Goldberg Surname Meaning, History & Origin

Goldberg Meaning
people were
obligated to take surnames in the early 19th century, they often chose
ornamental names, such as names prefixed with “Gold” or
“Rose.”  Goldberg (or “gold mountain”) was the most common “Gold” name.  Goldenberg is the Austrian variant of
Sometimes Goldberg was not the actual surname back home
and was simply chosen on arrival.  And sometimes the name Gold
or its variant changed into Gould.

Goldberg Resources on

Goldberg Ancestry

Goldbergs emigrated to America from a number of
  Germany, Russia, and Poland were the main
countries of Jewish
settlement and Yiddish culture in central and eastern Europe in the
19th century.   The Goldberg name is invariably Jewish in
America but
not necessarily.

America. The peak years for
Goldberg immigration into the United States were from 1890 to
1910.  They came mainly to the cities of the East.  New York drew
many Goldbergs, such as:

  • Hayim Goldberg, who came to America from Kovno, Lithuania in 1883
    and settled in the Lower East Side of New York – where he and his wife
    raised eight children.
  • Abraham and Celia Goldberg, who came to New York from Bialystok
    in Poland with their six children in 1906.  Abraham died within
    the year but the rest of the family settled in Brooklyn.
  • Rube
    , who arrived in New York from California in
    1907.  He became well-known for his political cartoons, which were
    sometimes controversial during World War Two.
  • and Itche
    , born in Poland, who grew up in Canada and
    then moved to New York in the 1920’s.  He was a lifelong promoter
    of Yiddish culture and was generally on the left of the political
    spectrum.  He died in New York in 2006 at the age of 102.

Some Goldbergs made it West.   David Goldberg left Russia in
1879 after the death of his father for America and initially
to Cleveland.  He then moved west and settled in Butte, Montana
he became one of the town’s prominent merchants.  Max Goldberg
from Russia made it out to California by 1916.  It was said that
he was killed there after having been hit by a horse and buggy.

arrived from Poland with his wife Rebecca in the early 1900’s, changed
his name
to Goldberg, and settled in Charleston, South Carolina.
By the 1930’s he was well-established there,
operating Goldberg’s Men’s Store on King Street, and his brother George
him.  The family back in Poland, however,
perished during the Holocaust.

Southern Africa.  
Goldbergs also made it to southern

One family history traces back to Davis Goldberg from Poland who
arrived in London with his family in the 1860’s.  His children,
however, soon uprooted themselves, took the steamer to South Africa,
and eventually settled in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe).

Another Goldberg family who had made that journey had come from Riga to
Dublin before deciding to head for South Africa in 1901.  Simon
did not care for the Cape Colony and set off for Rhodesia ten years
later.  The family story was narrated in W.E. Arnold’s 1980 book The Goldbergs of Leigh Ranch.


Goldberg Miscellany

Goldberg and Variants.  The Gold surnames in America, in their ranking of frequency, are:

  • Goldberg
    (or “gold mountain”)
  • Goldstein (or “gold stone”)
  • Goldman
    (or “gold man”)
  • Goldblatt (or “gold leaf”)
  • and simply Gold.

Goldbergs in America by Country of Origin.  Goldbergs emigrated to America from a number of countries.

Country Numbers Percent
Russia   720    46
Germany   512    32
Poland   256    16
Elsewhere    98     6

Max and Rube Goldberg.  Max Goldberg
had emigrated from Prussia as a very young man, living first in New
York during
the Civil War and then working his way west to San Francisco.  There he prospered.  With
Stetson hat from his days as a cattle-ranch owner in Arizona, he was a
well-known character in San Francisco. The city thought of itself as
young and
vigorous, without the social and class restrictions of the more
East.  Max dealt in real estate, banking,
and the turbulent frontier politics of San Francisco.
He ended up as the city’s
police and fire commissioner.

Rube was born in 1883,
the second of three sons and one daughter of Max and his wife Hannah.   His mother died when he was a young man
Max, who never remarried, raised the four children himself, forging a
family unity that lasted all through their lives.

eleven Rube began taking art lessons and
decided that he wanted to be a full-time artist.  But
his father urged him to study something
that would provide a good living.  He
reminded his son that great artists, like Da Vinci, were trained as
first.  Rube consequently took up
engineering studies.

However, he had
begun to draw cartoons and, forsaking engineering and against his
wishes, managed to secure a job as an art assistant with the San Francisco Chronicle.  From
this base his work would soon became
popular throughout the West Coast.

1907, at the age of twenty four, Rube decided to try his luck in New
York.  His father Max, now proud of Rube’s
work and
reputation in San Francisco, backed his decision.  Success
came quickly.  1909 saw the debut of his
first widely
acclaimed cartoon series, Foolish Questions.
He became a nationally-syndicated cartoonist and was soon
said to be
earning the huge sum of $100,000 a year from his drawings and books.

Itche Goldberg and Yidishe Kultur.  In secular
Yiddish circles, Itche Goldberg is best known as the editor of one of
longest-running journals of Yiddish literature, Yidishe
. He served as editor from 1964 to 2004 when he
published the journal’s final issue.

fought to keep Yidishe Kultur alive
right to the end of his life.  In an
interview in 2004 he said:

have two dreams.  One dream is that
someone will knock on the door and I will open it and they give me a
check for
$150,000 for the magazine.  Second dream
is that someone knocks at the door and I open it up and he gives me a
beef sandwich. Those are my only two dreams. I’m not asking for much.  Really, I’m not.  And
I think they’re both reachable.”

was soon to celebrate his 100th
birthday.  In his honor, a group of
Jewish musicians performed an adaptation of I. L. Peretz’s Oyb
Nit Nokh Hekher
(“If Not Even Higher”), with the libretto by
Itche Goldberg. It was one of more than twenty works that he had
written with
the composer Moyshe Rauch.

Goldberg New York Bagels.  The history
of Goldberg’s New York Kosher Bagels
dates back to the early 1900’s when a young
Polish immigrant, Isadore Goldberg, opened a little bagel shop on the
East Side of New York.  Isadore’s son
later moved the store to New Jersey.

The Goldbergs no longer own the store.
But a modern version of the original bagel shop, Goldberg
New York Bagels
, can be found in
the Jewish neighborhood of Pikesville just outside Baltimore.  In fact there are two versions of Goldberg
New York Bagels
as there is a
rival branch in Rockville,  Maryland.

The Goldbergs of Leigh Ranch.  Simon Goldberg was the pioneer who left the comforts of the Cape Colony with his family in 1912 to
new in Rhodesia.  With his family
settled in a large, rambling house in Salisbury, he
ran a store at Norton about twenty mites from town.  He loved
the countryside and soon added a 3
000 acre
farm to his store.

his eldest son, joined a firm of wholesale merchants at seventeen and
soon made
his own mark in business.   Mick
Goldberg worked out at
Penhalonga for them, later bought their business, and moved his mother,
two sisters Sarah and Rachel and four brothers, Hymie, Maurice, Bennie
and Jack
out there.

The family secured the mine concession
and built up a very successful trading store and butchery business. Because of the concession, which meant that
all the purchases by the African mine workers was to be deducted from
wages, the African name given to the Goldbergs was Magaboza,
literally meaning “credit.”

That was only the start of their
entrepreneurial efforts.  When tobacco
was introduced into Rhodesia in the 1930’s, the Goldberg brothers
bought up vast
areas of land and developed Leigh Ranch.
This for a time was the largest single unit producing tobacco in
the world.


Goldberg Names

  • Itche Goldberg, born in Poland, was a lifelong promoter of Yiddish culture in America.
  • Rube Goldberg was a creative
    American inventor and cartoonist.
  • Arthur Goldberg, born in
    Chicago, was an American statesman and jurist who served as the US
    Secretary of Labor, Supreme Court Justice, and Ambassador to the United
    Nations during the 1960’s.
  • Denis Goldberg was a South
    African political campaigner who stood up against the apartheid regime.
  • Whoopi Goldberg, born Caryn Johnson, is a popular American comedienne and actress.

Select Goldberg Numbers Today

  • 3,000 in the UK (most numerous
    in London)
  • 16,000 in America (most numerous in New York)
  • 2,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Australia)


Select Goldberg and Like Jewish Surnames

The Jews were banned from England in 1290 and did not return there until the 1650’s, sometimes in the form of Portuguese traders.  They were to make their mark as merchants and financers in London and many families prospered.  There was another larger Jewish influx in the late 1800’s.

In America the early settlement of Sephardic Jews was in Charleston, South Carolina.  In the 19th century Ashkenazi Jews started to arrive from Germany.  Later came a larger immigration from a wider Jewish diaspora.  Between 1880 and 1910 it is estimated that around two million Yiddish-speaking Jews, escaping discrimination and pogroms, arrived from the Russian empire and other parts of Eastern Europe.

Some Jewish surnames reflect ancient Biblical names, such as Cohen and Levy.  Some have come from early place-names where Jews resided, such as Dreyfus (from Trier), Halpern (from Heilbronn) and Shapiro (from Speyer).  Many more surnames came about when Ashkenazi Jews were compelled by Governments to adopt them in the early 1800’s.  The names chosen at that time were often ornamental ones – Bernstein or Goldberg or Rosenthal for example.  Then the name could change on arrival in America at Ellis Island.  And finally anti-Semitism perceived could cause further changes to conceal Jewishness.

Here are the stories of some of the Jewish surnames that you can check out here.



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