Onomastics


Onomastics or onomatology is the study of proper names of all kinds and the origins of names.[i] Those who specialize in onomastics concentrate on understanding the origins of names. The knowledge of several languages is essential to onomastics.

The following information explains the origins of my family name and provides a background about the kinds of people who settled in this area.

Some institutions and scholars specialize in onomastics, the science of names in many different languages. According to Dr. Zygmnunt Klimek of the Institute of the Polish Language in the Polish Academy of Science in Krakow, Poland, “The name SPURGAT is the Germanized equivalent of [the] Lithuanian origin name Spurgaitis. It is a Lithuanian patronimicum (father’s name which means the son of) of somebody named SPURGA which means flower.”[ii]

Alfred Spurgat, son of Adolph and the author’s father, remembered hearing the name Spurgaitis in the Lithuanian neighborhood of Grand Rapids, Michigan, in the 1910s and 1920s. One day in the 1930s a Lithuanian worker at the Gunn Furniture Factory pointed his finger at Alfred and remarked, “Remember your name could have been Spurgaitis.” Knowing that his family was German through language and religion, he knew he was not Lithuanian. The -aitis spelling appears to have no other distinction than the fact that it is the Lithuanian spelling of the German –at.

Since the name Spurgat does not appear in any of the German surname books, but is referenced or does appear in Lithuanian publications and with German-Lithuanian connections, it is reasonably safe to conclude that Spurgat is a Germanized version of a Lithuanian surname.


[i] Onomastics, online  <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Onomastics>, data downloaded 18 October 2007.

[ii] Letter from Dr. Zygmnunt Klimek. Quoting Z. Zinkeviciuys, Lituviu Antroponimics, Vilnius, 1970.

About suwalkigermans

I started family research in 1993. My first two books focused on my maternal grandparents. Both families came from Kreis Rosenberg, West Prussia, to Big Rapids, Michigan. I left the Spurgats from Wylkowiszki in the Russian Empire as the third book because of the difficult and challenging research it required. After I published the book in 2010, I wondered what to do next. I thought I might try to share some of my research with others and maybe at the same time, by going digital, someone would find me. When you read the comments, you will see that happened. The best part of all this is helping others.
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