Who Are Those Chains?

After researching my maternal Ostfriesen families for thirty years, I’m reasonably familiar with most renderings of their first and last name. Even if I’ve never seen a specific variant before I can usually determine what the clerk was trying to render on paper.

Until I came across the Chains.

I was not even looking for Chains. They simply were there surrounding my uncle William Goldenstein.He was the focus as I was trying to estimate his arrival in the United States using his census enumerations.


But who were the Chains?

The Chain heads of household, like Goldenstein were born in Hanover. The other last names on the census page were virtually all ones I recognized as other Ostfriesen families that settled in the same area.

But who were the Chains? I could not think of what last name it could be and while I was not related to every Ostfriesen family in the area, I had heard of virtually all the last names.

I tried saying “chain” in a variety of ways hoping to make it click.

Then I reviewed my information on William Goldenstein. In the early 1880s, he had married Lena Schone and they had a son named Oltman. That was it. The name was not Chain.

It was Schone.

It should have dawned on me earlier. Not only did my uncle William Goldenstein marry a Schone in the 1880s, his niece Heipke Goldenstein married a man named William Schone twenty-some years later.

Always be on the lookout for new variants.

And be careful who you have as the hired man. He may end up being chained to your family forever as your son-in-law.


6 thoughts on “Who Are Those Chains?

  1. Pronunciation would be even closer if the original name in German was Schöne; the umlaut pushes the pronunciation closer to a long “a”.

    • I have a suspicion it was. I haven’t tracked it back much further than this time period,but that pronunciation would make Chain a more logical variant than when using today’s pronunciation that rhymes with “hone.”

    • Patty Gilbert says:

      I have tried sometimes to take two or three letters and pronounce them several ways. Turns out I was looking right at names that were spelled as pronounced, while others no clue but spelled them the way I saw them trying to pronounce them to no avail. Later when I’ve seen them with a letter added or subtracted , found name made more sense.

    • It appears to have been done by this enumerator after the last name of almost every head of household in this township (Clayton Twp., Adams County, Illinois). It makes me think it was done instead of a comma in between names when the last name is put first, as in “Chain, Oltman.” I went through three pages and it was done on virtually every head of household’s entry.

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