Re: When did hereditary surnames appear in France #france

Georges Graner <georges.graner@...>

At 08:04 29/04/2009, you wrote:

Subject: When did hereditary surnames appear in France
From: "jeffmalka@..." <JeffMalka@...>

Did Jews in France have hereditary surnames before Napoleon? What
about non-Jews before Napoleon?
Dear Jeff,
This is indeed a good question.
A part of the answer can be found in
but I can try to tell more.
It is usually accepted that non-Jews in France
had hereditary surnames since the 13th century or
maybe even since the 12th.

As for Jews, you should know that all Jews were
expelled >from France around 1390, so there were
officially NO Jews at all in France after that year.

But for several reasons, Jews reappeared in several parts of France

1) The papal states (Avignon and surroundings)
did not belong to France before 1791-1792. Jews
were never expelled >from these places. I cannot
tell you when they acquired hereditary surnames
but many of them had them in the 17th century.
Many were names of cities or villages.

2) Alsace was annexed by France around 1670-1680.
There were many Jews in Alsace, but they had only
given names such as Mosche son of Abraham and son
on. Progressively they acquired hereditary
surnames but 1808 was a major date for them
(Napoleon's law) since these surnames were fixed.

3) Metz in Lorraine. >from 1567, the King of
France allowed a few Jewish families to settle in
Metz. Their number increased during the 17th
Century. They mainly used given names or
nicknames but some surnames began to appear. >from
1717, the government forced them to register all
B-M-D but, nevertheless, the surnames were very
unstable during the 18th century. The same person
could register with two or three completely different

4) Bordeaux and Bayonne. In the end of the 16th
and during the 17th centuries, many hidden Jews
(marranos) arrived in these two places >from
Portugal where they had lived after expulsion
from Spain. They all had Spanish or Portuguese
surnames. Officially they were Roman Catholics
but they progressively became openly Jews. Almost
100% of them kept the same surnames in 1808.

I hope this makes the answer to your question clearer.


Georges GRANER
Webmaster of Cercle de Genealogie Juive

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