Alternate Surnames in Russian Poland
Lecture Notes from the Boston Seminar 1996
by Lauren B. Eisenberg Davis
Surnames were not always fixed or permanent in the way we consider them
today. This discussion involves the manifestations of alternate
surnames in the towns of Chęciny, Poland and Krasnystaw, Poland,
with an illustration of a case study from Krasnystaw.
Refer to the Summer 1996 issue of AVOTAYNU for further discussion
of Chęciny examples.
During my quest to find my MANELA ancestors in Chęciny, I discovered
the notation "MANELA v KWART". 'v' stands for 'vel', the Latin
word meaning 'also known as'. Most cases of 'vel' represent a
transition between two names. It is important to recognize that
records will exist with only one of these surnames as well.
'vel' is not the only indication of a variant surname, but it is the
most easily identified.
Other instances found in Chęciny include:
Husbands may take on the wife's surname, particularly if she is
from a more prestigious family.
Records may identify people by occupation rather than surname.
(This is actually an error, not a variant surname, but leads to
the same type of confusion in research).
Identification by patronymic (father's given name) rather than
a surname. Confusion can arise for names that qualify as either
a surname or given name. For a woman identified as "Haia Manela":
is Manela the father's given name or surname?
Adoption of a new surname with no transition period.
The last manifestation is the most difficult to trace.
It becomes crucial to consider all facts on vital registrations, including
patronyms, ages, and occupations, in order to match families of seemingly
different surnames. One branch of the Manela-Kwart clan began to use
the surname Goldrat around 1822. The concrete connection was only
possible due to the family of a married sister of the man whose
children's registrations reflected this surname change. Although most
Chęciny women registered by patronym, this woman used her maiden names
of Manela and Kwart, and eventually Goldrat as well. She was much
easier to identify than her brother, because she remained married to the
same man, for whom I was able to identify a stable occupation, surname
The changing regimes of the region may help explain this phenomon of
sudden acquisition of a new surname at this time.
In 1795, Chęciny fell under Austrian rule in the third partition
of Poland, and became part of West Galicia. The Jews of Chęciny
were required to adopt surnames under the Austrian regime in 1805.
In 1809, Austria ceded West Galicia to the Napoleonic Duchy of Warsaw.
Then in 1815, the Kingdom of Poland (Congress Poland) was established by
the Congress of Vienna, and fell under the leadership of the Tzar of Russia.
Surnames were mandated for Jews in Russian Poland in 1821.
Consequently, some families, or even just certain branches of families,
reverted to their prior surnames from the Austrian mandate, while others
took on new identities.
Alternate surnames were rampant in Krasnystaw, but were
of different forms than in Chęciny:
Variations on a root: GOLDBERG, GOLDEN, GOLDMAN.
Similar sounding names: WILENSKA, WILKENSZTAJN.
People intermittently using their fathers' surnames, mothers'
maiden names, and stepparents' surnames.
Women who married multiple times used any of their current
and prior surnames, often in an inconsistent manner.
The family of Marya Cukierman and Jankiel Goldman introduced two
mysteries to my family research. In addition to the marriage of Marya
and Jankiel, and the births of their two daughters, I found a second
marriage for Jankiel, however I had not found a death record for Marya.
Additionally, Jankiel had different parents on his two marriage
1845 Marriage #3:
Groom: Jankiel Goldman, son of Herszek (deceased) and Sura Goldman
Bride: Marya Cukierman, daughter of Lipa (deceased) and Perla Cukierman
1856 Marriage #2:
Groom: Jankiel Goldman (widower), son of Herszek and Sura Cukierman
Bride: Fajga Klarman, daughter of Szloma Klarman and Chana Szajn
Why did Jankiel's parents have different surnames on the two records?
Herszek Goldman was dead by 1845; did Sura remarry a Herszek Cukierman
by 1856, and if so, why was he listed as Jankiel's father?
I began to perform complete vital records extractions in Krasnystaw,
which at first only served to confuse the issue further:
1833 Birth #1:
Mother: Sura Rywa Cukierman
Child: Herszek Lipa
No identity was provided for the deceased father.
Was Cukierman Sura Rywa's married or maiden name, or did she perhaps
remarry prior to the registration of the baby's birth?
I hit the jackpot with the 1855 death records:
1855 Death #10:
Decedant: Marya Goldt
Father: Lipa Cukierman
Husband: Jankiel Goldman
This accounted for one part of the mystery.
Marya's death was registered under an abbreviated surname.
1855 Death #5:
Decedant: Sura Rywa Goldman, widow
Father: Herszek Cukierman
Sons: Icyk Goldman, Jankiel Goldman
Daughter: Mendla Stycer, widow
This was quite an unusual death record for Krasnystaw, which normally
provided no survivors' list, and often no parents. It is interesting to
note that Sura Rywa's parents are the grandparents of Marya Cukierman.
Hence Marya and her husband Jankiel Goldman were first cousins.
Therefore, Jankiel's parents were listed under their correct surname on
his 1845 marriage, but under his mother's maiden name in 1856.
Furthermore, the fatherless baby of 1833 was the son of Sura Rywa
Cukierman and Herszek Goldman.
The search was on to find Mendla Stycer. Naturally that was not her
actual name, but she was rather easy to identify. Numerous records
existed for a young widow named Mindla Stancygier, who registered
children under the maiden names of Cukierman and Goldman.
However, for each mystery solved, more always seemed to surface.
Mindla Stancygier's most predominant maiden name was Fliswaser.
There was only one Fliswaser family in Krasnystaw, and as a result of my
thorough study of the town, I had come to know all the residents quite
well. Josef Fliswaser, a glazier, and his wife Dwojra, had numerous
daughters prior to Dwojra's death in the early 1830s.
I returned to the records of the 1830s searching for clues.
1835 Birth #3:
Father: Josef Fliswaser
Mother: Sura Herszkowiczow
Following the deaths of Herszek Goldman and Dwojra Fliswaser, Josef
Fliswaser married Sura Cukierman. Mindla was still a child, and
grew up in the home of Josef Fliswaser, apparently causing her to use
his name as her primary means of identity.
This single case study illustrates many of the naming anomalies in
Herszek Goldman and Sura Rywa Cukierman were identified on Jankiel's
1845 marriage as Goldman and on his 1856 marriage as Cukierman.
The 1833 birth of Herszek Lipa Goldman did not identify his surname.
The only surname on the record was the maiden name of his mother,
Sura Rywa Cukierman.
The 1855 death of Sura Rywa Goldman was registered under the surname
of her first husband, rather than her most recent husband, Josef
Fliswaser, and she was identified as the widow of Herszek Goldman.
The 1855 death of Marya Goldman was registered under the variant
name of Goldt.
The 1855 Death of Sura Rywa Goldman identified her daughter as
Mendla Stycer, while in actuality, Mendla's married name was Stancygier.
Mendla Stancygier used three different maiden names: Goldman -
her father's name, Cukierman - her mother's maiden name, and Fliswaser -
her stepfather's surname.
In conclusion, you can piece together the full picture only by examining
EVERY record, not just every record of your surname(s) of interest.
Full vital records extractions are the best solution.
Lauren B. Eisenberg Davis
Special thanks to Warren Blatt and Alexander Beider for their help
and encouragement on my alternate surnames research.