Three Rivers
History From America's Most Famous Valleys


A Family History donated by: Harry Windecker

What's in a name? Note the spelling of some of these names, part German, and part English. In one history, Hartman Windecker was spelled Hartman Wintekker. Other spellings of Windecker include Wendecker, Windekker, and Windker. It was apparently tough for the English to spell German names or the predominantly illiterate German farmers to spell their own names. In fact, the spelling was mostly phonetic, "by ear." Later, others apparently Anglicized their names or chose English common names in favor of the German versions. The names, John, George and Frederick (and/or Friedrich) frequently appear in Windecker ancestry in America.

German names, at the time of this 1700 exodus were in three primary parts, 1) The spiritual name, dating from early, Catholic tradition, represented the patron saint of the family, 2) the common (or first name) and possibly middle names, and 3) the surname. Consequently, all males in the Windecker family bore the name Johann for their patron saint, St. Johann (John). Thus Johann Hartman Windecker is known commonly as Hartman. His sons, Johann Henrich Windecker (probably the first American-born Windecker) and Johann Georg Windecker, were born in East Camp, New York, along the Hudson River.

Johann Henrich would be commonly known as Henrich, whereas Johann
Georg would be known as Georg. Nicknames also occur, that render the research somewhat more challenging. In addition, naming traditions for common names occurred in several family models. An example that occurs in German families is as follows:

1st son, after the father's father
2nd son, after the mother's father
3rd son, after the father
4th son, after the father's father's father

1st daughter, after the mother's mother
2nd daughter, after the father's mother
3rd daughter, after the mother
4th daughter, after the father's father's mother
Consequently, names often occur repetitively throughout a family history. This is a positive trend for conducting family research, but also can become quite confusing as a few names are repeated many times. For males, given names that frequently occur in the Windecker family include: Henrich (Hendrick or Henry); Georg (George); Johann (Johannes (-is) or John); Friedrich (Frederick); and Nicolaus (Nicholas). Common names for women include: Barbara, Elizabeth, Anna and Catherine. Several spelling variations occur. In addition, after the first generation in America, the spiritual name was dropped.

Copyright 2001. Harry Windecker. All rights reserved.

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