Select Adler Surname Genealogy

The surname derives from the German word adelar, a compound of adel meaning “noble” and ar meaning “eagle.” A stylized eagle was commonly used as a house sign in Germany and Austria in medieval times and Adler emerged as a surname during the 16th and 17th centuries. Adlers first appeared in church records in Viernheim outside of Mannheim in Hesse in the early 17th century.  The Adler name is also to be found in Hungary, Poland and Sweden.  However, in English-speaking lands this name has been mainly borne by Jewish immigrants and their descendants.

Adler as a Jewish name may date back to 1614 in Frankfurt. Still, the Jewish Adler name might have no specific connotation, instead developing in the 19th century as an ornamental name.

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Select Adler Ancestry

There are some 20,000 Adlers in Germany today (mainly in Hanover and Saxony) and a further 2,000 in Austria. The largest number of Adler immigrants have come from these two countries. Others have arrived from what had been the Russian Empire.  Most of those who came were Jewish.

England. The first notable Adler in England was from Hanover and was appointed.Rabbi.  Nathan Adler was appointed Chief Rabbi of Britain in 1844.  After his death in 1890 he was succeeded by his son Herman who held the post until his own death in 1911. He would appear to have had a sense of humor.

“Once he was having a lunch with the Catholic cardinal Herbert Vaughan, he was asked: ‘Now, Dr. Adler, when may I have the pleasure of helping you to some ham?’ The rabbi responded: ‘At your Eminence’s wedding.'”

The threat of Nazism brought Adlers to England as well as to America. Ota Adler arrived in 1932 from Prague to establish the family fur business in London.  He was the founder of a committee to help Jews escape Germany and start a new life in Britain. After the war he was one of the first to promote Britain’s membership of the European community.

America. Some of the earlier Adlers that came to America were German but not Jewish:

  • there were Adlers who purchased land at the Milwaukee land office in 1848 and settled in Germantown, Wisconsin before moving onto Marshfield in the same state.  Philip Adler was one of Marshfield’s early settlers in 1880.
  • Matthias Adler departed Viernheim in Hesse for New Orleans in 1852, followed by his brother Nicholas a year later. They settled in Gibson county, Indiana in the late 1850’s.
  • while John Adler came to New York around 1870 and migrated west in a covered wagon.  John first operated a meat market in Holdrege, Nebraska before he and his family homesteaded in Colorado in what was then still wilderness prairie land.

Jewish  Adlers.  Jewish Adlers arrived in the southern state of Arkansas in the 1850’s as merchants.  Simon Adler came to Batesville in 1856,  Samuel Adler to Van Buren two years later.  However, the disruption caused by the Civil War caused them to move:

  • Simon departed for Texas with his four brothers. Only Simon returned to Batesville after the war was over. He was the sole Jewish resident of the town for more than a decade. In 1891 he organized and built the People’s Savings Bank  This building, along with Adler Hall, has remained as a landmark on Batesville’s Main Street.
  • while Samuel Adler moved with his family to Philadelphia. His son Cyrus became a distinguished academic and civic leader.
    Over the course of his life he helped found the American Jewish Council, the United Synagogue of America, and the Jewish Welfare Board.

Coleman Adler had arrived in New York from Slovakia as a small boy in 1874. He moved to New Orleans in 1896 where he founded the famous Adler’s Jewelry store, a business that still thrives under
third and fourth generation Adlers today. Carl Adler meanwhile had left Germany for America in 1871 and made his way to Oregon in 1874. His son Leo made his fortune marketing magazines and newspapers across the West Coast. He was always a booster for Baker, the town in which he grew up.

Jacob Adler, a star of Yiddish theater in his native Odessa and later in London, came to New York in 1889. There he was nicknamed “the great eagle” for his performances.  Nearly all of his family went into the theater, the most famous being his daughter Sara who later taught method acting in New York and Los Angeles to, among others, Marlon Brando.

Baltimore was the home of Louis and Sadie Adler, Russian immigrants who had arrived in the 1890’s.  Their son Larry Adler became the world-renowned harmonica player. The city was also home to Benjamin and Ada Adler who had come in the 1880’s.  Ada Adler was to outlive her husband and to remain active into her nineties.

The rise of Nazism in Germany brought more Adlers to America. The famous psychotherapist Albert Adler departed Austria for America in 1935. The Austrian conductor Kurt Adler made the same journey in 1938. Erwin Adler fled Frankfurt for Bolivia, the only country that would accept him at the time. He immigrated in the 1950’s to Seattle to be reunited with his family.

Select Adler Miscellany

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

Select Adler Names

Jacob Adler from Odessa in Russia was the star of Yiddish theater, firstly in London and then in New York.
Cyrus Adler
was a Jewish American scholar, editor and community leader in the early 1900’s.
Alfred Adler, the founder of Adlerian psychology, left Austria for America in 1935.
Larry Adler
developed from vaudeville to be recognized as one of
the world’s most skilled harmonica players.  He popularized harmonica playing around the world

Select Adlers Today

  • 2,000 in the UK (most numerous in London)
  • 9,000 in America (most numerous in New York)
  • 3,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Canada)


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