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The name "Nemelka"

The name “Nemelka” is very unique.  Anybody named Nemelka who lives in the USA is very closely related to anyone else in the US named Nemelka.  But where did the name come from and what does it mean?  That question has baffled family members for years. 

Research and family tradition both suggest that the name “Nemelka” is a Germanized name of West Slavic (Polish, Czech, Slovak, Sorbian) origin. 

Carl Alois Nemelka told his children and grandchildren that the Nemelka family originated in a small town in Bohemia (Czech Republic); that the name of the small town where the Nemelka family originates was named Nemelkau (German) or Nemilkov (Czech); and that a female Nemelka’s last name would be Nemelkova or Nemilkova.    Carl lived in Germany before emmigrating to the US, and since the family genealogy records show frequent intermarriage with families of German descent, it is likely that the family originated in the "Sudentenland" area of Bohemia.    

Research has been conducted on at least three occasions to attempt to shed further light on our origins, but none has been completely successful.   

Research conducted in the early 80’s revealed that there are two possible explanations as to the origin of the name Nemelka and its meaning.  One possibility is that the "melka" portion is derived from a verb meaning “to grind” or “to mill.” The second and perhaps more likely possibility is that it comes from an old Czech personal name “Namil,” which belongs to a group of so called “protective names.”  These names were supposed to protect its bearer from failure, bad luck, and the power of evil spirits, something that would be highly desirable in medieval Europe.  

Additional research conducted in the late 90’s once again brought up the idea of the name being derived from “to mill.”   One reason the researcher seemed to prefer this explanation is that he had also been doing genealogical research and found that the earliest known “Nemelka” on record owned a mill.  “melka” in Czech means to mill.  “ne” means to not be very good at something.   Therefore, under this explanation the name Nemelka would be equivalent to “a lowsy miller.” 

As amusing as this explanation is, it is very unlikely that someone trying to make a living as a miller would take a name that means “a lowsy miller.”   That’s not exactly good for business.   It seems more likely that the name is derived from the old Czech personal name “Namil” as mentioned in the original research.  This was reinforced to me a few years ago when I received a call from a business colleague named Tom Pavelka.    Shortly after we met he mentioned to me that he, too, has Slavik origins.   He said he noticed that his name and my name are constructed in the same way.  He explained that his ancestry is Slovak, and that his Grandparents came to America from Slovakia.  He explained that most people who came to America with his name, Pavelka, had translated it into the English equivalent, but that his ancestors had chosen to keep their original name and he thought my ancestors chose to do the same thing.  He explained that “Pavel”, in English, means Paul, and that “ka” means “son of.”  So his name, Pavelka, when translated into English, is Paulson.    

Using his explanation, Nemelka translated into English would mean _____son, with the blank filled in with the English equivalent of Nemel or Nemil.  But as far as I can tell, there is no English equivalent to those names, so Nemelson or Nemilson is as close as one can get to an English form of the name.  I have a feeling most of us would rather stick with Nemelka.    

The original research regarding the origins of the name revealed that there are two small towns in The Czech Republic which once had the name "Nemelkau" (German; also sometimes spelled "Nemilkau") and “Nemilkov” (Czech).   (see the page 'The town of "Nemelkau" finally found'

“Nemelkau” apparently means “Nemelka’s yard or property.”  We have been told by researchers that the German town name “Nemelkau” was valid as an official name alongside its Czech equivalent “Nemilkov” until 1945.   Of the two known towns, one was in the District of Most in Czechoslovakia, about 7 km southwest of Most and the other was in the District of Klatovy, about 15 km south southeast of Klatov.   At the time the research was done, there was speculation that our ancestors probably came from the community near Most, which until the year 1945 had Germans as its main population.  

In summary and considering all of the evidence, here are my general conclusions regarding the origins and meaning of the name “Nemelka”

-- Nemel (German) = Nemil (Czech) = a man's name (granting him protection from harm)

-- Nemelka (German) = Nemilka (Czech) = son of Nemel (Nemil)

-- Nemelkova (German) = Nemilkova (Czech) = daughter of Nemel (Nemil)

-- Nemelkau or Nemilkau (German) = Nemilkov (Czech) = Nemelka's yard, property, or village

-- The deeper meaning of the name Nemelka (Nemilka) likely = “a protected son or daughter.”  

Anthony (Tony) Nemelka