Wagner Surname Genealogy

The German surname Wagner
is an occupational name for a
waggoner or
carter, derived from the Old German wagen
meaning “wagon.” Wagner from waganari may also mean a wagon
Clearly being a waggoner was a position of some importance
in medieval times as no fewer than thirty three coats of arms were
granted to name-holding families. The name spread in Europe
beyond German-speaking lands to Holland (as van Wagenen) and also to
Europe.The Germanic pronunciation – “w” as “v” sounding and the long “a” –
gave way in America to “w” as “w” and a short “a.”

Wagner Resources on

Wagner Ancestry

Wagner is the 4th most common name in Austria and the 8th most common
in Germany. It is mainly to be found in southern Germany.
The largest concentrations of the name are in Saarland, Rheinland
Pflalz, Thuringen, Hessen, Bavaria, Baden-Wurttemberg, and Saxony.

The Wagner numbers today are approximately:

  • 220,000 in Germany
  • and 22,000 in Austria.

This compares with the roughly 60,000 Wagners whose ancestors crossed
the Atlantic and now live in America. Wagners starting coming in
1710, following the religious disturbances in the Palatine.

The Wagner numbers in England are small.

The best-known of these Wagners are probably the Wagners of Brighton
descendants of Melchior Wagner who had arrived in England from the
Saxon city of Coburg in 1709 and became the hatter to King George
I. The
Henry Wagner, the vicar of Brighton between 1824 and 1870, and his son
Rev. Arthur
Wagner founded and funded a succession of Anglican churches in Brighton
for the benefit of
its rapidly growing population. From another line came Sir
Anthony Wagner, the long-serving officer at the College of Arms in

America. In its Dutch
form Van Wagenen, the name was one of the earliest in America, Geertie
Van Wagenen being born in Kingston, New York in 1686. His
descendants, the Van Wagoners, were to be found in the Hudson valley.

New York. German
Palatine refugees started arriving in America in 1710, including
Johan Peter Wagner from Hesse Darmstadt who purchased land from the
Indians and settled in New York’s Mohawk valley. The stone house
that was built there in the 1740’s is still standing today.

this line came Webster Wagner, born in Montgomery county, New York in
1817, who started out working
with his family as a
wagon-maker. Then,
as an employee for the New York Central Railroad for many years, he
invented the idea
of the sleeping
car and the luxurious parlor car. His
innovations were first used on the NY
Central and later spread to other lines. Webster Wagner

died in an unfortunate rail accident in 1882 while riding in one of his

The German Wagner influx was mainly into Pennsylvania, which is
still the state with the largest number of Wagners (the early spelling
was sometimes Waggoner). These Wagners included:

  • Rev.
    Tobias Wagner
    from Wurttemberg who arrived in America in
    1712 as a Lutheran missionary and was a pastor for many years in Berks
  • Abraham Wagner who came in 1737 with his brother Melchior also
    for religious reasons. He was from Silesia and belonged to
    the small Schwenkfelder sect there. Abraham became a successful
    physician in Montgomery county and left a considerable estate on his
    death in 1763.
  • Jacob Wagner who left Rheinsheim in Baden-Wurttemberg for
    Lancaster county in the early 1740’s before starting a trek to Rowan
    county, North Carolina
    twenty years later. Wagners of this line were to be found in
    Tennessee and Texas.
  • Joseph Wagner who came to Pennsylvania from Austria around 1820
    and squatted in wild land in what is now known as the Poconos.
    His family cut down wood to supply props for the coal mines. A
    descendant George Wagner started the family Christmas tree nursery
  • Peter and Katheryn Wagner who were Bavarian immigrants who
    settled in Mansfield (near Pittsburgh) in the years after the Civil
    War. Peter worked in the coal mines there. Their son Honus
    Wagner played baseball for the Pittsburgh Pirates and is considered to
    be one of the best baseball players of all time.
  • and Louis Wagner who arrived in the Pittsburgh area in 1840 and
    onto Lawrence county. His family owned the Wagner farm in Ellwood
    City which they still do.

From the Rheinland to New York in 1885 came a Wagner family, whose
youngest son, Robert
F. Wagner
, became US Senator for New York and whose grandson
Robert F. Wagner Jr. was three times Mayor of New York.

There were also Wagners in America from Russia, although these Wagners
were of German heritage – such as George and Susannah
Wagner who came to New York in 1893. Their story was narrated in
Fonda Baselt’s 1994 book A Wagner
Family Odyssey

Early Wagners
came to French Quebec, either from German-speaking Alsace or Hessian
soldiers stationed there who remained. Wagners from
Germany went mainly to Ontario. William Wagner arrived there in
1850 and eventually settled in Manitoba where he founded the farming
community of Ossowa. The lawyer and politician Claude
Wagner was the son of a Jewish violinist immigrant from Central Europe.

Australia. Johannes
Gottfried Wagner from Silesia came out to Brisbane in
1838 as a missionary. He tried to convert the local aborigines to
Christianity, with what success it is not known. He later
became a Presbyterian minister.

Henry Wagner, a shepherd,
emigrated from Hesse in 1855 after some bad harvests and made his home
Toowoomba. Since those early pioneering days, the Wagner family
of Toowoomba has become through its various enterprises one of the
wealthiest in

Wagner Miscellany

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

Wagner Names

Webster Wagner pioneered
the use of the sleeping car and the luxurious parlor car on American
Honus Wagner,
known as
“the Flying Dutchman,” played baseball for the Pittsburgh Pirates in
the early 20th century and is considered by many to be the best
shortstop that has ever played.
, born in Germany, was US Senator for New York from 1927
to 1949. His son Robert was later Mayor of New York.
Robert Wagner was a popular
American TV actor of the 1970’s and 80’s.

Select Wagners Today

  • 1,000 in the UK (most numerous
    in London)
  • 60,000 in America (most numerous in Pennsylvania)
  • 16,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Canada)




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