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WEISS Family History


This surname may be either German or Jewish (Ashkenazic), but both come from the German word ?weiss?, meaning white. This would be ?wiz? in the Middlle Ages, when surnames began to be formed and would denote a person with very fair hair, or someone with a pale complexion. The second meaning is habitational, from one of the places in German speaking lands called Weis(s) or Weissen.

There is also a high possibility that there has been some confusion with the surname Weis, normally deriving from Middle High German and Low German ?wis? or ?wise/clever?; this would especially apply to the United States.

In present day Germany there are approximately 56, 260 persons bearing the surname Weiss or Weiß, and it ranks as 41st. It is concentrated particularly in the provinces of Bayern, Rheinland-Pfalz and Baden-Württemburg in southern Germany.

German speaking bearers of the surname arrived in New York and Philadelphia from the early 1700s. By the 1920 Federal Census, concentrations of the name were found in the states of New York (2, 481 families) and Pennsylvania (1, 155 families).

Today in the U.S. the surname Weiss ranks at 531st with 56, 153 bearers (Source: United States Census Bureau). Weis ranks at 3, 468th with 9, 415.

Siebmacher?s ?Wappenbuch? (1605), a collection of coats of arms, has for one Weiss family a silver (or white) lion rampant with forked tail, on a shield divided into upper half red, and lower half green; the crest is a demi (half) lion rampant, silver or white.

Two Famous Bearers

Peter Ulrich Weiss (1916-1982): born in Brandenburg, Germany, he was an experimental writer, dramatist and film-maker, much of his work in the ?avant-garde?. His controversial piece of writing ?Avantgarde Film? (1956) inspired a debate in the art of film-making, and his plays ?Marat/Sade? (1963) and ?The Investigation? (1965)- a play about the Holocaust, brought him widespread fame. He became a Swedish citizen in 1946.

Paul Weiss (1901-20022): born in Manhattan, New York City, originally given the Hebrew name Peretz, was a celebrated philosopher. He specialised in Metaphysics, and his works ?Modes of Being? (1958) and ?Philosophy in Process? (1966-89), monumentally 11 volumes long, establish him as one of the most serious rescuers of metaphysics, which had come increasingly under attack from the so-called ?analytical? Anglo-American consensus in ?linguistic philosophy?..

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