Surname Saturday 2.0: The Hillingers

So I've decided to restart my Surname Saturday Posts. Several of our family stories are well worth telling, especially the stories of the names, or at least where the names came from (or where we think they came from).

Again, I'm going to work backward in time with these, starting with my maiden name, Hillinger. These will be less list-form, and more story-form, and hopefully someone out there will recognize the people mentioned in these stories. Most of them have been recounted by me in the past, but hopefully there will be some new information here to help others connect to these stories.

The Hillinger Family

The Hillinger surname has been passed down through three (now four with my sister's two children) generations of our family line, but that spelling started when my grandfather, Sam Hillinger, came to the US with his family in about 1934.

His line were Ashkanazi Jews, and both of his parents were born in a former Germanic state called Galicia in Eastern Europe, which was the southern tip of Poland and part of western Ukraine. Sam and all of his siblings were born in Frankfurt, Germany. When things became difficult for the Jews in Germany, his father decided to move the family to the US. It's why my family survived when so many did not. We were very lucky.

In Germany, the Hillinger name was spelled with only one L, and pronounced quite differently—Hil-een-ger, as opposed to Hil-lin-jer, the way we pronounce it now. When the family arrived in the US, they changed the spelling slightly to make it easier for Americans to pronounce it, I believe the story goes.

Sam's father, Alex, however, was not born a Hilinger. That was his mother's surname. His father's surname was Seneft. The Seneft family moved from Galicia to England sometime in his childhood, and Alex finished growing up in London.

The outbreak of World War I made his family enemy aliens. Though they had lived in England for at least ten years at the beginning of the war, none of them were citizens, and as such, we know that Alex at the very least was sent to a camp for enemy aliens—a place called Camp Douglas—during the war. After the war, still not a citizen, Alex was expelled from England, and chose to return to Germany, settling in Frankfurt.

This was where his name changed. Once back in Germany, he was informed that, for civil purposes, his name could not legally be Seneft, as his parents had married in a religious ceremony, but not a civil one. In other words, being a Jew meant that his parents' wedding was not recognized by the state. And so Alex Seneft became Alex Hillinger.

The Hillinger line is as follows, for those interested:

* Mindel Hilinger married Leon Seneft sometime in the mid 1800s, likely in Galicia.
* They had at least five children, three boys and two girls: Alex, Jennie, Annie, Jack, and a third son whose name I currently do not know. I believe all the children were born in Galicia.
* Of their five children, only two had children of their own.
* Alex and his wife, Dora, had six children: Ben, Mina, Sam, Helena, Hilda (aka Peppi), and Selma, all born in Frankfurt, Germany.
* Five of the six of Alex and Dora's children had children, and that line flourished in the US, and still thrives there today, mostly in Seattle and Chicago.
* The unnamed son had about five kids. Three or four sons, most or all of whom died in World War II, and a daughter named Kitty.
* Sam's notes tell me that his unnamed uncle stayed in England, and that at least one of his children (his daughter) had children, at least one of whom is now residing in Vancouver, BC, Canada.

What I don't know:

* I'm still not sure where the Hilinger line came from. Mindel is the only one of her family I have. She may have been from Austria, where the name seems to be very popular.
* I'm also not sure about when the Senefts moved from Galicia to England, or where they lived in Galicia, though I do currently have two town names, neither of which I can pinpoint on a map. The record for Alex's birth in the Hilinger family book he and Dora made gives his birthplace as Sedziszow, Galicia. A World War II draft card I found for his brother Jack lists his birthplace as Shendeskov, Poland (I assume Galicia as well, as it was no longer a state by the time he would have filled out the draft card). I'm still uncertain of the birthplaces and dates of the other three Seneft children.
* I also still don't know about Kitty's father, the unnamed Seneft brother, or any of her family line except for the cousin who currently lives in Canada, and whom I believe is her son.

I'd love to hear from anyone who knows any information I don't have on here.

Other information about this branch of the family:
Brick Wall Posts -
* Brickwall Ancestors
* Brickwall Update – the Seneft/Hillingers
* Brick Wall Update
* Brick Walls –a different listing
* Brick Wall Update
* Brick Wall Update 2012
Old Surname Posts
* Hillinger
* Seneft
Where We're From Posts
* Where We're From – United States
* Where We're From – Germany
* Where We're From – England
* Where We're From – Waystations
* Where We're From – Galicia
* Where We're From – The Unknown
Other -
* The Life of Sam Hillinger as told by Maggie Hillinger
* Searching for: Galician Town Names
* Women's History Month – Week 1
* Women's History Month – Week 3
* On Jewish Names and Naming Traditions
* Hillinger Family History


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About this blog

This blog is maintained by two sisters who have had a life long interest in geneology.
Mika writes here mostly about our family (Hansen, Hillinger, Bordewick, Park, etc), and her search for more information.
Shannon mostly uses this space as a place to make the many stories written about and by her husband's family (Holly, Walker, Walpole, etc) available to the rest of the family, present and future.

Our blog is named Oh Spusch! mostly because Shannon is bad at naming things. The first post I put up includes a story about the time Walker's great grandfather took his whole family out to see a play and the littlest kept saying "Oh! Spusch!" No one ever figured out what she meant by that.