Kramer Surname Meaning, History & Origin

Kramer Surname Meaning

Kramer comes from the Old German kram or cram, meaning a trading post or tent. It came to mean in German and Dutch a peddler or merchant, someone who set up a tent in the village to sell his wares.  The term kramaere came to describe the owner of what was seen as a scruffy little shop.

Its first recorded use as a surname in Germany was a Walther der Kramer in the Esslingen rolls of 1272.

Kramer Surname Resources on The Internet

Kramer, Cramer and Creamer Surname Ancestry

  • from Germany, Holland, England (Norfolk), Ireland and from Jewish emigrants
  • to America and Canada

Kramer is a fairly common surname in both Germany and Holland and there are some 80,000 Kramers in Europe today, of which:

  • 65 percent are in Germany
  • 20 percent are in Holland
  • and 15 percent are elsewhere in Europe.

The Kramer presence in the English-speaking world is mainly because of the Kramers who have immigrated to America. More recently, Jewish Kramers from Russia have been going to Israel and Germany.

England. England records few Kramers, some Cramers, and a few more Creamers. They could be from home-grown or from immigrant families.

In England, the name cremer, a variant of the German Kramer, was an occupational name and described a peddler of butter, eggs, or hens (“ane merchand or cremer, quha beris ane pack or creame upon his back,” according to Sir John Skene in 1681).

Cremer as a surname seems to have first surfaced in Norfolk. Sir John Cremer, baptized John Skryme in North Runcton in 1598, was made sheriff of Norfolk in 1658. Although he married twice, he left no living heirs. This Cremer name became Creamer over time and spread to Bedfordshire and Cambridgeshire and to London.

Ireland. Creamer is also an Irish surname and was to be found in Kilkenny and Longford and – as Cramer of German origin – in Cork. John Creamer from Longford served in the British army from 1810 to 1829 and subsequently made his home in Prince Edward Island, Canada.

America. In America, the numbers are first Kramer, then Cramer, and then Creamer:

  • Kramers originated almost entirely from German-speaking countries
  • Cramers mainly also, but included some Irish and English immigrants
  • and Creamers, two thirds from Ireland and one third from England.

The German-speaking world of Kramers extended East in the 19th century to German enclaves in the Balkans (Slovenia today), in Ukraine (Kiev and Odessa), and in present-day Belarus.  

Kramers started to arrive in America in the 18th century, mainly into Pennsylvania and into Lancaster and Berks county there:

  • one family history traces itself back to a George Kramer who had arrived in 1720 and settled in Bethel township, Berks county.
  • and a Kramer family came to Fayette county, Pennsylvania where the son Baltzer worked with Albert Gattlin who had set up the first glass-making factory west of the Alleghenies.

Among the 19th century Kramer arrivals were:

  • Philip and Mary Kramer, who came to Wisconsin in the early 1850’s. Their son Michael moved onto Sheridan township, Iowa to farm. He and his family started up the Kramer brothers’ Band and Orchestra, which became well-known for functions throughout Redwood county.
  • Frederick and Anna Kramer, who settled in Alexandria, Virginia in the 1860’s. The Kramers operated several businesses there. Their son Henry (Pop) Kramer went on stage and made a name for himself doing bicycle tricks.
  • David and Marie Kramer, who came to Illinois in the 1860’s and later moved onto Kansas. The family members were inscribed in their family Bible published in 1861.
  • Various Kramers from Bohemia (now part of the Czech Republic), who came to Nebraska in the late 1870’s and early 1880’s.

Jewish. Kramer arrivals later in the 19th century began to have a Jewish flavor, German-speaking refugees of the Tsarist pogroms in Russia.

One Kramer family came in the early 1890’s from Dahlinev in present-day Belarus and settled in Waterbury, Connecticut. Harry Kramer arrived in 1903 from Sopockin nearby and raised funds to help Jews in the area emigrate. From other Kramer immigrant families at that time came Samuel Kramer, a leading expert on Sumerian history and language, and the teacher Edna Kramer.

Then there was another bout of Kramer immigration in the 1930’s, this time from Nazi Germany. Fred Kramer came with his family in 1936 and settled in Paso Robles, California. Film director Robert Kramer – who made the film Our Nazi in 1984 on the theme of Nazi genocide – was himself the grandson of a Kramer who had escaped Tsarist Russia.

Kramer in the 1990’s had a Jewish connotation due to the character of Kramer in the TV sitcom Seinfeld.

Canada.  Minne Dowe and Jacobina Kramer were Dutch immigrants to Saskatchewan in the early 1900’s.  Their son Eiling became the longest serving member of the Legislative Assembly, from 1952 to 1980.

Kramer Surname Miscellany

Kramer Numbers in Europe.  The table below shows the approximate number of Kramers (and Cramers) in Europe.

Numbers (000’s) Kramer Cramer Total
Germany 45    10    55
Netherlands   13     2    15
Elsewhere*    9     3    12
Total   67    15    82

* Austria, Denmark, Slovenia, and Switzerland.

Early Cremers in Norfolk

Year Parish Cremer Record
1540 North
birth of John (son of Henry and
Cecily Cremer)
1588 Sedgefield marriage of Thomas Cremer and
Joanna Hargate
1597 Heacham birth of Henry (son of Edmund
and Bridget Cremer)
1606 Heacham death of Catherine Cremer (alias
1610 North Elmham birth of Roger (son of Thomas
1615 Philimore birth of Ellen and Frances,
twins (daughters of George and Elizabeth Cremer)
1617 Heacham death of Bridget (wife of Edmund
1618 Sedgefield marriage of Edmund Cremer and
Jane Jenner
1624 South Lynn birth of Thomas (son of John
1627 Sedgefield birth of John (son of John and
Elizabeth Cremer)
1632 Heacham death of Edmund Cremer
1635 Philimore marriage of Edmund Cremer and
Ann Trice

Kramer Numbers in America.  The table below shows the number of Kramers (and variants of the name) in America, on the basis of the 1920 census.

Numbers (000’s) Kramer Cramer Creamer Total Percent
New York    1.3    0.6    0.1    2.0    13
Pennsylvania    1.5    0.8    0.1    2.4    16
Ohio    0.9    0.7    0.1    1.7    11
Illinois    0.8    0.4    1.2     8
Elsewhere    4.0    2.9    0.8    7.7    52
Total    8.5    5.4    1.1   15.0   100

By 2000, the total above had increased to some 37,000.

Creamers in America.  After thirty something years of research, plus input from many other Creamer researchers, it has not been possible to identify one country of origin.

The earliest proven ancestor is Daniel Creamer, born 1798 in South Carolina.  He married Matha Wimberly, born 1795 in North Carolina.  It has not been possible to connect him to any other Creamer groups.

Early Kramers in Pennsylvania

1748 Philadelphia (Evangelical
marriage of Balthasar Kreamer
and Elizabeth Gerrard
1751 Philadelphia (St. Michaelis and
birth of Jacob, son of Balthasar
and Elizabeth Cramer
1754 Philadelphia (St. Michaelis and
birth of Maria, daughter of
Balthasar and Elizabeth Cramer
1756 Lancaster (Moravian church) death of Catharine Kraemer
1759 Lancaster (Moravian church) death of Michael Kraemer, aged 50
1761 Philadelphia (Evangelical
Jacob Craemer, witness
1767 Williamstown (Evangelical
Elis. Kramer prepared for
1769 Lancaster (Trinity Lutheran) birth of Anna, daughter of
Michael and Elizabeth Craemer
1782 Lancaster (Moravian church) death of Susanna Kraemer, wife
of Johannes

In 1927, George Kramer wrote the following about his family’s ancestry:

“George Kramer immigrated from Switzerland to America about 1720.  He resided in Bethel township, Berks co.  His son was Ferdinand Kramer and his grandson, born in 1757, Jacob Kramer.

The earliest definite record of ancestry is an old record found at Binogles church, Lebanon co (formerly Bethel township). The birth records are for the two sons of Jacob and Catherine Kramer, John born in 1785 and Peter born in 1790.”

Pop Kramer – that Famous Cyclist.  Harry Henry Kramer would travel all over the United States, Canada, and even Mexico City to earn extra money performing his extraordinary tricks on his collection of bicycles.   Traveling made it necessary to have a place to sleep, so he invented the first travel car.  He bought an old school bus and a logging truck.  He attached the bus body onto the truck bed and “walla” and he had invented his famous “House Car.”

Each summer the family loaded up and traveled to fairgrounds, theaters and small towns all over the northern and southern states where Pop Kramer entertained the crowds of people who followed his show as though he were the pied piper.  His picture has been on the front page of newspapers all over the United States.  He received payment for his performances by passing the hat.  Pop was an amusing sight all by himself.

Pop made friends with the other travelers on the road, the most interesting were the gypsies who traveled regular routes each year.  He would allow them to camp on his property in South Carolina in exchange for his family camping on their sites while he traveled north.

Pop got his nickname because he was only able to quit smoking his pipe by replacing the habit with chewing bubble gum.  He lost his teeth and refused to wear a partial.  He grew a beard and kept his thick graying hair, ear lobe length.  His blue eyes sparkled and he was always in a cheerful mood.  He could tell “Paul Bunyan” tales for hours and he kept his pockets full of gumballs and bubblegum to pass out to children.  He had a heart full of compassion and love for all his family and friends.  He was always willing to lend a helping hand to strangers.  There was not a lazy bone in his body.

Fred Kramer and His Automobile.  Fred Kramer escaped Nazi Germany with his family in 1936 to come to America .  After a year in New York, they settled in Paso Robles, California.  His son Henry remembered the early days there affectionately.

“Father had grown up in a time and place where a scholar and a gentleman did not fancy gadgetry.  A person of a trivial turn of mind, a playboy, or a rich vulgarian like my uncle, might have a car.  But a serious person, like Father, did not fritter away his energies on such things.

His attitude towards cars was in line with his feeling about movies.  They were intended for “serving girls,” his catch-all category for people without intellect.  Father never  owned a car nor ever saw a movie until we came to America.

When Father picked us up at Union Station in Los Angeles he told us that he had been taking driving lessons.  In a few days, Father bought a 1936 Ford Sedan.  He said, rightly, that it was absolutely necessary to have a car in Southern California.  Of course, with the help of his driving instructor, Father had obtained a learner’s permit.

And he still had it when we moved to Paso Robles several weeks later.  So we had a car but no one with a license to drive it.That caused us difficulties and, to us children,  great embarrassment.  We children came to the store after school and when the store closed the family’s homeward trek started.  There were the five of us loaded down with school books and bags of grocery trudging through town on our way home. It seemed to us children as if we were being mocked by jeering crowds lined up on the sidewalk while we were parading down the center of the main street.”

Of course, Father tried to get his driver’s license.  However, he had difficulties.  One of them was that he was unable to prevent the gears from chattering as soon as he shifted from the starting speed to the next higher.  The effect was similar to riding on a bucking bronco.  The car would hiccup, and take a jump, and then another, and another, and finally die.  It took Father many months to get on to the trick of calming the car somewhat to make the transition smoothly.  Alas, he never mastered it.

Willy Kramer in Berlin.  More than 200,000 Jews emigrated from the countries of the former Soviet Union to Germany after the wall came down.  Willy Kramer’s parents had come earlier, from the Latvian capital of Riga.  But Willy himself never felt fully at home in his new country.

“Even though I grew up here, it’s still impossible to escape the nauseating thought when you sit next to an 80 year old man and wonder what he did during the war.”

Willy Kramer grew up in Berlin and in 2007 wrote Berlin Fucking City, a series of short stories which revealed something of his love-hate relationship with the metropolis.  His stories are quite violent and the city he depicts is one of outsiders.

Kramer Names

  • Jack Kramer was a leading tennis player of the 1940’s who helped bring in the professional era to the sport in the 1970’s.
  • Eileen Kramer was a much-acclaimed Australian dancer and dance choreographer.
  • Floyd Cramer was a country pianist who helped develop the “Nashville sound” in the 1950’s.
  • Stanley Kramer was a leading American film director of the 1950’s and 1960’s.

Kramer Numbers Today

  • 3,000 in the UK (most numerous in London)
  • 37,000 in America (most numerous in Pennsylvania).
  • 4,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Canada).

Kramer 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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Written by Colin Shelley

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