from the Roman name.
• Official Bregenz site
• Brengenz Wikipedia entry (English translation)
• Bregenz photo album
• Start here for more information about the Einsle family.
Dornbirn: Wehinger Family
Dornbirn is a town in western Austria in the Alpine state of Vorarlberg. The name Dornbirn is derived from "torrin puirron", meaning the "settlement of Torro" after the name of a resident farmer. The the first recorded use of the name was in 895.
• Official Dornbirn web site
• Dornbirn Wikipedia entry (English translation)
• Dornbirn Photo Album
• Start here for more information about the Wehinger family.
Ebeleben: Wenkel family
Ebeleben was first settled between the 4th and 6th century, and the first documented use of the name was in 1198 (Duke Fridericus de Eveleiben). The meaning of the name is unclear.
Ebeleben is in the German state of Thuringia.
• Official Ebeleben site (click the links under "Geschichte" for pictures).
• Wikipedia entry for Ebeleben (English translation
• Start here for more information about the Wenkel family. (See also Bierwirth.)
Grosswenden or Großwenden: Bierwirth family
Gross or Groß: large.
Wenden: in this case it refers to the old German word for "Slavs" (English translation). The towns of Grosswenden and Kleinwenden were founded during the Middle Ages by Slavs who had migrated west. Today Großwenden and nearby Klein(small)wenden are part of the greater municipality of Großlohra in the German state of Thuringia.
• Wikipedia article about Großlohra and its castle. (English translation)
• Großwenden Evangelical (Protestant) Church Information
• Start here for more information about the Bierwirth family. (See also Wenkel)
Gross-Zimmern: Stumpf family
Gross or Groß: large or greater
Zimmern: literally rooms, but the derivation is slightly different
• Official Groß-Zimmern website
• Groß-Zimmern Wikipedia entry (English translation)
• Start here for information about the Stumpf family.
The town was first mentioned in 1250, when the Abbey of Fulda Groß-Zimmern gave the fiefdom of the deceased George von Zimmern to the counts Diether und Eberhard von Katzenellenbogen. The 13th century name "Cymmern Superior" developed into Groß-Zimmern (also called over the centuries "Obernzimmern", "Zummern", "Zymern", "Zymmern", "Großen Zymern", "Oberzimmern" und "Großen Zimbern").Groß-Zimmern is in the present-day state of Hessen in Germany.
Michelbach: Eckert family
There are several Michelbachs in Germany. Our Eckert family was probably from the village of Michelbach that lies outside of Fränkisch-Crumbach in the Odenwald (Oden Forest) in the state of Hessen, Germany.
• Official Fränkisch-Crumbach website.(Map showing Michelbach).
• Odenwald Wikipedia entry (English translation)
• Fränkisch-Crumbach Wikipedia entry (Enlish translation)
• Start here for more information about the Eckert family.
Nierstein: Leip Family
Nier: ? One interpretation of the name is "stone house of Naro".
Stein: rock or stone
Nierstein lies in the wine growing region along the Rhine river in the German state of Rheinland-Pfalz.Romans founded the town of Bauconica on this site almost 2000 years ago. The name Nierstein was first recorded in 882 ("Nerinstein" in a confirmation record).
• Official Nierstein website
• Nierstein Wikipedia entry (English translation)
• Nierstein History Association (click on map)
• Nierstein photos
• Start here for information about the Leip family.
Oppenheim: Lepp Family
Oppen: probably after a Frankish nobleman named "Obbo"
Oppenheim lies in the wine growing region along the Rhine river, adjacent to the town of Nierstein (see above). By the 4th century there was a Roman settlement on the site. In about 510 a Frankish nobleman, probably named "Obbo" established a manor (Hofgut) around which the village of Oppenheim grew.
• Official Oppenheim website (click on map)
• Oppenheim Wikipedia entry (English translation)
• Oppenheim photos
• Start here for information about the Lepp family.
Schönborn: Jaeger family
Schön or Schoen: beautiful
Born: spring or fount
Schönborn is near the village of Becherbach in Rheinland-Pfalz, Germany.
• Official Schönborn website
• Schönborn Wikipedia entry (English translation)
• For more information about the Jaeger family start here.
Read the rest of this post.