bottom Christman 1100-1724

Petrus Christus: St. Eligius, as a Goldsmith, hands the wedding couple a ring. 1469. Oil on wood.
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, USA.

The German surname Christman, which is speculated originated around the 12th Century, is a combination of the two words Christ and man. The ending "man" is mainly associated with German surnames which are of patronymic origin, being one of those surnames based on the first name of the father or other male ancestor of the original bearer, and meaning simply, "son or descendant of". The name Christ is itself a pet form of the name Christian in turn derived from the Latin name Christianns, which means "belonging to Christ".

St. Christian was the name given to the bishop of Clogher, in Ireland, in 1126. His Celtic name was Croistan O'Morgair, and he was the brother of the better known St. Malachy of Armagh. It became popular as a first name, particularly in regions of Celtic or Irish influence, such as Scotland, northern England and the Isle of Man. It is also common as a first name among the Danes, indeed, it was the name of several Danish kings. Frequently, very early records of surnames were given in Latin rather than in the vernacular. One of the earliest records of the personal name Christian being employed as an heriditary family name is a reference to one Thomas Filius Cristian which was recorded in England in 1228. In Germany there is a record of one Petrus Christus, who was recorded as a painter in the year 1410. He was actually Dutch and quite a good artist. Cuns Christman was a farmer in Hainstadt (Buchen) in 1514 and Karl Christmann, a medical doctor, was ennobled in Kitrobuhl in 1616. A Christman family of Hess was also enobled in 1700. Jakob Christmann (1554-1613) was a professor of astronomy and logic in Academiae Heidelbergensis in Logicis.

One of the earliest identifiable areas inhabited by Christmanns was the Alsace-Lorraine region of northeast France which borders the German Rheinland, Pfalz where our ancesters originated. This is that area of Europe inhabited by both catholic French and protestant Germans and which repeatedly changed hands between the two in its early history. It seems quite plausable that the Rheinland, Pfalz and Alsace-Lorraine Christmanns were intertwined. The early history of this region is facinating and shows quite vividly the force of religious prosecution and wars to motivate emigration.

Steintal, founded in 1059 upon a former Celtic settlement plundered and assimilated by Romans, borders the Strasbourg diocesan land of the Vallé Rothaine where churches were established in Belmont, Fouday and Rothau before 1200. When the family of Rupe (Stein) became Steintal’s landlord, a castle called Stein (Rock) was erected and the domain then became known as Ban de la Roche when the French inherited it in 1584.

One of the most important lords of Le Ban de la Roche was Georges-Jean de Veldenz (Georg Hans von Veldenz) (1543-1592), son-in-law of the King of Sweden, founder of the city of Phalsbourg. He bought le Ban de la Roche because of its mining possibilities as he was an industrialist besides being a Count Palantine. He purchased the area for 47,000 florins and got his money’s worth for the poor and arid ground produced huge quantities of valuable metal.

Elevated at 387 meters, Ban de la Roche is situated in a green valley surrounded by running streams. With constant moving water around the perimeter, the topsoil most fertile for agriculture is washed away, producing mediocre soil. While the soil is not ideal for farming, its topography offered its inhabitants opportunities for industrial mining, pottery and accessible travel via rivers. In some ways, it was an early suburban lifestyle; one could comfortably live in a hamlet and maintain a small farm while commuting to work some three kilometers away. Such lifestyle was bourgeois, or middle-class. Noted in the vital registries, the Christmans of Waldersbach, Neuvillers, Solbach and Rothau were bourgeois, and held positions in the justice system and were associates of the nobility.

In 1649, Ban de la Roche encountered a bloody rampage lead by Guerotheé the Younger, and so the administrative center for the area was moved to Waldersbach and Rothau. Because of this move, two centuries documenting the activities of the Christmans and their associates were protected. The earliest Christman vital record dates to 1632 when Georg Christmann of Fouday was given the nickname of Salm for his thirty years of service to the Count of Salm. Like so many other Christman records, Georg Christmann’s name was inverted to become Christman Georg.

What Georg Christmann and his son must have witnessed in their community of 1200 is a tragic tale of mass hysteria. For between the years of 1607 to 1630, over one hundred people were accused of practicing witchcraft. Eighty individuals were found guilty and publicly executed by the hands of Meister Bernhardt who charged 10 florins per witch to be ignited. Those singled out were unmarried crippled men and widows who lived with their sons. But no one was safe, even families with children were subject to accusation, interrogation, torture, and death by fire. The worst accuser of all was Catherine Maréchal of Rothau who named her mother, brother and a young girl. Five more couples were accused, and perished in flames, leaving behind seventeen orphans.

After the lunacy of the Ban witch killings, many families fled to the city of Barr. To restore order to the community, the French-speaking Lutheran Pastor of Waldersbach, Nicolas Marmet, set up a tribunal to prevent future acts of intolerance. Pastor Marmet developed the Protestant identity during times of crisis, and was responsible for vital records of his parishioners from 1612-1675. Because of his notes, three generations of family history exist. Additionally, prior to the great 1736 exodus, Pastor Marmet laid a foundation in his church of Waldersbach that would be succeeded by Jean Oberlin, the Lutheran pastor who established the first kindergartens, orphanages and pharmacies. Pastor Oberlin resided in Waldersbach from 1767 until his death in 1826 and is buried in the small Fouday cemetery beside the Christmans.

One presumes that Pastor Oberlin moved to Waldersbach because it had been vacated thirty years before. The rise and fall of the Ban’s population had everything to do with whether there was a war going on. After the witch killings and Thirty Years War, the Christmans moved from Fouday and Waldersbach to Barr. Christian Christman, also known as Colas Colas, was born in Barr on May 14, 1637, and his family remained there until 1664 when they moved into the smaller populated village of Solbach to become Solbachois. Prior to their return, the population of the Ban had dwindled down to 250 residents for the entire region. Later the War of Holland, ravaged Alsace and burned down the village of Belmont in 1675. All of these towns are near one another and in the area labeled Ban de la Roche on the map.

While the family of Christian Christman resided in Solbach, they celebrated their baptisms in Waldersbach, and laid to rest their loved ones in Fouday, suggesting that the family plot is in Fouday. This pattern continued until Jacques Christmann moved in 1719 with his bride, Odille Verly, to Rothau where their first and only child Jacob was born on May 4, 1720. Eight months later, Odille lost her father on New Year’s Day,and then her husband the next week. Records do not indicate cause of death, but several young people died in January 1721, so there may have been a viral epidemic at the time. The new daughter and grieving mother, Odille, at age thirty, had to carry on as a single mother, raising her son, Jacob, who grew up to emigrate to America and become the patron of a large colony of Pennsylvania and Ohio Christmanns.

The earliest identifiable residence for the Dakota Christmans is Jettenbach, which is in the Rhineland-Palatinate state ("Rheinland-Pfalz") and Kusel County in southwest Germany, and belonged to the Bavarian State ("Bayern") until 1946. It is half an hour from Kaiserslautern and one hour from Sarrebruck and the French border. The Christmann Coat of Arms or Shield is a man, clothed blue with a blue hat, holding a torch in his right hand, standing on a three-topped hill. The colors represent: Gold - Splendor and wealth; Blue - Reputation and kindness; Green - Love, honor, and courtesy.
1999christman censusThe 1999 map on the left shows where the concentration of Christman's are today and the pattern clearly shows the name originates in the state Rheinland-Pfalz (and may be also in the state Saarland). The higher percentages in the neighboring areas are clearly migration patterns as Rheinland-Pfalz was over centuries a typical rural emigration area, and the neighboring areas of category C include typical immigration areas like northern Baden (=district Karlsruhe) and the Frankfurt area (which is part of the district Darmstadt). Saarland as a former coal mining area is difficult to assess. Most of the category B areas can be explained easily as typical migration patterns, either through the argumentation on distance,or by argumentation through especially attractive areas which served as destinations for people in search for work since centuries (large cities like Berlin and Hamburg) or since recent times (like Oberbayern with Munich).

Nevertheless, there are some regions which can't be explained so easily: especially the southern part of Lower Saxony (district Hanover and Braunschweig) and especially the Saxon district Dresden, which is situated between districts with almost no occurrences of the surname Christman.

The Christman county map of Rheinland-Pfalz shows that the surname originated only in parts of this state. Clearly leading are the county Kaiserslautern and the city Kaiserslautern, followed by the adjacent county Kusel. The high frequencies of Christman in at least all category A and B counties show that the surname originates throughout the southwestern part of Rheinland-Pfalz (it is almost exactly the western part of the historic Palatine area). This distribution was determined from telephone book lists,and is originally shown on the Christman Genealogy Website [].