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10 January 2014 @ 11:51 am
Where the Jewish names come from
Sharon Kahndreamshark on January 10th, 2014 10:29 pm (UTC)
Interesting article. I hadn't realized that Jewish surnames were so recent.

I had been told that my Jewish family origins were essentially untraceable because my family name (a derivative of Cohen) was probably something completely different before the ancestral immigration to the US. I was told that Jewish immigrants often chose new last names when they came through Ellis Island, and Cohen was a popular choice because of its "high status" in Jewish tradition (I think it means "priestly caste" or something like that). However, I had always assumed that the great-great-grandfather in question actually HAD a last name already and chose to change it for some reason. This would have been mid-to-late 19th century, so maybe that family had NOT chosen a family name yet.

Same issue on my maternal grandfather's side. The family was from Sweden, which didn't have family names either. My great-grandfather gave his name as Bengtsson (son of Bengts), which was instantly converted into "Benson" at Ellis Island.