Lehman Surname Meaning, History & Origin

Select Lehman Meaning
surname Lehmann is of German and Swiss origin.
The northern German Lehmann, first written
Lehemann and Lehenmann, initially described a feudal tenant and came to
be used
for a small farmer. The Swiss and
sometime southern German definition is one who lives by a lehn, a gentle slope.
Lehman was also adopted as a Jewish name.

Lehman Resources on

Lehman Ancestry

numbers today in Germany and Switzerland are approximately:

  • 100,000 in Germany
  • and 20,000 in Switzerland.

German Lehmanns are mainly concentrated
in the eastern part of the country in what is today Brandenburg, from
in the south to Berlin in the north.
There are also Lehmanns in the Black Forest in the Ortenaukreis
region in the
southwest (the name Johannes Lehenmann appeared in the
charters as early as 1317).

Included in the German numbers had once been Jewish Lehmanns, such as
the court financier Behrend Lehmann of Halberstadt in the 17th century. Other Jewish financiers such as the
Rothschilds followed in his footsteps.

Early Swiss Lehmanns
came from Emmenthal in the Swiss canton of Bern.

. Lehmann generally became
Lehman, although
some later arrivals kept their two “n’s.”
The split today is roughly 75% Lehman and 25% Lehmann.
There were other
early spelling variants
, because of the English clerks, the
most common of them being Layman.

Swiss Lehmans may
have come first. Forced emigration from
the Bern canton started in the 1660’s and their arrival into British
America from the Rhine Palatine began in the early 1700’s.
The German-speaking immigrants, including Lehmans, began to
appear in Lancaster county, Pennsylvania at that time.

The Lehman,
Layman Genealogy Handbook
, produced by Earl Lehman in 2006 and
expanded in 2011,
a fairly comprehensive list of early Lehman and Layman families. These Lehmans included:

  • Hans
    Lehman who
    arrived in 1727 and settled near Lititz in Lancaster county. His descendants have been numerous in the
  • Three
    Lehman brothers – Johannes, Christian, and Ludwig – who arrived in
    Pennsylvania at various times between 1727 and 1732. They were
    believed to have come originally from the Bern canton area.
  • and
    Jacob Lehman, a weaver by trade, who came with his family in 1751 and
    settled also in Lancaster county. His
    Joachim became known as Joachim Layman and
    moved to
    Kentucky in

arrivals ended up in camps in upstate New York.
Clement Lehmann from Kallstadt in the Rhine-Palatine was there
in 1715 as
Leman, settled in Greene county, and his family later became Layman.

Jewish. Lehman can
also be a Jewish name. The
prominent Lehmans in America has been the Jewish
which was begun
by three
brothers from
northern Bavaria – Henry who arrived in 1844, Emanuel who came three
later, and Mayer who was there by 1850.
Originally their business was a dry goods store in Alabama, but
soon moved into cotton trading.

youngest brother Mayer took the lead in establishing their cotton
business in
New York, being one of the organizers of the New York Cotton Exchange. Under his direction, Lehman Brothers
expanded into financial services.
Leadership later passed to Emanuel’s son Henry. While
Henry was in charge all the partners at Lehman Brothers were named
Lehman. His
son Robert led the firm from 1925 to 1969.
When he died that year, Lehman Brothers passed out of family
hands and few
were around when the company went bankrupt in 2008.

Canada. A number of Mennonite
emigrated from Pennsylvania to Ontario in the early 1800’s. Among them was
Lehman who had married
Susanna Raemer and came with her family to Markham county. Some Lehmans stayed there, some moved back to America,
and Samuel and Isaac Lehman, two cousins, headed west in 1875 to
British Columbia.
formed the small rural community Mount Lehman named after them.

Australia. In Australia,
in contrast to America, the split is approximately 25% Lehman and 75%

Reinhold Lehmann who arrived in South Australia in 1859 did change his
name – to John Ronald Lehman. But the descendants of Johann
Gottlieb Lehmann who had come to South Australia from Brandenburg ten
years earlier remained Lehmanns. Peter Lehmann, the famous
Barossa valley winemaker, was a fifth generation descendant of these
early settlers.


Lehman Miscellany

Early Lehmans in Switzerland.  Lehman, a Mennonite family name, originated in the Emmenthal canton of Bern in Switzerland near Langnau, the original home of most of the Mennonite Lehman families.  There was a farm
there named Lehn from which they got their name.

David L. Habegger’s 2007 book The Lehman Families of Langnau covered these Lehmans.  It detailed seven
different Lehman families from the Bern canton, four of whom were connected.

Wilhelm Lehman of Affterleen near Hassli in Emmenthal is the earliest Anabaptist of the
family of which they are records. He was imprisoned in October 1566 because he
refused to take the oath of allegiance.  Both he and his wife
testified to their
faith when questioned.  Wilhelm was sentenced to death by the
sword.  After
eleven days of anxiously waiting for his execution, he did take the oath and was

During the difficult times of the first two decades of the 18th
century most of the Lehmans left their Emmenthal home. Some went to the Palatinate, others to Alsace or the Bishopric of Basel, and some to Pennsylvania.

Lehman and Other Spellings in America.  The majority
arrived in America as Lehmanns.  Many
became Lehmans.  And some assumed a more
anglicized version of the name – Layman, which was already an
established English
surname in America, or Leman, Leaman or Leeman.

Often the spelling change came from the English-speaking county clerk
and could be variable.  For instance,
Rudolph Lemen in York county, Pennsylvania had three sons in the 1740’s
– Christian
Lemen, David Lamon, and John Laymon – and these different spellings
have been
handed down to the present.

The table below shows the progression in the usage
of some of these names in the 1840 and 1920 US censuses.

Numbers    1840    1920
Lehmann      3    1,092
Lehman     87    4,539
Layman    169    1,543
Leman     67      509
Leaman     49      493
Leeman     35      385

Lehman and Leaman were more found in Pennsylvania, Leman and Lehmann (the latter perhaps
reflecting later arrivals) in New York, while Layman was more widely spread.

Joachim Lehman/Layman to Kentucky.  At the
conclusion of the Revolutionary War in 1783 Joachim Lehman – by then
Layman – acquired land in Bedford county, Pennsylvania.  Thirteen
years later he was able to purchase
a larger landholding of 643 acres in what was then Grayson county,
Kentucky.  This was frontier country at
the time.  His deed was the first ever
recorded in Grayson county.

1798, two years after the purchase, Joachim and John Storms left
Pennsylvania to live on Joachim’s land in
Kentucky.  They journeyed by land from
Pennsylvania to the junction of the Monogahela and Alleghany rivers,
then down
the Ohio River by flatboat to Bear Grass Creek where they stopped for a
months before navigating to Cloverport (now Breckenridge county).  Again, by land with a wagon and mule team,
they passed the Falls of Rough and reached the head of Laurel Branch,
about a
half mile west of the Quisenbury schoolhouse, where they settled.

the time of
the 1810 Grayson county tax list, Joachim was dead.
But his sons Jacob, Adam, and Michael Layman
were recorded there. 

Lehman Brothers – from 1847 to 2008.  The line began with Abraham Low who changed his Yiddish name
Low (or Loeb) to the German Lehmann  He was a Jewish cattle drover
in Franconia in north Bavaria and had
three sons:

  • Henry Lehman born Hayum
    Lehmann (1822-1855), the first to make it to America in 1844.  He died at a young age from yellow fever.
  • Emanuel Lehman born Mendel Lehmann (1827-1907), who arrived
  • and Mayer Lehman (1830-1897), who
    came in 1850 and became the driving force behind the growth of Lehman
    Brothers in New York.

The company
succession lay with the descendants of second brother Emanuel:

  • Philip Lehman (1861-1947), who was Lehman Brothers managing
    partner from 1901 to 1925.
  • and his son Robert Lehman (1891-1969) who was Lehman Brothers managing partner
    from 1925 to 1969.

Mayer Lehman’s sons, however, distinguished
themselves in other fields:

  • Sigmund
    Lehman (1859-1930), one of the founders of Montefiore Hospital
  • Arthur Lehman (1873-1936), co-founder of the Federation
    of Jewish Philanthropies and the Museum of the City of New York
  • Irving Lehman (1876-1945), Chief Justice of the New York
    Court of Appeals
  • and Herbert Lehman (1878-1963) who
    served as both Governor and Senator for New York.

This family has been commemorated in a 2007
book entitled Lots of Lehmans: The Family
of Mayer Lehman of Lehman Brothers,
which gives an anecdotal
history from
various Lehman family members.  Mayer Lehman’s
descendants today number some 600.

Lehmans were in their prime immortalized in Our Crowd,
Stephen Birmingham’s history of New
York’s prominent German Jews.  The
society Birmingham depicted was solemn, cloistered and perfectly
walled off from both the WASP upper crust that rejected Jews and the
Jewish hoi
polloi.  Mayer Lehman’s wife Babette, the matriarch of the
family, insisted that her children visit her daily at her Upper East
Side home.

But the
Lehmans are not what they were.  They
relinquished their hold on Lehman Brothers in 1969 and the company
crashed in
2008.  Wendy Lehman Lash, a great
grand-daughter of Mayer Lehman and President of the Lehman foundation
said at
the time: “It’s very sad to see the company name go down the drain.”

Isidore Lehman of Jackson, Mississippi.  The Lehman brothers began their American enterprise in Montgomery, Alabama.  There were other Jewish
enclaves in the South in the 19th century such as Jackson, Mississippi.

Near the turn of the century, Isidore Lehman
began his career in Jackson as a shirt washer in a cart for a Memphis
company.  His hard work and determination led him to eventually
partner and owner of Jackson Steam Laundry.   Located
on 730 State Street, Jackson Steam
Laundry was known for the slogan: “When clothes are dirty, 730.”
store not only cleaned clothes.  It also
served as a bathhouse for people without running water.   His
store stayed open until the 1960’s.

Isidore Lehman was also very
involved in Jackson’s civic affairs.   He was president of
organizations including the Jackson and Mississippi Chamber of Commerce
as well
as Beth Israel synagogue, Hinds County Red Cross, and the local school


Lehman Names

  • Mayer Lehman developed Lehman Brothers
    into one of the major financial services companies in New York in the late 19th century.   
  • Herbert Lehman served as Governor and Senator for New York over a long period between 1932 and 1956. 
  • Peter Lehmann who died in 2013 was a legendary Australian winemaker, known as the Baron of Barossa.

Select Lehman Numbers Today

  • 16,000 in America (most numerous in Pennsylvania)
  • 3,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Australia)



Click here for return to front page

Leave a Reply