One of these German families, the Wenks, first arrived in "the best poor man's country" during the second wave, in the person of IGNATZ WENK, sailing from Baden.
The Wenk family surname traces back almost a thousand years in Europe. Variations on the name include Wenckh, Wenck, Wening, Weniger, Wenin, Wenig, Wenisch, Wenk, Wenger, Wenge, Weining, Wiening, Weuning, Wauning and many more, as well. But it seems to have first appeared in Bavaria, where the family was connected with the many tribal conflicts of the area throughout its long history.
Our Wenk line is 'Swabian' (Schwäbisch in the German language), coming from the Grand Duchy (Großherzogtum) of Baden, in what is now the Black Forest (Schwarzwald) in Germany. This beautiful land covered the eastern half of the fertile valley of the Rhine, with a majestic range of mountains forming its boundary.
With this in mind, the Wenk name could derive from the Low German and Frisian personal name Weneke, a short form of any of the compound names beginning with the Old High German element wini (friend). But sometimes it was also used as a topographic name for someone who lived by a turning or bend, as the Middle High German wenke. Then there's the Middle Low German wenneke or wide woolen dress, so it could have been an occupational name for a maker or seller of such garments. We can only hope that our family doesn't derive from the Middle High German nickname wenken, meaning to stagger or waver, probably applied to someone with a peculiar gait, or to a drinker, or to someone who was indecisive (although all three could apply to this writer).
On the family coat of arms, the blue in the family crest is the color of loyalty and truth; the yellow stands for generosity. The squared and quartered shield features two griffins, signifying the property of a valorous soldier who "dared all dangers, and even death itself, rather than become captive." The two six-pointed mullets point to a Divine quality bestowed from above. The panache of feathers symbolizes willing obedience and serenity, and the closed helmet, in profile beneath, denotes an esquire or private gentleman.
To read all about our loyalty, truthfulness, generosity, valor, daring, Divinity, willing obedience and serenity, and follow our ancestors from the Black Forest of Germany, to the wilds of 19th Century Michigan, to the weirdness of 21st Century California, click on the chapters below:
Music: "Shenandoah," by Dean Shostak