On Wed, Jul 1, 2020 at 05:01 PM, Ettie Zilber wrote:
I definitely think you are on the right track - although I don't think it would be good for me to take an (un)educated guess. It is not an easy question - or answer. We need to learn enough about the context of our subject's lives to be able to formulate realistic scenarios (hypotheses, if you will) that we may then research.
Typically in genealogy we work backwards from what we know to what we want to find out. If you have identified the five families, you will have to take all five backward and find evidence to prove their relationships.
If you can get them back to the old country and look at metrical records for your family's community, you will have a good start. My area of Volhynia Gubernia has yet to yield any vital records, no revision lists (only 2 addenda with about 5 names) and only a 1912 Duma voters list. The only thing I can tell about my great grandfather is that he was not on the 1912 Duma voting list for Labun - negative evidence that may give me some idea of his relatively lowly status. My other challenge (and I think others will find this, as well) is that some relatives moved around so much that I am not sure which community's records to search. I do not find my great grandfather and his brother in the same communities as adults. And I have his brother moving among several towns during the period 1910-1914. Where they were (or where they were registered) in the 1860s-1890s is another question. All the communities identified are within about a 20-30 mile radius.
I think we need to get creative and think about not only what we know about the time period and place, but also what we may learn about our subject's place economically and socially during those time periods and in those places.
Since there were several ukases (edicts) enacted in the Russian Empire during the 19th century that attempted to regulating behavior and options for Jewish people the situation for any person at any age might have changed. One also may have to look at what the military situation was - was there an unpopular war going on? Was the economic situation such that military conscription might put food in one's stomach?
Perhaps the military was not involved at all. Based upon knowledge of the context of the era and place what other reasons can we think of that might have resulted in siblings with different surnames? One thing we know is that not all areas of the Pale were affected immediately or similarly by new ukases. What was the situation in the area and time period where our subjects resided?
Despite Russian edicts, I think surname issues were ultimately controlled locally whether by kahals or, after 1844, by local authorities. Notarial records, court cases, Jewish community records - all places we may have to look. Of course, if name changes were outside legal parameters, we are unlikely to find direct evidence.
None of this is easy. I am still struggling. It may be the type of question one has to let sit and simmer a while.