The surname Sachs took its name from the region of Saxony in central Germany, originally Sachsen after a line of princes there in the 15th century. The name, however, became more common in Bavaria.
The Jewish Sachs name is of more recent origin - dating probably from the early 19th century when Jews in Germany were obligated to take surnames. Sachs was a name adopted in memory of persecuted forebears, an acronym of the Hebrew phrase zera kodesh shemo, or "his name is of the seed of holiness."
Spelling variants are Sacks and Saks.
There are an estimated 12,000 Sachs in Germany today. The name has been fairly common in Bavaria (Hans Sachs the famous meistersinger came from Nuremburg in Bavaria) and has also cropped up in Hesse.
As a Jewish name, Sachs was to be found throughout the Yiddish diaspora of central and eastern Europe, in Poland, Lithuania and Russia as well as Germany. The rabbi Michael Sachs, born in Silesia in the early 1800's, was one of the great preachers of his age.
Of the Sachs who came to America, some 70 percent started out from German-speaking lands.
The first Sachs in America may have been Dutch, early settlers in New York state. Johan Peter Sachs was recorded as marrying Angeniser Thornbauer in Kingston, NY in 1727. Two Sachs from the Palatinate in Germany - Johan Adam Sachs and Johann Jacob Sachs - were onboard the Edinburgh which came to Philadelphia in 1749.
The following were some 19th century German Sachs immigrants:
- Franz Sachs and his son Joseph left Luderode in Thuringia for Louisville, Kentucky in 1849. Both father and son were tailors.
- Daniel Sachs arrived in 1858 and found work in the coal mines in Eckley, northern Pennsylvania. Other Sachs also settled in this locality.
- Gottfried Sachs, following his sister, came with his family from Stuttgart to California in 1885. They settled in Zamora, just north of Sacramento.
The first main Jewish settlement in America was in Baltimore and a number of Sachs came from that community. Andrew Saks, born there in 1847, started the Saks chain of department stores which later included their flagship store of Saks Fifth Avenue in New York.
Joseph Sachs, an immigrant from Bavaria, ran a successful congregational school for Jewish students in Baltimore. His son Samuel Sachs joined his father-in-law's investment banking company - which became Goldman Sachs after Samuel took over the running of the firm in 1904. The company story, together with the family dynamics, is covered in June Breton Fisher's 2009 book Henry Goldman, Goldman Sachs, and the Founding of Wall Street.
The wave of late 19th century Jewish immgration included the following Sachs:
- Wolf Sachs, a peddler and shop owner who had come from Russia to Pennsylvania in 1888 and then brought his family together in Baltimore in 1900. His daughter Mary Sachs opened a clothing store in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania in 1918 which became one of the town's leading retail attractions.
- Florence (Flossie) Sachs who came with her family from Lithuania to Pittsburgh in the early 1880's. She was the wife of Lewis Selsnick and mother of David Selsnick, both of whom were to prosper in the new American movie industry.
- Solomon Sachs who came from Russia to New York in 1906. He was only to live for another eight years before dying of tuberculosis.
There were later arrivals fleeing Nazi persecution such as the scientist and astronomer Rainer Sachs.