Friday, 8 March 2013

A new Shreibman

I've found a new Shreibman! Well, he's new to us, but he's quite old really - he's the earliest Shreibman we know of. Meet Movsha Shreibman, born - we suppose - sometime around 1740.

Yesterday I came across the 1816 Russian Census ('Revision List') for the town of Pinsk on the JewishGen website - I don't know why I hadn't spotted it before - and there they were - father and son, Girsh and Movsha (here, Movsha Dovid). We already had their names, and a date of birth for Movsha Dovid, from later Censuses. This, however, takes us one step further back into the past, thanks to the Russian - and Jewish - custom of patronymic naming, as in 'Movsha Dovid, son of Girsh'. Thus the Census gives us not only the names of the people it is recording, but as part of the identification it also gives us the names of their fathers. As we can see, Girsh's father is also a Movsha.

Girsh's age is given as 50, which suggests a date of birth of 1766. This in turn allows us to guess that his own father Movsha may have been born around, say, 1740.

It is interesting to see that the surname Shreibman was already being used by the family in 1816; we can't tell from this census record whether it dates back to the previous generation as well. Most Jews in Eastern Europe used patronymics until around the beginning of the 19th century, when the Russian authorities began requiring them to use surnames.

The name 'Shreibman' means 'writer', or 'scribe', and we can assume that the first use of the name would be a reference to that person's occupation. Was Girsh the first 'Shreibman' in our family? Or his father Movsha, perhaps? Or were they from a line of scribes maybe, who were already being referred to as such before the formal adoption of surnames?

Notice also the given names, repeated across the generations, usually at one remove:
Movsha (b abt 1740) - Hirsh (1766) - Movsha Dovid (1798) - Hirsh (1827).

There was  - maybe there still is - a tradition amongst Ashkenazi Jews of naming children after deceased relatives, especially recently deceased close relatives such as grandparents, and although we don't know the dates of death of these Shreibmans, we can see the pattern in their names.  

Another of Movsha Dovid's sons was Nevakh, or Noah. Nevakh used 'Dovid' and 'Movsha' for two of his own sons. And then this latest Movsha - my grandfather - named his first son - my father - David. And although my parents were not observant Jews, they continued with the tradition: my Hebrew given name, so they told me, is 'Moishe'.

You can see this pattern of naming in the revised version of the family tree.

So, Movsha Shreibman the First, born around 1740 - welcome to the family!

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