Shapiro Surname Genealogy

Shpria – which became Shapiro – was the Jewish name for the city of
Speyer on the Rhine.  Speyer had a large Jewish population during
the Middle Ages and Shapiro denoted someone from Speyer.  The
Shapiro surname might also have derived from the Hebrew word sofer meaning “scribe” or from the
Russian word safir meaning

The main spelling variants today are Shapiro and Schapiro.

Shapiro Resources on

Shapiro Ancestry

Jewish community of Speyer
thrived for more than two hundred
years from
the late 11th century. Speyer at that time was an important center for
Ashkenazi culture.  The early Shapiros there were rabbinical
scholars – Rav Schmuel of Shapiro and his son Rav Schlomo Shapiro, the
first to adopt Shapiro as a family name.

However, religious persecution of the Jews began and the Jewish
population of Speyer steadily declined until by the year 1500 there
were none remaining there.  They spread elsewhere.  Notable
Shapiros were later to be
found in Lithuania, Prague, and Cracow in Poland.  Others were to
be found among the Jewish communities in Hungary and elsewhere in
Poland and Russia.

America.  Most of the
Shapiros that came to America
originated from Russia rather
than from
Germany. Among these Shapiro immigrants were:

  • Jacob
    , born in Odessa in 1899, who came to New York as a
    young boy and became one of the chief mobsters in the garment district
    during the 1920’s and 30’s.  He co-founded Murder Inc. as his
    weapon of enforcement.  Among those wiped out during his splurge
    of killings were the three Shapiro brothers (not related to him) also
    into racketeering, who were murdered in
    the early 1930’s.
  • Meyer Schapiro, on the other hand, born in Lithuania in 1904,
    to New York also as a young boy, but achieved renown as an art
  • Joseph and Jennie Shapiro had also arrived from Lithuania.
    Their son Ted became a noted Tin Pan Alley songwriter in the 1920’s.
  • and Samuel Shapiro, who was born in Estonia in Russia in 1907 and
    came with his parents to Chicago at a young age.  Known as
    “Smiling Sam,” he briefly became
    Governor of Illinois in 1968.

One Shapiro family traces their history back to Amsterdam where two
Shapiro brothers were meat wholesalers
who supplied
army.  One of these brothers, Abraham, travelled with this army to
Russia in 1812 and remained then afterwards, settling in the Minsk
area.  From his line came Isaac and Eliyahu Shapiro whose families
migrated to Wisconsin and California in the late 19th century.

Morris Shapiro also came to America from the Minsk area, although at a
later date.  He achieved renown as a weight-lifter and was known
as “the Mighty Atlas.”  He lived out his life in Las Vegas.

Another Shapiro family, based this time in Odessa, were food suppliers
to the Tsar’s fleet in the Black Sea during the 19th century.
These Shapiros emigrated to America in 1903, settling in Indianapolis
where they opened Shapiro’s Delicatessen.  It
still flourishes.

Shapiro Miscellany

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

Shapiro Names

Jacob Shapiro, co-founder of Murder Inc, was a New York mobster
of the 1920’s and 30’s.
Carl J. Shapiro founded Kay
Windsor in 1939 and built it up to be one of the largest women apparel
companies in America.
Helen Shapiro
was a British pop
star of the 1960’s.
George Shapiro is an American
show business manager and television producer, best known for
representing Jerry Seinfeld.

Select Shapiros Today

  • 1,000 in the UK (most numerous
    in London)
  • 13,000 in America (most numerous in New York)
  • 1,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Canada)



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