Unusual Name(s) – Verena and Apollonia

Last year at about this time, I wrote a blog post about an ancestor of mine, Kunigunde Gerwig who married Andreas König, as her name is one of my favorites. It also works as an unusual name, but in this post, I want to highlight the names of her mother and paternal grandmother: Verena and Apollonia. They are also unusual names, but they are quite beautiful. All three generations of women were named after saints with whom I was not at all familiar.

Apollonia Zimmermann Gerwig

Unfortunately, I do not know very much about my Apollonia! I have put her and her family on my research “to do” list when I make my genealogy trip to Germany sometime in the future. I do know that she was possibly born in Maugenhard, a small town in southwest Germany on the edge of the Black Forest and very close to the borders of Switzerland and France. At some point, she married her husband, Hans Gerwig, most likely in Maugenhard, possibly about 1640. The couple had at least four sons: Paul, Conrad, Hans Casper, and Marx. I don’t know when she or her husband died or where the events occurred.

Saint Apollonia holding one of her teeth.

As you can see, I know almost nothing about her, but I do know that she was likely named after Saint Apollonia, a 3rd century Egyptian Christian who was martyred in Alexandria along with other young women during an uprising against Christians. According to tradition, all of her teeth were shattered or pulled out before she jumped into a fire and burned to death. Isn’t that just a horrendous story? I don’t know if Apollonia Gerwig had a particularly difficult life (more difficult than the average resident of Baden in the 17th century), but I do hope it was easier than Saint Apollonia’s.


Verena Jakob Gerwig

Apollonia’s oldest son, Paul, was born about 1645, and he married Verena Jakob on 25 January 1669 in either Egringen or Maugenhard. Egringen is just down the road from Maugenhard, but I have seen conflicting evidence of the marriage place. Again, research needed! Together, Paul and Verena had 7 children: Apollonia (named for Paul’s mother), Johannes, Kunigunde (my ancestress), Paul (named for his father), Verena (named for her mother), Anna, and Jakob. My source for the children’s births is the Ortsfamilienbuch, which is a transcription of birth/death/marriage records of families in specific places. It states that Kunigunde was born in Maugenhard, but I have seen other sources naming Egringen as the birthplace for all of Paul and Verena’s children. This is a classic case of needing to see the original church records and not relying on secondary sources. But whether the children were born in Egringen or Maugenhard isn’t a huge issue as I know I have the right family and the two towns were right beside one another.

Saint Verena helping the poor.

Verena was likely named after Saint Verena, who like Apollonia, was also from Egypt. She traveled to Switzerland where she performed acts of kindness and performed some miracles. She died in Bad Zurzach, Switzerland in the 4th century. Bad Zurzach is on the border of Switzerland and Germany, maybe 50 miles from Maugenhard. It is, therefore, not surprising that Verena was named after Saint Verena as she was a local saint.

I do love these unusual names, but I doubt I’d be able to convince my husband to name our future children after them!



2 thoughts on “Unusual Name(s) – Verena and Apollonia

  1. Very interesting! Thank you for sharing your research on Saint Apollonia and Saint Verena. If, by chance, your husband agrees to naming your future daughters after these women, they will probably really enjoy telling people the origins of their names! Right?! :o)


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