Select Marcus Surname Genealogy

Marcus and Markus are European surnames that have both Christian and Jewish origins, the root in each case being the Roman name Marcus. 

In the Christian case the name became popular in medieval times because of Saint Mark or Sanctus Marcus of the Second Gospel.  It produced surnames such as Marcus and Markus, as well the Italian and Spanish Marco and Marcos and the Russian Markowitz. 

In the Jewish case where surnames were to be adopted later, the Marcus name was already available and was often used as the kinnui for the Hebrew Biblical name Mordecai of the Book of Esther.  We find this in the progression of the 17th century Hungarian Rabbi Mordecai Mochiah to his grandson the physician Mordecai Rofe known in Germany as Moses Marcus

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In Europe the Markus spelling is more common today.  In Hungary there are some 10,000 of the name and a further 6,000 in Germany, with a smattering also in the Netherlands.  The majority of the Marcus and Markus that emigrated to America were Jewish and most adopted the Marcus spelling in America.

A number of entrepreneurial Jewish Marcuses came to America or were first generation Americans in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.  They were:
  • the Marcus family of Neiman Marcus in Dallas
  • the Marcus banking family in New York
  • Bernie Marcus from Newark, New Jersey
  • and Ben Marcus from Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
Joseph Marcus came to Louisville, Kentucky in the 1870‘s where he worked as a cotton broker, later moving to Dallas in Texas.  It was there that his son Herbert, together with his daughter Carrie and her husband Abraham Neiman, founded the department store of Neiman Marcus in 1907.  Herbert’s son Stanley made the store the famous store it is today.

Another Joseph Marcus, from Germany but of Russian ancestry, came to New York in 1879.  He worked his way up from being a tailor, to a garment industry business, to a banker. He founded the Public Bank in 1906 and the Bank of United States in 1913:
  • his son “the fabulously wealthy” Bernard Marcus was at the helm when this bank collapsed in 1931 and he spent almost two years in prison for his role in the collapse.
  • while his grandson James went to work for Goldman Sachs and made his money there.  He was a noted New York philanthropist who served as Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Metropolitan Opera for eight years.
Bernie Marcus was the son of Jewish immigrants from Russia who came to Newark, New Jersey in the 1920’s.  His father was a cabinet maker and they lived in a tenement.  Bernie worked his way through college and had various retail jobs before co-founding The Home Depot in 1979. This store with its warehouse concept revolutionized the home improvement business and its founders became billionaires.

Finally, Ben Marcus was the son of Jewish immigrants from Poland who came to Milwaukee, Wisconsin in 1925.

“Ben Marcus was fascinated by the movie business. In 1935, at the age of 24, he pooled his own money with some borrowed funds and bought an abandoned department store in downtown Ripon, Wisconsin for $15,000. He converted the building into the Campus Theatre, a single screen movie-house that served as the foundation of the Marcus Corporation and is still in operation today.”

The Marcus Corporation expanded into a firm specializing in movie theatres, hotels, resorts and restaurants.

Other Marcuses who came to America were:

  • Mordecai Marcus and his wife Leah who arrived in New York’s Lower East Side from Romania in the 1890’s.  Their son Mickey was a US attorney prosecuting gangsters in New York in the 1930’s and served as a US army colonel assisting Israel in the 1948 Arab-Israeli War.
  • Djoko Markus and his sister Ivanka from Hungary who came to America on the Graf Waldersee in 1906.  Other family members followed a year later.  They made their home in a large three-story townhouse in Philadelphia.
  • while Abraham and Sarah Shevitz came to America from Russia in 1910, settling in Worcester, Massachusetts.  Their son changed his name from Wolf Shevitz to William Marcus when he enlisted in the US Army in 1914.
Ireland.  Among the small Jewish community in Ireland was the Marcus family from Lithuania that had escaped Jewish persecution there in the late 19th century.  The story goes that they were told that they were arriving in New York when they stepped off the boat in Cork.  David and Louis, grandsons of the immigrants, became well-known in Ireland as a writer and editor and as a documentary film maker. 

.  There were some Marcuses in England.  Philip Marcus, thought to be from Poland, had made his home in the East End of London in the 1860’s where he acted as a shipping agent.  His son John emigrated to South Africa in 1879 and founded an auctioneering business in Cape Town which passed through three generations.

A more recent arrival was the Jewish Markus family from Budapest in Hungary which fled the Nazis in 1939 for England.  Two Markus brothers established an engineering works near Glossop in Derbyshire to produce machine parts for Spitfires.  A son Robert became a distinguished ecclesiastical historian known for his writings on St Augustine and the history of the early Church

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

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Mickey Marcus was a US attorney prosecuting gangsters in New York in the 1930’s and served as a US army colonel assisting Israel in the 1948 Arab-Israeli War. 
Stanley Marcus
was called America’s merchant prince for the way he developed and expanded the Neiman Marcus department store from the 1950’s to the 1970’s. 
Bernie Marcus
was the American businessman who co-founded The Home Depot in 1979 and was the company’s first CEO. 
Greil Marcus
has been an American author, music journalist and cultural critic focusing on rock music

Select Marcus Today
  • 1,000 in the UK (most numerous in London)
  • 11,000 in America (most numerous in New York) 
  • 1,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Australia)

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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 500 surnames.

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