Alfred001

German names in the US and Jewish folks

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Alfred001    8

German are the most numerous ethnic group in the US, yet it seems like whenever you encounter an American with a German last name they are Jewish.

 

I wonder why that is. Does anyone know?

I know some people of German ancestry have anglicized their last names, but then again, why haven't the Jewish people? Is it that Jewish immigration has been more recent while Germans moved earlier and maybe that practice of anglicization went out of style by the time the Jewish people came over?

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Phi for All    4772

German are the most numerous ethnic group in the US, yet it seems like whenever you encounter an American with a German last name they are Jewish.

 

I wonder why that is. Does anyone know?

Confirmation bias.

I know some people of German ancestry have anglicized their last names, but then again, why haven't the Jewish people? Is it that Jewish immigration has been more recent while Germans moved earlier and maybe that practice of anglicization went out of style by the time the Jewish people came over?

 

You know a few Germans who did something, and now you're wondering why all the Jews haven't done the same thing? That sounds bizarre, doesn't it, expecting all one group to do what a few from another group did? Right?

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imatfaal    2478

German are the most numerous ethnic group in the US, yet it seems like whenever you encounter an American with a German last name they are Jewish.

...

 

I think maybe more Americans claim to have German heritage than any other group - but I am pretty sure that British-American would be the largest group if you actually counted carefully. The second half of your sentence is just confirmation bias (as I now see Phi has written above). And frankly the mass-immigration into America from what is now Germany should probably not be thought of as from an identifiable single ethnic group - the bulk of the numbers would have been from Prussia, Bavaria, etc. They were fleeing a revolution which sought to unify them - so I don't think they could be said to share a heritage, maintain a single culture or any of the other things which makes an ethnic grouping.

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zapatos    1040

 

I wonder why that is. Does anyone know?

 

 

Maybe you live in an area where most Germans are Jews.

 

I grew up in St. Louis which has a population heavy with ethnic Germans, and I never once met a German who was Jewish.

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CharonY    1608

Anglicization of German names happened in a big wave in during/after WWI, IIRC. But there are still plenty of examples around (Koch, Muller, to name two very prominent ones). Also, Jewish names, while German, are typically quite distinct (but there are Jews who have changed their name).

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Strange    2490

I have read stories of names being Anglicised (or, at least, corrupted) because immigration officials could pronounce/spell the original form. I don't know how much truth there is in this, though. If it happened, it may have been more common in the past (e.g. less familiarity with foreign names, changing attitudes to how new arrivals are treated).


I know some people of German ancestry have anglicized their last names, but then again, why haven't the Jewish people?

 

 

Are you sure they haven't? The very fact of transliterating the names from Hebrew to the Latin alphabet, could be considered a form of Anglicisation.

 

The first name that occurred to me was Goldwyn (the film producer). Don't know why. He was born Gelbfisz.

 

I just looked him up, and the reason for his name change is interesting (and perhaps unusual). Initially, he Anglicised his name as Goldfish but then...

 

 

In 1916, Goldwyn partnered with Broadway producers Edgar and Archibald Selwyn, using a combination of both names to call their movie-making enterprise Goldwyn Pictures. Seeing an opportunity, he then had his name legally changed to Samuel Goldwyn, which he used for the rest of his life.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Samuel_Goldwyn#Goldwyn_Pictures

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swansont    6213

I have read stories of names being Anglicised (or, at least, corrupted) because immigration officials could pronounce/spell the original form. I don't know how much truth there is in this, though. If it happened, it may have been more common in the past (e.g. less familiarity with foreign names, changing attitudes to how new arrivals are treated).

 

 

German has umlauts, which English lacks. An ö becomes oe in English, for example. (e.g. Schroedinger vs Schrödinger) so even though you can tell it's German, it has been Anglicized.

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Strange    2490

I have read stories of names being Anglicised (or, at least, corrupted) because immigration officials could pronounce/spell the original form. I don't know how much truth there is in this, though.

 

 

 

Turns out it is a complete myth:

https://www.nypl.org/blog/2013/07/02/name-changes-ellis-island

http://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/ellis-island-isnt-blame-your-familys-name-change-180953832/

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DrKrettin    221

 

 

German has umlauts, which English lacks. An ö becomes oe in English, for example. (e.g. Schroedinger vs Schrödinger) so even though you can tell it's German, it has been Anglicized.

 

I don't think this process is necessarily being Anglicized, to be honest, it was part of the development of German orthography. The vowel difference was notated with a small e above the vowel, which became either the umlaut or an e behind the vowel. This is visible in a lot of German surnames, Goebbels and Goethe being the most obvious (my ex-wife's maiden name also). With the invention of the typewriter, it became increasingly common to write oe instead of ö because of the limited number of characters available.

 

Some Anglicised German names just dropped the umlaut, e.g. Schroder.

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Delta1212    894

 

I don't think this process is necessarily being Anglicized, to be honest, it was part of the development of German orthography. The vowel difference was notated with a small e above the vowel, which became either the umlaut or an e behind the vowel. This is visible in a lot of German surnames, Goebbels and Goethe being the most obvious (my ex-wife's maiden name also). With the invention of the typewriter, it became increasingly common to write oe instead of ö because of the limited number of characters available.

 

Some Anglicised German names just dropped the umlaut, e.g. Schroder.

Yeah, Anglicization would be bringing the name more in line with the rules of English spelling and/or pronunciation. Vowel + e is an accepted alternative in German spelling for when an umlaut is unavailable, and doesn't have any particular or corresponding meaning in English.

 

Similarly, merely transcribing a name from another language into the Latin script would be Romanization rather than Anglicization, as English is obviously not the only language that uses that alphabet or some variation of it.

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Strange    2490

Similarly, merely transcribing a name from another language into the Latin script would be Romanization rather than Anglicization, as English is obviously not the only language that uses that alphabet or some variation of it.

 

 

I kind of agree. It would be Romanization if the readers of the transcribed name knew the phonemics of the source language and the rules for transcribing it. For example, there is a shop (chain) in Japan called Meidi-ya; the "gone native" ex-pats know that it is called Meiji-ya while visitors and those ex-pats who spend all their time at the American Club (or equivalent) pronounce it as it is spelled - i.e. an Anglicised rather than Romanised version (ditto the district called Hiroo and the Hot CoRocket club).

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Alfred001    8

 

In order for confirmation bias to be present I have to have a hypothesis I want to be true. The claim that every American you encounter who has a German name is Jewish is an observation, not a hypothesis.

 

 

 

You know a few Germans who did something, and now you're wondering why all the Jews haven't done the same thing? That sounds bizarre, doesn't it, expecting all one group to do what a few from another group did? Right?

 

I don't know a few Germans who did something, if you never see an American with a German name who isn't Jewish then all of them have done it, not a few.

 

And no, it isn't bizarre to think that if all Germans with German names Anglicized them the Jews might do so, too. You think it is less unusual that a mass of people should come from Germany and it should just so happen that all the Germans would Anglicize their names, but the Jews wouldn't?

 

 

Maybe you live in an area where most Germans are Jews.

 

I grew up in St. Louis which has a population heavy with ethnic Germans, and I never once met a German who was Jewish.

 

I don't live in the US, I'm going off of what you see in popular culture.

 

You mean you've met a lot of folks with German last names (non Anglicized) who were not Jewish?

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zapatos    1040

 

 

You mean you've met a lot of folks with German last names (non Anglicized) who were not Jewish?

 

Correct. And I'm one of them.

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Strange    2490

 

In order for confirmation bias to be present I have to have a hypothesis I want to be true. The claim that every American you encounter who has a German name is Jewish is an observation, not a hypothesis.

 

 

Kurt Vonnegut.

 

Your hypothesis is falsified.

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Alfred001    8

 

Correct. And I'm one of them.

 

Interesting.

 

There is the phenomenon in America (and perhaps generally) of people recognizing Jewish last names, but, from what I know, there aren't actually any Jewish last names (outside one or two, I think maybe Cohen is one), rather what people think of as Jewish names are actually German names.

 

A lot of Jews in America also have Eastern Euro names, but I think when people think of Jewish names in America they typically think of the -berg names and names like Levine.

 

So, the point is why is it that people can (presumably) accurately identify Jewish people by last names, when what they are identifying is German names? It should be 50-50 whether the person is Jewish or German/Austrian.

 

Unless someone wants to argue that people just THINK they are correctly identifying people as Jewish by their last name, but I find this difficult to believe since this is so well accepted, that there are Jewish last names.

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CharonY    1608
Posted (edited)

That is not quite so simple. Jews were forced to use modern names in the 18th century and many adopted e.g geographic names. They sound German because they often are, and while some are the same as established names, others became quite specific to Jewish communities. These include those with strong Yiddish influences an/or fusion names.

If you look around, there are many of those out there.

Edited by CharonY

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arc    296
Posted (edited)

One of my ancestors with the last name of Von Bontz from Germany arrived here in N. America in the early 1700's. By the early 1800's it had became Bantz, one of which who then married a decedent of a guy named Ruben Kessler who had arrived here in the early 1800's.

 

https://www.ancestry.com/name-origin?surname=kessler

 

Kessler Name Meaning German, Dutch, and Jewish (Ashkenazic): occupational name for a maker of copper cooking vessels, from an agent derivative of Middle High German kezzel ‘kettle’, ‘cauldron’, Middle Dutch ketel, modern German Kessel.

Source: Dictionary of American Family Names ©2013, Oxford University Press

I suspect that one or both of these families was of some Jewish background. I'm a carrier of a bleeding disorder that is prevalent among Ashkenazi Jews who predominately came from eastern Europe.

 

Haemophilia C (also known as plasma thromboplastin antecedent (PTA) deficiency or Rosenthal syndrome) is a mild form of haemophilia affecting both sexes, due to factor XI deficiency.[2] However, it predominantly occurs in Jewish people of Ashkenazi descent.

But oddly there is no trace of any Jewish tradition or folklore or any other indication that the family ancestors were at one time practicing the Jewish sacraments. It is known that many Jews went covert when the inquisition occurred but most did so to stay within the domain of the Spanish crown in Spain and its colonies. I'm leaning towards it may have been simply the person wanted a fresh start here in America and believed total assimilation would be the easiest way to prosper. They became well connected in the business and political families of the Mid-Atlantic seaboard. Families of senators, judges, bankers, railroad builders and university chancellors.

 

I'm a mutt, genealogically speaking. I have Irish, English, Dutch, Middle-eastern, German and Norman - His name was Pagan Warfield, my great-great-grandmother's maiden name, Pagan was likely a mercenary for William I, usually known as William the Conqueror and sometimes William the Bastard :D , and yes, Wallace Warfield/Simpson was my grandmother's second cousin, they played together as children. My last name is Swedish, my dad's dad was full Swede, but I'm 5'7" with dark brown hair. Not the standard Swedish of tall, blond and blue eyes. ^_^

Edited by arc

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arc    296

That would be Wallis! Sometimes I really hate auto correct!

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