Lehman


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The surname Lehmann is of German and Swiss origin.  The northern German Lehmann, first written Lehemann and Lehenmann, initially described a feudal tenant and came to be used for a small farmer.  The Swiss and sometime southern German definition is one who lives by a lehn, a gentle slope.  Lehman was also adopted as a Jewish name.

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The Lehmann numbers today in Germany and Switzerland are approximately:
  • 100,000 in Germany  
  • and 20,000 in Switzerland.    
The German Lehmanns are mainly concentrated in the eastern part of the country in what is today Brandenburg, from Dresden in the south to Berlin in the north.  There are also Lehmanns in the Black Forest in the Ortenaukreis region in the southwest (the name Johannes Lehenmann appeared in the Wolfach charters as early as 1317). 

Included in the German numbers had once been Jewish Lehmanns, such as the court financier Behrend Lehmann of Halberstadt in the 17th century.  Other Jewish financiers such as the Rothschilds followed in his footsteps.

Early Swiss Lehmanns
came from Emmenthal in the Swiss canton of Bern. 


America
.  Lehmann generally became Lehman, although some later arrivals kept their two ns.  The split today is roughly 75% Lehman and 25% Lehmann.  There were other early spelling variants, because of the English clerks, the most common of them being Layman.

Swiss Lehmans may have come first.  Forced emigration from the Bern canton started in the 1660s and their arrival into British North America from the Rhine Palatine began in the early 1700s.  The German-speaking immigrants, including Lehmans, began to appear in Lancaster county, Pennsylvania at that time. 

The Lehman, Layman Genealogy Handbook, produced by Earl Lehman in 2006 and expanded in 2011, provides a fairly comprehensive list of early Lehman and Layman families.  These Lehmans included:
  • Hans Lehman who arrived in 1727 and settled near Lititz in Lancaster county.  His descendants have been numerous in the area.
  • Three Lehman brothers - Johannes, Christian, and Ludwig - who arrived in Pennsylvania at various times between 1727 and 1732.  They were believed to have come originally from the Bern canton area.
  • and Hans Jacob Lehman, a weaver by trade, who came with his family in 1751 and settled also in Lancaster county.  His son Joachim became known as Joachim Layman and moved to Kentucky in 1798.
Some Palatine arrivals ended up in camps in upstate New York.  Clement Lehmann from Kallstadt in the Rhine-Palatine was there in 1715 as Leman, settled in Greene county, and his family later became Layman.

Jewish.  Lehman can also be a Jewish name.  The most prominent Lehmans in America has been the Jewish Lehman Brothers which was begun by three brothers from northern Bavaria Henry who arrived in 1844, Emanuel who came three years later, and Mayer who was there by 1850.  Originally their business was a dry goods store in Alabama, but they soon moved into cotton trading. 

The youngest brother Mayer took the lead in establishing their cotton business in New York, being one of the organizers of the New York Cotton Exchange.  Under his direction, Lehman Brothers expanded into financial services.  Leadership later passed to Emanuels son Henry.  While Henry was in charge all the partners at Lehman Brothers were named Lehman.  His son Robert led the firm from 1925 to 1969.  When he died that year, Lehman Brothers passed out of family hands and few were around when the company went bankrupt in 2008.


Canada.  A number of Mennonite families emigrated from Pennsylvania to Ontario in the early 1800s.  Among them was Abraham Lehman who had married Susanna Raemer and came with her family to Markham county. Some Lehmans stayed there, some moved back to America, and Samuel and Isaac Lehman, two cousins, headed west in 1875 to British Columbia.   They formed the small rural community Mount Lehman named after them.

Australia.  In Australia, in contrast to America, the split is approximately 25% Lehman and 75% Lehmann. 

Reinhold Lehmann who arrived in South Australia in 1859 did change his name - to John Ronald Lehman.  But the descendants of Johann Gottlieb Lehmann who had come to South Australia from Brandenburg ten years earlier remained Lehmanns.  Peter Lehmann, the famous Barossa valley winemaker, was a fifth generation descendant of these early settlers.

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If you would like to read more, click on the miscellany page for further stories and accounts:


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Mayer Lehman developed Lehman Brothers into one of the major financial services companies in New York in the late 19th century. 
Herbert Lehman
served as Governor and Senator for New York over a long period between 1932 and 1956.
Peter Lehmann who died in 2013 was a legendary Australian winemaker, known as the Baron of Barossa.

Select Lehmans Today
  • 16,000 in America (most numerous in Pennsylvania) 
  • 3,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Australia)



PS.  You might want to check out the surnames page on this website.  It covers surname genealogy in this and companion websites for more than 800 surnames.

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