[Ger-Poland-Volhynia] Need some help with surnames starting with O

PnSWork at aol.com PnSWork at aol.com
Sat May 6 23:46:44 PDT 2006

Hi Gary,
> I am trying to figure out the relationship between surnames that  
> begin with an O, and what appears to be their counterpart names  
> without the leading O.

> I am aware that a leading O in the  British Empire means "of the 
> family of" (for instance, O'Sullivan  versus Sullivan).   In German 
> surnames, is the same  true?
As others have noted, there is no such meaning attached to a  leading
'O' in German family names.  There is, however, an interesting
possibility in the pronunciation of your names.  See below for  details.

> If the above is true, then are the following sample of such  names 
> related to each other?

Oeher and Eher
Oehler and  Ehler
Oehlike and Ehlike
Oehlke and Ehlke
In German, a common way to write out vowels with umlauts is to add
an 'e' after the vowel that had the umlaut.  Thus, ö became "oe",  ä
became "ae", and ü became "ue".  With a few rare exceptions, any
combination of one of these vowels followed by an 'e' is equivalent  to
 an umlaut over that vowel.
In High German (Hochdeutsch) there is a distinct difference in the
pronunciation of the 'ö' vowel and the 'e' vowel.  In SW  Germany,
however, there is virtually no difference in pronunciation.  In the  Swabian
dialect, "oe" is pronounced just like 'e'.  Thus, for someone  spelling
thing phonetically, the two spellings are interchangeable if someone  from
SW Germany is speaking.  For ethnic Germans living in Poland,  family
names often lost any umlauts or dipthong spellings for simplified  spellings
in the Polish and Russian records.
Examples:  Loewe or Löwe became Lewe.  Haefke or Häfke  became
Hefke, Krueger or Krüger became Kryger.
If you see both spellings in the Polish records, it is very possible that  the
families are related or they could even be the same family.
Good luck!

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