Saturday, May 1, 2010

Surname Saturday - Pecht - Peight

My father’s mother’s family name was Pecht. In our family, it was always pronounced so that it rhymed with Faith (Paith). I’ve come across other lines of the family where it was pronounced Peck, and even others who pronounce it as Peck with the T on the end. Going back to my third great-grandfather, the name was spelled Peight. Some lines of the family retained that spelling, where my line changed it to Pecht.

The name Peight originates in Germany. Ancestry.com shows four people with the name Peight emigrating from Germany in November 1882. I haven’t connected our family to any of these immigrants yet.

I’ve traced my Peight family line to my third great-grandfather, George Peight, of Altoona, Pennsylvania. Some scandal surrounds this ancestor, as I’ve discovered newspaper articles stating that he killed his teenage daughter and then committed suicide. It’s a family tragedy that somehow was sanitized through the years since a family history written about forty or fifty years ago states that the daughter drowned while swimming and the father drowned while trying to save her. Somehow, I can’t imagine anyone swimming in Altoona, Pennsylvania in February! The two newspaper articles I’ve discovered about the murder-suicide were from outside the state of Pennsylvania, so one of the tasks on my to-do list is to find news accounts in the Altoona area newspapers.

Soon after this tragic event, my great-great grandfather, John Crispin Pecht and his mother (George’s widow), Rachel, moved west and the family name for my line has been spelled Pecht since that time. Some of John’s siblings who remained in Pennsylvania retained the Peight spelling.

In the 1920 census, the majority of Peights in the United States were still in Pennsylvania; however there were also some in Texas, Arkansas, Georgia, South Carolina, Michigan, Illinois, Nebraska and Colorado. Some of my line lived in Wyoming for a while.

The Pecht name had wider distribution in the United States in the 1920 census, with families using that spelling residing in New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Virginia, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, Iowa, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Texas, California, Montana and Washington. At that time, the frequency of the Pecht name in the census was highest in Nebraska, Pennsylvania and New York. My ancestors settled in the area of Nuckolls County, Nebraska and just across the border in Republic County, Kansas.

The majority of Pecht immigrants also originated in Germany. As with the Peight spelling, these immigrants departed from Bremen, Germany and Antwerp, Belgium. Some left from Southampton, England; France; and the Netherlands, but Germany was the country of origin for the Pecht immigrants.

In 1880, most of the Pechts in the United States were farmers, while others were miners and laborers. Several of the men in my Pecht families were carpenters.

Today, the Pecht name can be found throughout the United States. Many of the descendants of my great-great grandfather moved west, with many of them in the western coastal states. It’s not that common a name and with so few immigrants named Peight or Pecht, I have little doubt that most of us around today are probably related somehow. It’s an interesting thought to ponder (and research!).

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