Schaefer Surname Genealogy

Schaefer is an alternative spelling and
cognate for the German
schäfer and surname Schäfer, generally taken
to mean “shepherd.”
suggested origin for the surname has been the German word scheaffaere or shaffer,
meaning a manager or a steward
of a household. However, this is a less
likely explanation.
In the 19th century some
Jewish people adopted a version of the Schaefer name, possibly as a
to their God (as in “the Lord is my shepherd”) or as an allusion to
King David who was a shepherd in his boyhood.
Schaefer and many variant
spread across America – such as Schafer, Shafer,
Schaeffer, Schaffer, Shaffer, Sheffer, and Sheaffer

Schaefer Resources on

Schaefer Ancestry

Early recordings of the surname in Germany were:

  • Dietriech Schäfer in Bavaria in 1327
  • Lewelin Schäfer at Lahr in Baden-Wurttemberg
    in 1356
  • and Cuntzel Schefer at Worms in Rheinland-Pfalz in 1384.

Schäfer with the umlaut numbers some 220,000
in Germany today and is the eleventh most common surname.
The surname is prevalent throughout the country,
especially in the south in states such as Hesse, Saarland,
Rheinland-Pfalz, and Baden Württemberg.
Scheffer spelling has persisted in the Lower Rhine.

. The first
Schaefers in America were probably Maria
Schäffer and her family
from the Rhineland
Palatinate who were recorded
in Schoharie county in
upstate New York in 1710. Shaffer and
Shafer have been later family names there.

The Schaefer name did come to America
with one and two “f’s” – Schaefer and Schaeffer – and the one and two
“f” names
divide roughly 50/50 of the 90,000 or so of that name today.

Schaeffer. The main early Schaeffer
presence was in
Pennsylvania. The spelling often became
Shaefer and Shaffer after a generation or two.

Among the Schaeffer arrivals from Germany were:

  • Alexander Schaeffer from Baden who came to Philadelphia
    in 1738 and
    settled at Heidelberg township in what was then Lancaster county. This township would later become known after
    him as Schaefferstown.
  • Anthony Schaeffer
    from Heidelberg who came to another Heidelberg township, this time in
    Northampton county, where he married Maria Reeg sometime in the 1760’s.
  • Jacob
    Schaeffer who arrived from Hesse, aged 19, on the Patience in
    1748 with
    a guardian (his parents having both died). He
    first made his home in Berks county, before moving to
    Virginia. The family name there became
    Shaffer and
    Sheffer. Their history was recounted in
    Russell Smith’s 1944 book The Sheffer Family of Shenandoah County.
  • while
    Frederick David Schaeffer from Hesse, who also lost his parents young,
    came to
    Philadelphia in 1776 and was later ordained in the Lutheran church. Three of his sons were also Lutheran
    clergymen; as was his grandson Charles William Schaeffer.

Many moved onward from

  • Dr,
    Jacob Shaffer, born in 1794, practiced medicine in Cleveland, Ohio in
    the 1820’s when that city
    was just
    a hamlet. He later moved to the town of
    Reynoldsburg nearby and gained a reputation for his treatments during
    cholera epidemic of 1832.
  • John
    Schaeffer, an early settler in Ohio, moved further westward in 1818 to
    Cass county, Illinois where he
    settled. His grandson Charles was the superintendent of schools there.
  • and Michael
    Shaffer, born in 1814, also lived in Ohio for a while and then
    land to farm in Iowa in 1854. He settled
    in Cedar, Iowa.

Nicholas Schaeffer had been born in Germany and
immigrated to Philadelphia with his mother and brothers in 1832. Shortly after arriving in America, their
horse was stolen and the family crossed the Allegheny mountains on foot. Nicholas settled for a few years in
Cincinnati before he came to St. Louis to found his lubricants company
in 1839.
Despite simple beginnings, Schaeffer’s business quickly grew, making
him St.
Louis’s first millionaire.

Jacob Schaeffer, born
in Pennsylvania, headed west to California at the time of the Gold Rush. He
entered the jewelry business in Bloomfield, Iowa. Somewhere
during this journey his name changed
to Sheaffer. In 1912 his son Walter
founded the W.A. Sheaffer Pen Company, the maker of the first
commercially successful lever-filling fountain pen.

. The Schaefer spelling was
found among
Pennsylvania arrivals, but also cropped up elsewhere.
Schaefer sometimes shortened to Schafer and

Maximilian Schaefer came
to New York from Hesse in 1839 and three years later started up with
brother Frederick the F&M Schaefer
Brewery Company
. This became by
the early 1900’s the largest
brewery in America.

Carl Schafer and his
brother Paul from Baden came to Perry county in southern Indiana in
1852; while
Jacob Schafer from the Rhineland-Palatinate arrived with his family
Lake county
in northern Indiana in the mid/late 1850’s. Jacob Shafer
meanwhile had been an early settler in Tippecanoe county in the central
part of
the state, coming there from Ohio in the 1830’s.
He was a gunsmith by trade. His son
Jacob, after some wandering, farmed
near Topeka in Kansas.

One early family in
Rockingham county, Virginia started out as Shaffer, but were Shaver
when Nicholas
Shaver married Magdalene Grosvenor in 1763, and then Shafer when Jacob
moved to California in 1849 and to Idaho territory where he was a
delegate to the US Congress in 1870.
Another Shaefer to Shaver transition occurred with William and
Shaefer who came to Sussex county, New Jersey in 1765.
Their four sons adopted the Shaver spelling.

Australia. Philip
from Hesse who had served in the British army
was recruited to come to Australia in 1790 as an early small-scale
farmer in
the bush. However, he was not a success
and, after selling away his land, ended up in an asylum.

Schaefer had come to Victoria from Bavaria in 1857 and settled in
Echuca where
he and his wife Anna raised eight children.
The youngest of these, Harry, was a self-taught musician who
learnt dance tunes in Victoria and in the Forbes
of NSW where he later lived. His
transcription of these tunes is possibly the only
example of an Australian bush dance musician keeping a written record
of his
own repertoire

Schaefer Miscellany

If you would like to read more, click on the miscellany page for
further stories and accounts:

Schaefer Names

Georg Anton Schäffer was a German
physician from Bavaria who attempted to conquer Hawaii for Russia
in 1815,
but failed.
Walter Sheaffer developed
in America the first commercially successful lever-filling fountain pen
William Donald Schaefer
was the Governor of Maryland from 1987 to
, Jewish, is an acclaimed British playwright whose works
have included Equus and Amadeus.
He died in 2016

Select Schaefers Today

  • 1,000 in the UK (most numerous
    in London)
  • 91,000 in America (most numerous in Pennsylvania)
  • 8,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Canada)




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