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The Many Gerd Papes

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PostPosted: Wed Apr 23, 2014 11:36 am    Post subject: The Many Gerd Papes Reply with quote

Early German families were not particularly original when naming their children. Within a particular family, you will see the same given name appearing from generation to generation. This is a result of common customs that were followed in those days. One of these was that the first born son would be named after the paternal grandfather and the first daughter would be named after the maternal grandmother. Then the second son would be named after the maternal grandfather and the second daughter named after the paternal grandmother. Another custom that is often seen was that multiple children in a family would be christened with the same given name as their parents but with different middle name(s). (This still occurs occasionally, such as boxer George Forman’s many sons all being named George.) Sometimes, if a child died in infancy, the next child of that gender would be given the same first and middle names.

To differentiate between the members of the family, the children would usually be called by their middle name. (Again, this is somewhat similar to a child being named ___ Jr. and then given a nickname.) As I have mentioned before in other postings, the children would often continue to use the middle name as their legal name throughout the rest of their life. On other occasions, they might revert back to their christened name later, particularly when the parent died. As you might guess, this can cause problems trying to trace one’s ancestors, particularly when the same names were used in related families.

Within my Pape ancestors, the given name of Gerd (a contraction of Gerhard) was especially popular. Starting with my 6th great-grandfather in Boitzenbostel, Germany there were three straight generations of Gerd, i.e.
Gerd Pape (1652-1729) – 6th gr-grandfather
Gerd(t) Pape (1687-1757) – 5th gr-grandfather
Gerd Pape (1724-1793) – 4th gr-grandfather

The chain was broken in the next generation. My 3rd gr-grandfather was named Bösche Pape (1758-1817). He was the second son in the family and his older brother was named Gerd. Since Bösche was not the first son and did not inherit the farm, he moved from the homestead in Boitzenbostel to nearby Meinstedt. (The first Pape house at Nr.3 Meinstedt was known as the Böschen Hut.) But the first sons of both brothers were also named Gerd who in turn named their first born sons Gerd. The second sons were named Claus.

The succession of names of my ancestors became
Gerd Pape (1792-1867) – 2nd gr-grandfather
Claus Pape (1827-1877) – great-grandfather
But Claus had an older brother named Gerd.

So then there were related families in adjacent villages with the same names in them. Both families attended the same church in Heeslingen. You can see the possible confusion in the excerpt from the 1838 confirmation records of that church. Note that entries 6 and 7 list two Gerd Papes, both having a father named Gerd Pape. Entry 7 is great-grandfather Claus’ older brother (born in Meinstedt); while entry 6 is their cousin Gerd (born only a few months earlier in Boitzenbostel). The diagram below show their relationship.

Great-grandfather Claus continued the naming practice. My grandfather Jacob Pape had older brothers named Gerd and Claus respectively. From this point on, the name Claus continues to this day. A second cousin of mine, living in Meinstedt, is named Klaus. When Grandpa Pape came to the U.S. the tradition was finally broken. Jacob and Maria were much more creative in their naming. The only remnant of the German names was that Jacob’s first born son was named Arthur Claus Pape. One other anecdote relating to naming involves one of my aunts. The name that was chosen for her was Martha Anna after her aunt Martha Holsten Stuenkel. However, at the christening, Pastor Brust said he liked the name Anna better and baptized her Anna Martha Pape.

Excerpt from 1838 confirmation records of church in Heeslingen, Germany.
Evangelische Kirche Heeslingen Kirchenbuch, Page 149 (1824).
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Gerd Pape relationships.
(Not all children shown.)
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