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Thread: German and/or Jewish?

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    Question German and/or Jewish?

    Some German surnames are common among Jews too, as many were living in Germany and had adopted German surnames. One of these is Hoffman. Even though quite prevalent among Jews, Hoffman is certainly first and foremost German.



    The question is: In a genealogical search, how does one distinguish whether an overlapping surname like that is of German or Jewish origin, apart from the obvious religious adherence of the individual?
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    Default History of German Jewish Surnames Is my Surname Jewish?

    On July 1787 a new ruling was published: each Jew in German lands was required to either adopt (or if they already had one, to maintain) a firm, German surname.
    http://homepage.mac.com/ebauer/trans...ge4/page4.html

    JewishGen: The Home of Jewish Genealogy
    http://www.jewishgen.org/
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    I think records exist going back to 1787. Genealogical research may be the only way to be sure.

    In the US certain German names are assumed to be Jewish if they contain berg, stein, feld, gold, silver, rosen, stern, thal, green, roth etc... Roosevelt was originally Rosenfelt which is why some people think FDR was a Jew but Rosenfelt predates the adoption of surnames by German Jews.

    US Jews are not shy about changing their names. For example Murray Rothstein who became Sumner Redstone.

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    It's tricky for sure. If I didn't have baptism records for the handful of German ancestors I do have there's no way that I'd know if they were Jews or Germans, since their surnames are found amongst both Alpine Jews and Calvinists.

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    Do you mean forenames as oppose to surnames? I know for example Adam was popular among some of my Calvinist German ancestors. but names like Solomon or Nehemiah don't appear to have been popular among German Calvinist in the same way they were for Anglo-American Calvinists. Perhaps because they were viewed as Jewish names in Germany & Old Testament/Hebrew names in America prior to mass Jewish immigration.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Psychonaut View Post
    It's tricky for sure. If I didn't have baptism records for the handful of German ancestors I do have there's no way that I'd know if they were Jews or Germans, since their surnames are found amongst both Alpine Jews and Calvinists.
    I heard you on that, Psychonaut and I agree.My German ancestors were generally Catholics, while the few Swiss ancestors I have were Swiss Reformed.Baptismal and confirmation records are always useful.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ămeric View Post
    Do you mean forenames as oppose to surnames? I know for example Adam was popular among some of my Calvinist German ancestors. but names like Solomon or Nehemiah don't appear to have been popular among German Calvinist in the same way they were for Anglo-American Calvinists. Perhaps because they were viewed as Jewish names in Germany & Old Testament/Hebrew names in America prior to mass Jewish immigration.
    No, I'm definitely speaking about surnames like Edelmeier, Hirtzel and Steiner.

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    It depends on whether you're examining it from a Colonial or European viewpoint. Pre-19th century Germans in North America were almost invariably Palatines; Protestants (Calvinists and Lutherans) primarily hailing from the Rhineland-Palatinate, Baden-WŘrttemberg, Hesse, and North-Rhine Westphalia regions, as well as Swiss Mennonites/Anabaptists. They began emigrating in the early 18th century, and continued for decades. Others arrived in the 17th century with the Dutch and Huguenot settlers in New Netherlands, and this is also the case for South Africa. Again, religion was a key factor in both the 17th and 18th century waves, and I'm not aware of any case where Jews turned up. Furthermore, Jewish surnames were not yet established, as Ămeric pointed at, and the concept of Jews converting to Christianity didn't take hold until the early 19th century.

    Most of my German ancestors arrived in the 18th century, with the rest having come with the Dutch in the century prior. All were baptized Calvinists, Lutherans, or Mennonites. Of course, more than one possessed a forename or surname that is tainted with Jewish association today, but documentation, history, and common sense dictates that the idea of Jewish ancestry in this era is nonsense.

    As for Europe, it's impossible to say, and the only solution is genealogical research (which anyone who values their identity should conduct regardless). It's still extremely unlikely, and the reason these names are associated with Jewry to begin with is the disproportionate number of famous Jews, meaning a similarly disproportionate representation of these titles in a Jewish context is given to the world. When not considering those in the entertainment industry, academia, or any other prominent field, the majority of those bearing what we consider to be suspiciously Semitic names are Gentiles with absolutely no Jewish ancestry.

    There are exceptions, and in particular, Catholics from Austria and Germany, especially those who emigrated to America or other Colonial nations in the 19th or 20th centuries. Most Jews who converted to Christianity opted for Catholicism over Protestantism, and while it's still unlikely that the average Austrian or German Catholic, whether in Europe or a Colonial land, is of Jewish ancestry, it's still better to be certain. An example that comes to mind is Fred Astaire, born Frederick Austerlitz, whose father was a Catholic descended from Jewish converts.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Loyalist View Post
    Again, religion was a key factor in both the 17th and 18th century waves, and I'm not aware of any case where Jews turned up.
    Joseph Simon was one of a few Jews among the PA Dutch mentioned by name.

    By 1747, the community had enough men to support a minyan, and religious services were held at Simon's house.
    A minyan requires at least 10 adult Jewish men.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Seuthanan View Post
    Joseph Simon was one of a few Jews among the PA Dutch mentioned by name.

    A minyan requires at least 10 adult Jewish men.
    There were Sephardic Jews who turned up in New Netherland as merchants and traders, and this man seems follow the same trend. By custom (or law) they remained within their own communities, not inter-marrying with German or other European settlers. As always, wealthy Jewish businessmen (like this Joseph Simon) were present anywhere European settlement occured, but as prominent individuals, few in number, and not as poor migrants or refugees as with their Gentile counterparts, and were consequently not absorbed into the European community.

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