Are the Wynekens dying out?

rip_graveI must admit that every once in a while I get to thinking that it won’t be much longer and the Wyneken name will have died out. I go through in my mind the list of young Wyneken males that can conceivably father sons to pass on the family name, and I see a problem coming.

Granted, the fact that the last name is traditionally passed on in the male line reflects a strongly patriarchal system. I don’t really want to get into a discussion about whether this is good or bad, or what can be done to change it. That is, however, currently the way last names are generally passed on, although I am aware of at least a few exceptions. I know of at least one Wyneken mother who has passed on her last name to her child. I also think I know of at least one Wyneken father whose child’s last name is the mother’s. And I suspect there are more examples of the latter case, too.

But back to the question at hand. Is the family name “Wyneken” soon going to disappear?  I have heard from a few sources that people have thought so in the past.

There’s an elderly gentleman living in the north of Germany right now named Wyneken Fimmen. His mother had some sisters but only one surviving brother. This brother only had one child, a daughter. I have been told that the reason they gave Wyneken his first name was that they were convinced that the family name would soon disappear. Wyneken Fimmen also passed on his first name to his son. This younger Wyneken and his wife named their son Beat Wyneken, but Beat’s last name is his mother’s.

I have also heard that another branch of the family at the beginning of the 20th century believed that the name was on the way out so they used “Wyneken” as one of their son’s names: Adelhard Karl Hans Wyneken Kobus (1909-?). It turned out that he preferred the last of his first names so he went by “Wyneken Kobus”. His son was named “Fritz Wyneken Gerhard” (1939-?), but he chose to go by “Gerhard”.

In a corner of the family very close to Wyneken Kobus we also find Carl Wyneken Roscher (1852-1924). I don’t know the background of why his parents chose to give him that name, as that was really quite a long while ago.

A lot more recently and across the Atlantic in the US we find Henry Wyneken Kossmann (1906-1973) and his son Kenneth Wyneken Kossmann (1940-?). The Kossmanns actually knew quite a number of Wyneken relatives so I suspect they actually weren’t all that worried about the name dying out.

Then there’s Thomas Wyneken Meyer (1947-1988). He was part of the Michigan branch of the Wyneken family, represented by six sisters and their descendants. At least a few of these sisters were very interested in the family history so I’m sure that they were aware that there were still plenty of Wynekens around. Thus my guess is that this name was probably chosen to honor the name rather than to preserve it.

And then finally we have Chloe Wyneken Pearce (2001-) whose middle name apparenlty honors her great grandmother, Pauline Neeb nee Wyneken. Chloe is from the branch of the Wyneken family that, for example, the Edmund and Hugo Wyneken extended families belong to.

Again, back to the question at hand: Are we soon going to run out of Wynekens? Some people in the past have thought so, others apparently were so fond of the name that they used it as a first or middle name, although we don’t know if they were afraid it was disappearing. I decided to look into my database to see what the situation looks like.

I believe my database is basically complete when it comes to Wyneken family members alive today. The database tells me that there are 68 men in existence today with the last name “Wyneken”.

My first reaction was that that’s not very many, but then, using the database, I tried to estimate how many male Wynekens were living at various other times. That was not as easy to determine as the modern day number because I don’t have dates of birth and/or death for everybody in the database, but here are the numbers I came up with:

Year Number of male Wynekens
1950 50
1940 54
1930 56
1920 53
1910 53
1900 49
1850 36
1800 11

Thus, it looks like the number of male Wynekens has remained relatively constant since the end of the 19th century.

Of course, the likelihood of a man becoming a father diminishes with age so not all of these men “count” when it comes to keeping the name alive. The following table shows the results of a search in the database for today’s potential fathers of future Wynekens. The first column is the age in years and the second column shows how many male Wynekens are that age or younger:

Age “X” Number Wynekens “X” years old or younger
40 19
30 17
20 10
10 2

I don’t think that looks really too bad, but since I’m not an expert in population growth I still can’t say for sure.

So there you have it. A lot of words, some numbers, and in the end I still can’t really tell you whether the name is in danger of extinction or not. I’ve done my part — I’ve got a son and two daughters. Whether they choose to keep the name going is up to them.

3 thoughts on “Are the Wynekens dying out?

  1. Karl H. Wyneken

    With ref. to Matthew’s note on the several instances of bestowing the Wyneken surname as a given name on offspring, esp. of Wyneken-ancestry mothers, perhaps wishing to honor/perpetute this maternal-ancestral heritage: Matthew mentions that among these is one who started life as Adelhard Karl Hans Wyneken Kobus, but whose preferred first name came to be simply—if not all that commonly—Wyneken. My Aunt Mildred, a WAC (Women’s Army Corp) in W.W. II, while in Germany after the war made contact with the Kobus family. They had contacted my grandfather (Aunt Mildred’s father), the Rev. Karl Ernst August Wyneken, for assistance in their dire needs following the war. Frau Kobus (nee Anna Caroline Erna* Wyneken) was a first cousin to my grandfather.
    This connection with Lower Saxony relatives is what led to my grandfather acquiring most of the earlier Wyneken, etc. genealogical data our branch has and that I’ve shared earlier with Matthew.
    I remember as a kid (9 when the War ended) hearing how Frau Kobus, it seems, developed thoughts that Aunt Mildred and her son would have made a nice marital partnership. Apparently Aunt Mildred or her 2nd cousin Wyneken Kobus, or both, didn’t share this thinking.
    An aside, but of possible pertinence to Matthew’s concern about the dwindling? number of male Wynekens to enable the surname’s survival: Frau Erna (Wyneken) Kobus surely lived through some heartbreaking experiences. She had three sons, two of them victims of the Second W.W. I think I recall hearing that Wyneken Kobus, the eldest, b. 1909, had also served in the W.W. II German army, but he survived. The second died in 1944, age 33, in action in Italy. The youngest, age 21, died Sept. 5, 1939 in Poland; that’s four days after the Sept. 1 invasion of Poland that launched W.W. II. Her husband, a pastor for some time in a little town just north of Bremen and last at a church in Hannover—and a chaplain in W.W. I—died in 1942. Two of three sons perished in war. How many other males may there have been, especially among our German clanspeople?
    Aunt Mildred, BTW, had a very remarkable experience as a WAC: she served as a secretary at the Nuremberg War Trials. She would share how on occasion(s) the evidence she was dealing with was so nauseating that she would have to excuse herself for a trip to the restroom. A German army vet for a husband? Maybe that had something to do with her passing on the opportunity to avoid her spinster destiny.

  2. mpwyn Post author

    Sorry, I accidentally made the posting accessible for a short time before I was done writing it. You and someone else apparently got notified immediately and it was blocked again by the time you looked at it. It’s accessible now so you can go look at it again.

  3. Donald Wood

    It would be sad to have the Wyneken name die out. My father’s name Schaller is not doing well either. Mary Ann Wood


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