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An excerpt from www.HouseOfNames.com archives copyright © 2000 - 2014

Origins Available: German, Jewish

Where did the German Dreyfus family come from? What is the German Dreyfus family crest and coat of arms? When did the Dreyfus family first arrive in the United States? Where did the various branches of the family go? What is the Dreyfus family history?

The history of the Dreyfus family name begins in the German province of Bavaria. Dreyfus is a nickname surname, a class of German names derived from eke-names, or added names, that described people by a personal characteristic or other attribute. Dreyfus is a name for a man who had to use a crutch. The surname, which was originally derived from the German word drivuoss, which means a tripod or a cooking pot with three legs, was also applied to a person who "stands for" everything or was tolerant. Dreyfus is also a Jewish local surname that was originally derived from the town of Trier on the Moselle, known in French as Treves. Both the French and the German name come from the Latin Augusta Treverorum, or the City of Augustus among the Treveri. In Bavaria, the Dreyfus family was a powerful and prestigious landholder family. In the Middle Ages, when Bavaria was characterized by feudalism, knighthood, and heroic battles, the Dreyfus family resided on a feudal estate and enjoyed the splendors of the feudal courts. Moreover, the family played an instrumental role in the development of Bavarian political and economic affairs.

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Many cultural groups lived in the German states in medieval times. Each had its own dialect and traditions, and unique variations of popular names. Low German, which is similar to contemporary Dutch, was spoken in Westphalia. German names are characterized by additions such as regional suffixes and phrases that tell something about the origin or background of its original bearer. Further contributing to the variation in German names was the fact that there were no spelling rules in medieval times: scribes recorded names according to their sound. The recorded spelling variations of Dreyfus include Dreyfuss, Dreyfus, Dreifuss, Drayfuss, Dreifus, Dreyfous, Driefus, Drifuss, Dryfuss and many more.

First found in Augsburg, where this family name became a prominent contributor to the development of the district from ancient times. Always prominent in social affairs, the name became an integral part of that turbulent region as it emerged to form alliances with other families within the Feudal System and the nation.


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This web page shows only a small excerpt of our Dreyfus research. Another 165 words(12 lines of text) covering the years 1872, 1859 and 1935 are included under the topic Early Dreyfus History in all our PDF Extended History products.

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Another 59 words(4 lines of text) are included under the topic Early Dreyfus Notables in all our PDF Extended History products.

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European migration to North America began in the mid-17th century and continued unabated until the mid-20th. Many Bavarians made the long trip to escape poverty or persecution based on their religious beliefs. The chance for tenant farmers to own their own land was also a major drawing card. They settled all across the United States in Pennsylvania, Texas, New York, Illinois, and California. Many came to Canada also, settling in Ontario and the prairie provinces. Analysis of immigration records has shown some of the first Dreyfuss to arrive in North America, and among them were:

Dreyfus Settlers in the United States in the 19th Century


  • Mr. Dreyfus, who arrived in San Francisco, California in 1850
  • Aaron Dreyfus, who landed in Mississippi in 1858
  • George Dreyfus, who landed in Mississippi in 1859
  • Herrman Dreyfus, who arrived in Mississippi in 1869
  • David A Dreyfus, who arrived in Mississippi in 1877


Dreyfus Settlers in the United States in the 20th Century


  • Mose Dreyfus, who landed in Mississippi in 1902
  • Nathan Dreyfus, who arrived in Alabama in 1917

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  • Lee Sherman Dreyfus (1926-2008), American politician and 40th Governor of Wisconsin
  • René Dreyfus (1905-1993), French driver who raced automobiles for 14 years in the 1920s and 1930s
  • George Dreyfus (b. 1928), Australian contemporary classical, film and television composer
  • Alfred Dreyfus (1859-1935), French military officer falsely accused of treason
  • Julie Dreyfus (b. 1966), French actress


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  1. Nied, Edmund. Fraenkische Familiennamen urkundlich gesammelt und sprachlich gedeutet. Heidelberg: C. Winter, 1933. Print.
  2. Bahlow, Hans and Edda Gentry. Translation Dictionary of German Names 2nd Edition. Madison: University of Wisconsin, 2002. Print.
  3. Crozier, William Armstrong Edition. Crozier's General Armory A Registry of American Families Entitled to Coat Armor. New York: Fox, Duffield, 1904. Print.
  4. Zoder, Rudolf. Familiennamen in Ostfalen. Hildesheim: Geog Olms Verlagsbuchhandlung, 1968. Print.
  5. Gottschald, Max. Deutsche Namenkunde unsere Familiennamen nach ihrer Entstehung und Bedeutung. München: J.F. Lehmanns Verlag, 1932. Print.
  6. Matthews, John. Matthews' American Armoury and Blue Book. London: John Matthews, 1911. Print.
  7. Zieber, Eugene. Heraldry in America. Philadelphia: Genealogical Publishing Co. Print.
  8. Fogleman, Aaron Spencer. Hopeful Journeys German Immigration, Settlement, and Political Culture in Colonial America 1717-1775. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1986. Print. (ISBN 978-0812215489).
  9. Jones, George F. The Germans of Colonial Georgia 1733-1783 Revised edition. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing, 1986. Print. (ISBN 0806311614).
  10. Brechenmacher, Josef Karlmann. Deutches Namenbuch. Stuttgart: Verlag von Adolf Bonz & Comp, 1928. Print.
  11. ...

The Dreyfus Family Crest was acquired from the Houseofnames.com archives. The Dreyfus Family Crest was drawn according to heraldic standards based on published blazons. We generally include the oldest published family crest once associated with each surname.

This page was last modified on 30 January 2013 at 14:03.

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