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What is in a name? Answer: a Space

June 5th, 2011 Comments off

It seems that all my life I have misspelled my last name (well, not all my life). The correct spelling of my surname is “De Backer”, not “DeBacker”. This was pointed out to me by my contact in Belgium.  He writes…

You mention very often the name “DeBacker”. Maybe it is an American way of writing, but in Belgium (and i think in all Europe) the name is NEVER written that way (with two uppers in one word), from the early centuries until now.  Before 1800, the writing of a name was not really standardized, but there is of course a continuity.  Accidental variations around our De Backer family are De Backer, Debacker, De Backere, Debackere, de Backer, de backer (unofficial, by facility), but never DeBacker. This way of writing doesn’t even exist in any name. Some accidental variations in writing were sometimes “accepted” in certain families and taken as a new writing from there. If written differently, it is another family name. Actually none of these variations has survived in all the “De Backer” branches I know. After 1800 the name is standardized. As a summary, as far as i know now for us and from at least 1650, it is “De Backer”, with two uppers.

I do not know when exactly my “De Backer” ancestors changed the spelling of their surname. My father had speculated that when his great-grandfather and grandfather came over from Belgium in 1883 that the name was changed when they arrived. However, I believe that it was later.

The community that they settled in (St. Marys, Kansas) was mainly settled by Belgians and Franco-Swiss and in local newspapers and census records prior to WWI appears as both “De Backer” and “DeBacker”.

During WWI there was a great deal of anti-German hysteria in this country and many  people of English descent were confused about who were “Germans”.  People of Dutch, Flemish and Swiss descent were “suspected” of being Germans because of their names and nothing else.  It seems rather difficult to imagine the stupidity of these people who were not aware that many Belgians were dying on the front-lines fighting the German invasion of their country. My great-grandfather, Dr. August De Backer, had to prove his “loyalty” by registering for the military draft at age 54 in 1917. It was during this time that I believe is when they stopped using “De Backer” and from that point forward that it became “DeBacker”. (See a previous post on this subject). August De Backer’s obituary in 1923 has his surname as “DeBacker”.

I became aware of this back in the 70′s when a friend had sent my father a photograph of a shop in Brussels. The shop’s name was “DE BACKER”. I asked my father about this and he said that “De Backer” was the correct original spelling. So I decided to start spelling my name “De Backer”. My father warned me that this could cause complications, but I ignored him. Throughout the 1980′s I used the name “De Backer”, but I did run into problems when everything started to become computerized. Suddenly I was receiving mail for “David M. De”. Computers were apparently dropping off the “Backer”. So, this was the complication that my father had warned me of. Since then I have used “DeBacker”.

Categories: Controversies Tags: ,

Another American Scapegoat…

August 19th, 2010 Comments off

over-the-rhine German American Heritage Month begins September 15 and the 200th Oktoberfest begins on September 18. This got me to thinking about the recent uproar in the news over the opening of a mosque near the WTC site in New York. The connection is that this is not the first time where certain ethnic groups living in America have become scapegoats and targets of scorn.

Germans have been in America since colonial times, but was not until the 1840’s that a large number of German families immigrated to the US. I have two German families in my family tree, both on my mother’s side of the family. The Kollros family came over from Baden in the 1840’s and the Spiegels came over from Sachsen in the 1850’s. According to the US Census Bureau, German is the third-most reported ethnic ancestry in the US Census – the top two being African-American and Hispanic.

In the 19th century, a number of US cities boasted a large German population with their uniquely Germanic neighborhoods such as Cincinnati (Over-the-Rhine) and St. Louis (Dutchtown). Milwaukee can boast of being the home to a number of German founded breweries – most notably Pabst, Schlitz, Miller, and Blatz. An area near New Orleans known as the German Coast (Côte des Allemands) was settled by German immigrants in the 1720’s. Texas attracted many Germans who entered through Galveston. As in Milwaukee, Germans in Houston built the brewing industry. Texas had about 20,000 German Americans in the 1850s. By the mid-1850s the Germans formed one-third of Louisville, Kentucky’s population.

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Categories: Controversies, History Tags:

Politics And Religion: Keeping It In The Family

December 19th, 2009 Comments off

Growing up I had always assumed that because both of my parents were raised as Roman Catholics that their ancestors were all Roman Catholics without exception. Yet from almost the start of my research into my family history thirty years ago, I learned that there was not only one exception, but that there was a pattern within the history of my ancestors that was in step with the general history of religion in western Europe and North America.

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Categories: Controversies Tags: , ,

How a Man Might Be His Own Grandfather

May 7th, 2009 Comments off

There was a widow [Anne] and her daughter [Jane], and a man [George] and his son [Henry]. The widow married the son, and the daughter married the father. The widow was therefore mother [in law] to her husband’s father, and grand-mother to her own husband.

Read more and see diagram at Genealogy Blog – A Wonder of Relationship – GeneaNet

Categories: Controversies Tags: ,