Topics

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

Ettie Zilber
 

DOES THIS STORY SOUND FAMILIAR? a branch of my family had 5 sons around the mid-late 1800s. In order to avoid the military, 4 of the sons were "adopted" by families which had no sons. Thus, this branch had 5 different family names. They lived in Kalvarija and environs. Does anyone have information about this practice? How do the genealogy experts advise doing research for this brick wall?

Judy Madnick
 

We were told that my husband's surname "Madnick" was not the original family name, that when the Russians recruited boys to their army by force, if you were an only son, you could avoid the military. We've been told that the original name was "Gegozinski," so a direct ancestor of my husband and his brothers (unknown to us) each chose a different family name. Ours chose Madnick." Now I'm wondering whether they were "adopted," as described above or whether the "only son" story is accurate.

Carola Murray-Seegert
 

Yes, I have an example of adoption to avoid the Tsar’s army, which I've told in a family story on the Byerazino/Pahost KehilaLink. The details are reported here:

https://kehilalinks.jewishgen.org/Byerazino/family-stories/rose-rabinowitz-family.pdf
The original family name was Feldb’in, but the eldest son, Herschel, used the surname Rabinowitz, as did his descendants. I first thought this stuff about avoiding the draft was just a ‘fairy tale’ but in fact it truly happened. Herschel’s brother-in-law Louis Katz, who was well connected, arranged for his adoption by a man named Rabinowitz who had female children but no sons.
I verified the original family name thanks to a hand-written history, left by a member of the immigrant generation. If I had not traced all possible living descendants of the original family, and had I not been fortunate enough to meet the daughter of the early ‘family historian' I would never have known the family’s true surname, since Herschel continued to use Rabinowitz, even after immigrating to the US.
So regarding your question about how to proceed, based on my experience, I suggest you start by finding all living descendants and asking for family memories.
I can also strongly recommend taking one or more of JewishGen’s guided, online research classes. I received invaluable personal assistance I from Nancy Holden and Phyllis Kramer (Z”L) - without them, I’d have gotten nowhere!
Once I discovered the original surname, revision lists (original Russian census records) available through the Belarus SIG and the Igumen District Research project allowed me to trace the Feldb'ins and their ancestors back to the late 1700s. Unfortunately, I still have one more brick wall to overcome: no matter how hard I’ve looked, I have never been able to identify the Rabinowitz family that saved Herschel from the horrors of the anti-semitic military.


Carola Murray-Seegert, Ph. D.
Oberursel Germany

Coordinator, Igumen District Research Group
http://www.jewishgen.org/Belarus/tools/projects/towns/index.html

Manager, Byerazino/Pahost KehilaLInk
http://kehilalinks.jewishgen.org/Byerazino/

Manager, Moskva KehilaLink
https://kehilalinks.jewishgen.org/Moskva/

Researching: FELDB’IN, FELDBAUM, KATZ, RABINOWITZ in Pahost and Byerazino: LIFSHITZ, SHEFTEL in Shklov and Moskva; COIN, FELSER, SCOLL in Tauroggen, Baltimore, Chicago and San Antonio.



Rose Feldman
 

I have the same for my grandfather in the Ukraine.
 

 

Rose Feldman
Israel Genealogy Research Association
Winner of 2017 IAJGS Award for Volunteer of the Year  
http://genealogy.org.il
http:/facebook.com/israelgenealogy
 
Help us index more records at http://igra.csindexing.com
 
Keep up to date on archives, databases and genealogy in general and Jewish and Israeli roots in particular with http://twitter.com/JewDataGenGirl

 


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Rose Feldman
Israel Genealogy Research Association
Winner of 2017 IAJGS Award for Volunteer of the Year  
http://genealogy.org.il
http:/facebook.com/israelgenealogy

Angie Elfassi
 

Hi,
 
this subject is close to my heart!
 
A story I have told before and am happy to share again ....
 
My ggrandfather Mordechai KASSEMOFF was born in Rezekne in Latvia. On his papers that I had received from the Latvian archives, it said that his father was Moshe Hirsch. However, on his tombstone, in Leeds, it said his father was Zeev.

During my years of research I came across two family ancestors - GREENSTONE/GREENSPAN and MULVIDSON, and I couldnt understand how they were connected to the KASSEMOFFS. Eventually I was in contact with a descendant of one of the MULVIDSON family, who lives in Norway, and he sent me a copy of a photo taken in 1926. He told me that on the reverse side of the photo was written: my brother Mordechai and family in Leeds. Imagine my shock when I received the photo (attached). I had the identical photo in the cupboard of my ggrandfather and ggrandmother and their grown children (including my grandparents).  He told me that the original family name was MULVIDSON. Ggrandfather Mordechai's birth father was Zeev. The clue of his birth father was on his tombstone Emoji. The GREENSTONE/GREENSPAN  (I have found different surname information and spellings, for the same branch) is the 2nd brother. There may have been more but because of the different family surnames, it's not easy to find them.
 
I was told that they had been given different surnames almost at birth, to avoid conscription. The oldest son kept the family surname as he was exempt from army service.
 
Hope this has helped.
 
Regards
Angie Elfassi
Israel


"adoption" to avoid the czar's army #general #lithuania
From: Ettie Zilber
Date: Tue, 30 Jun 2020 22:12:23 EDT

DOES THIS STORY SOUND FAMILIAR? a branch of my family had 5 sons around the mid-late 1800s. In order to avoid the military, 4 of the sons were "adopted" by families which had no sons. Thus, this branch had 5 different family names. They lived in Kalvarija and environs. Does anyone have information about this practice? How do the genealogy experts advise doing research for this brick wall?

 
 

Iryna
 

It was a frequent practice. It was this in my family. It was a childless relative. I don’t know anything more about him. It is necessary to look for documents about adoption.

carol lipson
 

Yes, this happened in my family.  The original name was Lipshitz, and the new name was Litvinov.  Ironically I married a Lipshitz (from another area in Belarus).  I didn’t know until well after we were married.  People always said we looked alike!  


carol lipson

Ettie Zilber
 

Yes, that’s exactly right. As I understood it,  the trick was to find a family to adopt you who did not have any sons. Thus, I don’t think they could just choose a family name. Thanks for responding

Dr. Ettie Zilber
zedEd Consultancy
Educator-Author-Speaker
 
 

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

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

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.

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

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

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.

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@...

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

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@...

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


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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!

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.