I do happen to have some first hand information on the origin of our last name, i.e. I researched it myself in old dictionaries / books on family names of the region :)
After searching through the city of Bielefeld's archives in february 2008, I found this information scattered over a bunch of old books (etymological and old dictionaries for the german language of the middle ages):
I found our name in a bunch of etymological (sp?) books, it's possible that the joining of "Uff" (Uffe, Uffeke, Uffo) and -man (original spelling 1 n) only happened over the course of some decades - but I don't think so.
"-man" was mainly used as a means to "belittle" a name (in a positive way, like for a small person, or cute) - like (little) "Johnny" for "John". This is still done in german sometimes in the present - like "Jannemann" for "Jan". But it was also sometimes appended to location or dwelling names, to form a a family name.
The different possible origins for "Uff" are:
1. Uff(e) derived from the gothic adverb "uf" for "on, upon, up(wards)". In this context, one book had an explanation for farmsteads in Westphalia (touchée) located on higher grounds, that got their names this way, specifically naming the examples: Uffelage, Ufmann, Upmann (note our name was spelled with a single "f" in the church registers before 1700, sometimes even later). Whether our "family farmstead" in Rotingdorf 5 is identical with the first mentioning of an Uffmann farmstead in a 1556 report from the earldom Ravensberg, is not clear, but likely. Now I still have to find out if that was indeed located on higher ground - I haven't yet found out where it was located exactly.
2. then there was a "Count Uffo" in a valley called Extertal - you will find google hits for "Graf Uffo" - in that valley there are the remains of a castle called "Uffoburg" (Uffocastle). The head of the Bielefeld city archives happens to come from the Extertal and told me about this. Together with the "belittling" -mann appendix, this could have become "Uffmann"
3. one dictionary mentioned the "uppermann" (upp and uff were often used synonymously), in middle(ages) low german, this referred to an elegant man / leader. I found this rather unlikely.
4. last but not least one old german dictionary (sadly I forgot to copy the title page for later source reference) had the word "ufmanigi", which stood for "heavenly cohort" - slightly amusing ;)
And btw, we are not related to Uffelmanns, Ufermanns or Offermanns. "Uffel" is derived from the city of "Uffelen" which is today known as Salzuflen. Ufermanns respectively "ufer" comes from "über", meaning "over" and not "up" or "upon". And finally Offermanns comes from Opfermann (Opfer = sacrifice), referring to acolytes.
While there ARE mentionings of Uffmann being short / belittling for "Uffo, Uffeke", considering the history of our family, I am pretty sure that the first explanation is the correct one - but pick whatever you like best ;)
Oh btw - a misinterpretion by myself of the Uffmann entry in that old earldom register made me think our there mentioned ancestor was a free man. He wasn't, he (and his family) apparently was a serf of the (donzel?) widow "von Rennenberch zu Palsterkamp" (= "of Rennenberch (living in the castle) Palsterkamp").
I would be happy if you contacted me via email at larsATuffmannDOTname so we can share family tree information!
Greetings from Cologne, Germany!
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