If you were to take a look into German genealogy then you would find that the entire history of family lineages in the country began in the Middle Ages. Surnames only became commonplace in that era as the population was expanding. However, all of the initial surnames still persist in German society today. One of those is the Schneider surname. As one of the original and the most common German surnames in the world today, it is easy to find in any given telephone directory, but where did it come from and just how prevalent is it?
The Schneider surname emerged in Germany in the Medieval times from the verb schneiden, meaning “to cut”. It was one of the earliest surnames because it described the work of a tailor and literally meant just that. As such, Peter the tailor soon became Peter Schneider to help distinguish him from other Peters that may have lived in an individual village or town. It came from Middle High German but is also commonly known as a Jewish surname now. However, it was adopted by another band of cutters in Medieval Germany – wood cutters. The vast majority of Germany was agrarian in the Middle Ages and wood cutters were just as common as tailors, if a little lower in class. This actually goes some way to explaining why the Schneider surname is perhaps the most common.
The Schneider surname, like other surnames of that time, was found in records in numerous spellings as a result of the high number of scribes that would simply write a name down as it sounded. This is why it can be found to this day written as Schneidau, Schneider, Schneidar, Schnieder and Schnitter, amongst others!
Although it is several hundred years old, the Schneider surname is perhaps the one that is most used around the world today. Millions of people have had that particular German surname to the point at which the Dutch and Swiss actually have their own variations. It is incredibly common in the United States, especially in the Jewish community. As such, millions more people are destined to have it in the future. However, if you are planning to research German genealogy relating to the Schneider surname then you need to bear in mind that it may lead you to a wide range of countries. Although it originated in Germany, the Schneider surname can be found in the majority of countries so be prepared to spend a lot of time researching it!