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Diaspora & Possible Origin of Pape Surname

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Joined: 17 Mar 2009
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Location: Liverpool, NY

PostPosted: Thu Mar 26, 2009 4:56 pm    Post subject: Diaspora & Possible Origin of Pape Surname Reply with quote

(Originally posted December 18, 2008)

This website was intended in large part for the many people who have roots in Concordia, MO. John Hinck in Wisconsin uses the term diaspora to refer to all of these ex-Concordia people scattered throughout the U.S. This word originally referred to the scattering (or dispersion) of the Jewish people after the Babylonian captivity. I got to thinking that this would also be an appropriate term for the Pape family because of a theory that I have about the origin of the Pape surname.

When I was growing up, I thought that Pape was a relatively rare name. That was probably because Grandfather Jacob Pape immigrated to the U.S. on his own as a teenager. Of course, there were the two Henry Pape families in the Concordia area that had no apparent relationship to our family. (Or as the one Hy. Pape would tell my Uncle Louis “We ain’t got no religion.”) However, over time I noticed that there were a number of Papes throughout the U.S. and Canada. Significant pockets of Pape families can be found in such places as NY State, Texas, Indiana, Detroit, and Toronto. (There’s a Pape Ave. and subway station on the east side of Toronto.)

There is some uncertainty about how the Pape surname originated, but most agree that it stems from the word for father or Papa, possibly in relation to the Roman papacy. The largest concentration of Papes seems to be in the Hanover district of Germany. Our own family tree has been traced back to the 1600s around Heeslingen in Hanover where the family lived for centuries. Since this area was a stronghold of Lutheranism, it would be ironic if the name is connected with the papacy.

Papes can be found throughout Europe, such as in England, Scotland, and France. The occurrences in Great Britain might be explained by the ties between the British monarchy and Hanover during the reign of the early King George’s, although the presence of the surname could predate that era. [Interesting bit of trivia. Did you know that the British royal family changed its name from Battenberg to Montbatten during World War I (‘berg’ being German for mountain)?]

On the other hand, the French connection is more interesting. I was first aware of the French Papes when a college professor who spotted my name asked me if I was French. My father, for whatever reason, always said that our name was originally French. Therefore, I developed the following theory.

During the 1300s, a split occurred in the Roman papacy. Pope Clement V moved to the Avignon area of southern France. Because a papacy in exile was maintained there for about 70 years, this period is referred to as the “Babylonian Captivity of the Papacy”. (That was the same length of time the people from Judah were held captive in Babylon.) Perhaps you are familiar with a famous Rhone wine named Châteauneuf-du-Pape, i.e. “New home (or chateau) of the Pope.” When Pope Clement arrived in Avignon, one of the first things he obviously did was to plant grape vines for wine. These same vines are still producing wine to this day.

My theory is that the Pape family, named after part of this group in exile, migrated up to Rhone valley and settled in Hanover. Interesting, but possibly pure fiction.
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