Mother Instead of Father on Gravestone #germany #general

Ralph Baer

The gravestone of my great-grandfather Moritz Gunzenhäuser in Memmelsdorf in Unterfranken in Bavaria designates him as the son of his mother instead of the son of his father as is usual. See line 7 of the Hebrew here or the picture of the stone linked near the bottom of that page. This is mentioned in the comments there also.
There is no indication on Moritz’s birth, marriage, or death records that he was illegitimate, and I have not been told he was by any of his other descendants. Has anyone seen this before? I have seen many which mention both parents, but none for a legitimate child which only mentions the mother. Can anyone give an explanation? The best I could come up with is that Yitle rhymed with the previous two lines, and that isn’t too good an explanation.
I do not need an English translation.
Ralph N. Baer        RalphNBaer@...       Washington, DC

Neil Kominsky

Is there any possibility father was not Jewish—or not halachically Jewish because his mother wasn’t?  That is most often my experience with Hebrew names that only reference the mother.

Neil Kominsky

Brookline, MA


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Ralph Baer

Neil, No there is not. His father, that is the grandfather of the person whose stone that is, was the Rabbi in another town in Bavaria and officiated at his son's wedding.

Is there any possibility father was not Jewish—or not halachically Jewish because his mother wasn’t?  That is most often my experience with Hebrew names that only reference the mother.

Neil Kominsky

Brookline, MA

Ralph N. Baer        RalphNBaer@...       Washington, DC

Fred Selss

My aunt and uncle were divorced. When their son died, his mother put her name instead of the father’s name on his gravestone because the father abandoned them. The rabbi told her that it made her son look like he was illegitimate but she did the name the way she wanted anyway, This might be the answer to what happened in your family but this is a possible explanation.

Researching Schwartz, Srulowitz, Selss, Sells, Kements- Podilia, Ukraine, New .
York,Toledo, Ohio
Schweitzer, Romanofsky, Kopys, Belarus , New York, .New Jersey,
Schnur ,Tarnow, Poland (Austria).New York
Osheyack, Brok, Brooks Golub Dobryzn, Poland (Prussia ,Russia) New York- Florida
Stark, Sterk, Kotaj, Hungary, NewYork, Florida, California
Herman, Fehergyarmat, Hungary, New .York, New Jersey, Cleveland, Ohio,
Trebits, Trebits, Satumare, Romania (Hungary) New York

Werner Hirsch

I have one such case in my family in Bavaria.  The father was definitely Jewish but he was married more than once and I believe that the mother's name was used simply to identify her.
New Haven, CT USA


I've been told that sometimes the mother's name is used to ask for mercy or healing for a person in prayers.  But I've also never heard of it on a tombstone.

Have you looked at other stones in the same cemetery to see if it was a local custom?

Peggy Mosinger Freedman

Eva Lawrence

One possible explanation is that whoever erected the stone did not know
the name of his father. I have images of some stones in my family which
differ in their post-WW2 design from the design they had when the family
left Germany. This stone may have been restored. The engraving does look
very clear in view of its apparent age.

Eva Lawrence
St Albans, UK
Eva Lawrence
St Albans, UK.


I have seen this once on a gravestone in Vienna of my g-g-g-g-g aunt Rosa FISCHHOF geb. FRIEDLAENDER (ca.1787-1860).   Her father was named Joseph FRIEDLAENDER and her oldest son was named Josef.  It seems unlikely that the father's name could have been forgotten, since the namesake grandson was around for over 50 years (though he did die 3 years before his mother).  Based on the birth of the namesake in 1804, and the the seeming re-marriage of this wife in about 1804 (had a son in 1805),I have assumed that Rosa's father died in 1803 or 1804.

There is no reason to doubt that Joseph FRIEDLAENDER was Jewish.  However, I could entertain the possibility that he did not die in 1804, but instead that he converted to Christianity around that time (no evidence), leading to a divorce from his wife (no evidence) so that she could re-marry ca.1804 -- and leading to his omission from his daughter's gravestone.  (Though his daughter did name a son after him in 1804; not so likely if had converted and not died.)

I have wondered about this reference to the mother and not the father on a gravestone, but have not learned the reason for this specific instance or the occasional appearance of this phenomenon.

All the best,
Stephen Falk
Point Roberts, WA, USA

Dubin, David M. MD

Although it’s possible the father’s name was not known (maybe he had died many years before or there was a messy divorce and people didn’t want to remember the name), Jews in Bratislava and a few surrounding towns traditionally only had the mother’s name on tombstones.

The apparent explanation is that the deceased was headed toward the next world (called the “world of truth”), and since paternity could not be proven with certainty, the mother’s name was used. 

Lindsay Broughton



I have found a number of gravestones with the mother’s name on them in Hungary and Slovakia, including the gravestone of my great great grandparents, Wilhelm LOVINGER and Amalie LOVINGER  nee MILCH, who are buried in the Bratislava Neolog Jewish Cemetery. I've also seen similar gravestones in the Kozma Utca Jewish Cemetery and Farkasreti Jewish Cemetery in Budapest. Both my great great grandparents knew who their fathers were and both of their respective parents were Jewish. I believe that having the mother’s name on a gravestone, for people in Hungary and Slovakia at least, would have been related to the fact that the person was part of the Neolog community, as opposed to the Orthodox community, and that this practice was one of the reforms of the time associated with the Neolog movement.

Some gravestones with the mother’s name on them include the Hebrew abbreviation Shin Aleph, which is an abbreviation for Shem Ima, meaning mother’s name.


Lindsay Broughton

Sydney, Australia


The father mjst be Jewish because on the gravestone is vessel which says he was a Levitte.