Origins of Jewish names SITE CITE and name questions #germany


Christine Crawford-Oppenheimer
 

We sometimes have questions about this on the list, so I thought I'd
forward this URL: http://tinyurl.com/ph3yk7b
http://www.slate.com/blogs/lexicon_valley/2014/01/08/ashkenazi_names_the_etymology_of_the_most_common_jewish_surnames.html

[Mod note: This is a SLATE.com blog page containing advertising.
The time tested and favored sources on this subject are the classic
_ A Dictionary of Jewish Names and Their History_ by Benzion C. Kaganoff
and, for Germany, _A Dictionary of German-Jewish Surnames_ by Lars Menk ]

I have quibbles with some of his derivations. For example, I suspect
the name Gluck is more likely derived fro the German word for luck, He
suggests Goldman might be derived >from the name Golda, but Is Goldmann
an actual German name, or is it an English translation of Geltmann,
someone who works with gold; goldsmith. He suggests Berliner as
meaning son of Berl, but gives a better attribution in the section on
names derived >from towns as meaning a person >from Berlin. But in
general, it may be helpful for people wanting to understand names.

Also a question re. patronymics and matronymics. In the third
paragraph, he suggests that before surnames, a son would take a
patronymic, but a daughter would take a matronymic. I'm lucky enough
that many of the people in my husband's Jewish line had surnames
before Jews generally accepted them, but the few women without
surnames in the line seem to have patronymics rather than matronymics
(e.g., Gutrut b. Eliezer; Frummet b. Josef Lewi). Is the use of
matronymics for daughters a regional thing, or an occasional thing
(the examples he gives of people taking a matronymic when the mother
is predominent), or what?

Christine Crawford-Oppenheimer Hyde Park, NY christine3cats@...
Author of: Long-Distance Genealogy: Researching Your Ancestors >from Home


Roger Lustig
 

I would not recommend this article. It gives no sources, contains
internal contradictions as Christine notes (not to mention having two
divergent sections devoted to animal names); and is full of errors and
myths.

Start with the "Ekelnamen" (ugly names) myth, which he calls "insulting
names." Not only does he not give any reason to believe that surnames
were assigned, but none of the examples he gives is insulting! Anyone
who thinks it's an insult to carry the name GANS (which means goose, but
probably has a different derivation in this case) should read a little
Jewish history. There have been famous GANSes since the 16thC.

Mistakes abound in the article. "Zweig" means "branch/twig," not
"wreath." "Fried" means "peace," not "happiness." HOFFMANN has nothing
to do with hope--it's a job (estate manager). So is HOLLAENDER,
sometimes (dairyman). KAGAN has nothing to do with the Khazars--it's
KOHEN spelled the Russian way. LONDON was spelled that way long before
anyone emigrated. What's the plural of 'shtetl'? And what is a
"second-rank Levite"???

GOLDMANN is an actual German surname, and also a German-Jewish one (half
a column in Menk); but it doesn't necessarily denote a goldsmith;
besides, we have the ultra-widespread GOLDSCHMIDT for that.

The patronymics/matronymics business is also confused. There are
matronymic-based surnames (REICHLIN, RIFKIN); but women were generally
referred to by the name of their father or their husband.

The names he gives as acronyms include METZ and SACHS, which could just
as well be toponyms (place-name derived).

The list goes on and on.

On the other hand, the map at the top of the page is one of my very
favorites.

Finally, along with Menk's German-surname dictionary I'd recommend
Alexander Beider's fine books on Eastern European Jewish surnames, not
to mention his (now-out-of-print) one on old surnames >from Prague.

Roger Lustig Princeton, NJ USA research coordinator, GerSIG

On 1/9/2014 7:00 PM, Christine Crawford-Oppenheimer wrote:
We sometimes have questions about this on the list, so I thought I'd
forward this URL: http://tinyurl.com/ph3yk7b>
[Mod note: The above is a SLATE.com blog page containing advertising.
The time tested and favored sources on this subject are the classic
_ A Dictionary of Jewish Names and Their History_ by Benzion C. Kaganoff
and, for Germany, _A Dictionary of German-Jewish Surnames_ by Lars Menk ]


Christine Crawford-Oppenheimer
 

Roger, thank you for your (as usual) useful comments about this
article. Another comment I thought of making earlier was his
suggestion that the surname London was given to people at immigration
to the US by officials who didn't understand the immigrants' actual
name. The myth of "name changes at Ellis Island" persists despite
serious genealogists' attempts to debunk it. The officials at Ellis
Island had translators who spoke a myriad of languages, *and* the
people's names came off the ship manifests that were prepared in the
country of origin. Changes soon after people arrived in America were a
result of people wanting a name that sounded more "American," not the
result of official people being obtuse.

The map with the article looked as if it might be interesting, by on
my computer, even using <CTRL>+ to enlarge it, I couldn't make it
large enough to read the legend, so I couldn't figure out what it was
about--possibly number or Jews or percentage of Jews in various areas?

Christine Crawford-Oppenheimer Hyde Park, NY christine3cats@...


Gerhard Buck <buckidstein@...>
 

Christine Crawford-Oppenheimer's letter causes me to ask for help in a
special case. Before family names were introduced, children got
patronymics as a second name. But what happened, when the father was
unknown, because the child was born out of wedlock? What happened, when
the father was known, yet not married to the mother? Is there any fixed
rule or tradition?

Reality seems to tell me: take whatever name you like. I have read
plenty of entries in the civil vital registers of the 19th^century, in
which we find all the inhabitants of all denominations in a place.
Concerning Jewish illegitimate children (with a known or unknown father)
all the Gentile writers were at a loss what to write as the second name.
There is a great variety of right or wrong possibilities. With the boys
I have the special problem of defining the given name.

One observation in my registers between 1817 and 1874 I would like to
mention in this context. If I find an illegitimate child in the early
years, more will follow through all the decades. The mothers belonged to
all the confessions “ they were Jews as well as all kinds of Christians.
If there are no unmarried mothers at the beginning, none will follow.

Gerhard Buck, Idstein, Germanybuckidstein@...