Use of maternal surnames #general
Piotr Kaczmarzyk asked "What was the rule of giving surnames to children in
Jewish families? Was it always father's surname? In which case it could be
A couple of years ago I asked about changes of surnames and use of mother's
surname. I got so many possible reasons I posted a summary. These were some
of the explanations JGenners forwarded "for different dates, areas, and
circumstances - different >from the unfairly blamed clerk in Ellis
Island!"... They could help to look into other cases and pinpoint the
reason for the change in names:
+Different policies in terms of recording Jewish marriages and legislating
use of surnames among Jews.
+Jewish marriages not being recognized, and children being given documents
with their mothers maiden name
+Religious Marriage considered sufficient. Never bothering to register a
civil marriage with the authorities, with the option for children of taking
+Having religious marriages, in general not registering until after the
first child was born, and scoffing at the notations of illegitimacy in the
eyes of the Polish government as of no consequence at all.
+Not being able to afford the fee for a civil marriage - children born of
the religious marriage had to take the surname of the mother
+Only one marriage permit issued per Jew family descendance under
Austro-Hungarian law, and only if a significant fee was paid. So marriage
of more than one children would not be recorded by the civil authorities
and children of such couples would be listed in the Austro-Hungarian
metrical records as illegitimate.
+Times when governments in Poland and in Hungary did not allow Jews to
marry more than once (even if his spouse was deceased). In that case, they
were married only by Jewish ceremony and the children of this second (etc.)
marriage bore the family name of the mother.
+Civil marriages being conducted in front of a cross. Jews who refused to
marry in front of a cross were technically illegitimate
+Marriages performed elsewhere and not formally registered in cities where
children were born
+Many people in the United States, Irish in particular, had a particular
dislike for Russians, or what they perceived as Russian sounding names...
Consequently, many Russian or East-European Jews Germanized their names.
+Thinking that having a close maternal relative with the same surname in
the States would make it easier to be admitted if using the maternal
+Desire to avoid the authorities for some reason, probably connected with
military service - either to avoid conscription or to evade punishment
+In Russia outside the Kingdom of Poland, Jewish men except the first born
were draftable and sometimes not permitted to marry - so baby boys were
never registered or sometimes registered as the child of another couple
with no boys.
+Inherited surnames were still relatively new and not especially desired by
Jews since they were forced on them by the government in an effort to keep
track of who was who (and draftable, etc.)
+A Jew emmigrating to the US may give no second thought to getting rid of a
name forced on him by the Czar.
+Inconsistent use amongst European Jews of what we consider to
be "surnames" (family names uniformly reflecting the paternal line) until
the 19th century as the earliest.
+Marriages governed by religious law until fairly recently (typically the
19th century) with individual names recorded in official documents being a
totally different question.
+In 20th century not recognition of the state or synagogue as a power
proper for marriage authorization, not for reasons related to religion,
but for political ones
+Need to be sponsored by a family member in order to be accepted as an
immigrant, and pretending to be related to the sponsor using papers in the
+Jews who needed a surname often used the wife's name if they were (as
often occured) living with the wife's family.
+Men marrying into a well known Rabbinical family taking the father-in-
law's family name
+Men going into their father-in-law's profession, and the family's name
changing according to that profession
+Anglicization, easier spelling or pronounciation, and even choosing a name
more in their liking, and ease in the States to "call yourself anything you
+Travelling under the mother's maiden name and resuming the father's name
+Travels under the mother's maiden name being thus noted by the authorities
on their certificate of arrival or naturalization papers.
Hope the summary helps Piotr and other Genners looking for reasons find a
Buenos Aires, Argentina
GLIKSON, GLICKSON, GLUCKSOHN, GLUECKSOHN: Marijampole, Suwalki, Augustow,
Sejny,Sopotkin,Koenigsberg. POKROISKY, POKROJSKI, POKROY: Suwalki,
Seirijai. Lomza. ALPEROVICH, ALPEROWICZ: Kremenchug, Vilnius. HOLLANDERSKY,
HOLLENDERSKI, HOLLANDER: Suwalki, Seirijai, Lomza. TARNOPOLSKY, TARNOPOL:
Kremenchug, Kharkov. FELCHINSKY: Kremenchug, Vilnius, Felschtin?. KARP:
Grodno.SMELIENSKY(?),KRASNAPOLSKY(?), BLUMIGDAL (?), GOLUMBIEWSKY,GOLOMB(?)
Carlos covered numerous reasons to use a maternal surname. The most recent
edition of the NGS Quarterly contains a family history detailing and
discussing the use of maternal surnames. While the family in this article
is not Jewish, it gives some insight into how complicated and difficult
researching families using maternal surnames can be. For those trying to
research this, it may provide some general help.
Linda Altman - Raleigh, NC
ALTMAN, >from Russia to NY City. TYRNAUER >from Hungary.
BERGMAN >from Warsaw & Sokolow-Podlaski, Poland to the UK, Israel and US.
CYBULA/CYBULKA/CYBULKO/CYBULKSI, Ostrow Maz., Siedlce,& Zambrow, Poland to
UK, and US. GOLDFINGIER, Sokolow-Podlaski, Poland. SINGER, Austria.
KRIEDBERG/KREIDBERG/KZAIBURG/KRITBERG/KRITZBERG >from Russia to US.
LIEBERMAN, Austria and Romania to US.
About maternal surnames in U.S. records...
Maternal surnames constitute a frustrating area for research. Finding a
listing for the first time gives us information and we take it as a fact,
for we are given no specific reason to disagree. In the larger context, I
think that is just a natural process. We nevertheless take it - or at
least should take it - with the potential that its truth may be challenged
at some point in the future. And then one finally starts finding the
multiple records that are supposed to list the same name, and they don't.
How to "choose" which is the right one?
Death records contain the most potential for flaws. First, the
information is given, obviously, by a third person, who could make
mistakes since he/she is without the knowledge of the decedent. This
happens most notably with children being the informants. Secondly, the
information is given in a state of fresh grievance, which can hinder clear
and accurate thinking. Birth and marriage records and social security
applications lack these paricular problems, and although they are never
full proof, they do warrant better validity.
On her 1942 NY death certificate, my GG-aunt's mother's maiden name was
listed as a Kaplan. The informant was her son. This was the 1st record I
had found in regards to her mother's surname and I had basically ingrained
it as fact, especially knowing there are other Kaplans in that branch and
in the original shtetl. Then came the surprise a year later: I found the
same gg-aunt's 1893 NY marriage record and the mother's maiden name was
That name appears in the same shtetl of origin. The very same day I found
her sister's marriage record, within one month of hers. The mother's
maiden name: Lubowitz.
Though I had believed Kaplan was it, I give more credence to my latter
discoveries. But now its a toss up. Which one, if any, is it? When they
were married, both sisters were in their 20's (the 2nd one about 7 years
older) and only separated >from home for 4 years. They were both in the
presence of their father at the time. Not too much of a push either way -
although perhaps slightly to the older sister.
Such is the frustration of maiden names.
Staten Island, NY
Ah the frustration of genealogy. Our ancestors did not live simple lives.
It could have been that sisters 7 years apart had different mothers, as men
often remarried soon after loss of a wife-someone had to keep the house and
raise the little kids. I found a 17 year old sister of my 45 year old gr
grandmother on a census; her marriage record says that her mother's maiden
name was Pankow-was that the same woman as my 2nd gr grandmother?
People also used different surnames-we have seen records in JRI-PP and
elsewhere 'Kagan v Rabinowitz' where someone was surnamed sometimes Kagan
and sometimes Rabinowitz. Unfortunately for genealogists, our ancestors
just weren't attached to their surnames like most of us.
If the records are mystifying, that is part of the fun!