Sherira was born in 906, the descendant, both on his father's and his mother's side, of prominent families, several members of which had occupied the gaonate. His father was Hananiah ben R. Yehudai, also a gaon. Sherira claimed descent from Rabbah b. Abuha, who belonged to the family of the exilarch, thereby claiming descent from the Davidic line. Sherira stated that his genealogy could be traced back to the pre-Bostanaian branch of that family, which, he claimed, on account of the deterioration of the exilarchate had renounced its claims thereto, preferring instead the scholar's life. The seal of his family was a lion, which was said to have been the emblem of the Judean kings.