Sunday, June 8, 2008

What's in a Name: Pomeranian names ending with "ke"

Image: Tombstone of Julius Hohnke, born in Prussia, son of Frederick Hohnke and Augusta (maiden surname unknown), at Allport cemetery, Clearfield Co., Pennsylvania. Julius and his wife, Ottilie Sunburg, had 6 known children. The youngest, Lewis H. Hohnke had one child, Lewis Campbell Hohnke, who changed the spelling of the surname to Hohnka (with a final "a"). Since the latter also buried his father and erected his tombstone, he inscribed his father's name as Hohnka. Both father and son named Lewis are buried at Philipsburg cemetery, Centre County, Pennsylvania.

Why do so many names from the former Prussian province of Pomerania (Pommern in German) end in "ke", as for example, Hohnke? Other examples are Lemke, Radtke, Gustke, Marschke, and Pranke. The Hohnke family is one of my major family lines, beginning with Frederick Hohnke, who had at least four children: Julius (see tombstone), Henrietta, Wilhelmina and Paulina. All of the children emigrated from Prussia to America in the early 1880s. Henrietta Hohnke, in particular, was my great grandmother who married Karl Streich.

Recently, I contacted the web master of a site focusing on the MARSCHKE family who were formerly from Kries Stolp, Pommern. I also have an ancestor from Kries Stolp, Pommern, but the surname is MASCH, that is without the middle "r" and without the suffix "ke". She was Johanna Masch, wife of Johann Kramp. For seveal years, I spelled her surname Marsch (with an r) until I went back to the original parish record at St. John's German Lutheran Church in Houtzdale, PA, and took a second look at the hand-written entry. Also, in the meantime, I discovered in the Mormon's International Genealogical Index (IGI) that there was a match for a Johanna Masch (without the r) which fit quite nicely into my Kramp Line and into another German immigrant family in our neighborhood, the Tuschling family. According to the IGI, Johanna Masch had a half sister Henrietta Masch who married a Ferdinand Ludwig Tuschling. Later, thanks to Rudolf Kerbitz of Wesel, Germany, I obtained a photocopy of civil birth registration for one of Johanna's daughters (Bertha J. Kramp) which confirmed that Johanna's maiden surname was "Masch". The surnames, Masch and Marschke are a close match. They are from the same locality and same time period in history, but they would even be closer if I could separate or at least have a common explanation the suffix, "ke".

Incidentally, at the Marschke Family web site, there is a pdf file of a journal and trip with pictures by "Ben" and his wife, who visited the town of Rathsdamnitz, Kries Stolp, Pommern (now in Poland). Ben partially transcribed parish records from the former Rathsdamnitz Lutheran Church (now R. Catholic) which were available in a library in Stolp city. Ben was focusing on the Marschke name but found similar spellings such as Martzke, Marzke, and Martzen, which he concluded were all probably related, perhaps as cousins. Noteworthy, were the marriage entries of several persons named Kramp in these 18th and 19th century church registers.

Above is the tombstone for Mrs. Hanna (Johanna), born Masch, wife of John (Johann) Kramp, at I.O.O.F. Cemetery, Brisbin, Clearfield County, Pennsylvania. Though barely legible, the inscription indicated Hanna died 4 June 1891. She was born 9 Oct 1945 in Kries Stolp, Pommern. Could Johanna have been related to the Marschke, Martzke, Marzke, or Martzen families who resided in the same Kries (= county in America)?

LeRoy Boelke (note suffix) in, "Pomerania, its People and its History", 1983, which I purchased from Pommerscher Verein Freistadt in Milwaukee, WI, states on page 29:

"With the Germans from the North Germany came other names from Friesland and Saxony, such as the -ke and -el endings. The -el shows up as Barthel, Wetzel, and many others. The -ke ending shows up as Lemke, Radtke, Wilke, Boehlke, and others. These name endings were of course found in northern Germany as well as in Pomerania, but because there were so many Pomeranians in Wisconsin most of these types of names came from Pomerania."

Unfortunately, Boelke did not go into any more details of WHY these names end in "ke", but as he indicated there were many Pomeranian immigrants who settled in Wisconsin- and I might add Michigan and Minnesota as well.

Regarding the roots of the names already mentioned, the following is found in, "A Dictionary of German Names, 2002, 2nd Edition, 579 pages, by Hans Bahlow, translated and revised by Edda Gentry, published by Max Kade Institute of German American Studies, Madison, WI, USA. Note that the roots of MARSCH and MASCH mean the same thing.

"Hohn (Low German)= Huhn (chicken) surname of a poultry grower or dealer. Also Hohnke, compare to Westphalia Kluckhorn (brooding hen)."

"Masch, Maschmann: Low German. Contracted from Marsch (mann) like Kasch from Karsch; compare Maschmeyer alongside Marschmeyer, from the habitation, 'Auf der Masch' (Marsch= damp, rich grazing land in lowlands near rivers and by the sea)"

"Kramp(e): probably surname of a locksmith. Compare dornagel and others. Also compare to place name Krampe in Pommern, Crampe in Brandenburg."

Vornefett "fat in the front" (I knew I would be mentioned in here someplace).



john d said...

I don't know about Pomerania specifically, but from what I've read and heard, -ke is a typical Prussian name suffix. The Germans I've met who've seen my last name (Doppke) have consistently pegged it as Prussian.

I actually found an interesting web page somewhere that talked about about the origin of the -ke suffix; I'll post it if I manage to find it. The basic thrust of the page, as I recall, was that it comes simultaneously from both Germanic and Slavic origins. In German, -ke is a local variant of the very common diminutive suffix -chen. I don't recall the Slavic details but it was something like a diminutive or patronymic suffix.

john d said...

Aha, found the article I was looking for among the PRUSSIA-ROOTS mailing list archives. It's a nice run-down of lots of German name suffixes that have some Wendisch angle to them, including a long entry on -ke and its variants. He mentions both German and Wendisch origins for -ke.

Other sources I've found just claim one theory, i.e. either Germanic or Slavic but not both, or occasionally it's claimed that it was originally Slavic but was then reinterpreted by German-speakers as the Germanic diminutive. Your mileage may vary :-)

Ken said...

Don't know for sure but my understanding is that the suffix '-ke' is a sign of familiarity or endearment similar to what we might do when we call a Mr. Brown "Brownie" as in "Heck of a job, Brownie". or maybe "Jonesie" for Jones or "Blackie" for Black. My Pommern surname is "Hartke" or "Hardtke" probably derived from some guy named "Hardt" way back in time.

john d said...

Ken, I think your understanding is accurate, and is consistent with the diminutive explanation. Diminutives strictly mean "little" but often wind up being a form of endearment (as even "little" can be in English). Although it seems in local Slavic languages it could be a patronymic ("son of X"), related to -ski/-ska found in many Slavic languages.

It seems kind of cool to me, but also confusing, that the same suffix is used in both the language families in the region. The PRUSSIA-ROOTS page I linked to above shows pairs of names that look almost identical, down to the -ke suffix, but one is German and the other is Wendisch. Some other article I once read pointed out that some names are almost impossible to pin down as one or the other, since there are valid competing origins on both Germanic and Slavic sides. I haven't really pursued finding out about my own name; it seems the name was tweaked during US naturalization anyway (doubled letter and possible umlaut removal).

Bob Kramp said...

Blogger's note: received permission from Ken to post this comment in hopes that readers may add more.

Bob, My great grandfather Johann Bauschke was born 25Feb 1827. He married Friederike Valentine who was born 5 May 1828. I do not know where they were born.

Their first child, Heinrich, was born 26 September 1852. Their last child, my grandmother, was Bertha Karoline Bauschke who was born 1 June 1865. Their children were all born at Treten, Rummelsburg, Pommern.

Johann, Friederike and Bertha came to the U.S. in 1881. All the other children stayed in Treten area and came to U.S. at a later date through NY. I have not been able to find the ship name or exact date of arrival at Castle Garden. They settled in South Haven, Michigan.

My grandmother's brother-in-law was Theodore Mielke who was also from the Treten area.

Andrew said...

That's interesting. My father moved from Germany when he was 10. His last name was "Matschke," very similar to "Marschke." He changed it to "Marker" in America though because people didn't like Germans in the post-WWII world. I wonder why? >.> Thanks Hitler. Now I don't have a cool last name.

Freya Grief said...

ummm...Pomerania was IN Prussia for almost two centuries. However, Pomerania existed far longer than Prussia. So if you are claiming Prussian heritage you might want to do some historical research on the exact area where your family is from.

Bob Kramp said...

Yes, Freya, good point. Pommern (or Pomerania in English) existed as a Kingdom/Province on the coast of the Baltic Sea for about 10 centuries before it was ceded to Poland after WW II. My Ancestors were specifically from Hinterpommern (furthest or eastern Pommern, in the Krieses ("counties") of Stolp and Lauenburg. I most often view Pommern as it was between 1871 and 1918 (the end of WW I). Fortunately, I have a map with both German and Polish names of towns. Thank you for commenting, Bob

Anonymous said...

There is the hero with the last name ends with a "ke": Peter Todd Radke. Radke saved a young girl but God took him.

Unknown said...

Hello from western Canada. My maternal grandfather was born in Pomerania in 1885 - his name was Paul (2nd name Daniel?) Bauschke. He married Amelia Hertha Geschke, born May 1883. They lived in Manitoba, Canada. Interesting posts, all.

Anonymous said...

I have a complex question. I have family that lived in Royal Prussia- about 15 miles or so North west of Gdansk or Danzig. They came over in 1893. All the censuses have them listed as "Polish" for mother language and the family cemetery is at the largest Polish Catholic cemetery in the Chicago area "St. Adalbert's" The family was definitely Catholic. There is some dispute in the family whether or not they identified as German or Polish? Maybe both? The last name was Dopke. I know this is a Prussian name, Is there a way to see what the ethnicity of the village they were from had mostly German influence or Polish. I want to learn more.
Any input anyone has on the matter would be very much appreciated


Anonymous said...

My Pomeranian great great great grandmother had the greatest name in the history of names: Willhelmina Butzke.