Sally M. Bruckheimer <sallybru@...>
Sometimes in the Russian Empire it was illegal for Jews to marry (civilly),
to cut down on our numbers - often only the eldest son was allowed to marry.
However, the Jews weren't interested in the civil marriage and married
religiously. The surnames were not much used among the Jews, who called
themselves X the son/daughter of Y. The state required the surname for tax
and draft and such - to keep track of who is whom.
Well, according to the state, since there was no civil marriage, the
children were illegitimate and had the Mother's surname. The Jews didn't
care, the kid was still X the son/daughter of Y. Whether they said he was
Smith or Jones was no concern of the Jews; the child was the legitimate
offspring of a (religiously) married couple.
"I've noticed that in many old vital records and specifically in the JRI-Poland
database, many children's birth - and even death - records are listed as the
child having the mother's surname rather than the father's as is customary today."