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Where are the families now?

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Joined: 17 Mar 2009
Posts: 413
Location: Liverpool, NY

PostPosted: Tue Jan 25, 2011 11:44 am    Post subject: Where are the families now? Reply with quote

Ever since its earliest settlement, Concordia, MO has been known as a predominantly German community. Even today, nine of the ten most common names in the Concordia area are German. All of these names stem from families that immigrated to the area from the Hanover and Westphalia areas of northern Germany. Many people are interested in tracing their family names and to what areas the families have moved.

Geographers at University College London have developed a website at that graphically illustrates the distribution of a surname. While they compiled their statistics primarily from phone directories and other public records for only a subset of all countries of the world (26), it gives a relatively good view of this distribution, particularly for European names.

As I had noted earlier in a posting on the Frerking family forum (Where are they now?), one can find some interesting results when looking at the Worldnames website. Concordia has the highest percentage of Frerking families of any city in the world. Checking the other most popular local names

Oetting – Concordia is 3rd (Bremen, Germany is 1st)
Schnakenberg – Concordia is 3rd (Bremen, Germany is 1st)
Bredehoeft – Concordia is 1st
Hemme – Concordia is 9th (Wedemark, Germany is 1st)
Hinck – Concordia is 8th (Hamburg, Germany is 1st)
Brackman – Concordia is 1st

As with any set of statistics, the results depend on the size of the grouping. The numbers are listed on this website in terms of population density, that is, in percent of the total population for a given grouping. This obviously skews the result toward smaller communities where a few names have a greater effect. The population density for some of these surnames may still be higher in some countries (particularly Germany). However, when one adjusts for the total population of the countries [the U. S. has about 3.5 times the population of Germany], the United States has the largest total number of Brackman, Bredehoeft, Frerking, and Oetting families in the world. Within the U. S., Missouri ranks the highest for each of the above names.

Perhaps the most striking distribution is that of the Bredehoeft family. There are now over 20 times as many Bredehoeft families in the U. S. as there are in the homeland of Germany. The top 6 cities in the world with the highest percentage of Bredehoefts are Concordia, Alma, Higginsville, Emma, Wheaton (IL), and Sweet Springs in that order.

If you are interested in tracing the names in your family tree, go to the website link given above, enter a name in the surname box, and click on ‘Search’ to see where your families are now. To see where the largest concentration are, click on the map to go to a country and then to a state. When you click on the state, you will see the counties with the highest concentrations. It should be pointed out that the website uses exact names. For example, you will see different results for Brackman vs. Brackmann or Schnakenberg vs. Schnackenberg. Also some families dropped the umlaut in their name over the years. The Stuenkel family that moved to Kansas changed their name to Stunkel. So, if you enter Stunkel, you will see that the highest density of that name shifts to Palmer County, KS.

Last edited by roger.pape on Thu Jan 27, 2011 9:16 am; edited 1 time in total
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Joined: 17 Mar 2009
Posts: 413
Location: Liverpool, NY

PostPosted: Wed Jan 26, 2011 8:59 am    Post subject: Spelling is the key Reply with quote

Jane Oerding was quick to point out how sensitive the statistical results and conclusions drawn from the Worldnames website are to the spelling of a surname.

In particular, the original spelling of the Bredehoeft name in German was 'Bredehöft'. Most of those who immigrated to the US anglicized the umlaut by adding the 'e' in the spelling. Whereas, in Germany, the umlaut is retained or dropped. [Note. That website does not appear to handle non-English characters like 'ö'.] So, if one enters the name 'Bredehoft', the results are completely different. In that case, all of the top cities are in the Niedersachsen/Hamburg/Bremen area, including Heeslingen.


Just received a response from a database designer for University College London. He said that they structured their database to use only "standard" characters. For names containing umlauts, they store them with an 'e' following the marked vowel, e.g. 'oe' in place of 'ö'. The remaining question is whether those who entered the data followed this rule. If so, it would indicate that, in Germany, the Bredehöft families dropped the umlaut and spell their name 'Bredehoft' as Jane indicated.
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