A Latin Rule You May Not Have Known

My 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks posts this year center around families in Luxembourg and Germany. Unlike my U.S. research, there are very few Facebook groups I feel I can share my posts with. Rob Deltgen, president of my genealogy society Luxracines, has a Facebook group for his genealogy website Deltgen.com and this is where I’ve been sharing my weekly posts.

I’m seeing more visits to my blog from people in Luxembourg. A couple of these have even commented in the group on my posts. Linda wrote this comment yesterday on my link to 52 Ancestors: #11 The Wollscheid-Barthelmes Family of Kirsch, Germany:

Hi, Cathy. I follow your research now every week and enjoy them a lot. I noticed you sometimes use the first names as they are used in the parish books such as Joannis, Caspari, Jacobi but these are the genitive forms of the names. In Latin, first names decline according to their role in the sentence. So the names in the example would be Joannes, Casparus, and Jacobus.

I had to read this twice before I replied. I may have been one of the best in my class while in school but sometimes I feel really dumb.

Well, Linda, as you can tell I’ve never learned Latin and this is new to me. I wondered why it was not always the same but didn’t think it had something to do with the grammar. Thank you so much for pointing this out to me. Now I may have a lot of correcting to do.

After sleeping on it, I checked online to see what Linda meant by genitive and decline in relation to the Latin language. As genealogists, we are always learning new things. I’m fluent in four languages but write only in English. For the generation I am presently working on, the records are mostly from church registers in Latin or indexed from the same. I thought I could get by without studying Latin. But, as I learned from Linda, it’s important to know at least some of the elementary rules of this dead language.

Latin for Beginners, 1911; Archive.org (https://archive.org/stream/latinforbeginner00doogrich#page/148/mode/2up : accessed 18 March 2017)

This is not a lesson in Latin

Linda’s well-intended comment showed me an error I’ve been making and, perhaps, you have too.

In grammar, genitive (abbreviated gen; also called the possessive case or second case) is the grammatical case that marks a noun as modifying another noun. ~ Wikipedia

Genitive refers to possession and decline or declension are the set of endings of words depending on their use in a sentence.

When I wrote the above sentence in my post yesterday, I included “Jacobus” and “Jacobi” in quotes as these were variations of his name I was seeing in indexed records. If I’d have paid a bit more attention I might have seen a pattern and realized my mistake.

Jacobus was the name seen on his death/burial record:

“Deutschland Tote und Beerdigungen, 1582-1958,” database, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:J4MS-N59 : 28 November 2014), Jacobus Wolschet, 07 Jan 1826; citing 376 6, reference 376 6; FHL microfilm 469,141.

While Jacobi was found in records in which Jacob was seen as the father.

“Deutschland Heiraten, 1558-1929,” database, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:J4FC-TYK : 26 December 2014), Nicolaus Schmidt and Maria Anna Wolschett, 17 Jan 1827; citing Longuich, Rheinland, Preußen, Germany; FHL microfilm 469,141.

In the above example, Maria Anna was the daughter of Jacob Wolschett and Catharina Barthelmes. Maria Anna filia Jacobi et Catharinae. Or in the example of Jacob’s death, Jacob’s wife Catharina is seen as Catharinae (possessive). Wikibooks has a Latin lesson I plan to use for further reference.

Of course, I asked Linda’s permission to use her comment and after thanking her she sent this very enlightening comment:

It is sometimes quite useful when you read the parish books to be aware of the genitive, because in Latin all the words are just one after the other. In some cases you will have for example … baptisatus est Joannes Adamus Jacobi MULLER … Now you know that the child’s name is Joannes Adamus, and the father’s name Jacobus (and not child Joannes and father Adamus Jacobus).

If you are seeing several spellings of a name in Latin records or indexed information from Latin records, the difference is likely due to the rules which show who is being named: the child, parent, or spouse.

If you plan on checking out my last post, I’ve already fixed the error. From now on I will know the difference. I’ll also be making corrections in older posts, all thanks to Linda’s informative comments.

© 2017, copyright Cathy Meder-Dempsey. All rights reserved.

How a Surname Had Me Spiraling Down a Rabbit Hole

For the most part, we research our family trees from ourselves back one generation at a time, moving on and continuing back to the oldest known ancestor as the line is proven. To write about my children’s 5th great-grandparents, Johann MEDER (ca. 1720-1784) and Susanna LAMBERT (1729-1803) of Ettelbruck, I had to research the changes in their surnames in order to locate their baptismal records. This took me back another 100 years to the 1600s and sent me spiraling down a rabbit hole.

goingbackintimeWhen Did Mederhansen become Meder?

The surname MEDER evolved from MEDERHANSEN in the 1700s. During the 1600s, when the earliest church records were kept, the name was almost exclusively found as MEDERHANSEN. During the 1700s both versions of the name were found.

In the church records for Ettelbruck at FamilySearch.org, I found a register with extracted data from the baptismal records for the years 1640-1710, pages of families tree diagrams of the first families of Ettelbruck, and lists of marriages with numbers cross-referencing to the family trees. A treasure of information but a rabbit hole which had me looking up each baptismal record for children with surnames MEDERHANSEN.

lapsus calami
a slip of the pen

Extracted information of baptismal records from the 1600s was printed in 1896 or earlier and included in the register likely put together by the priest who was serving Ettelbruck before 1900. The person who transcribed the names for the printed version had difficulty with the handwriting in some documents and was not consistent with the second part of the name which resulted in MEDERHANSEN also being seen as MEDERHAUSEN.

hay

*Mader, Meder – a person who mows grain or hay.
(see comment below)

I consulted Luxemburger Familiennamenbuch by Cristian Kollmann, Peter Gilles and Claire Muller (2016), a book on family names in Luxembourg. MEDER is a surname derived from an occupation.* The author(s) also believed Mederhausen to be a copyist’s error as the name was not a toponym (place name) or a family name which is still in use. In 1611 the name MEDERT was found in the Feuerstattenverzeichnisse, a census of fireplaces or households in Luxembourg. In genealogical databases (church records) MEDERHANSEN evolved into MEDER around 1670. In the 1880 Luxembourg census there were 67 households in the country with the name MEDER, a whopping 0.35%. In 2009 only 24  (0.15%) listings were found in the Luxembourg telephone book for MEDER.

2016-08-27 10.44.48 EttelbruckFollowing the end of the Thirty-Years’ War in 1648, the population of Ettelbruck, Ettelbréck as it is known in Luxembourgish, was 281 per the table below. When Johannes MEDER and Susanna LAMBERT married in 1752 the population had likely surpassed the 763 seen in 1750.

BevölkerungstablleEttelbrück
“Luxembourg registres paroissiaux, 1601-1948,” images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.3.1/TH-1971-32461-2361-92?cc=2037955 : 9 January 2015), Ettelbruck > Baptêmes 1640-1710, tables généalogiques des premières familles > image 2 of 70; paroisses, Luxembourg (parishes, Luxembourg).

The wrong first name in the printed list for the father of Adam MEDERHANSEN (Johannes’ father) had me wondering if the others may contain errors as well. Adam’s father’s name was listed as Nic., short for Nicolas, in the printed list.

1696printedindex
“Luxembourg registres paroissiaux, 1601-1948,” images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.3.1/TH-1971-32461-2196-7?cc=2037955 : 9 January 2015), Ettelbruck > Baptêmes 1640-1710, tables généalogiques des premières familles > image 59 of 70; paroisses, Luxembourg (parishes, Luxembourg).

The baptismal record showed a son of Jacobus MEDERHANSEN and his wife Susanna was baptized on 24 August 1696 with godparents Adam MEDERHANSEN of Ettelbruck and Eva JACOBS of Warken. The name of the son was omitted but as it was tradition to name the child after the godparent of the same gender the omitted name had to be Adam.

1696AdamMederhansenBaptism
1696 Baptismal Record of the son of Jacobus MEDERHANSEN and his wife Susanna

After making a list of all MEDERHANSEN children born in Ettelbruck between 1645 and 1710 I gathered the baptismal records which included the names of the father, mother, and godparents. Once the list was complete an examination showed there were two families having children at the same time.

  • Henricus MEDERHANSEN and his wife Elisabeth
  • Nicolas MEDERHANSEN and his wife Margaretha

Both of the men and their wives had children from about 1645-1646 into the 1660s which leads me to believe they were about the same age and possibly brothers.

A large problem in analyzing the family connections this far back is the lack of death and marriage records for the period 1640 to 1725. Both MEDERHANSEN families had a son named Jacob. Nicolas’ son was born in 1646 and Henri’s son was born in 1655. To further complicate matters I found three women having children with men named Jacob.

  • Jacob and Maria had children in 1671, 1672, and 1674 (Nicolas)
  • Jacob and Eva had children in 1688 and 1690 (Nicolas or Henri)
  • Jacob and Susanna had children in 1696, 1698, and 1703 (my husband’s line)

Are all three Jacobs the same person, two persons, or even three – the last perhaps a grandson and not a son of one of the two first MEDERHANSEN families in Ettelbruck?

MRIN39230 MEDER Family Tree from 1600s to 1800s tiny
“Luxembourg registres paroissiaux, 1601-1948,” images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.3.1/TH-1951-32461-2471-13?cc=2037955 : 9 January 2015), Ettelbruck > Baptêmes 1640-1710, tables généalogiques des premières familles > image 12 of 70; paroisses, Luxembourg (parishes, Luxembourg).

Also found in the register were these diagrams of MEDER family trees including the MEDERHANSEN version of the name. Heinrich MEDER seen at the top of the diagram above was one of the two MEDERHANSEN men whose families were in Ettelbruck in the 1600s. Nicolas MEDERHANSEN in the diagram below was a son of Heinrich seen above.

MRIN39230 Nicolas MEDER Family Tree from 1600s to 1800s cropped
“Luxembourg registres paroissiaux, 1601-1948,” images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.3.1/TH-1971-32461-2316-29?cc=2037955 : 9 January 2015), Ettelbruck > Baptêmes 1640-1710, tables généalogiques des premières familles > image 13 of 70; paroisses, Luxembourg (parishes, Luxembourg).

The person who did these diagrams (mind-mapping on paper) would have greatly profited from today’s technology. Following all of the diagrams he included a list of marriages he used to create them. Many of the earliest marriages are “guesstimates” as a question mark was included before the year. How reliable are the early connection he made in the above diagrams? Further research may any this question.

As the births, marriages, and deaths for Ettelbruck appear to be complete from 1725 until 1815 in the church records, my next step will be to slowly go through all records beginning in 1725. It may be a while before I climb out of this rabbit hole or dig deeper into it.

Either way, I’m hopeful I will get additional help from my genealogy association in Luxembourg. Luxracines will soon be opening a library to the members and public. As treasurer and a member of the board, I’ve been helping set up the library and will be sharing some of the “behind the scenes” moments in next week’s post.

bestwishescathy1

© 2016, copyright Cathy Meder-Dempsey. All rights reserved.

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