What’s in a Name


Anyone that carries the Behe name has likely been subject to the various pronunciations people come up with for our simple, two syllable name. As a result of various correspondence and research over the years, it appears the origins of the name were in Switzerland. There the spelling was Büchi.

Some with the surname appear to have migrated in the 1600’s to the state of Baden in southwest Germany, and some on to Alsace. The German spelling of the name was Büchi or Büche, and in France it was Biechi or Biechy. People in Europe that I have corresponded with speculate that the migration from Switzerland was due to the religious persecution of the Thirty Years War. I have not done enough research to offer an opinion.

The name is Germanic, and is pronounced roughly BEW (rhyming with new) – KEY (the second syllable is not a very hard sounding K). The use of the German ü, with an umlaut over the ‘u’, in English is spelled ‘eu’ – Bueche.

Emanuel Behe used the German script on his naturalization record, and on at least two other court documents. Court officials, as well as census takers, wrote it in English as it sounded to them. It is seen variously as Behe, Behee, or Behey. For his eldest child Joseph, who resided in Maryland, the name was spelled as Beakey, Beaky, and Beachey at various times.

It seems our simple little name is much more complicated than we might have thought.

UPDATE: Further information, discussed in the next chapter, reveals that our family origins were in fact in Switzerland.