TRACING THE FAMILY NAME
Ever since the family first arrived here, America has not been at ease with the name Baughman. Even now, the nation can't decide, having had hundreds of years to get used to it, how to say or spell a mere two-syllable name, half of which is one of the most familiar words in the English and German languages.
When I travel, it is predictable that my name will have been mangled and lost before I arrive. When an otherwise pleasant clerk promises that Baughman is not on the list, we will have to wade in again through as many as twelve logically possible spellings: Bachman(n), Backman, Baugham, Baughman, Bauman(n), Bockman, Bofman, Bouckman, Boughman, Bowman, Buchman, Buckman. Even slowly reqeated, again and again, it can come out pronounced at least four different ways; and that is not counting earnest variations in the Arabic world, Africa and Aisa.
After everyone in my father's small hometown agreed on one way (say "cough" to rhyme with "Boff'-mon"), he left for the Army Air Corps during World War II and decided, on his own, to soften A-U-G-H (as in "daughter" to say "Baw'-mon"), which is the only way my sister and brother and I grew up saying it.
The trouble began in the early 1700s, when an English-speaking clerk in Philadelphia had to transliterate Swiss Immigrant names, and take down the newcomers oaths of allegiance. The crucial, but unfamiliar "CH" sound (known as reibelaut in German or a fricative split spirant to linguists) requires exhale. Straining to repeat it, the English decided to hedge a bit, swapping a Scottish U-G-H in its place. However, three men with the same name, arriving on the same ship, were given different spellings anyway. Spelling was still a widely personal matter among officials in those days, even though on the same arrival document, and other legal contracts of the first and second generations in America, ancestors wrote out their own signatures in the old way:
In German this means "Man of the Brook" or "One Who Dwells by the Stream." Some have guessed that our original namesake built his house by a stream and became known for that, perhaps making his living there too, running a ferry service, toll bridge or water wheel mill.
One tale, passed down through several generations in Des Moines, Iowa, dated back to ".. a time of great persecution, when families both high and lowly were being systematically destroyed for their religious beliefs. A baby boy was found in a basket by a stream, like Moses, undoubtedly left there in hope that his life might be spared. The boy was dressed in fine clothing, indicating high birth." His adoptive parents created for him the name Bachmann.
The symbols of medievail heraldry offer other clues. Several Bachmann coats-of-arms display fish, checkerboards, or wheels and trumpeting horns; but on another, three profiled stags. Along the Mosel River, a court scribe was symbolized as the original patriarch.
For Bachmanns who can trace their ancestry to the western half of Canton Zurich, Switzerland, the family shield recalls the early Christian Crusades, from 1096 to 1271 A.D. According to the chief archivist at the state records library, its two gold crescent moons, studed on a black field, represent the infidel enemies in the Holy Land. Our Bachmann seems to have cut through the froces of darkness like a replenishing stream, perhaps saving the day for stranded comrades, among the first to reach Jerusalem, earning additional symbolic power and honor for his name.
J. Ross Baughman