Proving the True Identity of Jean Baptiste BREGER 1738-1805

The steeple of the Saint Michael’s Church in Luxembourg City is in the upper right quadrant of the featured image.

There is a reason why we look at the entire family group including grandparents and grandchildren when trying to solve a genealogy problem.

Adding new ancestors to the family tree

My fifth great-grandmother, Margretha BREGER’s baptismal record1 was found the day before I wrote 52 Ancestors: #46 Jean Baptiste Majerus and Catharina Cornely of Strassen, a post about my fourth great-grandparents. Jean MAJERUS and Margretha BREGER were the parents of Jean Baptiste MAJERUS and my fifth great-grandparents.

The status of this branch of the family tree in January 2018.

With this find, I was able to add the names of her parents to my family tree. The next step was finding a marriage record for Jean Baptiste and Susanne, my 6th great-grandparents.

1758 Marriage Index Card for Brigert-Mertens couple

The marriage index card for the 1758 marriage of Jean Baptiste BRIGERT and Susanna MERTENS gave the parents of the bride and groom.2 The information was verified in the actual entry for the marriage in the church records of St. Jean-du-Grund.3

1758 marriage entry in church records for Jean Baptiste Brigert (parents: Michaelis Brigert p.m. et Maria Joanna Hackenberger) and Susanne Mertens (parents: Theodori Mertens et Joanna Bevinger p.m.). Note: p.m. means deceased.

The bride’s parents, Theodore MERTENS and Jeanne BEVING,  and maternal grandparents, Nicolas BEVING and Anne Marie KURTZ, were proven by accessing records found using A Hidden Index for Luxembourg City’s Parishes and Garrison. The groom’s line was a bit more complicated.


I used different spellings of the surnames of Michel BRIGERT and Maria Joanna HACKENBERGER to search for a marriage record in the Marriage Index Database for Luxembourg for the years 1610-1797 but without any success.

I utilized the index I’d found for the parishes in Luxembourg City to find baptisms of children with the surname BREGERDT, BROEGER, BRIGERT, BRETER, BRECKER, BREDER, and BREGER.

For the period 1725 to 1736, I found three baptismal records for children born to a couple with the same surnames as the parents of Johann Baptiste. However, the first name of the father of the children was Caspar or Gaspar and not Michel.

1725 Baptismal Record of Jean Adam BREYER

On 15 May 1725, an illegitimate male child was baptized Joannes Adamus (Jean Adam). His parents were Caspar BREYER, a soldier, and Joanna HACKENBERG. His godparents were Jean Adam WEBER and Elisabetha RECKIN. The entry was followed by an annotation made at a later date. It stated the child was legitimized with the subsequent marriage of Gaspar BREYER and Joanna HACKENBERGER.4

1733 Baptismal Record of Elisabeth BRYER (sic)

On 1 May 1733, Elisabetha the legitimate daughter of Gaspar BREYER and Johannata HACKENBERG was baptized. Her godparents were Elisabetha BISSDORFF and Jean Georges HACKENBERG.5

1736 Baptismal Record of Maria BRIGER

On 12 August 1736, Maria the legitimate daughter of Gaspar BRIGER and Maria Joanna HACKENBERGER was baptized. Her godparents were Maria CHRISTOFF and Jean WEBER.6

These baptismal records show Maria Joanna HACKENBERGER was the wife of Caspar aka Gaspar BREYER (later seen as BRIGER) and not of Michel BRIGERT as noted on the marriage index card above for Johann Baptiste BRIGERT. A marriage record for the BREYER-HACKENBERGER couple was not found although the first baptismal record indicates they were married after the birth of Jean Adam. A baptismal record for a son named Jean Baptiste was not found.

Jean Adam BREYER

I researched the three children above. When I ran the son Jean Adam BREYER (b. 1725) through the marriage database for 1610-1797 there were no hits. However in the database for 1797-1923 there was a hit in 1801. Could he have married at the age of 76 years?

1801 Publication of marriage for Jean Adam BREYER and Catherine GASPAR

The publication of the marriage of Jean Adam BREYER included the following information: Jean Adam BREYER, 76 years old, maçon or builder, widower of Susanne MERTENS, son of Gaspar BREYER and Jeanne HACKENBERG, marrying Catherine GASPAR, 46 years old and widow of Jean DUNCKHOLTZ.7

We have Jean Adam the son of Gaspar and Jeanne which matches the child born in 1725. If he was the widower of Susanne MERTENS his name should have been Jean Baptiste and not Jean Adam.

1801 Marriage Record of Jean Adam BREYER and Catherine GASPAR

The actual marriage record has more information.8

  • The upper third part of the record has the groom and bride’s information.
  • The lower third part has the names, occupations, residence, and age of the four witnesses as well as their signatures.
  • The middle third of the record is completely handwritten and explains which records were consulted.

The groom and bride had to furnish pièces à l’appui or documents supporting the information they gave.  The birth record of Jean Adam BREYER came from a register of Luxembourg City. This can only be the church register as civil records were not kept prior to 1796. The date listed on the marriage record is the date seen on the baptismal record found above, i.e. 15 May 1725.

The bride was the widow of Jean DUNCKHOLS and daughter of Jean GASPAR and Petronille SPECK.

Following the bride’s information, the deceased wife of the groom, Susanne MERTENS, and deceased husband of the bride, Jean DUNCKHOLS, are mentioned with their dates and places of death.

Death record of the first wife

Susanne MERTENS died on 16 Fructidor of the year 7 (2 September 1799) in Luxembourg City per the marriage record of her widower. The death record confirms she was the wife of Jean Baptiste BREGER.9

1799 Death Record of Susanne MERTENS

Were Jean Adam and Jean Baptiste the same person?

1805 Death Record of Jean Baptiste BREGER

On 24 October 1805, Jean Baptiste BREGER died in house number 22 in the rue de Thionville in Luxembourg City. He is listed as the husband of Catherine GASPAR.10

I was convinced the two men were the same and my 6th great-grandfather was born in 1725 as Jean Adam but for some reason later called himself Jean Baptiste and made himself younger.

Until I continued research on the HACKENBERGER branch…

Baptisms in St. Michel from 1649 to 1786

Fernand G. EMMEL, during his years working for the municipal archives, compiled a list of 12,210 baptisms which took place in the church of St. Michel from 1649 to 1786. This compilation was published by Luxracines and includes the names of the parents as well as godparents and their residence when mentioned.11

I searched my digital copy of this book for Jean Georges HACKENBERG(ER) who had been the godfather of one of Gaspar BREYER and Maria Joanna HACKENBERGER’s daughters. He was found to be the son of Nicolas HACKENBERG (also seen as HACKENBERGER and HACKENBURGER) and Agatha CHINY (also seen as SCHINY, CHINAY, SEINECKEN, SCHYNE). HACKENBERG(ER) is not a common name in Luxembourg.

I added all information from the baptismal entries for Nicolas and Agatha’s children to an unattached branch in my family tree. There were eight children but no daughter named Maria or Joanna. I then searched for each baptismal record to confirm the dates as well as the names of the children, parents, and godparents.

A son Jean listed in Mr. EMMEL’s compilation turned out to be Jeannatta, a daughter, born on 4 February 1700.12 I had found the parents of my 7th great-grandmother.

As she had been listed incorrectly in the compilation, I searched again for all HACKENBERG(ER) individuals in the book paying close attention to women’s names, either as mothers or as godmothers.

Jean Baptiste YGEL (sic, a possible error)

There was an entry for a child named Jean Baptiste YGEL baptized on 13 October 1738, son of Gaspard YGEL and Jeanette HACKENBERG. The baptismal record13 confirmed the names in the compilation…

1738 Baptismal Record of a child named Jean Baptiste

…however, I believe the priest made a mistake when he wrote the father’s surname. It should be BREYER or BREGER and not IGEL or YGEL.

I didn’t come to this conclusion without first checking baptismal records for all IGEL children, a marriage between an IGEL and a HACKENBERG(ER), or any possible mention of these names in relation to each other. The only couple found having children at this time was Guillaume IGEL and Marguerite KRICK (KREITZ).

A last piece of evidence

To pull this all together I needed one more record to prove Jean Baptiste BREGER and not Jean Adam BREYER had married Catherine GASPAR.

As seen above when Jean Baptiste BREGER died in 1805 his surviving wife was listed as Catherine GASPAR. She died three years later. Her death record shows she was the widow of Jean DUNCKHOLS, a first marriage, and Jean Baptiste BREGER, a second marriage.14

1808 Death Record of Catherine GASPAR

This matches the information found in the 1801 marriage record of Jean Adam BREYER and Catherine GASPAR with the exception of the name of her second husband.


Jean Baptiste BREGER was seen as Jean Baptiste BREGER on his first marriage record in 1758, on the 176015 and 176716 baptismal records of his children, on the  1783 marriage record of his son Michel17, on the 1797 birth record of his grandson Jean Baptiste MAJERUS18, on the 1799 death record of his first wife Susanna MERTENS, on his 1805 death record, and on his second wife Catherine GASPAR’s 1808 death record.

The wrong name, Jean Adam BREYER, was found only on his marriage publication and marriage record in 1801. As civil records were required to make a marriage legal, Jean Baptiste had to present supporting documentation in the form of a baptismal record to identify his parents and a death record of his first wife to show he was free to marry. His baptismal record was not found as the priest had written the wrong surname for his father. The next best record was that of Jean Adam BREYER, Jean Baptiste’s older brother who was born ten years earlier.

Who would have known an error made on a baptismal record of a child born in 1735 would cause problems for a 66 years old groom when he married in 1801 and hours of research for this genealogist 274 years later?

© 2019, copyright Cathy Meder-Dempsey. All rights reserved.

  1. Luxembourg, registres paroissiaux, 1601-1948 (images), FamilySearch (original records at Luxembourg National Archives, Plateau du Saint-Esprit, Luxembourg), Luxembourg, Saint Michel > Baptêmes 1764-1788 > image 27 of 360. 1767 Baptismal Record (right page, left column, 5th entry). ( : accessed 13 January 2018). 
  2. Ibid., Luxembourg, Saint Jean > Tables des mariages 1709-1789 (index organisée par l’époux) > image 52 of 445. 1758 Marriage Index Card. ( : accessed 19 May 2019). 
  3. Ibid., Luxembourg, Saint-Jean à Grund > Mariages, décès 1708-1791 > image 181 of 208. 1758 Marriage Record (page 191 back, top). ( : accessed 5 June 2019). 
  4. Ibid., Luxembourg, Saint Michel > Baptêmes 1702-1763 > image 112 of 371. 1725 Baptismal Record. ( : accessed 5 June 2019). 
  5. Ibid., Luxembourg, Saint Michel > Baptêmes 1702-1763 > image 169 of 371. 1733 Baptismal Record (left page, left column, 3rd entry). ( : accessed 5 June 2019). 
  6. Ibid., Luxembourg, Saint Michel > Baptêmes 1702-1763 > image 186 of 371. 1736 Baptismal Record (left page, 2nd entry). ( : accessed 5 June 2019). 
  7. Luxembourg, Registres d’état civil, 1662-1941 (images), FamilySearch (original records at Luxembourg National Archives, Plateau du Saint-Esprit, Luxembourg), Luxembourg > Mariages 1799 > image 169 of 1529. 1801 Marriage Publication (30 Brumaire an X). ( : accessed 7 June 2019). 
  8. Ibid., Luxembourg > Mariages 1799 > image 213 of 1529. 1801 Marriage Record (left page). ( : accessed 23 June 2019). 
  9. Ibid., Luxembourg > Mariages 1888-1890 Décès 1796-1806 > image 523 of 1420. 1799 Death Record (16 Fructidor an 7) right page, bottom. ( : accessed 23 June 2019). 
  10. Ibid., Luxembourg > Mariages 1888-1890 Décès 1796-1806 > image 1256 of 1420. 1805 Death Record (2 Brumaire year XIV). ( : accessed 7 June 2019). 
  11. Fernand G. Emmel, Baptêmes Luxembourg Saint-Michel 1649-1786, (Recherches effectuées par Fernand G. Emmel), a publication of Luxracines a.s.b.l. 
  12. Luxembourg Church Records, Luxembourg, Saint Michel > Baptêmes 1649-1701, mariages 1706 > image 228 of 240. 1700 Baptismal Record (right page, right column). ( : accessed 22 June 2019). 
  13. Ibid., Luxembourg, Saint Michel > Baptêmes 1702-1763 > image 197 of 371. 1738 Baptismal Record for Jean Baptiste Igel (sic, Breyer) (left page, right column, 2nd entry). ( : accessed 22 June 2019). Error on the record concerning the surname of the father and child. 
  14. Luxembourg Civil Records, Luxembourg > Décès 1807-1814 > image 257 of 1511. 1808 Death Record (right, top). ( : accessed 25 June 2019). 
  15. Luxembourg Church Records, Luxembourg, Saint Michel > Baptêmes 1702-1763 > image 341 of 371. 1760 Baptismal Record (right page, right column, last entry). ( : accessed 20 May 2019). 
  16. Ibid., Luxembourg, Saint Michel > Baptêmes 1764-1788 > image 27 of 360. 1767 Baptismal Record (right page, left column, 5th entry). ( : accessed 13 January 2018). 
  17. Ibid., Luxembourg, Saint Michel > Mariages 1764-1796 > image 108 of 305. 1783 Marriage Record (lower left and upper right). ( : accessed 19 May 2019). 
  18. Luxembourg Civil Records, Luxembourg > Tables décennales 1863-1872, 1863-1872, 1873-1892 Naissances 1796-1800 > image 905 of 1504. 1797 Birth Record (9 Germinal year V). ( : accessed 13 January 2018). 

A Hidden Index for Luxembourg City’s Parishes and Garrison

When I opened up my genealogy program to gather material on my 5th great-grandparents Jean MAJERUS and Magretha BREGER for a new post it looked like I wouldn’t be writing a very detailed one about them. Everything I had had already been used when I wrote about their son Jean Baptiste MAJERUS in January last year. I had little information about his parents. In fact, I had only located the baptismal record for Margretha BREGER with the names of her parents the day before I posted. I added their names to a screenshot I’d made to illustrate a knothole in the fence.

Over a year later, the tree was still pretty bare. Margretha’s parents’ names had been added but without dates or places.

Screenshot of my 4th great-grandfather Jean Baptiste MAJERUS in my tree on Ancestry which is attached to the DNA test I manage.

Jean MAJERUS’ parentage was still unknown. There are discrepancies concerning his place of birth. On the census taken from 1843 to 1852, he had been listed as born in Luxembourg or France. The places in France were not found on a map and likely misspelled. The last census he was enumerated in had Felz, also known as Larochette, in Luxembourg. This was the place his 24 years old grandson gave when he declared the death of his 87 years old grandfather, Jean MAJERUS.

No marriage record was found in Luxembourg for Jean MAJERUS and Margretha BREGER. A record which would include his birth date and place, his parents’ names and location if living or dates of death if deceased.

I didn’t let the lack of information on Jean MAJERUS stop me from continuing my research with his wife Margretha and her parents.

Before I began with a time-consuming search for siblings in the church records of Saint Michel where Margretha was born, I checked the marriage database on Luxracines to see if I could locate a date of marriage for her parents. I needed to know when they would be having children and if they were married in the same church their daughter was baptized or if their marriage even took place in Luxembourg City. While Jean and Margretha’s marriage date was not found in either the church or civil marriage databases, I found her parents married on 20 April 1758 in the Saint Jean parish in Luxembourg City.

The index card for the marriage had me stumped.  The last line on the card shows the parish was LSJ = Luxembourg, Saint Jean. I had no idea what the AVL abbreviation meant. I went to FamilySearch > Luxemburg Kirchenbücher 1601-1948 > Luxembourg, Saint Jean and Luxembourg, Saint Jean à Grund. Neither collection had marriage records for the time period 1758 would fell in for the Saint Jean parish.

I can’t keep this wonderful discovery a secret!

Switching back and forth between the two Saint Jean collections I noticed Luxembourg, Saint Jean had only the Tables des mariages 1709-1789 which is the collection of marriage index cards (as seen above) while Luxembourg, Saint Jean à Grund had two collections I had overlooked.

This is what I found when I checked the first:

An alphabetical and chronological index of births in the parishes and garrison of the city of Luxembourg for the years 1601-1796 with over 710 images of double pages in the book. The second was the same but for marriages and deaths (nearly 500 images). The same two collections were found under Luxembourg, Saint Michel; Luxembourg, Saint-Ulrich; and Chapelle de la Garnison, Luxembourg. The information at the front of the collections has a key for the abbreviations used for the parishes and gives credit to a Mr. Weyer, secretary, for making this inventory of the baptismal, marriage, and death records. Each entry includes the name, date of event, parish, and page of the parish book making it easy to find the actual record in the collections for these parishes.

Using this NEW index I found the names and records for both sets of grandparents of Margretha BREGER, one set of great-grandparents, the name of a great-great-grandparent, and children of several of these marriages. My Ancestor Score is increasing!

How many of the researchers for Luxembourg who follow my blog knew about this amazing compilation of births, marriages, and deaths from the church records of the city of Luxembourg? Two books with a total of over 2,400 pages of names, dates, and page numbers for records from 1601 to 1796. Did I discover something everyone was already using or is this also new to you?

I was so excited and motivated after adding generations to Margretha that I began looking for a way to find more information on her husband Jean MAJERUS. Did you hear that wall come crashing down? I’ll tell you about it in my next post.

© 2019, copyright Cathy Meder-Dempsey. All rights reserved.

What’s the secret of “maison dite” or house names in Luxembourg records?

For some reason, the subject of maison dite or house names kept coming up while I was researching the MERTES-DONNEN family. Not only in my research but in several Facebook groups and pages I follow. Maybe the ancestors were trying to tell me something. Or maybe it’s time to discuss what I learned while researching this family – something I left out in my last post.

Before I share my discovery, let me give you an overview of the history of house names and surnames in Luxembourg.

This past June I attended a conference by Paul ZIMMER, Latein in den Kirchenbüchern korrekt lesen (Reading Latin Correctly in Church Records). His presentation included an explanation of the peculiarities of names found in church records. After the presentation, he kindly sent digital copies to all participants of a dozen articles published under his pseudonym, Victor Racine. I used his introduction to genealogy research adapted to the Luxembourg situation: Petite introduction à la recherche généalogique avec des conseils pratiques adaptés à la situation luxembourgeoise (Victor Racine) as a guide.

House Names and Surnames

Until around 1500 the first name of a person was sufficient enough to identify ordinary people. When pleading someone’s case, it was done orally and normally in the presence of the person eliminating the confusion of identities.

The appearance of the first written documents however required additional distinction. Nicolas, therefore, became known as Nicolas de Steinfort (by his residence), Nicolas le Meunier (by his occupation, i.e. miller), or Nicolas le Petit (by a trait, i.e. small person).

When these extensions to the first names finally became family names transmitted from one generation to the next, they were not, for a long time, patronymic. In about half the cases, the children’s names came from the mother, as the rules of family succession in Luxembourg were based on primogeniture – the right of the oldest child inheriting the parental home without any distinction between males and females.

Luxembourg researchers are confronted with the phenomenon of “house names” shared by all people living under one roof, regardless of their initial name received at birth.  At the time of the marriage, the spouse always acquired, whatever his sex, the name of the house into which he entered. Thus, each couple had only one and the same surname which was transmitted to all their children.

In the course of the eighteenth century when Luxembourg was under Austrian rule, the civil authorities imposed a contrary law, that each individual should keep his birth name – it could no longer be changed during the course of his life, notably at the time of marriage. Each legitimate child inherited his father’s surname.

During the long transition, the coexistence of the two rules and practices, totally opposite, constituted a complication which was the source of errors. The children of one and the same couple sometimes obtained different surnames. The second spouse of a widow or widower may have been known by the surname his spouse had previously taken from his first conjugal partner.

Priests were aware of the problem of the double and triple surnames of their parishioners. Some were careful to note more than one name. The different surnames of one and the same person were juxtaposed and linked together by Latin words: alias (otherwise called), vulgo (commonly called), modo (otherwise), sive and aut (or), dicta (said). Sometimes the correct connection with previous generations can be determined by useful references such as ex domo … (from the house) or in domo … (in the house). House names were also mentioned in the parish records using the term in aedibus (Latin for in house) followed by the name.

Our genealogical research may suffer from the rivalry of these two incompatible rules but in the following case, I profited from them.

Researching the MERTES-DONNEN Family

It took me longer than usual to research the MERTES-DONNEN family before I wrote about them in my last post. I couldn’t seem to get to the point I wanted to be before beginning to write. I wanted to know as much as possible about both Nicolas MERTES’ family and Maria Catharina DONNEN’s family so their timelines would be as complete as possible.

This led me down a rabbit hole as I also looked into their grandparents. When I finally thought I had the timeline ready, I began writing using information from the documents for each of the events.

As I was composing the post I went off on a tangent taking a new look at the death record of Margaretha BIVER, the mother of Nicolas MERTES. I ended up cutting out a large portion of what I wrote about the death record and my findings as I realized I had gotten sidetracked from the subject of the piece.

However, I saw an opportunity to use the information I had found to help other Luxembourg researchers.

The MERTES Family’s House Name

Screenshot of the family view of Margaretha BIVER and Peter MERTES as seen in my genealogy software Ancestral Quest 15.

Marguerite BIVER died on 20 December 1820 at nine in the evening in house number 69 in the Opperter road in Bertrange. The informant for the death was her son-in-law Jean KETTENMEYER. The record (below, top entry) did not indicate the address was also that of the informant.

1820 death records of Margareta Biver (top) and Maria Christophory (bottom). Source: Luxembourg, Registres d’état civil, 1662-1941 (images), FamilySearch (original records at Luxembourg National Archives, Plateau du Saint-Esprit, Luxembourg), Bertrange > Mariages 1828-1890 Décès 1796-1890 > image 640 of 1416. 1820 Death Record No. 20+21. ( : accessed 8 August 2017).

The next entry in the register (above, bottom entry) was for a baby with the surname CHRISTOPHORY who died in house number 73 of the same street.

The importance of the deaths taking place in the same street, likely only two houses away from each other, can be seen in the pedigree of Franz MERTES, the son of the MERTES-DONNEN couple and grandson of Marguerite BIVER.

Pedigree view in Ancestral Quest 15

I haven’t followed through to see how the baby’s family was related to Barbe CHRISTOPHORY, Maria Catharina’s mother. But it had me wondering if the DONNEN-CHRISTOPHORY and the MERTES-BIVER couples had been neighbors when their daughter and son married. I tried to locate the address in present-day Bertrange but the list of street names on the Luxembourg post office’s site did not turn up any matches.

My next step was to check if perhaps the KETTENMEYER family’s street name may have been mentioned on the census or in a vital record. Jean KETTENMEYER died before the first available census. The two listings I found for his widow Anne MERTES did not include the street name.

Jean’s death record revealed an interesting fact. He died in la maison dite Karpen, an Oppert or a house named Karpen in Oppert.

Luxembourg, Registres d’état civil, 1662-1941 (images), FamilySearch (original records at Luxembourg National Archives, Plateau du Saint-Esprit, Luxembourg), Bertrange > Mariages 1828-1890 Décès 1796-1890 > image 830 of 1416. 1837 Death Record No. 4. ( : accessed 23 August 2017).

This was an amazing discovery. When I read maison dite Karpen on the record I knew right away the KETTENMEYER family was living in the home of the MERTES family.

The significance of “la maison dite Karpen”

Peter, the father of Nicolas MERTES and Jean KETTENMEYER’s wife Anne MERTES, was the son of Mathias MERTES and Maria HOLTZEMER of Steinsel. At this time I do not have a baptismal record for Peter. His death record indicates he was born about 1733. I suspect his age was over-estimated at the time of death.

Luxembourg, registres paroissiaux, 1601-1948 (images), FamilySearch (original records at Luxembourg National Archives, Plateau du Saint-Esprit, Luxembourg), Bertrange > Tables des mariages 1720-1796 (index organisée par l’époux) > image 350 of 572. 1771 Marriage Index Card. ( : accessed 17 August 2017).

The parents of the groom were married in 1726 at which time their names were given as Mathias MERTENS and Maria HOLTZEMER. The family name had evolved from MERTENS to MERTES by the time Peter married.

Luxembourg, registres paroissiaux, 1601-1948 (images), FamilySearch (original records at Luxembourg National Archives, Plateau du Saint-Esprit, Luxembourg), Steinsel > Tables des mariages 1697-1802 Fridchy-Z (index organisée par l’époux) > image 430 of 980. 1726 Marriage Index Card. ( : accessed 6 October 2015).

Mathias and Maria had six children born in Müllendorf and baptized in Steinsel from 1729 to 1741. The baptismal records have been found. The priest gave the following names for the parents on the children’s records:

  1. Theodore b. 1729: Mathias MARTINI and Maria HOLTZEMER
  2. Magdalena b. 1731: Mathias MARTINI and Maria CARPEN dicta HOLTZEMER
  3. Johann b. 1733: Mathias MARTINI alias CARPEN and Maria HOLTZEMER
  4. Mathias b. 1736: Mathias MARTINI alias CARPEN and Maria HOLTZEMER
  5. Anna Maria b. 1737: Mathias MERTENS alias CARPEN and Maria HOLTZEMER
  6. Johann Peter b. 1741: Mathias MERTENS alias CARPEN and Maria HOLTZEMER

As mentioned in the explanation of surnames in Luxembourg, the priest gave a Latin twist to the surname and added an alias to Mathias’ surname as well as dicta (said) to Maria’s.

Although I know that Peter MERTES was the son of Mathias MERTES (MERTENS) and Maria HOLZTEMER as these were the names given at the time of his marriage, I still do not know for sure when he was born and baptized. I believe he may have been the youngest son, Johann Peter born in 1741. Further research will have to be done to prove or disprove this assumption.

The alias CARPEN was found to go back further through Maria HOLTZEMER’s line. She was born in 1704 when her parents were listed as Nicolas HOLZEM and Angela PEIFFERS. When Maria’s her sister Angela was born in 1707 the parents’ names were given as Nicolas HOLZEM dicti KARP and his wife Angela.

Digging a bit deeper I learned Angela’s family did not use a surname until their fourth child was born. It would have been very unlikely that I would figure this out on my own. Claude Bettendroffer, vice-president of Luxracines, made the connection and shared it in his database on our society’s website. When the first two children were born the parents were seen Godefridus (also seen as Godfroid and Godart), a sutor or cobbler, and Dorothée. When Angela was born her father was seen with the same occupation, only written in German, Schuhmacher. The father’s occupation was used to distinguish him from other men with the same first name in Steinsel. By the time their fourth child was born the family was using the surname or house name PEIFFERS. The oldest child, a daughter, inherited the home and passed the name on to the children of both of her marriages as her husbands took on her house name PEIFFERS.

It was astonishing to have followed a family line back using surnames, to using a house name, to only being identified by the father’s occupation during a documented period from 1666 back to 1659.

The house name KARPEN was not used by the PEIFFERS family as far as I can tell at this time. It was used by the HOLTZEM family in Müllendorf as early as 1707, by the MERTENS-HOLTZEMER family in 1731-1741 in Müllendorf, and finally by the MERTES family in Bertrange as late as 1837 when the son-in-law died. It appears the house name followed the son when he married and made his home in Bertrange.

Karpen house in Oppert. Where was Oppert?

When I searched for Oppert as seen in the 1837 death record instead of Opperter as seen in the 1820 death record, I found it is now a street in Bertrange called rue des Champs. I know this street. We’ve ridden our bikes on this road which runs from the center of town out of Bertrange into the fields to the west of town where bike paths link it to Mamer in the northwest and Dippach in the southwest.

Zooming in on Google maps street view I found the street sign, a bit above and to the left of the shutter on the left side of the house, for rue des Champs includes the Luxembourgish name Oppert.

What’s the secret?

I don’t believe there is a secret to the maison dite or house names in Luxembourg records. As long as we know how surnames evolved and how house names were used to identify people, we can use the rules to benefit our research.

Even today the older generations can be heard referring to a person by their house name instead of their surname in Luxembourg. But it is a custom which is quickly disappearing.

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