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History of Jewish Family Names, By SAUL ZEICHNER, November 27, 2000

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Text of History of Jewish Family Names, By SAUL ZEICHNER, November 27, 2000



27 November 2000

Revised 3 November 2010

HISTORY OF JEWISH FAMILY NAMESHereditary family names developed at different times for different groups of people. The Chinese, for example, had hereditary family names dating back to 4th century, before the Common Era. Scandinavian countries developed mandatory family names as recently as mid1800s (Kagnaoff, 1977). Jewish family names became more common in the 10th and 11th century as more Jews moved to the cities (Kagnaoff, 1977). The Jews of Spain, Portugal, and Italy had hereditary family names starting in the 14th century. In 1781 Emperor Joseph II of Austria promulgated the Edict Of Toleration for the Jews, which established the requirement for mandatory hereditary surnames. The Jews of Galicia did not adopt family names until 1785. Family names were then required throughout the Austrian Empire by the year 1787, with the exception of Hungary (Kaganoff, 1977 & Rottenberg, 1977). The great bulk of the Jews in Germany and Eastern Europe continued to follow the tradition of using the personal name plus the fathers name (patronymic system). For example, Yisrul ben Zalman, Avraham ben Zevi (Rottenberg, 1977).

SURNAME SOURCESIn Galicia the name a family received was often determined by the size of the registration fee that a particular family could afford to pay. Those families who were wealthy and/or could afford to pay a large fee received names that in Gerrman either denoted some form of wealth or related to something pleasant. For example, a precious metal like gold in Goldstein, or a flower like rose in Rosenthal. A lesser sum paid woud get a name based on more common items like Stahl (steel) or Eisen (iron). Those who were poor and could pay the lowest fee received names often related to nonsense syllables (Rottenberg, 1977). Most Jewish surnames were derived from one or more of the patterns listed in Table 1(Kaganoff, 1977).

Table 1



KEYP of son of. G city,

DESCRIPTIONPatronyms-The most common form of surname. Names are based upon those of the faher such as Aronson (son Aaron).The ending -wicz or -witz designates, Local Place Names-names based upon the name of a local town or place or place; such as, Rottenberg (a city in O Vocational- names based upon a persons vocation; such Schneider (Tailor)., Becker (baker), Fleisher (butcher) H Family Symbols and/or Signs-names based upon family or a sign that hung at or by the home; such as,


symbol Rothschild (red shield). A,F AN D as, Klein(small), Gross (large), Weiss (white) M Names Derived From Feminie Names or Words Often from Hebrew such as Bruck (Ben Rabbi Akiba); Levy (priests); or Rabbbinic in origin. Names From Acronyms or Denoting a Lineage-often from Hebrew; such as, Bruck (Ben Rabbi Akiba), Levy (priests) An Ornamental Name Origin A name whose origin is unclear Fanciful Names - Names that were imaginatively and/or assigned by clerks - Artificial names. Animal Names - Derived from animals such as Lowe, Loeb (from Judah the Lion which became Judah Lowe or Loeb) Names Describing Personal Characteristics-names; such



Since Jews often had to move from one country to another, their surnames names often changed as they were translated from one language to another. For example, a Jew may have had the name Weiss. It means white in German, but would become Blanco in Spain, Feher in Hungary, etc. (Kaganoff, 1977).


ORIGINS AND/OR MEANINGS OF KRG SURNAMES OF INTERESTAbraham L One who is a descendant of Abraham (Smith, 1956). Adlerstein F German for eagle stone. An artificial name imaginatively invented or assigned by a clerk (Beider, 2004). Allerhand O, F The translation from German is a good deal so it my signify someone who gives you a good deal )Langenscheid Editorial Staff, 2000). However, Beider, 2004 reports that the name means all kinds of things. It could be an occupational name for a handyman or a name fancifully invented. O From German a good deal. Someone who gives a good deal. Apfelberg, Appleberg, Appelberg G Name meaning apple mountain or hill. May have derived from area in which family lived. (Rottenberg, 1977). Auerbach G A German geographic name mostly one from Hessen or Bavaia. (Beider, Aufrichtig D German word meaning sincere, candid, frank, open, honest, upright, straight forward (Betteridge, 1978). Auster F German word meaning oyster (Betteridge, 1978). Axelrod, Axelrad P Originally a first name appearing in the Middle Ages. Variant forms are Axeldar, Axelrood, Achselrad. Some explain the name as an inverted form of Alexander. Others see it as the German name Axel with various elaborations. Another explanation offered is that the name means shoulder or wheel (Achel and Rad in German) and is a reference to the circular badge that Jews were forced to wear on their shoulders. While all these theories are interesting, they do not offer a clear answer (Kaganoff, 1977). Bahn G German word meaning path or road. Applied to a person it probably means someone who lived by a path or road (Klatt and Golze). Baidaff U Original spelling is Bajdaf avariant of Bajdof and is of unclear etymology (Beider, 2004) Balken O, G Only found Balk-beam or timber (Smith, 1973). Beider defines it as someone who sold beams (Beider, 2004) Barash L Ashkenazic name common in Galicia, taken from the Hebrew acronym for ben Rabbi Schmuel. (Rottenberg, 1977). Baral G, L Abbreviation for the Hebrew, ben rabi levi meaning son of Rabbi Lieb (or Levi) (Beider, 2004). Someone from the Town of Bar in the Ukraine. The town was the property of Bona Sforza, 16th Century Queen of Poland, who was born in the town of Bari, Italy ( Baran P,D,O Patronymic or East Ashkenazic nickname for Baranov, meaning ram.


SOURCE: to a forceful or lusty man or else a shepard. (Hanks and Hodges, 1998) Baron P and/or L A form of bar aron, son of Aaron; indicates priestly descent (Kaganoff, 1977). Bartfield L or G Possibly from Bart, a descendant of Bart. Field a dweller in an open tract of arable land or open country, not fenced (Smith, 1973). Barton G English habitation name from any of the numerous places so called from Old English bere+tun, enclosed settlement, outlying grange (Hanks and Hodges, 1998). Becher F, O Found in many areas of Galicia including Kolomea. German for cup, artificial name (Beider, 2004). Jewish origins unclear and may be same as German origins, an occupational surname for someone who turned wodden goblets or worker with pitch to make them water tight (Hanks and Hodges, 1998). Beer P Common in Galicia. Patronymic from Yiddish masculine name Ber, meaning bear.(Beider, 2004) Beiser O,D,F German for one who hunts with trained falcons, a falconer (Smith, 1988). Beider lists the meaning as wicked and refers the reader to Beisser from the German word for to bite (Beider, 2004). Speculating this could be from a personal characteristic or a name fancifully invented. Berger G or P As a place of origin, one coming from Berg, a hilly place. As a patronymic, the Hebrew Barukh was often transformed into Berge, Berg, Bergman (Kaganoff, 1977). Berstein A,P Artifical surname common in all Galicia. It is the German word for amber. It can also be a patronymic surname, someone whose name is derived from a masculine given name, Ber. Yiddish meaning bear and is a descendant of a person named Berko or Berish, a miminutive for Ber.(Beider,2004 Bessler O A form of the name Bass-German for viola or double bass. Probably an occupational name for someone who played one of those instruments (Beider,2004). Bibring D,F German for a beaver (Beider, 2004). Could be a name based on someone with prominent front teeth, a personal characteristic or a name fancifully invented. Bieger G From the German Biege, dweller on or near a hill. (Smith, 1953). Bikel O or A Either from Bickel, the German for pick-axe and denotes someone who used this tool in his work. Or an ancronym for bene yisrael kedoshim leadonai, the children of Israel are holy unto Gxx (Kaganoff, 1977).

SOURCE: A H An artificial surname from the German for pear tree or could be a family symbol or sign or ornamental durname. (Beider, 2004), (Kaganoff, 1977), (Hanks and Hodges, 1998). Birnberg G Birn is German for pear. Birnbaum is a pear tree. Berg is German for mountain. Meaning is proably one who lives near or came from near a pear-shaped mountain. (Smith 1973) Bitter O German for one who gathered alms in the town; one who worked for another on a farm (Smith, 1988) Bittman O German for one who makes barrels. Variant of Beutner (Jones, 1990) Blader O, G A variant of the English name Blades, a metronymic occupational name for cutler from the plural genitive singular of Middle English blade or cutting edge, sword. Also a habitation name from a place of uncertain location and etymology (Hanks and Hodges, 1998). Blecher O German for one who worked with tin, a tensmith, (Smith, 1973) Bleich D A name given to a pale person from German for pale (Hanks and Hodges, 1998) Blitzer F Derived from the surname Blitz, an artifical name possibly assigned by a clerk. German for lightening or flash (Beider, 2004). Bloch G From the Slavic vlach, foreigner. Originated when Jews from central Europe migrated into Poland and were given the name. When they returned to Germany, the name was Germanized to Bloch (Kaganoff, 1977). This surname existed in Germany in the 17th Century and is a form of Wloch the Po

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