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An excerpt from www.HouseOfNames.com archives copyright © 2000 - 2014

Where did the German Bethke family come from? What is the German Bethke family crest and coat of arms? When did the Bethke family first arrive in the United States? Where did the various branches of the family go? What is the Bethke family history?

The bountiful region surrounding the Rhine river is the birthplace of the name Bethke. A single name was, at one time, all that people needed. However, increasing ease of travel and the burgeoning populations forced people to adopt a hereditary surname to set themselves apart from others. A common form of surname found in the Rhineland was the local name, a name taken on from a place-name. Originally denoting the proprietorship of a village or estate, the German preposition von, which means from or of, used with local names, was taken as a mark of aristocracy. The surname Bethke was given to someone who lived in the Rhineland. The Bethke family emerged during the feudal era, when the Rhineland was controlled by feudal lords and princes.

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In the medieval era, many different cultural groups lived in the German states. There are thus many regional variations of German surnames from that era. Westphalians spoke Low German, which is similar to modern Dutch. Many German names carry suffixes that identify where they came from. Others have phrases attached that identify something about the original bearer. Other variations in German names resulted from the fact that medieval scribes worked without the aid of any spelling rules. The spelling variations of the name Bethke include Bethman, Bethemann, Betheman, Bettheman, Betthemann, Bethmman, Bethke, Berthe, Bethe, Bethge and many more.

First found in the county of Nassau, where the name could be considered to make a great early contribution to the feudal society which became the backbone of early development in Europe. The earliest known instance of the name dates back to 1430, when Jurgen Bethke is recorded in the "Urkundenbuch der Stadt Oldenburg," the Oldenburg registry. The name became prominent in local affairs and branched into many houses which played important roles in the savage tribal and national conflicts, each group seeking power and status in an ever changing territorial profile. Chronicles suggest that the most ancient branch of the family can be traced to the Netherlands, which they left during the religious strife of the Thirty Year's War for the region of Nassau. The founding father of the prominent Nassau branch is taken to be Simon Moritz Bethmann (d.1725,) who was an administrator in the government of the Prince of Nessau-Weilburg. It was his son, Johann Philipp Bethmann (1715-1793) who founded the renowned bank of Frankfurt, the Bethmann Brothers.


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This web page shows only a small excerpt of our Bethke research. Another 307 words(22 lines of text) covering the years 1652, 1701, 1715, 1721, 1782, 1793, 1823, 1827, 1829, 1842, 1849, and 1858 are included under the topic Early Bethke History in all our PDF Extended History products.

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Another 47 words(3 lines of text) are included under the topic Early Bethke Notables in all our PDF Extended History products.

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The great European flow of migration to North America, which began in the middle of the 17th century and continued into the 20th century, was particularly attractive to those from the Rhineland who wished to escape either poverty or religious persecution. Many of those who left the Rhineland to seek their fortunes in the prosperous and free New World settled in the major urban centers of the United States and Canada. In the United States, the settlers from the Rhineland passed through immigration centers like that of Ellis Island, most of them moving on to Pennsylvania, Ohio, Texas, Illinois, California, and New York. In Canada, the majority of Rhinelanders settled in Ontario and the prairie provinces. An examination of passenger and immigration lists has revealed many important settlers to North America bearing the name Bethke, or one of its variants above:

Bethke Settlers in the United States in the 19th Century


  • Christopher Bethke, who was naturalized in Illinois in 1867

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  • Bruce Bethke (b. 1955), American author, best known for his 1983 short story "Cyberpunk"
  • Katie Bethke (b. 1988), American footballer
  • James Charles "Jim" Bethke (b. 1946), American former Major League Baseball pitcher
  • Ricardo Arap Bethke Galdames (b. 1980), Mexican actor
  • Hans-Günther Bethke (1913-1942), Prussian Hauptmann in the Wehrmacht during World War II, recipient of the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross


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  1. Bolton, Charles Knowles. Bolton's American Armory. Baltimore: Heraldic Book Company, 1964. Print.
  2. Kapff, Rudolf. Schwäbische Geschlechtsnamen. Stuttgart: Verlag Silberburg, 1927. Print.
  3. Oswald, G. Lexicon der Heraldik. Leipzig: 1984. Print.
  4. Strassburger, Ralph B. Pennsylvania German Pioneers The Original Lists of Arrivals in the Port of Philadelphia 3 Volumes. Baltimore: Picton Press, 1992. Print. (ISBN 978-0929539980).
  5. Bahlow, Hans. Mecklenburgisches Namenbüchlein Ein Führer durch Mecklenburgs Familiennamen. Rostock: Carl Hinstorffs Verlag, 1932. Print.
  6. Zoder, Rudolf. Familiennamen in Ostfalen. Hildesheim: Geog Olms Verlagsbuchhandlung, 1968. Print.
  7. Crozier, William Armstrong Edition. Crozier's General Armory A Registry of American Families Entitled to Coat Armor. New York: Fox, Duffield, 1904. Print.
  8. Rolland, and H.V. Rolland. Illustrations to the Armorial general by J. B. Rietstap 6 volumes in 3. Baltimore: Heraldic Book Company, 1976. Print.
  9. Weis, Frederick Lewis, Walter Lee Sheppard and David Faris. Ancestral Roots of Sixty Colonists Who Came to New England Between 1623 and 1650 7th Edition. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing, 1992. Print. (ISBN 0806313676).
  10. Samuelsen, W. David. New York City Passenger List Manifests Index 1820 - 1824. North Salt Lake, Utah: Accelerated Indexing Systems International, 1986. Print.
  11. ...

The Bethke Family Crest was acquired from the Houseofnames.com archives. The Bethke Family Crest was drawn according to heraldic standards based on published blazons. We generally include the oldest published family crest once associated with each surname.

This page was last modified on 20 March 2013 at 16:34.

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