This is a popular German/Dutch, common throughout all of central and eastern Europe, surname deriving from the Middle High German and Dutch word klein or kleyne, meaning small. This last name developed from a nickname for a person who was small in stature, or alternatively, as a name for the junior male in the family (ex. Kleinpeter, Kleinhans). In this sense, it would be the German equivalent of the English/Scottish surname Little. Another theory, given pre-medieval humor, is that the name may have actually referred to a rather large person. One source asserts the name first originated in the Rhineland. It is also a common Jewish surname is the United States.
Some of the earliest bearers of this name include Herolt der Kleine (Wurzburg, 1185 AD) Walthem der Kleine (Kassel, 1209 AD).
I have identified three Klein family mottoes in Latin that translate to English as follows:
Honor et patria (Honor and Fatherland)
Vires unitae agunt (Forces united act)
Concordia et labore (By union and labor)
The name is very popular throughout Europe, ranking as follows in the following 11 nations where its cracks the top 1,000 surnames: Germany (11th), Austria (60th), Netherlands (36th), France (130th), Luxembourg (13th), Slovakia (146th), Belgium (928th), Sweden (885th), Denmark (527th), Estonia (485th), and Liechtenstein (132nd). In Australia it ranks 1,049th, in New Zealand it ranks 2,223rd, in South Africa is ranks 899th, and in Canada, it ranks 688th.
As of the US Census of 2000, the last name Klein ranked 359th in terms of popularity. The surname Klein ranks in the top 100 surnames in the following six US States: New York, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, North Dakota, and South Dakota.
Spelling variations to this common name include Kleine, Kleiner, Kleint, Kline, Kleen, Kleinert, Kleinlein, Klejn, Cline, Clyne and others.
Some of the earliest bearers of this last name in colonial America were Dutch settlers, including the following: Uldrich and Afje Klein (New York City 1641) and Willemyntje de Klein (1680). Settlers in the early 1700s include Hieronymus Klein (New York 1709), and Peter Klein (New York 1709), Amalia, Anna, Henrich, Jacob, and Johann William Klein (New York 1709). There was a group of Klein families who emigrated from Luxembourg and Belgium to Ozaukee County, Wisconsin in the mid-1800s (the first being Jean Nicholas Klein who was born in 1820).
In Australia, Johan Georg Klein, a tanner aged 33, came to South Australia board the Malvina Vidal in 1857, and Johanna Christine came to the same province and in the same year aboard the Victoria.
Throughout history there have been hundreds of notable bearers of this surname, including the following: 1) Ezra Klein (1984) who is an American blogger and journalist associated with Vox, The Washington Post, and The American Prospect, born in Irvine, California, 2) Herbert C. Klein (1930) who was a member of the US House of Representatives from New Jersey who was born in Newark, 3) Dominqiue Louis Antoine Klein (1761-1845) who was a French military leader during the French Revolutionary War and Napoleonic War, becoming General of the cavalry, and later serving in the French Senate, 4) Ralph Phillip Klein (1942-2013) who was the 12th Premier of Alberta, Canada from 1992-2006, 5) Allen Klein (1931-2009) who was an American businessman and publisher who managed acts such as Sam Cooke, The Beatles, and The Rolling Stones, having been born in Newark, NJ, 6) Frederick Christopher Klein (1979), an American actor from Hinsdale, Illinois who is best known for his role as Oz in the American Pie comedy films, 7) Norbert Klein (1866-1933) was the Grand Master of the Teutonic Order from 1923 to 1933, 8) Jonathan David Klein (1960) who is the co-founder of Getty Images, having been born in Johannesburg, South Africa, 9) Christian Felix Klein (1849-1925) who was a German mathematician born in Dusseldorf, Prussia who was known for his work on group theory, complex analysis, and non-Euclidean geometry, and 10) Chris Klein (1976) who was a professional soccer player from St. Louis, Missouri, who played in the MLS from 1998 to 2010.
Hans D.A. Klein was born in Scwalbach, Saarland, Germany in 1450 AD. He married Anna Katharina Becker and had a son with her named Hans. This son, Hans Klein, was born in Germany in 1480. He married a woman named Margreth and had two sons with her as follows: Clauss Klein and Hans Georg. Clauss Klein was born in 1500. He married Johanetta Schönett and had the following issue with her: George, Appolonia, Gross Hans, and Klein Hans. George Klein was born in Ingelfingen, Stuttgart, Baden-Wurttemberg in 1530. He married Beihel Sybille and had the following children: Thomas, Caspar, Hans, and Michel. Thomas Klein was born in Engelfagen Saarbrucken in 1560. He married Apollonia and had the following issue with her: Caspar, Barbell, Velten, and Margreth. Caspar Klein was born in Hilsbach, Bayern in 1590. He married a woman named Margretha and had a son with her named Hans Velten. Hans Velten was born in the same town in 1629. He married twice and had a son named Hans Jakob. Hans Jakob Klein was born in Dilsburg, Saarbrucken, Germany in 1660. He married Anna Katharina Becker and fathered the following children: Johann Peter, Hanss Jacob, Hans Georg, Johannes, Anna Margarethe Franz, Anna Catharina, Hans Velten, Anna Elisabeth Diehl, Johanna Friedrich, and Hans Georg. Hanss Jacob Klein was born in Saarland in 1690. He married Anna Katharina Buch and had the following issue with her: Hans Peter, Maria Margaretha Hauser, Johann, Maria Katharina, Anna Margarethe, and Anna Elisabeth. His son Johann was born in 1728.
Uldrick Kleyn (or Clein or Cleen) was born in Staden, Wetteraukreis, Hessen in 1616. He went to colonial America. In 1641, in the Dutch Reformed Church in New York, he married Aefje Pieters. They had the following children together: Melchoir, Petronella Uldrickse, Johannes, and Ariaantje Uldricks (Van Vranken). His son Johannes Kleyn was born in New Amsterdam, New Netherlands in 1649. He married Maria Ludovicus Cobes and later Clara Cobes and had issue with her as follows: Johanna Clara, Catarina (David), Weintje, Baefje Janse, and Clara. His daughter Baefje was born in Schenectady, New York in 1686. She married Willem David Marinus, and had three issue with him: Maria Willems, Johannes, and Jeremias.
Nicholas Klein was born in Postroff, Moselle, Lorraine, France who was born in 1615 AD. He had a son named Sebastian Klein or Cline who was born in Postorf, Steinsal, Alsace in 1644. He married Catharina Schmidt and had two sons with her: Nicholas, Moriz Schmidt, Sebastian, Anna Elizabeth, Maria Catharina, Ameley, Anna Ottilia, and Anna Margretha. His son Moriz Schmidt Klein was born in Postorff, France in 1684. Moritz emigrated on a sailing ship from Rotterdam (The Netherlands), via Cowes (England), to Philadelphia (Pennsylvania) arriving on the ship Phoenix, on Sep 15, 1749. He married Anna Catherina Marzloff and had the following children with her: Andreas, Johann Bernard, Anna Magdalena (Lintz), Valentine, Johann Sebastian, Jacob, Adam, Maria Barbara, Anna Margarteha, Hans Michael, Anna Christina, Johann Theobald, and Johannes Jacob.His son Johann Sebastian “Bostian” Klein or Cline was born in the same French town as his father in 1712. He married Susan Christiana Elizabeth Beiber and had the following issue: Sebastian Jr., Christopher, Christina (Yoder), Daniel, Elizabeth (Propost), John, Othellia, Mary (Bost), Anna Margaret, Michael S. Sr., Othelia (Hefner), Jacob Sr. His son John Klein was born in Lancaster, Pennsylvania in 1752. He married Barbara Treffelstadt and had three sons with her: Sebastian Bostian, Henry, and William. Henry was born in Catawba, North Carolina in 1793. He married Elizabeth Eckerd and had four children with her: Lyddia Harbinson, Anna Mary, Noah, and Lawson Henry. His son Lawson Henry Klein was born in Catawba County, North Carolina in 1829. He married Rufina Miller. He passed away in Virginia in 1864.