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

David Choukroun

Same story on my side : to avoid the very long duty (several years) in the Czar' Army, the family legend is saying that 4 or 5 boys where registered (not sure about real adoption) under another name.  So this is clearly not a unique case

names : Winagrad, Rabinovitch, Bondar
location : Slonime (Russia), and Jassy (Bessarabia)

No clue about how to find the real names after such trick - by luck in looking at census with addresses, or missing children while looking at the years of birth (and only girls) etc... but really low low probability

David Choukroun
Paris, France


My mother told me her mother's father was adopted by another family that didn't have a son, and it was a common custom. I've wondered if that's why her and one brother's birth certificate give their mother's birth name as Berger and the birth certificate of the four other children give her name as Lipinski.


I just saw your name and wonder if you could be a missing cousin. Was Tillie Zilber an ancestor? Or one of her sons Jake or Meyer?


In the classic 1918 work by Professor Simon Dubnow, "History of the Jews in Russia and Poland", he goes into detail about this subject in Volume 2, pages 18-19, 23-24, 29, and 146-149. The horrific Military Draft laws that were in effect from 1827 through 1852 allowed the Russian Empire to conscript any male children - ages 12 to 25 - from a Jewish family, except the eldest son, and keep them in the military for 25 to 31 years ! Every Jewish community had a yearly quota to make. If local community elders did not meet the quota, they could be seized, themselves. To avoid this, community elders frequently employed "hunters" whose job it was to capture boys attempting to flee and hide from the Draft. Kidnappings were common, as were midnight raids on households. Children as young as 8 would be caught and presented at the Recruiting Station as 12-year-olds. Once in the military, these boys would be deliberately shipped far away from their village or town; most never returned. Many were then forcefully converted to Christianity during the early years of their service. It was not uncommon for families to go into mourning when a son was conscripted into the Army. Young married men would frequently offer their wife a divorce, allowing them to remarry and thus be taken care of, rather than be abandoned. Name changing to be viewed as a Draft-exempt first-born son was a common and desperate attempt to avoid what was effectively a life sentence of service in the Russian Army.

Sarah L Meyer

I have a similar story on my father's side.  My great grandfather ostensibly purchased papers to avoid the Czarist conscription.  He bought the surname MEYER (although I like the adoption part too) because I don't think his first name was changed.  Fortunately we know that the original name was PERCHIK   So Fishel PERCHIK became Fishel MEYER and came to the US in 1884 as Fishel MEYER.  His wife Rebecca came in 1887 as Rebecca MEYER but she had been previously married - we don't know to whom.  Her maiden name was HITE.  My mother (z"l) was talking to a woman in Seattle about 1960 and the woman asked if they could be related because her maiden name was also MEYER.  My mother related this story--- and the woman had the identical story in her family.
Sarah L Meyer
Georgetown TX
BIRGARDOVSKY, EDELBERG, HITE (CHAIT), PERCHIK Russia (southern Ukraine) and some Latvia or Lithuania

Trudy Barch

I recently posted on this site about my Russian family Glauberman and its many spellings.   Through other genners I learned about conscription   There was no formal adoption like today.  Many families with several sons would give one boy to a neighboring family that had no sons.   This was a common practice to keep the boy out of military school and service. Often conversion went along with the military school.   Judy in my family, one boy was given to a Meddnik family.  Similar name or different spelling????   I wonder if we are talking about the same family.     Trudy Barch


I applaud  Emily Garbers approach to genealogical research and her admonition to take into account historical context when approaching a question or a problem.  I would add to this that it can be helpful to broaden context even further to include the zeitgeist of a place and time. Though this approach is much fuzzier than looking into specific events and laws to frame a time, it can yield some interesting results and hypotheses to explain a mystery.  As an example, I offer this story from the early 1970s, almost a caricature of the spirit of those tumultuous political and cultural times (though, as we are being sharply reminded, perhaps no times aren't tumultuous):  
I grew up in Seattle. My closest friend as a teenager, in the early 1970s,  belonged to a family of four--her parents, herself, and her brother, who was two years younger than she.  Their surname was Poll.  
Susan, a newly-recruited feminist enthusiast, no longer wanted to use her father’s surname, so she changed her surname to Catherine (her middle name). Orabelle, her mother, also as a feminist, took back her maiden name, Connelly. Meanwhile, Bernard, her husband, in solidarity with the new movements celebrating ethnic pride and immigrant ancestors, decided to change his name back to his family’s original name, Polishuk.  Tom, the son, a curmudgeon, stubbornly refused to change his last name just because the others had, so he stuck with Poll
There you have it, ladies and gentlemen:  Four members of the same nuclear family with four different surnames—all occasioned by the politics and culture of their times.

Erika Gottfried (married but kept my family surname)
Teaneck, New Jersey


In the Justingrad Yizkor  book, the Wegodner family chapter tells of the brother of Joseph Wegodner changing his surname to Weinberg because he was afraid he would be drafted. My great grandmother, Dora Sader, was born Dvora Wegodner and was a daughter of Joseph Wegodner. I would love to find anything about the Weinberg branch.