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These decrees were passed in 1771, 1820, and 1822 in the province of Schleswig-Holstein and in 1811 in Ostfriesland. In some areas of Germany, individuals took a second surname.
In the records, the second surname may be preceded by the word genannt, vulgo, modo, sive, or alias.
John became John the smith, John the son of Matthew, John the short, or John from Heidelberg.
The development of alias surnames was often tied to agriculture.
Merchants and townspeople then adopted the custom, as did the rural population. In most of Germany, the practice of using surnames was well established by the 1500s. The use of patronymic names was prevalent in the Schleswig-Holstein and Ostfriesland areas in northern Germany. For example, Hans Petersen was a son of a man named Peter.
If Hans had a son Jens, the son was known as Jens Hansen (son of Hans).
1690: Occupational, based on the person's trade, such as Johann Weber (weaver).
1691: Descriptive or nickname, based on a unique quality of the person, such as Johann Langbein (long leg).