The GAUER Family

  What is a GAUER ?


I believe the GAUER family began in Germany but a phonetically identical surname (GAUER/GOWER/GWYR/GOHIERE) seems to have popped up about the same time in Germany, England, Wales and France in the 10th - 13th centuries. The numerous sources I have researched don't agree much about the exact derivation of the GAUER surname. There are, however, a number of tantalizing clues.

The first possibility is that the GAUER name comes from the widespread custom of people taking the name of their town as their last name. Thus literally the Gauer patronym means:

Gau: area, province, district
Er: suffix meaning inhabitant, originating in... the nickname of a man of the village compared to the townsman12.

There are a number of towns that are possibilities here. The most probable town is Gauern near Gera in Thuringia, 100 km south of modern Leipzig. Gauern is mentioned in many references 1,2,7,9,10 as the actual source of the GAUER surname. Also mentioned are the towns of Gauernitz & Gauernitz-Wildberg1 beside each other on the Saale river. Other possible but less likely towns are Gauersheim (303 miles SW of Berlin)14, Gauerstadt (188 miles SW of Berlin)14 and finally Gauert which is 152 miles WNW of Berlin14.

The second possibility was the custom of using your trade as your last name (eg Bauer=Farmer, Hauer=Lumberman). Bahlow1 ascribes GAUER in the Rhine area as the Middle High German "gouwer" which means "squire" or "farmer". Linnartz6 indicates GAUER means literally "hand worker of the land" (Handewerker auf dem Lande / Landmann).

Gottschald3 mentions derivations from Slavic names (slawisch personenname) of Gabor & Gawor. He also indicates3 GAUER is a diminutive (verkleinerungsform) of names like Gaworek, Gawor, Gabor, Gaber, Gabert or Gauerke.

The GOWER surname would seem to be a natural Anglicization of GAUER but when I raised this question in 19995 the general consensus was that there may be no familial connection at all. It is even possible that in the 10th to 13th century someone in the GOWER family emigrated from England and settled in a town they called "Gauern" in Germany (there are no known records of people using the GAUER surname in Germany before 1347). Irene May Gower in the book she published in 19394 (GAUER-GOWER Family) uses GAUER and GOWER interchangeably. She feels the GAUER surname originated from the Turkish word "Giaour" meaning "Are you Christian?" (during the Crusades?) and that the family dates back to the 10th century in England. She also mentioned a William Fitz-Guhyer Lord of Stittham in York county around the time of the Norman conquest. Another reference 8 mentions a Gryffydd(Griffith) Gwyr(ca.1050 AD) who was Lord of the Gwyr (region in ancient Wales). The area of Gwyr is now the modern Gower Peninsula in Glamorgan, Wales15. Other references8,11 point to the French towns of Gohiere or Gouy which are in the "Goelle" region north of Paris which was anciently known as "Gohiere". A number of researchers4 have seen their ancestors surnames spelt both ways. I doubt we will ever absolutely settle this discussion5 but it will always be interesting and enlightening.

There are various historical records of GAUERs dating back to the 1300s. A Conradus Von GAUER is first mentioned in records in 1347 in Kynitz, a Goetz Von GAUER is mentioned in 1398 at Planswitz, a Michel Von GAUER is mentioned in 1430 in Lichtentanne, a Jost Von GAUER and an Oswald Von GAUER received entitlement to the Von prefix in 1510 at Barenwalde and a Georges Von GAUER is mentioned in 1530 in Lichtentanne 13. A Catherine Von GAUER married Chevalier Otto Von Tumpling in 1556 and a Margeurite Von GAUER married Chevalier Salomon Von Pollnitz in 1566 13. There was a Wernher GAUWER, knight, in 1283 1 and a Henne GAUWER in Frankfurt in 13871. A Clemens GAWERN is mentioned in Crimmitschau, Saarbrucken in 15192.

No-one has yet succeeded in documenting the definite derivation of the GAUER surname and it really seems there is no clear single patriarch of the GAUER family. However, each new piece of evidence moves us closer. Please if you have any further evidence of how the GAUER surname developed or very early GAUER genealogicial information.



  1. BAHLOW, Hans; Deutsches Namenlexikon, 1972 ; translated to English as The Dictionary of German Names, 1993
  2. BRECHENMACHER, Josef Karlmann; The Dictionary of German NamesEtymologisches Worterbuch der Deutschen Familiennamen;1847
  3. GOTTSCHALD, Max; Deutsche Namenkunde; J. F. Lehmanns Verlag; Munich 1932
  4. GOWER, Irene May; GAUER-GOWER Family; 1939
  5. The GOWER Genealogy forum
  6. LINNARTZ, Dr. K.; Unsere Familiennamen; 1958
  7. JONES, George F., et al; German-American Names; Second Edition
  8. ROBB & CHESLER; Encyclopedia of American Family Names
  9. GRUNBERG, Reinhold; Sachsisches Pfarrerbuch die Parochien...
  10. Von FRANK, Karl Friedrich; Standeserhebungen und Gnadenafte fur das Deutsche Reich und die Osterreichischen Erblande bis 1806
  11. REANEY, Percy; A Dictionary of British Surnames
  12. DAUZAT, Marc Albert; Les Noms des Familles de France
  13. ANONYMOUS; Gauer Genealogy chart with unknown provenance however it looks like Kneschke's "Deutsches Adelslexikon" (as it is commonly called) volume 3 was consulted.
  14. The Jewish Shtetl(town) Seeker
  15. Gower Lordship Wikipedia
Many of the above references can be found at the Morman Church Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah, USA. The links on the book names show the WorldCat page for this book which will show you if the book is available in any library affiliated with the OCLC worldwide system of libraries (books in libraries in Canada and the USA the book may be available through interlibrary loan). Some books have a link to purchase. I do not have copies of these books other than photocopies of the specific pages which mentioned the GAUER surname.

Copyright ©1996,2009 G.M. Gauer
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