adopting surnames in the Pale: one story #general

Bob Kosovsky

One of the issues mentioned by Alexander Beider in his wonderful
talk last week at the International Association of Jewish Genealogical
Societies was the lack of documentation concerning adoption of surnames.
We generally don't know how it was done.

I had a long meeting with someone tonight concerning genealogy,
whose family comes (in part) >from the town Antopol in Belarus.
He said that most everyone with his surname (and its variants)
were relatives, and that due to longevity and his discussions with
them (his grandmother died in 2001, at age 101, she could remember
people born in the middle of the 19th century). He then told me of
how his family acquired its surname of YOHALEM [also JAGLOM and YAHALOM].

Even though the decree went out in the first decade of the 19th
century, Jews were slow to adopt surnames. Finally, sometime in the
1830s [I presumed it must have been coincident with the 1834-5 census
in Russia], Russian officials went around town and forcibly hoisted
surnames on the men. Since this man's ancestors always viewed themselves
as being somewhat aristocratic and above the "regulars" (e.g. their first
language was Russian, not Yiddish), they argued with the officials since
they didn't want a Yiddish/German sounding surname. After paying them off,
the ancestors suggested to the officials that they could find something
appropriate in the Torah. The officials agreed, so they opened to Shemot
(Exodus), to the description of the vestments of Aaron. They did some kind
of trick where they selected a word at random, and the choice fell upon the
Hebrew work Yahalom - one of the stones in the breastplate worn by
Aaron and all subsequent high priests.

[This is the same family as the film maker Henry JAGLOM as well as Anna HEILMAN,
author of "Never Far Away: The Auschwitz Chronicles of Anna Heilman."]

I thought it was an interesting story.

Bob Kosovsky, New York City, seeking any and all permutations/locations of:
KOSOW, KOSSOVE, etc. and other derivatives; >from Slutsk: GELFAND, DAVIDSON

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