Universities in Freiburg und Mainz map the 2005 status of the range and distribution of surnames in Germany
One year after the publication of the first volume of the German Surname Atlas, the second volume has now been made available. In a project funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG), academics at the University of Freiburg and Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz headed by Professor Dr. Konrad Kunze and Professor Dr. Damaris Nübling have recorded the status and distribution of surnames in the Federal Republic of Germany as of the year 2005. This means that an important cultural asset and an irreplaceable treasure trove for numerous research projects has been safeguarded.
Partly due to their extreme spatial diversity, surnames are the single aspect of European languages that is still largely inadequately recorded. In this respect, it is interesting to note that despite the numerous displacement and migratory activities of past centuries and the increased mobility of modern times, name landscapes have remained remarkably consistent over time. The German Surname Atlas is the only reference work of its kind in the world and the data it includes is interesting not only to onomatologists, linguistic historians, and dialectologists, but also to cultural historians, population and genealogy researchers, and the interested general public.
Using the example of some 20,000 names on 769 color maps, the first two volumes of the German Surname Atlas document the variable distribution of vowels (vol. 1) and consonants (vol. 2) in surnames, e.g., the distribution of the variant versions Meier / Meyer / Maier / Mayer or Schmidt / Schmitt / Schmid / Schmied / Schmitz etc., or the spelling variants of ‘f(f)’ vs. ‘ph’ as in the surnames Steffen and Stephan. Among other things, the map commentaries provide additional information on the origin and meaning of names and the distribution of individual variants and historical spellings.
Volumes to follow shortly will provide information on the development of surnames, on the derivation of surnames from place of origin, place of residence, and profession, and on the origin of nicknames and the provenance of surnames from forenames.