Unusual Names—We’ve Got ‘Em

Johann Pankratius Schinnerer 1829-1857

Look carefully at this tombstone photo. I’m sure you noticed right away that two names are misspelled. Pankratius Schinnerer is such a common name! Who could possibly misspell it?

Yes, some of my ancestors have very unusual names. Most of these uncommon names are in my German lines and are collateral ancestors, not my direct line. My direct ancestors did not seem to venture into the realm of obscure names but instead chose the more common German names, such as Jacob, Louis, and Friedrich for the boys, and Elizabeth, Maria, and Christina for the girls. No, my direct ancestors did not seem to be very adventurous. Or maybe they just knew what they were doing.

For one, if you chose an unusual name for your child you run the risk of having that name misspelled over and over. Johann “Pankratius” Schinnerer was my second great granduncle. Pankratius emigrated from Bavaria in 1852 with his brother Martin and both settled in Van Wert County near their other brother, Friedrich. Friedrich was my second great grandfather. Although the name sounds like a medical term, according to WorldLingo the origin of Pankratius is Greek and it means “all defeating.” Pankratius was a Roman martyr in the early Christian Church, mentioned in 354 AD. The Roman Catholic anniversary of this martyr is May 12th. Regardless of the meaning, nearly everyone seemed to have a difficult time spelling his name correctly. The passenger list of the ship Amelia recorded his name as Pangraz. His probate record spelled his name Bronaratius. His estate papers show him as Bumcratuez and his estate sale notice listed him simply as John B. Schinnerer. Church records were the most consistent at spelling his name correctly. Unfortunately, his name was misspelled on his tombstone, misspelled forever at his final resting place.

My Schinnerer ancestors seemed to enjoy christening their children with unusual names. Also in this line is Kunigunda Margaretha Schinnerer, born in 1756 in Ipsheim, Bavaria. Her name is derived from Kuni (clan) and gund (war).  Yet another Schinnerer was given the name Aegidus, a male name derived from the Greek and Latin word for a young goat or kid. Other names in the Schinnerer clan include Wolfgang, Balthasar, Agneta, Valentinius, and Appollonia. I have a Valentin and Theobald in my Mueller tree, a Sebastian and an Eberhardt among the Breuningers and two Hallot Bryans.  My grandfather’s name was Cornelius. In the Bible, Cornelius was a Roman centurion who was baptized by Peter.

Unusual names are not limited to my family. My husband’s family tree also has some interesting names. Most of his ancestors were in this country long before mine were and he does not have nearly as many German ancestors as I do. Joe’s fourth great grandmother was Silence Platt. What a nice quiet, peaceful name. Silence was married to Samuel Bennett. Their grandson, Joe’s second great grandfather, was named Landon Bennett. Landon named one of his sons Henry Brandenburg Bennett. Henry was probably named after his uncle Henry Brandenburg, who married his father Landon’s sister Nancy Bennett. Henry Brandenburg Bennett and his wife Sarah Milligan named their seven children after US states or territories. Their children were named Nevada, Dakota, Minnesota, Goldsby Alaska, Arizona Landon, Delaware, and Vermont. Vermont was Joe’s grandfather.  Henry Brandenburg Bennett must have loved the United States.

Standing: Vermont, Goldsby Alaska, Dakota, Arizona, Delaware; Seated: Nevada, Henry Brandenburg Bennett, Sarah (Milligan) Bennett, Minnesota

A tribute to the subject of the tombstone photo: Johann Pankratius Schinnerer was born 25 March 1829 in Ipsheim, Kingdom of Bavaria, the son of Georg Michael and Anna Barbara (Zeller) Schinnerer. He married Rosina Hoffman 25 November 1853 in Van Wert County, Ohio. He died 8 July 1857 after a 7 week illness of the liver and is buried at Zion Lutheran Cemetery, Schumm, Ohio. He was only 28 years old. He and Rosina had four children, but only one lived to maturity, Johann Martin Schinnerer. Johann Martin never married.  May you rest in peace, Johann Pankratius Schinnerer.

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