Select Schiff Surname Genealogy

Schiff is a Jewish surname.  Indeed the name dates back to 1370 in Frankfurt in Germany, the earliest date to which any contemporary Jewish family can definitely be traced. 

In old German the word schiff meant a vial and schiff may have been used as a sign for an apothecary or a physician.  Later, Schiff could have cropped up as an ornamental name for the wder Jewish diaspora that extended into the Russian empire.  Here Schiff might have derived from schiff meaning "ship" in German.  

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Select Schiff Ancestry

The earliest known Schiff, Jacob Kohen ede Schiff, was mentioned on the tombstone of his son Uri Phoebus as having discharged the function of dayyan in Frankfurt.  Uri Phoebus Schiff himself attained a great age, dying in 1481

The Schiff name was later prominent in the Judengasse community of Frankfurt in the 17th century.  It was said that these Schiffs were a branch of an older Cahn family which had settled on the Schiff and had adopted the Schiff name.  Meir Kohen Zedek Schiff who died in 1626 was referred to as parnas of the community.  During the next century Schiffs were said to have shared a home with the Rothschilds in the Judengasse.  And Tebele Schiff took up the position of chief rabbi of the Great Synagogue in London in 1765.

The Schiff name spread to Hamburg, Mannheim and Vienna in the 19th century.  Schiff emigants to America were mainly from Germany.  But 30% of them came from the old Russian empire.

America.  Moses Schiff had been a broker for the Rothschilds in Frankfurt.  His son Jacob Schiff departed for New York in 1865, the year the Civil War ended.   He joined the banking firm of Kuhn Loeb nine years later and headed up the firm in 1885.   From his base on Wall Street he became a leader of American Jewry until his death in 1920.  He focused primarily on the plight of Russian Jewish immigrants.  He made a famous loan to Japan in 1905 to support their war effort against Russia.

His son Mortimer Schiff also worked for Kuhn Loeb and was a notable early backer of the Boys Scouts of America:
  • Mortimer's son John was the third of the family to play a leading role with Kuhn Loeb.  After its merger with Lehmann Brothers in 1977 he was named the honorary chairman of the merged company,  He was an avid horseman and breeder of thoroughbreds in Kentucky. 
  • while his daughter Dorothy was the owner and publisher of the New York Post from 1939 to 1976.  
David Schiff of the next generation also worked for Kuhn Loeb.   His son Andrew married Karenna Gore in 1997 but they later divorced.  Andrew Schiff afterwards complained that it was difficult to live in New York on $350,000 per year.

A Jacob Schiff, this time arriving from Poland, came to New York in the early 1900's.  He was a cabinet maker who later made his home in New Haven.  His son Irwin was a prominent figure in the US tax protester movement.  He died in federal prison in 2015 while he was serving a 13 year sentence for tax evasion.  His son Peter, however, has been a successful financial investor and writer.  A Schiff family from Lithuania came to Boston in 1906 where the husband worked in the butcher's trade.  Their grandson Adam became a Californian Congressman in 2001.

There were some non-Jewish Schiffs who came to America.  Louis Schiff from Baden in Germany, for instance, arrived in America in 1854 and eventually settled in Clayton county, Iowa.    

.  Charles Schiff, descended from a Schiff family in Mannheim, was a banker who first made his appearance in London in 1865.  He was active in American railroad investment.  During World War One German names became unpopular and the Schiff family adopted the Burch name, that of Charles's wife.

Select Schiff Names

Tebele Schiff was chief rabbi of the Great Synagogue in London from 1765 to 1791. 
Jacob Schiff was the foremost Jewish leader in America from 1885 until his death in 1920.  He headed up the New York banking firm of Kuhn Loeb and was active in his support for Russian Jewish immigration into America. 
Dorothy Schiff was owner and publisher of the New York Post from 1939 to 1976.
Sir Andras Schiff is a Hungarian-born classical pianist and conductor who came to Britain in the 1970's.

Select Schiffs Today
  • 2,500 in America (most numerous in New York) 
  • 500 elsewhere (most numerous in UK)

PS.  You might want to check out the surnames page on this website.  It covers surname genealogy in this and companion websites for more than 800 surnames.

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