Surname Saturday: PATER

Surname – PATER

Meaning/Origin – The name PATER comes from the Latin pater, meaning “father”.  In English, it is pronounced PAY-ter or PAH-ter.  Hear it pronounced by a Polish speaker here.

Countries of Origin – The surname Pater can be found in several countries.  According to the World Names Profiler, the countries with the highest frequency per million residents are the Netherlands, with 176, and Poland with 115.  The next highest countries (and their respective frequency per million) are Luxembourg (43), France (8), Belgium (7), Canada (6), United States (6), and Germany (5).  Although Great Britain is not currently listed with a high frequency, in past centuries Pater was also considered to be a British name.

Spelling Variations – The spelling does not vary in the Netherlands, but in Poland you will find a few variations, including Patera, Paterak, Paterała, Paterek, Paterkiewicz, and Paterski. (Source: Polish Surnames: Origins and Meanings, Second Edition by William F. Hoffman)

Surname Maps – The following maps illustrate the frequency of the PATER surname in the Netherlands and Poland.  According to, there are about 1,500 people with the surname in the United States, with the heaviest concentration in Pennsylvania.

Distribution of the surname Pater in the Netherlands.

Distribution of the surname Pater in the Netherlands.

SOURCE: database,, accessed October 10, 2009.

Distribution of the Pater surname in Poland.

Distribution of the Pater surname in Poland.

SOURCE: “Mapa nazwisk” database,, accessed October 10, 2009.

Famous Individuals with the SurnameWalter Horatio Pater (4 August 1839 – 30 July 1894) was an English writer and art critic (see some of his works here at Project Gutenberg).  Jean-Baptiste Pater (29 December 1695 – 25 July 1736) was a French painter.

My Family – My Pater family comes from Poland.  My earliest ancestor so far with this name is Hilary Pater, born between 1800-1814 in Poland.  My line of descent is as follows: Jan (b. 1834, Kamieńskie Budy) > Jozef Pater (b. 21 Sep 1864, Ruda Guzowska, which later became Żyrardów) > Ludwik (Louis) (b. 24 Aug 1893, Żyrardów) > Henry (b. 25 Mar 1912, Philadelphia).  Jozef and his family immigrated to the U.S. (Philadelphia, PA) from 1905 to 1907.

A female Pater (daughter of Jozef) may have settled in New Jersey or New York with her husband and family.  The family is rumored to have cousins in Chicago as well (possibly owners of a movie theater in the 1940’s).

Based on information in the IGI, my great-grandfather’s cousins remained in Żyrardów – Jozef (son of Marcin, brother of my Jozef) died in 1942 at the age of 45, and his son Bronislaw died in 1943 at the age of 22.  I can only assume they died as a result of the war, but more research is needed about their lives and deaths.

My Research Challenges – I need to find evidence of Hilary’s birth, marriage, and death in Polish records.  He was named on his son’s marriage record, but I have not yet located his own records.  I would like to trace the name as far back as possible to determine if the family immigrated to Poland from somewhere else.  In addition, I would like to track down the descendants of my grandfather’s (Henry’s) brothers, Walter Pater and Eugene Pater (Walter used the alias Walter Miller) and fill in some missing information about my great-grandfather’s sisters and their families.

Other Pater Families – The Family Organisation Pater in the Netherlands is led by Bram Pater.  They have researched over 30,000 names in seven different Pater lines – including some in Poland (though not my own branch).  If you can read Dutch, check it out!

Surname Message Boards – There is a rather inactive message board on Ancestry here.

Miscellaneous – The American Soundex code for Pater is P360 and the Daitch-Mokotoff Soundex Code is 739000.  There are 386 individuals in the U.S. Social Security Death Index with the surname Pater (four are related to me – Elizabeth, Henry, Mae, and Eugene).

Links to other posts about my Pater family can be found here. I also have a Pater Family page with photos and more information on my particular Pater line.

This post is #1 of an ongoing series about surnames.

8 thoughts on “Surname Saturday: PATER

  1. I should have commented that in the map of Poland, that orange area, just to the right of the center, that is surrounded by green is Warsaw. My own Pater family comes from the surrounding area – just slightly southwest of there (within the green area around the orange) from Zyrardow.

  2. Thanks for the link to the Surname Map Generator for the Netherlands, Donna, which I’ve now spent some time on, trying out all of my Dutch surnames. Some interesting results. Regards, Brett

  3. WOW! This is taking the surname prompt to the highest level possible.

    An excellent article for its organizational format, pertinent information, and sources.

    Very well done! Very well written.


  4. Brett, I’ve helped a lot of folks with their genealogy, but this is probably the first time someone thanked me for helping them with their DUTCH genealogy! There’s a first time for everything!

    fM, thanks. Stay tuned for more…there’s a new surname in the works for next Saturday!

    Thanks also to Randy for choosing this for his “Best of” list for the week.

  5. My great grandfather’s name is John Pater. They lived in Chicago and he was from Koblenz , Germany I believe, but he spoke polish. He married Sokolowski.

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