Kogan/Kagan #ukraine

David Mason

I’m researching Kogan=>Cohen from Zvenigorodka, Cherkassy Region, Ukraine.  Of 1,711 people in the Yad Vashem data for this town, 28 are Kogans and 13 are Kagans. 


I assume both are Cohanim, but how closely are they related?  Are these just arbitrary transliterations into Russian/Ukrainian and potentially close relations, or is there a definite split many generations ago?


-David Mason


Shlomo Katz

The spellings are arbitrary. However, Cohen (and its Russian equivalent Kagan, due to Russian having no "h") is probably the most common Jewish name, like Smith or Jones in America, You cannot make any assumptions about relationship based on the names. Indeed, not all people with that name are Kohanim.

Shlomo Katz (yes, I am a Kohen)
Silver Spring, MD

Yefim Kogan

My group is doing a lot of translations/transliterations and in handwritten Russian it is almost the same Kogan or Kagan, that is why one translator will put KOGAN, another may put KAGAN for the same writing...
I believe that Cohen is equivalent to both Kogan and Kagan, no difference.

Here are couple examples...  in a shteitle Kaushany in late 1930s there were about 400 Jewish families and among them 70(!)  had last name Kogan.  Among them my father's family.  From that number we knew about half of Kogan's...  and the others likely not related directly.

I also knew from my father that he is not a Kohen, and the reason he knew was that his great grandfather changed his name to Kogan at some point in middle of 19 century.  There were reasons to changes surnames...  But my father's mother with maiden name also Kogan was a Kohen's line.   And my mother with a different last name - Spivak was also from Kohanim line.

By the way in Romanian, before 1940 my father's surname was spelled COGAN.

Yefim Kogan


Why should a young man in (today) Ukraine at the beggining of XX century change his surname to Kogan/Kohan? What were the reasons? 
It's no matter for me if my GF was really from a Cohen's line - just why he should did it?
And how is possible to continue with a genealogical research backward knowing that possibility?

Cesar Yeudkin

YEUDKIN/YUDKIN, SCHEIMAN from Gomel in Belarus

Shlomo Katz

One reason people changed names was to avoid the draft. I have a friend named Katz, which is usually a Kohen-name (as it is in my case), but he is not a Kohen. Their tradition is that an ancestor was "adopted" by a childless woman so that as an "only son" he would not be drafted. I have no idea if this is true, but it is their family lore.

Shlomo Katz
Silver Spring MD

Yefim Kogan

Well, first of all it was in the middle of XIX century, sometime in 1860s or so.

The main reason for changing surnames is that Jews did not want to go to Tzar army, and by changing names, that may helped.
If it is a large family, like 8 children with 5 boys, it is likely that someone would be going to the Army,  but if there are small families of 2-3 children, and 1 boy in each, that may not occur.  If it is only ONE boy in the family, that boy will not be recruited to the Army.

I also heard a rumor, but did not proof it that in some regions, not everwhere, Jews Kohanim were not recruited to the Army... not sure if this is true though.

All the best,
Yefim Kogan

Deb Katz

Both my research and my experience are that while occasionally non-cohanim adopted a cohan surname for reasons as offered above...this was rare.  In Jewish tradition---and I'm secular so not pushing a religious viewpoint---it was a shanda to "pretend" to be cohanim when you were not.  And the genetics bear this tradition out.   It is common that cohanim descendants in a single family with a cohanim tradition took different surnames, many times a non-cohanim surname.   So a Steinberg or a Goldberg might turn out to be cohan, but hardly ever is a Katz or a Caplan etc. not cohane.
aka Debra Katz
Pacific Beach CA USA

Madeleine Isenberg

I'm not sure what the issues are in the Ukraine, but if it was part of the Austro-Hungarian empire at the time, often Jews would marry according to Jewish tradition (with a ketubah) and not civilly.  As a result, when children were born, they would not be registered under the father's name; they were noted as being unehelich or illegitimate and recorded with the mother's maiden name.  So if she happened to have been born a KOHEN/KOHAN/KOHN etc., the child would bear that name.

Some families did later undergo civil marriages and the names might then have reverted to the father's name, or not.

Madeleine Isenberg
Beverly Hills, CA
Researching: GOLDMAN, STEINER, LANGER, GLUECKSMAN, STOTTER in various parts of Galicia, Poland
(Nowy Targ, Nowy Sanz, Wachsmund, Dembno, Lapuszna, Krakow, Ochotnica) who migrated into Kezmarok or
nearby towns in northern Slovakia and Czech Republic (i.e., those who lived/had businesses in Moravska Ostrava);
GOLDSTEIN in Sena or Szina, Szkaros and Kosice, Slovakia; Tolcsva and Tokaj, Hungary.

Rachelle Litt

My ggm was Beila Kogan from Soroki. Her father was Zalmen Kogan. Her headstone says HaCohen after Zalmen's name.  That would nmean she is a Cohain. Anyone else with Kogan's from Soroki? Have not been able to find a Zalmen Kogan yet.
Rachelle Litt
Palm Beach Gardens, Florida