Names in the Low Lands 1250-1300

High-medieval given names and bynames in The Netherlands and Flanders

Introduction

This website presents a survey of given names and bynames in the Low Lands during the High Middle Ages, between 1250 and 1300 AD. It is primarily meant for people interested in living history and re-enactment, who want to create a persona in this period.

Sources
The compilation is derived from primary sources: charters and accounts, in Latin or Middle Dutch, written in the 13th century. It is not a complete survey, but a sample. I have selected seven locations of the Low Lands, and tried to obtain a few hundred names for each location. The locations were, from south to north: Oudenaarde, Gent, de Meierij van 's-Hertogenbosch, Dordrecht, Holland, Rinnegom, and Groningen/Drenthe. For the latter area (the northern provinces), relatively little material was available, so I have surveyed all existing sources. In Flanders, on the other hand, many large charters have survived. I have picked two towns, Oudenaarde and Gent, and within these towns a specific set of charters. There is more material available, for the town of Brugge and the bishopric of Utrecht, for instance, but I have chosen to limit the sample to these seven locations.

Individuals
People of some importance were often mentioned more than once in the charter books. Some books provided an index of individuals, which I used to determine whether a 'Johannes' on page X was the same as 'Iohannes' on page Y. For sources without such an index, the method of identifying individuals was the same as in my previous study of early medieval names in the Low Lands (see www.keesn.nl/names). Thirteenth-century individuals were easier to identify, because many were recorded with a second name (a family name, a profession, etc.).
A total of over 3000 individual males could be identified, and 500 females. In the Middle Ages, it was a man's world, at least on paper: in most charters, only 10 to 15% of the persons recorded were women.

Given names
Nearly 500 unique given names are presented in this survey. In the lists, a separation has been made between Germanic and non-Germanic names. About two thirds of the given names were Germanic. Such names have been in use in the Low Lands since its earliest history. Originally, each Germanic name consisted of two elements or roots. Each root had a specific meaning, and there were rules for the composition of names from these roots. For more information on Germanic names, including the meaning of the roots and the composition rules, have a look at www.keesn.nl/names.
The non-Germanic names were mostly biblical. But some Celtic, Greek and Latin names also occurred in the Low Lands. Non-Germanic names were rare before the year 1000, but after that, they gradually grew in popularity. During the period studied here, they comprised one third of all given names. The origins and meanings of many of these names can be found at the Dutch given names data bank (in Dutch)..

Bynames
In the 13the century, most inhabitants of the Low Lands had a byname. During the earlier centuries, this was different: there was so much variation in given names, that a second name was not necessary to identify somebody. In the present survey, 59% of the women and 86% of the men was registered with a byname. This website discusses the various types of bynames, and lists all occupational bynames and nicknames.

Raw data
Since November 2005 this website offers an Excel-sheet with the raw data. This lists each individual that I found in the selected sources. So if you want to know where a certain name occurred, or which given name appeared in combination with which byname, you should download the spreadsheet.

Contents
The pages at this website are:

Introduction
The present page.
References
Overview of the charters and accounts that have been surveyed, per location.
Locations
Map of the seven locations that have been studied.
Raw data
Excel spreadsheet with raw data (550 Kb).
Given names women
List of all given names of women, divided into a section Germanic and a section non-Germanic. The list presents frequencies per location and various spellings.
Given names men
List of all given names of men.
Occupational names and Nicknames
List of over 200 occupational names and over 200 nicknames, with translations.
Analysis 1
Germanic vs. non-Germanic given names.
Analysis 2
Variation in given names.
Analysis 3
The most popular given names.
Analysis 4
Bynames.

NOT on this website
On this website there is no analysis of the way in which parents chose a name for their children. This would require complete genealogies, to find out which naming practises were used. The present survey is only a snapshot. I have not tried to find each individual's parents, grandparents, uncles and aunts, etc.
You won't find an analysis of the effects of social class either. This is because most persons from one location were of the same class: farmhands in Rinnegom, civilians in Oudenaarde and Ghent. The numbers of nobles and clerics were relatively low.

Revision history
March 2003 - first version of the website.
January 2006 - revised version. Corrections and new analysis of given names; data on bynames added; spreadsheet with raw data added.


Start
Page

Introduction
References
Locations

Raw data (550 Kb)
Lists:
Given names women
Given names men
Occupational names and Nicknames
Analyses:
Non-Germanic names
Variation
Most popular names
Bynames
Dr. Kees C. Nieuwenhuijsen

home page: www.keesn.nl