Alternate surnames in Eastern Europe? #general

Zalman Usiskin

We know that many of our ancestors had two or three first names by which
they were known. For instance, in my family, there are men who were
called Velvel by those in the family, are Wolf on official records, and
are identified as Zev on their gravestones. It was common to have
different familial, civil, and religious first names.

Was it possible also to have different familial and civil surnames? I
offer three possible examples >from my family:
(1) My great-great-grandfather Velvel was universally called Velvel
MARINKER by his grandchildren but all of his nine children took the last
name GARBER. Velvel lived in a place called Malynka >from which MARINKER
is derived. Is it possible that GARBER was Velvel’s civil surname?
(2) Velvel had a son-in-law named Shaya RUMSHISHKER, ostensibly because
Shaya’s family was originally >from Rumsiskes in Lithuania. When Shaya’s
children emigrated to the U.S. in the early 20th century, their surnames
are RUMSHISHKER on the ship manifests, but they took the surname
RUBENSTEIN in the U.S. We might consider this a simple case of
Americanizing a name, but today there are many RUBENSTEINs in the town
of Rumsiskes. Is this coincidence or is it the case that my cousins had
two surnames?
(3) My great-uncle wrote an autobiography in which he speaks in great
detail of his youth. He mentions in one place that one of the richest
Jews in the town of Narevke (near Bialystok) is “Mordechai ZABLUDOVSKI
or Mate MASHEVER”. These again seem to be two surnames for the same person.

This question is not meant to include religious or familial surnames
derived >from a patronym such as is the custom when a man is called to
the Torah. Was it not uncommon for men to have two surnames other than
their patronym?

Can someone could shed light on this issue or direct me to a place where
it is discussed? It would solve some mysteries.

Zalman Usiskin
Winnetka, Illinois USA

Researching: GARBER, CZUKERMAN, ECHT near Bialystok; OBOLER, OBELER >from
Dvinsk (Daugavpils) and Riga, Latvia; JACOBSON >from Mitau (Jelgava) and
Riga; USISKIN, USSISHKIN, and variants >from anywhere.

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