Friday, May 12, 2017

Sip to Schipp: Evolution of a Surname

In June, 2015 I published apost with a theory about how my great grandfather, Michael Sip became Michael Schipp. Quoted from that post:

How did Sip become Schipp?  Here’s my theory.

In the 19th century, the Province of Poznan was in the Prussian partition of Poland. There was a concerted effort to erase Polish culture and impose German language and culture. Civil authority was German and all civil records were in German. Schools taught only the German language and classes were in German.

In Polish the name Sip would be pronounced: ship or szip. 

My current thinking is that the German civil authorities wrote the name as it was pronounced.  The family were farmers in the boondocks of a relatively small city. I have no idea whether they were at all literate at the time.  Did they not understand that the spelling had changed?  Did they simply submit to the authorities rather than make a fuss?  I’ll never know.”

I have finally found evidence in civil records in the State Archive in Poznan. Until recently I’d been focused on church records because, in Poland and then in Prussian Poland, there were no civil records before 1874.

Here is the birth record of Michael’s son Theodor from 1882.  The yellow highlight shows the father as Michael Sip.  The note on the left highlighted in blue says: # Instead of "Sip" it has to read "Schip" in the sixth and tenth line.
The registrar

Michael’s son Ludwig was born two years later in 1884.  His birth record shows the surname as Szyp. Theodor’s and Ludwig’s births were registered at the same registry office.

(Note to my cousins:  This is the first and only record I’ve found for Ludwig.  He did not come to the US with his mother and siblings. As of this writing, I have not found a death record for him, but still, my current thinking is that he died as a child.)

In between the two births above, in 1883, Michael’s half-sister, Magdalena, was born to his father and stepmother. Please note that this record shows Sip as the surname.

Other records for this family as late as 1886 show the name as Sip.

My only reasonable conclusion is that the spelling was dependent on the person who happened to be working in the registry office that day.

Unless someone has a better solution for this name quandary, I’m putting this question to rest for now.

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