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The Nafzger Surname



Origin of the Nafzger name

There have been several theories for the origin (etymology) of the Nafzger name. Those that I have run across are outlined below. The following section on the early Nafzger families may also shed light on these theories.

1. Family relationship: Naffe/Zahringer

Summary: Naffe/Zahringer, meaning Nephews of the Zahringer family, eventually shorted to Nafzger.

One origin of the Naftzinger name can be found on page 74 and 92 of Arnold Lunn book "Switzerland." The first Zahringers were from the Village of Baden, Germany. After some years, some nephews of the Zahringer family or house moved east of Bern district and founded their own estate, for which the Canton of Schwyz was a part of the place of Nafels.

Nephew in the Swiss language is "Naffe" pronounced Naff and in German, pronouced as Neffay; The name was written for a number of years as Naffe/Zahringer which meant "nephews of the house of Zahringer." Later, the name was written as Naftzhringer. Still later on, the partition bracket was crossed to make a "T", a r was dropped, and the name appeared much as we find it today.

--The Nafzger Heritage News (Vol I No 1 Page 4).

I recently purchased a copy of "Switzerland: Her Topographical, Historical, and Literary Landmarks" by Sir Arnold Lunn (1928), which seemed the best candidate for the above reference. Neither page 74 nor page 92 had a reference to the Nafzger family. Other parts of the book did mention the house of Zahringen, but with no mention of a related Nafzger family. I also tried another book by Lunn, "The Cradle of Switzerland" (1952), but again no reference. Ideally we would like to see references made to the actual documents showing the evolution of the name in this fashion.

2. Personal Attribute: Nefzer = Easy-going

Summary: From the Swabian verb nefzen, meaning to dose or nap.

Hermann Guth, in his book, "Amish Mennonites in Germany" (1995, page 208), states, "Originally the Nafzgers had come from Württemburg, where the name still appears today as Nefzer or Nefzger (Nefzer comes from the Swabian verb nefzen meaning to doze or nap, thus a designation for a slow, easy going person)."

George F. Nafziger makes a good case for this name origin in a letter to the Nafzger Heritage News (NHN Xn2 Page 7). He quotes from "Etymologisches Wörterbuch der Deutschen Familiennamen" (Professor J.K. Brechenmacher, 1847, p. 303)"

Nafz(er), Nafzger, UN - schläfriger Mensche, zu mhd. nafzen - schlum-mern. 1433 Hans Naftzger zu Wiesensteig WV VII, 119 - 1460 Conz Nafts, Diener des Herzogs Ulrich v. Wurtt. ZChr. II, 136, u. a. S. Gnefz.
For which he offers the following approximate translation:
Nafz(er), Nafzger, UN - means a sleeping man, its origin is the archaic German verb "nafzen" - to slumber.

The other entries, to the best of my ability to decypher, make historical reference to a Hans Naftzer from Wiesensteig during 1433. The second is a Conz Nafts, servant (probably in the sense of a civil servant) to Duke Ulrich of Wurttemburg in 1460.

3. Geographic

Summary: From Naefels or Natzingen, or descriptive of a place where the family lived.

Rudolf Nafziger, as quoted in the Nafzger Heritage News (Vol VII, No 3, Page 1), notes that he had speculated the name could have been derived "from Naefels (village in Switzerland) or from Natzingen (village in Bavaria)."

I read somewhere, though I am having trouble remembering where, that Nafzger may come from the name of a place. The word was derived from the word for hill, or valley, or something. I wish I could remember. I will do more research on this and present the sources.

I have also read that Swiss/German names ending in the suffix "-inger" generally came from place names.


Early Nafzger Families

The Nafzger surname appears to have originated in Württemburg and spread by the 17th century to France and Switzerland.

Württemburg / Germany

The Naffzger family can be traced as far back as 1433 in Geislingen, a small town 25 km northwest of Ulm, Württemburg (Germany). A Hans Naftsger of Wiesensteig is mentioned in 1433. Benzen Naffzger of Geislingen is mentioned in 1455 and 1465. These and other early Naffzger references can be found in the "Wurttembergiscle Vierteljahrhefte fur Landesgeschichte." (Ray Noftsger, NHN XII n 4 p 1)

In the Geislingen church-protestant records, that date from 1558, many more Nafftzgers can be found. A listing of these Naffzgers as assembled by Ray Noftsger can be found in NHN XII n 4 p 3.

Uetendorf / Thun / Switzerland

Zacharias Naffzger was given citizenship at Thun in 1621. Melchior Naffzger's young family was found in Uetendorf as early as 1628. Ulrich Naffsger was in Steffisburg in 1624. Ludwig Naffzger was granted citizenship at Thun in 1646. (See Ray Noftsger article reprinted in NHN XIV n 3 page 2 footnote 6.) It has not been shown that this family came from the Württemburg family, but such a connection is certainly plausible.

According to Familiennamenbuch (Register of Swiss Surnames - those with Swiss citizenship in 1962), 1989, the Nafzgers are old residents (they obtained their Swiss citizenship before 1800 as indicated by the 'a' below) of Uetendorf, Canton Bern. Here are the Familiennamenbuch results:

BE Uetendorf a
BS Basel 1910,1935 (Uetendorf BE)
GE Genève 1898 (Uetendorf BE)
ZH Winterthur 1950 (Uetendorf BE)
Zürich 1891 D
1944,1948,1949 (Uetendorf BE)

Wissembourg / Neuf-Brisach, France

The earliest Naftzger in Neuf Brisach, Alsace, France, was Daniel Naftzger who was born at Wissembourg in 1696. He was the son of George Naftzger, who must therefore have emigrated from Württemburg prior to that date. There are still many Naftzger living in France, including in Neuf-Brisach. (Alain Naffzger, NHN XIII n 2)


Amish Mennonites in Germany

Many Nafzger (usually spelled Nafziger) descendants are found in Germany and France in the Palatinate regions. It is generally accepted that these Nafzigers came from the Swiss brach. They can be found in the Palatinate as early as 1715. The Guth book is a good resource for these families. These Amish Mennonites spread out to Denmark and Bavaria. Most of these Nafzgers eventually went on to the United States and Canada in the 18th and 19th centuries.

Nafzgers Immigrants to America 1749-1853

From NHN XX1n1:

Year

Immigrant

Ship

NHN Issue

1741Ulrich NaffzgerMarlboroughXIVn3
1749Rudolf NaffzgerPheonixXVIIn2
1749Matthias NafzgerPheonix
1749Petter NafskerPheonixXVIn3
1750Jacob NaftzigerBrotherhoodXVIIn3
1826Christian Nafziger & 6 ChildrenNimrodXVIIIn4
1826Peter Nafziger & 6 ChildrenNimrodXIXn1
1827Peter Naffziger (died) & ChildrenHenry ClayXIXn3
1828Danl NafzigerBrig Ceasar
1830Jacob Naftziger & 4 ChildrenDeRhamXIXn2
1831/38Valentine NaffzigerXXn4
1833Christian NaffzigerBarque Statera
1834Jacob NaffsiggerGroton
1837Christian Nafffziger & familyMarengoXXn3
1837Catharine Naffziger & familyMarengoXXn3
1838Joseph NafzigerErieXXn1
1839Christian NafstesgerIowa
1839Ulrich Nafstiger & familyIowa
1841John Nofziger & familyXXn2
1848Peter Nafzigernot named
1848Christian NaffzigerArgo
1850Samuel NafzigerXXn4
1850Valenz NaffzigerDuchess d'Orleans
1850Christian NaffzigerDuchess d'Orleans
1850Valentin NaffzingerAdmiral
1853Christian Naffziger & childEmpire


Spelling Variations

It seems that from the earliest days the spelling of the Nafzger name has varied. A few observations have been made that may sometimes give clues about a Nafzger family based on the spelling of the name.
  1. The Nof- spelling is unique to American Nafzgers.
  2. The Amish Mennonites of Swiss origin used the 'i' (Nafziger, Naffziger, etc) while the Württemburg and Wissembourg branches did not use an 'i'.

Books

I am compiling a list of books that refer to the Nafzger family and all it's various spellings. The goal is to index them so they can be searched at this site. If you would like to help with this project, see the Book Index Project page

On This Site

Hint: You can search all of these using the form at the bottom of this page.

The Nafzger Heritage News quarterly published between 1973 and 1995
The History of the Nafzger Family in America by Glea Brown Richer 1939.
Amish Mennonites In Germany by Hermann Guth, 1995.
Index of Various Sources (Books and Films) - Including histories, census records, marriage records.

Links

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Last Modified: 2005-01-19

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