Ziegler Surname Meaning, History & Origin

Ziegler Surname Meaning
Ziegler is a German occupational name for a brickmaker or bricklayer, derived from the German ziegel,  meaning originally “roof tile” and later “brick,” and from ziegelbrenner meaning brickmaker.  Ziegler and Zeigler have been the spellings in America. Ziegler can also be a Jewish name.

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Ziegler and Zeigler Surname Ancestry

Although the Ziegler name is quite common throughout Germany, it has been most frequently found in the south and southwest of the country, in particular in Bavaria.

There was an early reference to Ulreich der Zigler in the town of Eger on the border between Bavaria and Bohemia in 1340. The theologian and cartographer Jacob Ziegler was born at Landau in Bavaria in 1470; while Margarethe Ziegler, the mother of the theologian Martin Luther, was born at Neustadt in Bavaria in 1463. And a noble Ziegler family held estates in the Bavarian cities of Noerdlingen, Nuremburg and Munich.

The Ziegler numbers are around 65,000 in Germany today, with an additional 5,000 in Switzerland and 4,000 in Austria.

America. Pennsylvania provided the first landing point. Indeed, even by the time of the 1840 census, Pennsylvania accounted for 60% of all the Zieglers and Zeiglers in America.

Pennsylvania. Michael Ziegler appeared on “a list of all the poor Germans lately come over from the Palatinate taken on May 6, 1709.” He was recorded as an illiterate 25-year-old cloth and linen weaver who was single and Lutheran. He and later his son Andreas
became prominent Mennonite preachers at Skippack in Montgomery county.

Abraham Ziegler, a great grandson of immigrant Michael, moved to Butler county in 1815 where he had purchased the village of Harmony and established a Mennonite meetinghouse there. A branch of the family settled in Marlborough township in Montgomery county where they called themselves Zeigler and developed Zeigler’s Apple Cider.

George Philip Ziegler came with his family from Baden to Pennsylvania in 1727 and settled to farm in York county:

  • his son Johann Jacob was briefly captured and imprisoned during a territorial dispute between Pennsylvania and Maryland in 1736.
  • while Johann Philip later (befitting his Ziegler name) was a pioneer in the brick-making trade in York.

This Ziegler line – tracing fourteen generations, beginning with the earlier family history in Germany and continuing with later Zieglers in the Midwest – was covered in Allen Ziegler’s 2010 book Hans Georg Ziegler’s Progress.

Another early Ziegler settler in York county was Nicholas Ziegler who arrived in 1748 and made his home in Codorus township. His probable grandson Peter Ziegler, born around 1760, is considered the progenitor of the Ziegler family which held their family reunion in Pennsylvania in 1933 (at which more than two hundred descendants attended).  John Ziegler’s 1935 book Ziegler Genealogy dealt with this family’s history.

Philip Ziegler from Bern in Switzerland came with his family in 1746 and settled in a farm near Rehersburg in Berks county. There were five generations of Zieglers living in the family homestead where in the 19th century they constructed a Ziegler meetinghouse. Here the reference is Jesse Ziegler’s 1906 book The Ziegler Family Record.

Elsewhere.  Some Ziegler lines started in Pennsylvania but moved elsewhere.

David Ziegler, for instance, was a professional soldier who arrived from Germany in 1775 and fought in the Revolutionary War. After the war he was a captain in the US army and served on the Ohio valley frontier. He settled in Cincinnati and was its mayor in 1802. Cincinnati’s Ziegler Park on Sycamore Street was named after him.

William Ziegler was born in Beaver county in 1843 but moved to Iowa when he was a small boy. He went to New York where he became an agent and then a shareholder of the Royal Chemical Company. In 1899 he combined three baking companies, including the Royal Chemical Company, to form the new Royal Baking Powder Corporation.

John Ziegler from York county was a Union doctor during the Civil War. His line extended to Maryland and to the Midwest before John Bosley Ziegler returned to Pennsylvania and pioneered the use of anabolic steroids to weightlifters in the late 1950’s.

Some Zieglers of course did not come via Pennsylvania. George Ziegler from Bavaria, for instance, went to Wisconsin with his family in 1845 and later, in 1861, joined a family candy-making business in Milwaukee. He became its sole owner in 1874 and the company prospered under him and his son Frank. The George Ziegler Company continued in operation until 1972.

Johannes Ziegler from Baden arrived in New York in 1857 and decided to follow the Gold Rush to California. This did not work out. So instead he settled to farm at a German community in Saginaw county, Michigan. His descendants are still farming at the original Tuscola Road homestead that Johannes bought.

Zeiglers in South Carolina and AlabamaDavid Zeigler had come with his large family to South Carolina from Wurttemburg in 1753 and was among the founders of Orangeburg. Many of his descendants remained in the Orangeburg district. Some went by the Seigler name.

But a line from Jacob Zeigler, a Revolutionary War veteran who had received a land grant in what is now Elmore county in Alabama, moved there in the late 1810’s.

“Large numbers of the Zeigler family from Orangeburg, together with other settler families, followed the old Federal road into what was Alabama territory in a train of more than sixty wagons with an army escort.”


Jacob’s son William operated a cotton plantation at Robinson Springs. His house, built around 1825, remained with the family until 2005 (it has recently been torn down). William also helped found the Robinson Springs Methodist church where nine generations of Zeiglers have been christened.

By the early 1900’s the Zeiglers were very numerous in the area:  “There were so many Zeiglers by the name of William that it was difficult to keep up with them – William Zeigler, Billy Zeigler, ‘Sawmill’ Billy Zeigler, Will Zeigler, and ‘Leatherhead’ Will Zeigler. They were all what we might call characters. There also was also the family of Tom Zeigler and, on the other side of the road, the family of Judge Zeigler and his wife Belle.”

A more recent arrival has been Aaron Zeiger from Galicia in Austria who came to New York in the 1920’s and was a restaurant owner in Brooklyn.  His son changed his name to Larry King and became a well-known TV talk show host.

Canada.  Various Zieglers from Baden made the journey from Germany to farm in Waterloo County, Ontario in the 1840’s. The first to arrive was probably Jacob Ziegler who came with his wife Elizabeth in 1844. John D. Ziegler was there by 1845 and Henry and his wife Catherine by 1848. Moses Ziegler, grandson of Jacob, was born there in 1868. He was a Mennonite and later farmed in Arran township, Bruce county.

England. Gustav Frederick Ziegler was first recorded in Didsbury in the 1880’s when German and Jewish immigrants began coming to this middle-class area of south Manchester.

His son Colin Louis Ziegler had a distinguished World War One record, before retiring to his new home at Picket Orchard in the New Forest after the war. He and his wife Dora raised two sons there, Oliver and Philip. Philip Ziegler joined the Foreign Office. He later became a well-known English historian and biographer.

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Ziegler and Zeigler Surname Miscellany

Ziegler and Zeigler.  The German spelling is predominantly Ziegler.  But both the Ziegler and Zeigler have appeared in America.  In fact the early Pennsylvania records showed a greater number of Zeiglers. The table below shows the Ziegler/Zeigler breakdown from US census records.

1840 1920 2000
Ziegler    40%    55%    67%
Zeigler    60%    45%    33%

The Ziegler share grew during the 19th century and now is much more common.

Michael and Andreas Ziegler, Early Mennonite Leaders in Pennsylvania.  Michael Ziegler, who was born in the German Palatinate around the year 1684, migrated to Pennsylvania in 1709, marrying and settling down in the Perkiomen township in Montgomery county.  He was affiliated as a minister with the Skippack congregation where Henry Kolb was bishop and was one of the subscribers to the Dordrecht Confession of Faith in 1725.  Michael died in 1765.

His son Andreas, a son-in-law of Preacher Kolb, was ordained a preacher in 1746 and bishop in 1762. He too served in the Skippack congregation and preaching circuit.   He and Bishop Swartz deposed Christian Funk from his office of preacher and bishop in 1778 for Funk’s favorable attitude toward the American colonies during their rebellion against the British Crown.

Andreas Ziegler was one of the three signers and possibly the chief author of a letter of March 1773 from Skippack to Holland, giving much valuable information on the Pennsylvania Mennonites.  He died in 1797.

Zieglers – from Civil War Doctor to Purveyor of Anabolic Steroids.  John Bosley Ziegler was a fourth-generation doctor. His great grandfather John from York county, Pennsylvania had served in the Civil War as a physician for the Union Army.  He himself was a Civil War buff with a large collection of medical paraphernalia from that era.  He often dressed up in garb to attend some Civil War convention or re-enactment.

From the Civil War, the Ziegler line went as follows:

  • to John S. Ziegler (1859-1943), a country doctor in Maryland
  • to Mark V. Ziegler (1891-1871), a research scientist in the Midwest
  • and to John Bosley Ziegler (1920-1983) who returned to Pennsylvania.

This John was a big, fleshy former Marine who answered to the nickname of Montana Jack.  He loved to pump iron.  During his long sessions at the gym, he befriended many bodybuilders at the York Barbell Club in Pennsylvania.

He was the doctor who promoted the anabolic steroid Dianabol which was released in the US in 1958 by Ciba. He it was who pioneered its athletic use as an aid to muscle growth by bodybuilders.

He administered it to the US weightlifting champion Bill March of the York Barbell Club in 1959 when he was the physician to the US weightlifting team. Bill March made gains that seemed unbelievable, going from an average light heavy to becoming a national champion in the 198-pound division in only a couple of years.

But Ziegler’s dream turned into a nightmare as evidence increased of the damage done to some athletes who had taken more than the proscribed dose. Dianabol was later banned by the US Food and Drug Administration and John became outspoken against its use in sport.

The Zeigler Cotton Plantation in Alabama.  Some memories of the Ziegler cotton plantation at Robinsons Springs in Elmore county, Alabama came from an ex-slave there, Frank Zeigler, recorded in 1939 by a WPA worker when Frank was a very old man.

“William Zeigler had died in 1845 before Frank was born.  After his death his wife Nancy Zeigler ran the plantation.  There were around five hundred acres of land and about fifty slaves. These slaves lived in log cabins a short distance from the home of the owner.

Frank did not remember very much about the life on this plantation because while he was still very young ‘old Miss’ died.  He then went to work for their son Billy Zeigler.  But Billy was too young to handle the property. So his slaves were rented out to the smaller plantations whose owners did not have enough slaves but were unable to buy more.

When the war started, Billy Zeigler sent for Frank to come home to go to war with him. However, when Frank got there, he found his master was sick and unable to go.  So Frank went back to work for a neighbor Mr. Sales.  He stayed with Mr. Sales during the war and for a year after it was over. The slaves were not told what the war was all about and thus did not know that they were free until about a year after it was over.”

Frank was not the only African American who took the name of Zeigler.  The graves at the former Baptist church nearby bear the names of other Zeiglers.

Colin Louis Ziegler in the New Forest.  Colin Louis Ziegler, born in 1884, had been educated at the Royal Military Academy at Woolwich and graduated in 1903, joining the Royal Artillery.  He served in India and Ireland as well as at home and went to France with the British Expeditionary Force at the outbreak of the Great War.  He saw out the war, reaching the rank of Major and receiving the DSO medal in 1917.

Perhaps tired of soldiering, he resigned his commission the following year and entered into a new life.  He married Dora Barnwell in London in 1922 and they moved to Picket Orchard near Ringwood in the New Forest where they raised two sons, Oliver and Philip.

Picket Orchard had originally been a small cottage, built around 1800 by a New Forest squatter and expanded over the years.  Colin loved the place. Oak beams, paneled walls, and a large open fireplace created an old-world atmosphere. From the large bay-windows there was a wonderful view of the New Forest.  Not a single house nor building marred the scene.  Just green foliage in the foreground with rolling hills reaching to the horizon. It was his ideal home.

Colin died there in 1977.  The crossing at Foulford Brook near his home is now called Ziegler Passage in his memory.

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Ziegler Names
  • Calvin Ziegler was a German-American poet who flourished in the late 1800’s. He wrote in his native Pennsylvania Dutch and did much to spur a revival in Pennsylvania Dutch writing. 
  • John Ziegler was the American physician who pioneered the use of the anabolic steroid Dianabol for weightlifters that was released in 1958. 
  • Philip Ziegler is a distinguished English historian and biographer.
Ziegler Numbers Today
  • 16,000 in America (most numerous in Pennsylvania)
  • 1,000 elsewhere (most numerous in UK)
Ziegler 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.

AckermanHoffmanLangSpringer
AstorHooverNewmanStern
BergerKaiserSchaeferStrauss
BuckKellerSchlesingerWagner
EversKlingerSchultzWolf
FisherKrugerSnyderZimmerman

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