Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Does my last name mean something in German?

My maiden name is Grabow. I know that my fathers people come from Germany. I have learned that there are several towns in Germany named Grabow. But when I look at meanings of surnames I can only find a simular name, and that is a Polish name. Does that name have a German meaning? How can I find out more about it?

Does my last name mean something in German?
I back Granny on this one, for sure.

My experience related to European research is that you have to throw most "boundary" concepts out the window. Throughout history, the politcal jurisdictions have been so complex, and constantly changing. IE a town in what is TODAY Poland, may have been in "Germany" 100 years ago, or "Austria" .. so on and so on. What shows on a record, is dependent on exactly when that record was made. Even today.. on the news, I hear that Albania is seeking to be declared an independent country, instead of part of Russia.

It is hard to find a clear balance, if your ancestors are connected to that exact town(s), or if they were from elsewhere. Or, if your ancient cultural/ethnic background ( since nationality is flexible) is Polish or German, or something else.

The more exact way is to trace your ancestry to the known person who immigrated, and try to determine WHICH town they were from (and search there for relevant family documents). Often you can find someone who is deeply involved in that surname and becomes the "guru", ie knows the town already.

Another option is to join one of the German research email lists, and network with persons who also have focused their work in particular localities.
Reply:One thing you'd learn is that over time and history what's german and polish geography has varied since the times of city-states. Where they said they were from depended on what it was called when they left, or when they were born, or when they were asked, and all 3 may be different.

You may even get a better answer in the history or geography categories. My guess is that your ancestors spoke German and came from that area, whatever their ancestors' ancestry.

Eastern German: topographic name for someone living by a hornbeam, Slavic grab, or habitational name from a place named with this word.

Now just b/c this says this Germanic names are all over Germany,Austria,Switzerland, Poland ,etc.. you will need to do the research to make sure your family was from what we call "Germany" today,good luck in your search.
Reply:"Grabow" does not have an actual meaning as a word in German according to the Duden, the one true authority on German language. It is, however, used as a family name.

There is a river in Pomerania (Pommern, an area today devided between Germany and Poland) that is called Grabow in German and Grabowa in Polish. Considering that surnames often derive from places, this is likely the origin of both German and Polish "Grabow"s.
Reply:See point 92 on this page. It may not help, but who knows? It might at least set you down the right path.


I found that by using the following search string in Google:

meaning of grabow +german

Happy Hunting !! :)
Reply:Go with the Polish name. Prussia is largely in Poland now, after all.
Reply:As Mitchell mentioned above, this comes from ancestry.com:


Eastern German: topographic name for someone living by a hornbeam, Slavic grab, or habitational name from a place named with this word.

You can find out what else ancestry says about the surname at: http://www.ancestry.com/learn/facts/Fact...

You could also try the Grabow surname message board at:




Good luck,




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