Sunday, June 12, 2022

Full Siblings Different Surnames - Important Austria-Hungarian Surname Impacts

I've mentioned before that many couples in Austria-Hungary never civilly registered their marriages, or only registered them years after the fact.  These couples had religious weddings, and their communities considered them fully married, but the government considered their children to be illegitimate, and therefore they were given their mothers' surnames.  Multiple successive generations of religious-only marriages could have a major impact on surnames used by children--and sometimes full siblings within the same family would use different surnames.  Without accounting for this, you could miss records and full branches of your family.  Here's how this phenomenon manifested itself in one family.

Judesz Stober/Kaufman Birth; 1892

My second cousin three times removed was Mozes Hers Muller.  He doesn't seem to have ever civilly married his wife Judesz--and Judesz's parents weren't civilly married either.  As seen above, Judesz was born to Jankel Stobel and Henya Kaufman in 1892.  Her parents are noted right on the records as not being married.  (Civil records in 1895 & later generally left the father off the record if the parents weren't legally married, although there would often be a notation that a man claimed paternity.)

Since Jankel and Henya weren't legally married, Judesz should have used the surname Kaufman.  And she did--sometimes.  I know from a son's Holocaust testimony that Mozes Hers and Judesz actually had a total of eleven children, nine of whom survived infancy.The following are Judesz's surname as found birth records that I have found for Mozes Hers and Judesz's children, along with any notation about their paternity.

Birth of Josef to Judes Kaufman; 1935

  • Jankel (1924) - Stober, with Mozes Muller claiming paternity.  A 1928 note says that the mother's name should have actually been Kaufman.
  • Freida (1928) - Stauber.  Mozes Muller claimed paternity.
  • Izrael (1930) - Stauber. Mojzis Muller claimed paternity.
  • Chaja (1932) - Stober.
  • Josef (1935) - Kaufman.  Mojzis Hers Muller claimed paternity.
There were at least two other children whose births weren't initially registered, so they self-registered their own births later.
  • Burech (1919, registered 1936) - Kaufman, no father noted
  • Salamon (1912).  He really wanted to have been born, so he actually self-registered his birth at least three times:
    • 1928: Stauber and Mozes Muller (with the entry crossed out later because his parents hadn't actually been legally married)
    • 1930 - Stauber, with a notation that Mozes Muller was the father
    • 1932 - Kaufman, with no mention of his father.
So Salamon himself used both of his mother's names at various times!

This type of morphing surname can have many implications when doing genealogy research.  When two whole siblings, and even the same individual at various times, use completely different surnames, you initially may completely discount records with a surname that you aren't researching.  When looking at yDNA, you expect surnames to be passed down the direct paternal line.  That doesn't happen here, so even relatively close cousins with a common direct male line may have different surnames, despite having near-identical yDNA.
To make this specific family even more complicated, Jankel (mentioned above, born 1924) was one of only two of the eleven Muller/Kaufman/Stauber children still alive by the end of the Holocaust.  Having three potential pre-war surnames to use, post-war, he went by the name of....Alex Sage.  His children use the surname Shuvaly.  In Alex Sage's Holocaust testimony, within the first 5 minutes, he mentions that the Jews in the village called them the Muller family, but that in legal documents they were actually supposed to be Kaufman--but that they generally used Stauber.
Freida Stauber's Parents; Yad Vashem Page of Testimony
I actually stumbled onto the multi-surname issue for this particular family via a Yad Vashem Page of Testimony for one of Mozes Hers and Judzes' children, Frieda.  As seen above, Mozes Hers' surnames are given as "Miller, Kaufman" and Judzes' as "Stauber."  While it turned out that Kaufman was actually a surname used by Judesz, not Mozes Hers, this helped me to find some of Frieda's previously unknown (to me) siblings.
Your (and my) takeaway?  Especially when researching in Austria-Hungary, make sure to know as many ancestral surnames as possible, and assume that children may use their father's surname, their mother's, their mother's mother's, etc.  It means a lot more research and analysis, but it also means a more complete reconstruction of your tree.
Happy hunting!
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  1. Austria-Hungary, but in my experience not in Vienna, where people were expected to have orderly family structures. I have instances of coupleד who registered their marriages with the civil authorities before moving to Vienna. And their grown childrens' names as well.

    1. My family wouldn't have done well in Vienna then. Nothing orderly about their family structures!

  2. Somehow in about 1867, a Galican Lvov bureaucrat created a completely different surname - Betterspinner - out of the father's name Better and the mother's name Spinat. My family carried this odd surname, until coming to the Americas; when they simplified it to "Spinner"