In a message dated 12/29/2002 9:57:01 AM Eastern Standard Time,
<< My maternal family back to greatgrandfather are known to us as LEVY.
Then on a death record I found great grandfather as Abraham Istchak ben
Meir HALEVY SEGAL.
How should I react to this. ? Should I now research registers and lists
for SEGAL? I havn't spotted any HALEVY SEGALS online. Any other comments
SEGAL (but not Siegel), spelled Samekh-gimmal-lamed, is a name used to
indicate Levitical ancestry and is used also with other names as an
indication that the person is a Levite. SEGAL is said to be an acronym,
with a number of different provenances. There is much doubt about the
accuracy of the explanation for the SEGAL term (often written as an
abbreviation, with a "double quote" between the middle and last letter,
i.e. SeGa"L). The term goes back 1000 years among Ashkenazim. I am
currently researching a more likely explanation.
It is not unreasonable that an ancestor may have alternated between the
Levy/haLevy designations and the Segal designation, and may occasionally
have used both--and in either order. A Levite's tombstone usually shows a
water pitcher (often tilted, sometimes with a basin, sometimes held in a
hand) reflecting the Levite's only remaining duty, that of washing the
hands of the Kohanim before these mount the Dukhan to recite the threefold
In earlier times (and still today among the very religious) surnames are
not mentioned on a tombstone, only the name of the person, the name of the
father, and the status if a Kohen or a Levi.
Your ancestor, Abraham Istchak [sic?] ben Meir HALEVY SEGAL. would have
been called for religious purposes Avraham Yitshak son of Meir, the
Levite, and the SG"L would have been a duplicate flourish to the name
Michael Bernet New York mBernet@aol.com.