Select Abraham Surname Genealogy

The name Abraham, originally Abram,was explained in Genesis 17:5 as being derived from the Hebrew av hamon goyim meaning “father of a multitude of nations.” It was widely used as a personal name by Christians as well as by Jews in medieval times. The 1086 Domesday Book in England, for instance, referred to Abraham as a priest at the established Christian church in London.

Abraham as a surname comes in a variety of spellings in Jewish and non-Jewish circles. These include Abrahim, Abramsky, Abrahamsson, Abramovitz, and even Brahms. The main spellings in the English-speaking world have been Abraham, Abrahams, Abram and Abrams (although Abram in England probably originates more from a Lancashire place name).

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England. Abraham and Abrahams have been the main spellings in England, with Abrahams (reflecting Jewish immigration) being mainly concentrated in London.  Early sightings of the name were John Abraham in Northamptonshire in 1197 and John Abraham in Bedford in 1273.

The place-name of Abram near Wigan in Lancashire gave rise to an Abram family (originally de Abram) which dated back to 1212. These Abrams continued there until 1606 when the last of the male line died.

The Abraham name later appeared in Hampshire and Cornwall:

  • an Abraham family from Botley in Hampshire has been traced back to Henry Abraham of Fordelake in 1684. Thomas Abraham of this family was transported to Tasmania in 1837.
  • while an Abraham family from Crowan in Somerset had descendants who emigrated to America.  Another Abraham family has been traced to the Talland/West Looe area in the late 18th century.

Yechiel Abrahams was an early Jewish arrival in London. His son Henry, born in London around 1795, prospered as a printer and publisher in the City. Morris Abrahams was a diamond merchant inVictorian London. His son Alfred did well from the diamond discoveries in South Africa.

Isaac Klonimus, a Jewish immigrant from Lithuania, adopted the name of Abrahams on arrival, settled in Bedford, and had three sons who made names for themselves in sports:

  • Adolphe Abrahams, the oldest who was the founder of British sports medicine.
  • Sidney (Solly) Abrahams, the next oldest who competed in the Olympic Games in 1908 and 1912 as a long jumper.
  • and Harold Abrahams, the youngest who won the 100 yards dash at the 1924 Olympic Games. His triumph was depicted in the film Chariots of Fire. Harold subsequently worked as a radio broadcaster for the BBC in athletics for no less than fifty years.

Zacharya Abramovitch departed Lithuania for London in 1908, changing his surname there to Abrahams. His son Israel became the Chief Rabbi in Cape Town, South Africa.

America. The Abraham name on entry was mostly Abraham or Abrahams. But many of the early entrants shortened their spelling to Abrams.  Abraham has predominated for the Jewish arrivals from Germany and the Russian Empire who came in the 19th century.

Among the early Abraham/Abrams were:

  • Charles Abrams, known as Abrahams, who married Sarah
    Bedell in Hempstead on Long Island in 1683.
  • William Abrahams who came to
    Charlestown, Massachusetts around the year 1700. His
    descendants there became Abrams.
  • and Henry Abraham of Cornish roots who came to Somerset county, Pennsylvania around 1750. He died there in 1828 at the grand old age of 108. Hid descendants too became Abrams.

James Abrams and his wife Mary settled in what is now Newberry county, South Carolina in 1770. Their descendants were to be found across the South. George Carter Abrams’ 1979 book Abrams Family Genealogy traced their history.

A Jewish Abrahams family was in Newport, Rhode Island as early as 1747. However, both Israel and his brother Saul appeared in the town records mainly because of their financial difficulties. Judah Abraham left his native Bavaria in 1837 for New York where he became a small shopkeeper. His son Abraham founded what became the Brooklyn department store of Abraham & Straus in 1865.

Nahim Abraham, born Nahim Malouf, came to New York from Lebanon in 1913 and settled in Canadian in the Texas Panhandle. His son Malouf, known as Oofie, made a fortune from selling oil and gas rights in the region. There are now five generations of Abrahams at Canadian.

Caribbean.  Solomon Abrahams came to Jamaica in 1745 and was recorded as owning 36 slaves in Spanish Town in 1772. He died four years later and was the first on record to be buried at the Jewish cemetery there.

The Abrahams family which came to Jamaica in the early 1800’s and settled at Tavanore in Chapelton had Jewish American origins.
Their main line went through Thomas McWhinnie Abrahams. Another line included the well-known Jamaican artist Carl Abrahams

South Africa.  Some Abrahams in South Africa have been Jewish, some mixed race.  Peter Abrahams, the novelist and journalist, was born near Johannesburg in 1919. His father James had been the son of former Ethiopian landowners who had taken him across
Europe before settling in South Africa.

Australia. Esther Abrahams was a Londoner who was transported to Australia as a convict on the First Fleet in 1787. She
later married George Johnston, briefly governor of the New South Wales colony. Her portrait hangs in the Sydney Jewish museum.

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

Select Abraham Names

Abraham Abraham was the founder of the Brooklyn department store of Abraham & Straus in 1865.  William “Mabon” Abraham began life as a coal miner in south Wales and rose to become an influential trade union leader and an MP from 1885 to 1920.  Harold Abrahams won the 100 meter gold medal in the 1924 Olympics.  Lizzie Abrahams was a trade union activist in South Africa at the time of the Apartheid repression.

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  • 13,000 in the UK (most numerous in London)
  • 19,000 in America (most numerous in New York)
  • 14,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Canada)


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