The Wampler/Wampfler Family Name, Then and Now
by John E.
last revised 2/12/'04
Origins and Etymology
The name is Swiss derived from
Wandfluher which means one who comes from near Wandfluh (Sommer, 1944, &
Siegenthaler, 1937, as reported by Fred Wampler, 1986). Wandfluh is a combined
name (Wand = wall, fluh = steep mass of rock). The written records for the name
begin in the Dietmigen Valley, high in the Bernese Alps of Switzerland ( map
Wampfler from Switzerland wrote (personal communication to Ivan J.
"Wampfler is a very old name. (It) comes from the Simmental,
Bernese uplands (Berner Oberland). There is a little village today in the
Diemtigtal (a little valley b(e)side the Simmental) This village is named
Wampflen. Today (there is) an old mill and a beautiful house . The meaning of
the word Wampfler is today clearly. Wampflen means 'among the Wandfluh'. The
residents lived below a steep rock face. Wandfluh then changed to Wampflen and
then to Wampfler."
|Fred Wampler (1986) also mentions Wampflen in the Bern Canton in
Switzerland near the village of Diemtigen . He has some pictures of the small
village indicating that it had four houses (c. 1983). He says that near
Wampflen is a "gigantic rising wall of rock". He found a mention of
Wampflen as a place name as early as 1600 in a christening record in
Diemtigen. The rock wall seen here is behind the school building as
described in Fred Wampler's book (1986). The land to the right and behind
the school is said to have been Wampfler land. Picture from Dr. John M.
Another spin on the
etymology is given by Hansruedi Wampfler, also of Switzerland (personal
communication to John E. Wampler):
As far as I know, the name "Wampfler" is a location name,
corresponding to the landscape topography: In the valley of Diemtigen, there
is a place called Wampflen, where the small river seems to make a little step
down (as can be guessed from the maps). In the municipality "Meilen" in the
canton of Zurich at the lake of Zurich, there is a rivulet, which has a jump
and this place is also called "Wampflen". A local teacher had the opinion,
that this name originates from the term "Wandfluh", which means something like
mass of rocks or a wall of rocks.
In a book I found another possible
explanation: the alemannic or germanic terms "wam", "wem" or "wim" seem to
design(ate) some sort of flowing water. In Austria for example, there is for
example a city called "Wampersdorf", whose name should originate from this
root "wam". The fact, that the (two) Wampflen have to do with rivulets could
be a point for this argument.
|The Coat-of-Arms on the wall of the Lenk Public Building. Photo by
Dr. John M. Wampler. |
the town hall of Lenk in the Upper-Simmen Valley there is a family coat of arms
in the Clerk's office for Wampfler (Wampler, 1986). The immigration of
Wampfler's from the Diemtigen area to the Upper-Simmen Valley area where Lenk is
located is traced to the late 16th Century.
The family branch that leads
to America in the mid-eighteenth century immigrated to Sparsbach in the Alsace
region . Sparsbach is now in the Bas-Rhin Department
of France .
The early arrival records of the Wampfler immigrants in America indicate that
they were from the German Palatinate, the region just north of Alsace along the
Rhine. In his 1986 book, Fred Wampler states that "all
the September 29,
1741 German speaking immigrants [were classified] as Palatines." Indeed, he
traces several other Alsatian families on the same ship. Alsace was part of the
Holly Roman Empire until 1648 and became French with the Treaty of Ryswick in
1697. It remained French held until annexed to Germany in 1871. It was returned
to France in 1918, to Germany in 1940 and back to France in 1945. Fred Wampler
(1986) reports that the people there still speak German.
name, Wampfler or Wampffler, was anglisized to Wampler (also Wambler, Wamler,
etc.) during the first and second generations in America. Later arrivals seem to
have retained the Wampfler spelling. The names of 1740's immigrants who came to
America from Alsace via ship from Rotterdam to Philadelphia are found in the
various records of the time with various spellings. As Fred Wampler (1986, p.
96) notes, immigration official were not careful about proper spelling and the
immigrants themselves were "most anxious to use any spelling that fit better
into a culture dominated by English." Strassburger (1966) publishes the records
of ship's passengers for Philadelphia from that era and the carelessness of
record keeping shows that Hans Peter Wampfler and his two sons were recorded
variously as Wambler and Wampfler in different parts of the record for the ship
Lydia in 1741. Similarly, the records for Johann Christian Wampfler and his
family from the "bilander" Vernon in 1747 show spellings of Wampfler and
Wampffler. Marriage records from the First Trinity Reformed Chruch in York
County Pennsylvannia from the late 1700's have a number of entries with the
various spellings, Wampler, Wambler and Wampfler. In his search of Ship's
records, Fred Wampler (1986) reports no other records of immigrants with similar
spelling until the 1937 arrival of J. P. Wampfler and the 1845 arrival of
Michael Wampfler. However, another search of other passenger list abstracts
(Tepper, 1982 & 1986) reveals Daniel Wampler arriving in Philadelphia from
San Salvador, Brazil, on September 17, 1818, and Jaun and Lewis Wamfler ariving
from Germany at the Port of Baltimore on September 30, 1832. Naturalization
records abstracted by Tepper (1986) also record the naturalization of Michael
Wampfler from Germany in 1845.
The German Connection
There is a persistent
indication of a German connection for some parts of the family. This is not just
the confusion of the immigration records indicating all persons on their ships
being from the Palintate, but the several family legends that mention German
origins. Even Barbara S. Wampler, who researched her husband's lineage in a very
thorough way could not be certain that their line linked with the 1740
immigrants. Indeed, the family history recorded by Edward Vance Wampler (Barbara
S. Wampler, Newsletter 6 and "letter to Don") gives considerable detail about a
lineage originating in this country with the 1708-09 immigration of a Nathanial
Wampler, an officer in the German Army. Cushing (1975) in his bio of Wamplers of
Allegheny County Pennsylvania indicates that their ancestor was a German
immigrant named Jacob. There are a few Wamplers and Wampflers in Germany today.
However, the frequency of the names Wampler and Wampfler in Germany is very low
(see below). It is greater in France, particularly in Alsace, and much greater
in Switzerland. However, since Swiss mercenaries
fought throughout Europe in the 17th and 18th centuries and in the American
revolution, the question of some branches of the Wamplers in America being
descended from German as distinct from Alsatian and Swiss ancestors must be left
Where Are They Now?
Wampfler is still a
common surname in Switzerland. A white page search at
http://switchetv.switch.ch/ (2001) gave 300 listings (note, this search engine
has changed since then). A search with
http://www.directories.ch/whitepages/index.aspx shows the distribution of the
Wampfler surname is fairly uniform throughout the country. Interestingly, this
same search for the surname Wampler gives only one entry.
With a 2000 estimated population of about 7 million, assuming each listing
represents an average of 2 people with the Wampfler surname, the frequency must
be a bit less than 0.01% in Switzerland. This would make Wampfler somewhat more
prevalent in Switzerland than is Wampler in the USA (0.003% as discussed below).
A search of the Bas-Rhin Department of France in 2001 using
http://www.epita.fr:5000/11/english.html the French Electronic Phonebook on the
Web gave 13 listings for the Wampfler surname. A search of http://www.pagesjaunes.fr/pb.cgi?lang=en
(2004) gave 12 listing of Wampfler in Alsace. This is by far the most listings
of any region with a total found for France of 29. The Yahoo Factbook gives
the population of France at 59 million (estimated for July 2000) making the
frequency of the Wampfler surname something like 0.0001% using the assumption of
2 people for every phone listing.
The German White Pages search at http://www.teleauskunft.de/gave 25
listings, but only 12 were individuals (the rest being for the large
multinational firm, Wampfler AG). Four listings for Wampler were also found,
each with seemingly non-germanic given names. With a German population around 82
million, the Wampfler/Wampler surname occurs with a very low frequency in
Of the various spellings, Wampler is by far the most predominant in America.
The white pages survey map for the "Wampler" surname generated by Hamrick Software shows the name most
common in Virginia and Indiana (1:1000), then Missouri and Tennessee followed by
Ohio, Arkansas, Kansas, North Dekota and Oregon. Using the surname
search of the U.S. Census Bureau, the name Wampler is ranked 4,259 th in
frequency out of 88,799 names (or 0.003% of the surnames listed). None of the
other variants are listed.
Yahoo White Pages and E-mail searches for the
variants of the surname list the following numbers of listings (1996):
Wampler 4058 133
Wampfler 79 5
Wompler 3 0
Wambler 0 0
Wamfler 0 0
Wombler 0 0
This material is not for commercial use or
|This page maintained
||John E. Wampler
Arnoldsville, GA 30619
Dedication: These pages are dedicated to Ward Edward Wampler, Jr.
(1918-1993), who had a strong and abiding sense of