Show ContentsBernhard History, Family Crest & Coats of Arms

The prestigious family surname Bernhard originated in the territory that eventually became the German state of Prussia. In the 19th century, this state was virtually unrivalled militarily, and its rapid industrial growth made it a contender for economic superiority in Europe as well. However, in the medieval era, Prussia was fragmented and inhabited by numerous barbarian tribes, who fought amongst themselves for control of the land. The borders of the barbarian kingdoms, which were established after the fall of the Roman Empire, changed repeatedly. The region that came to be known as Prussia was roughly divided between the territories of Brandenburg-Prussia, West Prussia and East Prussia. The Bernhard family emerged in Brandenburg-Prussia, which is essentially the birthplace of modern Germany. By the 19th century, Brandenburg-Prussia had incorporated East Prussia, West Prussia and many other German territories. Moreover, in the late 19th century, it led the German states in the unification of Germany.

Early Origins of the Bernhard family

The surname Bernhard was first found in Brandenburg, Mecklenburg, and throughout the lands that would later form the Prussian Empire, where the name became noted for its many branches, each house acquiring a status and influence which was envied by the princes of the regions. In their later history the name became a power unto themselves and was elevated to the ranks of nobility as they grew into this most influential family. In its mediaeval context, the literal meaning of the name was "baerenkuehn," that is, "bear-brave." The name began its rise to prominence as one of the most popular first names of northern Germany in the Middle Ages before becoming firmly grounded as a surname.

Early History of the Bernhard family

This web page shows only a small excerpt of our Bernhard research. Another 219 words (16 lines of text) covering the years 1623, 1728, 1762, 1763, 1818, 1810, 1604, 1639, 1604, 1612, 1692, 1760, 1787, 1769 and 1820 are included under the topic Early Bernhard History in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Bernhard Spelling Variations

One can encounter great variation in the spelling of surnames: in early times, spelling in general, and thus the spelling of names was not yet standardized; and later, spellings would change with branching and movement of families. Variations of the name Bernhard include Bernhard, Bernhardi (Alemannic), Bernhardy (Latin genetive form found along Rhine and Danube rivers), Bernardt, Bernhardt, Bernehard, Bernehardt and many more.

Early Notables of the Bernhard family (pre 1700)

Notable figures of the time with the name Bernhard were Duke Bernhard of Saxen-Weimar (1604-1639), who was a celebrated general in the Thirty Years' War. He was born in 1604 in Weimar as the eleventh son of John, duke of Saxen-Weimar. At the outbreak of the Thirty Years' War he took the field on the Protestant side. Because of his contribution to Protestantism in Germany and his bravery shown on the battlefield Bernhard he was regarded by German Protestants as the savior of their religion. Christoph Bernhard, capellmeister at Dresden; son of a poor sailor; born at Dantzic, 1612. He was...
Another 153 words (11 lines of text) are included under the topic Early Bernhard Notables in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Bernhard Ranking

In the United States, the name Bernhard is the 11,744th most popular surname with an estimated 2,487 people with that name. [1] However, in France, the name Bernhard is ranked the 2,219th most popular surname with an estimated 2,878 people with that name. [2]

United States Bernhard migration to the United States +

Much of German history has been shaped by the state of Prussia. It was an enduring military power until after the Second World War. At that time, the state was abolished altogether and its land divided between the Soviet Union, Poland, East Germany and West Germany. While some Prussians were content to remain in those countries, others moved away, many of them migrating to North America. They entered the United States mostly through Philadelphia, moving on to Ohio, Texas, Illinois, California, New York, and Maryland. Others went to Canada, settling on the prairies and in the province of Ontario. Among those of this surname listed in various historical records were:

Bernhard Settlers in United States in the 18th Century
  • Imp Bernhard, who arrived in New York in 1709 [3]
  • Just Bernhard, who landed in New York in 1709 [3]
  • Johann Bernhard, who arrived in New York in 1709 [3]
  • Johannes Bernhard, who landed in New York, NY in 1709 [3]
  • Ulrich Bernhard, who arrived in New York in 1709 [3]
  • ... (More are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)
Bernhard Settlers in United States in the 19th Century
  • Catharina Bernhard, who landed in Pennsylvania in 1803 [3]
  • Adam Bernhard, who landed in Pennsylvania in 1803 [3]
  • George Bernhard, who arrived in New York in 1836 [3]
  • Wilhelmine Bernhard, who landed in America in 1839 [3]
  • Miss Bernhard, aged 33, who arrived in America in 1843 [3]
  • ... (More are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)

Canada Bernhard migration to Canada +

Some of the first settlers of this family name were:

Bernhard Settlers in Canada in the 19th Century
  • Ernestine Bernhard, aged 19, who landed in Quebec in 1868

Contemporary Notables of the name Bernhard (post 1700) +

  • William F. Bernhard (1924-2018), American cardiovascular surgeon, Emeritus Professor of Surgery at Harvard Medical School, and cardiovascular surgical pioneer
  • Sandra Bernhard (b. 1955), American singer and comedian
  • Ruth Bernhard (1905-2006), American photographer
  • Timo Bernhard (b. 1981), German sports car racer
  • Thomas Bernhard (1931-1988), Austrian novelist, playwright and poet
  • Henriette-Rosine Bernhard (1845-1923), French actress, who used the stage name Sarah Bernhardt
  • Karl Bernhard Hesse MSC MBE (1936-2023), German prelate of the Roman Catholic Church, Auxiliary Bishop of Rabaul from 1978 to 1980, Bishop of Kavieng from 1980 to 1990, and Archbishop of Rabaul from 1990 to 2011
  • Dieter Bernhard Herrmann (1939-2021), German astronomer and author of numerous popular science literature books on astronomy, Director of the Zeiss Major Planetarium in Berlin from 1987 to 2004
  • Juergen Bernhard Donges (1940-2021), German economist and professor emeritus of political economics at the University of Cologne
  • Karl Bernhard Dall (1941-2020), German comedian, singer, and television presenter

Hindenburg LZ-129
  • Mr. Alfred Bernhard (1905-1937), German Helmsman from Charlottenburg, Germany, who worked on board the Hindenburg LZ-129 and survived the Airship Fire, but later died in hospital from injuries [4]

  1. "What are the 5,000 Most Common Last Names in the U.S.?".,
  3. Filby, P. William, Meyer, Mary K., Passenger and immigration lists index : a guide to published arrival records of about 500,000 passengers who came to the United States and Canada in the seventeenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth centuries. 1982-1985 Cumulated Supplements in Four Volumes Detroit, Mich. : Gale Research Co., 1985, Print (ISBN 0-8103-1795-8)
  4. Hindenburg Disaster Passenger List | (Retrieved 2014, April 11) . Retrieved from on Facebook