Recorded in the spellings of Schapiro, Shapiro, Shapero, Chapiro, Shapir, and the Polish Szapiro and Szapira, this is a locational surname from the German town of Speyer. The surname in these spellings was originally Askenasic and it is claimed, was given by the authorities to differentiate the nameholders from the Christian nameholders from the same town. Whether this is true or not is unclear. Certainly the more usual spellings (in Germany) are Speyer, Spiers, Sperling and Spierling. The town name and hence the surname however spelt, has the translation of the dam or lock (on the river), from the pre 7th century Old High German word "spira".The early recordings include Heinrich von Sperling in the charters of the State of Bavaria in the year 1501, and Johann Speyer of Hannover, in 1662.Although the name has became popularly known in Britain, this is entirely because of the singer Helen Shapiro. As a surname it is quite rare, and was not apparently recorded until the the 19th century. Like many surnames of Germanic rather than Anglo-Saxon origins, it entered the country at a time when the continent was racked with wars, and persecution, particularly of non-Christians, was at its height. The first recorded spelling of the family name in England is probably that of Francis Cunningham Shapiro, which was dated April 16th 1878, baptised in London, during the reign of Queen Victoria, known as 'The Great White Queen' 1837 - 1901.
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