Select Levy/Levine Surname Genealogy

The Jewish surname Levy comes from the Biblical name Levi, meaning "joining."  The name was born by a son of Jacob and Leah in Genesis.  From the tribe of Levi came the Levites who formed a hereditary caste and had distinctive duties during the Temple period. 

The main surname variants are Levi, Levy, Levin and Levine.  Levine was the common Russian derivative of Levi.  Levin has both Russian and Swedish origins.

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Select Levy Ancestry

England.  The Jews had been expelled from England in 1290 and were not to return until the 1650's.  It was then that Jewish merchants in London, having perhaps previously presented themselves as Portuguese, could legitimize their presence as Jews.  By 1730 it was estimated that there were some 6,000 Jews living in London.

The Levy brothers were apparently in business in the East End of London from 1710 as matzo bakers.

"In 1928 the Jewish Chronicle joined a controversy to name London's oldest shop. They said that Levy Bros, Matzo bakers of 31 Widegate Street on the corner of White Rose Court, had been established in 1710.  They went on to say: 'Antiquarians who love old pieces of architecture will find pleasure in studying the curious old carvings in the front of the quaint pointed roofs of the premises of this well known matzo baker.'"

There were other early Levy families in London in the late 18th century and the Levy numbers increased in the 19th.  One family history traces itself back to Moses and Deborah Levy in the late 1800's.  Another recounted the journey of Rabbi Aaron Levy to Australia in 1830 to get a bill of divorce for the wife of a transported Jewish convict.  The mid 19th century recorded Levys in London as orange merchants on Mitre Street, furniture sellers on Sandy's Row, and street sellers on Petticoat Lane.

America.  The first planned Jewish community in America was that established by 42 mainly Portuguese Jews who had come from London and arrived in Savannah in the new colony of Georgia in 1733.  Two of these original settlers, Dr. and Mrs. Samuel Nunes Ribeiro, were the forebears of the first well-known Levys/Levins in America, the naval commander Uriah Phillips Levy and, via a maternal link, the anti-Catholic politician Lewis Charles Levin.

Uriah Levy was born into a large Jewish family from Philadelphia, but ran away at the age of ten to serve as a cabin boy on a trading ship.  He later joined the US Navy.

"After witnessing flogging in the Navy firsthand, Levy joined those who opposed corporal punishment  For this  he was court-martialed in 1857 and dismissed from the service.  Levy fought the decision through a Court of Inquiry and was reinstated.  After his reinstatement, he rose to command the Mediterranean fleet and received the honorary rank of Commodore."

Uriah, an ardent Jeffersonian, purchased Jefferson's mansion at Monticello.  He also made a fortune in New York real estate, as did his nephew Jefferson Monroe Levy who owned Monticello from 1878 to 1923.  The Levys' role in preserving Monticello has subsequently been downplayed by later Jeffersonians.

Moses Elias Levy, the son of an affluent Sephardic merchant in Morocco, started trading in the West Indies and then bought land in Florida, near present-day Jacksonville, to establish what he envisaged to be a "New Jerusalem" for Jewish settlers.  He was one of the few Jewish plantation owners in the South; and yet he also wrote and published abolitionist tracts.  His son David Levy Yulee, who shared little of his father's beliefs, sought acceptance instead from Southern society and rose to become Florida's first Senator in 1845.

Jacob and Henry Levy, two brothers from Posen in Poland, were amongst those who flocked to California when news about the gold there spread.  Jacob stayed, married, and lived in Carson City and San Francisco for the rest of his life.
Later came the Levins and Levines to America, mainly from Russia.  The peak years for their immigration were from 1890 to 1910.  The following were among those arrivals from Lithuania:
  • Morris and Molly Levin who came to Dayton, Ohio in the 1890's.  Their son Sam built up a movie theater chain there and then prospered as a commodities speculator. 
  • Rive Levine who came in 1907 and settled in Brooklyn.
  • and Leib and Basia Levin who arrived in 1909 and settled in Philadelphia.  Their daughter Anna, interviewed in 1997 just before her death, could recall her life back in Kelme, Lithuania.  Her son Jack Levin Weinstein narrated the family story in his 1987 book The Levin Family Tree
The Levi name in America is probably best known for Levi's jeans, first made by the German-Jewish entrepreneur Levi Strauss in San Francisco in 1853.

Caribbean.  Some Leviens made it to Jamaica.  According to synagogue records, the Leviens had originally migrated from Germany to London in the 1760's and later moved to Jamaica.  Sydney Levien was a prominent newspaper editor and Government critic there in the 1860's.

Canada.  Herman and Camilla Levy came to Hamilton, Ontario from Alsace Lorraine in 1866 and were prominent members of the early Jewish community there.  Herman established a successful business called Levy Brothers which specialized in diamond and jewelry importing.  His grandson, also named Herman, amassed a distinguished art collection which he donated to McMaster University in the 1980ís.

Select Levy/Levine Miscellany

If you would like to read more, click on the miscellany page for further stories and accounts:

Select Levy/Levine Names

David Levi, born to a poor immigrant family,was an 18th century English scholar and writer.
Uriah Levy was the first Jewish Commodore in the US Navy.  He later made a fortune in New York real estate.
Red Levine was an early 20th century New York mobster.
Bernard Levin was a well-known English journalist, author, and broadcaster.
David Levine was an American artist and illustrator best known for his work in The New York Review of Books.
Leon Levine founded the Family Dollar chain of discount stores.

Select Levys/Levines Today
  • 13,000 in the UK (most numerous in London)
  • 46,000 in America (most numerous in New York) 
  • 16,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Canada)

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Chambers Hammond 
Andrews Chandler Hayes Morrison Stone
Arnold Cole Hodgson Norman Sutton
Atkinson Cummings Howe North Tate
Barclay Cunningham Hunt O'Leary Thorpe
Barry Dickinson Innes O'Reilly Townsend
Beattie Dillon Irvine Oliver Underwood
Beck Dodd Jeffries Payne Unsworth
Bentley Doherty Jennings Penn Vance
Bernstein Duncan Kemp Pennington Venables
Bird East Kerr Pettigrew Walton
Boone Edgar Knight Phelan Watkins
Brady Emerson Lawrence Quigley Waugh
Branson Everett Leary Quirk West
Brooks Faulkner Levine Regan Whelan
Buck Fettiplace Levy Reilly Whitney
Burke Ford Lloyd Rhodes Wolfe
Bush Goldberg McIntosh Sharp Woodward
Carr Goodman McLaren Sheehan Yates
Carson Gordon McMillan Sinclair York

For other surnames check the select surname page where there are to be found the history and genealogy of more than 800 common and notable surnames in the English-speaking world.