JewishGen Discussion Group #JewishGen Re: Napolean Regulation and the adoption of surnames #general


On Thu, 3 Jun 2004 14:12:29 UTC, sgroeger@... (Steven Groeger)

I am very new to the genealogy search process. I have found information
about my g-g-g-grandfather Raphael Rosenthal who has a different last name
then his mother Susan Meyer and his father Michel Meir. I have been told
that his father (Michel Meir) died and his mother changed his name and one
brothers name to Rosenthal (but not 4 other siblings) because of the
Napolean Regulation.
Before Jews in Germanic Europe were legally forced to adopt surnames, around
the year 1813, probably under rules earlier established by Napoleoon, it was
common official practice to designate a male Jew by his own given name followed
by his father's given name. A female bore her father's until marriage and
then adopted her husband's given name. When she was widowed, she officially lost
her first name and would be named Witwe (Widow) Meir

Thus Baruch son of Wolf was officially named Baruch Wolf. When required
around 1813 to take a family name, he stuck to it (as many others did, especially
if the family was locally prominent) using Wolf as a surname. Others chose to
use their long-term family designation (e.g. trade, town of origin) as their
new official family name. Some chose an entirely new one. Meir or Meyer (same
name) is a very common name; in your case the mother probably decided that her
sons deserved a distinguishing surname. The other sons were proably old
enough to choose their own names--especially since they had established their
identity that way in the community and their business.

Michael Bernet, New York

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