German Naming Practices


      Knowledge of German naming practices and some of the reasons behind various spellings of the Flory/Flora/Flohri name can be of invaluable help in tracing your particular Flory/Flora/Florea/Florey family line.  Here are a few things that should be helpful to keep in mind when you are attempting to locate your ancestors.

MIDDLE NAMES   When German boys or girls were baptized, they were generally given middle names, although, at times, they were not.  When they were given a middle name, however, they were known by that name and not by their first name for the rest of their lives.  For example, one of the three brothers from the E-line who immigrated here in 1754 was baptized as Nicholas Adolph Flohri.  However, he was subsequently called Adolph, not Nicholas.  The only time German first names ever appeared again on official documents was in the Kirchenbuchs or church registries, and here the first name was always accompanied by the middle name.  Even the Kirchenbuchs would frequently omit the first names of individuals in favor of middle names when they listed marriages and deaths. There are instances where a family would give every boy in the family the first name of Johannes.  This was not a problem, however, because each child would be known by his middle name.  Thus Johannes George, Johannes Michael, and Johannes Peter would be known as George, Michael, and Peter respectively.  Another one of the three brothers from the E-Line, George, was actually baptized as Johannes George.  He was never confused, however, with his brother Johannes, who was baptized without a middle name.  The former was “George” and the latter was “Johannes.”  

      It is clear that the immigrant father of the C-Line, Joseph Flory, who immigrated in 1733, did not have a middle initial “J,” as some assume.  Germans of the period never used middle initials.  If Joseph were baptized with a middle name (and we don’t know that he necessarily was), that middle name would have to have been Joseph. What Walter Bunderman and others assumed to be Joseph’s middle initial, that of “J,” in the ship’s registry of the Hope in 1733 was not an initial but a checkmark, or Joseph’s mark, indicating that he was illiterate, as many German immigrants of the period were.

WOMEN’S NAMES ENDING IN -“IN”  Most German parishes automatically added “-in” to the family name when they recorded a girl’s name in their baptismal records.  Thus, if a father’s last name was Hahn, any daughter born to him would be recorded as “Hahnin.”  Johannes Flohri, immigrant father of the E-1 line, married a “Christina Hahnin.”  Anyone attempting to locate her father, however, should look for the presence of a “Hahn,” which is a common German name, and not a “Hahnin.”  In his classic book on the Flory families, Walter Bunderman reproduces a baptismal certificate for a Katherina Florin, who, he suggests, was a daughter of Joseph Flory. immigrant father of the C-line.  The form of Katherina’s last name, “Florin” has led some to conclude that “Florin” was the true family name.  Actually, all the certificate really indicates is that Katherina’s father was named either “Flor” or “Flori” and that Katherina was a girl and not a boy.

     The same naming practice followed a woman through marriage.  Thus a woman who married into a Flory family would go by the name of “Florin,” not “Flory.”  Not all German parishes necessarily followed this practice, but most did.  You do find the same naming pattern among some of the early German immigrants, but it seems to have died out quickly.

NAMING CHILDREN AFTER RELATIVES Genealogists often point out that certain names such as George, Leonhardt, or Jacob tend to run throughout a family.  Thus, if you are attempting to connect two family lines, it sometimes is helpful to see what names they have in common.  One naming practice that some German families of the period followed was to name the first born son after the father’s father and the first born girl after the mother’s mother.  This was not a universal practice, however, and any hypothetical speculation about a missing ancestor that you do based upon this pattern should be exercised with caution.  The immigrant father of the C-line, Joseph, had a son named Joseph, who was probably the first born male in the family.  If Joseph, the father, was naming his son after anyone in his family it would have been after his own father and not after himself.  
THE FLORY/FLORA/FLOREA/FLOREY NAME  Many Florys/Floras  assume that their ancestors were ultimately French and that their family name derives from the French “Fleury” or “LaFleur.” While it is very probable that many Flory families today were ultimately “Fleurys,” there may be other sources for the name. It is even possible, I suppose, that at least some “Fleurys” derived from one of these sources rather than the other way around.

The name of Flory/Flora in Germany was often spelled “Flori,” a spelling that has close associations with Switzerland. Probably the largest concentration of Flori families in all of Europe prior to the mid-eighteenth century was in the Canton of Solothurn in Switzerland near the French border. Given the proximity of Solothurn to France, it is possible that the Swiss “Flori” came from the French Fleury and that all Floris are ultimately of French blood. Still, the Swiss name “Flori” goes back to at least the early 15th century in Solothurn, and it could be that the name comes from some other source instead. Sabine Schleichert, a genealogist who has done work on the three Flory brothers who immigrated to Philadelphia in 1754 ( E-line), thinks it may derive from a German term meaning roughly “from the land,” indicating, perhaps, that the family came from  an agricultural area in the German part of Switzerland. Her evidence for this is that in one of the entries in the Swiss IGI of the records of Church of the Latter Day Saints the name appears as “uf der Fluri,” or, “on the Fluri.” “Flur” in German is a word for agraric land, pasture, or similar things. Thus, the original meaning might just be “someone who lives on a piece of land called Fluri.” This would suggest a migration at one time of the Floris from the German part of Switzerland to the French part in Solothurn. The Flori names that I have seen in Solothurn Church records appear more “German” than French.  Brian Flora, who had been stationed at the U.S. Embassy in Berlin noted that when he “was living in Bern, there were lots of variations, including Flohr, floating around. Our vet, Georg Flohr, said that the origin of the family name meant simply something along the lines of ‘farmable plot of  land’.”

“Fleury” allegedly means “from the land of flowers,” and suggests to some the precise part of France the family derives from. “Fleury,” however, may derive from “Flori” with the name becoming “French” as some members of the family may have moved westward from Switzerland. In other words, “Fleury” from “Flori” rather than the other way around. Or the names “Fleury” and “Flori” could have come from separate, distinct sources. Because of the similarity in sounds, the names could have “contaminated” one another, at least in some families. At any rate, there is no real reason to suppose, based upon the evidence of names, that Joseph Flory, immigrant father of the C-line or the three brothers of 1754 (E-line) ultimately had French ancestors. Even if they descended from Huguenots, there were Swiss Huguenots as well as French. The fact that Joseph’s name in some documents has a French spelling is not necessarily proof of anything. Joseph was probably illiterate, and thus not responsible for the way his name was recorded by another party.

There are other possibilities. The Swiss Dictionnaire Historique and Bibliographique de la Suisse” traces the name “Flori” back to “Fluri” and ultimately “Florin,” a noble family of the Canton (state) of Grison in the 16th Century. While this could be a source, it is not the only source, as the name appears a bit earlier in Solothurn. George F. Jones in “German-American Names” postulates that the original source of “Flori” is St. Florian. Others who agree believe that when Europe was Christianized many families changed their pagan names to Christian ones, and Florian, later Flurian or Fluri was a result. Still, given the agricultural vocations of many of the early Florys and Brian Flora’s confirmation, Sabine Schleichert’s suggestion that the name is ultimately agrarian is an intriguing one.  Again, the modern names of Flory/Flora/Florey/Florea probably derive ultimately from several unconnected sources.

HOW DOES “FLORY” BECOME “FLORA”?  Many of the early Florys were illiterate, and while they could pronounce their surname, they could not spell it.  They were thus left at the mercy of various redactors (priests, ship hands, lawyers, public servants, etc.) when it came to recording their names. Some of these recorders were very educated and some not.  At any rate, it is relatively easy to understand why there should be so many current spellings of “Flory” as Flori, Florea, Florey, Flurry, Flury, Florie, etc.  One thing that remains consistent, however, is the “ee” sound at the end of the name, no matter how that name is spelled.  Occasionally, one does find the spellings of Flor, Flourgh, and Flower, but this seems to be the result of confusion on the part of the recorder, and does not really have any permanent effect on the family’s pronunciation of the name.  There are Flowers and Flors, but they appear to be from a different family entirely from that of the Florys.

But if the “ee” sound is so important, how does “Flora” come into play?  There are multiple causes, but the main one is regional dialect.  To generalize a little bit, there is a tendency within many Southern dialects to reduce vowel sounds at the end of a word or name to what is termed a “schwa” or an “uh” sound, spelled “a.”  Thus, when Thomas Flora came from England to America in 1721, the spelling of his name as “Flurry” or “Florry” reflected the “ee” pronunciation.  Later documents record his name as “Flora” or “Flowre” (probably pronounced “Flowra.”  Since we tend to retain the pronunciations that we were born with, Thomas probably used the “ee” sound at the end of his name for the remainder of his life, no matter what form his name appeared in public documents.  Whether his children retained the “ee” sound or adopted the “uh” sound is difficult to tell, but obviously somewhere between Thomas’ children and grandchildren, the pronunciation of the name as “Flora” became solidified within the family as his descendants developed Southern accents.

When the 1754 emigrant from Birkenau, Adolph Flohri, landed in Pennsylvania, he obviously pronounced his name with the “ee” sound.  When he moved to Virginia, his name was generally recorded as “Flora,” even in his will.  The fact that the family still considered themselves as “Flor”ee”s for a generation or so, however,  is indicated by what happens to the spelling of the name when several of Adolph’s children moved to Illinois–even today it appears as “Florey” and “Flory” in that state. Adolph’s grandchildren in Virginia and Kentucky seem to have adopted a Southern form of speech and probably pronounced their name as “Flora.”

The idea that “Flory” is Northern and “Flora” is Southern is not entirely universal.  The spelling of “Flurry” still occurs today in parts of the South, and a few of the descendants of Johannes Flohri (Adolph’s brother) spell their name as “Flora,” despite the fact that they lived and died in Northampton County, Pennsylvania, a “Flory” stronghold.  Apparently the spelling of “Flora,” while rare, is not unknown in Germany, although it may be due to factors other than that of dialect.

One visitor to this site queried why the name of the son of the immigrant father of the C-Line appears here as “Jacob Flory,” when both Walter Bunderman and Joel Cephus Flora in their books on the family spell his name as “Jacob Flora.”  Again it is a conflict between how Jacob, who like his father was probably illiterate, pronounced his name and how those in Virginia recorded it.  They “heard” Flora when Jacob “said” Flory.  Both spellings are obviously correct since both have a historical basis.