Surnames and patronymics in Germany #germany #names

Peter Lobbenberg

The following is taken from an 1872 death record from Mainz:
Heute den zweiten Januar ein tausend acht hundert sieben und zwanzig [...] erschien vor mir [...] Gottlieb Mann, Wiederverkäufer, acht und sechzig Jahre alt und Jakob Collin, Handelsmann, sieben und zwanzig Jahre alt, dahier wohnhaft und zeigten an, daß Moises Pfann, Wiederverkäufer, sechs und fünfzig Jahre alt, geboren und wohnhaft in Mainz, Ehemann von Maria Rothschild, ehelicher Sohn des verstorbenen Samuel Gottlieb und Sarah, heute Morgens um halb sechs Uhr, in dem Hause D. 70 gestorben ist.  [...] 

Today 2 January 1827 [...] there appeared before me [...] Gottlieb Mann, retailer, aged 68 and Jakob Collin, merchant, aged 27, and declared that Moises Pfann, retailer, aged 56, born and living in Mainz, husband of Maria Rothschild, legitimate son of the late Samuel Gottlieb and Sarah, died this morning at 6.30am in house D.70.

My question is this.  Can it reasonably be inferred from the above (a) that Gottlieb, the "surname" of Moises's father Samuel, was in fact a patronymic, in other words that Gottlieb was the name of Moises' grandfather? 

Peter Lobbenberg, London, UK 

Peter Lobbenberg

... Apologies, typo.  The death record is of course from 1827, not 1872.


joannegrosman joannegrosman

In my opinion, yes.
Joanne Grosman
researching Bocian, Kremsdorf, Grosman

Corinna Woehrl

Dear Peter and all list-readers,

all the other people mentioned seem to have surnames. I just looked up: name adoption was „forced“ in Mainz from 1808 on, yet there have also been Jewish families in which a surname/„Geschlechtsname“ was used before.
You may use the name Gottlieb as an assumption for further research, but unless there isn’t a proof (this one mentioning in the death-certificate is no proof), I would keep my research broader.

Good luck and kind regards from Germany

Corinna (Woehrl nee Goslar) from Hoisdorf (Hamburg), Germany
Corinna Woehrl
Hoisdorf, Germany (between Hamburg and Luebeck)

researching mostly in Northern Germany
ROSENSTEIN (Neustadt am Ruebenberge, NaR)
WUERZBURG (Luebeck, Mecklenburg)
KARPEL (Lissa/Leszno, Breslau/Wroclaw)


Dear Peter,

Here's a thought:
I was struck by the fact that the first witness's name was Gottlieb, same as the father's "surname."  This, and knowing that deaths were often reported by family members, I was suspicious of the similarity of the surnames Mann vs. Pfann.  I looked up this original death document on, and confirmed that there was a transcription error, that the witness's name was actually Gottlieb Pfann.

I suspect that the witness was either an older brother or cousin of Moises, named after the grandfather, giving further credence to the theory that Gottlieb is a patronymic.

Hope this helps!

Joan Zeller
Pittsford, New York, USA


It is possible & probably that it was patronymic, particularly since Gottlieb was a common first name. But you cannot be absolutely certain. Mainz was on the left bank of the Rhine, which was under French control from the 1790s until 1815. Thus Jews living in Mainz were subject to the 1808 Napoleonic Name Adoption edit which you can find on line (Imperial Decree, Bayonne, 20 July, 1808). Samuel Gottlieb & Sarah are most likely pre-1808 names. I think it they were not, the record would have said Sarah geboren her maiden name. But some Jews, like my ancestors in Speyer, also under French control, had surnames before 1808. My third great grandfather & his son did, but they adopted different first names & surnames in 1808. This may have been done  for patriotic reasons - he named his son Napoleon. But if I had to choose, Moises was born about 1771 & Samuel & Sarah may have died before 1808. You can find the Mainz Name Adoptions on   where you will see that Moises pre 1808 name was Moises Gottlieb & that he likely had a son named Gottlieb Samuel who became Gottlieb Samuel Pfan.
       Jonathan Rose