Show ContentsWilhelm History, Family Crest & Coats of Arms

The German state of Prussia, which reached the zenith of its power in the late 19th century, is the glorious birthplace of the distinguished surname Wilhelm. In the medieval era, after the fall of the Roman Empire, the German lands were inhabited by a variety of Barbarian tribes. The borders of the Barbarian kingdoms changed frequently, but the region that became known in Prussia was roughly divided between the areas of Brandenburg-Prussia, West Prussia, and East Prussia. The colorful history of Brandenburg-Prussia, which is essentially the birthplace of modern Germany, provides a glimpse at the oldest origins of the Wilhelm family.

Early Origins of the Wilhelm family

The surname Wilhelm was first found in northern Germany, where the name was associated in early mediaeval times with the feudal society which would become prominent throughout European history. The name would eventually emerge as belonging to a noble family with great influence, having many distinguished branches, and become noted for its involvement in social, economic and political affairs. Its use as a Surname must be traced back to its immense popularity as a first name early in the Middle Ages. Indeed, one chronicle mentions a knight's feast in Bayeux around 1171 A.D. in which alone 117 Wilhelms were listed as taking part.

Early History of the Wilhelm family

This web page shows only a small excerpt of our Wilhelm research. Another 87 words (6 lines of text) covering the years 1709, 1845, 1812 and 1864 are included under the topic Early Wilhelm History in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Wilhelm 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 Wilhelm include Wilhelm, Wilhem, Wilhelmi (Latinized), Wilhelmy, Wilhelmus (Latinized), Wilhelms, Wilhelmsen (Holstein), Wilhalm (Bavaria, Austria), Wilms (Friesland) and many more.

Early Notables of the Wilhelm family (pre 1700)

More information is included under the topic Early Wilhelm Notables in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Wilhelm Ranking

In the United States, the name Wilhelm is the 2,221st most popular surname with an estimated 14,922 people with that name. [1] However, in France, the name Wilhelm is ranked the 2,276th most popular surname with an estimated 2,825 people with that name. [2]

United States Wilhelm 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:

Wilhelm Settlers in United States in the 18th Century
  • John Wilhelm, who immigrated to America in 1709
  • Jan Wilhelm, who arrived in New York in 1709 [3]
  • Johan Wilhelm, who landed in New York in 1709 [3]
  • Paul Wilhelm, who arrived in New York, NY in 1710-1714 [3]
  • Johannes Wilhelm, who arrived in Philadelphia in 1728
  • ... (More are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)
Wilhelm Settlers in United States in the 19th Century
  • Gottlieb Wilhelm, who landed in Pennsylvania in 1806 [3]
  • Johanna Wilhelm, who landed in Pennsylvania in 1806 [3]
  • Christian Frederick Wilhelm, who landed in Pennsylvania in 1806 [3]
  • Elias Wilhelm, who landed in Pennsylvania in 1806 [3]
  • R. Wilhelm, who settled in Texas in 1836
  • ... (More are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)

Contemporary Notables of the name Wilhelm (post 1700) +

  • James Hoyt Wilhelm (1922-2002), American Major League Baseball pitcher
  • Kate Wilhelm (b. 1928), née Katie Gertrude Meredith, American science fiction, mystery, and fantasy writer
  • Ross Wilhelm (b. 1920), American business economist and educator
  • David C. Wilhelm, American fighter pilot and flying ace in the U.S. Army Air Forces, during World War II, credited with 5 aerial victories
  • Helmut Wilhelm (1946-2022), German jurist and politician from Regensburg, Germany
  • Katarina "Kati" Wilhelm (b. 1976), German eight-time gold, seven-time silver and five-time bronze medalist Olympic and World Championship biathlete
  • Richard Wilhelm (1873-1930), early German sinologist
  • Donald Wilhelm (b. 1919), Australian pathologist and educator
  • Werner Wilhelm Franke (1940-2022), German professor of cell and molecular biology at the German Cancer Research Center in Heidelberg, born in Paderborn
  • Peter Wilhelm Danckert (1940-2022), German politician and member of the SPD, Member of the Bundestag from 1998 to 2013

  • Gerhard Wilhelm (1920-1941), German Matrosengefreiter who served aboard the German Battleship Bismarck during World War II when it was sunk heading to France; he died in the sinking [4]

Suggested Readings for the name Wilhelm +

  • Genealogy and Family Histories of the Lighter and Wilhelm Families by Edward H. Lighter.

  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. Bismarck & Tirpitz Class - Crew List Bismarck. (Retrieved 2018, February 06). Retrieved from on Facebook