Tuesday, December 23, 2008
My grandfather was born Johannes Ferdinand Schoenherr 108 years ago today in Flensburg, Germany, in a house subsequently destroyed during World War II. The house was a stone's throw from Nordertor, the city's old north gate - and somewhere on the left in the picture, I think.
I've always pronounced my surname "Show-in-hare", but I'm not sure if I should, after all. I know the first part ought to be pronounced as it is in the German phrase "Danke Schoen" - somewhere between "shern" and "shane", depending on the dialect (and, yes, I've left out the umlaut issues, for clarity's sake). And "herr" ought to be pronounced "hare" or "hair", not necessarily "her". Thus, "Shern-hare" or "Shane-hare". Right?
Well, I've been trying to ferret out the source. I haven't had much luck tracing my Schoenherr line back very far, but I recently found that my grandfather's grandfather, Carl Gottlieb Schoenherr, was born in or very near Kleinpelsen, Sachsen (about midway between Leipzig and Dresden), in 1834. For a yet-unknown reason, he left his wife and three sons (including my great-grandfather) in Flensburg and moved to America in 1866. By 1869 he was living in Missouri and finally settled in Carterville, where he worked as a blacksmith and saloon-keeper, and where he died in 1909. Then, in the wake of World War I-era anti-German sentiment, his sons (my half-great-great uncles or great-great half-uncles) legally changed their surnames to Shaner.
So I've been wondering if Carl Gottlieb Schoenherr pronounced his surname "Shay-ner" all along, rather than "Shern-hare" or "Shane-hare" - not to mention "Show-in-hare". And should I do the same?
I need a second opinion...