The Holcenbecher family

The Holcenbecher family

I was interested in my family history only since a distant cousin from a different part of the family gave me a scruffy, rolled up paper family tree that was a bit out of date. I was a side entry on that tree. But there was so much information – and I took it upon myself to update and digitize it. As I was very much on the margins, on the edge from my mothers ancestors, there was literally no information on my father’s history.

My family surname is Hollenbery and I had pretty much no more information to go on – except that my dad said the family were from Plock or Plotsk, Russia or Poland, and that the historic surname sounded like Holsenbach or something like that. That was the start of my search. I took on the project as a bit of a game – most of the people in my family history are dead – so what was the point? Well, rather than playing a game shooting zombies on a computer, I played the game of tracing my family. And wow, its amazing what one can find with the aid of Mr Google. And then JRI Poland, which eventually led me to .

The earliest reference to my family is Eliasz Hersz Holcenbecher my great, great, great, great grandfather. He was born around 1780 in Plock, Poland. With his wife Rela (nee Jakub), they had two sons. Nusen, born around 1813, and Joel. Nusen was 25 when in 1838 he married Ejdla Goldbard.

Nusen and Ejdla had three daughters and a son, Jakub Lejb Holcenbecher. He was born in 1841 and he was a peddlar. In 1865 he married Estera/Ejdla Dzalka. And my dad talks of the Dzalka name – closely connected in our family annuls. Ejdla Dzalka had a brother called Mosek, who married Laja Brana Rozental.

Jakub Lejb Hotzenbecher and Estera had 2 boys and a girl. One of the daughters, Chawa Laja, married David Zalka, son of Mosek and Laja Dzalka. A marriage of first cousins. I have been able to piece together quite a lot of the Dzalka family, but we are still in the dark about which one was ‘Charlie’ Dzalka, fondly remembered by my dad.

Jakub Lejb’s younger son Isaac/ Israel (nickname Fischel), was born in Plock in 1876. At some point, and in some place, he married, (or otherwise assembled with) my great grandmother Baila. The story is that Isaac was enlisted into the Polish cavalry, but absconded!

My uncle Bernie says they arrived by boat into Liverpool. But they came down to London in spring 1905, and with a babe in arms. Fischel gave a sworn statement at Old Street Police Court that my grandfather Harry was born in “Plotsk, Russia” and he signed his mark with an X on that document- with name Isaac Hollenberg. I’m not sure my grandpa ever knew his true birthday.

Through the virtues of fate, many records survive – I have the proof of marriage of Nusen Holzenbecher and Ejdla Goldbard in 1838, but there is no record of Fischel/Isaac marrying Beila/Polly, just as there is no record of Harry’s birth. But we do know that while in Plock they lived at Krolewiecka 33.

On the female side, Beila/Polly was born daughter of (we think Rabbi) Meir Rosenblatt and Miriam Rosenthal. His parents Michal and Pejreal Rojzenblatt and Her Parents Szmul and Fajga Burstyn also came from Plotsk. Most of the newer generations of the Holtzenbacher side are in London. But, of Polly Rosenblatts siblings, two brothers and two sisters went to America. Some descendants now live in New York and Atlanta.

During my research, deep in the middle of the COVID lockdowns, my son and I searched and found the graves of both sets of my great grandparents – in a cemetery in Edmonton – Miriam and Lewis Berginsky and Polly and Fishel Hollenberg. The cemetery was within 100 yards of places I had cycled by numerous times…

Isaac/Fischel made his life as a butcher in the traditional Jewish East End of London; in the Hessel Street area. They had a house at 14 Berners Street Commercial Road, now demolished. My dad has described this house in some detail in his autobiography which he is dictating to my daughter over many Sunday afternoons.

I suppose Isaac used the surnames Holcenbacher, Holtzenbacher, and after moving to London, Hollenberg or Hollingback.

In London, Harry left school aged 14 and worked for WH Smith, and was latterly an antique trader. He grew up with an amazing love of music: and somehow, by some means, afforded himself piano lessons and became an accomplished pianist. It took him at least three years to pay off the loan to buy his piano. His love of East European Romantic composers (especially Chopin) is deeply embedded within me. I fondly remember him playing Chopin.

Some years after Harry’s death the piano was in need of a new home. I am now in possession of the family heirloom. The instrument will celebrate its 100th birthday in my house in London in a few months.

Harry married Lilly Bierzunsky/Berginsky in 1934 and lived with his parents, and their three children in that house at 14 Berners Street. Lilly (Leah) was a strong wonderful woman, who lived to over 90. She was born in the Berginsky family house at 55 Varden Street, Stepney. Her parents, Miriam and Lewis /Schuchner are of unknown origin. Lilly had the most fabulous of quintessential ‘proper’ east end accents. She told me Harry was married to the Piano first; and to her second.

During World War two the Hollenberg family were evacuated to Llandudno Wales, and the piano went along too. Harry and Lilly had a third child, born in Wales. He was born on VE day and is named Bernie Victor.

My father Martin, the eldest of Harry’s three children was the first in his family to attend a college of Higher Education, making his life as an ophthalmic optician with a shop in Clerkenwell, and a house in the leafy suburbs of North London. He married my mum Susan in 1967. She was a Banes – a Baneshek from Krakov, Poland. Her mum, my grandma, Betty was a Pollard – Policovsky, from Ukraine or Belarus.

My father had the name Hollenberg until he got married. My mother wished to anglicize the name. Wanting the least possible alteration, my parents settled on the married surname Hollenbery.

My parents had four children. I am the only boy, Neal, Hebrew name Nuchum/Nusen. Same as my great, great, great grandfather. Named after him? How would anyone have known! My younger sister is Adele, Hebrew name Ejdla. Same as my great, great, great grandmother. Named after her? There would have been no way for my parents to have this information. I married my wife Ayr in Marylebone London in 2001, a month after the twin towers fell. I have two children.

Neal Hollenbery 2022 London.


Post scriptum: That’s more or less the end of the Holcenbacher story. But not quite. At the start of this piece I said that I was prompted to start my family tree search as a result of a rolled up family tree given to me by a distant relative on my mothers side. And so I initially researched my mother’s side of the family. And I stumbled across a distant relative of mine living in USA. He had done absolutely loads of research on his family tree. And he was happy to add me into his tree. And he had connected himself and everyone in his tree to the Queen of England. And so I too am connected as a relation to the Queen (see the appendix below). And so, by extension, every relative of mine is also a relation to the Queen of England. Somewhat remote, but more fun than a computer game!

Appendix: My relationship to the Queen of England. By extension therefore everyone else mentioned here is also a relation to the Queen… (Source: Donald Breiter via

Relation of Elizabeth II Alexandra Mary Mountbatten (born Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glücksburg), Prince Consort of the United Kingdom, Duke of Edinburgh to Neal Hollenbery

Related by marriage: 35 steps

Here’s how:

1. Prince Phillip, Mountbatten (born Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glücksburg), Prince Consort of the United Kingdom, Duke of Edinburgh is the husband of Elizabeth II

2. Prince Andrew of Greece and Denmark (born Schleswig-Holstein, Glücksburg) is the father of Prince Phillip, Mountbatten (born Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glücksburg), Prince Consort of the United Kingdom, Duke of Edinburgh

3. Olga Constantinovna Oldenburg is the mother of Prince Andrew of Greece and Denmark (born Schleswig-Holstein, Glücksburg)

4. Alexandra Iosifovna (Friedrika Henrietta Pauline Marianne Elizabeth) Romanov is the mother of Olga Constantinovna Oldenburg

5. Joseph Georg Friedrich Ernst Karl Von Sachsen-Altenburg is the father of Alexandra Iosifovna (Friedrika Henrietta Pauline Marianne Elizabeth) Romanov

6. Charlotte Katharina Von Wurttenberg is a sister of Joseph Georg Friedrich Ernst Karl Von Sachsen-Altenburg

7. Pauline Friedrike Marie Von Nassau is a daughter of Charlotte Katharina Von Wurttenberg

8. Sophia Wilhelmina Marianne Henriette Bernadotte is a daughter of Pauline Friedrike Marie Von Nassau

9. Oscar Carl August Bernadotte is a son of Sophia Wilhelmina Marianne Henriette Bernadotte

10. Folke Bernadotte Count of Wisborg is a son of Oscar Carl August Bernadotte

11. Jeanne Birgitta Sofia Kristina Granstrom is a daughter of Folke Bernadotte Count of Wisborg

12. Gosta Granström is the husband of Jeanne Birgitta Sofia Kristina Granstrom

13. Olof Herman Granström is the father of Gosta Granström

14. Margareta Elisabet Granström is the mother of Olof Herman Granström

15. Louisa Mariana Danielsson Lofgren is a sister of Margareta Elisabet Granström

16. Selma Bernadina Charlotta Johansson is a daughter of Louisa Mariana Danielsson Lofgren

17. Karl Arvid Skoggard (born Johansson) is a son of Selma Bernadina Charlotta Johansson

18. Bengt Bruno Skoggard (born Skoggård) is a son of Karl Arvid Skoggard (born Johansson)

19. Mary Jean McKay Skoggard is the wife of Bengt Bruno Skoggard (born Skoggård)

20. John Forrest MacKay Ross is a brother of Mary Jean McKay Skoggard

21. Miriam W Ross is the wife of John Forrest MacKay Ross

22. Hyman/Chaim Wolff is the father of Miriam W Ross

23. Dora Portugalo is a sister of Hyman/Chaim Wolff

24. Pauline P Breiter is a daughter of Dora Portugalo

25. Mark C Breiter is the husband of Pauline P Breiter

26. Nathan D Breiter is the father of Mark C Breiter

27. Moyzesz Breiter is the father of Nathan D Breiter

28. Hawe Weiskertz is a sister of Moyzesz Breiter

29. Abraham Moyzes Weiskertz is the husband of Hawe Weiskertz

30. Józef Weiskertz is a brother of Abraham Moyzes Weiskertz

31. Benjamin Weisgard (born Weiskertz) is a son of Józef Weiskertz

32. Esther Baneshik is a daughter of Benjamin Weisgard (born Weiskertz)

33. Stanley Benjamin Banes is a son of Esther Baneshik

34. Susan Banes is a daughter of Stanley Benjamin Banes

35. Neal is a son of susan Banes