Surname Saturday 2.0: The Senefts

The Seneft Family

I have covered most of the Seneft family story already in the Hillinger family entry, but to be complete, I want to do a separate entry on the Senefts.

I only have about one and a half generations of Senefts in my family line. I'm not even sure if there are any existing Seneft descendants who still use that name.

If things had gone a differently, my maiden name would have been Seneft, but due to German legalities, my great-grandfather was forced to use his mothers surname instead. As I said in the Hillinger post, this line was Jewish, and so his parents were married in a religious ceremony. Likely, if that religion had been a Christian one, there would be no issue, but because they were Jewish, a religion which has always faced persecution in Europe and elsewhere, that made him an easy target.

The the earliest I can trace the Seneft family is in the mid to late 1880s, with my great-grandfather's birth. He was one of five or possibly six children born to his parents, all of whom were born in Galicia. At some point, his father decided to move the family to London, likely in search of a better life, as life in Galicia was very difficult.

His father was a Rabbi, though I do not know exactly when he began to practice that calling. What I do know is that my great-grandfather finished growing up in the city of London, and lived there until the start of World War I, when he was sent to Camp Douglas on the Isle of Man for being an enemy alien on English soil.

After the war, the English government expelled him for still being German, and so my great-grandfather left and never looked back. Unfortunately, upon arrival in Germany, he was told that he was required to take his mother's maiden name, and so he became Alex Hillinger and never used the name Seneft again.

It's not an uncommon story for German Jews, unfortunately. But it does make finding more about our family difficult, even without the usual overlay of the Holocaust.

Despite his return to Germany after the first World War, my great grandfather and his family survived the Holocaust, as he chose to leave Germany before things got their worst. And none of his siblings were in Germany, so the Seneft branch managed to avoid the worst during the war, though many of the next generation served, some of them died in their service.

The Seneft line is identical to the Hillinger line, but it follows for those interested:

Ø      Leon Seneft married Mindel Hilinger sometime in the mid 1800s, likely in Galicia. He was a Rabbi, in London at the very least.
o       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.

Ø      Of their five children, only two had children of their own.
o       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.
o       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:

Ø      I know Seneft is a German name, so I believe that his branch of the family were Germanic Jews, though I am not sure where all they may have lived, as I know of none aside from Leon and his children.

Ø      I do not know when Leon became a rabbi, and would love to learn more about his time as a rabbi.

Ø      I am uncertain when he died, though I believe he outlived his wife, as I found a gravestone that appears to be hers with her daughter's name on it. I do know that he was apparently dead by the time my grandfather was born, or so he told me.

Ø      I am still hoping to find out more about his other children.
o       I know that Jack lived in New York after the war, though I am not certain when he left England for the US.
o       I know that one of their sisters (Annie, I believe) married and settled in Memphis with her husband.
o       I also know that their other sister also married, though I am uncertain where she met and married her husband.
o       The final son stayed in England, as stated above, but I know almost nothing about him aside from the loss of several sons during World War II, and that he had a daughter who has descendants today. I would love to know more.

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


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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.