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VOGT Family Crest and Name Origins

One of many VOGT coats of arms

One VOGT Family Crest We Have Come Across....


The VOGT surname is very common in Germany and Austria (it's also not uncommon in USA; in a US Bureau of Census listing of the 88,000 most common surnames from the 1990 census, VOGT was #1,963, and in the 2000 census it had risen to #1,863!). We spent 4 years living in southern Germany (Stuttgart), and the listing for VOGT goes on for 3-4 pages in that city's phone book.  In German, its pronounced "FOAKT" (trying desperately to phonetically spell it), with a slightly exaggerated emphasis on the "F" sound, followed by a sound that is best mimicked by the English word "OAK," and then a clipped "T" on the end.

VOGT is an occupational name.  As early as the 10th century AD, there were often three officials who governed Episcopal cities and towns*.   The royal official was appointed by the king and ruled over governmental things (taxes, treaties, etc).  He often held the title of duke (in German, Herzog).   The religious official was appointed by the Pope or Cardinal, was a Bishop or something similar, and ruled in matters religious. The civil official, sometimes elected and sometimes appointed by the king, ruled in civil disputes and matters of law and punishment, and was called the VOGT. Therefore, a VOGT was like a Civil Judge.

Interesting Aside #1  Because the VOGT held court in his house, it was often the largest house in the area.  In deference to that, the very popular and vast outdoor living-history cultural museum in the Black Forest of Germany (sort of like an equivalent to Plimoth Plantation in MA or Colonial Williamsburg in VA) is named "The Judge's Farmhouse"  or in German, the VOGTSBAURNHOF.

Interesting Aside #2 If you can find a copy of the story of William Tell (Wilhelm Tell - the guy who was forced to shoot an apple off his son's head with a bow and arrow) in the original German, you'll see that the evil sheriff who forced him to do such a dangerous thing was actually the evil VOGT.



* Davis, Harry; A Short History of German Place Names, Atlantik-Brücke e.V., 1988




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