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That’s a Good Dutch Name


Last month, Pat and I traveled all the way from Australia to the small European country of the Netherlands especially for the Travel Bloggers Unite conference in Rotterdam. It was my first visit to the land of wooden shoes, windmills, and milk… lots of milk, and I was excited to finally get to see some highly anticipated attractions, like Amsterdam as a whole.


Amsterdam. Reminds me of Venice and St. Petersburg.

While traveling between Rotterdam and Amsterdam, something happened repeatedly that caught my attention.

Anytime someone Dutch saw my last name, on an itinerary, hotel room reservation and so on, they would always say, “That’s a good Dutch name.”

In Dutch, my last name, Schoenman, means “shoe man” (or so I’m told).

But let me tell you something about my last name.

I love it. I love my last name so much that I would never change it. In fact, in the Schoenman + Choy relationship, I’d have to say that Schoenman would definitely be the dominant one! Pat loves it when I say that.

Bikes in Amsterdam

Amsterdam: Bikes everywhere!

But in all seriousness, my very German (and not Dutch) last name has a rather interesting meaning: Beautiful Man. Yes, I apparently come from a clan of beautiful men — or a clan of very conceited men, I’m not sure. We weren’t blacksmiths, or plow men, or even manly men. For some reason the people of the past thought that my ancestors’ defining feature was their beauty. Doesn’t that seem funny! The more I think about it, the more I wonder if maybe my fellow Germans were just taking the piss.

And of course, names change over time. Back in the German days, Schoenman looked different, probably with an umlaut thrown in the mix, and actually, it wasn’t until my grandpa served his country that the extra “n” was dropped from the American version of Schoenmann.

This was a strange re-realization I had earlier this year when my family received some shocking news about a long lost relative — my grandpa’s brother who went missing in the Korean War. I won’t go into details in this post, but you can read more about this touching story here.

When reading this story in articles and seeing it hit the TV, I couldn’t help but have one of those little red lights go on in the back of my brain whenever I saw Schoenmann, with two N’s at the end. The point I’m getting at here is the intriguing way that language and names evolve over time, and by seeing this news story, I realized how recent a change that was for my immediate family line. My grandpa started using the shortened version after being in the US armed services, when his superior officer dropped the extra “n” off. Yet, all of his siblings, and their direct family lines, still use the other spelling.

I find that a little fascinating, don’t you?

If I had more time, I would love to attempt some genealogical research and find more information on my very German (and not Dutch) last name.

What can you tell me about your last name?


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15 Responses to That’s a Good Dutch Name

  1. Rebecca June 20, 2013 at 1:08 am #

    So much to say about my last name. The jokes, the pronunciations, the individuality (both good and bad). I remember it coming up in a spelling test when I was 6 or 7 and I was a horrible speller, so that was one word I got right that week!
    It was changed at Ellis Island, so there isn’t much known about it otherwise.
    I do love the history of people’s name, very interesting about yours!

    • Brooke June 24, 2013 at 3:08 am #

      You do have an interesting last name. What nationality is it?

  2. Andria June 20, 2013 at 8:19 pm #

    I get the same thing with my name! My last name is Tieman, which is either German or Danish, but I am neither of those things and my dad is 100% Norwegian. Apparently what happened is the name was supposed to be Tiedman (Tieddman?) and it just got changed somewhere along the way.

    Apparently it’s a common surname in Australia–don’t know if you’ve met any, but it certainly isn’t where I live. Oftentimes people will remark on my strong, German name, and I’ve given up trying to correct them.

    • Brooke July 31, 2013 at 10:23 am #

      Hi Andria, I haven’t met any Tieman’s here in Oz… yet! Do you know what Tiedman means in Norwegian at all?

  3. RJ June 22, 2013 at 1:14 pm #

    Well, I’ve since changed my name, but my family names are all completely meaningless.
    Dad’s side: Smith. Was changed from who-knows-what when my relatives came to the States.
    Mom’s side: Den Hollander. Basically “a Dutch guy.” Changed from who-knows-what when my great-grandparents came to the States from the Netherlands.
    Apparently my brother-in-law’s family used to have the last name Anderson, but when they moved to the states there were so many Swedish people where they lived with that last name, that they just changed it to something else that sounded Swedish.
    My ex-boyfriend’s last name is of a small village in Italy, and there is only one other family in the States that emigrated from there. So if I ever meet someone with his last name again, there’s a 50/50 shot that they’re related.

    • Brooke July 31, 2013 at 10:24 am #

      I love it when a last name is tied to a place like your ex’s – you just know where someone came from, and I think that’s great 🙂

  4. Deidre July 15, 2013 at 3:23 am #

    I have a very German last name and there is actually a town in Germany that shares my last name – it’s also quite Jewish.

    That is such an amazing story about your great-uncle.

    • Brooke July 31, 2013 at 10:26 am #

      So is your family from that German town then? I love when a name is tied to a place like that.

  5. Nicole August 10, 2013 at 4:54 pm #

    My last name is Asian. But I’m not Asian. And I was born with that name.

    • Brooke August 10, 2013 at 11:13 pm #

      Nicole – what’s your last name? I’m intrigued!

  6. Lauren August 21, 2013 at 7:36 pm #

    Love this! My last name — love it as I do — is not the original one my family had. It was Fritsche and the folks at Ellis Island renamed it Fritsky. So, I’m actually really German, not Russian, like Fritsky would appear to be 🙂

  7. Kaylin August 22, 2013 at 1:54 pm #

    My last name is pretty boring (Stephens) and VERY English (as are, like, basically every single surname on both sides of my family) but SO many people spell it wrong. I know plenty of people spell it Stevens too, but it’s like, at least *ask* before you spell it. Lots of people spell it with a PH too.

  8. Robert October 7, 2013 at 9:26 pm #

    Well my last name is Roach. Where do you think that comes from?

  9. Wesley January 14, 2014 at 12:22 am #

    I love Amsterdam, great city and a great country

  10. John den Haan October 16, 2014 at 9:13 pm #

    Just an FYI: your first name “Brooke”, phonetically means “pants” in Dutch.

    So there you have it, Pants Shoeman.

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