Select Friedman Surname Genealogy

The Friedman origins were German, from the elements fried, meaning "peace," plus mann or "man."  Fried itself evolved as a diminutive of the old Germanic personal name Friederich, a hereditary name of the medieval Hohenstaufen family of SW Germany.  Friedman or variants thereof then began to emerge as surnames, in SW Germany and in Silesia.

By the time that Jewish families were obligated to take a surname in the early 19th century, many opted for this non-Jewish name Friedman.  It approximated in meaning to their shalom ("peace") or Solomon (meaning "peaceful").

The Friedman surname has no connection with the English Freeman, which means "a free man."

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The Friedmann name is mainly to be found in Baden-Wurttemberg and Rheinland-Pfalz in Germany today.  It also appears to a lesser extent in Hungary.  In the 19th century, with the larger Jewish population, there was a wider spread.  Emigration data to America showed sizeable numbers of Friedmans coming from Germany and Hungary and also from Poland and Russia.  The Friedman family circle, now numbering more than 2,500 members, is composed of the descendants of the marriage of Pinchas Friedman and Clara Glicksman in Poland in 1808.

The principal destination for these emigrants was of course America.  Friedman (pronounced "Freedman") was the main spelling there.  Some, however, did change their name to Freeman (Solomon Friedman, for instance, made this name change on his arrival in Hartford, Connecticut in 1861).  Other Friedman destinations were England, Canada, Australia, South America and, later, South Africa.  The spelling here ended up being either Friedman or Freedman.  

  The Friedman emigrants to America seemed to show a pattern, coming first from Germany in the 1840's, then from Russia in mid-century (or rather Latvia and Lithuania of the Russian Empire at that time), and, by the turn of the century, increasingly from Hungary (then still part of the old Austro-Hungarian empire).

Some went South.  The earliest Friedman arrival in America from Hungary was probably Bernard Friedman, a travelling peddler in Alabama and Mississippi at the time of the Civil War.  After the War he settled in Tuscaloosa where he became a successful entrepreneur.  In 1875 he had acquired a magnificant antebellum mansion there from a bankrupt owner.  Battle House was to stay with the Friedman family until 1965 when it was willed to the state as a historic house museum.

Another Jewish Friedman outpost in the South was Natchitotes, Louisiana where Samuel and Caroline Friedman settled in the mid 1800's.  Two generations later Sylvan Friedman, a large landowner and cattleman there, became a prominent Louisiana politician.  Less fortunate was JB Friedman, a justice of the peace in Boutte, Louisiana. 

"On June 11 1888, Mr. Friedman was just stepping off the porch of his store, intending to go to the railroad station nearby, when the assassin stepped around the corner and shot him.  He was taken back into his house and a doctor called, but he died before midnight."

Most Friedmans, however, came North and in particular to New York City (in 1965 it was calculated that Friedman was the 17th most common surname there).  It has been the first and second generation American born Friedmans who succeeded most brilliantly there, as businessmen, entrepreneurs, lawyers, economists, scientists, writers, and in a host of other professions as well.  Milton Friedman's upbringing shows how an immigrant son without any particular advantages could make it in his chosen profession. 

There have also been more recent Friedman arrivals, such as Lily Friedman, among those who escaped or survived the Nazi holocaust. 

Australia.  The first recorded Hungarian in Australia was merchant Isaac Friedman who arrived with his wife and daughter in 1833.  He was recorded as a shop-keeper in Hobart in the 1840's.

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

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Joseph Friedman, a first generation American, was an independent inventor with a broad range of interests and ideas.  His most successful invention was probably the flexible drinking straw.
Milton Friedman was probably the most influential economist of the second half of the 20th century.  A monetarist in his approach, he was a recipient of the Nobel Prize in Economics in 1976.
Herbert Friedman was a pioneer in rocket technology in relation to solar physics and astronomy.
Thomas Friedman, the author of The World is Flat, is the Pulitzer Prize winning writer on foreign affairs for the New York Times

Select Friedmans Today
  • 5,000 in the UK (most numerous in London)
  • 23,000 in America (most numerous in New York)
  • 4,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Canada).

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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