Jun 032013

We all know the frustration that names can create for the genealogist and family historian.

One of my 3g grandmothers is Sarah Alspach, born in Fairfield County, Ohio. In searching records in Fairfield County, Ohio, I have found 10 different variations of the Alspach surname. My 2 g grandfather, John Brenner (born Johannes Brenner in Adelshofen, Germany) had his surname spelled three different ways (Brinner, Brenner, Braner) in US Census enumerations – not including another spelling in an index.

My mother was to have been named Garnet Deeter (no middle name). When the Public Health Nurse came to register the birth (she was born at home), Aunt Bessie had the privilege to giving the information for the birth certificate. Aunt Bessie disapproved of there not being a middle name, so she gave the baby’s name as Bessie Garnett Deeter. Mom, called Garnet, was surprised on the first day of school. The teacher was calling for Bessie Deeter and no one responded. Finally they figured out that Mom’s first name was Bessie. Mom later had her birth certificate corrected (“Garnett” was changed to “Garnet.”)

Long before I was interested in genealogy, our first child was born. My wife and I thought long and hard about a name. We like Bradford, but thought that Bradford Brenner had a little too much tongue-twisting alliteration. We decided to keep Bradford as a middle name and finally settled on Russell as a first name that seemed to compliment Bradford. That was our total thought process. Imagine our surprise when my wife’s grandmother said “How nice that they kept a family name, naming him after the son of Govenor Bradford of the Plymouth Colony.” We had no idea. Later we have proved that our family’s Bradfords don’t quite go back to the Plymouth Colony Bradfords. It makes a nice story however.

Because names are often repeated in families, I am fascinated by names in our family tree that seem to be unique. Two stand out – Euphrosyna Ebts and Waldburga Trauttlin. Until a few days ago I thought my name was another of the unique ones.

My mother’s maternal grandmother was Emma Lavina Barthel. She was born in 1858. In the 1860 US Census I found a record for E.L Bartle (2 years old) in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. I am convinced that this is the record of my great grandmother. All subsequent records find the surname spelled Barthel. Mom’s parents named their oldest son Barthel Jerome Deeter. He died in 1932, 8 years before I was born. Mom tells me that I was not named Barthel after him, but simply because she liked the name.

An exact search for the first name “Barthel” on FamilySearch yielded 14,449 results. In addition to all the individuals born to the first name Barthel in the United States, other Barthels was born in: Germany, Sweden, Finland, Norway, Switzerland, Denmark, Yugoslovia, Hungary, Austria, Italy, Holland, Russia, and Luxemburg. The surname “Brenner” (exact search) yielded 183,045 results in the United States, Germany, and Ireland. (The above locations for “Barthel” and “Brenner” are found in the first 300 instances listed.) A search for “Barthel” (without “exact” selected) yielded many variants: Bart, Barth, Barthol, Bartholomew, Bartholomaeus, Bartel, Bartholeme, Barthli, et al.

The surprise, however, was an exact search for “Barthel Brenner.” Seven results were listed. At the top of the list was Barthel Brenner who married Anna Hetzel on 24 February 1606 in Langenburg, Jagstkreis, Wuerttemberg. Additional listings record the birth/baptism of three daughters born to the couple. Also listed was the birth/baptism of a daughter to Hanss Barthel Brenner and his wife Susanna – 1676 in Mannheim, Baden.  While we most often think of a doppelgänger  as “a ghostly counterpart of a living person” (Miriam-Webster Online Dictionary), the word also refers to someone who has the same name.

So my doppelganger was born in the 14th century and was married in 1606. His marriage took place about 60 miles from where my 2g grandfather was born. Is there a family connection? I don’t know, but I like having found another Barthel Brenner.  It is nice being unique; and it is also nice to share that uniqueness with another.

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