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Gothmog
Saturday, May 27th, 2006, 02:32 AM
Can anyone help me, please? I'm brazilian and, like most brazilians, have iberian ancestry. But I'm 25% german, or so I thought. After some genealogical research, I discovered that my great grandmother's name, Rosa Hoffmann, was in fact Ruzena Hoffmann. She wasn't german at all, but came to Brazil from Bohemia in the late XIX century. At this point an alarm rang: oh my God, I'm a jew! But after some more research, I discovered that almost all of her brothers and sisters had christian first names, like Wenceslaus, Anezka, Ludmilla... I also discovered that they spoke czech at home, since my mother remember words like maminka and babicka from her early years. The question is, why the german surname? Was Bohemia so germanized at that time (late XIX) that czech families adopted german names? I'd really apreciate if someone could share some information on this suject.

Agrippa
Saturday, May 27th, 2006, 02:02 PM
There was assimilation happening in both directions, some areas became German and afterwards Czech again etc. Wo the borderline is not always that clear, especially in pre-19th century times. Bohemia as a whole was culturally quite German.

Putzfleck
Sunday, May 28th, 2006, 10:06 AM
It IS also possible she was of Jewish ancestry. Hoffmann is commom amongst Jews. Since the 18th century Jews started assimilating into German society, and truned to Christianity. I would guess most did not convert, however they DID have Christian names (which were used in daily life) along with Jewish ones as well. So Ludmilla could have actually been Lea...

Here's a famous example:
http://www.marxists.org/archive/mehring/1918/marx/ch01.htm

Gothmog
Monday, May 29th, 2006, 08:36 PM
Interesting... I didn't discard the jewish hypothesis completely, although I find it hard to understand why a jew would name three of his children after catholic saints. Anyway, the Hoffmann surname is very common both in Germany and in the Czech Republic. The fact is that they were czechs, but had a german surname... After pondering about that for some time, I realized that most brazilians of german ascendency are in a similar situation: they are brazilians, have brazilian first names, speak portuguese, but have german surnames... That's because their forefathers were german immigrants! Is it possible that my family was made of "slavized" german immigrants, instead of germanized slavs? Was it common? Another question: what about gypsies? Did they also adopt german surnames?

JŠnos Hunyadi
Wednesday, May 31st, 2006, 05:43 AM
Anyway, the Hoffmann surname is very common both in Germany and in the Czech Republic. The fact is that they were czechs, but had a german surname...

Alot of Czechs also have Russian surnames.

Putzfleck
Wednesday, May 31st, 2006, 11:46 AM
IIs it possible that my family was made of "slavized" german immigrants, instead of germanized slavs? Was it common? Another question: what about gypsies? Did they also adopt german surnames?

you can find pleanty of articles in Jstor and its counterparts if you have an access to an academic institution. You should try searching google as well, there you can also learn about the Germaniztion or the opposite process.

The American professor Jeremy King deals with such issues. he wrote an interesting article called: "The nationalization of East Central Europe: Ethnicism, Ethnicity and Beyond", but if you google it, you'll find more stuff on the matter.

here's an example:
http://rss.archives.ceu.hu/archive/00001016/01/17.pdf

now, to your question, couldn't you get ahold of any other clues? eg - where from Bohemia did they come? maybe it was a German dorf? What about traditional customs? nothing is left?

There were not too many Jews in Bohemia, but many did arrive in the 19th century from Galicia to other parts of the Habsburg monarchy (including Bohemia), and they were more likely to emigrate to the new world (in terms of percentage of the population). Chances are that those Jews would not have carried Christian names, but of course there were always exceptions...

J. King gives an example from the Bohemian city of Budweis (Budejovice, in Czech). He shows how Adalbert/Vojtech Lanna, who was a royal shipmaster of German ethnic origin in the city, became a symbol of Czech nationalism. Then he explains there were many "cross wires" between the ethnic groups (including Jews) and that many people spoke a melange of Czech and German. Alas, that's why it's almost impossible to tell whether your family was of German, Czech, Jewish or even another origin.

Gothmog
Wednesday, May 31st, 2006, 11:51 PM
Thank you very much Putzfleck. I really don't have much information about my family's past, which is rather nebulous... Legend says they came from Prague (thus fuelling the jewish hypothesis). Also, Juscelino Kubitscheck (maybe the greatest brazilian president), who was of roma ancestry, was somewhat close to my family (gypsy hypothesis). And my great grandmother married into a german family (my great grandfather was an austrian immigrant) which suggests at least some affinity with german culture... I'm an undergraduate in history and intend to write a monograph on the nationalization of the immigrant communities during the Vargas regime. After Vargas (and the hysteria promoted by National-Socialism and the WWII) those communities were fully dismantled (at least in the great cities) making it difficult for the younger generations to apprehend their european heritage. In my case it's even more difficult, since this side of my family comes from central Europe, a frontier between the germanic and slavic realms, and were a minority even amongst the immigrant population, mainly italian and spanish... To worsen the situation, they came to Brazil through Bremen, whose registries were destroyed during the war! But with your tips I can now do some serious bibliographic research and learn more about central european ethnic history. This is a rather interesting subject...