surname translation #ukraine #yiddish #russia #names

Family and DNA

'beekeeper' in Yiddish?

background - My father's grandfather & GGF were born in Czernigov/Chernihiv, moved for some reason to Romny (Poltava), then to Chicago. GGF Abraham (son of Pinkus) arrived in 1882 as BENJAN -- although he returned when his wife and at least 1 daughter were killed in a pogrom apparently while trying to follow him (some time between 1887-1897, no info ever found on that story). Abe remarried in Romny (as BENIN), had some more kids, & returned to Chicago in 1908. He was a big proponent of the Hebrew language, and felt that it should be used on a daily basis for secular stuff, and was apparently quite religious (& felt that folks in Chicago lacked that).

Everyone we know about arrived in Chicago between 1904-1910 as BENIN (kids were Yitchak/Isaac, Zelik Mordechai/Jacob Max, Berl/Benjamin, Sore/Sarah, Pinchas/Phillip; then Mera/Mary, Shia Refael/Jacob John, Riwl/Rose Leah, Zalmen/Sam).

Afterwards, all of them went by BERLAND. A 2nd cousin has said that "the first sibling that arrived [Ike] decided to change the name and everybody followed"... However, he just found an old tape of Rose where she says that it was actually Phil who chose the name (not the 1st to arrive), & that the original name BENIN has something to do with beekeeping in Yiddish. Does this sound correct?

(Apparently 'Berland' was chosen because of 'berlyant', the Yiddish word for diamond, & I think this works with Beider's name info in re the surname 'Berland')

They were almost all painters or sold paint. I've found other BENINs on the 1923 Romny census who were "tradesmen from Czernigow" --- I'm wondering how painting & being "tradesmen" could connect to bees, if at all. I had suspected that when it came time to chose a name, 'Benin' was a form of the given name 'Benjamin' -- but maybe not, & it had to do with bees instead? Or could it be tied to something in Hebrew, since Abe was so connected to that language? I do not speak/read Hebrew, Yiddish, or Russian, so I hope you can offer some advice... Any thoughts on this surname 'Benin'?

Juliana Berland (currently in Rennes, France)



Benin is an abbreviated variant of Benjamin, appears already in Beider's Dictionaly of Jewish Surnames in the Russian Empire, it can also be a given name.

Seth Jacobson

Henry Carrey Boston,MA . Carey/Kirzhner/Berestyaner , Belous , Isenberg - Lutsk ; Postolov/Herman/Kolovsky-Zhitomir

I replied to this the other day and for some reason , it never took . 

FYI the word for " bee" in Yiddish is " der bin"  . A beekeeper is a " Biner " .  "bril-YAHNT"  is one way of saying diamond in Yiddish  ( cognate of brilliant in English ) and could be the origin of the name Berland . You would have to dig into family lore to find out why they changed it to Berland . Sometimes,  people thought that families they married into had more prestigious names or sometimes there was a rift in the family or a second or third marriage . 

It is probable that as Mr. Jacobson says , it is a variant of " Benjamin , or given that it is another word with an "in" ending as is common in Russian surnames ( still could be from Benjamin,)  or could have a Hebrew derivation of some kind , or possibly could have a complicated derivation from a biblical reference to bees ( highly unlikely ) . I include the last possibility only because of Rose's recollection that it had something to do with bees.  It is more likely that the name was pronounced something like " Binin " and people thought it sounded like "Binen - bees " and came up with a " folk etymology " which is what Rose remembered . Of course , you can't overlook the possibility that Abe tinkered with the name to make it sound more Hebrew (??? ) 

I caution you against assuming that the surname has anything to do with a profession that someone had in the late 19th and early 20th centuries . First  of all , most Eastern European Jews did not take surnames until the beginning of the 19th century and and only some of them were related to professions . The fact the someone was a " painter" in the US and and a "tradesman" in Romny would not be connected to the surname their grandfathers would have taken on about a hundred years earlier . 

In sum , it is highly unlikely that the name has any connection to the profession of beekeeper and slightly less unlikely that it could have a remote biblical connection to bees just because "binen" means bees in Yiddish . 

Hope this helps . 
Henry H. Carrey