Topics

"adoption" to avoid the czar's army #general #lithuania


Kathrynbkj@...
 

In the Justingrad Yizkor  book, the Wegodner family chapter tells of the brother of Joseph Wegodner changing his surname to Weinberg because he was afraid he would be drafted. My great grandmother, Dora Sader, was born Dvora Wegodner and was a daughter of Joseph Wegodner. I would love to find anything about the Weinberg branch.


erikagottfried53@...
 

I applaud  Emily Garbers approach to genealogical research and her admonition to take into account historical context when approaching a question or a problem.  I would add to this that it can be helpful to broaden context even further to include the zeitgeist of a place and time. Though this approach is much fuzzier than looking into specific events and laws to frame a time, it can yield some interesting results and hypotheses to explain a mystery.  As an example, I offer this story from the early 1970s, almost a caricature of the spirit of those tumultuous political and cultural times (though, as we are being sharply reminded, perhaps no times aren't tumultuous):  
 
I grew up in Seattle. My closest friend as a teenager, in the early 1970s,  belonged to a family of four--her parents, herself, and her brother, who was two years younger than she.  Their surname was Poll.  
 
Susan, a newly-recruited feminist enthusiast, no longer wanted to use her father’s surname, so she changed her surname to Catherine (her middle name). Orabelle, her mother, also as a feminist, took back her maiden name, Connelly. Meanwhile, Bernard, her husband, in solidarity with the new movements celebrating ethnic pride and immigrant ancestors, decided to change his name back to his family’s original name, Polishuk.  Tom, the son, a curmudgeon, stubbornly refused to change his last name just because the others had, so he stuck with Poll
 
There you have it, ladies and gentlemen:  Four members of the same nuclear family with four different surnames—all occasioned by the politics and culture of their times.

Erika Gottfried (married but kept my family surname)
Teaneck, New Jersey


Trudy Barch
 

I recently posted on this site about my Russian family Glauberman and its many spellings.   Through other genners I learned about conscription   There was no formal adoption like today.  Many families with several sons would give one boy to a neighboring family that had no sons.   This was a common practice to keep the boy out of military school and service. Often conversion went along with the military school.   Judy in my family, one boy was given to a Meddnik family.  Similar name or different spelling????   I wonder if we are talking about the same family.     Trudy Barch


Sarah L Meyer
 

I have a similar story on my father's side.  My great grandfather ostensibly purchased papers to avoid the Czarist conscription.  He bought the surname MEYER (although I like the adoption part too) because I don't think his first name was changed.  Fortunately we know that the original name was PERCHIK   So Fishel PERCHIK became Fishel MEYER and came to the US in 1884 as Fishel MEYER.  His wife Rebecca came in 1887 as Rebecca MEYER but she had been previously married - we don't know to whom.  Her maiden name was HITE.  My mother (z"l) was talking to a woman in Seattle about 1960 and the woman asked if they could be related because her maiden name was also MEYER.  My mother related this story--- and the woman had the identical story in her family.
--
Sarah L Meyer
Georgetown TX
ANK(I)ER, BIGOS, KARMELEK, PERLSTADT, STOKFISZ, SZPIL(T)BAUM, Poland
BIRGARDOVSKY, EDELBERG, HITE (CHAIT), PERCHIK Russia (southern Ukraine) and some Latvia or Lithuania
https://www.sarahsgenies.com


GEORGE MASON
 

In the classic 1918 work by Professor Simon Dubnow, "History of the Jews in Russia and Poland", he goes into detail about this subject in Volume 2, pages 18-19, 23-24, 29, and 146-149. The horrific Military Draft laws that were in effect from 1827 through 1852 allowed the Russian Empire to conscript any male children - ages 12 to 25 - from a Jewish family, except the eldest son, and keep them in the military for 25 to 31 years ! Every Jewish community had a yearly quota to make. If local community elders did not meet the quota, they could be seized, themselves. To avoid this, community elders frequently employed "hunters" whose job it was to capture boys attempting to flee and hide from the Draft. Kidnappings were common, as were midnight raids on households. Children as young as 8 would be caught and presented at the Recruiting Station as 12-year-olds. Once in the military, these boys would be deliberately shipped far away from their village or town; most never returned. Many were then forcefully converted to Christianity during the early years of their service. It was not uncommon for families to go into mourning when a son was conscripted into the Army. Young married men would frequently offer their wife a divorce, allowing them to remarry and thus be taken care of, rather than be abandoned. Name changing to be viewed as a Draft-exempt first-born son was a common and desperate attempt to avoid what was effectively a life sentence of service in the Russian Army.


carolagate34@...
 

I just saw your name and wonder if you could be a missing cousin. Was Tillie Zilber an ancestor? Or one of her sons Jake or Meyer?


carolagate34@...
 

My mother told me her mother's father was adopted by another family that didn't have a son, and it was a common custom. I've wondered if that's why her and one brother's birth certificate give their mother's birth name as Berger and the birth certificate of the four other children give her name as Lipinski.


David Choukroun
 

Same story on my side : to avoid the very long duty (several years) in the Czar' Army, the family legend is saying that 4 or 5 boys where registered (not sure about real adoption) under another name.  So this is clearly not a unique case

names : Winagrad, Rabinovitch, Bondar
location : Slonime (Russia), and Jassy (Bessarabia)

No clue about how to find the real names after such trick - by luck in looking at census with addresses, or missing children while looking at the years of birth (and only girls) etc... but really low low probability

David Choukroun
Paris, France
david.choukroun@...


Jeremy Lichtman
 

I've heard some similar stories in my family as well, but wanted to add that there were other reasons as well why siblings might have wound up with different surnames.

Surname adoption in Eastern Europe tended to happen between 1808 and 1826 (i.e. after the Napoleonic Wars), and generally speaking people didn't have surnames prior. There were various taxation policies around that time that may have made it advantageous for two siblings living in separate homes to adopt different names. I don't recall my source for this, or the details, unfortunately. Might have been an article on Avotaynu.


Susan Sorkenn
 

I have the same story in my mother’s maternal family, who came from Vilna. My great-great-grandfather, Reb Yussel Weinstein, was originally a Romm. To avoid conscription, he was “adopted” by a childless Weinstein relative. I believe money also changed hands. This was supposedly legal. He was born in about 1803-8. I cannot find any records of these Weinsteins and don’t know his wife’s maiden name. Reb Yussel was a rosh yeshiva, and somehow his wife, Bubbe Zelda, became a commission merchant for Polish nobles, with agents who bought property, jewels, and Arabian horses for the nobles. And she had 8 children and lived to be 104-106 years of age. How did she rise to such wealth and prominence? All I have is a narrative my mother wrote, full of anecdotes fro her mother, Zelda’s granddaughter. They had a daughter who married a brother of the sculptor Mark Antokolsky. I contacted a descendant of his family, who didn’t know any family history. My grandmother’s sister, Celia, became a governess, who married a wealthy cotton plantation owner, Itcha (sp?) Pollack, from Tashkent. Their plantation was taken by the Bolsheviks, but They let Itcha run it. Later, their son, an engineer, was given an apartment in Moscow for his family, including his parents. I know this is true because family friend visited Aunt Celia after the Revolution and W W I.
Anyway, what is my next step? Should I hire a genealogist 
to pursue my quest? I even traveled to Vilnius but was unable to learn anything there. I was on a trip with friends.
Thank you for any help anyone can provide!


Max Heffler
 

I have a Lithuania revision list for my family in Joniskelis that has 3 different surnames – the father – Reyz, one son Zlot, and another Zund and mention of one son that moved to Pusalotas using Slott.

 

From: main@... [mailto:main@...] On Behalf Of Emily Garber via groups.jewishgen.org
Sent: Thursday, July 2, 2020 10:40 AM
To: main@...
Subject: Re: [JewishGen.org] "adoption" to avoid the czar's army #general

 

On Wed, Jul 1, 2020 at 05:01 PM, Ettie Zilber wrote:

Thank you, Emily.

As always, you are very knowledgeable and, like all historians, need to find proof to confirm or deny family history. I agree. I didn't realize that there was no real process for adoption.

 

So, here is the overarching question: If there is some mythology herein, how does one explain the fact that 5 brothers in the same family, with the same parents all have 5 different family names?

 

Estimated time period: 1860s - 1890

Probable locations: Lithuania: either Kalvarija city or environs and/or environs of Vilnius

 

With your expertise and taking an educated guess -

when would these 5 brothers have 'gotten' their 'different' family name? at birth? as teenagers? before conscription?

 

would the family have have paid someone to use their family name? (iit would have had to be with a family which had NO sons)

was it through a friend/family?

 

This would help me search for names at birth or later.

Ettie:
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.

Emily Garber
Phoenix, AZ


--

Web sites I manage - Personal home page, Greater Houston Jewish Genealogical Society, Woodside Civic Club, Skala, Ukraine KehilalLink, Joniskelis, Lithuania KehilaLink, and pet volunteer project - Yizkor book project: www.texsys.com/websites.html


Emily Garber
 

I think I will take advantage of this discussion to pursue an area of research that I have been contemplating for some time. I would like to collect family stories about old country surname changes allegedly due to avoidance of military conscription.

I will not be pulling stories from this forum. I have attached a one page survey form in Word format. If you have such a story, please fill out the information and email it to me at extrayad@....

If you cannot access the attached form, email me privately and I will send it to you.

I promise to share the results of this survey in some format - depending upon its success.

Emily Garber
Phoenix, AZ
extrayad@...


Emily Garber
 

On Wed, Jul 1, 2020 at 05:01 PM, Ettie Zilber wrote:
Thank you, Emily.
As always, you are very knowledgeable and, like all historians, need to find proof to confirm or deny family history. I agree. I didn't realize that there was no real process for adoption.
 
So, here is the overarching question: If there is some mythology herein, how does one explain the fact that 5 brothers in the same family, with the same parents all have 5 different family names?
 
Estimated time period: 1860s - 1890
Probable locations: Lithuania: either Kalvarija city or environs and/or environs of Vilnius
 
With your expertise and taking an educated guess -
when would these 5 brothers have 'gotten' their 'different' family name? at birth? as teenagers? before conscription?
 
would the family have have paid someone to use their family name? (iit would have had to be with a family which had NO sons)
was it through a friend/family?
 
This would help me search for names at birth or later.
Ettie:
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.

Emily Garber
Phoenix, AZ


Hallie Metzger
 

To all: My maternal grandfather, born David Yalovsky, Yedvabne, Poland about 1883, documented six different surnames assigned to his own father's six brothers although the true family surname was Freedland (various spellings). My grandfather reclaimed the original family surame when he became a US citizen but this has made genealogical research a real headache. Does anyone know how the surnames were actually recorded by the Polish government?

Hannah Metzger, hallie.metzger@...


loren r grossman
 

My paternal grandfather and his 4 brothers came over from Koydanovo Belarus around the turn of the century as SLUMIEL; my grandfather changed his name to GROSSMAN in court in his naturalization papers in NYC. Family lore was that the name SLUMIEL ("fool") came from death certificates purchased to avoid the Czar's conscription, and that AVEDON may have been a family name before that. I have found no such proof.


Alyssa Freeman
 

I have family members, as well, with many brothers and some of them having one name while some had another. I've heard that the surname of every 4th son or of some sons would be changed within Jewish families to avoid conscription into the Russian army, as Jews were conscripted for 25 years and could be taken as young as 12 and put in Cantonist schools (military schools). The goal of these schools was apparently not only to train them to become soldiers but also to convert them to Christianity. I have the names Kallner/Callner, and Frieman in my Lithuanian family (Frieman was originally Furman in this family). I have the dates of birth for all but one brother. The oldest had the last name Furman. It then goes Kallner, Frieman, Frieman, Callner, Callner, Callner, and Kallner being the surname of the son whose birthdate I don't know. Even among one of his sons, there's a mixture of Callners and Friemans.

I've also read that, unless you were married by a government official in Lithuania (which of course would have been a priest), the child would have to have the mother's surname. This doesn't work with the Kallners/Friemans, as the mother's last name was Kahn, but it may explain another side of my family. 
 
Alyssa Freeman
Henrico, VA


Ettie Zilber
 

Thank you, Emily.
As always, you are very knowledgeable and, like all historians, need to find proof to confirm or deny family history. I agree. I didn't realize that there was no real process for adoption.
 
So, here is the overarching question: If there is some mythology herein, how does one explain the fact that 5 brothers in the same family, with the same parents all have 5 different family names?
 
Estimated time period: 1860s - 1890
Probable locations: Lithuania: either Kalvarija city or environs and/or environs of Vilnius
 
With your expertise and taking an educated guess -
when would these 5 brothers have 'gotten' their 'different' family name? at birth? as teenagers? before conscription?
 
would the family have have paid someone to use their family name? (iit would have had to be with a family which had NO sons)
was it through a friend/family?
 
This would help me search for names at birth or later.
 
Thanks
Ettie

Ettie Zilber, EdD


Anna Doggart
 

I like your disciplined research. I was under the impression that when a boy child Was born to a family that he was given the name of a family without boy children So from the start had another name rather than having to change the surname later.


Emily Garber
 

Ettie, etal.:

The changed-surname-to-avoid-the-Tzar’s-Army story was common among eastern European Jewish immigrants. As with any story heard from our relatives and/or ancestors it’s always important to remember that genealogy/family history is a research discipline. Our job is not to accept the story as told, but to use it as a jumping off point for further research. Does the story make sense in terms of what we know about our family, the time period and place of the activity, and what we have been able to determine through research?

 

From 1804 through 1893, several Russian government edicts were explicit that Jews were to adopt hereditary surnames and keep them in perpetuity – no exceptions, except (sometimes) for those who were baptized and/or in the military. It is clear that many Jews early in the century reacted with indifference to adoption of permanent surnames. The Russians seemed to reissue variations of the edict several times in the 19th century. By the second half of the century these rules were enforced.

 

In terms of historical context of the adoption/conscription story, adoption, as we understand it today, did not exist for Jews in the Russian Empire. Jewish children taken in by others could not be formally adopted and their names, under the vast majority of circumstances, could not be changed from what they had been at birth (see: Paull and Briskman, www.surnamedna.com/?articles=history-adoption-and-regulation-of-jewish-surnames-in-the-russian-empire ).

 

With regard to Jewish attitudes and actions towards conscription, it does depend on the time period. But Yohanan Petrovsky-Shtern’s research into archival records [Jews in the Russian Army, 1827-1917 (2009)] shows that by the 1880s Jews responded positively to the draft.

 

All this being noted, I do not doubt that some Russian Jewish people at some times and places tried to find a way around conscription. If the story about adoption/conscription was true, one would expect to see some court records of Jews caught in the act. I hope that those who have the skills to access eastern European archives look for such records. Thus far, I have not seen any reports of them.

 

I have a similar story adoption/conscription story in my family from Volhynia Gubernia. Four brothers. The original name was Utchenik. The others took Garber, Reznick and Lehman (or, more likely, Lederman).  I did not think much of this story until I figured out, via analyses of the paper trail and DNA test results (Y and autosomal), my great grandfather Avraham Abba Garber (born ca. 1864) had a full brother named Levi Yitzkhak Liderman (b. ca. 1850s). (I hasten to add that I have DNA tested two members of an Utchenik family and found no relations thus far.) I reported on this research in Avotaynu 31:2 (Summer 2015). I will also be presenting a live talk in the virtual 2020 IAJGS Conference that includes this case as an example (“Memory and Mystery: Breaking Down Family Lore”). At this point, I cannot say why the name change occurred - only that it did. I resist adopting the explanatory story lest I succumb to confirmation bias.

 

There is no doubt it became more and more difficult for Jewish people to change surnames in the Russian Empire as the 19th century progressed. If we do find a name change, it is critical that we do not jump to explanations that may defy history, context and logic. I implore those who find interesting cases to do the hard work of dis/proving them before adopting what may be apocryphal explanations.

 

Emily Garber

Phoenix, Arizona


Ida & Joseph Schwarcz
 

-----Original Message-----
From: חיה שה-לבן שוורץ [mailto:idayosef@...]
Sent: Wednesday, July 01, 2020 6:10 PM
To: main@...
Subject: Re: "adoption" to avoid the czar's army

Yes. My late husband's grandfather, whose surname was Cohen was "adopted" by
a widow (his parents were well to do and she was poor) and received the name
Selavan (or Selavoy or Selaveitchik) and the rest of his siblings and
cousins took the name too. When his son made Aliya in 1923 he became a
student in the David Yellin Teachers' School whose principal wanted his
students to have Hebrew names, so he became Yosef Seh-Lavan. It is a unique
surname and as far as I know only his family is Seh-Lavan.
In the US it became Selavan.
Ida Selavan Schwarcz