The Cyphert name has been recorded variously as Seivert, Seyfert, Seifert, Sauvert, Syphert,Syft, Cypher, Seywert, Cypress,Cyphers, Sifrid, Sifrit, Sifritt, Syfred, Syfrett, Syphers, Sypress, Syprers, Sanneffert,Sauffert, and even Corbett. It is assumed that the immigrating Philip Seifert spoke little or no English, and there is no reason to believe he was literate in any language. He signed the log of the passenger ship that brought him to America with an "x". Given his origins in Alsace, his own pronunciation of the name was probably closer to the French Sauvert, even though the Dutchmen at Rotterdam listed his name on the passenger records with the German spelling, Seifert. Once in the colonies, a French priest, Fr. Delvaux, spelled the name Sauffert in 1793, and Fr. Paul Erntzen, successor to Fr. Delvaux, continued the French accent in 1794 with the baptism of Susan Sauvert.
The first known use of a "Cy" spelling occurred with the listing of "Philip and Barbara Cypher" as the baptismal sponsors of Jacob Aaron, son of Thomas and Susan Aaron, born 13 February, 1816. An additional note provides a clue to the sudden change in spelling:
"The preceding entry is the last Baptismal entry written by Father Helbron. In Autumn 1815 he went to Philadelphia to consult a physician. On his return trip Father Helbron died at Carlisle, 24 April, 1816. All entries that follow were written by Rev. G.F.X. O'Brien, pastor of St. Patrick's Church, Pittsburgh. Father O'Brien attended Sportsman's Hall until 29 December, 1817, on which date Rev. Charles Maguire, who had been appointed pastor, arrived."
Father Helbron had spelled the family's name several different ways over the years, but Father O'Brien, an Irishman, consistently spelled it as Cyphert (probably reflecting his familiarity with the British names, Cipher and Cypher). In addition, the German "Grett" became Kret, Crait, and finally Crate. The Irish priest spoke--and spelled -- with a brogue! Meanwhile, the brothers who remained in Pennsylvania's eastern counties emerged with the name spelled as Seifert.
The moral of this story is that it's probably best to ignore the advertising you see for a "Cyphert Coat of Arms". All they'll do is send you German Seifert information and tell you that Cyphert is a variant spelling. It's just as accurate to say that Seifert is a variant spelling of the French Cyphert. Until someone starts to search the records in Alsace Lorraine, we'll never know how those priests might have spelled the name...and it probably varied from priest to priest there as well!
"A major complication of doing research on the family tree is that names are spelled differently at various times. Often, those whose name was being spelled could not write their own name or did not know how it should be spelled. People recording names wrote what they thought they heard and did not check to see if the name was recorded correctly. Sometimes the name may have been spelled correctly, but bad penmanship made it difficult to read. At times those who recorded the name did not speak the same language or did not write English or German or Latin in the same way.
At Goshenhoppen a priest that spoke Flemish or French or perhaps a dialect of German would translate German and Irish names into Latin for the official record. Later this record was translated to English for publication. A similar procedure occurred at Latrobe and Greensberg and their mission churches. William became Gilimus, James became Jacob, and Dennis was translated into Dionysius. Seifert through many variations turned into Cyphert. Gret, became Cred or Crete and then Crate. Aron or Aren or perhaps even Arents became Aaron. Reinsel evolved into Reinsel, Ransel, Rensel, and Ransil. However the spellings Reinsel and Ransel have been found in Germany in the 1600's.
Throughout this volume I have attempted to spell the names as they appear in the original records. Although this may cause some difficulty in understanding exactly how the record fits together, I believe that it is desirable to follow this practice in order to be helpful to future research efforts. When reading the volume, it may be best to ignore the vowels and put one's faith in the consonants."
Evolution of Seifert/Cyphert branches
Entries in the
Goshenhoppen Registers 1741-1819 show the evolution of the family's name:
Meanwhile, in the
Catholic Baptisms in Western Pennsylvania, 1799 - 1828, the name evolved as
Seyverth 1805 - 1810
Seifert 1805 and 1818
Cypher date 1815 Recorded by Fr. G.F.X. O'Brien an Irishman
1842 Philip Cypher Married Anna Denny
Crates Death Record
Benjamin Seifert 1851
Maria Elizabet Seifert 1851
Semanthee Cyphert 1852 First Spelling as Cyphert in Church Record
Philippus Seifert 1856 (born in Berks County)
Johannes Cyphert 1856
The last use of Seifert in Church Record was in 1910 for Mrs Seifert Age 91
Crates Record of
A Note on the Cypher Name
At least one branch of the Cypher family traces its lineage to Maria Cipher, who arrived in the UK in 1630 from somewhere on the continent and was probably Flemish, based on her occupation as a weaver in Gloucestershire. Maria refused to tell the local vicar the name of the father, so her daughter Jane retained the name, but spelled it Cypher. Presumably, some of the Cypher families in the U.S. are of British origin, with no link to the French/German Cyphert families except the spelling habit of their Irish priests. (Thanks to David Cypher for his family information.)
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