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jeudi 23 octobre 2014

No 10

Get a hair-cut and a new name: 
Welcome to America!

Many believe that the Long family name comes from a physical characteristic possessed by its members: their height. The Longs are tall. It could have been the idea at first, many centuries ago. While some give credence to this explanation, others find it flawed. When there are many exceptions to a rule, maybe the rule needs to be redefined.

Moreover, it doesn’t take into account the fact that this family name is written in many ways in Europe and elsewhere. Consequently, how do we explain that it comes in all shapes and forms? Here are the most frequent ones: Lang, Long, Lange, Longe, Langer, Luong, Langhor, Lung, Lunge, DeLong, Longain, Longan, Laing, O’Longaigh, O’Long, and so forth. It doesn’t take long to get confused. 

The first question to pop up is: « Which one in the collection is « the best one »? That might just be a question like: « What’s the best way to peel an orange? ». Maybe, your way is the best one, no matter what your neighbor says about your choice.

The situation is even more complicated when we are confronted with the fact that Langs outnumber the Longs in Germany, and even more so in Switzerland. The Langs who immigrated to America became Longs as soon as they set foot in America. How do we explain this name swapping? And, we are not the only family who chose to do so. The real question is: Why? A research on the subject, published in the Journal of Labour Economics, gives a partial, but interesting answer.
The port of Philadelphia around 1800
William Russel Birch (English artist, 1755-1834)
Arch Stree Ferr, Philadelphia.

The researchers concluded that immigrants change their name when they arrive in a new country to avoid discrimination on the job market. Better jobs mean better salary, and better salary brings about a better style of life. If the natives could easily identify them, the immigrants are afraid to lose unfairly their competitiveness. It is, consequently, a voluntary measure of assimilation on the part of the immigrants. They choose to get lost in the crowd.

Surely, other factors could be inserted in the equation to explain this family name swapping. My goal is simply to make you aware of this universal phenomenon affecting immigrant families. Should I remind you that, in America, we are all descendants of immigrants?

This phenomenon is so powerful that the LANG family name, even though it has only four letters, saw its name swap to LONG. What was the pressing need to change our family name? The explanation is very simple. 

The British and Irish were already well established in America and the Long family name was popular within their communities, but not the Lang family name, when the Langs from Germany arrived. The name Lang is widely spread in Central Europe, but not in Western Europe. The Langs, swapping to Longs, became part of the British and Irish landscape already well rooted in the American colonies.
Welcome to America!

Was it really a voluntarily decision on their part to change their family name? Most of them had their name change as soon as they arrived in one of the American ports, especially in Philadelphia and New York. It seems that the clerks had already received very precise instructions on the matter. The name Long is more prevalent than the name Lang in the church and governmental documents that I have consulted in the USA, even though they were all Langes or Langs when they left Germany. I am referring here to documents dating back to the 17th and 18th centuries.

Later, I will show you some screen snapshots of very old German and American boat lists and censuses. I hold my breath every time that I come across one of them: they’re about our ancestors, you know.  At some point in time, they were real fathers, mothers and children.

The name swaping in the Province of Quebec

Jean-Pierre Wilhelmy, a writer and a descendant of a Hessian soldier, wrote about numerous families in the Quebec Province that have a Hessian soldier as an ancestor, but are now known under a francophone patronyme.  Here are some of them :

Andre    Albert    Berger    Besette    Bernard    Bouchard    Allaire    David    Hebert    Faille    Ferdinand    Frederic    Gabriel    Gallant   Gagné    George    Gervais    Gille    Guerrard    Hamel    Hinse    Hotte    Hubert    Jacques    Lamarre    Lambert    Laparé    Lemaire    Léonard     Lessard    Lettre    Maher    Maheu    Maillé    Major    Martin    Miller    Olivier    Pagé    Paul    Piquette    Plasse    Raymond    Rose    Saint-Pierre    Tyserre    Viger  and many more.

Nevertheless, it doesn’t mean that every Lessard in Quebec is a descendant of a German soldier. The same phenomenon was observed on the English-Canadian side. Here are some family names that the German soldiers adopted because they were already common:

Arnold    Baker    Bowmann    Brown    Bush    Carl    Duff    Fisher    Frank    Fraser    Hill    Hoppe    Hunter    John    Krafft    Lange    Lowe    Ludwig    Mauck    Moro    Page    Peters    Russel    Sander    Sayer    Schmidt    Schutt    Steiger    Stone    Thomas    Young    Ziegler, and many more.

It is estimated that 7 000 German soldiers stayed in America after the ARW: 4 500 in the United States and 2 500 in Canada. Figures vary from between sources. Moreover, these new Canadian immigrants made sure that their children didn’t learn the German language, also. They simply wanted to erase any trace of their previous life as a soldier. That is enough to explain why, even today, so many of the Quebecers don’t know that their ancestor was a German mercenary.

On average, for the duration of the ARW, 4 500 German mercenaries lived in Quebec and were lodged in French-Canadian families. If many of these families prefer not to divulge their German ancestry, at that time, the German families were proud to have a son in a Hessian mercenary regiment.

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