Evolvement of the family name from Tantonville in the 1600s to present day Dontenville in 2000, is described by George Hirschfell, Vice President of The Historical Society of the Val de Ville in Alsace as - - "a phenomenon of assimilation that occurred when a name that had come down from a romance origin became absorbed by germanic influence". Because those living in Alsace experienced difficulties of a phonetic nature, they modified the prefix over time from Tanton to Donten.

Over the centuries of evolution of the name change, phonetic fluctuation and confusion have led to literally dozens of variations. The family name has been recorded in early records of the Villages of Val de Ville as:


Several factors influenced the form in which the family name was recorded on early documents. Principal among these were the origins and educational back grounds of the individual priests and officials who entered the records and the literacy of the fathers and other declarents.

In instances where the declarent of a birth or death was illiterate, the priest or public official would simply record the name phonetically as he saw fit. This resulted in variations from recorder to recorder and from village to village. Even in instances where the declarent was apparently literate this practice took place.

A specific example can be found in the recordings of the births of the seven children of Jean Michel Dontenvill and Anne-Marie Mour between 1727 and 1748. The two priests who served as Pastor of Neuve-Eglise and eight annex villages at that time recorded four different variations of the name, including Tontenville, on the seven birth records. Yet in every instance the father, who was apparently literate, affixed his signature to the document as Dontenvill.

It was not uncommon for families, through legal action or informal usage to change the spelling of their names in times of political change. The period between 1870 and 1918, for example, saw many names change from Dontenvill to Dontenwill. Dontenwill often appeared on early records when the recorder happened to be of Germanic origin.

The name Tantonville continued to appear until the mid 1700s. The name appeared as Donttenweil as early as 1660 when Jacob Donttenweil from St. Maurice married Catherine Zigler from Ville. There are instances where birth records document an individual's name as Tantonville, the marriage record showed Dontenvill, and the death record listed Dontenville.

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