Friday’s Find – Pennsylvania German Resources Website

Today’s Friday’s Find is a website that I was lucky enough to first come across several years ago. It is an amazing resource for anyone with Pennsylvania German (more commonly called Pennsylvania Dutch) ancestors and relatives. It is Charles F. Kerchner’s website and the home page can be found here.

While there are a lot of  useful tips and information on this site, two pages that I found absolutely invaluable are the one that discusses naming conventions and the one that discusses nicknames.

In addition to listing common naming patterns for both males and females, the naming conventions page does a great job of explaining the concept of the “baptismal name.” This is why you may run across a family with sons named something like Johan George, Johan Adam, Johan Philip, etc. The Johan part is the saint (or baptismal) name. These men would have commonly been known as George, Adam and Philip – and these are the names you need to look for in civil records. In fact, Johan and Johann are almost always baptismal names whereas Johannes would be the form used if the child was to go by John. Kerchner also discusses on this same page the feminine suffix of “in,” use of the terms Jr, Sr and cousin, and more. If you are researching Pennsylvania Germans, you really need to read this page and bookmark it (or save it to your tool box or resource list).

The nickname page has also been a great help to me with my personal research. The one in particular is Rebecca as a nickname for Margaret. (Or is it vice versa?) Not only is this one not obvious, but it leaves me scratching my head as to how they (the 18th century Germans, that is) ever came up with it. But it has gone a long way in explaining some of the families I’ve been researching. Without this information I would not have known that the baby girl baptized as Margaret was the same person as the daughter named Rebecca in the will. It also helped explain why baptismal records for the children of Henry and Margaret were interspersed with records for those of Henry and Rebecca. (I had previously thought that there were either 2 Henrys or that Henry was a bigamist!)

Anyway, the website of Charles Kerchner is today’s Friday’s Find. I hope you’ll check it out and that some of you find it as useful as I did!

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