I am searching for Joseph/Josef Greiner (my 4th great grandfather and a glass maker from the German Greiner line of glassmakers) and while doing so have gathered literally thousands of records which supposedly "link" all the Greiner glassmaking family back to about 1450. A lot of the records, however, present the Greiner name as a hyphenated one and no one can tell me why or where or how!!! Here is a copy of the email I have been sending out to various German genealogy societies and even the German "state" archives:

"I found extensive genealogy records which supposedly are the generations of Greiner glassmakers up to about 1870. Many of the surnames are hyphenated and I don't understand why.

Example: Johann Georg Greiner-Gobes married Anna Koch. They had 8 children. The first born (a son) was named Georg Greiner-Gobes-Sohn. The second child was named Johann Jakob Greiner-Schang. The remaining 6 (both sons and daughters) are listed as Greiner-Gobes.

Another example: Johann Nicolaus Jakob Greiner-Schang married Johanna Muller. They had 3 children; all sons. Each one is listed with a different surname: Greiner-Schang (the oldest), Greiner-Jean (the 2nd) and Greiner-Bandel (the youngest).

Do you know what the hyphenated name means or is used for or where it comes from? Why would it be different so many times in the same family? (I have had as many as 5 different hyphenated surnames in a single Greiner family with the same parents.) I see absolutely NO correlation to the mother's maiden name or even the maternal grandmother's maiden/married name. I am currently working in the 1450-1780 time range. Thanks so much for any assistance."

I heard back on a couple emails such as the one I sent to the German Genealogical Society and they have no clue; said they've never seen it done and cannot find it as such in records. I was hoping perhaps the hyphenated name was the glasshutte they worked for or the town where it was located but so far no link that way. Some of the more common hyphenated Greiner names are: Adam 24, Durr 86, Fuchs 81, Fuchsnikel 69, Gobes 44, Jobst 30, Matz 44, Schwarzer 44, Toffel 14, Tommelhans 17. The number behind the name indicates the number of records I have for that name.

The majority of the above are from the Miriam Zilli Grafer Index (she died several years ago) but I have found hyphenations in Dr. Rudi Greiner-Adam's books as well.

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Miriam Zilli Grafer has left on-line trees at WorldConnect and Geneanet, among other sites. [Other links can easily be found by googling her name]. These Greiners seem to be based initially in Schwaben and primarily in Thüringen. Although there are sources listed, most appear to be secondary publications. It is not clear if any primary resources include the hypenated names.

In my research, I've seen double surnames in Transylvanian Saxon church registers and other records, where the purpose is to distinguish branches of a numerous or prominent family. Either name can be used singly or both (in either order) linked with a hyphen or al. (for alias) or just a space. (North American researchers would recognize this pattern as similar to French-Canadian 'dit' surnames). The origin of these surnames is diverse - given name or surname of an ancestor (esp. maternal) or nicknames based on previous residence or physical or occupational characteristics.

What might assist you further:

  • articles on surname development in Thüringen, especially regarding the frequency of double names
  • introductory pages of the published books on the Greiner family, which may include explanations of the double names and other research methodology
  • access to church registers and other primary records to see how the double names were used through each individual's life (unlikely to have been consistent)

Re: Georg Greiner-Gobes-Sohn: this one is likely a mis-interpretation, since Sohn = son. Probably originally: Georg, Greiner-Gobes Sohn (Georg, son of Greiner-Gobes), rather than a new surname.

Additional links (in German):


I have 25 years of extensive research on the Greiner family. My largest book is 50,000 Greiners of the same blood line and approximately 50 other smaller books which have yet to be connected to the master file.

The hyphenated name has been studied numerous times and there are various reasons for its use by the family. There were so many with the same first and middle names that many picked up the mothers maiden name. Many picked the godfather and godmother names. The Greiner family were a very famous glass making family coming out of Grein, Austria area for Germany in the 1200's. Many peoples did not have last names in early history. It is possible the Italian priest added the er to the name. This and um were used a lot in Latin.

The Greiner- family is my line and the hyphenated name is very extensive mostly in the Lauscha area. The hyphenated name disappears again in the Fischbach and Walkerbach Greiner line. We have found none in the French family even though they came from that line. The original family came from Austria into the Stangenbach area of Wurttemburg. Many stayed there, but as the family expanded, son and grandsons were sent into Mattstahl area of Alsace (France). Another large group are in the Augsbourg, Goppingen area. Since many of the family were anti-Baptist they were forced out of Germany and France and ended up in areas like, Lancaster, PA and the shorelines of Georgia and South Carolina. The Georgia Griner's changed the spelling of their name, but are descendants of Caspar Greiner of Walkersbach, Germany. For more history, go into Google and type Blasius Greiner. There are numerous stories concerning the family at this site.

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