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Historiography

by the Halberts of Bath, Ohio

The Tornow Coat of Arms was re-created from information officially recorded in ancient heraldic archives.  Documentation for the Tornow Coat of Arms design can be found in Rietstap Armorial General.  Heraldic artists of old developed their own unique language to describe an individual Coat of Arms.  In their language, the Arms (shield) is as follow:

"De gu. a trois marteaux d’arg., la tete en forme de croiss. verse."

When translated the arms description is:

"Red: three silver hammers, the head in the form of a crescent pointing downward."

Above the shield and helmet is the Crest which is described as:

"Trois branches d’arbre de sin."

A translation of the Crest description is:

"Three green tree branches."

Family mottos are believed to have originated as battle cries in medieval times.  A Motto was not recorded with the Tornow Coat of Arms.

Individual surnames originated for the purpose of more specific identification.  The four primary sources or second names were: occupation, location, father’s name and personal characteristics.  The surname Tornow appears to be locational in origin, and is believed to be associated with the Germans, meaning "one who came from Tornow in Pomerania." Different spellings of the same original surnames are a common occurrence.  Dictionaries of surnames indicate probable spelling variations.  The most prominent variations of Tornow are Tarnow, Tornowe, and Tarnowe.

In 1971 there were approximately 200 heads of households in the United States with the old and distinguished Tornow name.  The United States Census Bureau in 1970 estimated that there were approximately 3.1 persons per household in America which yields an approximate total of 620 people in the United States carrying the Tornow name.  Although the figure seems relatively low, it does not signify the many important contributions that individuals bearing the Tornow name have made to history.

 
Tornow Coat of Arms

Where Was Pomerania?

Pomerania was a political subdivision of Prussia on the Baltic Sea.  The the territory is now split between present day Germany and Poland.

The language: The Pomeranian language of the region, called Low German or Plattdüütsch, was brought to north central Wisconsin by early European settlers in the mid-1800s and has been passed down relatively unchanged.  Back in Europe, the language fell into disuse.  The European Union in 1999 declared it a minority language worthy of protection and preservation.

The speakers: North central Wisconsin has the most speakers of the dialect in the United States, said Don Zamzow of Schofield, a leader of the Pommerscher Verein, or Pomeranian Club.  About 200,000 people speak Plattdüütsch in Europe today.

Where is Tornow?

There are six towns in Germany by the name of Tornow. They are all in the state of Brandenburg around Berlin. We see that one town is simply named Tornow but the others are distinguished by adding the name of the larger town(s) they are near.

Name of Municipiality Zip code Land/State Lic.Pl. County
Tornow 16818 Brandenburg NP Neuruppin
Tornow b Eberswalde-Finow 16230 Brandenburg EW Eberswalde-Finow
Tornow b Gransee 16775 Brandenburg GRN Gransee
Tornow b Königs Wusterhausen 15755 Brandenburg KW Köenigs Wusterhausen
Tornow b Neustadt, Dosse 16866 Brandenburg KY Kyritz
Tornow b Prenzlau 17291 Brandenburg PZ Prenzlau

The towns are shown in red on the map. The town simply named Tornow, the one with the pin in the map, is by Tornowsee (Tornow Lake).

The state north of Brandenburg is Mecklenburg-West Pomerania (overlapping the former Pomerania). Of the six Tornow towns on today’s map of Germany, the closest one to the former Pomerania is Tornow by Prenzlau in the northeast corner of the map.

The next map shows Prenzlau, Tornow by Prenzlau, and the former Pomerania (shaded area):

It’s not clear whether there was a Tornow town in Pomerania.  If not, our ancestors may have gotten their name from Tornow by Prenzlau.