Research Techniques #general

Moshe Berman

Dear JewishGen-ers,
I am looking for your insights and tips for closing gaps in my research. 
I am under the assumption that there are several characteristic inaccuracies within Galician and Polish records from the 1800s.
Here are some of those characteristics:
1. Surname changes, long term or short term,
2. Children recorded with different parents or a new surname.
3. Records split between various civil authorities. 
How do you effectively read between in the lines to identify individuals with alternate surnames, and/or families while avoiding wishful thinking?
In greater detail, here are the same characteristics, with examples. To keep it light, I’ve omitted names except where necessary. 
1. Short-term surname changes, such as a family recorded differently between 1890, and 1900 Krakow census. The first names are identical, in one year the children bear the mom’s maiden surname. (Lehrhaupt/Leibowitz)
2. Long term surname changes, due to religious marriage. Although their parents were required to use both surnames, as adults, children eventually may choose one, or a third surname. I’ve seen children given a related surname. (Mom and Dad Lehrhaupt and Roth named their daughter Rothblum.) 
3. Long term surname changes to evade authorities. For example, an 1835 edict lists individuals wanted for not residing at their reported address. More general evidence is 1888 newspaper reports the trial of a town record keeper charged with failing to disclose intentional distortion of metrical records by his predecessor. 
4. Children recorded incorrectly in order to evade authorities. For example, I found a birth record based on the conversation with the daughter of the subject of record. It had the what I believe to be accurate parents, year, and location, but the gender and name were unexpectedly female. I’m sure this record bears discussion in its own right. 
5. Children recorded with missing or incomplete surnames, well after Patronymics were abandoned in favor of surnames. (In my case, the Mom’s surname was pencilled in.)
6. Finally, records for the same families that alternate between local and regional record keeping authorities. (Krakow, Bochnia, Wisnicz, for example.)
Thanks so much,
Moshe Berman
New York via Florida, USA


Moshe, I came across a similar situation with the use of the name Kos (Kahat in Hebrew) being added in front of the family name Fiszer. I have documents showing Kosfiszer in Polish and the signature in Yiddish being Fisher. In one case there is a document in which Fisher is crossed and then Kosfiszer is added. My father was Kosfiszer in his passport and Fisher when he married. He knew about the duality of the last name and I never asked why it was done. I can not ask him anymore!.

Angel Kosfiszer

Richardson, Texas