The Jews of Kraków and its Surrounding Towns

Patronymic Research - Help File

A major project is currently being undertaken to identify Kraków patronymic records from the 1795 to 1809 period. Unfortunately, vital records from this era do not mention a surname, but merely a patronymic such as Samuel, son of Isaac. There are, however, techniques that enable one to infer surnames from this period. This page will provide you with these guidelines.

Surname identification requires a thorough knowledge of one's ancestors from the 1810 to 1840 period, and it is assumed that you have already traced your ancestors from this era by using Mormon LDS microfilm records. If not, we suggest you begin your research by first visiting the Jewish Records Indexing - Poland website. Having seen the actual vital records, you should then try to extract the following information:

If you have difficulty identifying this data, you can try A Translation Guide to 19th-Century Polish-Language Civil-Registration Documents, by Judith A. Frazin. 2nd ed. (Chicago: JGS of Illinois, 1989). 311 pp. ISBN 0-9613512-1-7. The book is available from JGS of Illinois, c/o 1025 Antique Lane, Northbrook, IL 60062. $25. Better still, ask someone on the JewishGen Discussion Forum for assistance.

You are now ready to infer surnames!

There are three working files that contain patronymic data, and are updated as new surname inferences are made. These files are:

  1. 1795 Krakow Census
  2. 1798 - 1808 Birth Records
  3. 1798 - 1809 Marriage Records

These files invariably contain the first name of the individual, the first name of the father, and the address (house number). All that remains is to try and match data from your own records with that on the working files.

Let's look at a few examples:

  1. Your 1834 ancestral record shows the marriage of Jakob (age 28), son of Markus SCHWARZ and Malki to Sara (age 26), daughter of Lebel ROTH and Rywke. One immediately knows that Jakob and Sara were born in the years 1806 and 1808, respectively. Turn to the working records for patronymic births and see if you can find a Jakob, son of Markus born about 1806. If so, there is a high probability that the Jakob born in 1806 has the surname SCHWARZ. Similarly for Sara.

  2. Using the same record as above, turn to the working records for patronymic marriages and look at all records to see if there is a marriage of Markus to Sara, or a marriage of Lebel to Rywke. If so, there is a high probablity that the groom's surname is either SCHWARZ or ROTH.

  3. Your 1830 ancestral death record shows the death of Gitel (age 25), daughter of Schmelke GRUNBAUM. Go to the working records for patronymic births and see if you can find a Gitel, daughter of Schmelke born about 1805. If so, then the surname for Schmelke is probably GRUNBAUM.

  4. Your 1826 ancestral birth record lists the birth of Szymon FLUTER to Aron and Freidel. The address is listed as house number 34. You can assume that the parents were born about 1795 to 1808. Do a search in the census, marriage, and birth records looking specifically for house number 34.

You should get the hang of it quite quickly. To make things easier, you may want to download the Excel files and then sort them according to house number or first name.

If you feel that you can infer a surname, contact Dan Hirschberg. Your inference will then be posted on the working files. If the probability is high, the surname will be [CAPITALIZED], and if the probability is small, the surname will be in [small] letters.


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Compiled by Eilat Gordin Levitan. Updated February 26, 2020 Copyright © 2007 Eilat Gordin Levitan (