Dreyfus

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Dreyfus Surname Genealogy

Dreyfus is predominantly a Jewish surname, the origin of the name coming
from
the German town of Trier on the Moselle river, close by the border with
France. Jews driven out from there in
the 16th century found refuge in Alsace.
The spelling variants, Dreyfus and Dreyfuss,
have tended to correspond to the country the family was living in at
the time
the spelling was standardized. Dreyfus was
more common among people of French origin; Dreyfuss among those of
German
descent.The Dreyfuss name was also
found in Bavaria. Here it appears to
have derived
as a nickname from the German dreifuss,
meaning a “tripod” or “cooking pot with three legs.

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Dreyfus Ancestry


Although Alsace is in present-day France, Jews there may
have had either a French
or a German cultural background.
Two famous Dreyfuses from Alsace have been:

  • Alfred Dreyfus, a young
    French artillery officer who was sentenced to life imprisonment in 1894
    for
    allegedly communicating French military secrets to the Germans. What came to be known as the Dreyfus Affair divided
    French society sharply. Alfred’s ancestry
    in Alsace has been traced
    back to Mathias David of Trier in the 17th century.
  • and Leopold Dreyfus who was
    born in Sierentz, Alsace
    in 1833. At the age of eighteen
    he began trading wheat from neighboring farms
    and founded a company under his father’s name of Louis as he was too
    young to
    use his own. That company is now the
    global commodity trading company Louis Dreyfus. In
    the early 1900’s he changed his own surname and those of
    his
    descendants to the hyphenated Louis-Dreyfus. His
    line goes back to the marriage of Marx and Mindel
    Dreyfus in Sierentz
    in 1762.

The Dreyfus and Dreyfuss numbers in Alsace are small
today. They total less than 700 for the
whole of
France. There is also a smattering of
Jewish Dreyfuses in Switzerland.

England. Charles Dreyfus, said to have been distant relative of
Alfred Dreyfus
the man caught up in the Dreyfus Affair, arrived in England in 1869. A chemist by training, he became the manager
and owner of a chemical plant in Manchester which manufactured DMC wire. Charles employed the Zionist Chaim Weizmann
at the plant and remained a friend of his until his death.

Edmund Dreyfus who came
to England in 1895 was also from Alsace, although from a branch of his
family
that had started a bank in Switzerland.
His son John Dreyfus
became
well-known internationally as a typographer and historian of letters.

America.
An
early arrival was Abraham Dreyfus from Bavaria who came in 1849 and
joined the
US army in the West. He enlisted in the
Utah expedition in 1857 and was based in Arizona and New Mexico during
the
Civil War. After the war he spent some
time in Mexico before settling down in San Bernardino, California.

Henry Dreyfuss came to
Shreveport, Louisiana from Alsace in 1855 and started up as a merchant
there. His son Jules owned a sugar cane business in New Iberia.

“His wife was mixed African and American Indian
(and thus they could not technically be married). Although
he was white and she was black, he
sent their daughter to some of the finest private schools.”


It was said that
this Jewish family also took on the name of Threefoot (an English
translation of
their name) when they arrived in America.

Theodore Dreyfus arrived in New Orleans from Mannheim in Germany in the
1880’s. He started up a general store
which has now passed through four generations of Dreyfus management. In 1989 the store became Joe’s
Dreyfus Store
restaurant.

Samuel Dreyfuss from Baden had come to America in
1860 and made a fortune before the Civil War selling spirits to Native
Americans. His son Barney who arrived in
1881 owned the Pittsburgh Pirates
baseball franchise from 1900 until his death in 1932.
He is often credited with the creation of the
baseball World Series.

A Dreyfus family from Alsace arrived in
Mississippi around the year 1880. By the
early 1900’s Jonas Dreyfus and his brothers had established a candy
manufacturing business in Montgomery, Alabama.
Jonas’s son Jack Dreyfus,
born there in 1913, was
the founder of the Dreyfus
Funds and is widely credited for having invented the commonplace mutual
fund
through direct marketing to the American public.

Otto and Lillie Dreyfus were German
immigrants who came to Wisconsin in the 1890’s and ran a tavern on
Milwaukee’s
South Side. Their son Woods joined
Milwaukee’s WISN radio station in 1927 and over a twenty-year period
served as
singer, announcer, program director, and finally as its General Manager. Woods’ son Lee
Dreyfus
was Wisconsin’s Governor from 1979 to 1983.

The Louis-Dreyfus family was described as one of
the “top five biggest fortunes of France.” However,
as a Jewish family during the
Second World War much of the family assets were confiscated by the
Vichy
government. Gerard Louis-Dreyfus, a
great grandson of the company founder Leopold, came to America with his
mother
in 1940. He was the father of the actress
Julia Louis-Dreyfus.


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Dreyfus Miscellany

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



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Dreyfus Names

Leopold Louis-Dreyfus was the founder of the global commodity trading
company Louis Dreyfus.

Henry Dreyfuss
was one of the
foremost American industrial designers of consumer products in the
1930’s
and 1940’s.

Jack Dreyfus

was the founder of the Dreyfus Funds. He
is widely credited with having invented the commonplace mutual fund
through
direct marketing to the American public.
Richard Dreyfuss

is an American actor who won the Academy award for Best Actor in the
1978 film The Goodbye Girl.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus
is a well-known American
actress in both TV and film roles
.

Select Dreyfus Today

  • 1,000 in America (most numerous in California)
  • 200 elsewhere (most numerous in UK)

 

 

 

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