About the Variant Spellings of Bauerschmidt
The following are known variations:
Bauerschmitt, Baurschmidt, Baurschmitt, Bauernschmidt, Bauernschmitt,
Bauerschmiedt, Bauerschmied, Burenschmied, Burenschmiedt, Bauerschmitz,
Boverschmidt, Bouverschmidt, Pauerschmid, Pauernschmid.
The following names, although often confused with Bauerschmidt, are
definitely NOT related: Beurschmidt, Bierschmidt, Breidenschmidt,
Baierschmidt, Bearschmidt, Behrschmidt, Bayernschmidt, Bayersmith,
Berschmidt, Burchmitt, Bauersachs, Bauerfiend, Bauermeister, Bauernoble,
The following names are not usually associated with Bauerschmidt (they
have their own derivations), but they should be considered because they
can also be obtained by a minor typing error in the name Bauerschmidt:
Baerschmidt, Burschmidt, Barschmidt, Baernschmidt, Schmidtbauer.
What Can Variations in Spelling Tell Us?
It is often asked, can I tell where my ancestors
came from by how they spelled their name? Before answering that
question, it is important to point out that the spelling used in the
U.S. may not be representative of how it was spelled before they came
here. Almost every family has a story about how one of their ancestors
had their name changed by some U.S. agency - Ellis Island, the Army,
census takers, a naturalization judge, etc. Assuming that you know
exactly how your ancestors spelled their name in their homeland, does
it mean anything? It might. It is true that the different regional
dialects of German lead to different preferred spellings for many
common surnames. Despite the mobility of modern society, these regional
patterns are still quite evident.
With the advent of on-lne search software, it is now possible to create maps displaying the
distribution of German surnames and their variant spellings using telephone directories. Two of the
better sites for creating such maps are verwandt
and geogen surname mapping.
The following figure is a composites of maps that were generated from these sites.
Before drawing any conclusions from this data, the following cautions should be observed:
- These maps are a snapshot in time and reflect the current distribution of surnames. They do
not necessarily reflect the distribution five to six hundred years ago. Most of these regions
have experienced several major wars which disrupted populations, uprooted families and may have
resulted in patterns that differ significantly from the original.
- Statistical significance is questionable since the total number of people using these spellings
is not very large. These maps are based on relative distribution, not absolute numbers, in an attempt
to identify areas where the number of individuals is greater than random. These are not the only
places where these spellings can be found and these spellings are not the dominant surname in the
areas shown. These are simply the regions where the concentration is highest.
- The maps are based on telephone listings, not actual census data. Although a reasonable substitute
for census data, they represent the number of households using that surname and do not indicate the
number of individuals living in each household or households with unlisted phone numbers. The usefullness
of this data will also decrease with time, as the increase in cellular phones is reducing the number of
traditional telephone listings.
- These maps are only useful for individual genealogy if you know how your ancestors
spelled their name when they lived in Germany. As stated above, your current US spelling
may not reflect the traditional spelling.
Keeping those caveats in mind, the following interesting patterns can be observed.
Referring to the composite map.
The pink color denotes those areas where the "Bauerschmitz" spelling is most commonly found.
Although it appears in many areas of Germany, it is most heavily concentrated in the
Rhineland-Palatinate region, principally around Trier and Saarburg. There is a smaller
cluster in western Hesse in the Weisbaden district. Most linguists agree that this
spelling probably originated in the Rhineland area.
The blue color identifies those areas where the "Boberschmidt" spelling is most commonly found. Even on
an absolute scale, its use is very limited and, other than Munich, it is found primarily in the North Rhine -
Westphalia region. On a relative scale, the only district where it appears to be statistically significant
is around Soest. It is not clear whether this spelling actually originated in the North Rhine region; but
since it is mostly found there today, it is probably worth starting your search in that area if you don't
have any other leads.
The green colors illustrate the distribution of the "Bauerschmi(e)d/Bauernschmi(e)d"
spellings without a t. As expected this usage is mostly Bavarian. However, it is interesting
to note an apparent pattern regarding the use of the letter n. The "Bauernschmid"
spelling using an n (represented by the lighter green color), is most common east
of Munich in the districts of Landshut in the north, south to Muhldorf, Rosenheim and the
Austrian border. Spellings without an n (represented by the darker shade of green)
are more common west of Munich, particularly in the districts of Dillingen and
Aichach-Freiberg with an isolated cluster near Lindau on the Bodensea. We cannot say
whether this apparent east-west pattern is real or a stastical fluke. However, most linguists
agree that the "Bauerschmi(e)d/Bauernschmi(e)d" spellings definitely originated in southern
The purple color highlights those areas where the "Baurschmidt" spelling without an
e is found. This spelling is very rare in modern Germany and is mostly found
in the far northern district of Plon and in eastern Thuringia near Jenn. It is not
known whether these patterns have historical significance or are a statistical fluke.
The orange colors on the map show the distribution of the "Bauerschmitt/Bauernschmitt" spellings.
The first thing to notice is that they do not reflect the same geographic pattern as the "Schmidt/Schmitt"
surname. The tt spelling of "Bauerschmitt" is found primarily south of the Main river, mostly in
northern Bavaria, particurlarly in the districts of Bamberg, Bayreuth and Forcheim. Second, it is
worth noting the absence of a pattern regarding the use of the letter n. The spelling "Bauernschmitt"
is more common than the spelling "Bauerschmitt" in modern Germany, but both are concentrated in the same
areas of Bavaria. These spellings also have clusters in the Thuringia, Palatinate and Westphalia regions.
The yellow and red colors mark the distribution of the "Bauerschmidt/Bauernschmidt" spellings.
The red color represents the "Bauernschmidt" spelling (with an n) which is most common in northern
Bavaria, particularly around Nurnberg and Forcheim. It covers much of the same area as the 'Bauernschmitt'
spelling which explains why 3 districts on the map are shaded orange with red cross hatching.
Yellow designates the "Bauerschmidt" spelling (without the n), which is the most common
variation in Germany. It shows up in cities throughout the country. Surprisingly, on a relative
scale, it is most common north of Bavaria, particularly in the Schmalkalden - Meiningen region
of Thuringia. Although it also has a strong presence in the districts of Hof and Kulmbach in
It is tempting to try to identify a common homeland with a nucleus in northern Bavaria from
which the surname could have spread in all directions. However, an equal argument can be made that the
widespread usage and isolated clusters shown disprove a central origin. It is the opinion of this author
that this map is reflective of multiple, independent origins in several districts simultaneously which would
be consistent with an occupational surname.
Based on these observations, it may be possible to use these patterns as
a rough guide for identifying the region where your ancestors might
have lived. If your ancestors used one of the highly regional spellings such as
"Bauerschmitz", "Boberschmidt" or "Bauerschmied" it is suggested that you start your
search in the area where these variations are most common today. If you don't have any
other leads for "Bauernschmitt" or "Bauernschmidt", northern Bavaria seems to be the best
place to start your search.
About Some Common Spellings
It can be argued that the original spelling of the name
was with an n, as in Bauernschmidt. Grammatically speaking, the German
words "Bauer" and its root, "Bur", are classified as weak masculine n nouns.
This means that they take an ending of n or, en in the genitive
case. Thus, villagesmith and farmsmith would be written as "Burenschmidt" and
"Bauernschmidt" respectively. Nevertheless, many old documents in the 1500's
spell the surname without using the letter n, perhaps indicating that this
letter was not pronounced and could be dropped from phonetic renderings.
There are also documented cases of individuals signing their name in Germany
using the n spelling, but dropping the n upon reaching America
- a further sign that the n may have been silent. Therefore, don't think
that just because your family spells the name without an n today, that
it has always been spelled that way. You should consider both spellings when
looking at German records.
"Bauerschmidt" is the accepted standard English spelling, but many German
immigrants seemed to have originally spelled the name with a double t
ending (Bauerschmitt) or without any t at all (Bauerschmid). These
spellings may be a reflection of the regional variation in the spelling as
discussed above. The tt ending is also used in the Lorraine area of France.
A common German spelling appears to have been "Baurschmidt" without the e.
But, the e is almost always added in American spellings. It is not
clear whether this reflects a regional variation in spoken German.
At least two German references indicate that "Bover" and "Bouver" were
alternative forms for the genitive case of "Bauer". Thus, in some parts of
Germany, the compound occupational surnames were written with "Bover" instead
of "Bauer", giving us Boverschmidt or sometimes Bouverschmidt. These
variations are still in use in modern Germany and have made their way to the
U.S. where they can be found in several states.
At first glance, "Boberschmidt" appears to be an alternative phonetic rendering
of Boverschmidt. While it is true that the two spellings were sometimes used
interchangeably (particularly in the St. Louis area), it is not clear that
all Boberschmidts are Bauerschmidts. This variation, although rare, shows up
in isolated instances in Germany and some U.S. states. At this time, reliable
information is not available for the derivation or early uses of this spelling
in Germany. So for now, we would have to say that Boberschmidt can be, but
is not always, equivalent to Bauerschmidt.
Although modern German and English spellings begin with the letter B,
this was not always the case. The consonants B and P are
phonetically similar and are sometimes interchangeable, particularly in some
older dialects of German. One can find the spellings "Pauerschmid(t)" and
"Pauernschmid(t)" used in some old written German records. Therefore, when
researching old documents in Germany, particularly those written in the 14th
through 16th centuries, don't forget to check for the P spellings.
One of the least common spellings is "Bauerschmitz" with a z at the end.
This variant derives from "Bauerschmides" which literally meant "the son of
the Bauerschmid" (der Sohn des Bauerschmid). These so called "secondary
patronymic" surnames were unique to the Rhineland area of Germany. Although
uncommon in the U.S., it is still in use in Germany, particularly west of the
Rhein river in the Rhineland-Pfalz and southern Westphalia regions.
Many of us have been horrified to see our ancestor's names spelled phonetically
on passenger lists or census returns as "Bauersmith" or even worse "Bowersmith".
In general, Bowersmith is an English surname which has a separate origin. But,
since many immigrants couldn't write, phonetic spellings were often used.
That's why the Soundex system was developed. So don't overlook the Smith
variations when searching for your ancestors in American records - especially
on census returns.