Gladys Paulin <gp21603@...>
I have read the many messages and wish to commend everyone and especially
Elsebeth PAIKIN for her thoughtful piece on memory and bubbe meises.
The 25 year service and cantonist period ended in 1858 around the same
time that Czar Alexander freed the serfs. >from that point, conscription
became universal and the period of mandatory service varied by time.
Names and Aliases. Yes, not everyone came under their real name. For
various reasons, our ancestors chose not to use their birth name. but let
us not forget that surnames were not used prior to the 19th century by
most Eastern European Jews. Even though the first laws were passed at
the beginning of the 1800's, some 20-30 years later, the governments were
still tinkering with those laws making the names hereditary and putting
restrictions on name changes.
We should also remember that there is such a thing as folklore and the
Jews were masters at it. Our ancestors traveled more than many other
groups who lived in Eastern Europe-- and did so for again various reasons.
They were not attached to the land-- they were forbidden to practice
certain occupations, they were not freely admitted to schools, etc.
Therefore they were able to exchange stories and build up a folklore to be
able to laugh at some of their circumstances or make light of certain
discriminatory and restrictive practices. Serving in the military meant
being separated, sometimes cruelly, >from their families for many years.
The Czarist government did not supply great family stipends so the
families were driven almost to starvation. Therefore avoiding the
conscription was greatly desirable, but usually not to the point of
self-mutilation. Our ancestors were steeped in their religion which taught
that your body belonged to God and you had to take care of God's property.
Self mutilation would have been a violation of their beliefs. However,
injuries did happen and rather than explain some horror, what better way
to explain than to avoid the hateful draft! I am not saying that no one
harmed themselves, but the folklore that surrounded the minute few grew
with time and became a very convenient way to tell tall tales to one's
With the lack of a long history of surnames, aliases were no big deal. if
they could not get it with one name-- change it to something else.
Frequently the other names were other family names so look closely to your
research. That alias may have been a maiden name-- the married name of a
niece or sister, etc.
I think everyone on this list is fascinated with Jewish genealogy. We
have all been hooked. But after participating for years, and even on the
earlier Prodigy group, I think I can fairly say that every family has its
own story and while many circumstances may seem similar, the details
differ. That goes for the routes they traveled, the names they used, who
came first, why they came, etc. And stories spread like wildfire. Do not
forget that there were two major events in the 20th century which
decimated and separated families. The Holocaust was by far the most
devastating to the entire Jewish people, but immigration and separation
during the great migrations was not taken lightly and separated child and
parent forever. Like all catastrophes in our history, the Jew got through
it with humor and stories. As Elsebeth said-- we heard it so often, we
believed we witnessed it ourselves.
The stories are great-- but let us not get carried away and let us not
believe that because it happened to someone else that way, it must have
been the same for our family.
Gladys Friedman Paulin
Winter Park, FL