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. The surname of GETTER was a German occupational name applied to one who produces objects by casting or moulding them. It was also a locational name for someone who dwelt in a place overgrown by weeds. The name is also spelt GETTE and GETTY. 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. A notable member of the name was Jean-Paul GETTY (1892-1976) the American oil executive, multi-millionaire and art collector, born in Minneapolis. After studying at Berkeley and Oxford GETTY entered the oil business in his early twenties and made a quarter of a million dollars in his first two years. His father (also a successful oil-man) died in 1930 leaving him 15 million dollars. He wrote several books including a history of the family oil business and two autobiographies 'My Life and Fortunes' (1963) and 'As I See It' (1976).
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