This German surname of SCHUNK is of two-fold origin. It was a nickname for someone with an unusual leg, or an occupational name for the person who took care of young pigs. The name is also spelt SHUNK. Many of the modern family names throughout Europe reflect the profession or occupation of their forbears in the Middle Ages and derive from the position held by their ancestors in the village, noble household or religious community in which they lived and worked. The addition of their profession to their birth name made it easier to identify individual tradesmen and craftsmen. As generations passed and families moved around, so the original identifying names developed into the corrupted but simpler versions that we recognise today. Over the centuries, most people in Europe have accepted their surname as a fact of life, as irrevocable as an act of God. However much the individual may have liked or disliked the surname, they were stuck with it, and people rarely changed them by personal choice. A more common form of variation was in fact involuntary, when an official change was made, in other words, a clerical error. Surnames which were derived from ancient Germanic personal names have the same meaning in many languages. The court of Charlemagne (Charles the Great, king of the Franks (742-814) was Christian and Latin speaking). The vernacular was the Frankish dialect of Old High German, and the personal names in use were Germanic and vernacular. These names were adopted in many parts of northwest Europe, particularly among the noble ruling classes. Hereditary surnames were found in Germany in the second half of the 12th century - a little later than in England and France. It was about the 16th century that they became stabilized. At the Courts of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, Governor SHUNK presided circa. 1840. 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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