The following listed email appeared on the JewishGen Digest a few days ago.
For me it brings some major questions about my surname to mind and I would
appreciate any input on the subject:
Subject: The Polish Inn
You might also want to see "Economic Origins of anti-Semitism" by HillelLevine >(Yale Univ. Press), especially Chapter 4 and a bit in the
Introduction. A bit >abstract, but still interesting.
Incidentally, he cites estimates that 75% of the "rural" Jewish populationwere >principally in the alcohol trade, known as the "Propinacja" (small-scale
production, >transport, and inns often all together). Usually when vital
records use the term >"leaseholder" (arrender) this involves inn keeping and
the alcohol trade. It is a >common (and often not necessarily flattering)
image of the rural Jew in Polish >literature and art.
Some of my oldest known ancestors were innkeepers and original Jewish settlers
in Skaudvile, Lithuania about 1790 CE. The original Jews there operated
roadside inns according to Skaudvile historical documents. Dr. Beider's
"Dictionary of Jewish Surnames of the Russia Empire" gives my surname as:
"PROP" (N) meaning "cork, plug or fool". It is a unique surname, all PROP or
PROPPs throughout the world are decedents of Shimel and originally lived in
Skaudvile. The Skaudvile's 1816 Revision List lists my oldest known ancestor
as Shimel Hirshnevich PROBNOVICH and Dr. Beider must have taken that to mean
Propn in Yiddish which means the aforementioned. (I have never fully accepted
this meaning and I keep searching)
Now I read about a word: Propinacja and I note the similarity with our
surname. I have to wonder if our surname could have been an occupation rather
than a noun?? And if it was derived >from "PROPINACJA" to PROPN then shorten
to PROP. The surname PROP was firmly established by the 1847 Revision List of
I would ask anyone who wishes to either reply in private to my email address
or in public i.e. litvaksig to give whatever input they would wish to.