Origin and Spelling of the name Chrisman

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Chrisman (in its variant spellings) was no doubt adopted to mean "Man of Christ". When it came time to select surnames, this was no doubt a common choice, so the name almost certainly originated independently in many different locations. Therefore, there is no reason to believe that all Chrismans are related.

Researchers should not get too caught up with exact spelling, especially once you get back to the early 1800s or before. Not only have I seen a single individual's name spelled many different ways on different documents throughout his life, I have even seen at least one document where three different spellings were used for the same individual in the same document! Certainly in older documents, spelling was far more phonetic than not.

Many of the Chrisman/Crisman/Cressman lines in the U.S. came originally from the town of Pfungstadt. The Cressman family association maintains that the most faithful german spelling of the name is "Crößsmann", still used by many of the residents of Pfungstadt today. In writing the German, it is common to write "ö" as "oe", dropping the umlaut. Also, the "ß" serves as an "s", and was thus written as "Croefsman" in colonial English script, or "Croessmann" in the modern style. The attempt to translate the German to English when these immigrants reached America quickly produced a wide variety of mutations, including Chrisman, Crisman, Cressman, Croesman, and Christman. Also, the letters "C", "K", "G", and "Ch" are often interchanged when the German is translated. An identical spelling is not a good indicator that you are connected with another person, nor is a difference in spelling an indicator that you are not connected.

As one typical example of the variations in spelling, consider this case. My immigrant ancestor's name is seen spelled in records in the U.S. as "Crössmann", "Greesman", "Creesman", "Crossman", "Croesman", "Krössman", "Crösman", "Gryzeman", "Grossman", and "Croesmann". He had three sons. Descendants of the eldest son predominately use the spellings Crisman and Crissman. Desendants of the second son use Cressman. And descendants of the third son today use the spellings Chrisman and Chriesman. Despite these many spellings, these are all from the same line, from the same immigrant ancestor!

©1999-2007, Lonnie Chrisman
San Jose, CA
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