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Origins Available: German, Jewish

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.


The surname Dreyfus was 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.

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.


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.


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


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 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 United States in the 20th Century

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


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


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  1. Rietstap, Johannes Baptist. Armorial Général. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co. Print.
  2. Samuelsen, W. David. New York City Passenger List Manifests Index 1820 - 1824. North Salt Lake, Utah: Accelerated Indexing Systems International, 1986. Print.
  3. Tarneller, Josef. Zur Namenkunde Tirolen Familiennamen. Bozen: Buchhandlung, 1923. Print.
  4. Strassburger, Ralph B. German Pioneers The Original Lists of Arrivals in the Port of Philadelphia 3 Volumes. Baltimore: Picton Press, 1992. Print. (ISBN 978-0929539980).
  5. Steed, Henry Wickham . The Hapsburg Monarchy. London: Constable and Company, 1919. Print.
  6. Filby, P. William and Mary K Meyer. Passenger and Immigration Lists Index in Four Volumes. Detroit: Gale Research, 1985. Print. (ISBN 0-8103-1795-8).
  7. Bahlow, Hans. Deutschlands geographische Namenwelt Etymologisches Lexikon der Fluss- und Ortsnamen alteuropaischer Herkunft. Frankfurt: Suhrkamp, 1985. Print.
  8. Gritzner, M. Handbuch der heraldischen Terminologie in zwölf Zungen. Nürnberg: 1890. Print.
  9. Götze, Alfred. Familiennamen im badischen Oberland. Heidelberg: C. Winter, 1918. Print.
  10. Rupp, Daniel L. A Collection of Upwards of Thirty Thousand Names of German, Swiss, Dutch, French and Other Immigrants to Pennsylvania from 1727 to 1776. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing, 2000. Print. (ISBN 978-0806303024).
  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 12 November 2014 at 05:53.

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