Jewish Last Name
Tracing a Jewish last name can take you back to the mid-late nineteenth century, when sailing ships and steamers crossed the ocean with courageous immigrants seeking a new life in a new land.
There were three waves of Jewish immigration to the United States. The earliest and smallest began in 1650 and involved Sephardic Jews from Portugal. Their names may not even be recognized as a Jewish last name: da Fonseca, Louzada, or Bernal seem purely Spanish or Portuguese.
The second wave in the mid-nineteenth century brought German Jews; these had recognizably Jewish last names such as Goldfarb, Schwartz, Loehmann, Weiss, and other Germanic names. Many of the German Jews who immigrated were young men seeking their fortune who later returned to Germany or sent for their families.
The third and largest wave of Jewish immigrants peaked between 1890 and 1920. In those years, pogroms and restrictive laws drove millions of Jews from their homes in Eastern Europe. From Russia and the Austro-Hungarian Empire; from the regions that would become Lithuania, Poland, Romania, the immigrants came. If you have a Jewish last name such as Yitzhak, Eisenberg, or Besden, you have a good chance of discovering your ancestor among these immigrants.
Of course, there are problems with tracing these Jewish last names. They were imposed by law on people who had never used surnames. During the processing at Ellis Island, these names were often transliterated from the Cyrillic or Hebrew alphabet into English. Sometimes the names were shortened or changed entirely.
Your Jewish last name may be traceable through a variety of historical documents. Ships' registers may list profession, birthplace, age, and marital status as well as name and intended destination of your ancestor. State records may give dates of births, marriages, and deaths. Census records list residence, profession, age, and often more.
A Jewish surname may lead you back to an artist, a merchant, a farmer, but it will surely lead you to a family with the strength and courage to start fresh in a different world. Discover the roots of your Jewish surname on OneGreatFamily.com, the original Internet family tree. You can rapidly add new branches to your tree.