Show ContentsNicolai History, Family Crest & Coats of Arms

The surname is one of the oldest family names to came from that French region known as Brittany. It is derived from the Latin personal name Nicolaus, meaning "victory people."

Early Origins of the Nicolai family

The surname Nicolai was first found in the Province of Vivarais (later, Languedoc,) where a Guy, or Guglielmo of Florence, Italy founded the Countal and Baronial House of Nicolay.

Early History of the Nicolai family

This web page shows only a small excerpt of our Nicolai research. Another 109 words (8 lines of text) covering the years 1736, 1789, 1815, and 1848 are included under the topic Early Nicolai History in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Nicolai Spelling Variations

Most surnames have experienced slight spelling changes. A son may not chose to spell his name the same way that his father did. Many were errors, many deliberate. During the early development of the French language, a person usually gave his version, phonetically, to a scribe, a priest, or a recorder. Prefixes or suffixes varied. They were optional as they passed through the centuries, or were adopted by different branches to signify either a political or religious adherence. Hence, there a many spelling variations of the name Nicolai, including Nicolais, Nicolai, Nicolay, De Nicolay, De Nicolai and many more.

Early Notables of the Nicolai family (pre 1700)

Another 39 words (3 lines of text) are included under the topic Early Nicolai Notables in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Nicolai Ranking

In the United States, the name Nicolai is the 14,806th most popular surname with an estimated 2,487 people with that name. [1] However, in France, the name Nicolai is ranked the 3,102nd most popular surname with an estimated 2,000 - 2,500 people with that name. [2]

United States Nicolai migration to the United States +

France was active as a cultural leader in the early 16th century. One particular area in which they lead was the exploration of the New World. The explorers, like Jacques Cartier in 1534, led the way to North America. Champlain, in 1608, made the first of twenty voyages to France to attract settlers and brought the first migrant in 1617. By 1675, there were 7000 French in Quebec, and the French Acadian presence in the Maritimes had reached 500. The French founded Lower Canada, thus becoming one of the two great founding nations of Canada. The family name Nicolai has made many distinguished contributions in France and New France to the world of science, culture, religion, and education. Amongst the settlers in North America with this distinguished name Nicolai were

Nicolai Settlers in United States in the 18th Century
  • Anna Nicolai, who settled in America sometime between 1750 and 1753
  • Anna Nicolai, who landed in America in 1750-1753 [3]
Nicolai Settlers in United States in the 19th Century
  • I M Nicolai, aged 27, who landed in New Orleans, La in 1829 [3]
  • John H Nicolai, who landed in Charleston, South Carolina in 1837 [3]
  • Jakob Nicolai, who landed in Brazil in 1846 [3]
  • J H Nicolai, who arrived in New York, NY in 1850 [3]
  • Anna Maria Luise Nicolai, who landed in America in 1854 [3]
  • ... (More are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)

New Zealand Nicolai migration to New Zealand +

Emigration to New Zealand followed in the footsteps of the European explorers, such as Captain Cook (1769-70): first came sealers, whalers, missionaries, and traders. By 1838, the British New Zealand Company had begun buying land from the Maori tribes, and selling it to settlers, and, after the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840, many British families set out on the arduous six month journey from Britain to Aotearoa to start a new life. Early immigrants include:

Nicolai Settlers in New Zealand in the 19th Century
  • Miss N. Nicolai, British settler travelling from London, UK aboard the ship "Benvenue" arriving in Auckland, New Zealand on 24th February 1878 [4]

Contemporary Notables of the name Nicolai (post 1700) +

  • John George Nicolai, biographer of Abraham Lincoln
  • Rena Nicolai, American Democratic Party politician, Alternate Delegate to Democratic National Convention from California, 1956, 1964 [5]
  • Matthew Nicolai, American Democratic Party politician, Delegate to Democratic National Convention from Alaska, 2000 [5]
  • Gregory Nicolai, American politician, Candidate for Presidential Elector for Michigan, 2012 [5]
  • Charles H. Nicolai, American politician, Delegate to Maryland State Constitutional Convention, 1867; Member of Maryland State House of Delegates from Baltimore County, 1867-68 [5]
  • Norica Nicolai (b. 1958), Romanian lawyer and politician
  • Carl Otto Nicolai (1810-1849), German composer and conductor
  • Christoph Friedrich Nicolai (1733-1811), German writer and bookseller
  • Asmus Nicolai Clausen (1911-1943), German U-boat commander of the Second World War who is credited with sinking 23 ships
  • Johan Nicolai Madvig (1804-1886), Danish classical scholar and statesman

The Nicolai Motto +

The motto was originally a war cry or slogan. Mottoes first began to be shown with arms in the 14th and 15th centuries, but were not in general use until the 17th century. Thus the oldest coats of arms generally do not include a motto. Mottoes seldom form part of the grant of arms: Under most heraldic authorities, a motto is an optional component of the coat of arms, and can be added to or changed at will; many families have chosen not to display a motto.

Motto: En bon espoir
Motto Translation: In good hope.

  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. New Zealand Yesteryears Passenger Lists 1800 to 1900 (Retrieved 17th October 2018). Retrieved from
  5. The Political Graveyard: Alphabetical Name Index. (Retrieved 2015, December 11) . Retrieved from on Facebook