Klein Surname Meaning, History & Origin

Select Klein Meaning 
is the German and Dutch name for “small,” often used to designate the
younger person in the family. In Germany
it had come to be used by the
13th century
as a family name. The
Yiddish equivalent is kleyn. Germans
and Jews both brought the name to
Name variants have been Kline
and Cline (although Cline in America will sometimes have come from the

Klein Resources on

Klein Ancestry

The Klein numbers in Germany total some 140,000 today. The name is most common in the western part
of the country, as well as in Luxemburg and Alsace Lorraine.

America. Kleins immigrated
to America but during the 18th century they often
anglicized their name to Kline or Cline.
This was the case with the Kleins from Alsace Lorraine that
migrated to
Pennsylvania and North Carolina and were captured in George Cline’s
2003 book The Cline Families of North Carolina.

Other early presences were:

  • Hieronymous
    Kline who left New York about 1710 and was among
    the earliest Palatinate settlers in New Jersey. Some
    records show that he was the great grandson of
    Jan Cornelisson Klyn who came over from Holland to New Amsterdam about
  • and Martinus Cline who
    was born
    in the Mohawk
    valley in upstate New York of German immigrant parents in 1742. Adam Kline started a knitted goods factory in
    this area in the 1850’s and later served as a state senator.

The 1920 census
showed Klines clustered
in Pennsylvania where there had been early immigration, Kleins in New
where immigration occurred later, and Clines more widely spread

Among later Klein arrivals were:

  • Mathias
    who came to Chicago from the Rhine Palatinate in
    1855. He started Klein Tools there which still flourishes as a
    company under the fifth generation of Kleins.
  • and Max Klein who arrived from Bavaria in 1859, fought on the
    Union side in the Civil War, and ended up in Pittsburgh where he became
    one of its leading wholesale liquor distributors.

There was a wave of German immigration into the newly
formed Republic of Texas in the 1840’s and 1850’s. Their
numbers included Stephen Klein
and his family who established their farm along the
banks of the Santa Clara creek. Adam Klein and his wife Frederika
arrived from Stuttgart in 1854 and the township of Klein near Houston
was named after them. Adam’s descendants have remained in the
locality. Their history was recounted in Diana Severance’s 1999
book Deep Roots, Strong Branches.

Jewish Klein immigrants came mainly to New York. Notable among them were:

  • Louis and Gussie Klein who came to the Lower
    East Side from Hungary in the 1890’s. Their
    son Arthur trained as a lawyer and was
    elected to Congress in 1941 where he was to be a fixture for the next
  • Samuel Klein who
    arrived in New York from Russia with his parents
    at about the same time. He it was who
    started in 1906 a discount store on Union Square which proudly
    displayed a huge
    sign above it: “S. Klein on the Square.” That
    sign remained a city landmark until 1975.
  • Isaac Klein who came to New York from
    with his parents in 1921. He became an
    rabbi and halakhic authority in the city.
  • and Stephen Klein, a chocolate
    manufacturer in Vienna, who fled the Nazi invasion of his country in
    1938 for
    New York. He soon started the Barton
    chocolate company in Brooklyn which remained with the Klein family

second and third generation Kleins in
New York have been the fashion designer Calvin Klein and the
Carole King (born Carol Klein).

Phil Klein, who grew up in New Jersey, was a Communist
sympathizer who followed his brother Izzy and joined Disney as an
animator. He got fired in 1941 for trying
to organize his fellow animators and went to work at a shipyard instead. His son Michael was a war resister at the
time of the Vietnam War who departed for Canada in 1967.
His grand-daughter Naomi, born there in 1970,
has become a controversial social activist and writer, best known for
her book No Logo.

Andrew Klein had emigrated from Germany to
Canada in 1906 and became a homesteader in Alberta.
His son Philip was a one-time wrestler and a
drifter who quickly separated from his wife.
Their son Ralph Klein,
brought up in Calgary, became its immensely popular mayor and served as
Alberta’s premier from 1992 to 2006.

A.M. Klein, born in Poland in 1909, came to Montreal
as an infant with his immigrant parents and grew up in the Jewish
there. He is widely considered the
founding father of
Canadian-Jewish literature


Klein Miscellany

Early Kleins in Germany.  Early records of Klein as a surname were:

  • Herolt
    der Kleine of Wurzburg in northern Bavaria in
  • Walthem
    der Kleine of Kassel in northern Hesse in 1209
  • and
    Kounrad Claineman
    of Upper Schwabia in Baden Wurttemberg in 1283.

Martinus Cline from the Mohawk Valley.  Rachel
Devendorf made the following contribution to the History
of Montgomery County
which appeared in 1892.

tidings from the New
World reached them in that far-off land, I know little and that little
remember when over fifty years ago (that would be about 1840), as we
all set
around the big fireplace, of a long, stormy, winter evening, someone
would say,
‘Granny, tell us a story about the old country.”

Granny would say, ‘I never lived in the old country, but I did live
with my
grandfather Martinus Cline.  I went there
when I was about fifteen years old. They told me what they heard in
far-off land that freedom, peace and great wealth could be theirs if
they could
brave all dangers of that then mysterious great width of waters; and
then there
was something said which they could hardly believe — that much money
could be
gathered from many bushes, not knowing how to translate the English
German, which was that much money could be realized from bushels, not

Cline was the son of a well-to-do farmer in High
Germany.  When quite young the father
went from Germany to Holland to seek his fortune. There he married the
daughter of a wealthy lady.  Martinus was
about ten years old when they left their home in Holland; it was
months before they found a home in America, and it was nearly winter
when they
dug a place and covered it with boughs where they lived the first
winter, and
they afterwards chose that place as a burial lot.'”

parents of Martinus
Clyne were probably Johannes and Mary Christina Clyne of Mohawk on the
side of the Mohawk river. This seems to be borne out by the will of
Clyne, dated 1787, in which he mentions his Maria Catherine (not Mary
Christina) and sons Jacob and Martinus.

Klein, Kline, and Cline in America in 1920

Numbers (000’s) Klein Kline Cline
New York    3.2    0.8    0.3
Pennsylvania    0.8    2.8    0.4
Ohio    0.9    1.0    0.8
Illinois    1.1    0.5    0.4
Elsewhere    4.5    3.7    4.8
Total   10.5    8.8    6.7

Stephan Klein’s Request for Emigration.  Stephan Klein’s
request for emigration to the Republic of Texas in 1844 ran as follows:

“The request of the
carpenter and
vine-dresser, Stephan Klein from Hattenheim, at the office of the Duchy
Eltville, for the release from the present trade for reasons of
immigration to
Texas, is granted for the asked for immigration for the petitioner and
his wife
and five children which shall emigrate with him and comprise his family. Request granted in Wiesbaden on the 9th of
September, 1844, by the Government of the Duchy of Nassau.”

The Legend of Mathias Klein.  Mathias
Klein was born in Worms in the Rhine Palatine in,
Germany in 1826.  Mathias was destined to
become a fine craftsman.  At the age of
22 he was given the opportunity of working with Simon Jossy, one of the
famous locksmith of his time.   Mathias
studied his work and became a master locksmith three years later.

in 1851
the prospect of adventure and excitement pulled him away from home.
boarded a ship to carry him to a new life in America. When he landed in
Philadelphia, he found that the need for a skilled locksmith was not
enough to
earn him a living. Mathias was then offered the position of blacksmith
on a
whaling ship.

a few years on the whaling circuit, Mathias was in need of
something else. He had heard of the city of Chicago and it seemed like
right place to go.  It proved a correct
decision.  Soon he had established his
own foundry and shop there.

was booming as Mathias became successful in
his business. As Chicago and America grew, so did the need for better
tools. As
the story goes – one day a telegraph linesman came into Mathias’s shop
with a
pair of broken linesman’s pliers. While the workman waited, Mathias
forged a replacement for the broken half of pliers. He then heat
treated and
riveted the old and new half together. One month later the same
brought the tool back, when the other half had broken. Again Mathias
forged the new half. This became the first pair of Klein linesman
pliers, ever
made.  From that day on, the Klein linesman pliers would be the
standard of the

were some ups and downs as his business progressed.
He lost everything in the Great Chicago Fire
of 1871.  But he was back in business
within two weeks at the same location and contributed substantially to
rebuilding of the city.

He was still working at the
company every day at the age of 91 in 1917.
He died the next year, passing the business onto his son John
Mathias.  The company operates today with
great grandsons at the helm and great great grandsons in training.

Klein in New York.  In 1906
immigrant Samuel Klein opened a small women’s dress shop in a second
floor loft
on Union Square.  Within twenty years,
that small store, which had begun with only 36 dresses on the racks,
grew into
a major shopping destination downtown.  For many years Klein’s was famously associated
with Union
Square and was immortalized in song.

Miss Adelaide sang in Guys and Dolls:

“At Wanamaker’s and Saks and Klein’s
A lesson I’ve
been taught
You can’t get alterations
On a dress you haven’t bought.”

Judy Holiday’s song Drop That Name in
The Bells are Ringing contained the
phrase: “things with great lines….like things from Klein’s.”

Klein died in 1942 and his family sold the business four years later.  The chain did continue under different owners
until 1975.  Then the famous “S. Klein” sign in
Union Square came down. 

King Ralph of Alberta.  The defining moment for Ralph Klein’s political style was set in the early 1980’s and began with an inebriated Mr. Klein
shooting from the lip.

He had barely draped the chain of office around his neck
as mayor of Calgary in 1980 when Pierre Trudeau’s Liberal government
the National Energy Program.  The NEP
effectively imposed revenue-sharing burdens on oil and gas revenues in
to ameliorate the effects of higher gas prices in other parts of the
Animosity registered deep and fast in the province, giving rise to the
bumper sticker: “Let the eastern bastards freeze in the dark.”

That was the
atmosphere when Mr. Klein agreed to speak at an evening event in
January 1982,
welcoming newcomers to his city, many of them from east of the Manitoba
Already well oiled, Mr. Klein lashed out at the “creeps” who arrived
skills or resources, bumped up Calgary’s welfare rolls, stretched
lines and boosted crime rates.

“Stay away, Bums Told,” blared a headline in the Calgary Herald the next morning,
inciting angry responses from coast to coast.
But condemnation soon gave way to a grudging admiration for “a
personable mayor who delivered the straight goods in the face of


Klein Names

A. M. Klein was a noted 20th century Canadian poet, journalist,
and short story writer.
, born Hannah Golofski, was an American fashion designer who
her own women’s sportswear and apparel label.

Patsy Cline
, the
chosen name of Virginia Hensley,
was an acclaimed American country singer of the early
1960’s who died at a young age in a plane crash.
Lawrence Klein was an American
economist awarded the Nobel Prize in 1990 for his work on econometric
Ralph Klein, nicknamed King Ralph, was
Alberta’s premier from 1992 to 2006
is the iconoclastic
American fashion designer who has established himself as a global brand.
is an American actor and comedian

Select Klein Numbers Today

  • 3,000 in the UK (most numerous
    in London)
  • 75,000 in America (most numerous in New York)
  • 13,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Canada)



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