The Austrian empire required official family names for Jews in 1787.
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The name they received sometimes depended on how much a family could afford to pay.
Wealthier familes received German names that had a pleasant or prosperous sound (Goldstein, gold stone, Rosenthal, rose valley), while the less prosperous had to settle for less prestigious names based on a place (Schwab, from Swabia), an occupation (Schneider, tailor), or a characteristic (Grün, green).
Also see: Top 50 German Surnames We often forget or are not even aware that some famous Americans and Canadians were of Germanic background.
The first European surnames seem to have arisen in northern Italy around 1000 A.
D., gradually spreading northward into the Germanic lands and the rest of Europe.
By 1500 the use of family names such as Schmidt (smith), Petersen (son of Peter), and Bäcker (baker) was common in the German-speaking regions and all across Europe.
Persons trying to track down their family history owe a debt of gratitude to the Council of Trent (1563)—which decreed that all Catholic parishes had to keep full records of baptisms.
The Protestants soon joined in this practice, furthering the use of family names throughout Europe.
European Jews began the use of surnames relatively late, around the end of the 18th century.
Officially, Jews in what is today Germany had to have a surname after 1808.
Jewish registers in Württemberg are largely intact and go back to about 1750.