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Heller Genealogy and Heller Family History Information

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About the Heller surname

The surname of HELLER was a German nickname from the small medieval coin, known as the 'haller or heller', because it was first minted at the Swabian town of Schwabisch Hall in the year 1208. It is also a Jewish nickname for a person with fair hair or one who was light complexioned. Surnames having a derivation from nicknames form the broadest and most miscellaneous class of surnames, encompassing many different types of origin. The most typical classes refer adjectivally to the general physical aspect of the person concerned, or to his character. Many nicknames refer to a man's size or height, while others make reference to a favoured article of clothing or style of dress. Many surnames derived from the names of animals and birds. In the Middle Ages ideas were held about the characters of other living creatures, based on observation, and these associations were reflected and reinforced by large bodies of folk tales featuring animals behaving as humans. The name has many variant spellings which include HELLERMAN, HELERMAN, HELLE, HELLERSTEIN, and HELLMAN. Stephen Heller (1813-88) was the Hungarian pianist and composer, born in Budapest. He made his debut as a pianist at nine years old. In 1838 he moved to Paris, where he composed and taught until his death. Joseph Heller born in 1923, was the American novelist, born in Brooklyn, New York. He served in the US army air force in World War I drawing on experience for his black comedy, Catch 22, based on the simple premise that a fighter pilot who wants to be excused duty need only ask, but by asking proves he is sane and fit to fly. The book became an international best seller, and a byword for war's absurdity. The first hereditary surnames on German soil are found in the second half of the 12th century, slightly later than in England and France. However, it was not until the 16th century that they became stabilized. The practice of adopting hereditary surnames began in the southern areas of Germany, and gradually spread northwards during the Middle Ages.