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# Wednesday, 20 August 2008
When You Think You're German, But You Aren't
Posted by Diane

Q. I’ve made little headway in 30 years of researching my Hondlenk line. I was under the assumption Hondlenk is a German name, but a friend went to Germany and asked everyone about it. Germans told her the name is probably Dutch or Danish. Now I don’t know what nationality it is.

A. From the genealogical material you sent, it looks like the source for your assumption is John Hondlenk’s listing in the 1860 Louisiana mortality schedule,  with the place of birth as Germany. (Census mortality schedules, in case readers are wondering, list those who died the year before the census was taken. The schedules exist for the 1850 through 1880 censuses.)

You don’t give John Hondlenk's birth year, but what “Germany” means has changed throughout history. After the Congress of Vienna in 1815, Germany—then a group of states, the largest being Prussia—covered much of Central Europe. Various wars and treaties led it to gain and lose territory to surrounding countries.

Germany as a nation didn’t exist until 1871. Its changing boundaries resulted in many Germans living outside the borders of Germany, and many non-Germans living inside Germany. John Hondlenk may have been born in Germany without being German, and his birthplace may or may not be in today's Germany. See the December 2006 Family Tree Magazine for help sorting out these boundary changes and population movements.

Surnames aren’t fixed through history, either. Your ancestor’s original surname might not be Hondlenk, but a variation or something completely different. After arriving in America, it wasn’t uncommon for immigrants to change their names or alter the spelling to sound more “American.” Our writer Nancy Hendrickson, who wrote about researching surnames in the May 2008 Family Tree Magazine, says she always assumed her Shore family was from Britain, but she later learned Shore is a variation of the Swiss Schorr.

Something else to keep in mind: The birthplace in the mortality schedule might be wrong. Someone may have provided the census taker with the wrong information, or the census taker may have misheard. Or perhaps your ancestor lived in Germany, or left for America from a German port, but wasn’t born there.

Just for kicks, I looked up Hondlenk in’s free search tool for surname origins, but didn’t find anything.

Focus less on determining the nationality of the name, and instead try to find John Hondlenk’s town or parish of origin—information you’ll need to research him in Europe. Keep plugging away on this side of the pond: Research his relatives and neighbors; look for church, court and other less-often-consulted records; and try to connect with other Hondlenks on surname boards such as GenForum’s.

If any readers have come across Hondlenks in their genealogy search, click Comment and pipe up.

German roots | Surnames
Wednesday, 20 August 2008 19:41:57 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [5]
Monday, 25 August 2008 04:12:46 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
I used and found several Hondlenks. The oldest date was a marriage of a Hondlenk to Jennie Powell 3 Apr 1881 in Adams County, Mississippi. This may be found on microfilm #0893527 Marriages of Adams Co., Miss. 1873-1895. The only other Hondlenk people were found on the Social Security Death Index and they were in Louisiana, New Mexico, Tennessee, and Mississippi. There was actually a John Hondlenk who died in Louisiana in 1990 or 1992. When I used familysearch with countries such as Germany, Finland, Netherlands,etc. the computer program gave me nothing. When I entered ALL COUNTRIES it gave me the names above and they were all in the U.S. Possibly the surname has been changed from the orginal spelling in Europe to a more manageable name in the U.S.
I suggest you talk with someone who knows a lot about languages. They could possibly give you an idea what the original spelling could have been. Do you have any idea of what the nationality was? You did say you thought it was German. Could it be Polish or Lituhanian or Flemish. Do you know the religion of the Hondlenk family?
Margaret Miesterfeld
Monday, 25 August 2008 16:21:28 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
A name ending in -enk may well be Dutch. However, the name Hondlenk seems non-existant.
It does not occur in the Dutch phone book and the single record with the name Hondlink (i, not e) I found in Genlias may well be a typo.
A name that comes close is Hondelink, and names ending -ink are from the Achterhoek region bordering Germany, so it is not unlikely that a Hondelink emigrated from Germany.

You never know how names get mangled, so if Dutch, the original Dutch name might just as well be Hilderink, Hofenk, Hoitink, Hoebink, Huetink or Holdijk.
These are all names from the East of the Netherlands. You will probably be able to tell the original name once you've found the immigration record.

- Tamura Jones

Tuesday, 26 August 2008 20:04:41 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
Thank you both for your information and ideas.
Thursday, 04 September 2008 15:39:20 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)

Christoph Stoepel's German "Geogen Surname Mapping" site, had no results for Hondlenk. However, with that result came a suggested “Hondele” version. Results for Hondele in Germany:
"Summary: (Stoepel) found 21 entries and localized them in 10 different counties. There are around 56 people with this name projected on total population. This is an occurance below average. Insufficient statistical data! The results may not be useful.
Relative Distribution for Hondele: Considering the population density the most Hondeles can be found in Landkreis Nordvorpommern (MV), namely 17 phonebook entries per million people. The fewest live in Kreisfreie Stadt Essen.
Absolute Map for Hondele: Most Hondeles can be found in Kreisfreie Stadt Düsseldorf (NW), there are exactly 8 phonebook entries listed. The fewest live in Landkreis Deggendorf (1). (Please note: urban agglomerations can influence this visualization)
Sorted by federal states: This is a diagram for all phonebook entries that can be localized. They are sorted sorted by the federal states of germany (the different size and population is not included in this calculation)".

The newly available had no results for Hondlenk. Results for a truncated "Hond" indicate origins in the Netherlands, as Tamura Jones suggested. (If you utilize this website, be sure to scroll through the entire results page.) "Hond" also brought a grand total on Geogen of 5 persons found with that name in today’s Germany, which was too small a number to be mapped on that site.

One other note: German pronunciation may indicate an original name ending in g rather than k, since a German ending g will be abrupt much like a k rather than held like an English ending g: "darlink" rather than darling. You might try the German voices on

There were two listings on's Hondlenk message board

A basic search on's historical records, using ONLY the exact surname Hondlenk brings this:
Census and Voter Lists, (total of) 4:
(# of hits database)
3 1920 United States Federal Census
1 1910 United States Federal Census
Birth, Marriage & Death 13
5 Social Security Death Index
2 California Birth Index, 1905-1995
2 Louisiana Statewide Death Index, 1900-1949
2 United States Obituary Collection
1 Texas Birth Index, 1903-1997
Military 5
2 World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918
1 U.S. Veterans Gravesites, ca.1775-2006
1 U.S. World War II Army Enlistment Records, 1938-1946
1 World War II Prisoners of War, 1941-1946
Directories & Member Lists 18
16 U.S. Public Records Index
2 U.S. Phone and Address Directories, 1993-2002

You’ve got a tough one here. My guess is the current spelling is a mutation of the original name. I reemphasize Diane’s comments about researching your 1860 John Hondlenk in Louisiana. As you search, BE OPEN to any surname that comes close. Good luck!
Cari Thomas
Friday, 10 October 2008 01:17:08 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
I sincerely doubt that the name Hondlenk would be of Danish origin. I have lived in Denmark for over 30 years and have never encountered this surname, or anything similar. Have done some searches in the online phone directories and the Danish national statistics bureau, and neither show any Hondlenks. I definitely agree with the comment above, that you are looking at a mutation of the original name. Good luck in your search!
T. L. Gustafson
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