This German surname of WURTZ is an occupational name for a grower or seller of vegetables or of medicinal herbs and spices. The name may also have applied to a spicer, which was an important occupation in the Middle Ages. The nobles and wealthy churchmen spent considerable money on mustard, aniseed, cinnamon, caraway, coriander and pepper to enable the cooks to spice meat which tended to spoil quickly in the absence of modern refrigeration. The name was derived from the word WURT (plant). 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. Other spellings of the name include WURCEL, WURZMAN, WURZELMAN, WORT, WORTT, WORTS and WURZE. A notable member of the name was Charles Adolphe WURTZ (1817-84) the French organic chemist, born in Strasbourg, pioneer of organic synthesis. He wrote numerous works, of which 'The Atomic Theory' (1880) and 'Modern Chemistry'(1885) among others, have been translated. From 1875 he was professor of chemistry at the Sorbonne. He was the discoverer of glycol in 1856. 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.
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