John Fred William Riepe & Anna Wilhelmina [Luetger] Riepe Joseph Creighton Riepe, Sr. Bertha Fredericka [Riepe] Lord Ruby Fern Riepe & Otis Wendell Riepe Sophia [Peine] Riepe Josephine Catherine [Riepe] Ernst  

German Naming Customs

German Naming Customs
German Names, Nicknames & Origins
Riepe Surname






As was common in many countries, Germans generally followed some basic naming patterns or customs when choosing names for their children.  However, these patterns were not always adhered to, and as German emigrants began new lives in America, many anglicized their names and began to adopt American naming customs in the latter part of the 1800's.  Thus, after about 1875, we see more "Henrys" than "Heinrichs", "Marys" than "Marias", etc.

Naming Patterns

German families often used the following pattern for naming children.  Again, though, there were several variations used, and often the pattern was disrupted by other circumstances.   When a duplicate name occurred in these patterns, the next name in the pattern was usually used.  Often when a child died in infancy, his/her name was reused for the next child of the same gender.  Too, a child's name was sometimes repeated when a spouse died and the surviving spouse remarried and had more children.  This would result in half-siblings with the same name. 

1st father's father 1st mother's mother
2nd mother's father 2nd father's mother 
3rd father 3rd mother
4th father's father's father 4th father's father's mother
5th mother's father's father 5th mother's father's mother
6th father's mother's father 6th father's  mother's mother
7th mother's mother's father  7th mother's mother's mother

Birth/ Baptismal Names

Two names were usually given to a child at birth or baptism.  In Germany, the first name - what we often refer to as a given name - was a spiritual name, usually to honor a favorite saint.  The spiritual name was often used repeatedly in families.  The second name - what we now would refer to as a middle name - was a secular or call name, and was the name by which the person was known.  One of the most common and heavily used saint's names for males was "Johann" (with no "s"), and for females, "Johanna" or "Anna".  Thus, in a hypothetical German family, we might see the male children named:

                                        Johann Heinrich Riepe
                                        Johann Hermann Riepe
                                        Johann Friedrich Riepe

Respectively, these children would be known as Heinrich (Henry), Hermann, and Friedrich (Fred).

For girls, we may see:

                                        Anna Maria Riepe
                                        Anna Catherine Riepe
                                        Anna Louise Riepe

Respectively, these children would be known as Maria (Mary), Catherine, and Louise.

Again, these patterns were not always carved in stone, but it is helpful to understand the basic custom when researching German families.  You may know your ancestor was called Henry, and thus assume his name was Henry Something Riepe, when in fact, his name was Johann Heinrich Riepe.  If his parents were called William and Catherine, their full names may have been Johann William and Anna Catherine (see example of Family #1 below).

Examples - Hypothetical Riepe Families
In the following 2 families, we see different full names, and different call names . . .



   Full Name  Call Name  Full Name  Call Name
 Father  Johann Wilhelm Riepe  William  Johann Friedrich Riepe  Friedrich
 Mother  Anna Catherine Riepe  Catherine  Anna Johanna Riepe  Johanna
 Child  Johann Heinrich Riepe  Henry  Johann Hermann Riepe  Hermann


In the following 2 families, we see different full names, and the same call names . . .



   Full Name  Call Name  Full Name  Call Name
 Father  Johann Wilhelm Riepe  William  Friedrich William Riepe  William
 Mother  Anna Louise Riepe  Louise  Caroline Louise Riepe  Louise
 Child  Johann Heinrich Riepe  Henry  Hermann Heinrich Riepe  Henry

My advice to is to be careful, don't assume, and check out as many name possibilities as you can.

Click on the red chain    for more information on saints names.

Sr. , Jr., Cousin, Aunt . . .

These terms were more loosely used by our ancestors than they are today.  "Senior" and "Junior" did not necessarily imply a father and son relationship.  Often, these terms were used to differentiate between any relatives who had the same name and lived either together, or near each other - e.g., a grandfather and grandchild, or an uncle and nephew.  "Sr." and "Jr." merely referred to the older and younger, and were used to ensure that others knew who one was referring to in conversation and writing.  Likewise, terms such as "Aunt" and "Cousin" were also widely used to mean an extended family.  "Mother" was often used by women to mean their mother-in-law.


Copyright © 2000-2011 Anne S. Riepe.  All rights reserved.
Last modified:  Saturday, January 15, 2011 06:18 PM