27 September 2013 by Published in: Family History, Immigration, Surname 13 comments

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.



  1. Ash Doodkorte
    Wed 16th Oct 2013 at 10:25 pm

    Great post!
    I’m a member of a single branch of Australian Doodkortes, who came here from Amsterdam in the very late 1950’s. I’d managed to trace the tree back to Gerardi too; seems that’s where the trail ends.
    Don’t know much at all about the American branch of the family, hope I get to someday, to round out the family tree.

    Thanks for sharing!

    • Sandra Doetkotte  –  Fri 28th Aug 2015 at 1:15 pm

      Greetings from the Doetkotte family in Gronau and Epe/Germany to the Doodkorte family in Holland and Australia

    • Kent Doetkott  –  Sat 07th Nov 2015 at 5:12 pm

      Great article enjoyed reading. Didn’t know we had a family branch in Australia. How many members do we have living there? We are easy to keep track of here in America. Doetkott is a rare name here and I would guess it is the same there in Australia.

    Tue 15th Jul 2014 at 7:41 am



    • albert  –  Tue 15th Jul 2014 at 9:59 pm

      The ancestor Papenfus may have come to your country via The Netherlands (many continental Europeans did as employees of the VOC or later via the transportation hub of Rotterdam) but the surname suggests a Germanic origin, perhaps spelled as Papenfusz or Papenphusz. As far as the word Papen is concerned, note that there is a German city called Papenburg, located on the River Eems, near the Dutch border and within the formerly Dutch speaking Lower Saxony border region. See also http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Papenburg. Does this help?

      • Simon Papenfus  –  Fri 14th Aug 2015 at 6:03 pm

        I have heard that the Papenfus family came from Westpalia.
        Used to be Von Papen. Religious differences created a split. The one crowd moved to the foot of the mountain, removed the Von and added the fuss for the foot of the mountain? Is this probable and is their a Durch connection?

        • albert  –  Fri 28th Aug 2015 at 7:03 pm

          It would take some serious research to answer your question. It is fair to state however that a great many surnames with an origin in adjoining Germany have taken on a life of their own in the Netherlands with their own spelling. If we take “Pape” as key in our search (of the Meertens surname databank), we discover that there are a range of variations listed, which, by the way, can be plainly Dutch without any connection a German origin (the origin of the word “Pape” is likely Latin!). Below are the surnames plus the number of households that answer to the surname listed in front of it:
          Pape, 533;
          Papelard, 14;
          Papeleu, 23;
          Papeleur, 11;
          Papemeijer, 5;
          Papen, 278;
          Papenborg, 148;
          Papenbrock, 5;
          Papenburg, 123;
          Papendorp, 62;
          Papendrecht, 30;
          Papenfus, 5;
          Papenfuss, 5;
          Papenhoff, 5;
          Papenhove, 29;
          Papenhoven, 39;
          Papenhuijzen, 50;
          Papeveld, 13;

        • Simon Papenfus  –  Thu 15th Sep 2016 at 4:35 am

          Hi, I got the same information from a lady in Holland many years ago! Where did you find this info and do you have any more?

  3. Deborah Sorenson
    Sun 09th Apr 2017 at 1:19 am

    Looking for a Papenburg German blog I was told existed.
    I cannot find it. Does anyone have information on Henrietta Papenburg or know of a family blog? Thanks!

    • albert  –  Tue 11th Apr 2017 at 6:22 pm

      In Dutch genealogies the surname Papenburg also gets spelled Papenburgh and Papenborg. Please remember that the surname Papenburg and its variables are named after a German location of origin by people in their new place of residence. Let’s say that there are more people there going by the given name of Hendrik. To differentiate the one Hendrik from the others, the new arrival is named after his place of origin, hence he is now known as Hendrik Papenburg. What that his surname back in Papenburg too? To assume this is a serious error in genealogical research. Follow the paper trail, official records usually give the names of the parents and/or guardians.

  4. Albert Skinner
    Mon 03rd Jul 2017 at 9:53 pm

    I seen a copy of your book To All Our Children on the weekend at a museum in Niagara Falls, and the name caught my eye, as my mothers maiden name is also Vandermey … maybe a connection?

    • albert  –  Wed 05th Jul 2017 at 11:50 pm

      Thanks for your interest. The surname Vandermey may be categorized as topographical and tell us that your ancestor must have lived near the Leiden area river Meij or a nearby hamlet with that name (the ij was changed to a y by most in English-speaking countries). Where does one find concentrations of the Vandermey clan in the Netherlands? The coastal town of Katwijk has over 700 households out of the 4,000 plus. The Are those named Vandermey all related? In our circle of acquaintances there were four people named Albert Vandermey, they all considered the other namesake not to be related but all came from the region around Katwijk. They may have been distantly related but were not aware of that connection. It takes effort to dig up roots.

  5. Sun 26th Nov 2017 at 8:28 pm

    My father and eldest brother were on the Tabinta Sept 5 1947…. have searched for passenger lists … but was only able to locate passengers list for the Groote Beer , the ship the rest of the family used to immigrate after the flood in 1953


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