Ilan Ganot referred to the custom to take a mother's last name
rather than a father's, and asked specific questions about the
background behind this custom. Over an year ago I posted a question
on the adoption of the maternal surname in the JewishGen Discussion
Group. I got so many different responses I made a synthesis and
posted the summary of reasons behind name changes submitted by the
This is a summary of many varied facts and theories mentioned by
Genners for different dates, areas, and circumstances. The reasons
are undocumented but reflect the explanations found or received
inside the genners' families - all different >from the unfairly
blamed clerk in Ellis Island! They could help to look into other
cases and pinpoint the reason for the change in names:
+Different policies in terms of recording Jewish marriages and
legislating use of surnames among Jews.
+Jewish marriages not being recognized, and children being given
documents with their mothers maiden name
+Religious Marriage considered sufficient. Never bothering to
register a civil marriage with the authorities, with the option for
children of taking either surname
+Having religious marriages, in general not registering until after
the first child was born, and scoffing at the notations of
illegitimacy in the eyes of the Polish government as of no
consequence at all.
+Not being able to afford the fee for a civil marriage - children
born of the religious marriage had to take the surname of the mother
+Only one marriage permit issued per Jew family descendance under
Austro-Hungarian law, and only if a significant fee was paid. So
marriage of more than one childn would not be recorded by the civil
authorities and children of such couples would be listed in the
Austro-Hungarian metrical records as illegitimate.
+Times when governments in Poland and in Hungary did not allow Jews
to marry more than once (even if his spouse was deceased). In that
case, they were married only by Jewish ceremony and the children of
this second (etc.) marriage bore the family name of the mother.
+Civil marriages being conducted in front of a cross. Jews who
refused to marry in front of a cross were technically illegitimate
+Marriages performed elsewhere and not formally registered in
cities where children were born
+Many people in the United States, Irish in particular, had a
particular dislike for Russians, or what they perceived as Russian
sounding names... Consequently, many Russian or East-European Jews
Germanized their names.
+Thinking that having a close maternal relative with the same
surname in the States would make it easier to be admitted if using
the maternal surname
+Desire to avoid the authorities for some reason, probably
connected with military service - either to avoid conscription or
to evade punishment after deserting
+In Russia outside the Kingdom of Poland, Jewish men except the
first born were draftable and sometimes not permitted to marry - so
baby boys were never registered or sometimes registered as the
child of another couple with no boys.
+Inherited surnames were still relatively new and not especially
desired by Jews since they were forced on them by the government in
an effort to keep track of who was who (and draftable, etc.)
+A Jew emmigrating to the US may give no second thought to getting
rid of a name forced on him by the Czar.
+Inconsistent use amongst European Jews of what we consider to be
"surnames" (family names uniformly reflecting the paternal line)
until the 19th century as the earliest.
+Marriages governed by religious law until fairly recently
(typically the 19th century) with individual names recorded in
official documents being a totally different question.
+In 20th century not recognition of the state or synagogue as a
power proper for marriage authorization, not for reasons related to
religion, but for political ones
+Need to be sponsored by a family member in order to be accepted as
an immigrant, and pretending to be related to the sponsor using
papers in the new name.
+Jews who needed a surname often used the wife's name if they were
(as often occured) living with the wife's family.
+Men marrying into a well known Rabbinical family taking the
father-in-law's family name
+Men going into their father-in-law's profession, and the family's
name changing according to that profession
+Anglicization, easier spelling or pronounciation, and even
choosing a name more in their liking, and ease in the States to
"call yourself anything you wanted"
+Travelling under the mother's maiden name and resuming the
father's name on arrival
+Travels under the mother's maiden name being thus noted by the
authorities on their certificate of arrival or naturalization
These reasons reflect all comments - hope they help and did not
Buenos Aires, Argentina
First post while lurking in RavSIG and wondering about related
GLIKSON/ GLUECKSOHNS and variants in CHAVER/ HAVAR/ CHOVER/ PUNDIK/
RABBINOWITZ/ KATZENELLENBOGEN rabbinical trees
Searching for GLIKSON, GLICKSON, GLUCKSOHN, GLUECKSOHN:
Marijampole, Suwalki, Augustow, Sejny, Sopotkin, Koenigsberg.
POKROISKY, POKROJSKI, POKROY: Suwalki, Seirijai, Lomza. ALPEROVICH,
ALPEROWICZ: Kremenchug, Vilnius. HOLLANDERSKY, HOLLENDERSKI,
HOLLANDER: Suwalki, Seirijai, Lomza. TARNOPOLSKY, TARNOPOL:
Kremenchug, Kharkov. FELCHINSKY: Kremenchug, Vilnius. KARP: Grodno.
SMELIENSKY(?), KRASNAPOLSKY(?), BLUMIGDAL (?), GOLUMBIEWSKY,