The Leather Family History Society

We are based in the U.K., but have a world-wide membership.
We welcome enquiries on the genealogy, biography and heraldry of the surname Leather,
and of its main variants Lether, Leether, Leathers and Lither.

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about the Leather FHS membership details publications and records origins of the surnames

This web page describes our Society, and how to contact us; has details of membership (payable in sterling); a list of our publications and records, and outlines the origins and development of the surname Leather and its variants.


The Leather Family History Society

The Leather FHS was formed in 1991 by a small number of enthusiastic researchers - many who turned out to be fairly closely related!

The name Leather originated from the Cheshire/Lancashire border (probably from near Winwick) and, as a family, we are still mainly found in Lancashire, Cheshire and Yorkshire. There are of course, largish numbers of Leathers in London and Birmingham. Our Annual General Meeting is always held in a location that has some link with the family. They have taken us to Northumberland, Leeds, Goole, Weobley in Hereford, Ilkley, Winwick, Burton on the Wirral, and even a pub called Leather's Smithy in Macclesfield Forest!

Our Society is represented in the Guild of One Name Studies and is a member of the Federation of Family History Societies (FFHS).

The Leather FHS answers queries from non-members or members and we are always willing to publish Help Wanted articles in our journal. If possible, please send all enquiries with as full a family tree as possible, detailing your Leather connections. This will help us place you on one of the many branches already constructed.

Further information about the Leather FHS can be obtained from Dr Simon Leather,
134 Holbeck, Great Hollands, Bracknell, Berkshire, RG12 8XG, England.
Telephone 01344-425092. Email: s.leather@ic.ac.uk

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Membership

The income of the Society is dependent on subscriptions and donations, so we hope you will join. Members receive a quarterly journal, "Leather Lines".

The annual subscription is £7.50 or £9.50 for overseas members. Please send a sterling cheque payable to the "Leather Family History Society" to Dr Simon R Leather, 134 Holbeck, Great Hollands, Bracknell, Berkshire, RG12 8XG, England. In joining, you agree to your membership details being kept on a computer.

Cheques/Drafts in Sterling

USA:- You can order British Pound Sterling cheques from the International Currency Express which is said to offer a quick and easy service even for small amounts. You can pay by credit card or cheque at the current fee of $5.00. Write, phone or fax them at:
International Currency Express, 427 N. Camden Drive, Beverly Hills, CA 90210
Tel: 1-888-278-6628 or Fax: 1-310-278-6410
The company also has an office in Washington DC (Tel: 1-888-842-0880). Alternatively, you can visit their website.

AUS:- A number of Australian Societies offer a Sterling Cheque Service:
1. The cheapest currently seems to be the Australian Institute of Genealogical Studies Inc (P.O. Box 339, Blackburn, Victoria, 3130), who charge members $5.50 and non-members $6.60.
2. The Genealogical Society of Victoria (Level 6, 179 Queen Street, Melbourne, Victoria 3000) mail you the cheque on the Monday after receipt of your order and payment at an administration fee of members $5.50 and non-members $8.00.
3. If you are a member of the Society of Australian Genealogists (Richmond Villa, 120 Kent Street, Observatory Hill, Sydney 2000), they will charge members $7.70.

CAN:- Accu-Rate Foreign Exchange allow you to order a sterling cheque or draft for Great Britain via their web-site and pay a service charge of only $1.00 per item. They accept various forms of payment, including cash, bank drafts, Interac and wire transfers. If, however, you live near Ottowa where they have two locations, they supply sterling cheques to retail customers who apply in person without any service charges.

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Publications and Records

The LFHS has published the following books. The prices shown include British packing and postage. Please enquire for overseas postage rates.

Leather Family Records Volume 1 (IGI world-wide, English Births, Deaths and Marriages1837-1900) £8

Leather Family Records Volume 2, (ONS births, deaths, marriages 1900-1925 and selection of Parish Records, directories, wills, marriage bonds, patents and more)  £8.

Leather Family Trees 2003 edition (A collection of World wide pedigrees) £15

Samuel Petty Leather - Gas Engineer of Burnley £4

Contractor Leather – John Towlerton Leather  (1804-1885): Hydraulic Engineer and Contractor of Railways and Sea Defences.  £14

Leather Lives  (a collection of  the biographies of 40 Leathers plus a commentary)  £.6.50

Other records

We also hold many census records, memorial inscriptions and directories, and many other miscellaneous records. These include an extensive set of obituaries, photographs and old letters, plus a large collection of wills, some dating back to the sixteenth century.

Details of publications can be obtained from the Publications Officer, A. David Leather, Woodlands, Panorama Drive, Ilkley, West Yorkshire, LS29 9RA, England.

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LETHER, LEATHER, LEATHERS

compiled by Simon R Leather

As you probably all know, one of the variants that we as a society are supposed to be researching is Lether. If you look at the older records pertaining to the family you will see that in the days before spelling became as fixed as it is now the name Leather was very frequently spelt Lether. For example, one of our older Parish Records entries notes the marriage of Ales Lether (Alice Leather as we would say nowadays) to Ryc Ryder in Frodsham Parish Church on 3 November 1560. There are many examples of this nature during the 16th century, and even in the early 17th century entries such as the christening of Simon Lether son of Simon Lether on 16 March 1688 in Birmingham St Martin are not uncommon. However, by the 18th century most Leathers were being recorded as Leather, although some of the less literate Leathers are recorded as being married or christened with the surname Lether, despite being the children of parents called Leather. In most cases the name reverts to Leather at death or the next generation.

However, a significant proportion of Lethers do exist in England today, albeit much fewer than the conventional spelling. I have contacted some of the Lether branch and, interestingly, those I have spoken to pronounce their name to rhyme with weaver rather than feather i.e. Lee-ther. This is interesting in itself as one branch of the Leather family began to pronounce their name in that way during the early part of the last century (see David Leather's interesting book Samuel Petty Leather: Gas Engineer of Burnley for more details). Being fairly busy with work and mainstream Leather research I left my investigations into the less common variants at that stage.

In January 1998 I was surprised to be contacted by a Frank Lether of Bunschoten in The Netherlands, which is about 20 minutes' drive from Amsterdam. He is a family tree addict, and two or three years ago he started researching his ancestry and began to produce a quarterly newsletter. He informed me that the name Lether is not uncommon in The Netherlands and Germany. He has in fact listed 159 Dutch Lethers and 128 American Lethers. He traces his family back to Heinrich Daniel Löther born in 1750 or thereabouts in Nassau Weilburg in Germany. He notes that in Germany Löther is also spelt Leuther. Heinrich Löther joined the Hessian Army and perhaps served in The Netherlands when the Houses of Orange and Nassau became united. Whatever the reason, he married Aelberdina Reijs in Brummen near Arnhem in The Netherlands in 1789 and changed his name to Leether. However, his eldest son Caesar Christoph Leether, although married as a Leether, registered all his children as Lether and thus founded the branch to which Frank belongs.

Frank sent me a lot of information relating to his research, including that done in the USA. This was of great interest to me as we have long had a 'problem' Leather branch in the USA. A family descended from John and Susan Leather settled in Frederick, Maryland in about 1820. This is an area traditionally colonised by German immigrants and John Leather is purported to have being a soldier in Germany before his arrival in the USA. He and his descendants were members of the Lutheran church and married into the many German families in the area and gave their children names such as Frederick, Christian and Louis. John Leather was thus very possibly of German origin himself. Unlike the other Leathers that we have contacted in the USA and Canada, all of whom have definite connections with England, usually Lancashire or Yorkshire, I have never been able to trace John Leather in the English records. My working hypothesis at the moment is that the numerous Leathers descended from John Leather of Frederick were either Lethers or Leethers who anglicised the spelling of their name on arrival in America as many other mainland European immigrants did at this time.

On the other hand, the Lethers in England are almost certainly all part of the Leather family originating from the Cheshire/Lancashire border, but the Lethers in America may have a much more diverse origin. I am sure that this will provide much frustrating research in the future!

What about Leathers? I had not really considered Leathers to be a true variant of Leather/Lether, as when I started family history research the name appeared to be confined to the south-east of England and to be a family of some substance; you may have heard of Viscount Leathers, for example. I did once get very excited when, looking for a will of my great great great great grandfather George Leather senior (1748-1818), I was sent a will for what appeared to be George Leather but turned out to be George Leathers who had died at about the same time. Interestingly enough the names of his children were almost identical to those of George Leather, which might have indicated a common heritage. However, I decided that there was no link and put the Leathers to one side. That was not the end of the story however. I was contacted a couple of years ago by a Harry Leathers who had recently stopped pursuing family history research and he told me that the Leathers family was actually an off-shoot of the Leather family and promised to send me his material. Frustratingly the material never materialised and as he had contacted me by telephone and omitted to give me his address I have not as yet been able to trace him and find out the truth of the matter. This could be a nice little job for someone out there with time on their hands!

Finally, and also by way of Frank Lether of Bunschoten. One of the rarer variants of the Leather name in England is Leether. Frank was contacted by an Alan Leether from Birmingham who claimed that his name came from Lethar an ancient first name. This is interesting, because as many of you will remember, the late Ron Leather, in an article he wrote in 1992 (Leather Lines Vol 2 No 4), also mooted this as the possible origin of the name Leather. I have written to Alan Leether but as yet have received no reply. I will of course update you all when I do hear something.

There are of course two more variants of the name that I have not mentioned, Lethere and Leither, but as I have absolutely no information on them I will leave them to the rest of you to follow up!

VARIANTS

Leather, Leathers, Lether, Lethar, Lethere, Leether, Leither, Lither, Luther (possibly).

If you are an American of mainland European descent, it is highly possible that your name is an Anglicisation of Lether. In that case it would be sensible to try and contact the Lether Society flether@wxs.nl

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This page is maintained on behalf of the Leather FHS by the FFHS
Updated by the FFHS webmaster 8 January 2007