Select Singer Surname Genealogy

The surname Singer is more likely to have German or Jewish origins; or it can be an English surname.  In each case the root is occupational, a singer.

The Yiddish zinger is the name for a cantor in a synagogue.  German names can be Saenger or Senger. Singer in English comes from the Old English singan, meaning “to sing,” and would describe a professional singer, perhaps someone who toured with a travelling theater.  Singer or Sanger here would be male.  The female equivalent is Sangster.

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Select Singer Ancestry

Singer is a name mainly to be found in Bavaria and Austria today.  The numbers here are around 15,000. Immigrant data for America in the 19th century showed that 75% of the Singers came from Germanic lands. But the Yiddish diaspora at that time stretched into Poland and Russia, which is where, for instance, the writer I.B. Singer came from.

The Singer name in England is mainly to be found in the southwest of the country, in Somerset and stretching into Wiltshire (where the spelling can be Sanger). 

There were many Singers in Frome.  
John Webb Singer was born there and that was where he established his brass foundry in 1851.  He made brass ornaments for local churches and became better known as the Oxford Movement led to an increasing demand for these ornaments.  George Singer, the bicycle and automobile pioneer, was born not too far away in Stinsford, Dorset.  His history was recounted in Kevin Atkinson's 2008 book The Singer Story. 

Jewish.  In 1837 Julius Singer arrived in London from Hungary and traded as a clothier.  His son Simeon became a leader of the Jewish community in England in the later 19th century and author of the widely-used Authorized Daily Prayer Book; while Simeon’s son Charles was a prominent British historian of science and technology.

.  Another concentration of the Singer name in the UK was to be found in Aberdeen.  The name here might have originally been Sengoir, with these Singers having been Huguenot refugees who had settled in Aberdeen as well as in county Down in Ireland.  Adam Singer dates from about 1700 in Aberdeen.

America.  Richard Sanger came from Wiltshire on the Confidence to New England in 1638 and settled in Watertown.  His descendants remained there or in neighboring Sherborn for the next two hundred years.

German Singers entered mainly via Pennsylvania in the 18th century.  The first mention appears to have been a Richard Sanger, a Philadelphia merchant, who died there in 1726.  Many were to be found in Lancaster county.  Michael Singer arrived in 1750 and settled after the Revolutionary War in Lebanon county.  Christian Singer, born in Germantown there in 1777, became an early settler in Jackson township, Monroe county.

The Singer name started to appear in upstate New York records in the 1760’s.   John Singer was recorded in Pownal in what is now Vermont in 1765.  A later John Singer from Pownal was orphaned during the Revolutionary War as a young boy and ended up in a refugee camp in Canada.  As an adult he successfully petitioned for land in Clinton township in the Niagara region.  He and his wife Susannah raised eleven children there.

Adam Singer came to Rensselaer county in New York in 1803, having changed his name from Reisinger after leaving his home in Heidelberg, Germany.  His son Isaac, born in 1811, ran away from home at the age of twelve.  He was always an experimenter and turned his hand in later life to sewing machines. While others had patented sewing machines before him, his sewing machine - which he brought to the market in 1851 - achieved more success than the others as it was more practical, more adaptable to home use, and could be bought on hire-purchase.

Isaac Singer
was on his way to fame and fortune.  He was to have fives “wives” and twenty two children. Edgar Collins Singer, one of the investors behind the torpedo ship Hunley that sunk in Charleston harbor in 1864, is believed to have been his nephew.  The Singer Company continued until 2000. 

Later came Jewish immigrants from the Yiddish diaspora, prominent among them being: 
  • Isidore Singer, born in Moravia (in the present Czech Republic), who arrived in New York in 1895 where he raised money for the Jewish Encyclopedia that he had envisioned.  He subsequently edited the twelve volume work himself. 
  • Jacques Singer, born in Poland, who came to America in 1921, settling in Jersey City.  He, like his father, was a symphony conductor.  His wife Leslie was a concert pianist.  His children Lori and Marc became well-known actors.  
  • Isaac Bashevis Singer, born near Warsaw in Poland, who came to New York in 1935 as the Nazi threat was rising.  His Yiddish stories in the Jewish Daily Forward earned him a devoted readership. 
  • and Rabbi Joseph Singer, from Pilzno in Poland, who fled the Nazi threat in 1939 and brought his Hasidic Judaism to New York.
Canada.  Abraham and Bella Singer were Jewish immigrants from Poland who came to Calgary in the early 1900’s.  Their son Jack Singer, the third of four children, grew rich in commercial real estate.  He ended up owning a Hollywood movie studio and hobnobbing with the entertainment industry elite there.

Select Singer Miscellany

If you would like to read more, click on the miscellany page for further stories and accounts:

Select Singer Names

Isaac Singer was the founder of the Singer Sewing Machine Company in 1851.
George Singer
was a 19th century cycle manufacturer who was a pioneer of both cycle and motor car development in England.
Isidore Singer was the founder and editor of the Jewish Encyclopedia.
Isaac Bashevis Singer was the Polish-born Yiddish writer in America awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1978.
Frederick Sanger is a British biochemist who was twice awarded the Nobel Prize for

Select Singers Today
  • 5,000 in the UK (most numerous in Somerset)
  • 12,000 in America (most numerous in New York) 
  • 3,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Canada)

PS.  You might want to check out the surnames page on this website.  It covers surname genealogy in this and companion websites for more than 800 surnames.

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