8000 Muchen 80
Dear Gary Cliser,
I thank you for your interesting letter I received some weeks ago; I wish to excuse my late answering which is because I wanted to connect with some old people of the Black Forest knowing alot about the problem concerning us both.
The Kleiser's are a very old family of the Black Forest coming from the region of Neustadt in Schwarzwald. About 20 miles away from Freiburg. Mostly they were farmers and I found three farms where Kleiser's lived the last 300 years or longer yet. (It's the Klausbubenhof in Langenordnach, the Kleiserhof at Titisee-Jostal and the Unterroturenhof at Vohrenbach-Urach). The problem is that the "Thirt Year War - 1618 - 1648) destroyed most of the documents; but the first Kleiser at that time Klauser (pronounced: Cloiser)) I found named in a document of 1485. You see we are from a very old family! Pictured are old covered tombstones in a Black Forest church cemetery.
I took a look into diverse name-books where the origins of German family names were explained. In about twenty booksI consulted, I found the name KLEISER only once., but always found names such as Kleisl, Kleis, Klauser, Kleisler, etc. I am enclosing two pages from Heintze - Cascorbi, Die deutschen Familiennamen, Halle, 1933 - which are quite interesting because 1) my theory that our name is a transformation of the German short form of the christian name "Nicolaus", that is "Klaus" is confirmed. 2) the end syllable "ER" makes us sure that the name must have been formed where the Alemannische Dialeckt is spoken (this means the region of the Black Forest, on both sides on the Rhine river, in Switserland and perhaps in Vorarlberg (Austria). All these things are confirmed by the implications given in the indicated book.
You are right to think that German language uses "C" rarely, but it's different with names coming from Latin or Greek as iin our cases. So you should not wonder to encounter "Claeser" or "Claiser" or perhaps "Clauser". I'll give you some further ideas about the beginning of utilisation of family names in general. Till the 12th century there were only christian names in Europe. Most of the families got a family name by adding for example the christian name of the father, or the name of the farm or the village, etc between the 12th and the 15th century. Such a name was not given for all the time but changed in many ways with the language, the regions, the dialects... Thats the way we are able nowadays to follow up on the development and the specifications of our names. The specific form KLEISER came into existance in a rather limited area: it is the southern part of the Black Forest around Furtwangen - Vohrenbach - Neustadt. Unfortunately I had no time until now to go to the archives in Urach and Furtwangen to see the history of the Kleiser's (or Klausers as they have been told two hundred years ago.) If you were able to give me more indicatation about the exact origin (name of the village) where Joseph Kleiser or Mathias Kleiser came from (you told me that Joseph came from Switzerland - which seems doubtful to me.
KLEISER der KLEISHEIM: Indeed, kleisheim (heim=home) could be a village, but I did not find one named that way in Germany.
How to explain Kleisher / Clisher, that makes no sense in German. In the modern German we never combine S-H, only SCH. When Kleiser's came to America, I think they wished to be called by the old fashion way. And "S" between two consonants is voices - in English as well as in German - except in the Alemannsiche Dialekt.
I want you to know something about the meaning of that name too. As you saw in "Klauser", the name comes originally from the Christian name "Klaus", which is an abbreviation of "Nikolaus". That is shown clearly in "Klausbubenhof" which means the farm (hof) of the sons (buben) of Klaus. By the way, also the name Klauser, is existant principally in the region near Freiburg and directly in that town.
At last, I have never encountered a spelling "Klizer" or "Clizer", but I think that a spelling like that is quite easy to explain; It's the first attempt of a German to 'Americanize" his name to have the correct pronounciation, the same one in Germany, so it's only a transcription.
I hope I could help you a little; If you have another question, please let me know, I hope to answer. and please will you excuse the faults which are probably in the text.
Paul B. Kleiser