This interesting surname, widely recorded in German Church Registers, is of early medieval Germanic origin, and is an occupational name for a shepherd deriving from "schafer", shepherd, an agent derivative of "schaf", sheep (Middle High German "schaf", Old High German "scaf"). In its original sense "a man who has to do with", the agent suffix "-er" designates persons according to their profession or occupation. Among the many professions open to landless people were those of Scha(e)fer (shepherd); Hirt(e) (herdsman); Holtzhacker (woodcutter); Kohlenbrenner (charcoal burner); and Zeidler (finder of wild honey). Early recordings of this surname include: Lewelin Schaffer, Burger zu Lahr (1356); Cuntzel Schefer (Worms, 1384); and Niclos schaffer der Cartheuser ordens (1451). During the late 18th and early 19th Century, when many Ashkenazic peoples adopted this already long-established surname, it was taken, not in its literal sense, but probably as a reference to God ("the Lord is my Shepherd", Ps. 23:1), or perhaps in allusion to King David, who was a shepherd in his boyhood. On September 23rd 1810, Wilhelm Schafer and Wilhelmina Maeyin were married at Alsenz, Pfalz, Bayern, Germany. A Coat of Arms granted to the Schafer family is a shield divided per pale red and silver with a chevalier in the first part and a lily spray in the second, all within a gold bordure. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Dietriech Schaffer, which was dated 1327, in "Early Medieval Records of Germany", during the reign of Louis 1V of Bavaria, 1314 - 1347. Surnames became necessary when governments introduced personal taxation. In England this was known as Poll Tax. Throughout the centuries, surnames in every country have continued to "develop" often leading to astonishing variants of the original spelling.
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