Select Stein Surname Genealogy

The German word stein means "stone" and the surname originally described someone who lived on stony ground or (occupationally) someone who worked in stone, such as a mason or stonecutter. 

Stein also became through Yiddish a Jewish name when Jewish people were obliged to adopt surnames for themselves in the early part of the 19th century.   The Stein name either exists by itself or is combined in a longer name, such as in Bernstein or Goldstein, or in a prefix form, such as in Steinway, the famous piano-maker.

Steinn as "stone" also appears in Scandinavian languages.  The Dutch Steijn/Stein is apparently an abbreviation of Augustin, the Scottish Steen/Stein of Steven.

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In Europe, the surname Stein is mainly to be found in German-speaking lands, the count today being approximately as follows:
  • Germany, 60,000
  • France, 2,500
  • Scandinavia, 1,200
  • and the Netherlands, 1,000.
The Stein name is most known in Germany in Franconia, an area of northern Bavaria.  Wurzburg has been home of the famed vineyard Stein (and of Steinwein); the town of Nassau was where the von Stein family originated; and rabbi Leopold Stein, the prominent leader of reform Jewry in the 19th century, was born in Burgpreppach in lower Franconia.

Stein emigration to America, initially just German, took on an increasingly Jewish flavor, not just from Germany but from Jewish outposts in the Austrian- Hungarian and Russian empire as well.
England.  Most Steins in England are of German extraction.  They begun arriving into the East End of London in the mid 19th century.  Their numbers are smaller today than might be expected. 

Many Steins anglicized their names due to the anti-German hysteria of the First World War.  Rick Stein, the celebrity chef, has talked in the BBC TV program Who Do You Think You Are? of the trauma his father experienced as a young boy at that time which eventually caused him to take his own life.

Scotland.  Stein and Steen, both abbreviations of Steven, are Scottish Lowland surnames found originally in Fife and adjacent areas, Ayrshire and the Border counties. 

The Stein name may have first appeared in the Clackmannan area near Fife in 1200.  They were substantial landowners by the 16th century and apparently learned the art of whisky distilling from the friars at Kennetpans Abbey.  Andrew Stein first established a commercial whisky distillery there around 1720.  They remained important distillers for more than a century.  But their last plant closed in 1856.

Katie Stein was said to have been the heroine of Burns' poem Tam O'Shanter. The most famous recent Stein has been Jock Stein, the football manager who led Celtic to their European Cup triumph in 1967.

South Africa.  Steyn, a variant of Stein, is a well-established South African surname.  The origins are both Dutch and German.  The majority of South African Steyns seem to have been descended from a Dutchman Jacobus Steijn of the early 1700's.  Another line apparently stems from a soldier, Johannes Steyn from Darmstad, who settled in Cape colony in the late 1700's, married, and raised eight children.

One line from Jacobus Steijn leads to Bloomfontein.  The Steyn farm there - once the home of Martinus Steyn, the last President of the Orange Free State - has become something of a shrine to Afrikaan nationalism.  Another descendant is the present-day business tycoon Douw Steyn.

  The Steins followed the early German immigrant pattern into America, via Philadelphia into Pennesylvania.  Among those arriving in the first half of the 18th century through this route were:
  • Johannes Leonardt Stein in 1733 on the Hope of London, settling in Lancaster county
  • Johannes Stein from Rheinland in 1748 on the Edinburgh, settling also in Lancaster county
  • Philipp Stein in 1751, settling in Bedminster, Bucks county
  • and another Johannes Stein from Rheinland in the early 1750's, settling in Pine Grove, Berks county     
    (where the family remained for the next two hundred years).
BaltimoreLeopold Stein settled in Baltimore in 1833 and subsequent Steins of this line became Baltimore lawyers and judges.  Meyer Stein - who had arrived in 1841 and started up a clothing store - was part of the vibrant German Jewish community of Baltimore.  His son Daniel made money in railroads and his granddaughter was the writer Gertrude Stein.

New York  The largest number of Steins were to be found in New York, following the wave of Jewish immigration in the late 19th century from Eastern Europe.  Their Yiddish culture transplanted readily itself to New York; and Joseph Stein, the son of Polish immigrants in New York, depicted this culture in his smash-hit musical Fiddler on the Roof.

New York has provided the platform for Steins to succeed in the professions, in particular as lawyers, doctors, and businessmen.  Recent New York headlines have told of the death of Linda Stein, a real estate mogul, and of the conviction of Edward Stein, a hedge fund manager, for a Ponzi-scheme fraud.

Elsewhere.  Steins have also spread across America.  Four family success stories have been:
  • Charles Stein and his family who immigrated from Germany to California in the 1880's.  They started up the Stein family farm (now preserved as a museum) near the US/Mexican border.
  • a Jewish family from Lithuania who had moved to South Bend, Indiana in the 1890's where they ran a general store.  Their son Jules Stein started a talent-agency business in the 1930's which grew into the mass entertainment company MCA.
  • and a Jewish immigrant from Russia, Sam Stein, who came to Mississippi in 1905 and started up a general store in Greenville.  David Ginzl's 2004 book Stein Mart narrates how the family built up the business in the succeeding years.
Australia.  The Stein name began in Australia in 1838 when Johann Stein was brought out from Germany with the first cuttings of Rhine Riesling.  Steins have been living in Smithfield, NSW almost from that time. Since 1976 the vineyard in Mudgee, NSW has been in Stein family hands.

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If you would like to read more, click on the miscellany page for further stories and accounts:

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Gertrude Stein
was an American writer who spent most of her life in France (for much of the time with her partner Alice B. Toklas).
Jules Stein built up his talent-agency business in the 1930's to the mass entertainment company MCA Inc.
Joseph Stein was the author of the smash-hit muscal Fiddler on the Roof of the 1960's.
Jock Stein was the Scottish football manager who led Celtic to their European Cup triumph in 1967.
Herbert Stein was the Chaiman of Economic Advisors under Presidents Nixon and Ford.

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  • 2,000 in the UK (most numerous in London)
  • 25,000 in the UK (most numerous in New York)
  • 2,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Australia).

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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