Kaiser Surname Genealogy

Kaiser surname derived from the old High German keiser,
meaning “emperor,” which itself came
from the Latin imperial title Caesar.
The medieval surname was probably occupational, either for a
servant in
the Emperor’s household or for an actor who played the part of an
Emperor. It could also have been a
nickname for a
person with an imperious manner! Indeed der Kaiser has been the nickname of
Franz Beckenbauer, the great player, coach and manager of the German
The Kaiser spelling is most common in south Germany and also appears in
Austria and Switzerland. Kayser crops up
in Luxemburg primarily. De Keyser is the
Flemish version, mostly found in Belgium; while Keizer is the Dutch
today. The main American spellings have
been Kaiser,
Kiser, Keyser, and

Kaiser Resources on

Kaiser Ancestry

number some 85,000 in Germany today, with a further 15,000
in Austria and Switzerland. There are
6,000 de Keysers in Belgium and another 6,000 Keizers in

England. Neither Kaiser nor its
variant names have
been at all common in England (although one Keyser did emigrate from
to America in the 17th century).

A Belgian from Ghent, Polydore de Keyser, made his mark on
Victorian London. He had arrived in
London in the 1840’s and soon founded the Royal Hotel that was to
famous. He ran it until 1887.
At that time he was knighted and elected Lord
Mayor of London, the first Catholic to hold that honor since the
Reformation. Jenny Kaiser was a
well-known Yiddish actress in London in the early 1900’s.

The Keyser and Kiser
names appeared first in America, followed by Kaiser.

Keysers. George Keyser who came to Lynn, Massachusetts
in 1638 was in fact from England. He and
his son John were tanners. Later the
name became Kezar and a branch moved north to New Hampshire. However, the main Keyser arrivals in America
were of Dutch or German extraction.

from a Dutch Mennonite
family in Amsterdam, came to Germantown in Pennsylvania in 1688 at the
invitation of William Penn.

6205 on Main Street was built by Dirck Keyser
in 1738. There is a tradition that this
was the first two-story house erected in Germantown.
‘DK 1738’ was cut in the stones on the front
of the house alongside one of the windows.”

His descendants remained in
Germantown for many generations. One
branch settled in Baltimore where William Keyser was an executive with
Baltimore & Ohio Railroad in the 19th century.
Peter Keyser was director of the Philadelphia
Eye and Ear Infirmary in the 1870’s.
Charles Keyser’s 1888 book The
Keyser Family
recounted the history

Keyser arrived in Philadelphia from Wurttemberg
in Germany in 1749. He came as a soldier
to fight for the British in the French and Indian wars.
Later he made his home at the mouth of the
Hawkshull river in Shenandoah county, Virginia.
He died there in 1774.

“In 1876 his grave was
opened by Charles Keyser, one of his grandsons, and other Keyser
relatives. The skull, teeth and hair
were found to be in a wonderful state of preservation after having been
102 years.”

Meanwhile Johannes Keyser from Bavaria had made his way
to the
Schoharie valley
New York around the year 1710. These
Keysers were among the early settlers of what became a German community
there. Indeed, Maria Keyser married its
first German
minister, the Rev. Peter Sommer, who arrived there in 1743. On the male side there were three generations
of Barent Keysers. Abraham Keyser was the
sheriff of Schoharie county from 1815 to 1819.

Another Keyser line seems to have
begun with Joseph Keyser, a farmer at Alexandria in New Hampshire in
the early
1800’s. His descendant Frank Ray Keyser
Sr. moved from
New Hampshire to Vermont in the 1920’s and became its Supreme Court
Justice. F. Ray Keyser Jr. was Governor
of Vermont in 1961 and Ray Sr. had the unique experience of
administering the oath of
office to his son. Ray Sr. held cases
until he was 90 and lived to be 102.

Kisers. Many of the Kiser families
in America trace
their ancestry back to Michael and Mary Kiser from Germany who were
married in
Bucks county, Pennsylvania in the 1750’s.
Thirty years later they moved to the Shenandoah valley in
Virginia. Many of their descendants
remained in
Rockingham county, Virginia. Valentine
Kiser migrated to Tennessee and his descendants were to be found in
Missouri and Arkansas. The number of
these Kisers today are thought to be in excess of 25,000.

Kaisers. Kaisers did
not really start to appear in America
until the 1840’s. They came from Germany
and Switzerland mainly and usually headed for the Midwest.
Among their number were:

  • Herman
    and Elizabeth Kaiser from Hanover in
    Germany, arriving in the late 1840’s, who made their home in Clayton
  • Gerhard
    and Anna Kaiser who left
    the home near Koln in Germany in 1851 for Ohio before finally settling
    Washington county, Wisconsin.
  • Eckhardt
    Kaiser from Hesse in Germany who came to Walton, Cass county, Indiana
    in 1854
    and started the Kaiser farm there. His
    great grandson Russell Kaiser was the town treasurer from 1920 to
  • Andreas Kaiser from the Rhine
    Palatine in Germany who came with his family around 1856. They
    made their home in Marathon county,
    Wisconsin. He died there in 1897 at the ripe age of
  • and Lucien Kaiser
    who arrived
    with his
    parents from Switzerland in 1869 to farm in northern Michigan.

Kaiser from Hesse in Germany
arrived in 1872 and made his home in upstate New York.
He was a shoemaker. His son Henry
J. Kaiser
, born ten years later, headed to the West Coast in
where he
started a construction company. His
business began to boom in the 1930’s when his firm was one of the prime
contractors for the giant dams that were being built there. However, he is best remembered as the
shipbuilder of World War Two where his shipyard in Richmond, California
out Liberty ships in record time.

Kaiser in America can be Jewish. An early
example was Alois Kaiser from
Hungary who came to Baltimore in 1866 where he was appointed the cantor
at the
Oheb Shalom congregation. Leon Kaiser,
born in Brooklyn in 1884, was a highly esteemed New York educator after
Kaiser Park in Brooklyn was named. And
Herman Kaiser fled from the Nazis in Germany in 1935 and made his home
Oklahoma. His son George Kaiser grew rich
oil and banking and is one of the world’s biggest philanthropists today.

The Kaiser name in Nova Scotia dates from the 1750’s when Johann
Kaiser came to Lunenburg with his family from Hesse in Germany as one
of its
early settlers. Kaiser, sometimes Keizer
and sometimes other spellings, has remained part of the town since that
time. A descendant Sherry-Anne Comeau
has compiled a book of the family history.

Kaiser Miscellany

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

Kaiser Names


was an industrialist known
as the father of modern American shipbuilding. He established the
shipyards in Richmond, California which built the Liberty ships during
War Two.
George Kaiser
, the son
of a Jewish businessman who fled the Nazis, developed his oil
banking business in Oklahoma. He became
one of the richest men in America and is the third most generous in
terms of philanthropy

Select Kaisers Today

  • 30,000 in America (most numerous in Ohio)
  • 3,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Canada)




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