Michael John or John Michael?

p. 11, Evidence Explained, 2007 edition.

p. 11, Mills, Elizabeth, Shown. Evidence Explained, 2007 edition.

There’s always a certain amount of irony when I’m referred to as “John Michael” instead of “Michael John.” Ironic because my name was supposed to be John Michael instead of Michael John.

Until Grandma Neill heard about it.

The reasons why my mother chose Michael for my first name have been lost to the ages. When asked, Mom only told me that she liked the name and at the the time that was good enough for me.  There was no need to ask where John came from. My maternal grandfather was John H. Ufkes and that first name had been passed from grandfather to grandson since Johann Hinrichs Borjes was born in Holtrop, Germany, in 1687.  It was virtually the Ufkes Law that the name John be used and used liberally.

The name Michael wasn’t used in my maternal family, at least not by any relatives born before me. It was used in my Grandmother Neill’s family, but I was not aware of it until I began my genealogical research.  And that’s why Grandma objected to me being named John Michael: her brother.

“A rounder” is what Grandma called him, a vague phrase covering a potential variety of ills which children were not to be told specifically.  Dying in a car accident in his thirties while out carousing and nearly forty years before I was born, Grandma never told me he was also divorced a few years before he died. She only told me that she refused to attend his funeral.

So there wouldn’t be a grandson named John Michael because one John Michael Trautvetter was enough.

Turns out Grandma’s brother wasn’t really named John Michael either.

His 1898 christening record at the small church in Tioga, Illinois, indicates that his christening name was John Julius. John for his grandfather and Julius for his godfather. And his grandfather was named John Michael Trautvetter and it’s easy to understand why Grandma thought her brother’s name was John Michael as well.

It turns out that Grandma’s Grandpa, John Michael Trautvetter (1839-1917), wasn’t the first John Michael Trautvetter. There were several Trautvetters named Michael. The earliest documented John Michael was Johann Michael Trautvetter who in the 1790s was living in Wildprechtrode, Thuringen, Germany, when he was a godparent for his brother Erasmus Trautvetter’s child also christened Johann Michael Trautvetter.


The Earliest John Michael Trauvetter from Wildprechtrode, Thuringen, Germany. Taken from a 1790s era christening where he appears as a godfather.

Of course, my Mother didn’t know all that when she chose Michael to be one of my names.

So when I get referred to as John Michael, and I invariably do, I never get upset and I always chuckle. In fact, I rarely even mention it.  I’m pretty certain I didn’t when I noted that my names were switched in Evidence Explained

I’ve adopted the approach that it was the way Mom wanted it…so it’s ok.

And since I’m pretty much grown by now, hopefully Grandma’s ok with it too.

And….I’ve long been thankful it was Michael John and not Julius John.


3 thoughts on “Michael John or John Michael?

  1. Laura Adams says:

    Love your attitude! It’s so very interesting to see the name carried down through the years. In my family, there are 8 of our close family, living, who are named Charles. They most all have a different middle name and half of them use nicknames–Chase, Chuck, Chaz. However, 6 of the 8 have the same last name, Gephart. Before the names were Americanized, I notice that many used the first name Johann.

  2. Your sense of humor shines here. In my family, Dad was called “Dale” but his name was actually “Elmer Dale.” Dad had an uncle named Elmer who lived in the same community.

    Dad’s father’s name was “Henry Gilman” but he was always “Gilman.” The “Gilman” was Grandpa’s mother’s maiden surname.

    Grandpa’s dad was simply “N.S.” until he started school; the teacher said he had to have a name, not just initials, so she wrote it down as “Ennis” and it stuck.

    My favorite story is about my father-in-law who was just called “Baby” until he was about 6 years old. (Yes, he wore dresses as an infant, as was the custom of the day). His mother wanted a unique name for her first born. She finally came up with the name “Eldrid.” To the world he was known as “Egg.”

  3. Teresa Anderson says:

    I found early church records from Lancaster and York Counties PA showing all the males in a family with the same first name of Johann, commonly all females in a family will be recorded with first names of Maria or Mary. My research indicated when infants were baptized in early Lutheran and Reformed Churches (and perhaps other churches that baptized infants) a Saint’s name was selected as the child’s baptism name. The Saint’s name appears as the first name on the church record and was only used for the baptism and never again. If the church record states “Johann George Surname”, the second name recorded (George) on the Baptism record is the name the person will use and be known by.
    It is common with my German roots in Central PA to find that many people were never known by their first names. “Hilda Viola” was always Viola and the like. There are also other interesting German naming traditions and nicknames which were fun to research.

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