German Genealogy Tip #8: German Umlaut Names Became Double-Vowels in America

Do you know what an “umlaut” is? An “umlaut” a “double dot” mark over a vowel, to indicate a more fronted or rounded pronunciation. Examples of German surnames with umlauts include: Schäfer, Schröder, or Müller.

Schäfer (with an umlaut) is pronounced “Shay-fer,” but if you don’t put the umlaut in, you should technically (in German) pronounce it “Shah-fer”.

When Germans with umlaut surnames immigrated to America, they would often change the way they spelled their surname to drop the umlaut and add an extra “e” to the vowel instead. This was because America, as an English speaking country, didn’t use umlauts, nor did their typewriters. Thus, Schäfer would become Schaefer, Schröder would become Schroeder, and Müller would become Mueller.

This also means that, if you’re an American who is researching your Mueller family history, for instance, and you want to trace your family back into Germany, you are most likely to find your family’s name spelled Müller when you get back into the German records.

1 thought on “German Genealogy Tip #8: German Umlaut Names Became Double-Vowels in America

  1. Margie Christian

    My great-grandfather was named Leopold Liike. The name had ulaute (?) u in it. (Luke)My family uses the name now as (LIIke double ii)
    Could could tell me who I could go to on how to check where this particular name came from? It would be a really be a big help to me. If you could do anything could you tell me how to say Luke with umlaute)? (sp) Thank you for your help You are kind to take my email.
    Margie Liike (Christian


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