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Home: Surnames: Vogt Family Genealogy Forum

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Re: Origin of the surname...did you know...?
Posted by: Charles Heisterkamp, III Date: September 08, 1998 at 18:54:20
In Reply to: Origin of the surname...did you know...? by Eric William Vogt of 1104

The German name, Vogt, is derived from the Latin word "advocatus". In Latin, advocatus refers to one who is a governor or administrator. Thus, Vogt has its origins as an occupational name. In German, the name is pronounced as FO:KT. The German pronunciation of "O:" has no clear cut English equivalent sound, but is closest to the O in the English word low.

In smaller cities and towns in southern Germany, there were three branches of government. Things pertaining to issues of religion were decided by the bishop, appointed by the church hierarchy. Things pertaining to matters of taxes and armies were decided by the Herzog, or Duke, appointed by the King. Things pertaining to legal matters were decided by the Vogt, or the judge, also appointed by the King. Because court was often held in the Vogt's house, he often had the largest house in the area. In deference to that, the modern-day outdoor museum of local culture in the Black Forest (akin to our Colonial Williamsburg or Plymouth Plantation) is called the Vogtsbauernhof, or the Judge's Farmhouse.

Actually the scope of what this administrative rank meant is much wider than is stated above, as the scope of the duties and jurisdictions that came with it varied from state to state. Germany had been a patchwork of some 302 or so states. In some of them, they had no Vogts, but used other terms instead. Those who are interested in the history of Germany and Prussia may also find the term "drost". A Drost had responsibilities similar to a "Vogt" but was more like a mayor or overseer than a judge. A Drost had to care for the administration of a principality or a part of a principality and he was appointed directly by the principal, normally the Herzog or Duke. The function of a drost is similar to a Landrat today.

A Vogt also was involved in the administrative affairs but more in the legal aspects of governance. Vogts were something like lawyers, and acted principally as advocates of the Duke. In a Catholic area like Cappeln and Essen (Oldbg.) Vogts could be lawyers of the church as well.

The vast range or scope of the meaning for the term "Vogt" is difficult to define. The Vogt in Theodor Storm's book, "Der Schimmelreiter", was the superior in all matters that related to the sea coast fortification against high waters ... Deich-Vogt ... In the original German version of the story of William Tell (the fellow who shot the apple off his son's head), it was an "evil" Vogt who made poor William do that! Oh well, every family has a black sheep or two. The Vogt in William Tell had much power, as he was more a region's, not just a town's, administrator. Often, the term "vogt" is combined with another German word that describes what the "Vogt" is responsible for. Examples are: Deichvogt (Deich=dike, seawall) as stated above, Stadtvogt (Stadt=town, city), Landvogt (Land=country {not town, city}), Gerichtsvogt (Gericht=court of law), and Marktvogt (Markt=market, market-place). The term "Vogt" is used in German in connection with persons who are inspectors, surveyors, or the manager of many types of institutions such as churches, orphanages, and jails.

The VOGT surname is very common in Germany and Austria. It is also common in the United States. In the 1990 U.S. Bureau of Census listing of the 88,000 most common surnames, VOGT is #1,963. There are definitely fewer Vogts than Smiths, but the Vogts far outnumber the Heisterkamps.


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