Ullman Surname Meaning, History & Origin

Ullman Surname Meaning

The surname Ullmann in Germany derives from a pet form of the personal name Ulrich (comprised of the elements odal meaning “prosperity” or “fortune” and ric meaning “power”). The name was borne by a 10th century saint, the bishop of Augsburg, whose fame contributed much to the popularity of the name in medieval times.

Ullmann can also be Jewish and here it would probably describe someone from the city of Ulm in Baden-Wurttemberg. And there were also Ulmans and Ulmens who came from Ulmen in the Rhineland.

Ullman is the main spelling in English. In addition to Ullmann, the spellings of Ulman, Ulmann and Uhlmann can also be found.

Ullman Surname Resources on The Internet

Ullman Surname Ancestry

  • from Germany (Saxony) and from Jewish emigrants
  • to America, Canada and Australia

First found in Austria, the Ullmann name is most prevalent today in Saxony in southern Germany. The numbers are:

  • an estimated 15,000 Ullmanns in Germany
  • a further 3-4,000 in Austria and Hungary
  • and a smattering in Sweden and Norway.

Some Ullmanns were Jewish. An Ullmann family from Furth near Nuremburg in Germany became prominent as rabbis and business leaders in 19th century Hungary.

The name was brought to English-speaking lands through emigration.

England. An early Ullman family in England began with the Rev. J.F. Ullman, a German Presbyterian missionary in India. His son William, born there in 1852, had gone out to Australia as a minister in 1880 but, due to financial difficulties, left for London two years later.

Two Ullmans came to England at the time of World War Two under somewhat different circumstances:

  • Walter Ullmann was a Jewish scholar from Austria who fled his homeland as the Nazis advanced. He settled in England and became a recognized authority on medieval political thought.
  • Antony Ullman was a Polish soldier evacuated from Dunkirk in 1940. His daughter is the singer and TV actress and comedienne Tracey Ullman.

America.  Early sightings were in Pennsylvania.

Pennsylvania.  Frederick Uhlmann appeared in the Philadelphia census in 1732.  He and his wife Elizabeth subsequently settled in Lancaster county.  Later Ullmans were:

  • Philip Ullman who came to Phoenixville in Chester county in the early 1800’s.
  • Mayer Ullman who was a grocery store owner and tavern keeper in Philadelphia in the 1810’s.
  • and Lazarus Ullmann and his wife Lydia who arrived from Baden in Germany in 1830. Their son Charles Ullman was friends with the Fairbanks, a Southern plantation owning family, and his son adopted the Fairbanks name. This son was the silent movie star Douglas Fairbanks.

Elsewhere.  Samuel Ullman left Germany with his parents for America in 1850, settling first in Mississippi and later moving to Birmingham, Alabama.

He is best known today for his poem Youth which was a favorite of General MacArthur. The poem was on the wall of his office in Tokyo when he became Supreme Allied Commander in Japan. In addition, he often quoted from the poem in his speeches, leading to it becoming better known in Japan than in America.

Some other Ullmans coming to America in the 1800’s were:

  • Peter and John Ulmen who came to Minnesota from the Rhineland in Germany in the 1850’s
  • Harry Ulman who came to Chicago in the 1850’s and started a tobacco store with Max Newman in Peoria, Illinois in 1859. The business of Newman & Ullman still flourishes in Illinois.
  • Bernhard Ulmann who first started selling napkins, doilies and handkerchiefs with silk-screen embroidery designs from a pushcart on the streets of New York in the 1860’s. He later sold from his own store, Bucilla, on Long Island City. His daughter Doris became a well-known photographer in the 1930’s.
  • Anton Ullmann who disembarked from the Hermann in 1883 in Maryland and purchased a tobacco farm in Charles county.
  • and Johann and Augusta Ullmann who came on the Gellert in 1884 and made their way to Hartford, Connecticut. The next year they acquired Squire’s tavern and farm in Barkhamsted which was to stay with the family until the 1920’s. Sadly John Ullmann was tossed to death by an enraged bull in 1924.

Jewish.  Morris Ullman from Germany came in 1849 and started up a liquor store in Cleveland, Ohio.  His son Monroe and grandson Rufus moved into real estate there after World War One.

Albert Ulmann was born in New York in 1861. He became a banker in the city. However, he is best remembered for his writings on New York and Jews in the city for magazines and journals in the 1890’s and early 1900’s.

Samuel Ullman meanwhile came to New York from Russia in 1912.  He later opened a store, known as the Jew store, in Bluffton, South Carolina.  This store became successful and he was elected as the mayor of the town in 1932.  His son Albert ran a department store in Ridgeland and he also became a mayor after World War Two.

Canada.  There were Ullmans in Pennsylvania who were Loyalist during the Revolutionary War and departed for Canada.  Ben Ullmann came to operate a number of farms near Niagara by Lake Ontario; while Peter Ullman married Elizabeth Laurance in the Niagara area in 1836.

Australia.  German immigration to Brisbane in the 1850’s brought some Ullmanns with them. They were spelt Uhlmann, however, and pronounced Yuleman.

Ullman Surname Miscellany 

Ullmanns in Hungary.  Shalom Charif Ullmann, born in Furth in Germany in 1755, flourished in Hungary in the early 19th century as a Talmudist.  Of his three sons:

  • his oldest son, known as Shalom Ḥarif because of his sharp mind, served as rabbi of Ansbach and later established an important yeshiva in the Burgenland community of Lakenbach.
  • his next son Avraham served as rabbi of Tapolcsány and Szabadka before succeeding his father as yeshiva head and founding a dynasty of rabbis in Lakenbach.
  • the third son, Shelomoh Zalman, served as rabbi of Makó at a time of turbulent religious struggles in the community. His son Isidor was a wealthy merchant and lay leader of Hungarian Orthodoxy who settled in Oradea where he and his sons collected an important library (today housed at the Widener Library of Harvard University).

Many later descendants made their mark as business leaders in the Hungarian economy. The most prominent line ran through Karoly Ullmann, who appeared in Gyula Benczur’s well-known late 19th century portrait of Hungarian business leaders; to his son Sandor, a lawyer and journalist in Budapest; and to his son Adolf, one of the outstanding figures in Hungary’s economy in the early 1900’s.

Ulmens from the Rhineland.  One family line began with Peter and Johanna Ulmen who were married in the Rhineland in the late 1680’s.  It was two brothers, Peter and John, born there in the early 1800’s not far from the town of Ulmen, who brought their families to Minnesota in America. They apparently left Germany at different times in the 1850’s, but they all settled there, together with their widowed sister Christina, in a place called Mankado.

Samuel Ullman and Youth.  His words in Youth were as follows:

  • “Youth is not a time of life; it is a state of mind;
  • it is not a matter of rosy cheeks, red lips and supple knees;
  • it is a matter of the will, a quality of the imagination, a vigor of the emotions;
  • it is the freshness of the deep springs of life.”

These words, written by Samuel Ullman of Birmingham, Alabama in 1918 at the age of 78, have been credited with inspiring a generation of Japanese citizens, businessmen, and government leaders who were faced with rebuilding their country after World War II.

Reflecting the admiration of the Japanese people for Mr. Ullman and his inspiring poetry, a Japanese business executive working in Alabama visited Birmingham in 1992 and expressed the desire to see the erstwhile Ullman residence where the poet had spent the last 17 years of his life.  Finding that the house had fallen into disrepair, he was inspired with a vision of what the house could become if restored as a museum.  The Samuel Ullman Museum operates there today.

Charles Ullman and Douglas Fairbanks.  Charles Ullman was the fourth child in a relatively well-to-do Jewish family of six sons and four daughters.  Charles’ parents, Lazarus and Lydia, had immigrated to the US in 1830 from Baden in Germany. Charles studied law and was admitted to the Pennsylvania bar in 1856.  Subsequently he founded the U.S. Law Association, a forerunner of the American Bar Association.

Charles met Ella Marsh after she had married his friend and client John Fairbanks, a wealthy New Orleans sugar mill and plantation owner.  Shortly afterwards John died of tuberculosis.

Ella, born into a wealthy southern Catholic family, was overprotected and knew little of her husband’s business.  Consequently, she was swindled out of her fortune by her husband’s partners.  Even the efforts of Charles Ullman, acting on her behalf, failed to regain any of the family fortune for her.  Distraught and lonely, she met and married a courtly Georgian, Edward Wilcox, who turned out to be an alcoholic.  After they had a son, Norris, she divorced Wilcox and Charles acted as her lawyer in the suit.

The pretty southern belle soon became romantically involved with Charles and she agreed to move to Denver with him to pursue mining investments. They married in Denver in 1881 had a child, Robert, in 1882 and then a second son, Douglas, a year later.

But Charles succumbed to drink himself and abandoned the family when Douglas was five years old. He and his older brother Robert were brought up by their mother.  She gave them the family name Fairbanks, after her first husband.

Douglas Fairbanks was born into the Jewish faith, but was taught at an early age to conceal this fact because his family considered it embarrassing.   By the time he was just eleven years old, he was acting in and around the Denver area. At the age of seventeen he departed for New York and made his Broadway debut in 1902.

The Death of John Ullmann.  The following article, entitled Tragedy at Ullmann Farm, appeared in the March 24, 1924 edition of Winsted Citizen:

“Tossed into the air by an enraged bull on this farm in Pleasant Valley late yesterday afternoon, John W. Ullmann, 78, a well-known and prosperous farmer and a resident of the town of Berkhamsted for 38 years, suffered a broken neck when he landed, resulting in his almost instant death.  His granddaughter Bertha had suffered a painful laceration of one leg when attacked by the same bull.  The two-year old Guernsey bull has been butchered at the Ullman farm.

The animal had been tied and chained in a stall in the barn and Mr. Ullmann’s grandson, John Schofield, 18, was preparing to let it out. He had unfastened the rope and was attempting to take off the chain when the grandfather who had been standing at a safe distance in the barn, became impatient and started to aid him.  He had just reached the animal when the chain became unfastened and the animal dashed for Mr. Ullmann and threw him in the air as it made a mad rush for the door.

Schofield retained his presence of mind and closed the door preventing the animal from coming back and goring the prone body of his grandfather.”

Liv Ullmann, Actress.  Liv Ullmann began her acting career on the Norwegian stage in the mid 1950’s.  She continued to act in the theatre for most of her career, and became noted for her portrayal of Nora in Ibsen’s A Doll’s House.

She became wider known once she started to work with the eminent Swedish film director Ingrid Bergman. She went on to act to significant acclaim in ten of his most admired films, including Persona in 1966, The Passion of Anna in 1969, Cries and Whispers in 1972 and Autumn Sonata in 1974.

Ullman Names

  • Douglas Ullman was the original name of the American film actor Douglas Fairbanks.
  • Liv Ullmann is a Norwegian actress who has performed extensively in America and lives in Florida.
  • Tracey Ullman is the British comedienne and stage actress who found success in America.

Ullman Numbers Today

  • 1,000 in the UK (most numerous in Manchester)
  • 2,000 in America (most numerous in New York)
  • 1,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Canada)

Ullman and Like Surnames 

The first wave of German immigration into America came in the early 1700’s from the Rhine Palatine and Switzerland.  They were fleeing religious persecution at home.  Most ended up in Pennsylvania, bringing their Mennonite church with them.  Some went to the Mohawk Valley in upstate New York.  Their Germanic names often changed under English rule to English-style names.  Thus Fischer became Fisher, Schneider Snyder, Hubner Hoover and so forth.

The reasons for immigration were different in the 19th century – in search of a better life, sometimes to avoid the draft.  They came from all German states and went not just to Pennsylvania but all over as the middle and west of the country was opening up.  And they brought German skills with them, notably beer-making.

Here are some of the notable German surnames in America that you can check out.



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Written by Colin Shelley

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