Origins of the Name

john jerman almanac

The name Jerman is used as a title for this site, principally because this is the spelling recorded for Edward Jerman of Llanidloes, who is the basis for this project. I also believe this spelling to be the most historically accurate for these mid-Wales families.  The earliest written references so far found - from the late seventeenth century - all favour the Jerman spelling.

The name is not a common one in the UK.  As well as in mid-Wales, significant concentrations of Jermans or Jarmans can only be found historically in East Anglia and the south-western counties of Devon and Somerset. Perhaps interestingly, these latter two areas almost always favour the Jarman variant.

In mid-Wales, there is a close, sometimes apparently inter-changeable, relationship between the Jerman and Jarman spellings.   Within this branch of the family, the two variants have been used and in the past this is known to have given rise sometimes to argument.

One example of interest to this branch of the family, seems to have occurred from the middle of the nineteenth century.

   1842 Maurice Jerman of Bedw is recorded as such on his son Maurice's birth certificate.

   1848 Maurice Jarman recorded the birth of his son, Daniel Jarman.

   1872 The same Daniel marries under the name Jerman, with father Maurice also recorded on the certificate as Jerman.

   1873/1876 Daniel Jerman's two sons are recorded as Edward and Daniel Jerman respectively.

   1900 onwards Edward Jerman has six children, one of whom, Daniel Ewart, re-adopted Jarman at some point in his life.

   Daniel Ewart's descendants are the most numerous of the six children (three male) born to Edward Jerman, hence the greater number of Jarmans carrying the name today in this particular line.  For Daniel Ewart to have later changed his name back (to Jarman) - and to essentially repudiate his father's name (which none of his five brothers or sisters did) - simply begs the question of whether he had a heightened sense of history or whether he simply preferred a vernacular rendition.

There appears, however, to be little or no general logic to this and the case above is a good example - of many - of the different spellings being used interchangeably throughout the same person's life, the confusion carrying through to their descendants.

It is difficult, if not impossible, to undertake any accurate historical analysis for a number of reasons.  Spelling on a birth or marriage certificate may not be reliable as the rendering may be that understood or interpreted by the registrar. Census returns may similarly be coloured by the enumerator's understanding. Possibly the most reliable record of what a person considered their name to be would be that recorded on their gravestone memorial inscription, on the assumption that the deceased's family would take care to ensure this was correct; however, even these show variations within the same nuclear families.  Some may have changed to Jarman in the early part of the twentieth century onwards due to British antipathy to Germany - though both variants are prononuced "Jarman".

Origins of the Name

There are two main issues to consider here - the eytomological origin of the name itself, and the origin of the name in Montogomeryshire.

1. The Jerman Name

german in the fullest sense of relationship, not half-brother etc.

germanus (latin) genuine (of same parents) cf Old French germain

Germanus of related peoples of central and N. Europe, name perhaps given by Celts to their neigbours

(all quotations from Oxford English Dictionary)

"The name is found in Eastern Europe and in England and Wales, and family history web-sites also list German as variant, particularly among emigrants to the USA.  In Britain, the names JERMAN, JARMAN, GERMAN seem to derive from naming boys after St Germain and passing the name and various spellings to their sons as surnames. It is expected that JERMANs do not have a single common ancestor. This suspicion is supported by modern surname distribution studies which fail to find a central concentration of the name in the UK. "

Adapted from source

Saint-Germain offrant une medaille, Musee d'Auxerre


St Germain, of French origin, (this link gives further information about this historical figure) was also known in Wales as St. Garmon and here a possible point of confusion arises: it is possible that the Germain name entered Wales immediately after his recorded presence in the country in the sixth century (see above link for more information). However, it is equally conceivable that the Germain variant - present throughout Continental Europe - did not come until much later to Wales, although possibly deriving from the same source.

2. Origins of the Name in Montgomeryshire

The Jerman/Jarman names are regarded as "old" Montgomeryshire names, but the name is not one of the "old" Welsh names, nor can it appear to be readily derivable from such through the ancient Welsh patrynomic system. Some sources suggest that it was present in the locality in at least the sixteenth century, the first recorded sources so far being identified in the Trefglwys area.

Powys - and particularly Montgomeryshire - attracted migrants from earliest times through easy access up the Severn and Wye valley; Romans, Saxons and Normans all found their way into the county at some point. However, set against these general migration flows can be found isolated examples of re-settlement of particular groups. It seems likely that the Jerman name came with a group of such migrants to this area, the likely origin being Flemish. Roberts and Owen ("The Story of Montgomeryshire, Cardiff, 1916) consider that the "Flemish element" in Montgomeryshire is represented by "Hamers, Woosnams, Jarmans, Ingrams, Bebbs, Ryders, Jarretts &c."

An early mention of Flemish in-migration is through Henry I's settlement of Flemings in Pembrokeshire in the twelth century. The extract below considers this:

"The surename Jarman, German, Jerman, is said to have its origin with a small group of people sent by Henry 1 of England to Whales in the year 1107 "to civilize the Welsh people by arts of peace." These Flemish colonists spoke low german, and because of their language the Welsh people called them"Germans." No doubt their idenity was all but lost in the ensuing 550 years before any of them sailed for an american harbor. They were indeed peace-loving people as they came to America as members of theSociety of Friends. Amoung the early Welsh Quaker immigrants were John and Margaret Jerman, who came from Langerig, Montgomeryshire, Whales, in 1683, and settled in Chester County, Pennsylvania. 
An Edward Jerman was prominent among the Welsh Quakers in the Philadelphia area as early as 1703 or before. It is on the Eastern shore that the Quakers are first found in Virginia. They were there as early as 1656-7, and they settled first in Accomac County due to its sparce population and remote location from the seat of the government across the Bay at Jamestown." This site concentrates on American descendants, and gives the name later attribution, but what is of interest is the reference to "Langerig", presumably "Llangurig". Please note that other spelling is retained as source..

Later, however, Roberts and Owen mention the implantation of a further Flemish element, "There is evidence of the code of laws compiled by Howell Dda that the making of woollen fabrics was a well-developed industry in Wales as far back as a thousand years ago (i.e. c.1000) In the Middle Ages, the industry was further developed after the coming of the Flemings. In 1331, Edward III introduced seventy families of Flemish weavers into this country, and during the succeeding hundred years several others reached our shores. Many of them settled in Wales and their coming resulted in a great improvement in the making of cloths...Thus Llanbrynmair, where dwelt several descendants of Flemish weavers, bcame a flourishing centre of the woollen industry"

There is also evidence that at the end of the seventeenth century, groups of French protestant refugees came over to escape persecution following Edict of Nantes - many any of these made their homes in Montgomeryshire, Breconshire and other parts of North East Wales; again they were involved in weaving, and some may have carried the "Germain" name or variant.

Elsewhere in the UK, concentrations of the name are found in areas of Somerset and Devon. There were certainly trading links in the Middle Ages across the Bristol Channel but I have seen no evidence to suggest which way, if any, the name travelled. There are also concentrations of the name in East Anglia, supporting a theory of Flemish origin through trade across the North Sea.


The caption reads "Llanidloes Women's Institute members took a peep into the past on Wednesday evening when they arranged a Victorian dress parade with the successful results seen in our picture".  Cutting from "Express and Times", February 23 1952.

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