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German Surname Origins:

-by Kathi Reid

Our German ancestors began to use surnames in the 1400s. Occupational names are the most common among our German ancestors, but nicknames and location names are also used.

Every village had similar trades from which people took their surnames, so people of different German villages who had the same trade and therefore the same surname are not necessarily related to each other.

Today German surnames have undergone many spelling changes, especially as Germans have immigrated to the United States. For example; Meyer, Mayer, Maier, Meier all have the same meaning - a tenant farmer.

Suffixes which can indicate a German occupational name are:
  • -er  (meaning "one who")
  • -hauer  (meaning ""cutter")
  • -macher.  (meaning "maker")
These prefixes do not necessarily indicate a noble origin
  • von  (meaning "of")
  • an  (meaning "on")
While the nobility surnames did have a prefix of von to indicate their main castle or estate,  it is just as true than a person not of the nobility could also have the surname with a prefix signifying that he was originally from a different town.

Some German surnames are derived from locations, a place near the person who adopted the surname.
  • -berg (meaning "mountain")
  • -bruck (meaning "bridge")
  • -burg (meaning "castle")
  • -furt (meaning "ford")
  • -holz (meaning "wood")
  • -rode (clearing in woods)
  • -wald (meaning "forest" or "woods")

Some German towns and villages have names ending in
  • -heim (meaning "home")
  • -dorf (meaning "village")
Some of your family surnames with these suffixes may include a clue to an ancestral village of long ago.



Some Common German Surnames in the U. S.:

Ackerman
Auer
Bader
Bauer
Bayer
Becker
Berger
Braun
Brinker
Bruder
Eisenhower
Fischer
Fleisher
Fleischman
Fuchs
Gerber
Gross
Hahn
Hartman
Heinz
Hermann
Hoffman
Hoffmeyer
Huber
Jaeger
Jung
Kaiser
Kaufman
Kellerman
Kessler
Klein
Koch
Kohler
Krause
Kruger
Lang
Lehmann
Meyer
Mauer
Morgen
Muller
Neuman
Peters
Richter
Roth
Schafer
Schmidt
Schneider
Schubert
Schumacher
Schuler
Schultz
Schultz
Schuster
Schwartz
Snyder
Studebaker
Vogel
Wagner
Walter
Weber
Weir
Werner
Wolf
Zahn
Zedler
Zimmerman
Zuckerman





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