This article is part of the series “Are your German ancestors playing hide-and-seek?” about various reasons why you might not have found your ancestors yet. One of the possible reasons could be unusual local name variations.
Unusual local name variations
Don’t expect common name variations when searching for given names. Let me give you an example: Let’s say you have an immigrant ancestor whom you know by the name of Betsy. It would be easy to assume that in Germany as a baby she was named Elisabeth. But this is not necessarily true.
Local name variations can vary greatly
Yes, you’d probably recognize other given name variations like Lisbeth, Elsa or Bette as related to Elisabeth and Betsy. But… what about Lüken, Sabeth, Sissi or Telsche? All of those are local variations of “Elisabeth“:
- “Lüken” is phonetically related to “Lieken” which derives from “Liesken” which is a diminuation of “Liese” (Lies-chen = small Liese) which you probably will recognize as variation of “Elisabeth”.
- “Sabeth” is the last part of “Elisabeth”, not commonly used but actually easy to explain and recognize.
- “Sissi” or “Sisi” might be known to you from the three 1950s movies with the young Romy Schneider. Sisi’s real name was “Elisabeth Amalie Eugenie, Herzogin in Bayern” (Duchess in Bavaria), later Kaiserin von Österreich (Empress of Austria).
- “Telsche” is the most uncommon variation – at least for me. According to Wikipedia it derives from “Telse” which derives from “Else” which is a variation of “Elisabeth”. Learned again what new…
So always look up unusual yet possible name variations when you can’t find your immigrant ancestors despite otherwise correct information. The website “Behind the Name” is a very good place to start.
Which unusual local name variations have you found so far? Mind to share with us? Maybe others haven’t cracked the code yet…