Possible Origin of the Snidow Name and Family

From the research papers of the late John Jacob Snidow of Bluefield, WVA (1887-1942). He did extensive research throughout his life and repeatedly corresponded with Judge John A. Kelly and shared notes and theories with him as well.

Webmaster's note (granddaughter of John Jacob Snidow): The following presumes that the father of our ancestor John Snidow of Lancaster, PA was Christian Snyder, who arrived in September of 1727 on the ship the William and Sarah...destination Germantown, PA. I have never seen any corroborating evidence* to prove that but I would love to find it. Whatever the name of John's father was, what follows may offer some insight into where the family originated in Europe. I believe these notes were written sometime in the 1930s:

There has been quite a lot of speculation in the past as to the origin of the name and the nationality of our ancestor. One of the most interesting theories was made recently by Captain R. C. Snidow (1890-1945...a brother of the above–mentioned John Jacob Snidow of Bluefield, WVA), who represented America on the Inter–Allied River Commission, just after the World War. He spent about three years in the Palatinate country around Coblence and is familiar with that section of Germany and its inhabitants.

In his discussion of the subject, he first draws our attention to the fact that all languages tend to simplify themselves. When one does not know how to spell a word when he first hears it spoken, he spells it phonetically – using as simple a combination of letters as possible to produce the right sound.

By referring to the immigration record of Christian Snidow, you will note that he did not sign his name, but used his mark (X) instead. The person who wrote his name on that record spelled it just as it sounded to him, and that was S–N–I–D–O–W. *This theory is borne out by early records in Lancaster Co. Pa., and Fincastle, Va. On these records the name is spelled in different ways – Snido, Shnido – but they all end with "o" or "ow". There could not have been a "der" ending to the name, or some of the various writers would have written it that way at some time or other. If the name did not end in "der" it is not German, as the "ow" sound is foreign to that language. The German name "Schneider" can easily be contracted to "Snider" or "Snyder" but it could never be converted into "Snidow". ¹

Now we come to some other facts: The Palatinate country, the former home site of Christian Snidow, contains a large number of French names and French people, or Alsation or Lorraine names and people. Over half of the Palatinate are descendants of the French, who controlled it throughout the reign of Louis XIV and XV. The Archives of Coblence up to 1872 are in French. About half of the names are pure French. These people are the descendants of the soldiers who married and settled there on the Rhein, or of the Official Class who remained. Hence it is logical to believe that the original family either moved down the river from Alsace, or remained in the Palatinate from the "wars". Therefore, according to the working philology, it is reasonable to presume that the original spelling of the name was S N E A D E A U, or some similar French name.

Regardless of what the name might have been in Europe, or how it was spelled, we can say with certainty that the first time that it was written in America it was spelled as we use it today. The historians say that the family is of German origin. It is true that the Immigrant came from the vicinity of Coblence, on the Rhein, in Germany, and that he sailed from Rotterdam. As to how long he or his ancestors lived here, prior to his coming to America, we cannot say, but from the preceding arguments I think we are justified in going back another step, and say that the origin of the Snidow Family is French.

The reason for Christian Snidow and about four hundred of his neighbors, or people from his section, coming to America can only be an idle guess. About this time there was a strong tide of immigration flowing from Europe to America. There is no doubt but what great stories had been spread through Europe about the wonderful country here and the good land that was so easily obtained. Christian was a young man at this time and probably had a desire to hunt and pioneer new lands. In fact, this seems to be a trait of the Snidow family. One branch moved to the frontier on New River, explored and settled in that section. This branch soon split up and started West. They kept on the frontier in Illinois, Indiana, Missouri, Texas and on the Pacific Coast. Our last frontier, the Philippines, has seen one member of the family explore places never seen by a white man before.

From the following immigration records we see that Christian Snidow landed in Philadelphia September 21, 1727.² He was very probably a single man at this time, as there was nothing said about him having a family when he landed.³ It is not known who his wife was, but we do know that he settled in Lancaster County, Pa. There are deeds on record there showing that he owned land.

It is rather strange that we have records of only one son, John, who came to Virginia in 1765. Families at this time were, as a rule, quite large, averaging from eight to twelve children. If there were more than this one, they disappeared without leaving a trace, so far as we can find.

¹ Webmaster's note: One of the problems I have with this paragraph is that you can clearly see on the copy of the original ship's list below, Christian's last name was spelled "S n y d e r".

² The ship William and Sarah landed on September 18, 1727. The Oath of Allegiance was signed on the 21st.

³ According to the ship's list, there was one other adult with Christian. His name is in the 2nd column, 3rd from the bottom.