German or Lithuanian?

In the last post the fact that the Spurgat name does not appear in any of the German surname books, but is referenced or appears in Lithuanian publications makes it reasonably safe to conclude that Spurgat (and other –at names) is a Germanized version of a Lithuanian surname.

There were Spurgats is East Prussia, a long-time German territory. The Spurgat name has been located in the following locations in East and West Prussia.
Some Spurgats in Prussia


Parish Kreis/Stadt Province Time Period
Rehden Graudenz West Prussia 1849, 1853-54, 1857, 1862
Grutta West Prussia 1819, 1845, 1849, 1853-54, 1857, 1862
Danzig Stadt West Prussia 1845, 1869, 1872
Wirztaggen East Prussia 1874
Dorotheen Berlin Stadt Brandenburg 1852
Draugupoenen East Prussia 1890
Schillenen Prussia 1890

The International Genealogical Index, Pedigree Resource File, and Ancestral File report that there were people named Spurgat in the above parishes. Additionally, the author found records of Spurgats in the city of Goldap in Kreis Goldap, and in Gerwischkehmen, Kreis Gumbinnen, East Prussia. (Goldap is directly south of Stalloponen and Gerwischkehmen.)

The Spurgats I know believe that their ancestors were German. It is likely they came from East Prussia (or New East Prussia where German-Lithuanians had settled) even though the scholars agree that the Spurgat surname is Lithuanian-based. Perhaps at some undisclosed time in the past a German woman married a Lithuanian named “Spurgaitis” and as is often the case, the family assumed the mother’s religion and, eventually, the language of her church—German. The presence of so many Spurgats in other parts of Germany suggests that the name, although not common, was fairly widespread by the 19th century.

So the explanation that the Spurgat name is of Lithuanian origin may be difficult to accept because of the Spurgat association with the German language and the “evangelische” (Lutheran) religion. Primary migration patterns brought German “colonists” as far east to what is now Lithuania as early as the 14th century through the efforts of the Hanseatic League which promoted trading on the Baltic Sea. Yet the available records do not place these Spurgat families in the Wylkowiszki area until 1849 after centuries of German migration and even a short period of German domination between 1795 and 1807.

Have the readers of this blog found any records for their –at names in East Prussia? If so, what villages? How did you find that? Family stories? Documents brought with them? Geneaological sources? Internet?

Perhaps other researchers will be able to find additional information on the source of the Spurgat and other –at names.


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.
This entry was posted in Names, Uncategorized and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to German or Lithuanian?

  1. Vilda says:

    The ending ait is typical lithuanian akin to polish ski or russian ov. Spurgaitis – son of Spurgis (it nickname type of surname meaning hop cone).And just for record, lithuanians from Prussia were mainly lutheran.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s