JewishGen Discussion Group #JewishGen Re: Family Surname Mysteries #general

Peter Zavon <pzavon@...>

"Linda Shefler" < > wrote:

Please tell me if this logic makes sense: Since Fishel and
PLOTKER/PLOTKE/PLOTKA mean "fish", does it seem logical that in order to
keep the secret of the origin of the family name (and it was definitely a
secret) Max and Sima gave Yeruhim Fishel a redundant last name (in other
words he became Yeruhim Fish Fish) so that they could then use the SILVERMAN
This does not seem reasonable to me as it is overly complex, seeking a
unique explanation where the common ones may apply. These folks came from
the Russian Empire where names were written in Cyrillic letters.
Transliterating >from Cyrillic to the Latin characters used in the US and
Western Europe often resulted in confusion between "Z" and "S" where some
time was required before the spelling of teh name stabilized. My
grandfather was "ZAVODNIK" but his entire family's passenger list entry is
for "SAVODNIK" Some families retained the "Z" others still use the "S"
Even in the 1950, many Americans had difficulty with the letter "Z", having
rarely if ever encountered it at the beginning of a surname. The writing of
the letter in script was sometimes not even taught in the schools. (It was
not taught in mine, and my suname begins with it. I had quite a time
figuting out how to render it in my signature as a child and hope to have it

A relative told me that her mother used to say that the family's name was
originally deSILVA/daSILVA; that they originated in Toledo, Spain and were
The jewelry connection would seem to support some form of "ZILBER", but
"deSilva" or "daSilva" in Spanish means "of the forrest." It does not
suggest a jewelry connection.

I know it didn't work
that way, but when Mordechai applied for US citizenship in 1891, it was
under the name of Silverman. How could he legally change his name before
becoming a citizen?
Easilly, one simply began using a different name. Even today that is only
illegal if done with intent to decieve or defraud. Besides, US citizenship
was *never* required before one could formally change a name in court.

I have not been able to find any immigration records either through Castle
Garden or Hamburg for a family fitting the description of my family under
the name of SILVERMAN/ZILBERMAN; APPLEBAUM (in all it's variations) or
PLOTKER (in all it's variations). I have also gone through the two volumes
of "the Road to Letichev" and wasn't able to locate anyone that seemed to fit.
According to Beider's "Dictionary of Jewish Surnames >from the Russian
Empire" there were many variants of "ZILBER" (>from "silver"), including
"ZILBERMAN" in use as surnames. The fact that you have not found your
people in passenger lists for one American port of arrival and one European
departure port does not mean they did not use that name or one similar to
it. There were a good many other ports available, both for European
departure and American arrival.

Question: Is anyone familiar with Sephardic research aware of a
deSILVA/daSILVA family of jewelers >from Toledo, Spain?
Be cautious. This family story may well be a reference to the distant past,
to the time before Spain expelled the Jews in 1492. As such, the folklore
becomes very think and often impossible to document. Toledo was certainly a
center of metal working of all sorts, and thus a potential origin of a

Question: Does anyone have any suggestions as to where else or even how
else I might look for the immigration records?
Check indexes for other ports of entry (Boston, Montreal, Philadelphia,

Peter Zavon
Penfield, NY

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