As promised, here is Chapter 1 from my book on the Vaught family...I hope you enjoy. If you you like it, you can purchase the entire book for just $15 by clicking HERE.
Origin of the Vaught Surname
I. What's in a name?
Family historians often encounter many forms of names and surnames in the course of their research. Over time names change; spellings change; women get married; children adopted. In order to understand one's own name, one must understand the history behind that name. So how are names "made"?
There are several methods that mankind has invented over the millennia of recorded history for identifying families of individuals. The following humble list contains but a few of the more common naming trends that researchers encounter with European ancestors.
Webster's on-line dictionary describes patronymic as: a name derived from that of the father or a paternal ancestor usually by the addition of an affix . For most of recorded history, the simplest, easiest way to name someone usually held sway, i.e., a first (and only) name.
Take for instance, ancient Ireland. When the Gaelic culture was dominant a man's name might be Conan. While today's scholar might instantly think of a sword-wielding barbarian with an Austrian accent, the ancient Gaels would have understood "Conan" to mean "wolf or hound". So perhaps this fellow's parents thought the boy moved like a wolf or was loyal, like a hunting hound. Perhaps they named the infant thus to hopefully instill in the young lad the qualities and strengths of the animal.
Thousands of years ago, a single name would suffice. If someone was looking for Conan in a certain part of Ireland, chances are they would find the right one eventually because there just weren't that many people alive as there are now.
According to the US Census Bureau, in 1,000 B.C. there were only 50 million people estimated to be alive on the planet . As time marched on, the population grew and in order to differentiate between the Conan over here or the Conan across the river Conan's father's name was added to his own. It is a simple, elegant and informative way of telling the difference between Conan ap Doughal and Conan ap Connor (who may have lived across the river). "Ap" merely means "son of". Over time, this practice changed too and now it is much more common to see Conan O'Doughal or Conan O'Conner. Again, the "O' " merely means "son of".
Occupation or Place
For those cultures or areas that did not resort to using a patronymic name to identify individuals of a family or clan, often times what resulted was another, equally simple and informative solution. One would apply his birthplace or residence as a name to distinguish himself or his family. For example, a man living in Paris but born in Brittany might call himself Jacques de Bretagne, as opposed to his neighbor, Jacques de Avignon. These names simply mean, "Jacques of Bretagne" (Brittany) and "Jacques of Avignon".
For simplicity this naming pattern was useful for a while, because in theory there were only so many Jacques born in Bretagne at any one time. However, as the populations grew and people moved from location to location, one's name may change as well. For example, if our Jacques was born in Bretagne and was known was de Bretagne, and he moved to Tours, for ease of use he may just change his name to Jacques de Tours. If there is already a Jacques living in Tours, this could get confusing so perhaps Jacques would keep his "de Bretagne" after all. It all depended on the circumstances in which our ancestors found themselves.
Another method was to call himself after his trade. "John, who lives by the river" isn't as easy to remember or say as "John the miller", which quickly became “John Miller”. Perhaps the most famous example is the humble blacksmith. "John who is the blacksmith" over time became "John the smith" who in turn became “John Smith”. Now when the tax collector came calling, it was easy for someone to see how John who lived by the river was employed as well as John who worked at the forge.
The Descriptive Name
This is perhaps the easiest of all. If there were two John's living in a valley and one had red hair and the other black, one became John the Red, the other John the Black. A tall John might become John of the "longshanks" or John of the "longstride". They might not be the easiest to recount to someone, but they were typically very easy to make up.
In France one practice that was popular among the Normans of the 11th century was called the "surnom", quite literally, on documents of the day, a second name was placed over ("sur" in French) the given name (our Jacques, for example). Instead of having to write out "Jacques de Bretagne", on official documents he was listed as Jacques and "Bretagne" would be written above.
Up until the dawn of the Middle Ages, the only well known group in Western Europe to use anything other than descriptive names, patronymic, or occupational/place names to distinguish individuals were the Romans.
When Rome threw off the yoke of its early tyrant kings and became the shining Republic known in history, typically only the upper class---the nobles---had more than one name. More often than not this was merely a given name and a descriptive name indicating something about the person or his deeds. In this way the Romans could distinguish him from the next citizen with that name.
As the population of the Republic grew, the stock of given names was not matching population growth so groups of families gathered into clans using the same familial name. In this matter, a Darius Brutus, for example, would be Darius, of the Brutus clan (or family) as opposed to Darius Julius, who belonged to the Julian clan.
Romans perfected governmental bureaucracy and at the height of the Empire, many Romans---noble and baseborn---had two, three even four names. They were the praenomen, the gens, and the cognomen.
Many people equate this with the modern practice of first, middle, and last names, but it is not exactly the case. Praenomen was the first name. The gens was the family name (our last name) and the cognomen was what we would call a nickname. Some people were known only by their cognomen and it became so popular that they used it as a gens name as well .
The Dark Ages
After the fall of Rome in the late 5th century, people in Europe quickly forgot the Roman ways they had grown accustomed to for centuries. Education, literacy, the rule of law, everything the Romans provided crumbled and drifted away on the winds of turmoil and war during the Dark Ages. So went also the practice of praenomen, gens, and cognomen. People once again grew accustomed to calling each other by patronymic, descriptive or occupational/place names. Thus was the way of the conquerors, the Franks, Goths, Visigoths, and Vandals. These Germanic peoples had no use for three or four names as the Romans.
As mentioned above, the French began to adopt the surnom practice for efficiency in records for the church and government. William, Duke of Normandy and later King of England (no last name, just occupational descriptions!) brought the practice to England and imposed on it on his nobles. However, this had little or no effect on the native Anglo-Saxons, who continued to use the old ways. Upper class Anglo-Saxons began to adopt Norman ways, perhaps as a survival tool, but for the common man out in the mud with the pigs and cattle, it mattered little what names nobles called themselves. He was John who lived by the river and that was fine by him.
The Black Death: 1348-1350
The Plague. No other two words could strike gut-wrenching fear into the heart of the bravest man in the 14th century like "the plague". Between 1348 and 1350, as any school book or website will tell you, almost 30-60% (that's upwards of 25 million people) of Europe's population died of the sickness then called The Black Death. Today we know it as bubonic plague.
Imagine: of everyone you know, 1 out of 2 friends, family and relatives are dead in a matter of days. There are stories where the people in cities were dying so fast that they couldn't be buried. Bodies piled up, rotting in the streets. Mass hysteria and a general exodus of populated and infected cities and towns was commonplace in the middle of the 14th century.
News traveled slow---often the sickness would arrive within days of someone arriving to warn people of it in neighboring regions. By then it was too late and people had already started dying in outlying areas. Whole towns were decimated or deserted in a matter of weeks.
Ask yourself: What would America, your state, your town look like if over the next week, half the people took sick and died? In modern terms that would be roughly 150 million Americans. Many places in this country would be certifiable ghost towns. Such was the scene in Europe in the second half of the 14th Century.
A fellow genealogist, researching the Taylor family has arrived at the conclusion that the Black Death was the prime motivator for people of European ancestry to adopt the French practice of surnom and apply it to everyone, not just the nobles. The idea makes sense and I believe it to be the most logical theory I've read on the subject and will adopt it here. Whether you agree or not, the dates and names don't lie.
In the last 50 years of the 14th century nearly all family surnoms---the modern Anglicized form is "surname"---were created. Again this is specifically in reference to Europeans. In Asia, the Chinese have used surnames (as we consider them) for thousands of years, by Imperial decree.
So…half the population of Europe is dead; the other half mired in grief. Suddenly something is realized by everyone. There's an awful lot of land and only half as many people left to own and work it. For nobles, this is a double edged sword.
On the one hand, it's great! Lord Bumpinbottom can now claim rights to his dead neighbor’s property. On the other hand, half the servants and serfs are dead and the survivors have realized they are now a prized commodity. They can now set a price on their labor. If no one wants to pay, they are free to move on, nearly guaranteed some noble will pay them because the upper class has very little choice anymore. This titanic power shift lurched from the hands of the upper class and aristocracy to more towards the middle. It was a complete reshaping of Medieval society and would have lasting affects to this day. For our purposes, the biggest affect is on names.
But how to keep everything from degenerating back into Dark Ages style chaos of warring factions and clan feuds erupting into wide scale conflicts? For stability, local governments must survive. Otherwise, the chiefs and warlords (i.e., knights) would be at each other’s throats in an instant, vying for more power. A central (or as central as was possible) must maintain control and order. Laws must be followed to keep society together. So what keeps a government in power? Taxes. And how do ensure taxes continue to flow into the king’s coffers after half the population is wiped out? A quite simple method was developed and implemented within two generations between 1350 and 1400. The Surname.
Let’s use the two John’s from above as an example. For tax records, the plague survivor, John, who lived by the mill and worked as a miller became John Miller. This made him easily distinguished from John the blacksmith, who became John Smith. The two men could be quickly and easily registered, recorded and taxed with little effort on the part of the sovereign.
In fact, surnames fairly explode into the records system all across Britain and Europe and Western Civilization is changed forever. Further, the powers that be decree that those newly minted surnames be inherited by future generations to keep families in order as well. It may have been a stop-gap measure to keep things together for a few years or decades, but the practice took.
II. So what about VAUGHT?
The origins of our Vaught surname have been traced to the progenitor or "founding father" of our family, Johan Paulus Vogt. The name Vogt is an occupation-name which in time became a surname adopted or imposed after the Black Death.
There is a German town called Vogt just east of Ravensburg near Lake Konstance on the Swiss/German border. The Heimatmuseum, translated as the "Folk Heritage Museum" for the Black Forest is called the Vogtsbauernhof, or "the judge's farmhouse".
The Vogtsbauernhof, in the Black Forest, Germany.
Our Vogts derive from southwestern Germany, an area that came to be known as the Palatinate during the Middle Ages and was the object of some of Europe's bloodiest wars. The Palatinate was considered to be the "Garden of Europe" and was formed before the Charlemagne created the Holy Roman Empire. The Palatinate lies between the Rhine, Neckar, and Main Rivers and was reputed to be the most fertile region of Europe. It extended over a hundred miles north and south of the three rivers, and sixty miles east and west, so while not exactly the largest section of Europe, it attracted a lot of attention for such a small size. Thus in many records in the New World, immigrants from this section of Germany are listed as Palatines or Palatinates.
Despite being known for a German name, Vogt is actually the modern form of an ancient Roman occupational title that has similarities to a lawyer, judge, sheriff and military commander. In a nutshell, the Vogt of a particular area was the enforcer of the local ruler's will and laws---a man of no mean rank.
VOGT: German: occupational name for a bailiff, farm manager, or other person with supervisory authority, Middle High German voget, Late Latin vocatus, from Latin advocatus, past participle of advocare ‘to call upon (to help)’. The term originally denoted someone who appeared before a court on behalf of some party not permitted to make direct representations, often an ecclesiastical body which was not supposed to have any dealings with temporal authorities.
It is logical that after the fall of Rome, the Germans, who never had been conquered by Rome's legions would try to grasp some of the fading glory of that ancient civilization and make it their own. This happened all across Gaul and Britain when the Roman standard fell to the ground. Those who had known civilized life longed for the old days and tried hard to hang on to Roman ways.
People living in the barbarian occupied areas---like Germany---saw the difference a civilized life could mean and tried to adopt Roman ways. Much of the wisdom of ancient Rome disappeared into the twilight as the Dark Ages began in the late 400s AD. In the aftermath of the Germanic conquest of the Western Roman Empire, skills such as building structures with concrete, the science of aqueducts, and making clear glass windows vanished for a thousand years. Most of those skills and sets of knowledge would not be "rediscovered" until the Renaissance (1400-1600 AD) and the Industrial Revolution (1800s).
One Roman concept the conquering Germans evidently latched onto was the term advocatus. Today, the term is still used in our legal system: an advocate is a lawyer or other representative of someone (usually involved in a lawsuit, but one can advocate any goal, idea, plan, or thing).
As the dying embers of the light that was once Rome faded into obscurity and the Dark Ages gripped Europe in a mailed fist, those who had been called upon to help or to enforce the local rulers will were known informally as the vocatus. Perhaps to impart a bit of legitimacy to the rulers overlordship, a Roman term was used to keep the population in check. Over time the pure Roman term was bastardized and these men were called the voget and finally they became the vogt as the Dark Ages came to a reluctant end and the Middle Ages arrived.
In the 10th Century AD, the title of Vogt was solidified as the proctor of the church in civil affairs and presided over the chief court---usually a local nobleman such as a Baron. Therefore we can assume that to hold the office of "Vogt" for the town or village one had to be a clergyman or a local judge or someone of import. This is entirely reasonable, as in the Middle Ages the most learned (and therefore qualified to be a judge of written laws) men to be found were found in the Church.
In German, the name is pronounced as FO:KT. The German pronunciation of "O:" has no clear cut English equivalent sound, but is closest to the O in the English word low.
In small cities and towns in southern Germany, there were three branches of government. Things pertaining to issues of religion were decided by the bishop, appointed by the church hierarchy. Things pertaining to matters of taxes and armies were decided by the Herzog, or Duke, appointed by the King. Things pertaining to legal matters were decided by the Vogt, or the judge, also appointed by the King. Because court was often held in the Vogt's house, he often had the largest house in the area.
Actually the scope of what this administration rank meant is much wider than is stated above, as the scope of the duties and jurisdictions that came with it varied from state to state. Germany had been a patchwork of some 302 or so states. In some of them, they had no Vogts, but used other terms instead. Those who are interested in the history of Germany and Prussia may also find the term "drost." A Drost had responsibilities similar to a "Vogt" but was more like a mayor or overseer than a judge. A Drost had to care for the administration of a principality or a part of a principality and he was appointed directly by the principal, normally the Herzog or Duke. The function of a drost is similar to a Landrat today.
A Vogt also was involved in the administrative affairs but more in the legal aspects of governance. Vogts were something like lawyers, and acted principally as advocates of the Duke. In a Catholic area like Cappeln and Essen (Oldbg.) Vogts could be lawyers of the church as well.
The vast range or scope of the meaning for the term "Vogt" is difficult to define. The Vogt in Theodor Storm's book, Der Schimmelreiter, was the superior in all matters that related to the sea coast fortification against high waters ... Deich-Vogt ... In the Original German version of the story of William Tell (the fellow who shot the apple off his son's head), it was an "evil" Vogt who made poor William do that! Oh well, every family has a black sheep or two. The Vogt in William Tell had much power, as he was more a regions, not just a towns, administrator. Often, the term "vogt" is combined with another German word that describes what the "Vogt" is responsible for. Examples are: Deichvogt (Deich-dike, seawall) as stated above, Stadtvogt (Stadt=town, city), Landvogt (Land=country [not town, city]), Gerichtsvogt (Gericht=court of law), and Marktvogt (Markt=market, market-place). The term "Vogt" is used in German in connection with persons who are inspectors, surveyors, or the manager of many types of institutions such as churches, orphanages, and jails.
The early to mid 18th Century saw the final bloody results of the great wars of the 17th Century and the destruction that was wrought upon the Palatine. The effect was horrendous. Whole regions of Germany were completely deserted; entire towns killed or run off during the wars. Crops scavenged by marauding armies or left to wilt untended by farmers run off their lands or killed. The plague of war visited the Palatinate for generation after weary, bloodied generation.
It is easy to imagine many German families, their lands ravaged by passing armies, sons killed in combat, quite simply had enough and decided to make a new life in the New World. During the beginning of the great migratory waves of Germans to America, many German names, including Vogt, were commonly misunderstood by English clerks and other recorders of public information.
This is most evident by looking at Johan Paulus Vogt's second born son, Johan Gasper Vogt. All of Johan Gasper's children were named Faught, due to a clerical error when their names were entered into the county records. In German, the "v" is pronounced like an "f" and vice-versa. So a German immigrant, standing before an English speaking magistrate in a foreign land, when prompted for his name proudly says "My name is Johan Gasper Vogt," the clerk hears "Fott" and records the name as best he could: Faught. Thus, over time, our original Vogt was commonly misspelled as Vaught, Vought, Faught, Fought, Vault, Vaux, and Vaut, just to name a few.
The name, though changed from its ancient Roman roots once more, blossomed and thrived in the New World. From the old settlement in Virginia, the Vaught name spread west. Wythe County, Virginia, along the border with West Virginia, was host to Vaught's Mill Creek, which is a tributary of Reed Creek, a tributary itself of the New River on the banks of which the Vaught family moved in 1772 and lived throughout the American Revolution.
Further west and south through the Cumberland Gap is Pulaski County, Kentucky, where in Somerset, the county seat, there are numerous roads named after the Vaught family. For instance, there is a Vaught Lane, on the eastern side of the city, and almost due north of town is a road that was called Vaught Cemetery Road. It is along this road that the Old Stephen Vaught Farm is located, where the remains of Johan Gasper Vaught are believed to be buried.
Just down the road from the old farm is Vaught Bridge Lane, which crosses Pitman's Creek, the stream that flowed through the hilly countryside that once belonged to the Vaught's in the mid-1800s. About three miles further west, one finds Vaught Ridge Road, running along the top of Vaught Ridge, just outside of Science Hill, Kentucky. Kentucky remains the location of the highest concentration of Vaught's in the country found to date. But it is by no means the end of the expansion of the Vaught name in America.
North, into Indiana, brings us to the next large homestead of our family, Johnson and Shelby Counties. It was here in the mid-1800s that the Vaught's moved from both Wythe County, Virginia, and Pulaski County, Kentucky. In Franklin, the county seat of Johnson County, there is a Vaught Street as well. From there, the family branched into central Florida, the other southern states, Texas and states to the west.
Today, the Vaught surname is carried by tens of thousands of people, all over the country. There are bodies of water named after Johan Paulus Vogt and his family, and there are roads in many cities from the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, to Indiana that bear the name of Vaught. Hills in Kentucky and even a mountain in the Glacier National Forest is named for the Vaught family name.
From Rome to America, for over 2,000 years our name has endured. We have witnessed the fall of Rome, the rampaging of Attila the Hun through Europe, the rise of Charlemagne, and the terror of the Vikings. Our family in Germany would have heard of the Norman conquest of England and at least one of our ancestors would later survive the Black Death. We fought our way through famine, war and disease all through the 17th Century in order hazard the perilous ocean crossing on leaky ships to breathe the sweet air of freedom on the shores of the New World.
The Vogt name has had quite a run through history....but this is only the beginning of the story.
 Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary. Web. 27 September, 2010.
 International Programs, United States Census Bureau. Web. 27 September, 2010.
 The Taylor Family Genes Project. 27 August, 2010. Web. 27 September, 2010.
 A sterling example is one just about everyone knows. Gaius Julius Caesar. Many people assume because in popular culture everyone knows this man simply as "Caesar" that this must be his last name, because "that's how we do it today". Not so. In ancient Rome, the order of the names was similar but not quite exactly as it is today. The praenomen (Latin for "first name" or "given name") was Gaius. His gens (Latin for "family", or "clan"), is Julius. So he is Gaius Julius, Gaius of the Julian clan (which is itself another way of saying Gaius, of the family of Julius---in this case at the dawn of the Julian clan there was a man named Julius and all his descendants decided to take his first name as their "last" name). Caesar is his cognomen (Latin for "familiar" or "known" name). Caesar is derived from the Latin word caesaries, which means "hair" or "head of hair". Caesar was famous for his hair in his youth and famous for not having any later in life. However, by Julius Caesar's time the cognomen Caesar had also become a sort of gens. There was a whole clan within the Julian clan that went by the name Caesar, including his own father. So one may conclude that the cognomen Caesar (who was bald) used was really named for the first Caesar who was born with a head of thick hair.
 See: http://freepages.misc.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~taylorydna/surname-theory.shtml for an excellent theory on this matter written by a fellow genealogist. He was researching the Taylor family arrived at the conclusion that the Black Death was the prime motivator for people of European ancestry to adopt the French practice of surnom and apply it to everyone, not just the nobles. The idea makes a great deal of sense and I believe it to be the most logical theory I've read on the subject and will adopt it here.
 China-Vista. The Origin of Chinese Surnames. 1996. Web. 27 September, 2010.
There are other Vogt lines but none have been connected to ours other than in similarity of the surname, which in German speaking countries is the equivalent of Smith in America--ie, very popular.
 The most famous occupation-name in America is Smith. That is, a man that was a blacksmith or silversmith.
 This place is very much like our Colonial Williamsburg in Williamsburg, Virginia. A working historical center. For more information, see the official website (English version): http://en.vogtsbauernhof.org/
 Dictionary of American Family Names,
Press, ISBN 0-19-508137-4 Oxford University
 In fact, Germany was known in Roman times as Liber Germania...Free Germany, because they were never conquered properly like other areas such as Britain or Gaul (France).
 Vogt, Eric William, The Vogt Name...It's Origins. 21 May, 1998. Web. 27 September, 2010.
 That's right, Vaught is another clerical error that was never fixed! The only solution I can see is that when someone recorded Johan Paulus Vogt's name he must have seen something or spelled it so that the clerk who probably wanted to write "Faught" like Gasper, changed it to Vaught instead.
 The Vaught Farm was recently bought by a man named Dutton who apparently decided to change the name of the road to Dutton Cemetery Road.
 Followed closely by Indiana and Virginia.