Every once in a while, I encounter a question in the close queue that asks for the origin of a surname and which has been voted to close

[…] as off-topic because it should be asked on genealogy.stackexchange. It asks for the origin of a name.

The latest question of this kind is this one and you can find some other, unclosed questions under . We never actually migrated a question to Genealogy (link needs 2 k reputation), but such questions seem to be on-topic on Genealogy, though apparently not that well-received.

Should we consider such questions off-topic in general (or only some of them)?

  • I added two wiki answers. May the votes decide.
    – Jan
    Commented Apr 17, 2015 at 9:18

3 Answers 3


I do not think that we should close such questions. Just because something is also on-topic on another site (or even better suited for that site), does not mean that it’s off-topic here. There are many Stack Exchanges which overlap and in those cases it’s at the discretion of the asker, where they ask. As long as these questions involve the German language, they are on-topic here.

We may inform the asker that their question may receive a better answer on Genealogy, but I am not even sure that this is the case for these questions.


We should keep these questions because:

  • the answers often require a deeper understanding of German
  • sometimes even Low German as opposed to High German
  • there are some 'simpler' cases, where an answer might suggest itself immediately to a native but not to a non-native (although those might even be answerable by googling)
  • German genealogists might not know about genealogy.stackexchange.com (although migrating questions would point them there)
  • […] to be extended

We should close these questions because:

  • the roots of many names are hardly recogniseable for modern-day German speakers.
  • names have often preserved their ancient orthography, making them easier to be mistaken.
  • experts in German genealogy should also be present on genealogy.stackexchange.com
  • aside from the person asking and the three people who share the same uncommon surname, the question is not of use to many people.
  • Surnames are not really about the language.
  • Surnames of German people can also be of Polish, French, Dutch or other origin, even though they look German for foreigners. (But that could technically be overcome by closing those of non-German origin.)
  • […] to be extended
  • I agree with all of the above. Origins of a name really are not about the German language (with the occasional exception like Müller, perhaps).
    – Ingmar
    Commented Apr 18, 2015 at 6:49
  • 1
    +1 especially for "the question is not of use to many people"
    – Burki
    Commented May 22, 2015 at 7:21

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