Snyder Surname Meaning, History & Origin

Snyder Surname Meaning

Snyder is a Dutch occupational surname meaning “one who cuts outer garments” or a tailor.  It derived from the Middle Dutch sniden, meaning “to cut.”  The English term “snide,” as in “a snide or cutting remark,” comes from this root.  A notable early name was Frans Snyders, a 17th century Flemish painter at the time of Rubens. 

The German Schneider, also meaning tailor, is a far more common surname.  There are more than 300,000 Schneiders in Germany today.  Many of these Schneiders became Snyders in America. The American spellings are Snyder and Snider.  Some American Snyders are Jewish from the Yiddish name Schnayder.

Snyder Surname Resources on The Internet

Snyder and Snider Surname Ancestry

  • from Germany (Schneider) and from Jewish emigrants
  • to America and Canada

America.  There are 57,000 Snyders and 41,000 Schneiders in America today.  Earlier Schneiders from Germany changed their name to the more English-sounding Snyder. Later Schneider arrivals were more likely to have kept their German name. Schneider narrowed the gap on Snyder in America over the  20th century.

Pennsylvania.  The first Snyders in America were German Palatines from the Rhineland who crossed the Atlantic from Rotterdam – Christian Schneider departing there on the William and Sarah in 1727 and another Christian Schneider leaving on the Allen in 1729.  They like others at that time came to Pennsylvania, although the earlier Christian Schneider then moved onto New Jersey.

Notable 18th century Snyders from Pennsylvania were:

  • Anton Schneider who came to Pennsylvania from the Rhineland in 1744.  His son Simon Snyder rose from humble origins to become the third Governor of Pennsylvania in 1808.  Simon’s home on North Market Street at Selinsgrove in Pennsylvania still stands.  Snyder county in Pennsylvania was named in his honor.  
  • John Peter Snyder who arrived in the late 1740’s also from the Rhineland (his brother Nicholas following him in 1755).  Peter married in America and bought land in farm in Franklin county, Pennsylvania.  Jacob Snyder, born there, headed north to farm in Waterloo township, Ontario around 1815.  His lineage was recounted in Lucille Heckman’s 1991 book The Jacob Snyder Family History.  
  • and George Snyder, born in Bucks county Pennsylvania in 1780, who moved to Paris, Kentucky as a young man where he earned his living as a silversmith and clockmaker.  Around 1820 he is credited for having invented the first American-made fishing reel.

Elsewhere.  Snyders were also to be found in Maryland and Virginia at this time.  A Snyder family from Virginia was in Knox (later Whitley) county, Kentucky by 1810.  The line from Frederick Snyder who lived on Wolf Creek was covered in Frank R. Snyder’s 1992 book Snyder Family History.

Alonzo Snyder, born in Kentucky, came south in the late 1830’s to speculate on land in Louisiana.  His initial investments paid off and he became a successful planter and lawyer, one who was particularly adept in handling bankrupted estates in the Mississippi Delta.  His family remained prominent in the affairs of Tensas parish in NE Louisiana for the balance of the century.

Jewish.  Some Snyders in America are Jewish.  Daniel Snyder, for instance, came from a Jewish family in Maryland.  He made his money in direct marketing and has been the owner of the Washington Redskins football team.

Canada.  In Canada the Snider spelling has been more common than Snyder.  Early arrivals were those who crossed the border from America:

  • the Snyders who came to Upper Canada (Ontario) included Adam Snyder to Gainesborough township in 1793 and Jacob Snyder to Waterloo township in 1815.  David Snider arrived with his family in 1819 and they made their home in Trafalgar township.  His place became known as Snider’s Corners.
  • then there were Loyalists like Martin Snider who had received a land grant from the British Government in New Brunswick.  He farmed there from 1794 until 1811 when he moved to York, Ontario.  He has a large number of descendants in Canada.

These Snyders/Sniders could all be traced back to Schneider immigrants into Pennsylvania in the first half of the 18th century.  They tended to settle in Canada in the same tight Mennonite communities that they had formed in Pennsylvania.

Elias Snider, from the Snyders in Waterloo county, took over the family gristmill in the 1860’s and invested in rollers from Europe to produce a better grade of flour that was marketed widely throughout Canada.   He later became a prominent local politician.

Snyder and Snider Surname Miscellany

Snyder, Snider, and Schneider in America

Census numbers (000’s) 1840 1920 2000
Snyder     2    29    57
Snider     1     5    10
Schneider     –    13    41

Simon Snyder at Selinsgrove.  When Simon Snyder was fifteen his father died and two years later, in 1776, he moved to York where he apprenticed with a man who taught him the tanning and currying trades. While in York, Snyder studied reading, writing and mathematics at night with a local Quaker schoolmaster.  Beyond this, Snyder was largely a self taught man.

In 1784, at the age of twenty five, Simon and his brother-in-law Anthony Selin, the founder of Selinsgrove, became partners in a general store there. Selinsgrove was then at the Pennsylvania frontier.  The business required willingness to work hard, honesty, and a shrewd business sense, all of which virtues Simon Snyder possessed.

A general store could sometimes be the stepping stone to political office for its proprietor.  And this proved to be the case for Simon Snyder. In 1785 he was elected a Justice of the Peace and in 1789 he was appointed as one of two representatives the county sent to the State Constitutional Convention.  His political rise had started.

After serving three consecutive terms as Pennsylvania Governor, Snyder returned to Selinsgrove in 1816 and built his home on North Market Street.  However, he was to die there three years later of typhoid.  His gravesite at Sharon Lutheran church in Selinsgrove is marked by a monument topped by his bust.

Snyders in New Jersey and Canada.  Christian Schneider was one of many Palatine refugees from Germany.  According to the Pennsylvania archives’ passengers lists, he came on the William and Sarah in 1727. This list includes the following Snyders: Christian, Jacob, Martin, Mathias, Madeline and Susannah.  Madeline was his wife.  Jacob, Martin and Mattias were probably his brothers.  Christian at the time was about 32 years old.

Following their arrival and processing, Christian and his wife Madeline joined thousands of German refugees who settled in northwest New Jersey, about ninety miles north of Philadelphia. They made their home near Paulins Creek in Warren county.

Adam Snyder was born there in 1739.  In 1793, after the conclusion of the Revolutionary War, he left with his family for Canada. They were six weeks on the road, covering about five hundred miles through the wilderness. The “roads” were only Indian trails between settlements. The women and children rode the horses and on wagons. The men walked and drove the cattle and sheep.

Upon their arrival in Canada, the family settled in the northern part of Gainesborough township in Lincoln county, Ontario.  He built a saw mill and a grist mill on the nearby creek and his community became known as Snyder’s Mills.  Family legend has it that his wife Ann befriended the Indians who came to her door. She was so good to them that they looked upon her as a saint and named the Snyder place “St. Ann’s.”

Alonzo Snyder in the Mississippi Delta.  Alonzo Snyder was a chancer.  He had come to the Mississippi Delta from Kentucky in 1838 as a young man. He married into the Beiller family which gave him access to their estates.  In his legal profession he became particularly adept in handling bankrupted estates.  Many of their plantations wound up in the hands of Snyder or his friends.  By 1860 he was worth nearly $200,000 in real estate and personal property, a large sum in those days.

There is a daguerreotype portrait taken of him at this time.  He was by then a respected district judge and increasingly active in local politics.  Snyder was one of the prominent leaders of the Breckinridge faction in Louisiana, which was pro-Union at the time.  However, in 1861, he was elected as a delegate to the Louisiana secession convention.

In the spring of 1863, Union soldiers came to arrest him at his home. Snyder spent three months in a prison in Alton, Illinois.  But then he was released and returned to Louisiana and his estates.

The Sniders at Trafalgar Township, Ontario.  Michael Snider and his wife Catherine moved to the Mississauga region of Upper Canada in 1802, obtaining a 200-acre land plot.  He settled in 1809 west of what is known today as Winston Churchill Boulevard.

His son David Snider followed suit, moving to Canada with his wife Eliza and making his home in Trafalgar township in 1819.  These Sniders quickly became renowned for their fine horses.  David Snider was a farmer until his passing in 1862 at the age of 79.

David’s son Joseph carried the mail to and from Postville in Trafalgar township for Snider’s Corners; a job he inherited from his father.  At that time the place had just a church and schoolhouse, but it was well known as a social centre for surrounding farm families.  Later Joseph was appointed as postmaster for Snider’s Corners.  He also worked as a tavern inspector, assessor and tax collector.

Snyder Names

  • Simon Snyder was the third Governor of Pennsylvania, serving three terms from 1808 to 1817. 
  • George Snyder is credited with having invented the first American-made fishing reel in 1820. 
  • Duke Snider, nicknamed “the Duke of Flatbush,” was a popular outfielder with the Brooklyn Dodgers baseball team of the 1950’s. 
  • Gary Snyder is remembered as a West Coast poet associated with the Beat Generation.
  • Tom Snyder was a pioneer of late-night American TV talk shows.

Snyder/Snider Numbers Today

  • 67,000 in America (most numerous in Pennsylvania)
  • 15,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Canada)

Snyder and Like Surnames 

The first wave of German immigration into America came in the early 1700’s from the Rhine Palatine and Switzerland.  They were fleeing religious persecution at home.  Most ended up in Pennsylvania, bringing their Mennonite church with them.  Some went to the Mohawk Valley in upstate New York.  Their Germanic names often changed under English rule to English-style names.  Thus Fischer became Fisher, Schneider Snyder, Hubner Hoover and so forth.

The reasons for immigration were different in the 19th century – in search of a better life, sometimes to avoid the draft.  They came from all German states and went not just to Pennsylvania but all over as the middle and west of the country was opening up.  And they brought German skills with them, notably beer-making.

Here are some of the notable German surnames in America that you can check out.


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Written by Colin Shelley

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