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An excerpt from archives copyright © 2000 - 2016

Origins Available: German, Scottish

The origins the old family name Messmer can be found within medieval Austria. While the patronymic and metronymic surnames, which are derived from the name of the father and mother respectively, are the most common form of a hereditary surname in Germany, occupational surnames also emerged during the late Middle Ages. Many people, such as the Messmer family, adopted the name of their occupation as their surname. However, an occupational name did not become a hereditary surname until the office or type of employment became hereditary. The surname Messmer was an occupational name for a knife maker. Further research revealed that the name is derived from the Old German word messer, meaning knife, and is often attached to the word schmidt, meaning smith or craftsman.


The surname Messmer was first found in Austria, where this family became a prominent contributor to the development of the district from ancient times. Chronicles first mention Niklaus Messer of Freiburg in 1369, Peter Messersmidel of Iglau in 1385, and Johann Melczer der Messer of Breslau in 1370. 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.

One can encounter great variation in the spelling of surnames: in early times, spelling in general, and thus the spelling of names was not yet standardized; and later, spellings would change with branching and movement of families. Variations of the name Messmer include Messer, Messen, Messe, Messa, Meser, Messerer, Messerschmidt, Messerschmitt, Messerschmied, Messerle, Messerli, Messerlee, Messerly and many more.


This web page shows only a small excerpt of our Messmer research. Another 259 words (18 lines of text) covering the years 1835, 1685, 1735 and 1835 are included under the topic Early Messmer History in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.


During this period prominent bearers of the name Messmer were Daniel Gottlieb Messerschmidt (1685-1735), a German physician, naturalist and geographer; Lord Messerschmidt, the Lord of Wittbeck and...

Another 27 words (2 lines of text) are included under the topic Early Messmer Notables in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.


Austria was made a republic after the First World War. The Austro-Hungarian Empire was broken up by the Treaty of Versailles and many of its people found themselves in the new nation of Czechoslovakia. Many other Austrians and expatriate Austrians made their way to North America in the 20th century. Most landed in Philadelphia, later continuing on to the states of Ohio, Texas, Illinois, California, New York, and Maryland. Some Austrian settlers also went to western Canada and Ontario. Research into the origins of individual families in North America revealed records of the immigration of a number of people bearing the name Messmer or a variant listed above:

Messmer Settlers in United States in the 18th Century

  • Hans Ulrich Messmer, who landed in Pennsylvania in 1749

Messmer Settlers in United States in the 19th Century

  • Heinrich Messmer, who arrived in Ohio in 1856
  • Sebastian Gebhard Messmer, who arrived in New Jersey in 1880
  • Josef Messmer, who landed in Kentucky in 1882

  • Mark B. Messmer, American politician, Republican member of the Indiana House of Representatives (2008-2014), Indiana State Senator (2014-)
  • Simone Messmer, American soloist with the American Ballet Theatre (2002-2013)
  • John Messmer (1884-1971), American football player and discus thrower, inducted into the Wisconsin Athletic Hall of Fame
  • Sebastian Gebhard Messmer (1847-1930), Swiss-born American prelate of the Catholic Church, Bishop of Green Bay (1892-1903) and Archbishop of Milwaukee (1903-1930)
  • Wayne P. Messmer (b. 1950), American professional speaker, singer, broadcaster, author and actor, long-time public address announcer for the Chicago Cubs
  • Otto Messmer (1894-1985), American animator, best known for his work on the Felix the Cat cartoons and comic strip
  • Ivan Charles Messmer (1931-2015), Canadian politician, MLA for Boundary-Similkameen, British Columbia (1986-1991)
  • Magali Di Marco Messmer (b. 1971), Swiss Olympic bronze medalist triathlete at the 2000 Summer Olympics
  • Pierre Joseph Auguste Messmer (1916-2007), French Gaullist politician who served as Minister of Armies under Charles de Gaulle from 1960 to 1969, Prime Minister of France (1972-1974)

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    Other References

    1. 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).
    2. Gritzner, M. Handbuch der heraldischen Terminologie in zwölf Zungen. Nürnberg: 1890. Print.
    3. Strassburger, Ralph B. Pennsylvania German Pioneers The Original Lists of Arrivals in the Port of Philadelphia 3 Volumes. Baltimore: Picton Press, 1992. Print. (ISBN 978-0929539980).
    4. Hildenbrand, A.M. Wappenfibel. Handbuch der Heraldik. Neustadt an der Aisch: 1970. Print.
    5. Zoder, Rudolf. Familiennamen in Ostfalen. Hildesheim: Geog Olms Verlagsbuchhandlung, 1968. Print.
    6. 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).
    7. Rolland, and H.V. Rolland. Illustrations to the Armorial general by J. B. Rietstap 6 volumes in 3. Baltimore: Heraldic Book Company, 1976. Print.
    8. Karlsruhe. Badisches Generallandesarchiv Baden Emigration lists 1866-1911. Salt Lake City: Microfilm of Card Index by the Genealogical Society of Utah. Print.
    9. Schenk, Trudy. Wuerttemberg Emigration Index Volume I-VIII. Salt Lake City: Ancestry Inc., 1986. Print.
    10. Bahlow, Hans (Edda Gentry trns). Dictionary of German Names . Madison, Wisconsin: Max Kade Institute, 2002. Print. (ISBN 0-924119-35-7).
    11. ...

    The Messmer Family Crest was acquired from the archives. The Messmer 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 4 August 2015 at 14:06.

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