Select Katz Surname Genealogy

The surname Katz has both German and Jewish (Ashkenazi) origins.

German.  Germans with the last name Katz may come from the Rhineland-Palatinate region of Germany where Katz castle is located.  Katz here is a shorter version of Katzenelnbogen, going back to the Latin Cattimelibocus which described the old German tribal names of Chatti and Melibokus in the region.

Jewish.  The Jewish derivation is different.  Katz here is an abbreviation formed from the Hebrew initials of the term Kohen Tzedek, meaning "priest of justice" or "authentic priest."  It has been in use since the 17th century and perhaps earlier as an epithet for the descendants of Aaron.  Katz took hold in the early 19th century when German authorities began to impose surnames.  In Russia the spelling was Kac.

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Select Katz Ancestry

The Katz numbers in Germany today are modest, around 4-5,000.  The main numbers are not in the proximity of Katz castle. but further south in Baden-Wurttemberg.   Katz emigrants were mainly Jewish and came from German-speaking lands and from the old Russian Empire.  The principal destination was America. Others made their way to Canada and Argentina.

There was a surge of emigration in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.  Later emigrants like David Katz from Grodno were Holocaust survivors who came in the late 1940's.  Friedrich Katz ended up then in Mexico and earned recognition there for his book The Life and Times of Pancho Villa.  Louis Katz, a youngster at the time of the Warsaw uprising, came to New York in 1962.  Since that time he has worked for the Yiddish Daily Forward.

America.  Martin Katz and his family from Hochdorf in Wurttemberg arrived in Philadelphia on the Ranier in 1749.  They settled in Chester county.  Some of the Katz descendants became Kitts.  Other 18th century Katz in New Jersey became Kays.

Later Katz arrivals were mainly Jewish and many headed for New York.  Among those who made their name there were: 
  • Katz's Delicatessen, an institution on New York's Lower East Side.  Founded in 1888, the store took its name from Willy Katz who ran the place with his cousin Benny from 1910.  It remained family-owned until the 1970's.  
  • Abraham Katz who started a machine shop in Brooklyn in 1926 that became Kason Industries, a food equipment manufacturer. 
  • and Louis Katz who was big in Manhattan real estate from the 1940's to the 1960's.
Mickey Katz grew up in Cleveland and made his mark in the 1940's as a Jewish comedian.  His two sons pursued completely different professions.  Ronald Katz was an inventor in the field of automated call center technology; while Joel Grey, his stage name, was the actor who became famous for his performance in Cabaret.  Joel's daughter Jennifer starred in the movie Dirty Dancing.

Canada.  Barry Katz opened up his first drugstore in Edmonton in 1955.  He soon prospered and developed his Value Drug Mart chain.  But it was his son Daryl who expanded the Katz chain throughout North America and became in the process one of the wealthiest men in Canada.  He owns the Edmonton Oilers hockey team. 

Chaim and Zena Katz were Holocaust survivors who came to Winnipeg in 1951.  Their son Sam was elected the first Jewish mayor of Winnipeg in 2004.  He also owns a professional sports team, the Winnipeg Goldeyes in baseball.

Argentina.  Some Katz made it to Argentina.  A number were buried in the Jewish cemetery at La Tablada in Buenos Aires.  Argentina was thought to provide a safe haven for Jews.  But anti-Semitism persisted there, as this account from the 1980's showed:

"Silvio Katz was 19 years old at the time of the Falklands conflict.  He was killed by Ardoino Eduardo Flores. He wasn't a British soldier, he was his company officer.  And he "killed" him because he was Jewish."

In later more tolerant times Daniel Katz became a leader of the Consenso Federal party block in the Argentine Chamber of Deputies.

Select Katz Miscellany

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

Select Katz Names

Friedrich Katz was a distinguished historian in Mexico.
Harold Katz was the American entrepreneur who founded the Nutrisystem weight loss program.
Daryl Katz heads the Katz Group, Canada's leading drugstore company.

Select Katz Today
  • 16,000 in America (most numerous in New York) 
  • 2,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Canada)

PS.  You might want to check out the surnames page on this website.  It covers surname genealogy in this and companion websites for more than 800 surnames.

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