JewishGen Discussion Group #JewishGen Re: Jewish names based on location #general


In a message dated 10/26/2002 7:19:48 PM Eastern Daylight Time,

<< I do not dispute that many Jewish names in Germany were based on
place-names with which the person was associated but in my own family I have
found some hard-to explain family names. My ggf, Leib Speier (which is
already a place name, though the Speiers came >from HOF), wrote in the "Family
Book" in 1872 that he took the mane HOLSTEIN, though the family; lived near
Kassel and had no apparent connection with the province of Holstein.

Leib Speier-Holstein also traces his ancestry to the PLAUT Family of
Neuenbrunslar, which again is not near Schleswig-Holstein. Another mystery
regarding the "taking" of additional names are the various descendants of
Josef Plaut who added names such as Dannenberg, Stern and Koenig to the Plaut
name. Often the original name (Plaut, Speier) was dropped and only the newer
name retained by future generations. >>

Irwin Schiffres has raised an important point. The rational for people
"taking" a specific family name is often as inexpicable as the ashes of the
red heifer.

Who can guess today? Names weren't necessarily taken, they were also given,
long before the laws required it, by members of the community, by members of
the family, even, to distinguish one clan >from another or one person >from
others with the same name.

There may have been some connections, or it may have been a whimsy. In my own
ancestral family, some had taken/been given the village name, Frensdorf, as
family name by the very early 18th cent (especially one rabbinical family in
Hanover and Hamburg, who doubled the final F. There was another rabbi, Uri
Feist of nearby-Bamberg whom researchers assumed to be a member of my
family--but he wasn't. His father Samuel Feist had been known as Samuel
Frensdorf because he briefly lived in the village.

In 1813 when the law demanded it, my extended family took eight different
family names, including Elkan (after an Elchanan ancestor) and Feldheim (for
no known reason) and Bernet (because the Bavarian villagers pronounced the
name YomTov as YomDov and "everyone" knows a Dov [Heb] is a Baer [Ger.] and
"renamed" an earlier YomTov as Jondef Behr.)

The different names in my family were taken almost of necessity: in the
previous century my ancestral family accounted for something like 70% of the
Jewish population of the tiny village, and they spread by marriage, business
and inclination to the neighboring town (Bamberg). Even so, there were so
many BERNET's in the region that one branch changed the name to BERNERT, and
no less than three of the young men of the Bamberg community who gave their
lives in WW 1 were Bernets.

I'm still trying to link together all the FRENSDORF[F]s. All the BERNETs who
came to America in th 19th century became BARNET on their arrival (BERNATs
for those who felt too crowded by their relatives). Today, only two Jewish
BERNET families remain: I amd my descendants, and the grandson of my
grandfather's cousin, and his descendants in California.

Michael Bernet, New York <>

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