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Smorgan/Smargon from Odessa or Nizhniy Novgorod

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Re: Smorgan/Smargon from Odessa or Nizhniy Novgorod

Posted: 1354581944000
Classification: Query
Edited: 1354582170000
Your ancestral family very likely acquired its surname in appx 1844. The Smargon/Smorgon/Smogan surname originates in Smarhon> today Grodno Region (formerly Vilna) > in what is Belarus today.

By the late 19th century Smorgon was a major center for leatherwork in Czarist Russia. There were 54 factories for leather tanning located there.

Following is short history of Smargon:

According to the Encyclopedia Judaica, Smorgon is in the Grodno oblast or district of Belarus, 107 km WNW of Minsk. It was established in Poland in the early 17th century but passed from Poland to Russia in 1793 as part of the Russian Pale of Settlement. For most of its existence until the mid 19th century, Smorgon was the private property of the Radziwill nobility. Smorgon's Jewish settlement probably dates from the early 17th century. Shortly after WWI to the end of WWII, Smorgon was part of Reconstituted Poland, which technically had not existed for the previous 125+ yrs.

From 1628 the Jews of Smorgon paid their taxes to the community administration of Grodno. In 1631 the community of Smorgon became the center of a province within the frame work of the Council of Lithuania (in Hebrew: Va'ad Midinat Lita.) The autonomous status of the community was confirmed in 1651. In 1765 there were 649 Jews in the community of Smorgon who paid the poll tax.

The Encyclopeadia Judaica describes the economic life of the 19th century Jewish community there stating, "In 1847 there were 1,621 Jews living in Smorgon. In the 1860's a tanning industry was begun in the town as a result of Jewish initiative. In addition to this, the Jews of the town earned their livelihoods from carpentry, sock knitting, bagel baking (which were famous throughout Russia), retail trade, and peddling. Some Jewish families worked the land in the nearby Jewish agricultural settlement of Karka.

There were 6,743 Jews living in Smorgon (76% of the population) in 1897. Zionist and Jewish socialist groups were active in the town. On the eve of World War I, there were two battei midrash (houses of study of religious commentary), seven synagogues, three elementary yeshivot (religious schools), and a Jewish hospital there. A section of the town's Jewish population were Habad Hasidim.

In 1915, during World War I, many of the Jews in Smorgon were sent to the Russian interior. Jewish refugee tanners from Smorgon founded the tanning industries in Kharkov, Rostov, and Bogorodsk. When Smorgon reverted to independent Poland after World War I, the Jewish refugees began to return to their destroyed houses. Between the two world wars, a Hebrew Tarbut (Jewish nationalistic) school, a drama circle, sports clubs, Zionist youth circles, and branches of Po'alei Zion (a socialistic and Zionist organization), He-Halutz (promoting pioneering in the Holy Land) and Betar (a more radical Zionist group) were active in the town.

The Red Army occupied Smorgon in September 1939 until June 1941, when the Germans occupied the town. In October 1941, some Jews were sent to the Ghetto in nearby Oshmiany. In the summer of 1942 more were sent to the Ghetto in Kovno (Kaunas) and shared the fate of that community while the others were sent to Ponary near Vilna, and were killed there. After the Second World War, the Jewish community in Smorgon was not re-established. An association of former residents of Smorgon in Israel and the U.S.A. was formed.

above is excerpt : Kehilalinks/

Other than aristocrats and wealthy people, Jews did not acquire surnames in Eastern Europe until the Napoleon years of the early 19th century. Most of the Jews from countries captured by Napoleon, Russia, Poland, and Germany were ordered to acquire surnames strictly for tax purposes. After Napoleon's defeat, many Jews dropped these surnames and returned to patronymic names, such as Mendelson, Jakobson, Levinson, etc. During the so-called "Emancipation," Jews were once more ordered to take surnames. In Austria, The Emperor Joseph mandated that Jews take surnames in the late 1700's. Polish Jews had to take last names in 1821, and in Russia Jews acquired surnames in 1844.

In general there were five types of surnames. People had to pay for their choice of surnames, whereas the poor were assigned their surnames.

1-- Surnames that were descriptive of the head of household:
HOCH (tall),
KLEIN (small),
COHEN (rabbi),
BURGER (village dweller),
SHEIN (good looking),
LEVI (temple singer),
GROSS (large),
SCHWARTZ (dark or black),
WEISS (white),
KURTZ (short)
2 -- Occupational descriptions:
HOLTZ (wood)
HOLTZKOCKER (wood chopper),
GELTSCHMIDT (goldsmith),
SCHNEIDER (tailor),
KREIGSMAN (warrior),
MALAMED (teacher)
EISEN (iron),
FISCHER (fish)
3-- Surnames from city of residence:
DEUTSCH (German)
POLLACK (Polish),
4 -- Preferred surnames that had to be purchased:
GLUCK (luck),
ROSEN (roses),
ROSENBLATT (rose paper or leaf),
ROSENBERG (rose mountain),
ROTHMAN (red man),
KOENIG (king),
KOENIGSBERG (king's mountain),
SPIELMAN (spiel is to play),
LIEBER (lover),
BERG (mountain),
WASSERMAN (water dweller),
KERSHENBLATT (church paper),
STEIN (glass).
5-- Assigned surnames which were usually undesirable:
PLOTZ (to die),
KLUTZ (clumsy),
BILLIG (cheap)

Not sure where I got above. It has been in my files for a while and I make use of it frequently.
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lynncohen11 1354057140000 
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