Thinking my first name, Pamela, might bring up some goods, I sought the archives, but first, I had to do a little talking with the parents. Turns out that my first name only came about because they wanted to make my initials spell a name. PAM. Pamela Audry Mosbrucker. Funny. Kids at school sure thought it a riot; I always thought it clever, and unique. Both Pamela and Audry are from baby name books, though Audry is traditionally spelled ‘Audrey.’ When asked why they dropped the ‘e,’ my parents claim only that it looks better without the ‘e.’
Both Pamela and Audry come from famous figures in literature. Pamela is from English and was invented by “Sir Philip Sidney (1554–1586), in whose verse it is stressed on the second syllable.” (Ancestry.com). There is no evidence to how Sidney created the name though it may be intended to mean “‘all sweetness’ from Greek παν (pan) ‘all’ and μελι (meli) ‘honey’” (Behind the Name).
Two hundred years later, Pamela was used by “Samuel Richardson for the name of the heroine of his novel Pamela (1740), [and is seen in] Henry Fielding’s Joseph Andrews (1742), which started out as a parody of Pamela; Fielding comments that the name is ‘very strange’” (Ancestry.com). Often, I’ve had my name misspelled as ‘Pamala,’ and ‘Pamella,’ which Ancestry.com suggests are the more modern spellings.
Audry is from “English, the modern form of the Old English ÆÐELÞRYÐ, composed of the elements æðel ‘noble’ + pryð ‘strength’” and is known best in history for the “6th-century saint who was killed by a tumor on her neck; and it is also the name of a character in Shakespeare’s comedy As You Like It” (Behind the Name). The name Audrey “went into a decline at the end of the Middle Ages, when it came to be considered vulgar, being associated with tawdry, that is, lace and other goods sold at fairs” (Ancestry.com) by women of unseemly natures.
In total, there are less than five hundred Mosbrucker’s in the entire United States, so family history is easy to trace; most in North Dakota, and only my paternal grandparents made the move to Idaho after my father was a teenager. And though Mosbrucker sounds grand and exciting, it looks up on Ancestry.com as simply “South German: topographic name for someone who lived by a bridge over a swamp, from Middle High German mos ‘bog,’ ‘swamp’ + brucke ‘bridge.’” And after spending perhaps five hours searching a German immigrants database, I found that my ancestors actually came from Odessa, Russia. What a shock. It may be created of German words, but the original Mosbrucker’s were in Russia before sailing across the ocean. This leads me to believe two things. First, maybe they were from Germany but had traveled to Russia to take a ship that they couldn’t take from German land. Maybe it was cheaper, safer, or more covert. Or second, maybe they lived in Russia but someone further down the ancestry line lived in Germany, or spoke German, and needed a topographic name. It remains unclear.
I wanted to trace Shorts, as it is my mother’s maiden name, but I ran into immigration records difficulties, though I was at least able to trace my grandfather, Norman Westly Shorts, back to his great-great grandfather, Westly Shorts, who was born in Pennsylvania. Shorts is a variant of ‘Short,’ which Ancestry.com states is “1. English: nickname from Middle English schort ‘short.’2. Scottish and northern Irish: reduced Anglicized from the Gaelic Mac an Gheairr, Mac an Ghirr ‘son of the short man’.”
From this, I can conclude only that Shorts is meant as a nickname variant of surnames. Though it isn’t very accurate. I haven’t seen one relative that didn’t top five foot five; most are closer to six feet. And, even though my grandfather claims that he is of stout, Irish blood (with a Roman nose), immigration records actually indicate otherwise, that nearly all of the original Shorts’ clan sailed out from Germany, the others coming from France, with the ‘s’ already added onto ‘Short.’ So, either they had a very long or extensive trip before they sailed, or he is wrong.
Now, this wasn’t entirely thorough enough for me so I decided to delve a little deeper into my mother’s side of the family. It turns out that my grandmother; Eunice Brandt (maiden name) Shorts (married name) can be traced by the Brandt line back to the very first Brandt, Hermann Heinrich Brand (before the ‘t’ was added). He married Helene Adelheid Dallman and their son, Heinrich Hermann Gerhard Brand who was born in 1796 in Bippen, Germany; and his son was the first to make the crossover into the United States. So, Hermann Heinrich Brand’s grandson, Hermann Heinrich Brand III made the journey and died in Minnesota, with the Brand name still intact.
Brandt is a “topographic name for someone who lived in an area that had been cleared by fire, Middle High German brant (from brennen ‘to burn’)” (Ancestry.com) and is (obviously) a variation of Brand, which is “English, Scottish, Scandinavian, North German, and Dutch…containing the element brand ‘sword’ (a derivative of brinnan ‘to flash’), of which the best known is Hildebrand” (Ancestry.com). Since Hildebrand, of “German, Dutch, French, and English: from a Germanic personal name composed of the elements hild ‘strife’, ‘battle’ + brand ‘fire’ ‘sword’” (Ancestry.com) is the only other variation, I checked the immigration records but none of the Brand’s are related to the Hildebrand’s, so this is just a case of possible name variations. Though, in an interesting twist, my grandmother’s brother’s name was Hilbert Brandt.
Records from both the German Brand’s and the Minnesotan Brandt’s show that both those who came to the United States and those who remained in Germany switched between the two variations (Brand/Brandt) for reasons unknown. It isn’t until my grandmother’s great grandfather (my great-great-great grandfather?), Herman Brandt is born in Germany, that the name is officially changed to Brandt (it is not clear whether the change was made in Germany or in Minnesota); and his father was yet another Heinrich (Henry) Herman Brand.
Since there is no record of the reason for the change, I can only guess that it came about because of pronunciation. Brandt, pronounced brant (silent ‘d’) would be a bit easier to say than Brand, if you had a cold. Otherwise, the addition of the ‘t’ seems strange.
Overall, this was a surprising bit of research and I’m sure my grandfather will be shocked of the results, learning that he is not the stout Irish man that he has proclaimed himself to be. I’m also a bit shocked, though, in finding that my Mosbrucker ancestry is from Russia, and not Germany, even though the name itself is comprised of German words. In essence, delving into family history helped in pinpointing name changes, however, I was unlucky in finding identifiable reasons for any of the variations.
Ancestry.com. 1998-2006. My Family, Inc.
(I included exact pages because Ancestry.com is very obstinate)
Behind the Name.com: The Etymology And History Of First Names. January 18, 2006.