Mennonite Historical Society of Alberta



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I became interested in finding out more about the origin of HILDEBRAND ever since you showed me an article describing hilde or hilt as a word for sword and brand having the meaning of flame or fire. I have done some research and based on what I found, I wrote the following that serves as the home page for my family tree.

Hildebrand is a name ancient in origin and steeped in legend, mystery and history. It probably originated with a Germanic tribe called Langobardi (Longbeards) where names ending in brand were quite common. By linking the Langobardi words Hilti meaning sword or battle and brand meaning flame or burning (as in Forge) the resulting name Hildebrand meant sword of flame or flaming warrior. In time the name varied to include Hildebrandt, Hillebrand, Hiltibrand, Hadubrand and others.

The Langobardi originated around 200 A.D. in the Elbe River Valley in the area of present day Hamburg and by 300-400 A.D. they had migrated to the present day Bavaria-Austria region. In 568 A.D. they invaded Italy, sacked Rome and established their own kingdom along the Po River that bears their name to this day, Lombardy. The ballad "Das Hildebrandslied" was likely sung at court during the reign of a famous Langobardi king, Liutbrand (712-744 A.D.) One of Liutbrand's nephews was named Hildebrand. The ballad was written down by monks at Fulda Germany around 800 A.D. and survives today as the oldest manuscript of German epic poetry. The ballad relates the story of the Knight Hildebrand who deserted his wife and infant son and followed his King in military campaigns. Years later, at one of their battles, Hildebrand was chosen to duel a champion of an opposing army. During the duel, Hildebrand recognized his opponent, Hadubrand, as his estranged son. Hildebrand, being the more experienced, had Hadubrand at his mercy and was prepared to walk away and spare his son's life. Hadubrand,however, enraged by the father who had abandoned him, pressed on leaving Hildebrand no choice but to kill his own son.

Another notable mention of Hildebrand is that of a priest from Northern Italy named Hildebrand who, in 1073, was elected Pope of the Roman Catholic Church. He assumed the title Pope Gregory VII in honour of his old mentor. Another was Johan Von Hildebrand, an Austrian Army Engineer, who built famous baroque palaces including Belvedere in Vienna and The Residez of the Prince Archbishop of Wurzburg. In the mid 1500's a Hiltibrand was listed as one who fled east to escape the wrath of Emperor Charles V of the Netherlands.

Hildebrands are recorded as settlers in the Danzig region of West Prussia and among them was Peter Hildebrand of Bohnsack. Peter and his family immigrated to Russia in 1789 in response to an offer from Catherine the Great that presented the possibility for Peter to own land. As the migration of Mennonites continued, in 1803, Heinrich Hildebrand moved from the village of Kliene Wickerau in Prussia to the village of Muensterberg, Molotschna colony in Russia.

Heinrich was the great, great, great grandfather of Ed Hildebrand and Ed is the writer of an article that provided many of the foregoing events. Ed's article is titled "Hildebrand. A name for warrior heroes of mythology and pacifist Mennonites. A name for a Catholic Saint and no doubt, many sinners."

Most European surnames originated around 1000 A.D. out of necessity to distinguish "John the Miller" from "John the blacksmith" and because records were being kept by churches and organizations such as guilds and nobility. I speculate, however, that Hildebrand was a name as far back as perhaps 300 A.D. and this Family Tree is my attempt to trace the name back as far as possible and to record as complete as possible the following generations thereby giving the present and future bearers of the name Hildebrand a heritage to identify with and to provide them with a sense of belonging.

© 2007 Mennonite Historical Society of Alberta
Last Updated 23 Mar 2007

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