This Old German name is derived from a compound personal name comprising the elements "helm", a helmet and "holz", wood. This type of compound name is of ancient pre 10th Century origins, the two elements having individual meanings, but no overall significance. It can be described as an early form of double-barrelling, as in this case both "Helm" and "Holtz" are found as surnames in their own right. German hereditary surnames were, perhaps surprisingly, much later than Britain or France in achieving universal acceptance, and often as late as the 17th Century. The German "Von", meaning from, is a mark of aristocracy, and originally denoted proprietorship of a village or estate. The epicentre of the name would seem to be the province of Brandenburg, which includes Berlin. The name recordings include the following examples: Herman Ludwig Ferdinand Helmholtz, christened at Potsdam Stadt, Brandenburg, on October 7th 1821, whilst Clara Louise Helmholtz was christened at Berlin Stadt, on September 16th 1852. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Heinrich Helmholtz, which was dated October 27th 1704, marriage to Anna Catharina Gericke, at Stroebeck, Province of Sachsen, Germany, during the reign of Emperor Leopold 1 of the Holy Roman Empire, 1668 - 1705. Surnames became necessary when governments introduced personal taxation. In England this was known as Poll Tax. Throughout the centuries, surnames in every country have continued to "develop" often leading to astonishing variants of the original spelling.
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