The customer, an older woman, clearly wanted to stretch the conversation when she was finished placing her order for a birth tile to memorialize the latest addition to her multi-generational family. Do you know anything about the roots of my surname, she inquired. “I am certain you never heard of mine.” She was right in her assumption. Doodkorte, a name which could be translated as “Dead short” or more literally “Shortdead”, is not a common Dutch surname.
The English translation of these two strung together Dutch words, “Dead” and “short” do not offer a clue as to their meaning nor do “Dood” and “korte” into the Dutch language. The customer did not know anything about their meaning either.
Asked what part of the Netherlandse her family was from, the answer “from the north”, was somewhat helpful. Doodkorte would definately not be an indigenous surname in Friesland or Groningen. If it is not Dutch, is must have an origin from across the border, in Germany. At this point, an awareness of ancestor migration patterns is helpful.
Over the centuries, the Netherlands, before 1795 a collection of semi-independent provinces, attracted numerous seasonal workers and peddlers. The Dutch called them “Hannekemaaiers” and “lapjespoepen”. Many of these men eventually stayed and integrated into Dutch society.
What your name? Todtkotte! In former times when literacy was not as common among the labourers and the peddlers, it would not help to ask them to spell their surname. Clerks just recorded the information the way it sounded to them. Oh, Doodkorte.
The Dutch Doodkorte clan hails indeed from Germany and has been traced back to a man name Gerardi Todtkorte, who lived in Epe, Westphalia, the German county where many peddlers of the farm-based cottage industry textile came from. A farmer, Gerardi died in 1730. His oldest son, Johan Herman, settled in the Netherlands. (His other sons were known back home as Doetkotte.)
Westphalia belongs to the Dutch/German region where the Saxon dialect was spoken. The Saxon noun “kotte” suggests that Gerardi lived on a small farmstead which way back became known as the Todtkotte. But why Todtkorte? Why “todt” (‘dood’ or ‘dead’)? The known records do not say but area history may well offer clues if investigated further. Does the name suggest that it was long ago the site of a murder, a place where the remains of foul play where found or the site where Saxon tribes brought pre-Christian era sacrifices? These suggestions are all very plausible.
In this Dutch-German region farmstead names were in fact ancient addresses, they can easily be 800 to 1000 old and frequently precede archived documentation but always point to an early occupant or history. Since surnames often precede recorded genealogical data, it follows that they may be seen as the archeology of genealogy.