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Shaffer Family History


This surname may be either German, often spelt Schäfer, Shafer and Shaffer, or Jewish (Ashkenazic). The root word is German ?schaf? or sheep. Thus the name is analogous to the English Shepherd. This an occupational name, therefore, and was common in the Middle Ages when this occupation was vital to everyday life.

In modern times in Germany the name occupies 11th rank, with a large population of 117, 500 bearers.

It is found throughout Germany, with a preponderance in the west; the provinces of Hessen, Baden-Wüttemburg, Nordrhein-Westfalen and Rheinland-Pfalz holding large concentrations of the surname.

Schaefers arrived as immigrants in the U.S.A., with other German families, from the early 18th century, settling particularly in the state of New York: the Federal Census of 1920 shows 1018 families living there.

In the present day there are 40, 663 Schaefer bearers in the U.S.A., and this version of the name ranks at 773rd. Shafer ranks at 1, 366th with a population of 23, 804; and Shaffer is at 1, 630th place with a population of 20, 117.

Johann Siebmacher?s ?Wappenbuch? (Book of Arms) compiled in 1605 has a coat of arms for Shaffer, a paschal lamb, bearing the flag with a cross, all proper, above which is a triangle and three stars; the crest is the paschal lamb.

Two Famous Bearers

Claude-Frédéric-Armand Schaeffer (1898-1982): born in Strasbourg (then in Germany) was an archaeologist whose excavations in ancient Ugarit explored the northern Canaanite civilization from the 7th millennium to 1195 BC. This civilization is alluded to several times in the Old Testament.

Vincent Joseph Schaefer (1906-1993): born in New York State, he was a brilliant chemist and meteorologist, whose experiments in ?causing? precipitation (by scattering pellets of dry ice into clouds, from an aircraft) were renowned: rightly so, because he was the first man to make real snow!

Who have we missed?

Tell us about any famous Shaffer (or surname variant) you think we should add here. We will get our genealogists to check them out and add them to the list. Thanks!


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