In the years just
before his death in 1976, my father, Major General Thomas R. Rampy, tried
to interest me in the investigation he was
making into the origins of the Rampy family. Since he was then living in
Falls Church, Virginia, it was convenient for him to take advantage of
his proximity to the enormous body of records in the Library of Congress
and the National Archives. He was able to trace the ancestry back to Peter
Rampy in colonial South Carolina, but no farther. I was less than excited
by the information and even less anxious to spend my time searching dusty
Ten years after
my father's death, and still not the least interested in pursuing genealogical
research, I happened to visit the LDS
Library in Salt Lake City, the location of the largest and most complete collection of genealogical data
to be found anywhere in the world. While my wife searched for some information relating
to her family at the request of her aunt, I tried to kill time by hunting for Rampys. That's when the
Since that day,
we have made several trips to Salt Lake City, spent hours in the local
LDS branch libraries, visited the British
Library and Public Records Offices in London, and searched through ancient records in various cities
in Germany, including the ancestral village of Meisenheim. It has been a fascinating and rewarding
pursuit, and one that will not soon end. My only regret is that it came
too late to share with the one who would have enjoyed it so much.
In the 1950s
my father was stationed in Wiesbaden, Germany, as Comptroller of the United
States Air Forces in Europe. It is ironic
that he, who was so anxious to learn as much as possible about his roots during his later years,
at that time had no idea that just an hour's drive to the southwest his
forefathers had flourished three centuries earlier.
The Rampy name.
One of the greatest
challenges faced by the genealogist is the diversity he encounters in the
spelling of a surname. Every possible
variation must be considered, and often there is reason to question whether a particular version
truly represents the family line which is being investigated or some spurious red herring. We who
search the records for Rampy family information are among the more fortunate
investigators because our surname rather quickly stabilized with respect
to spelling, and also because that spelling appears to be traceable to
one, and only one, ancestor in America, namely Johan Nicholas Rempi, who
arrived in Charles Town (Charleston), South Carolina, in 1764.
very first relevant colonial records use "Rumpe" and "Rimben", the surname
almost immediately settled on a spelling
which began "Ram-". This could have resulted from the English interpretation
of the German pronunciation or an association with the very common Scots-Irish surname "Ramsay", or a combination
of both factors.
The surname ending
must have sounded like "-bee" or, more often, "-pee", because the spellings
in the eighteenth century German churchbooks
usually show "-by", "-py", "-pi", or "-pie", indicating a long "e" vowel sound.
In any case,
during the early 1800s we see the spelling "Rampey" preferred in South
Carolina, but "Rampy" adopted by those who moved
to Alabama in the 1830s. Those two spellings (and sometimes
"Rampee") appear to be unique
to the line which originated with Johan Nicholas. No other family appears to have adopted them,
even though their original German surnames were identical or very similar. Instead, we
find American families whose names are spelled "Rempy", "Rimby," "Rampe" and "Rempe", all originating
in Germany and probably related in some way to each other and to the Rampys, but only
those of us who descended from the Charles Town immigrant of 1764 are known as "Ramp(e)ys".
Many of the original
German surnames underwent rather drastic revision as they were anglicized
during the years before and immediately after the Revolution. For
example, the "Loyalist Claims" of 1783 list John Swillan (Zwilling), Christian
Sing (Zang), Nicholas Crane (Gream), George Weaver (Webber) and others
whose names had changed beyond recognition. The Zimmermans
became Timmermans and Schieldknechts became Shelnuts, so the
transformation from Rempi to Rampy seems relatively inconsequential.
In this narrative
the surname is generally shown as it appears in the records, while the
spelling "Rampy" has been chosen to refer to the entire body of Johan Nicholas'