RESEARCH 2012-2015 POST 4-at/-aitis: Prussian or Lithuanian?

One source states that East Prussian German names ending in –at are “heavily Lithuanian influenced” and provides examples submitted by those with that surname. If my -at is a German version of a Prussian-Lithuanian name, can it be both, or is it one or the other?

According to at least one author, who cites the most well-known experts of the 19th and 20th centuries, the data is inconclusive. The /–at/ suffix  appears in a list of “Old Prussian Male Endings” and the /–at / ending also appears in a list of “Baltic Endings for Male Offspring” as one of three “Germanized forms” of the familiar /–ait/, /-aitis/, and /-atis/ endings.

Personnel at the Family History Library in Salt Lake, City, Utah, commented that the northeastern portion of East Prussia was mostly Lithuanian…. In 16th century some parts of      it were settled by Lithuanians and Prussians (mixed). Lithuanians still have a surname Spurgaitis. …the dictionary…in our library…shows…what regions of Lithuania it was spread out. Words “spurga”, “spurgas” have a lot of different meanings in Lithuanian. It also can be a nickname for  a person who has a curly hair. I cannot tell for sure if it is Lithuanian or Prussian. A lot of things are common for Prussian, Lithuanian, and Latvian. It also depends in what region that surname  was used.

A librarian at the International Desk at the Family History Library also added:

Prussian, Lithuanian, and Latvian are all Baltic languages—related to Germanic and Slavic, but   not in the same linguistic branch.  Therefore, one would expect a lot of similarities, especially in names. Prussian has died out, becoming extinct only at the end of the 18th century.

Perhaps the fact that the my –at name is not published in two books that specially discuss Prussian names—4444 ostpreussische Namen prussisch erklart (4444 Declared East Prussian Old Prussian Names) in 1987 by Heinz Georg Podehl and Deutsche Famliennamen Prussischer Herkunft (German Family Names of Prussian Origin) in 1991 by Max Mechow, is an indication that the name is more Lithuanian than Prussian.

The final analysis may be in a section titled “Controversy about ending the –at, -eit, -atis.” From “Endungen und Besonderheiten baltischer Familiennamen” (The Endings and Special Baltic Surnames of Memelland)... Some say that /–at/ means “son of” and /-aitis/ means “grandson of.” If so, that makes the suffix Lithuanian, reaffirming that the northeastern portion of East Prussia was mostly Lithuanian. Others object to this “propaganda.” Those who have studied the Old Prussian language state that the  /-at/ suffix is really old Prussian.

It is apparent that it is safest to say that my –at name is Prussian/Lithuanian.


Many of the following websites have been updated during the course of the research and were available at the time of the publication of this post.

 East Prussia Wikipedia provides an overview of East Prussia. The author, Adelburt Goertz now deceased, born in West Prussia, was regarded as one of the top experts in East and West Prussian genealogical sources.

Lithuania Minor Note especially the section on Prussian-Lithuanian population. The author states that the original inhabitants of what became the German East Prussia were the Prussians, a Lithuanian tribe.

 Memelland This is the Local Heritage Book of Memelland. (Be sure to click on “Translate this page” for the English version.) This site introduces the reader to Memelland. This short informative website focuses on the importance of the 21st century lasting German presence in the Memel region.

Names This website provides a list of East Prussian names.ändische_Familiennamen This site concentrates on the endings and special Baltic Surnames of Memelland (Endungen und Besonderheiten baltischer Familiennamen …) Small Dictionary of Lithuanian Surnames (Kleines Lexikon litauischer Familiennamen) provides a list compiled by a webmaster of Lithuanian surnames.

Prussian Lithuanians Note especially the section on Personal Names. It may be necessary to copy and paste this url. A brief history of the origin and history of the Prussian-Lithuanians is provided.


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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