First Names

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In the areas and communities which did not follow the custom of having names given by godparents, the parents gave their children the first names of their own parents (the children's grandparents). This was the case with the Reformed on the Lower Rhine and quite particularly with the Mennonites. For example, they named their oldest son after one grandfather, the oldest daughter after the other grandmother. For the second son and the second daughter they reversed this procedure. With the following children names of the nearest relatives were used in succession and when these were exhausted, Biblical names. It remained this way until the Enlightenment slowly put an end to this loyal custom. This custom for the assignment of names was called the Leitnamensitte by Heinrich Müllers, a former archivist in Rheydt; from this method of naming he developed a method of research which makes it possible to determine with some assurance the name of the grandfather from the name of the grandson. Since the church records of the Mennonite congregations of the Lower Rhine only rarely give the names of the parents of the bridal couple this method of the Leitnamensitte gives a safe means for the investigation of Mennonite families.

Author(s) Wilhelm Niepoth
Date Published 1956

Cite This Article

MLA style

Niepoth, Wilhelm. "First Names." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1956. Web. 19 Jun 2018.

APA style

Niepoth, Wilhelm. (1956). First Names. Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 19 June 2018, from


Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 2, p. 331. All rights reserved.

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