Where did the Behrendt surname come from?

The family patriarch, Bär Joachim Behrendt, is found listed in the West Prussia 1812 Citizenship Database provided by JewishGen. This database is an extract from the "General Register of all Jews residing in the Royal Governmental Province of West Prussia to whom Citizenship was granted." The first column of the database is "Surname — Newly opted family name taken by the new Jewish citizen."

On March 11, 1812, citizenship was granted to Prussian Jews. It was a requirement of Prussian citizenship that Jews had to adopt "permanently fixed" surnames. So the family patriarch adopted the surname Behrendt at that time. Prior to then, it appears that the family used their first name with a patronymic reference to their father (e.g. Bär Joachim ben...)

It is not sure why the surname Behrendt was chosen but note that Behrendt was the name of a nearby town.


It is also interesting to note that many of the people who adopted the surname Behrendt had first names that included Bär, just like Bär Joachim.

Here is what "The Penny Cyclopaedia of the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge" Volume 8 (1887) has to say about Behrendt:

"DANZIG, one of the four administrative circles of the province of Prussia, consisting of portions of what was formerly called Western Prussia. It lies between 53 degrees and 55 degrees North latitude and 7 degrees and 10 degrees East longitude. Its northern boundary for about 92 miles is the Baltic; on the east it is bounded by the circle of Konigsberg, and on the west by Pomeria. Its area is about 3197 square miles. The surface is level with a gradual slope from the banks of the Visula to the Baltic, and is occasionally broken by small elevations, which the natives designate by the name of Berge (or mountains), and of which the highest is but 300 feet. The soil is in many parts sandy, and there are several tracts of swamps; but in general it is productive, and along the banks of the Vistula exuberantly fertile. The circle raises more grain than its consumption requires, and great quantities of vegetables and fruit. The minor circle of Marienburg has extensive woods and forests, of which Danzig contains nearly 800,000 acres. Horses and cattle, though in general of an inferior kind, abound on the luxuriant pasture grounds of the low lands. There are very considerable fisheries along the coast, and salmon, eels, and other fresh-water fish are taken in great quantities in the inland lakes, sheets of water, and streams, such as the Frische Haff, Strand See, Drausensee, etc. Amber is obtained on the shore in the vicinity of Danzig. The principal rivers which water this circle are the Vistula, Schwente, Sorge, which takes the name of the Elbing before it falls into the Frische Haff, Thiene, and Motlau. Danzig contains 12 towns, 6 market-towns, and 2047 villages, and is divided into 7 minor circles; viz.

Sq. miles Pop. 1831 Chief Towns
Danzig 491 112,827 Danzig, 54,800
Neustadt 553 35,264 Neustadt, 1,450. Putzig 1,950
Karthaus 549 29,157 Karthaus, 350
Elbing 272 46,683 Elbing, 22,400. Toklemist, 1,700
Marienburg 317 44,807 Marienburg, 5,600. Neutreich, 1,640
Stargard 533 34,681 Stargard, 3,000. Dirschau, 2,200
Behrendt 482 23,130 Behrendt, 1,600. Schoneck, 1700
3,197 326,549

In 1817, the number of inhabitants was 242,547, so that the population between that year and 1831 had received an accession of 84,002 souls. At present (1837), it is estimated at about 340,000. In 1835, the number of births was 13,444; and of deaths, 10,306; which gives an increase for that year of 3,138. The manufactures of this circle, of which the leading branches are wollens, linens, leather, and beer, are not extensive, and are situated almost wholly in the larger towns. A very extensive trade is carried on with foreign parts from the ports of Danzig and Elbing."

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