Thursday, February 24, 2011

World War 1 German Surname Changes

Boston Latin School
founded in 1635
The Schallenbach family members were German immigrants to Boston. John P. Schallenbach was born about 1820 in Cologne, Germany. He must have immigrated with his wife, Mary Frances Lamberts, to America before 1855 because their five children were all born in Massachusetts after that date. He was a cabinetmaker. His son Ernest went to the Boston Latin School, and to Harvard Medical School, and endowed a scholarship at the Latin School in honor of his mother, to be awarded to the graduate with the best work in Latin during the year. According to the Latin School website, this prize is still being awarded.  Megan Pitts, of the Latin School, wrote me "...considering that scholarship was given out in 2009 and years prior, it is safe to assume that it is in fact still given out to graduating seniors.  Pretty amazing, isn't it?"

Another son, John Adolph Schallenbach, born 1 August 1855, married Sarah Burnham Emerson, who was my Great Great Grandmother Mary Katherine’s sister. They lived on Nixon Street in the Dorchester section of Boston, and had a son named Albert Emerson Schallenbach, born 9 August 1887 in Boston. Albert was another scholar, and he graduated from MIT. On 15 September 1915 in Boston Albert was married to Eunice A. Shiverick.

I couldn’t find any records on Albert after 1920. He wasn’t listed in the census or vital records, and any references to Schallenbach in Boston after this time were usually for the Latin School scholarship. However, in the Volume XXI “Technology Review” (the MIT Alumni magazine) of 1919, on page 634 I found him listed under the name Emerson, and that he worked with the Vacuum Oil Company in Chicago. “Albert Emerson Schallenbach, 1911, writes that he had his name changed by court order to Albert Emerson”. Using these clues I was able to find him in the 1920 Census in Chicago, Illinois, and the 1930 Census in Upper Darby, Pennsylvania.

Obviously, when the war broke out in 1918 Albert Emerson Schallenbach was influenced by popular opinion and “anglicized” his German name. There was much anti-German sentiment at the time of World War I. In Chicago some street names were changed to English names in an effort to appear patriotic. Michigan Representative John M. C. Smith even introduced a bill to the US House to ban German geographic names from the United States. The British Royal Family also changed their name from Saxe-Coburg-Gotha to Windsor at this same time, and thousands of German-American families followed suit. The vast majority of families, however, kept their German surnames.

If your German ancestor or family member seems to disappear from the records after 1918, this might be a significant clue. In the case of Albert, he simply took his very familiar Yankee middle name of Emerson as a new surname. I find this very sad, since the Schallenbachs were a very well known family who contributed much to Boston.

The image of the Boston Latin School is from by Cliff1066

Copyright 2011, Heather Wilkinson Rojo

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