Select Klein Surname Genealogy

Klein 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 America. 

Name variants have been Kline and Cline (although Cline in America will sometimes have come from the Irish Clyne)

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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.

.  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 1625. 
  • 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 York where immigration occurred later, and Clines more widely spread.

Among later Klein arrivals were:
  • Mathias Klein 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 fifteen years.  
  • 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 Hungary with his parents in 1921.  He became an influential 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 until 1978.  
Prominent second and third generation Kleins in New York have been the fashion designer Calvin Klein and the singer/songwriter 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 quarter there.  He is widely considered
the founding father of Canadian-Jewish literature.

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If you would like to read more, click on the miscellany page for further stories and accounts:

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A. M. Klein was a noted 20th century Canadian poet, journalist, and short story writer.
nne Klein, born Hannah Golofski, was an American fashion designer who founded 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 modelling
Ralph Klein, nicknamed King Ralph, was Alberta’s premier from 1992 to 2006.
Calvin Klein is the iconoclastic American fashion designer who has established himself as a global brand.
Kevin Kline is an American actor and comedian

Select Kleins 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)

PS.  You might want to check out the surnames page on this website.  It covers surname genealogy in this and companion websites for more than 800 surnames.

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