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An excerpt from archives copyright © 2000 - 2016

The name Bethmann comes from the Rhineland, an ancient region of Germany. In pre-medieval times, the Germans used only one name, but later they were forced by a growing population to adopt hereditary surnames; so as to remain distinct from the many others of the same first name. Local names were often chosen. They originally indicated land ownership, and frequently carried the prefix von, meaning "of" or "from," which is often taken as an indication of aristocratic lineage. Bethmann was a name for some one lived in the Rhineland. The Bethmann family emerged during the feudal era, when the Rhineland was controlled by feudal lords and princes.


The surname Bethmann was first found in the county of Nassau, where the name could be considered to make a great early contribution to the feudal society which became the backbone of early development in Europe. The earliest known instance of the name dates back to 1430, when Jurgen Bethke is recorded in the "Urkundenbuch der Stadt Oldenburg," the Oldenburg registry. The name became prominent in local affairs and branched into many houses which played important roles in the savage tribal and national conflicts, each group seeking power and status in an ever changing territorial profile. Chronicles suggest that the most ancient branch of the family can be traced to the Netherlands, which they left during the religious strife of the Thirty Year's War for the region of Nassau. The founding father of the prominent Nassau branch is taken to be Simon Moritz Bethmann (d.1725,) who was an administrator in the government of the Prince of Nessau-Weilburg. It was his son, Johann Philipp Bethmann (1715-1793) who founded the renowned bank of Frankfurt, the Bethmann Brothers.

Many cultural groups lived in the German states in medieval times. Each had its own dialect and traditions, and unique variations of popular names. Low German, which is similar to contemporary Dutch, was spoken in Westphalia. German names are characterized by additions such as regional suffixes and phrases that tell something about the origin or background of its original bearer. Further contributing to the variation in German names was the fact that there were no spelling rules in medieval times: scribes recorded names according to their sound. The recorded spelling variations of Bethmann include Bethman, Bethemann, Betheman, Bettheman, Betthemann, Bethmman, Bethke, Berthe, Bethe, Bethge and many more.


This web page shows only a small excerpt of our Bethmann research. Another 307 words (22 lines of text) covering the years 1652, 1701, 1715, 1721, 1782, 1793, 1823, 1827, 1829, 1842, 1849, and 1858 are included under the topic Early Bethmann History in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.


Another 47 words (3 lines of text) are included under the topic Early Bethmann Notables in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.


Between the 17th and 20th centuries, hundreds of thousands of Europeans came to North America, and many Rhinelanders were among them. They had many various reasons for making the choice: to escape poverty and persecution, for adventure, and for the opportunity to own their own land. Ellis Island, one of the main American immigration centers, saw many settlers as they moved on to the states of Pennsylvania, Ohio, Texas, Illinois, California, and New York. In Canada, they found homes in Ontario, and on the great plains of the Midwestern provinces. The Bethmann were among of the early German families that came to North America:

Bethmann Settlers in United States in the 18th Century

  • Johann Ludwig Bethmann, who came to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1774

Bethmann Settlers in United States in the 19th Century

  • Marcus Bethmann, who sailed from Bremen to New York in 1864

  • Sabine Bethmann (b. 1931), German (East Prussian) actress
  • Alexandre de Bethmann (1805-1871), mayor of Bordeaux from 1867 to 1870
  • Theobald von Bethmann -Hollweg (1856-1921), appointed Prussian Minister of the Interior in 1905 and in 1907 became secretary of state for the Imperial Home Office, and vice-president of the Prussian ministry. After a turbulent career in politics, Bethmann-Hollweg retired to Hohenfinow and took no further part in the political arena beyond writing his "Reflections on the World War" (1919)
  • Erich Waldemar Bethmann (b. 1904), prominent scholar and teacher of art and religion, and a noted expert on the Middle East

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    Other References

    1. Bahlow, Hans and Edda Gentry. Translation Dictionary of German Names 2nd Edition. Madison: University of Wisconsin, 2002. Print.
    2. Strassburger, Ralph B. Pennsylvania German Pioneers The Original Lists of Arrivals in the Port of Philadelphia 3 Volumes. Baltimore: Picton Press, 1992. Print. (ISBN 978-0929539980).
    3. Nied, Edmund. Fraenkische Familiennamen urkundlich gesammelt und sprachlich gedeutet. Heidelberg: C. Winter, 1933. Print.
    4. Gottschald, Max. Deutsche Namenkunde unsere Familiennamen nach ihrer Entstehung und Bedeutung. München: J.F. Lehmanns Verlag, 1932. Print.
    5. Rupp, Daniel L. A Collection of Upwards of Thirty Thousand Names of German, Swiss, Dutch, French and Other Immigrants to Pennsylvania from 1727 to 1776. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing, 2000. Print. (ISBN 978-0806303024).
    6. Fogleman, Aaron Spencer. Hopeful Journeys German Immigration, Settlement, and Political Culture in Colonial America 1717-1775. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1986. Print. (ISBN 978-0812215489).
    7. Götze, Alfred. Familiennamen im badischen Oberland. Heidelberg: C. Winter, 1918. Print.
    8. Hanks, Patricia and Flavia Hodges. A Dictionary of Surnames. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1988. Print. (ISBN 0-19-211592-8).
    9. Bahlow, Hans. Abhandlungen zur Namenforschung und Buchgeschichte. 1980. Print. (ISBN 978-3768690522).
    10. Weis, Frederick Lewis, Walter Lee Sheppard and David Faris. Ancestral Roots of Sixty Colonists Who Came to New England Between 1623 and 1650 7th Edition. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing, 1992. Print. (ISBN 0806313676).
    11. ...

    The Bethmann Family Crest was acquired from the archives. The Bethmann Family Crest was drawn according to heraldic standards based on published blazons. We generally include the oldest published family crest once associated with each surname.

    This page was last modified on 27 October 2010 at 13:19.

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