Recorded in a number of spellings including Gerl, Gerlach, Gerlech, Gerleit, Gerlich, Gerlick, and others, this is German surname of ancient pre 7th century origins. However spelt it was originally a personal name, created by the fusing of two early words 'gar' meaning a spear or lance, and 'laeche,' a contest or tournament. Quite why somebody should be known as 'spear contest' is unknown, but it may have been a way of distinguishing a prominent soldier renowned for his prowess with the spear, or perhaps a spear champion, a winner of tournaments. In the early days before surnames which in both Germany and England commenced from about the sametime in the 13th century a.d., the only easy way to identify a person was by some sort of nickname, of which this is a good example. The earliest known public recording of the surname and taken from surviving German records, is believed to be that of Greta Gherlighs of Barth in Pommerania in 1410 although as a personal name of son and father, we have the recording of Gerlach filius Gerlaci, in the rolls of Otigheim in the year 1294. Later church register recordings include Ursula Gerle of Jagskreis, Wuerttemburg, on May 4th 1659, Elspeth Gerlach of Moselhern, Rheinland, on June 1st 1607, and Johann Heinrich Gerleit of Konigsberg Stadt, Ostpreussen, on August 30th 1797.
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