Years ago I came across some information on the surname Fromke. I had lost my notes if I made any at the time and had a hard time finding the material again, until 2006. I wrote about it back then, thankfully links included, in a message to the Fromke mailing list at RootsWeb.
The name Fromke is recorded on lists of residents and tax surveys in Pomerania in the 17th century. The oldest known document is from the year 1666, the year of the Great Fire of London. The possible variants Fromike and Frömike are listed as well.
In 1966, the lists were published in book form by the Historical Commission for Pomerania, which had been preceded by the Society of Pomeranian History and Classical Studies. The society’s benefactor was King Frederick William IV, then the Prussian Crown Prince.
The society began with the systematic study of the history and archaeology of Pomerania and these two directions dominated through its 120-year existence.
This interest in history led to the creation of the historical commission.
In 2005 I wrote to a relative about the family and what I had found.
I have sent email messages to Fromke “cousins” in Germany. Although I have received friendly replies, I’ve never received any genealogical or historical information. Recently I discovered a sister city partnership between Winona, Minnesota and Bytow, Poland, which is where Albert and Augusta were married. I have also often browsed the web for information on these places. . . .
Borntuchen is now Borzytuchom, Poland and Grabenzien (or Grobenzin) is now Rabacino, Poland. These little villages are not far from Bytow. Bytow is home to a Teutonic knight castle, designed by the same architect who built the more famous one at Malbork. This area, known to history as Pomerania, was on the German frontier and had been shifted between Poland and Prussia
for centuries. I’m not sure when the Fromkes moved there or from where. The first reference in surviving documents to the name and spelling Fromke is in 1666.
At the time I still hadn’t asked my uncle if he’d submit his DNA for testing, so I didn’t know that the Fromke male line was among the R1a1 haplogroup, indicating a high probability of Viking ancestry.
Since then, I am of the opinion, based on the genetics and the genealogy, that the Fromke family had been in Pomerania for some time. From the historical evidence, we know that they’ve been in the region for more than 350 years. The genetics provides some evidence that the male line goes back to Viking activity in some earlier age, perhaps originating in Sweden, which dominated portions of Pomerania for long periods.
Previously I’d found some background on how the name came to be.
In Lower Germany in old documents Vrome, Vromeke is translated as “a competent or valiant person” and honorable, trustworthy man. The root of this name is Fromm or Fromme. In Middle High German it developed into Frommel and in lower German became Frommke and Fröhmke. Another patronymic variation in Lower German is Frömming. In Middle High German it expanded to “vrumman”: which is Frommann or “honorable man, steadfast man”.
The ending on the name, the k and e, is of note. There are competing theories.
The ending “-ke” is typical of many surnames in German regions east of the river Elbe. Some say it has no meaning; others say, it’s origin might come from changing the Slavic ending “-kow” (pronounced “koh”) to a more German sounding ending “-ke”.
One newsletter argues that it may have a Saxon origin.1
Recent surveys have shown that the -ke German name endings, like in Radtke, far outnumber other German name endings like -ow and -itz. This is not surprising since the -ke name ending is an ancient name ending used by the Saxons from North Germany, around the Hamburg and Bremen area. As these Plattdeutsch speaking Germans moved east through Mecklenburg, Pomerania, and East Prussia, they took their names with them. Since the Baltic Sea area of Pomerania was heavily settled by Saxons, the -ke ending was common in that area. As the Pomeranians later settled in Wisconsin and other states, these states also have many German names ending in -ke.”
1. From the December 1994 issue of Pommerscher Verein Freistadt
Rundschreiben, a newsletter published by the Pommerscher Verein Freistadt, P.O. Box 204, Germantown, WI 53022.