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Mermelstein Coat of Arms / Mermelstein Family Crest

This German surname of MERMELSTEIN is a nickname for one who was fond of marmelstein, the German game of marbles. Nicknames usually originated as a by-name for someone by describing their appearance, personal disposition or character but which became handed down through the ages and did not apply to their descendants. There are many German-Jewish names which are merely the results of fancy or the vindictive thoughts of petty officials, adopted when the Jews in Europe were compelled to take surnames in the early part of the nineteenth century. Some of the most familiar, end in STEIN (stone) usually meaning a precious gem. Many who adopted names with pleasant connotations had to pay handsomely to the money-grabbing official for the privilege. Many other names were from names of German towns and cities, and are sometimes borne by other than Jews. From the 16th century many Jewish family names were derived from the house or shop signs in the Jewish quarter of Frankfort and elsewhere. House signs were particularly favoured by Jews, and they were reluctant to give them up. When the city council in 1776, ordered the houses in Frankfort's Judengasse to be numbered, there was such a resistance that they fined the whole Jewish community. Among the humbler classes of European society, and especially among illiterate people, individuals were willing to accept the mistakes of officials, clerks and priests as officially bestowing a new version of their surname, just as they had meekly accepted the surname they had been born with. In North America, the linguistic problems confronting immigration officials at Ellis Island in the 19th century were legendary as a prolific source of Anglicization.

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Last Updated: May 9, 2020

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