Where did our names come from?

In my post Who put the ‘h’ in Ghertner, I discussed the origin of that name, from ‘gardener’. I’ve just tackled some of the surnames of some of your Jewish ancestors. The fact they had Jewish names is a clue our Jewish roots go way back. My source for most of my maternal side was origins of popular Jewish names).

Ashkenazic Jews were among the last Europeans to take family names. Some German-speaking Jews took last names as early as the 17th century, but the overwhelming majority of Jews lived in Eastern Europe and did not take last names until compelled to do so. The process began in the Austro-Hungarian Empire in 1787 and ended in Czarist Russia in 1844.

  • Maternal relatives (Click here for my paternal relatives)

Altshul/Althshuler — associated with the old synagogue in Prague. [Religious/communal name]
(for ancestors see 2)

Altschul – Jewish (Ashkenazic): from the name of a synagogue in Prague, literally ‘old synagogue’.
(for ancestors see 2)

Baum (click here) – Jewish (Ashkenazic): ornamental name from German Baum ‘tree’, or a short form of any of the many ornamental surnames containing this word as the final element, for example Feigenbaum ‘fig tree’ (see Feige) and Mandelbaum ‘almond tree’ (see Mandel). [place names]

Bloch (foreigner) [place name] (for ancestors see 3)

Block – Jewish (Ashkenazic): Americanized spelling of Bloch (Vlach). [place name]
(for ancestors see 3)

Bloom (flower) [Other names, chosen or purchased, were combinations with these roots] (for ancestors see 5)

Eisenkramer – eisen is German for iron. Krämer is ‘seller/handler/peddler’ (in hochdeutsch, the “official” German spoken today). Kramer = ‘grocer. (in old norddeutsch, old German). Eisenkramer was ‘seller of (probably small) ironwares. [Occupational]
(for ancestors see 10)

Gruber — coarse or vulgar [personal trait]  (for ancestors see 6)

Some Jews either held on to or adopted traditional Jewish names from the Bible and Talmud. The big two are Cohen (Cohn, Kohn, Kahan, Kahn, Kaplan) and Levi (Levy, Levine, Levinsky, Levitan, Levenson, Levitt, Lewin, Lewinsky, Lewinson). [Hebrew names]
(for Cohen ancestors see 6) and (for Picard-Weil-Levy ancestors see 11) and (for Emile Levy ancestors see 10)

Levinsonpatronymic from the personal names Levin or Levy.
(for ancestors see 3)

Marcus/Marx — from Latin, referring to the pagan god Mars. [Jewish family names from non-Jewish languages]
(for ancestors see 4)

Marks – German and Jewish (western Ashkenazic): reduced form of Markus, German spelling of Marcus (see Mark 1).
(for ancestors see 2)

Feifer/Pfeifer — whistler [personal trait] (for ancestors see 8)

Picard – Jewish (western Ashkenazic): Frenchification of the German name Bickhart. patronymic
(for Picard-Weil-Levy ancestors see 10)

Rhine – Americanized form of German Rhein. [place name]
(for ancestors see 7)

Blumen (flower), Fein (fine), Gold, Green, Lowen (lion), Rosen (rose)  [Other names, chosen or purchased, were combinations with these roots] (for ancestors see 3)

Scharf/Scharfman — sharp, i.e  intelligent. [personal trait]
(for ancestors see 4)

Schwartz/Shwartzman/Charney — black hair or dark complexion [personal trait]  (also here)

Strauss — ostrich (or bouquet of flowers). [Animal Name]
(for ancestors see 2)

Weil – habitational name from any of various places so named in Baden, Bavaria, and Württemberg.
(for Picard-Weil-Levy ancestors see 10)

  • Paternal relatives

Another source, FamilyEducation.com, fills in some blanks on the paternal side.  Click here for my maternal side.

Abrams & Abrahams – likely patronymic from the personal name Abraham.
(for ancestors see 1)

Berlin – Jewish (Ashkenazic) and German: habitational name from the city of Berlin, capital of Germany. This city takes its name from a West Slavic word meaning ‘river rake’, a scaffold of beams built over a river to prevent logs from jamming; the river in question is the Spree. Folk etymology, however, has put a bear into the arms of the city, as if the name were derived from Bärlin, a diminutive of Bär ‘bear’. The German name is also found in the Hamburg area, where it may be derived from the village of the same name, but uncertain origin, in Holstein. In some cases the Jewish name may be a patronymic from a pet form of the Yiddish personal name Ber (see Berenson).

Bissinger – habitational name for someone from any of five places called Bissingen in Swabia. Here is Swabia in in South Eastern Germany.
(for ancestors see 1)

Cooper – Americanized form of Kupfer and Kupper (see Kuper).

Fleisman – Fleishman is an Americanized version of German and Jewish Fleischmann which is occupational name for a butcher, literally ‘meatman’, from Middle High German fleisch ‘flesh’, ‘meat’ + man ‘man’. Perhaps Fleisman is a variation of this.
(for ancestors see 1)

Frankland – status name for someone who lived on a piece of land held without obligations of rent or service.
(for ancestors see 1)

Ghertner/Gertner –  German and Jewish (Ashkenazic): variant spelling of Gärtner ‘gardener’ (see Gartner). (this source corroborates my research although my name is Romanian)
(for ancestors see 9)

Ginsburg – habitational name for someone from Günzburg in Swabia, which derives its name from the river Günz Here is Swabia in South Eastern Germany.
(for ancestors see 12)

Lipschitz – the name is derived from Slavic ‘lipa’ meaning ‘linden tree’ or ‘lime tree’. The name may relate to a number of place names: “Liebeshitz”; the name of a town in Bohemia, “Liepzig”, the name of a German city; “Leobshutz”, the name of a town is Upper Silesia.
(for ancestors see 12)

Loveman – from the Middle English personal name Lefman. (see LeamanLemon).
(for ancestors see 1)

Magid – occupational name for a preacher, Hebrew magid, Yiddish maged
for ancestors see 12)

Sonnenfeld – topographic name for someone who lived by or farmed a south-facing area of land.
(for ancestors see 1)

Weil – habitational name from any of various places so named in Baden, Bavaria, and Württemberg.
(for ancestors see 1)


Print Friendly, PDF & Email



Powered by Facebook Comments

This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply