Select Lang Surname Genealogy

Lang or Lange, the meaning is the same.  The derivation is the pre-7th century word lang meaning “long” or “tall” found in Old German, Dutch, Danish, English and Scots.  Its use as a surname probably followed the name being used as a nickname for a tall person.

The Lang spelling has occurred in southern Germany, Austria, Switzerland and Hungary, as well as in Scotland (where the spelling can also be Laing); while Lange has been the version in northern Germany and Scandinavia.  Long developed as the surname in England

Lang can also be a Chinese surname.  Here the origin is the place-name Lang City in the ancient state of Lu adopted by the grandson and subsequent descendants of its ruler.  Lang was also adopted as a surname because it was a homophone for the Chinese word for wolf.   

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Langs and Langes number some 180,000 in Germany today.  There are a further 30,000 Langs in other German-speaking countries such as Switzerland, Austria and Hungary.  Langes meanwhile total around 15,000 in Scandinavia.  There is also a smattering in Belgium and Poland. 

Most of the Langs and Langes who came to America originated from Germany.  Some were from Scandinavia and a few from Russia but, like Otto and Susanna Lange, were from a German-speaking part of Russia. 

There were early evidences of Lang as a surname in England.  The name Aetheric Langa appeared in Northamptonshire in 972; while Leofwine Lange was recorded in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicles in 1070.  But the pronunciation and spelling soon became Long in most parts of the country. 

The exception has been Devon where Lang as a surname first appeared in the 14th century and has prevailed.  However, some have suggested that Lang here might have come from the place-name Langdon in south Devon.

Other Langs or Laings in England will generally be of Scots descent.  David Laing, for instance, moved from Scotland to Cumberland in 1800.  His descendants developed the John Laing construction company in Carlisle.  It remaine family-held through six generations before its sale in 2006.

Scotland.  Here the pattern was the other way.  Early documents showed Longus and Long spellings.  But then the surnames became Lang and Laing.  

Laings outnumber Langs in Scotland by about three to two.  Laing has been found principally along the east coast, from Edinburgh up to the Highlands and Orkney:  
  • a Laing family first found near Edinburgh included John Laing, the Bishop of Glasgow in 1474.  John Laing built Redhouse Castle near Edinburgh in the 1590’s. 
  • Laings were also prominent in the Highlands by this time.  
  • and the early 17th century saw many Laings move to Orkney.  Later Laings from here included Malcolm Laing, a Scottish historian of the early 1800’s, and Alexander Laing, the explorer who discovered Timbuktu in 1826 and then was murdered by his guides.  
The Lang name has been more concentrated in the Lowlands in Renfrewshire and Lanarkshire.  Langs have had a long connection with the town of Paisley in Renfrewshire ever since its founding in 1488. 

As an Irish surname Lang is thought to have originated from the Gaelic surname O’Longain.  The main numbers have been in Sligo, notably in Ballysadare parish.  Lang has also cropped up in Armagh and elsewhere in Ulster.  

America.  There were some early Lang and Laing arrivals from England and Scotland:

  • Robert Lang from Devon was first recorded in Portsmouth in 1673 as a fisherman on the Isles of Shoals off the coast of New Hampshire.  These Langs were recorded through five generations nearby at Sagamore Creek in H.P. Moore’s 1935 book A Genealogy of the Lang Family. 
  • while John Laing was a Quaker from Aberdeen who came with other Scottish Quakers to Plainfield, New Jersey in 1685.  The Laing House of this Plainfield plantation still stands and has been listed as a historic house.
The Langs of Camden county, Georgia descended from the Sagamore Creek Langs.  Isaac Lang was the first of the family to move there, in the early 1790’s, and his descendants remained prominent in county affairs for the next hundred years.  His son William Lang established a plantation there in 1820.  David Lang, the son of William’s brother Robert, was a Confederate officer during the Civil War and later a Florida politician. 

Pennsylvania.  The largest number of Lang immigrants to America was from German-speaking lands.  They began arriving into Pennsylvania in the early 1700’s as religious refugees.  These early Langs, however, generally anglicized their names to Long: 
  • this was the case with Christian Lang who arrived from the Palatine in 1718 and Johannes Lang from Hesse in 1722.  Both settled with their families as Longs in Lancaster county. 
  • George Lang meanwhile arrived in Philadelphia in 1751.  He settled in North Carolina in 1765 as George Long.  
Some did remain Lang, such as the descendants of the Revolutionary War veteran George Lang who was born in Bucks county in 1761.  A number of his grandchildren fought as Langs in the Civil War.  However, these Langs were Presbyterian in their religion - suggesting a Scottish ancestry. 

.  Abraham Lang had migrated from upstate New York in the 1840’s to Ohio, to Illinois, and later to Iowa and Nebraska.  His son William Lang made his mark in Denver, Colorado where, during a brief career in the 1880’s, he proved himself to be one of the best residential architects the city has known. 

Captain Oscar Lange was an early immigrant to the Midwest from Europe.  Born in Sweden, he had first come to Boston in 1824 at the age of 13 to work as a seaman.  He came to Chicago in 1838 and fifty years later was honored there as the oldest living Swedish immigrant in America. 

Wisconsin was a popular destination for Langes.  A family from Thuringia in Germany first began arriving in 1846.  They made their home in Jamestown township in SW Wisconsin.  Friedrich Lange came from Posen in Prussia in 1866 and settled in Juneau county seven years later. 
August Lange, also from Prussia, came to Milwaukee in 1882.  Meanwhile George Oscar Lange arrived in Minnesota from Germany around the year 1910.  His grand-daughter was the actress Jessica Lange. 

  Laings from Scotland came to Caribbean plantations in the 18th century.   Dr. James Laing of Haddo, a medical man, acquired three estates in Dominica in the 1790’s. Malcolm Laing meanwhile had arrived to Jamaica earlier as an overseer for absentee plantation owners and became a Kingston merchant. 

The Laing name remains in Jamaica.  Isaiah Laing has been dubbed “supercop” for his work in the Jamaican constabulary between 1976 and 1996. 

Australia.  Australia had two early Scots-born Lang immigrants:
  • the first, Walter Lang, did not last long.  He arrived as a settler on the convict ship Minstrel in 1812 and built a fine house for himself, Clydesdale House, in Parramatta.  But he was dead in 1816 at the age of 27.  His son John became a journalist in Australia and its first Australian-born novelist. 
  • the second, George Lang from Renfrewshire, arrived in Sydney in 1821 and secured land along the Paterson river in Hunter Valley.  He too died young in 1825, at the age of 23.  But his father and brothers were able to establish the Dunmore estate on this land.  Another brother was J.D. Lang, the fiery Presbyterian minister who became an early advocate for an independent Australia.
Jack Lang, or “the Big Fella,” as he was later known, became one of the most controversial politicians in Australian history.  Born in 1876 into an impoverished Scots-Irish immigrant family (his father was Scottish, his mother Irish), he rose in Labor party ranks to be twice Premier of New South Wales.  His second tenure coincided with the onset of the Great Depression.  He advocated a more expansionary policy than the Federal Government would contemplate and he was dismissed from his post in 1932.  He was never in power again although he remained active in politics.  His life was long and he died in 1975 at the age of 98.

Select Lang Miscellany

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

Select Lang Names

Cosmo Lang, the son of a Scots Presbyterian minister, was Archbishop of Canterbury during the time of the controversial abdication crisis of 1936. 
R.D. Laing
was a Scottish psychiatrist who wrote innovately about issues of mental health.  His best known work was the 1960 book The Divided Self. 

David Lange
served as New Zealand’s Prime Minister between 1984 and 1989. 
Jessica Lange
is a highly acclaimed American actress. 
.D. Lang
is a popular Canadian country singer/songwriter

Select Langs Today
  • 23,000 in the UK (most numerous in Glasgow)
  • 37,000 in America (most numerous in California) 
  • 17,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Australia)

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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