Re: Seek advice about MICHAELIS ancestors just recognized as Jewish #germany

Roger Lustig <trovato@...>

Dear Lorraine:

There have been many Jews with the surname MICHAELIS. Someone named Max
Paul MICHAELIS may have been Jewish--or not. That he was murdered by
Nazi criminals doesn't make him Jewish, of course--the Nazis found lots
of people to murder. You may indeed have Jewish ancestors, and I wish
you all the best of luck in your research--no matter what the outcome. But:

What Internet checking told you that the name MICHAELIS is Jewish? I
just did some myself, and found tons of Gentile MICHAELISes in Germany.

For starters, there's always the phone book.

gives you the whole country at a glance. There are businesses and
multiple listings, so take their counts and divide by two. 400+
listings for MICHAELIS in Berlin; 182 in Hamburg; 87 in Bremen; and so
on. And that's in 2005!

Next, hop over to and search for the name in
Germany. Again, lots of listings. Many are baptismal records. Many
more come >from before 1800, when very few Jews had surnames at all.

The name MICHAELIS is a Latinized possessive: "of Michael." It's always
used when referring to a church of St. Michael: that's a
Michaelis-Kirche. Latinized names are not uncommon in Germany: the
composer Michael PRAETORIUS was Michael SCHULZE before he translated
himself. Some even used Greek, like Luther's colleague Philipp
MELANCHTHON (black earth), who was Philipp SCHWARZERD (black earth) to
his parents.

In general, there are hardly any surnames that, by themselves, indicate
a high probability that a person or his/her ancestry was Jewish. That's
true in Germany and elsewhere. The only reliable exceptions are rare
surnames that were only used by one family, where that family was
Jewish. There are several names I've worked with that most likely fall
into that category--but they obviously won't ever add up to a large
percentage of the population.

That said, you should contact the Standesamt (registry office) in
Charlottenburg [note spelling!], which is part of Berlin. (There *is* a
Charlottenberg in Hessen, but it had a population of under 200 in the
1930's, so I'm going to assume you meant the one in Berlin.) You might
also share with us the names of her parents. Does she have any old
passports of theirs, or other papers?

There's more than one researcher listed on the JewishGen Family Finder
who's into MICHAELIS/Berlin, and you can contact them with a
query--that's why they're listed.

Best of luck, and keep in touch!

Roger Lustig Princeton, NJ
...whose mother was born in Charlottenburg, too!

Lorraine Garcia wrote:

I'm wondering if I can perhaps get some guidance in this particular
matter. My mother was born in Charlottenberg, Germany, and came to the
US as an infant alone with only her parents. Her parents never told her
anything but the sketchiest details of her relatives or their past. As
I was talking with her today she said she wanted to do some family
history research. We did some internet checking and found that her
family surname, MICHAELIS is Jewish, at least in Germany. We have a
family picture of my great grandfather, Max Paul MICHAELIS, on which my
grandfather wrote he was "murdered by Nazi criminals" in 1944. Until
yesterday, we had no idea, and please forgive our ignorance, that
MICHAELIS was a Jewish surname. So you can imagine our shock when we
realized that many of our family may have died in death camps. This is
rather overwhelming information for us and we feel an urgent need to
find out the truth about our ancestry. Any suggestions for information
would be welcome. Also, any information about the MICHAELIS family in
Germany would be greatly appreciated.

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