The surnames of Oxford Township are as varied as their origins and as interesting as their owners. English, Irish, and Scotch names retained their pre-Iowa spellings and pronunciations: Carter, Courtright, Leffingwell, McClure, Murray, Quirk, etc. German names changed little: Groth was pronounced Grot in Germany but uses the English th sound here, Krützfeldt with an umlauted u (= Kruetzfeldt) became Krutzfeld in Iowa, Otte was pronounced Otta in German which has no silent e — now we say Ott and ignore the final e, and Schröder with an umlauted o (= Schroeder) was shrewder in Germany but shroder (long o) and shrader (long a) here. German names ending with sen: Carstensen, Hansen, Ingwersen, Petersen, etc. were from the Schleswig-Holstein area in northeast Germany. Most of Wyoming’s pioneers were from there. Scandanavian names are Hanson, Peterson, etc.
At least one French name came to Oxford — DuBois. The French say dew-bwah. Here it’s pronounced dew-boyce, perhaps imposed on the DuBois family rather than an intentional bend to sounding less foreign. As in Streetcar Named Desire, Oxford had a Blanche DuBois. We also had a W.C. Fields — a produce farmer southwest of town.
The Czech names of our area underwent the most significant changes. Their language simply did not convert easily to English, the language of America. Common name endings are cek and ecka (chek), ek and ik, and a. Ondracek came from Ondrus z Czechy (Ondrus of Bohemia). Hence Balichek was earlier Bal or Bali of Bohemia and Nowachek was Nova (new) of Bohemia. Also in Oxford: Kostichek (earlier Kostečka, a hacek over the c), Vanicek, and others. The ek and ik endings indicate like, as in Brownek meaning brown-like. Examples: Beranek, Bizek, Blizek, Dusanek, Hronik, Hudrlik, Kolarik, Kropik, Marek, Roubinek, Shimanek, Stepanek, Stratilek, Vozenilek, etc. Names ending with a include: Burda, Homolka, Hora, Kula, Koranda, Matejka, Milota, Pavelka, Pavlista, Sacora, Sazma, Shimerda, Slouha, Smola, Sobotka, Souhrada, Straka, Vochoska, Wosoba, Yanda, and Zaruba.
Feminine and plural name endings are ova and a, and some do not change from the masculine version. Some of our pioneers came here wearing a house name. (See page VULGO NAMES) The wife of the first Koranda in Oxford Jct. was Anna Harazim vulgo Vochozka. She was blood Harazim but her family lived in a house owned or previously owned by Vochozka. Her son called his mother Anna Vochoska in the 1925 census, his awareness of the vulgo name suggests that it was significant. Emigrant Frank Koranda told a son that Frank’s mother was born Valdin. Archival research proved that she was blood Soudek, her name Katerina Soudek vulgo Valdin. A Soudek male had married a Valdin female who came into the marriage with her birth family’s house. Frank Koranda’s ancestry has been traced back 7 generations only to discover that in 1691 Leopold _____ (unknown) married Rehor Koranda’s widow, moved into the Koranda house and became known as Leopold Koranda. Leopold’s inherited/blood surname, if kept, would replace some of the Koranda names in Oxford Jct.
Oxford names among the 20 most common Czech names are Dvorak, Marek, Novotny, Pokorny, and Prochozka. While most of our Czechs were from Bohemia, Tatak and perhaps others were from Moravia.
The Americanization of Czech surnames took place in various ways. First, some language components to help us understand the conversions…. The Czech language has no w. Czech names with w were earlier v. In German, the language of the Austria-Hungary Empire and the Hapsburg rule which included Bohemia from 1648 to 1918 and was required for all but private conversations, w makes the v sound. An example of the effect on a name: Vochozka was alternately spelled Wochozka in Czech records, on passenger lists (created in German ports by German-speaking employees of the ship lines) and even here by census takers, etc. Ledvina was seen as Ledwina, Vacek as Wacek, Vozenilek as Wozenilek. Willimack was earlier Vilimek, Wlach was Vlach, and Wosoba was Vosoba. The Czech v is sometimes soft, almost skipped over. Examples: Divoky as diwoky, Hodoval as hodowal. Pavlista is correctly pronounced pahlishta, Pavelka as pawelka. If you are looking for a v name, always check w, too, and vice versa.
German versions of Czech names are seen: Bizek for Bicek, Fischer for Fišer, Fritz for Fric, Schneider for Snajdr. In those examples the pronunciation was unchanged. Benischek was curiously that way for several generations with only an occasional Benišek seen in Czech records. Some of our “Czech” ancestors might have migrated from Germany or Austria into Bohemia many years ago.
Czech letter j sounds like y, hence Janda became Yanda, Jarolem became Yarolem, and Jilek was often seen as Eleck/Elick. Matejka retained its Czech spelling and is pronounced matayka.
The Czech letter č (with a hacek) says ch. Our Balichek was Baliček, Kostichek was Kostečka, Nowachek was Novaček, while Tyč held its sound even though no h was added. We sometimes accept names as we know them without thinking about the violation of English phonics. Wlach in O.J. was pronounced Vlach although the family never reverted to the Czech Vlach.
Czech also has c (no hacek) which is pronounced ts. We hear it in Vacek. Moravec and Pavelec are examples, although both names in O.J. were not changed to a ts or tz ending. The original spelling was maintained, sacrificing pronunciation which sounded like Moravek and Pavelek here.
ž and ř with haceks, while slightly different in Czech, are very similar for our purposes. Like the z in seizure, we find them in Dolezal, Vozenilek, and Dvorak (like the composer) which was sometimes Dozark in O.J. records (blame that soft v). They are examples of the Czech spelling (minus diacritic marks) and pronunciation the same as in the old country even though English phonics should have us using the sound of z in zebra. Kucera is another that we simply know how to say, like kewchera. Truth is, if we had always heard the name Baker pronounced Schlichtenstein, we would say Schlichtenstein and wonder why those out-of-towners are saying bayker. Pekař (hacek over the r) became Peckosh in Iowa, a slightly different modification. Many gravestones in the Mayflower Cemetery (O.J.) have the original spellings of our Czech residents.
In Czech ch is like the ch in Bach. Vochoska and Wlach contain it, although we hear vohaska as often as vokoska, and sometimes vohasky, using one of Czech’s many word endings. Rula became Ruley, perhaps just a case of word endings.
Czech has a š (with a hacek and pronounced like sh) as well as s. DeBohemianized names with it are Buresh from Bureš, Pashek from Pašek, Shimanek from Šimanek, Shimerda from Šimerda. Dusanek is pronounced as though there is a sh although an h was never added in Oxford.
The dipthong ou is pronounced like a long o, as in Dlouhy, Kouba, Kroulik, Pazourek, Slouha, Soukup, and Souhrada.
Apparently Czechs are frugal, using vowels sparingly as in Ciml (Cimel in O.J.), Drnek (say Dernek), Hronik (say heronik), Hudrlik (say who-dlik and when Czechs say it you can hear a little wobble where the r is), and Srp (say serp). The general rule is that when 2 consonants can’t slide together when spoken, you say “uh” in between them where I have used e.
Some Czech surnames made the leap with no change made and no change needed: Benhart, Beranek, Burda, Hudrlik, Koranda, Kula, Nespor, Sazma, etc. except for an occasional shift of accent from the first syllable (always in Czech), as in Novotny and Sobotka. There was little change for some: Bek to Beck, Luk to Luke, and Tyc to Tyc. But most Czech names changed by one of the identified processes or by simply sliding into a variation of the original, like Pekarek to Pegorick. Despite the stories of names being changed at Castle Garden or Ellis Island, the immigration stations had not the power or authority to permanently change a name. Misspellings were usually due to the language differences and didn‘t stick.
Phonetically adapting original spellings to hear their name pronounced as in Czech were Baliček to Balichek, Jilek to Eleck, Lejsek to Lasack, Pašek to Pashek, Pavlišta to Powlishta (although one branch of Pavlista kept the Czech spelling in O.J.), Pekař to Peckosh, Šimanek to Shimanek, Židek to Shedeck, etc. This process is called transliteration — changing a letter/s of one language to another, which keeps the sound and surrenders the meaning.
Translation is the process that keeps the meaning but changes the sound, like when Krejci changed to Tailor/Taylor (didn’t in O.J.) and Bily to White.
Metathesis is when a name or word evolves to easier pronunciation, the way that nosthirl became nostril and flutterby became butterfly. An O.J. name that is an example of this process is (originally) Kotilinek. Most people think it is Kotinelik, saying kochinelik.
Many Czech names were simply misspelled — by census takers, plat makers, and newspaper publishers. Dewauka for Divoky, Dustoe for Dostal, Korble for Korbel, Sloahah for Slouha, etc. which are not legitimate name variants.
Given names were changed, too. Jan = John, František = Frank, Alžbeta = Elizabeth (nicknamed Bjeta and Beta), Vlasta = Patricia, to name a few. Matej/Matouse/Mathias were usually called Mike here. Vaclav takes the prize, however….. it is also known as Wenceslaus, Wencil, Wenzel, Waclaw, Waczlaw, Vaceslav, Vince, Vincel, Vincenc, Wesley, Wendel, William, and nicknamed James and Jim. Additional given name conversions are in the page PERSONAL NAMES. JN