Stein Surname Genealogy

German word stein means
“stone” and the surname originally described someone who lived on stony
ground or (occupationally) someone who worked in stone, such as a mason
or stonecutter.
Stein also became through Yiddish a Jewish name when Jewish people were
obliged to adopt surnames for themselves in the early part of the 19th
century.   The Stein name either exists by
itself or is combined in a longer name, such as in Bernstein or
Goldstein, or in
a prefix form, such as in Steinway, the famous piano-maker.
Steinn as “stone” also
appears in Scandinavian languages.  The Dutch Steijn/Stein is
apparently an abbreviation of Augustin, the Scottish Steen/Stein of

Resources on

Stein Ancestry

In Europe, the surname Stein is
mainly to be found in German-speaking lands, the count today being
approximately as follows:

  • Germany, 60,000
  • France, 2,500
  • Scandinavia, 1,200
  • and the Netherlands, 1,000.

The Stein name is most known in Germany in Franconia, an area of
northern Bavaria.  Wurzburg has been home of the famed vineyard
Stein (and of Steinwein); the town of Nassau was where the von Stein
originated; and rabbi Leopold Stein, the prominent
leader of reform Jewry in the 19th century, was born in Burgpreppach in
lower Franconia.

Stein emigration to America, initially just German, took on an
increasingly Jewish flavor, not just from Germany but from Jewish
outposts in the Austrian- Hungarian and Russian empire as well.

England.  Most Steins in
England are of German extraction.  They begun arriving into the
East End of London in the mid 19th century.  Their numbers are
smaller today than might be expected.

Many Steins anglicized
their names due to the anti-German hysteria of the First World
War.  Rick Stein, the celebrity chef, has talked in the BBC TV
program Who Do You Think You Are?
of the trauma his father experienced as a young boy at that time which
eventually caused him to take his own life.

Scotland.  Stein and
Steen, both abbreviations of Steven, are Scottish Lowland surnames
found originally in Fife and adjacent areas, Ayrshire and the Border

The Stein name may have first appeared in the Clackmannan area near
Fife in 1200.  They were substantial landowners by the 16th
century and apparently learned the art of whisky distilling from the
friars at Kennetpans Abbey.  Andrew Stein first established a
commercial whisky distillery there around 1720.  They remained
important distillers for more than a century.  But their last
plant closed in 1856.

Stein was said to have been the heroine of Burns’ poem Tam O’Shanter. The most famous
recent Stein has been Jock Stein, the football manager who led Celtic
to their European Cup triumph in 1967.

South Africa.  Steyn, a
variant of Stein, is a well-established South African surname.
The origins are both Dutch and German.  The majority of South
African Steyns seem to have been descended from a Dutchman Jacobus
Steijn of the early 1700’s.  Another line apparently stems from a
soldier, Johannes Steyn from Darmstad, who settled in Cape colony in
the late 1700’s, married, and raised eight children.

One line from Jacobus Steijn leads to Bloomfontein.  The Steyn farm
there – once the home of Martinus Steyn, the last President of the
Orange Free State – has become something of a shrine to Afrikaan
nationalism.  Another descendant is the present-day business
tycoon Douw Steyn.

  The Steins followed the early German immigrant
pattern into America, via Philadelphia into Pennesylvania.  Among
those arriving in the first half of the 18th century through this route

  • Johannes Leonardt Stein in 1733 on the Hope of London, settling in
    Lancaster county
  • Johannes Stein from Rheinland in 1748 on the Edinburgh, settling also in
    Lancaster county
  • Philipp Stein in 1751, settling in Bedminster, Bucks county
  • and another Johannes Stein from
    Rheinland in the early 1750’s, settling in Pine Grove, Berks county(where the family remained for the next two hundred years).

Leopold Stein
settled in Baltimore in 1833 and subsequent Steins of this line
became Baltimore lawyers and judges.  Meyer Stein – who had
arrived in
1841 and started up a
clothing store – was part of the vibrant German Jewish community of
Baltimore.  His son Daniel made money in railroads and his
granddaughter was the writer Gertrude

New York  The
largest number of Steins were to be found in New York,
following the wave of Jewish immigration in the late 19th century from
Eastern Europe.  Their Yiddish culture transplanted readily itself
to New York; and Joseph Stein, the son of Polish immigrants in New
York, depicted this culture in his smash-hit musical Fiddler on the Roof.

New York has provided the platform for Steins to succeed in the
professions, in particular as lawyers, doctors, and
businessmen.  Recent New York headlines have told of the death of Linda
, a real estate mogul, and of the conviction of Edward
Stein, a hedge fund manager, for a Ponzi-scheme fraud.

have also spread across America.  Four family success
stories have been:

  • Charles Stein and his family who immigrated from Germany to
    California in the 1880’s.  They started up the Stein family farm (now
    preserved as a museum) near the US/Mexican border.
  • a Jewish family from Lithuania who had moved to South Bend,
    Indiana in the 1890’s where they ran a general store.  Their son
    Jules Stein started a talent-agency business in the 1930’s which grew
    into the mass entertainment company MCA.
  • and a Jewish immigrant from Russia, Sam Stein, who came to
    Mississippi in 1905 and started up a general store in Greenville.
    David Ginzl’s 2004 book Stein Mart
    narrates how the family built up the business in the succeeding years.

Australia.  The Stein
name began in Australia in 1838 when Johann Stein was brought out from
Germany with the first cuttings of Rhine Riesling.  Steins have
been living in Smithfield, NSW almost from that time. Since 1976 the
vineyard in Mudgee, NSW has been in Stein family hands.

Stein Miscellany

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

Select Stein Names

Gertrude Stein was an American
writer who spent most of her life in France (for much of the time with
her partner Alice B. Toklas).
built up his
talent-agency business in the 1930’s to the mass entertainment company
MCA Inc.
Joseph Stein was the author of
the smash-hit muscal Fiddler on the
of the 1960’s.
Jock Stein was the Scottish
football manager who led Celtic to their European Cup triumph in 1967.
Herbert Stein was the Chaiman
of Economic Advisors under Presidents Nixon and Ford.

Select Steins

  • 2,000 in the UK (most numerous
    in London)
  • 25,000 in the UK (most numerous
    in New York)
  • 2,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Australia).




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