The Gorman and Doepker Genealogies
The Ancestry, Decendency, and History of the Families of
Thomas Leo Gorman and Hildegarde Doepker

Doepker Demographics

The Doepker Surname
The History of Schwege, Germany
About Glandorf, Germany
About Glandorf, Ohio

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The Doepker Surname

The use of surnames started in Germany around the eleventh or twelfth century. Prior to that, people would have been referred to simply by their given name and nothing else. Given names were generally three syllables, comprised of a double root term plus one of a number of suffixes. The root(s) could refer to an individual's identifying characteristic, a feature of the land they lived in, or of their or their family's role or status within the community. Often times, both roots might mean the same thing, or two aspects of the same thing. The suffix acted as a modifier for the root terms to indicate the person's relationship to the root identifier. For example, the "er" suffix could mean "owner" (of some geographical feature described by the root) or "doer" (if the root described an occupation). The "en" suffix meant "at" or "to" (a location). "Ing" meant "belonging to" (as a family). As the population of Germany grew, these given names came to be used as surnames in succeeding generations. They were used as a means of associate groups of individuals with the families to which they belonged. (source: German Surnames - Their Meaning and Origin by Karl Mesloh).

In the case of our family, the surname "Doepker" is an Anglicization of the German "Döpker" (pronounced sort of like "dee-oop-ker"). The name has a number of variations depending upon which part of Germany you're in. Others are "Depke", "Döpke", "Döpfer", and "Döpner", but the all have the same origin, genealogically speaking. There are two possible meanings that have been put forth as the source of "Doepker":

  • It is an altered form of the given name Detmar (or Dittmar). This name is composed of either the Northern German root "theud", meaning "people" or "‘race", followed by the suffix "māri", meaning "famous". In this assignation, "Doepker" means "of the famous people".
  • It is a variation of the Old German word "töppner", meaning, literally, "potter" (source: Presumably, the early Doepkers were known for their ceramics.

In Germany, the highest concentration of families using the surname of "Döpker" are in the District of Osnabrück (where Schwege, our ancestral homeland, is located), with an occurrence of between 30 and 40 per million (see table below). The variants "Depke" and "Dopfer" are equally common, though more widely distributed. A much more common spelling is "Döpke", whose members are concentrated in the districts just east of Osnabrück. Much less common is "Döpner", which are almost entirely concentrated in the district of Dingolfing-Landau.

Osnabrück: 30 to 40 per million
Warendorf: 20 to 30 per million
Munster: 20 to 30 per million
Steinfurt: 10 to 20 per million
Schaunberg: 10 to 20 per million
Holzminden: 10 to 20 per million
Herford: more than 60 per million
Oldenburg: 45 to 60 per million
Rotenburg: 15 to 30 per million
Rügen: 15 to 30 per million
Wittmund: 15 to 30 per million
Stadt Bielefeld: 15 to 30 per million
Nienburg: more than 180 per million
Diepholz: 135 to 180 per million
Minden-Lübbecke: 135 to 180 per million
Hannover: 90 to 135 per million
Verden: 90 to 135 per million
Oldenburg: 90 to 135 per million
Dingolfing-Landau: 45 to 60 per million
Ascherslaben-Staßfurt: 15 to 30 per million
Bördekreis: 10 to 15 per million
Schönebeck: 10 to 15 per million
Verden: 10 to 15 per million
Konstans: 10 to 15 per million
Vogelsburgkreis: 45 to 60 per million
Gießen: 45 to 60 per million
Schwalm-Eder-Kreis: 30 to 45 per million
Höcktaunuskreis: 30 to 45 per million
Nürnberger Land: 15 to 30 per million
Kreisfreie Stadt Kassel: 15 to 30 per million

In the United States, Doepker is not particularly common. According to the 2000 U.S. Census, Doepker is the 50,826th most common surname in the United States. It is, however, more common here than anywhere else. 75% of all Doepkers (using the anglicized spelling specifically) live in the U.S., with 22% in Canada and 3% in Germany. (source:

Döpker Surname Distribution, Germany (source: Geogen 3.0 Webservice)

Döpker Surname Distribution, U.S., 1880

Doepker Surname Distribution, U.S., 1920
The History of Schwege, Germany

The village of Schwege is the birthplace of the earliest known Doepkers. It lies about two kilometers off Highway 51 halfway between the cities of Osnabrück and Münster, straddling Hauptstraße ("Main Road") K341 just west of Glandorf. It was incorporated into its own municipality in 1971, along with a number of neighboring communities, and again in 1981 into the municipality of Glandorf. This area of Germany is relatively flat and sparsely forested with good soil and crisscrossed with numerous streams. In short, excellent farm country, as it was when our ancestors worked this land. It lies in the center of the municipality of Glandorfer-Schwege (see map at right). The name comes from Swaiga, which is the Old German term for a large cattle pasture or stockyard. In 2012, it had a population of about 1052 permanent residents.

The first written reference to Schwege is from Catholic tithing documents dated A.D. 1234. Most other documents relative to the area prior to 1550 are held at St. John the Baptist Church in Glandorf, address primarily issues of tithing and land sales, and only rarely refer to the area by name. Due to its close proximity to Münster, in 1252 Schwege was traded to the country of Westphalia by the Bishop of Osnabrück as a means to pay off its debts, It later reverted to the dominion of Osnabrück and Hannover in an agreement whose objective was to quell feuds between some local nobles.

The area around Schwege was occupied by Swedish forces during the Thirty Years War, from 1631 to 1648. Their departure in 1648 precipitated a period of recovery until, beginning in 1719, a number of epidemics swept the area. In the intervening years up to 1731, diseases like cholera, influenza and smallpox targeted primarily the very young and the very old. It is not known precisely how many individuals and families were affected, but they were considerable. In 1803, the area was once again occupied by foreign forces, this time by troops of the French Army under Napoleon, who demanded a War Tax of the local populace. When the French were driven out in 1813, Schwege, along with the rest of the Bishopric of Osnabrück, was once again incorporated into the Kingdom of Hanover.

The years that followed were ones of hardship for the peasantry and many began looking abroad for opportunities to rid themselves once and for all of this burden. During medieval times, land was utilized in a communal fashion, but through the many years of war and upheaval, by the early 19th century, nearly all land had transferred or been granted to either the local nobility or the church. Many farmers became tenants on land that previously had been the purview of the community. An additional municipal tax, passed in the early 19th century, assessed the size of the tax based on the size of one's fireplace. It assured that those living in meager circumstances would most surely remain that way for generations.

The first schoolhouse in Schwege was erected as a result of the passage of compulsory education legislation in 1786. It was a small (16 by 18 feet), one-room building built the same year. Situated in a rather swampy area of town and was constituting 100 and 130 pupils at a time, it was not ideal. However, it was far superior to the previous system where school was paid for entirely out of a family's pockets, leaving many of the community's children undereducated. That building functioned serviceably until 1817, when a new and larger school was erected, along with a residence for the teacher, in a less soggy area of town. That school, which accommodated as many as 177 students, remained until 1896, when the core of the current Schwege Grundschule (Schwege Primary School) was built. It received electric lighting in 1927 and was expanded in 1950, 1964, 1984, 1989 and 2010.

1850 plat map of the area around Schwege, Germany.

St. Marien Catholic Church, Schwege, Germany
Image used under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 Generic license.

Schwege Grundshule (Schwege Primary School),
Image courtesy
About Glandorf, Germany

The municipality of Glandorf lies in the southernmost part of the District of Osnabrück in the State (or Bundesland) of Niedersachsen (Lower Saxony), Germany. At the time our ancestors left the area, it was part of the country of Hanover, which largely occupied the geography of today's Niedersachsen. It is the location of St. John the Baptist Catholic Church (see below), of which the Döpkers were members. The name Glandorf is of Celtic origin and comes from Glanathorpe, meaning "settlement on the river Glane". Glanus Glanos was the Celtic god of water and the Old Germanic adjective "glane" means bright, shiny or flashing.

Glandorf was first mentioned by name in historical records in 1070. During the Thirty Years War, it was occupied by Swedish troops following the Battle of Breitenfeld in 1631. On May 5, 1636, when the town's populace could not pay the war tax exacted by their occupiers, the village was set on fire and a number of its citizens put to death, including one by crucifixion. Glandorf was incorporated under the Diocese of Osnabrück until 1807 when, under Napoleonic rule, it was declared a part of the Kingdom of Westphalia. In 1814, following Napoleon's defeat, it reverted to the Kingdom of Hanover.

Historically, Glandorf has been a largely Catholic community. Today, Glandorf has a population of about 6700, out of which approximately 2900 declare themselves as Catholic and 400 as Protestant, a proportion that has remained approximately consistent for generations. As a result, the upper half of the city's coat of arms uses the colors of the Catholic Diocese of Osnabrück and shows the flag of Saint John the Baptist, a centered red cross on a white or silver field. On the lower half is displayed a branch sprouting leaves of the lime, oak and shamrock. Each is emblematic of the character of the people and showing them together is indicative of the idea that people of different religions or origins can live together in peace.

St John The Baptist Church, Glandorf, Hanover

At the time of Johann Henry Döpker's exodus from his home to America, he was a member of St. John the Baptist Catholic Church in Glandorf. The oldest part of the structure was built around 1270. It was a simple building with a single aisle, following a Roman design. In 1500 it was widened to include two naves, following the Gothic style used by many churches of the period. On May 1636, the church was burned down completely by Swedish troops during the Thirty Years War occupation. The event is chronicled in an incised inscriptions over one of the side entrances, over what is generally referred to as the "bride door". Following the war, it was subsequently rebuilt, largely of the materials of the old church. In 1665, the roof collapsed due a storm and was rebuilt with a flat roof. Between 1817 and 1820, the roof was rebuilt again to more closely resemble a classical hall church, with the addition of a two-story gallery on the west side, where the organ console was located. In 1937 the tower was increased to 54 meters. From 1991 to 1992 the church and bell tower were repaired from the outside, including the reconstruction and expansion of the sacristy. The interior of the church was renovated between 1995 and 1996 to its current state.

Coat of Arms of the City of Glandorf, Osnabrück, Germany Image used under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 Generic license.

The River Glane.

Current Map of the Municipality of Glandorf
Image used under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 Generic license.
St. John the Baptist Catholic Church, Glandorf, Germany
Image used under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 Generic license.

About Glandorf, Ohio

Rev. Johann Wilhelm Horstmann, a native of Glandorf and teacher at the Carolinium in Osnabrück, Hanover (now part of Germany), left Amsterdam on September 7, 1833 on the three-masted ship Columbus, and arrived in New York on November 6, 1833. With him were Johann F. Kahle, Wilhelm Gülker, Christian Strop, F. Wischmann, Friedrich Bredeick and Mathias Bockrath and Friedrich Bockrath. He and his group then continued West, stopping in Cleveland, Ohio to inform the regional Catholic diocese then continuing on to Detroit. On November 27th, Horstmann and Johann Kahle left Detroit in search of a suitable location for his settlement. In December, they arrived and set up camp in what is now Greensburg Township in Putnam County and sent word to the other six in his party to come. In January, 1834, he purchased the land, at a price of $1.25 per acre, from the federal government and built a small log structure that would be the first of many in what is now Glandorf, Ohio.

In 1835, nine other families from Horstmann's home parish in Glandorf, Germany arrived to begin their new lives in what was then a densely forested wilderness. Their goal was to, in a sense, recreate in this new town the city of Glandorf they had left, with one major difference. They would own this new land, not simply work it for the benefit of someone else. While most of the new settlers were farmers were farmers, other industries were quickly established for shoemaking, textile manufacture, and lumbering. In 1837, Father Horstmann built the first grist mill and also the area's first school, for which he was the sole instructor. He would die on February 21,1843, having successfully fulfilled he dream of creating for his flock a place that they could call home.

St John The Baptist Church, Glandorf, Ohio

The first settlers in Glandorf having all come from the same Catholic parish in Germany, the first place of worship built in Putnam county would have to be Catholic. The first mass was held in the residence of Father Horstmann on Easter Sunday, March 30, 1834. By 1836 the influx of new Catholics had outstripped the ability of this early church to accommodate them, so a new, larger one was needed. The new church, measuring twenty-two by forty feet, was built in 1837 and was christened St. John the Baptist Church. A new pastor's residence was built the next year. Rev. George Bohne joined Rev. Horstmann as assistant in 1841 and took over as head rector upon Father Horstmann's death. The cornerstone for a new, more permanent brick structure was laid in 1846 and was it dedicated in 1848 under a new patron, Rev. A. Kunkler, a member of the Sanguinist Fathers, as Rev. Boehner had be reassigned by the diocese to Fort Jennings. In 1874, with Rev. B. Dickmann as pastor, it was determined the 1848 church no longer satisfied the needs of the community and the foundation for a new church was begun on June 24, 1876 and was dedicated December 15, 1878. The new church would be built of red brick, trimmed with sandstone, and in a Gothic architectural style, and still stands today. One hundred and seventy-five feet long and seventy feet wide, it includes a two hundred and twenty-five foot spire, augmented in 1897 with a clock and bells. In 1893 a rectory was constructed to include living spaces for the organist and principal of the school.

St. John the Baptist Catholic Church, Glandorf, Ohio

Monument to Rev. John Horstmann, founder of Glandorf, Ohio and St. John the Baptist Catholic Church

Interior of St. John the Baptist Catholic Church, Glandorf, Ohio, circa 1920.

Glandorf Public School #1, circa 1900 (demolished).

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