This surname of GEFFERT was originally derived from a Germanic personal name composed of the elements GEB (gift) + HARD (brave, hardy and strong). A saint of this name was bishop of Constance around the end of the 10th century, and his popularity may have had an influence on the continued use of the given name into the Middle Ages. The name has spread widely in many forms which include GERHARDT, GEBHARD, GEBERT, GABERT, GOBHARDT, GEFFE, GIBKE, GEBBERS and GEVE, to name but a few. Surnames are divided into four categories, from occupations, nicknames, baptismal and locational. All the main types of these are found in German-speaking areas, and names derived from occupations and from nicknames are particularly common. A number of these are Jewish. Patronymic surnames are derived from vernacular Germanic given names, often honouring Christian saints. Regional and ethnic names are also common. The German preposition 'von (from) or 'of', used with habitation names, is taken as a mark of aristocracy, and usually denoted proprietorship of the village or estate from where they came. Some members of the nobility affected the form VON UND ZU with their titles. In eastern Germany there was a heavy influence both from and on neighbouring Slavonic languages. Many Prussian surnames are of Slavonic origin. A notable member of the name was Paul GERHARDT (1607-76) the German hymnwriter, born in Grafenhainichen in Saxony. He became assistant pastor at St. Nicholas in Berlin in 1657, but for opposing the elector's attempted union of the Lutheran and Reformed Churches was banished in 1666. One of the greatest German Lutheran hymnists, his hymns were unique in their sincerity and simplicity. The first hereditary surnames on German soil are found in the second half of the 12th century, slightly later than in England and France. However, it was not until the 16th century that they became stabilized. The practice of adopting hereditary surnames began in the southern areas of Germany, and gradually spread northwards during the Middle Ages. 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.
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