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What's it like being Schneiderman?
Great! My name is the longest ever and it rhymes with Spiderman!
It's OK. I don't really care one way or another
Hate it! No-one can ever spell it right...

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Schneiderman - about the name

The name "Schneiderman" is of a Germanic and Yiddish origin. It is a derivative of "Schneider" with the addition of "man". It is an occupational name for a tailor, literally meaning ‘cutter’, from Middle High German snider, German Schneider and Yiddish shnayder [1], [2].  "Schneiderman" is much more predominant amongst the Jewish population than amongst the German population, where "Schneider" is in a significantly wider usage. For some of the alternative spellings of the same name - please see the following article.

Therefore, we may safely conclude that somewhere along our ancestral line there was a tailor - perhaps someone like the one shown in the picture. If you ever found yourself to be good with a needle and a thread - you now know that this is genetic and it cannot be helped.

The actual concept of "surname" or "last name" or "hereditary name" is an interesting topic in itself. Amongst the Jewish, especially Ashkenazic population, introduction of last names is a relatively recent phenomenon. "For centuries, much the same like during biblical times, each individual was known by his given name to which, sometimes, his/her father's name was added: David ben Yaakov (David the son of Yaakov). For that reason, "Ben Yaakov" was not a family name, but part of his given name. His son's name, for instance, was not called Ben Yaakov, but Ben David (the son of David). First examples of family names among Jews have been documented in France, Spain, Italy and North Africa as early as the 10th century. In Central and Eastern Europe, family names started to appear in the 16th century, especially among a handful of affluent families. Having a family name was considered another sign of belonging to a prestigious and much esteemed family" [3].

"Only towards the end of the 18th century, and even then depending to the specific area in which they lived and the local political circumstances, did Jews adopt family names. There were many reasons for this change, and not all are known today as they differed from one place to another. Sometimes it resulted from the need of the local authorities to deal more efficiently with a growing number of city dwellers for such matters as tax collecting, military conscription or population census; consequently, each household was required to take up an additional name that later became known as a family name. In most cases, however, adopting a hereditary family name was a consequence of introducing modern systems of government that called for a systematic registration of the entire population." [3].

Depending upon the country and time of various edicts, the Jews sometimes had a choice in choosing their names and sometimes they did not. For example, "in the Austrian Empire an order was issued in 1787 which compelled the Jews to adopt surnames, though their choice of given names was restricted mainly to Biblical ones. Commissions of officers were appointed to register all the Jewish inhabitants under such names. If a Jew refused to select a name the commission was empowered to force one upon him. This led to a wholesale creation of artificial surnames, of which Jewish nomenclature bears the traces to the present day." [4].

Aside from such random artificial or Biblical patronymic last names, other origins of last names included:
  • Occupational (as in Schneiderman) [3], [5];
  • Places of origin -names based upon the name of a local city, town or place; such as, Rottenberg (a city in Germany);
  • Personal Characteristics- such as, Klein(small), Gross (large), Weiss (white);
  • Family Symbols and/or Signs-names based upon family symbol or a sign that hung at or by the home; such as, Rothschild (red shield);
  • Names From Acronyms or Denoting a Lineage-often from Hebrew; such as, Bruck (Ben Rabbi Akiba), Levy (priests)

[1]  Dictionary of American Family Names, Oxford University Press, ISBN 0-19-508137-4
[2] Name Meaning and History
[3] Jewish Family names - An Introduction. Museum of the Jewish People
[4] Wikipedia - Jewish surname
[5] Kolomea Research Group Surnames of Interest Origins and / or meanings. Researched & Authored By: Saul Zeichner


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