European Origins
Of the Riehle Family and Name

We are anxious to find the origins of the Riehle name within Europe.  Certainly we ask for, and have received, input from our European namesake, but we would welcome input from anyone with information. 

One reference, without verification, suggests that names ending with "...hle" generally originated in the Baden area. More specifically, Joan Riehle Ruse references information from the Church of the Latter Day Saints that the surnames without the "le" suffix, (RIEHL or REEL) are from Northern Germany, or at least north of Baden/Württemberg. Whether or not these various names originally emerged from a common family surname is unknown.

In Vol.3 of the "die Familie Riehle" newsletters, Joan Riehle Ruse mentioned that "a recently consulted source" states that the Riehle name means "a hairy man".   We have no idea if this reference is accurate, but anyone who has seen this publisher's younger brother without a shirt might well be inclined to believe it!

We had a suggestion, from a Riehle relative living in Achern, Germany, indicating that before Riehles settled in that area (near Wagshurst) they were in the Kinzig-Valley area of the Blackforest where many Riehles still live.  But he also suggests that more than 500 years ago the name Riehle came from "Rumania or the Balkan area". 

While we certainly have not been able to confirm that the name originated in Eastern Europe we have receive other email that again indicated that the name has roots in the Kinzig River Valley.  Dennis Riehle sent the following:

-----Original Message-----
From: Dennis Riehle (Dennis.Riehle @
Sent: Friday, December 26, 2003 4:56 PM
To: admin @

Ich bin aus dem äußersten Süden Deutschlands, aus Baden.  Ich habe die Information, dass ein erster Ursprung der Familie Riehle im Schwarzwald gewesen ist, in der Region des Kinzigtales. Dort leben viele Verwandte.

Sie können mich auch gerne duzen, immerhin sind wir ja doch irgendwie alle ein wenig verwandt...

Liebe Grüße,
Partial Translation:
I am from the extreme south of Germany, from Baden. The information I have is that the origin of the family Riehle was in the Black Forest, in the region of the Kinzigtales. There many relatives still live.

We always enjoy hearing from our German relatives, but I could not find "Kinzigtales" on MapQuest.  Google pointed me to a site where I found the following map however and there it was, the valley of the Kinzig!

Map taken from (

It should also be noted that two of the three areas identified as major Riehle population centers are just to the northwest (Wagshurst/Offenburg area of Baden) and just to the east (Mähringen/Kusterdingen area of Württemberg) of the area shown above (see observations).  In fact, as shown, Offenburg is on the Kinzig River, not far from where it flows into the Rhine.  How the surname got to or from Berlin / Brandenburg remains a complete mystery to us.

Further input on the origin of the Riehle name came form David Riehle who sent the following email:

david riehle [mailto: djrie @]
Sent: Tuesday, October 26, 2004 4:00 PM
To: admin @
Subject: Riehle name origin

My take on this question is as follows: "Riehle" is a Swabisch spelling of "Rühle". (reference: A Dictionary of Surnames Patrick Hanks and Flavia Hodges, Oxford University Press 1990) This is consistent with the statement that "Riehle" seems to have origins in Baden, near Swabia. My immigrant grandfather Jacob Riehle came from Nordrach in the Schwarzwald. 

"Rühle" and numerous other cognates are listed in Dictionary of Surnames under the primary entry of "Rollo," defined as "from a Latinized form, common in early medieval documents, of Rou(l), the usual Norman form of ROLF". ROLF is "composed of the Germanic elements hrod, renown + wulf, wolf".

David Riehle
St Paul Minnesota

Thinking through what this might mean, under a Norman (or Nordic?) linguistic influence, someone may indeed have taken the surname of “Roul”, the “renown wolf”.  Subsequently a priest would have converted this to a more Latinized "Rollo" or "Roulo", which over time might have been transformed to Ruhle, Riehle, etc. Since the German pronunciations of these names are more like “Rula”, and “Reela” that's not much of a stretch. 

Moreover, if "Riehle" is a Swabisch spelling of "Rühle", then "Rühle" likely originated elsewhere. Given the flow of the Rhein to the North Sea, and that there was significant Nordic influence all along this coast, one might speculate that a name of Nordic origin might have worked its way up river over time to Swabia, evolving over the centuries as it moved south.  Of course this geography is highly speculative, even if the derivation of the name is as David's sources suggest.

Indeed, we want to stress that the above suggestions are all at least somewhat speculative.  We are looking for more information on this subject so if you have any such information to contribute, please contact usContradictory information is certainly welcome!  

We are also trying to learn what we can from the migratory information available from the genetic code within each of us.  Please see our discussion on the Riehle.Net Genographic Project.