Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Surname-Morphing Census Entries (Plus a New 5th Great Grandfather)

Some wonderful volunteers at JewishGen's Hungarian Special Interest Group (H-SIG) have transcribed and indexed Jewish entries from multiple different Hungarian censuses.  And more are being added regularly.  I recently learned some lessons about dealing with this data set that can help others with their research as well.

I've regularly searched for entries relating to my Rutner family from Darva (today's Kolodne).
Results on JewishGen for Hungarian Censuses for Rutners in Darva

There were several entries for Abraham Rutner (1795 and 1798, plus one for his probable widow in 1818) as well as one entry in 1798 for Smul Rut(th)ner.

The Rutner I knew furthest back was my great-great-great-great grandfather Dovid, born about 1794.  While I wouldn't have expected him to appear in 1795 or 1798, since only heads of household were listed, surely he would be in 1818.  And there is no mention of Rutners in later census records that have been indexed--including 1821 and 1828--even though I know that Dovid had at least two children by 1828 in Kolodne.  So why is he omitted?  Where did the Rutners go?

I decided to map out the individuals mentioned in any census as living in Darva.   And things became interesting quickly.

In 1771, there were only two Jewish men enumerated--Smulya Abrahamovics and David Smulovits.  Both were enumerated with various spellings of their names in 1771, 1774, 1775, 1779, 1781 and 1782--and in all of the others, the second man is listed with various spellings of Smujla Davidovids.

Between 1771 and 1782, there seem to be no more than 5 individuals enumerated, although some have varied spellings between the enumerations.
Jewish Landowner Heads of Household in Darva, Hungary in the years 1771, 1774, 1775, 1779, 1781 and 1782

There is a gap after 1782, with the next indexed census in 1795.  At that point, there is a change.  Initially, it seemed that the first 4 gentlemen listed above had passed away by 1795, but then I realized that they just may have adopted surnames--or at least given them to an enumerator for the first time.
Jewish Landowner Heads of Household in Darva, Hungary in the years 1771, 1774, 1775, 1779, 1781, 1782 and 1795

Here Volf Kaszner appears--but he may well be the same person as Volf Herskovics.  If that is the case, he was likely Volf (son of Hers) Kaszner.

As far as people first seen here, there is Michel Hendel, who may be a son of also newly-enumerated Hersko (indexed in one place as Mosko, but I believe that's a misreading, as he is also enumerated as "Czvil," seemingly a version of Tzvi which is the Hebrew version of the Yiddish Hers).

And then there's the first appearance of Abraham Rutner in that 1795 census.  Abraham Rutner (with varying spellings, of course) is enumerated in 1795 and 1798.  He is missing in 1815, and in 1818 his widow was enumerated as being head of household.

Besides Abraham Rutner, 1798 enumerated the two Hendel/Handler men, Smul Ruthner, Leibel Krasner, and David Svap.

In 1815, there's a relative explosion of heads of household.
Jewish Landowner Heads of Household in Darva, Hungary in 1815
The Handler/Khandlers are back.  The Svop/Sopp family is again represented.  And 5 people from the Rafoll/Rafel family have appeared in the town.  And no Abraham Rutner.

Only three years later, the mysterious Rafoll/Rafel family has disappeared.  But look at who took their place:
Jewish Landowner Heads of Household in Darva, Hungary in 1818
Only 5 households were enumerated in Darva in 1818.  Besides Abraham Rutner's widow, there were three Abrahamovics men and the widow of a fourth.  These men had the same first names as the Rafoll/Rafel family had in 1815.  Could it be that Abrahamovics is their patronymic--even though surnames were in use earlier in the town?  And who's the missing Abraham from this census--none other than Abraham Rutner!

In 1821, Slyoma and David Abrahamovics are enumerated, as are Hers Cheimovits and Mosko Smujlovits (both possibly patronymics as well).  And finally in 1828, Slyoma and David Abrahamovics are listed yet again along with Mekel Vajvovics and two men named Hezsko and Eizik (with no surname or patronymic given).

The following are all of the heads of household enumerated in Darva censuses between 1771 & 1828.
All Jews Enumerated in Darva Censuses, 1771-1828
However, if the Abrahamovics/Rafoll entries are merged, the list gets shorter; in the 57-year period covered by these censuses, there were only 19 heads of household!
All Jews Enumerated in Darva Censuses, 1771-1828--Combining Probable Same Individuals
It seems that Abraham Rutner was the father of Slyoma, Iczko, David and Josza.  So David Abrahamovics was my great-great-great-great grandfather David Rutner, meaning that Abraham Rutner was my 5th great grandfather. Rofell/Rafel may have been a poor transcription of Rutner, or else there was another meaning to it; I'm working on getting the original documents to see.

So what lessons did I learn from this?
  1. Always take a second look at data.  I've looked at these census transcriptions on JewishGen multiple times, but I'd only looked for Rutners.  Looking at the town as a whole helped me to jump back an additional generation.
  2. If you have family from the former Austria-Hungary, and H-SIG has indexed your family's town(s), look at your towns rather than just surnames.  I've started to look at other family towns in the area, and I'm finding similar switching of surnames and omission of surnames for other branches of my family, even in years after surnames were used in a census.
  3. Surnames may have been used sporadically in the early 1800s, even after families had them.
Note:  I'm on Twitter.  Feel free to follow me (@larasgenealogy).

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  1. Very important and very well done.

  2. This was fascinating and very good to know.

  3. My late father-in-law's Hebrew name was Tsvi Hersh Handler; I wonder if there is a connection... though the location doesn't fit with what I know.

    I will look at this database again. (I haven't looked at it in awhile and maybe more locations have been indexed since I last looked.)

    Thanks for sharing!