Select Segal/Seigel Surname Genealogy

Segal and Siegel appear to have been variations on the same name, particularly in the Jewish context, but they do have different origins.

Segal is a Jewish name
The best evidence suggests that Segal was an acronym of the Hebrew phrase segan Leviyyah, a designation applied to Levites many centuries before Segal first appeared as a surname. The name surfaced at Worms along the Rhineland in Germany as early as the 11th century.  One variant of the Segal name in France was Chagall.  The painter Marc Chagall was in fact a Levite.

Siegel is Germanic in origin and can also be traced back to the 11th century, in this case to Bavaria.  It was used then by people who made the wax seals for sealed official documents (and were called siegelbeamters).

Siegels outnumber Segals
in America by about three to one today

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Select Segal/Siegel Ancestry

Siegels number about 15,000 in Germany today.  They started arriving in America in the 18th century.  Segals may have had Germanic origins.  But the Segal immigrants to America in the late 19th century came mainly from the various parts of the Russian empire at that time.

Moshe Zvi Segal was a Jewish rabbi from Lithuania who came to England in 1896.  One of his sons Samuel was a doctor and a Labor party politician who as Baron Segal was the Deputy Speaker of the House of Lords in the 1970ís.  Another son Ben was a Professor of Semitic Languages at the School of Oriental and African Studies.

.  Siegels came first, Segals followed.

. Some early Siegels were from the Baden area in south Germany:

  • Frederick Siegel came to Pennsylvania sometime in the 1750ís, first in Bucks county and later in Northampton county where he died in 1798.
  • while some hundred years later, Franz Sigel, part of the revolutionary government in Baden in 1848, fled to England and then to America when that revolution was quashed.  He was a major general in the Unionist army during the Civil War and a newspaper editor and political figure in New York after the war.  There is a statue of him in Riverside Park at the corner of 106th Street in Manhattan.
From nearby Wurttemberg came George Siegel as a young boy in 1848.  He later worked as a shoemaker in Cincinnati, Ohio; while John Siegel, also from Wurttemberg, arrived in 1852 and settled four years later at Mendon township in Clayton county, Iowa.

Victor Siegel from Dresden came to Butte, Montana in 1890 where he worked in a brewery, a mine, and then for three years as a florist in the employ of Jessie Knox who owned the first greenhouse in Montana. Later Victor became superintendent of the Columbia Gardens located outside Butte.

By that time there were Jewish Siegels in America.  Three well-known Seigels have been:
  • Benny Siegel, known as Bugsy, who was born in New York in 1906 to Russian immigrants Max and Jennie Siegel.  Handsome and charismatic, he was one of the first front-page celebrity gangsters.  He was later a driving force behind the development of the Las Vegas strip.
  • Jerry Siegel, also first generation from Russian immigrant parents, who in the 1930ís was the co-creator of Superman, the first of the great comic book superheroes.
  • and David Siegel, second generation in America, who grew up in Florida and made his fortune in time-share resorts.  His wife Jackie starred in the 2012 TV documentary The Queen of Versailles. 
Segals.  Segals in America were invariably Jewish, with many of them settling in New York.  Their numbers here included:
  • Samuel Segal who arrived as a boy from Russia in 1893 and started the Segal Lock and Hardware Company in Manhattan twenty years later.
  • a later Samuel Segal, a rabbi, who made his home in Brooklyn.  His son Erich was a classics professor at Yale University.  He became famous when his novel Love Story was made into a blockbuster film in 1970.
  • and Jacob Segal who arrived in the 1910ís from Poland and ran a small kosher butcherís shop in the Bronx.  His son George was a prominent American painter and sculptor in the Pop Art movement of the 1960ís.
The Segal name is well-known in fashion circles on the West Coast.  Fred Segal grew up in Los Angeles and opened a clothing store on Santa Monica Boulevard in 1958.  He caused a sensation at that time with his form-fitting jeans.  The store is now run by the third generation of Segals and celebrities still shop there.  Shelli Segal meanwhile is a Los Angeles based clothes designer, the daughter of comedy writer Jerry Segal.   Her Laundry line, with its trendy, slim-fitting designs, has become a major seller in all department stores that have carried it.

.  A Hasidic Segal family arrived in Montreal from Ukraine around the year 1910.  Their numbers included Jacob Isaac Segal and his sister Esther who were both poets in the Yiddish language.

Joseph Segal was born to Jewish immigrants parents in rural Alberta in 1925.  His wealth was based on a chain of discount department stores which he founded.  He later expanded into real estate.   In 2017 he put his 25 year old mansion in Vancouver on the market for $63 million.  Its centrepiece was an Italian Ormolu chandelier which had once belonged to the Italian dictator Benito Mussolini.

South Africa
.  Many Jewish Segals moved to South Africa in the early 1900ís.  Morris Segal came in 1910, it was said, as a representative of the Russian gymnastic team.  He went on to start a jewelry business in Johannesburg.

Later Segals from Poland were:
  • Leon Segal who settled in Cape Town and began a discount clothing store which made him rich.  His son Ronald, born in 1932, became a prominent anti-apartheid activist.
  • while Abe Segal, born two years earlier in 1930, had been the son of poor immigrant parents in Johannesburg (although his father was later able to start a small textile factory).  Abe ran away from trade school to make his mark in the 1960ís as an international tennis player.
Select Segal/Siegel Miscellany

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

Select Segal/Siegel Names

Benny Siegel was an American mobster, one of the most feared gangsters of the 1930ís.
Walter Segal
 was an architect who developed a system of self-build housing in the UK in the 1950ís.
Abe Segal
was a prominent South African tennis player in the 1960's.
Joseph Segel
 was a pioneer of direct marketing companies in America in the 1960ís and 1970ís, most notably the QVC television network and the Franklin Mint.
Erich Segal
was the American author of the best-selling Love Story in 1970

Select Segals/Siegels Today
  • 1,000 in the UK (most numerous in London)
  • 16,000 in America (most numerous in New York) 
  • 3,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Canada)

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