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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Johannes MEDER and Susanna LAMBERT Married in 1752 in Mersch

Last year during the 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks challenge I blogged about my children’s ancestors starting with their paternal grandparents back to their 4th great-grandparents. Nearly a quarter of their 5th great-grandparents were featured in 2014 as part of the American branch of the family tree but three quarters have not been written about. As the remaining are all European and mostly Luxembourgish families the records are available and the ancestors are waiting for their stories to be told.

In 1723 a baptismal record[1] was recorded in the church records of Ettelbrück in the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg. Joes, the abbreviated form of Joannes (Johannes or Jean), a son of Adam and Elisabetha MEDERHANSEN of Ettelbrück was baptized. His godparents were  Joannes Petrus (Jean Pierre) Barthels of Elscheid and Joanna (Jeanne) Mederhansen of Ettelbrück. The record was not dated and other records on the page are not in true chronological order.

His baptismal record had this comment in the margin: n. b. non e ni ordine. This translate to “Take special notice, not in order.” The record therefore was not recorded in chronological order. His next sibling was born on 19 June 1724 which would mean Joannes had to have been born before September 1723. He was the oldest known child and his younger siblings were born with an average of about 3 years between births. When Joannes died on 13 February 1784 he was in his 65th year which places his birth at around 1720.

1723JoannesMederhansenBaptism
Baptismal Record of Joannes MEDERHANSEN [1]
In the church records Latin forms of the names were used. To avoid confusion I will mention the form used in records but for narration will use the German form of the names.

Johannes MEDER’s (1720-1784) parents were Adam MEDERHANSEN (1696-1774) and Elisabetha ESCH. They likely married about 1719 and continued to have children until 1740. To date no record has been found to confirm the date of marriage of his parents who lived in Ettelbrück nor dates of birth and death of his mother Elisabetha. Why the change in the surname from MEDERHANSEN to MEDER? This will be discussed in a later post.

1752MedertLamberMarriageCard
Marriage Index Card for Johannes MEDER and Susanna LAMBERT [2]
Johannes MEDER, whose surname was spelled MEDERT, and Susanna LAMBERT, whose surname was spelled LAMBER, were married on 27 December 1752 in Mersch. Susanna was from Angelsberg. A remark on the above index card[2] in Latin ambo olim famulantes apud MEYERS im EHSINGEN translates to “both were formerly serving for the MEYERS in ESSINGEN.” Since Johannes was from Ettelbrück and Susanna was from Angelsberg they likely met while working for the MEYERS family in Essingen. The spelling of the town name is recorded incorrectly on the index card but written Essingen (the double s appears as fs in cursive) in the marriage record[3] below.

1752MederLambertmarriagerecord
1752 Marriage Record of Joannes MEDERT and Susanna LAMBER [3]
As Susanna (1729-1803) was from Angelsberg, a town whose records are found in Mersch, I searched through all the baptisms between 1720 and 1735 for a birth record for Susanna LAMBERT. I found a Susanna born in Angelsberg and baptized on 2 January 1729. The only problem was her parents names were Joannis and Maria REINERS. I made a note of the location of the record for further reference.

While checking for the birth, marriage and death records of the children of Johannes and Susanna, to be discussed in my next post, I ran across one record with a different surname for Susanna. In 1779 Johannes and Susanna had been married 27 years and the first of their children, their oldest son Pierre married a young lady named Marie FABER from Mamer.

MRIN25783 1779 Pierre Meder and Marie Faber marriage index card
Marriage Index Card for Pierre MEDER and Marie FABER [4]
The index card[4] for the marriage has the mother of the groom listed as Suzanne REINERS. Using the index card as a guide I located the marriage record[5] in the church records. The mother’s maiden name was REINERS in the text as well as at the bottom of the document where all persons present at the marriage signed or left their mark.

1779marriage
1779 Marriage Record for Pierre MEDER and Maria FABER [5]
This marriage record had me going back to the record I found for the REINERS child named Susanna born in 1729 in Angelsberg to Joannis and Maria.[6]

1729Susannareinersbaptism
1729 Baptismal Record for Susanna REINERS aka LAMBERT [6]
The LAMBERT family was also known as REINERS in earlier records. The LAMBERT name appears to have come into use after the death of Joannis REINERS in 1750. Both names were likely “house” names.

The marriage of Johannes and Susanna lasted 31 years, 1 month, and 17 days ending with the death of Johannes in 1784. Next week we will take a look at the records found for their children.

bestwishescathy1

Sources:
[1] Luxembourg, registres paroissiaux, 1601-1948 (images), FamilySearch (original records at Luxembourg National Archives, Plateau du Saint-Esprit, Luxembourg), Ettelbruck > Baptêmes 1640-1724 > image 227 of 229. 1723 Baptismal Record for Joannes Meder son of Adam and Elisabetha  (right page 3rd entry).  (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.3.1/TH-1971-32462-2084-4?cc=2037955 : 9 January 2015).
[2] Ibid., Grand Duché du Luxembourg > Tables des mariages avant 1802 (Marcky, Kaiser-Meyers, Karres) > image 652 of 1622. 1752 Marriage Index Card. (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.3.1/TH-1971-32464-15985-50?cc=2037955 : 6 August 2016).
[3] Ibid., Mersch > Mariages 1749-1772 > image 13 of 88. 1752 Marriage Record (2nd entry on left page). (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.3.1/TH-1971-32461-2935-92?cc=2037955 : 9 January 2015).
[4] Ibid., Ettelbruck > Tables des mariages 1725-1799 Gevell-Z (index organisée par l’époux) > image 289 of 761. 1779 Marrie Index Card. (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.3.1/TH-1961-32461-3135-43?cc=2037955 : 9 January 2015).
[5] Ibid., Ettelbruck > Baptêmes, mariages, sépultures 1779-1793 > image 17 of 328. 1779 Marriage Record (left page, bottom entry). (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.3.1/TH-1942-32468-7375-53?cc=2037955 : 9 January 2015).
[6] Ibid., Mersch > Baptêmes 1717-1772 > image 42 of 280. 1729 Baptismal Record (right page 3rd entry from bottom). (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.3.1/TH-1951-32461-2307-24?cc=2037955 : 9 January 2015).

Genealogy Sketch

Name: Johannes MEDER
Parents:  Adam MEDERHANSEN and Elisabetha ESCH
Spouse: Susanna LAMBERT
Parents of spouse: Joannis REINERS and Maria ERPELDING
Whereabouts: Ettelbrück and Angelsberg, Grand Duché of Luxembourg
Relationship to Cathy Meder-Dempsey: 4th great-grandfather of husband

  1. Johannes MEDER
  2. Jean Nicolas MEDER
  3. Theodore MEDER
  4. Franz “François” MEDER
  5. Johann Peter “Jean-Pierre” MEDER
  6. Marcel Mathias MEDER
  7. Cathy Meder-Dempsey’s husband Living MEDER

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

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