The name Helmer certainly does exist as a last name, e.g. in Germany and the USA. However, until recently I never came across someone whose first name is Helmer. Therefore, for a long time I thought that my first name was unique. But now, we have internet. What a blessing. All my dreams are smashed to pieces. In just a couple of seconds I already found some people who have the same first name. Most of them are Scandinavian, but on WWW I also found a Dutch Helmer that lived long ago (1822-1897): Helmer Molema.

Some information about Helmer Molema in Dutch:

Helmer Molema (1822-1897) was schoolmeester, koster, organist en voorzanger in Warffum. Hij werd bekend om zijn “Woordenboek der Groningsche Volkstaal in de 19e eeuw” dat in 1887 werd uitgegeven. Er is een publicatie verschenen naar aanleiding van de herdenking van de 100ste sterfdag van Helmer Molema: Helmer Molema: een schoolmeester maakt een woordenboek. Het boekje is geschreven door H. Feenstra en S.J.H. Reker en is uitgegeven in maart 1997 door uitgeverij Profiel uit Bedum (ISBN: 90 5294 150 5). Tevens was er in 1997 een tentoonstelling over Helmer Molema in Warffum.

Lately, I’ve also received a couple of e-mails from Helmers (i.e. people whose first name is Helmer). Some from abroad: the USA, Denmark, Mexico and Germany. And I’ve received e-mails from 5 other Dutchmen whose first name is Helmer. So, there are at least 6 Dutch Helmers.

Does anybody know where the name Helmer comes from, or what it means?

On 3 Nov. 1999 Helmer Ness mailed me the following information on the origin of name Helmer:

The name Helmer originated with the Vikings when they sailed their ships to various parts of the world. The man whose responsibility it was to keep the ship on course and safely reach their destination was the man at the helm. He was known as the helmer, as in lead-er. The term is still used today by some people in refering to the person in charge, as the helmer of the production. The name is fairly common in Minnesota and is of Norweigen origin.

On 22 Aug. 2001 Maurice Siegers send me an e-mail with a lot of information on the name Helmer:

Gender: Male
Explanation: Frisian/Groninger name (North Netherlands); the first part can mean HELM= cover, protector, helmet, HILD= battle or HAIL= greet/salute and the second part MAR/MER= famous or strong, a so called Strong Protector. It can also be possible that in shipping the name HELMER meaned: tillerman, the man at the helm.
Also in Scandinavia the name is used: Helmer, Helmert, Hjalmar, an old Viking name, meaning the same as the Frisian/Groninger name HELMER.
Even in the northern parts of Germany the name is written as Hil(l)mer (often Hamburg), Hil(l)mers, Hel(l)mer, Hel(l)mers= Hilmar=Hildemar (famous warrior). HILMAR is in North Germany/East Friesland a very beloved first name. In the Southern part of Germany (Bavaria, Austria) the name HELMER has a different meaning, it means helmet-smith (Helmschmied).
In my family as well the name HELMER frequently appeared, especially in Sappemeer (province of Groningen/the Netherlands) in the 17th/18th century, but only in combination with the name SYGER, for example Syger Helmers being the father’s name, Helmer Sygers being the son’s name and so on. The reason why is that we didn’t have a family name yet, but from 1811 on by decrete of Napoleon the last name SIEGERS was officially accepted. For other parts of the family however, the last name HELMERS was officially accepted.

On 25 Feb. 2002 Ingunn Amdal told me about the Norwegian site http://www.ssb.no/navn_en/.

“On this site you can check how frequent a name is in Norway: “Would you like to know how common your name is in Norway? The maximum search is two first names, no middle names. A search for both a first name and last name might take some time, especially if the combination is uncommon. The figures are per 01.01.2001.”
The results for the name “Helmer Strik” were (on 25-02-2002):
- There is 219 with Helmer as their first name.
- There is 110 with Helmer as their only first name.
- There is 11 with Helmer as last name.
- There is three or less with Helmer as their first name, and Strik as last name.
Since three is the lowest number given (!?), there probably are no Helmer Striks in Norway.”

On 26 Nov. 2002 Gerrit Bloothooft mailed me some (pointers to) information (all in Dutch):

“Over de betekenis van je naam had je het Voornamenboek kunnen raadplegen. Over de verspreiding ervan kan ik je nog vertellen dat er tussen 1983 en 2001 wel 34 baby’s de naam Helmer kregen (en 15 Helmert, een meisje Helmertina en een meisje Helmertine). Deze 34 baby’s wonen in NH (3), ZH (11), NB (2), Gl (6), O (3), F (6), Gr (3). En over vroeger, onder de AOW’ers, komt 16 maal Helmer, 24 maal Helmert, en dan nog vrouwen Helmerdina (2), Helmerdine (1), Helmertina (1) en Helmertje (5) voor. Maar Helmer Strik is vast uniek.”

Verder vertelde hij me dat als je op http://www.meertens.knaw.nl/ Onder ‘Databanken’ klikt op ‘Voornamen’ je terecht komt op http://www.meertens.nl/voornamen/VNB/, waar je ‘Helmer’ kunt intypen. Het resultaat is:

  • Helmer
  • Geslacht: m
  • Verklaring: Fri. en Gron. naam. Het eerste lid kan Helm- `bedekker, beschermer, helm’ (zie -helm-) zijn of hild- `strijd’ (zie -hild-); ook Heil- `geluk’ is niet uitgesloten (zie heil-). Het tweede lid is -mar `vermaard, beroemd’ (zie -mar) of -hard `sterk, stevig’ (zie -hard-).

Alright, now I’m convinced that Helmer is not a unique first name. But, maybe ‘Helmer Strik’ is a unique name. Any Helmer Striks out there?