SCHAFER Surname Meaning and Family History

What does the last name Schafer mean?

The German surname Shafer derived from a word meaning shepherd.
Shepherd herding sheep on a mountain in Austria.

Westend61/Getty Images

The Schäfer surname and its variations such as Schaefer come from the Middle High German schæfære, meaning "shepherd," a derivative of schaf, meaning "sheep." See SCHAFFER for another possible origin.

Schäfer / Schaefer is the 11th most common German surname.

Surname Origin: German, Jewish


Famous People With the SCHAFER / SCHAEFER Surname

  • Arnold Schäfer - German historian
  • Will Schaefer - American composer
  • Pierre Schaeffer - French composer, writer, broadcaster, and engineer
  • Edward Albert Sharpey-Shafer (born Edward Albert Schäfer) - English physiologist
  • Tim Shafer - American computer game designer

Where Is the SCHÄFER Surname Most Common?

According to surname distribution from Forebears, the Schäfer surname is most common in Germany, ranking as the country's 72nd most common surname. The alternate spelling of Shaefer is even more common, coming in at 57th. WorldNames PublicProfiler, which combines data on the surname under the Shaefer spelling (the ä umlaut converts to ae), indicates the surname is very prevalent throughout Germany, especially the southern half of the country in states such as Hessen, Saarland, Rheinland-Pfalz, Baden Württemberg and Nordrhein-Westfalen.

Surname maps from indicate the Schäfer last name is most common in western Germany, especially in the counties or cities of Berlin, Lahn-Dill-Kreis, Köln, Gießen, Rhein-Neckar-Kreis, Siegen-Wittgenstein, Main-Kinzig-Kreis, Mayen-Koblenz, Frankfurt am Main and Wetteraukreis.

Genealogy Resources for the Surname SCHÄFER

Meanings of Common German Surnames
Uncover the meaning of your German last name with this free guide to the meanings and origins of common German surnames.

Schafer Family Crest - It's Not What You Think
Contrary to what you may hear, there is no such thing as a Schafer family crest or coat of arms for the Schaefer surname. Coats of arms are granted to individuals, not families, and may rightfully be used only by the uninterrupted male-line descendants of the person to whom the coat of arms was originally granted.

Schaffer DNA Surname Project
Individuals with the Schaffer surname, and variations such as Schaefer, Schaeffer, Schafer, Schaffler, Shafer, Shaffer, Shaver and Sheaffer, are invited to participate in this group DNA project in an attempt to learn more about Schaffer family origins. The website includes information on the project, the research done to date, and instructions on how to participate.

SCHAFER Family Genealogy Forum
This free message board is focused on descendants of Schafer ancestors around the world.

FamilySearch - SCHAFER Genealogy
Explore over 3.7 million results from digitized historical records and lineage-linked family trees related to the Schafer surname on this free website hosted by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

SCHAFER Surname Mailing List
Free mailing list for researchers of the Schafer surname and its variations includes subscription details and searchable archives of past messages. - SCHAFER Genealogy & Family History
Explore free databases and genealogy links for the last name Schafer.

GeneaNet - Schafer Records
GeneaNet includes archival records, family trees, and other resources for individuals with the Schafer surname, with a concentration on records and families from France and other European countries.

The Schafer Genealogy and Family Tree Page
Browse genealogy records and links to genealogical and historical records for individuals with the Schafer surname from the website of Genealogy Today.

References: Surname Meanings & Origins

  • Cottle, Basil. Penguin Dictionary of Surnames. Baltimore, MD: Penguin Books, 1967.
  • Dorward, David. Scottish Surnames. Collins Celtic (Pocket edition), 1998.
  • Fucilla, Joseph. Our Italian Surnames. Genealogical Publishing Company, 2003.
  • Hanks, Patrick and Flavia Hodges. A Dictionary of Surnames. Oxford University Press, 1989.
  • Hanks, Patrick. Dictionary of American Family Names. Oxford University Press, 2003.
  • Reaney, P.H. A Dictionary of English Surnames. Oxford University Press, 1997.
  • Smith, Elsdon C. American Surnames. Genealogical Publishing Company, 1997.
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Your Citation
Powell, Kimberly. "SCHAFER Surname Meaning and Family History." ThoughtCo, Aug. 27, 2020, Powell, Kimberly. (2020, August 27). SCHAFER Surname Meaning and Family History. Retrieved from Powell, Kimberly. "SCHAFER Surname Meaning and Family History." ThoughtCo. (accessed March 27, 2023).