Searching GORDON family, Libau -> Londonderry, Ireland c1884 #latvia #general #courland

Richard Gordon

Dear Researchers, Members,

My Grandfather Ephriam GORDON stated in his naturalisation papers
(Londonderry, Ireland 1899) that he was born September 1872 at Libau in
Kurland, son of Abraham GORDON (son, I believe, of Ephraim) and Lina
(DAVIDOW). I’m told he had a sister with two children who moved to Vilna
before WWII and an older brother David who arrived in Londonderry
some years before to establish the family business before leaving for South Africa.

My research so far has found nothing at all and I wonder if anyone has come
across a GORDON family from Libau? I am the last of my family having very little
information and I would be very grateful if anyone has any information. My very
recent Ancestry DNA test provided no close matches.

Thank you,
Richard Gordon.
Londonderry, Northern Ireland

Molly Staub

I suggest that Gordon had been changed from something more Jewish sounding. There was a man in my husband’s grad school class who changed his surname from Goldberg to Colbert before graduation, so his new name would be on the diploma. Look for a birth certificate or early census record.

Happy hunting
Molly Staub


The surname GORDON appears in Jewish records in Lithuania, Latvia and Poland spelled exactly that way.  It could easily be the original name.

Michael Tobias
Glasgow, Scotland

Jill Whitehead

I believe that this could be the same Gordon family that a member of my father's family married into. I was in contact with Stewart Gordon about 20 years  who had emigrated from the UK in the 1950s to Sydney, Australia. He was elderly then and is probably no longer with us. I am not sure he had any children. But he could be a link.

Jill Whitehead, Surrey, UK

David Gordon

As Michael Tobias indicated, the name GORDON is a common Lithuanian name.  Indeed, my researches over the decades have led me to believe it is one of the more (most?) common names in Lithuania.  Unchanged upon emigration.  My father's entire family (on both sides) came from Lithuania (originally from Butrimonys) and the name was Gordon in Lithuania back to at least the late 18th century and unchanged when our ancestors arrived in this country.  While some names are undoubtedly changed for any of a variety of reasons, Gordon from Lithuania is indeed likely to be the "original" name.

David Gordon


Chicago, Illinois


GORDON: Butrimonys; HORWITZ: Smolevichi, Lapichi

GEBALOVITCH: Borisov; DRAZIN: Bobruisk



There are 2 often-quoted theories about the GORDON surname in Lithuania.

One suggests that it is a mangled version of the town name Grodno - I doubt it.

The other is the one I think more likely.

In the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth there was significant contact between that country and Scotland. As well as some Scottish merchants, some of the Lithuanian Princes employed mercenary soldiers in their private armies and some of them were Scots. In part payment for their services they were often given land.  When Jewish families living on those lands had to choose a surname some may have chosen the name of their landowner. 

In the town of Kedainiai there is a 'Scottish Quarter'.  See which as well as documenting many of the early connections between the two countries also mentions Alexander CHALMERS who was four times mayor of Warsaw in 1691, 1694, 1696 and 1702. His Polish name was Aleksander CZAMER (see ).

Michael Tobias
Glasgow, Scotland

Sam Wolff

Somebody told me that the original name of our Lithuanian Gordons was Picard. I have no idea how that happened or if it is correct. 
Sam Wolff



I assume you have seen the 1911 Census record - the family name was recorded as Gardon

On the 1901 Census he was a single man.

One of my relations Leonard Fieldman married Pauline Frais  in 1944 in Belfast. Pauline's mother was Rachel Gordon and her parents were Reuven  and Yetta Gerber both born about 1866 in Russia
Hope this helps
John Edwards

Jill Whitehead

Scots families were very common in Poland and Lithuania kick-starting the agricultural revolution. One of my (Jewish) great grandmothers came from Raczki in Suwalki Gubernia and this is the site of Dowspuda palace, where Napoleon kept his Polish mistress. This is now an agricultural college, but next to it is the village of Scotia, which was founded by the Scottish pioneers in the 18th century, and people with Scots surnames still exist there today. We visited it in 2000.

But by an amazing coincidence, my late Edinburgh aunt (my Mum's sister) was in the Scottish land Army in WW2, with the descendant of one of these Scots-Polish pioneers who had lived at Raczki- Scotia, and whose family later returned to Scotland a few centuries later. This descendant (who is now over 100 years old) Mona McLeod wrote a book on this episode in Polish history called "Agents of change, Scots in Poland 1800-1918" (published in 2000).

I have seen it mentioned before that the name Gordon could have derived in this way, as it is very common in the Suwalki gubernia in NE Poland. and our ancestors took on surnames at the end of the 18th and beginning of the 19th century, to replace or add to patronymics. Napoleon was the one who most encouraged this move in this period. 

Jill Whitehead, Surrey, UK

Arlene Beare

Your grandfather was born in Liepaja formerly Libau in Latvia.  I checked the Internal Passsports handed in to the Riga Police 1919-1940 for Liepaja.   Do not be put off by the dates. Your family left long before that time so you may think there is no useful information. Check the links I am sending and if you feel they may be family and would like me to translate what is on the documents you can email me.  Also remember that a propos of all the other responses our ancestors in Latvia often had ancestors in Lithuania. The place of origin of the family may be somewhere other than Liepaja.even somewhere else in Latvia. 

Gordin Basje maiden name Faingold
Gordon Jete  maiden name Preise
Gordon Elja  Father Mordche-David
Gordon Leo

Arlene Beare
Co-director Latvia Research Division

Please  remember that when viewing messages on the Discussion Group you need to be logged in to see the email address in full.