Potentially recorded in various spellings including: Lehr, Lehrer, Lerer and Lair. The Lehrer surname can be either Germanic or Hebrew, and it also has several possible origins. The two most probable origins are connected to occupation or location.
There is apparently a Lehrer family crest which has also been recorded as the Lehr family crest. There would likely have been recordings of who this was issued to and where they were from. This is likely to be found somewhere in Württemberg, Germany as during the late 1500's and the early part of the 1600's, almost all recorded Lehrer, birth, death and marriages appear to be located in or very close to what was then the kingdom of Wurttemberg, which is now a part of Germany.
Moving into the late 1600's and early 1700's the recorded births, deaths and marriages spread out through the Rhineland and include Alsace which was partially independent and is now a part of France, Austria and other parts of Germany.
By the late 1700's and early 1800's, a significant number of Lehrer's moved elsewhere around the world, specifically to the America's.
Lehrer / Teacher
The most probable option for the origin of the Lehrer surname is from the word 'lehrer' meaning teacher in the German language or Rabbi for the Jewish. This may be religious or it may describe a teacher in a traditional elementary school. It would depend on the particular circumstances at the time that the surname was given out or adopted.
The origin may be topographical and derive from the ancient pre 7th century word 'lehr' akin to the English 'leah', and as such describing an enclosure suitable for agriculture or a water meadow, one which was flooded in winter but dried out for summer grazing. There are several places in Southern Germany and Austria called 'Lehr'. These place names must have derived from old water meadows.
The topographical / locational option, certainly seems likely for some of the other potential spellings which have been suggested and would be possible for the linage in southern Germany. This would also fit with what one Lehrer family researcher has noted about the Lehrer name in Dabo, France for the year 1772
“If this is an occupational name, then this would have been relatively rare as this was at the beginning of the time when surnames were given based on a man's occupation.”
There are a number of well documented Jewish families with the surname Lehrer. Currently on WeRelate there is one family that trace their lineage to a Jewish teacher in Poland.
While possible, it appears very unlikely that the southern German and the Jewish family lines are connected.
There are a number of Lehrer families originating in southern Germany, north, west France, Austria and Bavaria, although unlikely some of these different lineages may all originate from the one family. By following the birth places of the people furthest back in the known Lehrer family lines, as we move further back in time, there is a consistent movement into southern Germany.
The earliest known Lehrer marriage was Johannes Lehrer who married three times in Alsace, the first being on the 17th June 1583 in Mittelwihr, Haut-Rhin, Alsace which today is within France.
The earliest known record of births for Lehrer families is the family Georg Lehrer and Sibilla who lived in Bayern, Germany and they had three known children who according to Family Searchwere all baptised in Landau in Pfalz, Bavaria between 1577 - 1584.
Based on similar names baptised in the same place, the Germanic Lehrer's may have a greater connection to Jewish Lehrer's. Others at the same time are using the surname Lerer which happens to be Yiddish for teacher and is evident at a slightly earlier time (1565 -1578) in the same location with the family of Hanss Lerer and Anna.
Potential connections between Jewish and Germanic Lehrer's
The possible link from the Germanic Lehrer's living in the Rhineland and the Jewish Lehrer's include at least one one recorded and the above suggested change of name from the Yiddish word for teacher, Lerer to the German word for teacher, Lehrer.
In a study of the Jewish language, the website www.jewishgen.org has an article on the Development of Yiddish over the Ages. Snippets from that article allude to further potential Lerer / Lehrer changes when considering the history of the Rhineland Jews.
"The initial growth of Yiddish began in Western and West-Central Europe. At the turn of the 9th century, Charlemagne (742-814) invited the Jews of southern France and Italy to the Rhineland to encourage economic growth. Jews had lived in the trading towns along the Rhine River long before, under the Roman Empire. Charlemagne's initiative caused trade and economic life to develop rapidly in the Rhineland."
"Then, in the Early Yiddish Period tenth and eleventh centuries, Jews from northern Italy and northern France, who spoke Jewish Romance languages (Old French or Tsorfatic (Western Laaz), and Old Italian or Italkic (Southern Laaz)) migrated to Rhineland towns along the middle and upper Rhine Valley in an area called Loter (Lotharingia); this area is close to present-day Lorraine. It is from these Rhineland Jews that Yiddish originated."
"In later centuries, pogroms accompanying the crusades (1095-1272), the black plague (1334-1350), and persecution drove the Rhineland Jews up the Rhine River into Baden/Wuerttemberg in South Germany, where they began creating Yiddish given names based on German names. The first acts of Crusaders on their way to the Holy Land were to slaughter Jews in the Rhine valley."
Many Jewish people moved from the Rhineland and Wurttemburg into Poland as that country was openly encouraging jews to go and live there.
Arriving at the time period where records of common folk are starting, there was still no systematic, official method of emigration, and few emigration lists are available, yet significant numbers of emigrants where known to leave southern Germany and Alsace, during the following periods:
Also the registres d'options de noms 1808 became a de facto census of the Jewish people of France. The numbers are interesting. According to a list in the Archives nationales there were 46,054 Jewish people in France who chose permanent names. The majority were in the departments of Bas-Rhin, Haut-Rhin, and Moselle, areas that some Lehrer families lived in. In each, the head of a family, usually the husband and father, gives for each family member his or her name, date and place of birth, and the surname and forenames chosen.
For an increasing level of Lehrer information, see the page relating to the assorted Lehrer Families.