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Why our last name is Pfaender since the 17th century and was Pfendtner or Pfentter before, cannot be fully determined. During those times, no orthographic rules had yet been established, so our last name may have simply been misspelled upon arrival in Germany. In ancient church books one can still find various ways of how our last name was written.

For quite a long time it was handed down that we had our family´s roots in Austria and that our last name most likely derived from the “Pfaender”, a mountain near Lake Constance. The “Pfaender” is located close to the city of Bregenz, Austria, where the northern borders of Austria and Switzerland meet the south of Germany. It is assumed that the mountain has its name from the “Pfaender-Hof” (the Pfaender´s farm) which was located there. Fact is, that the “Pfender” or “Pfendler” - his name in earlier times - was mentioned since 1422. The researcher Isidor Hopfner believes that the mountain´s name derives from the celtic word “Penno-Duro” (headlike mountain).

The Pfaender mountain (1.064 meters above sea level) offers a panoramic view of Lake Constance and 240 summits of the Alps. This makes him the most famous viewpoint of that area. One can see Austria, Switzerland and Germany from here.

Further enquiries led to the knowledge that it is true that our ancestors were from Austria, but not necessarily from the region around Lake Constance. Therefore it is very likely that following generations bore in mind that the family had its roots in Austria, but as the centuries passed by, they forgot about the exact region and the reasons why the family had once left the country.

Due to the fact that the spelling of our last name was subject to changes throughout the centuries (e.g. Pfaender, Pfender, Pfaendter, Pfaendtner), it is very likely that sometimes simple coincidence led to the fact that other families are sharing our last name, too (probably also the mountain near Lake Constance).

Where our name comes from

Our last name has its origins in the occupation of the “Pfaender” (an old south German word for bailiff) and emerged during the 13th century. The Pfaender´s occupation was to impound the pledges taken from citizens who were not able to meet their obligations. In the city of Lahr´s (Baden) citizens´ book dating from the year 1356, one can find the reasons for these pledges: Their determination was necessary if citizens did not meet their financial commitments in time  (e.g. failed to give money for the city wall´s maintenance or did not hand over their arms for the city´s defence). The Pfaender had other duties, too. He was also supervising town or village laws. As example, the city of Nuremberg (Bavaria) already established a Pfaender in the year 1498. He was a civil servant whose task was to supervise the local craftsmen. Therefore the Pfaender´s first coat of arms is showing “Justitia” (the Roman goddess of justice) with sword and scale in her hands. Since 1248 the Pfaender can be found as documented profession. That this kind of business wasn´t always free of danger can be seen by a Bavarian law reaching back to the year 1294:

“Swer dem Pfenter  oder die mit im reitent misshandelt an dem leib, der hat vnserr hulde niht” (means: We will not tolerate the brutalisation of the bailiff/pfaender or his company).

However, our last name can also have other roots (e.g. from Austria):

Pfandl: A name for people working with pans (when boiling salt for example). Also see the symbolised pan in the coat of arms of the Augsburg-Pfaender below.


I currently found 6 different Pfaender lineages that are most likely not related:

1) Those from
Beuren (near Stuttgart, Wurtemberg), documented since the year 1530.
2) Those from
Austria (near Linz, Austria), our lineage. First known ancestor born in 1595. Origin:Lower Austria.
3) Those from
Hanau, (near Frankfurt on Main, Hesse), since 1570. Their descendants also appear in Strassbourg, Alsace (today part of France).
4) Those from
Silesia (since 1945 a part of Poland). The Pfaender lineage I have the least information of.
5) Those from
Augsburg (near Munich, Bavaria). First traces of their lineage can be found in the Bern area in Switzerland (15th. century). Follwing the years 1670/80 the family settled in Germany.
6) Those from the
Allgau, (a region north of Lake Constance, Wurtemberg) appearing in the town of Isny since 1427.
7) Those from
“Heilbronn”, Wurtemberg. First traces around 1600. Members of the family moved to New Ulm, Minnesota, USA, in the 1850s. Their offspring still live in the US.

From left to right: “the Austrians”, then those from Beuren, the Pfaenders from the Allgau, the Augsburg Pfaender and the ones from Hanau and Ulm.

From left to right: The Pfaendrs from Heidenheim, an unknown (Allgau?) Pfaender coat of arms and the lineage from Beuren again.


The map above shows the absolute distribution of the Pfaender surname in the Federal Republic. One can very clearly see that the name can be predominantly found in the south of Germany. A high density of Pfaenders (and therefore marked in dark red) show the “cradles” of the 4 major lineages: The areas around Beuren, Bieberach, Rothenburg ob der Tauber and Augsburg.


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