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What's in a Name?


What IS in a name? We all remember learning this famous line in high school English, written by Shakespeare, uttered by Juliet Capulet, after she learns that she has fallen for Romeo, the son of Montague, her family’s sworn enemy. Juliet, most likely, was not into genealogy. If she was, she would then know that a name could mean the difference between “this is my guy” and “this is NOT my guy.”

Case in point: in my post, Finding the Fraimans, I noted that my contacts in the Fraiman family informed me that their great grandfather’s name was Mendel Fraiman. The documentation I found on FamilySearch.org was for Max Fraiman. Max, not Mendel. What I have here is conflicting evidence which needs to be resolved, according to the Genealogical Proof Standard (GPS), before I can claim Max Fraiman to be “my guy.”

Many immigrants who came to the United States, especially those from non-English speaking countries, were known to assume more American-sounding names. Jews, fleeing the discrimination they faced in Eastern Europe and the forced conscription into the army of the Tsar, were even more-so eager to “fit in.” In the late 19th century, my maternal great grandmother and her parents left Kovno (now known as Kaunas, in Lithuania) and immigrated to Jersey City, New Jersey. My second great grandfather, Yussel Wilkimirsky, like many others, preceded his family to America, to earn money for their passage. In fact, he made multiple trips back to Kovno, before my great grandmother and her mother joined him. During one of his visits back to Kovno, he surprised his family by telling them that in America, he was known as Joseph Friedman. According to my grandmother, Bessie Waldman, Yussel told his family, “In America, he [Yussel] was a free man. The inspector at the immigration center had advised him to change his name [to Freedman] and he [Yussel] had never regretted [changing] it [from Wilkimirsky to Friedman].” [See End Note #1]

I plan to write more about the Wilkimirsky-Friedman family in future posts.

Meanwhile, back to the “Max” vs. “Mendel” issue. In my earlier post, I did not mention that I had questioned my Fraiman family contact, Yedidya Fraiman, Mendel’s great grandson, about the name discrepancy. Since I had the 1910 census [see End Note #2], I knew the names of Max’s children and was able to ask him about his grandfather’s brothers and sister.

Here is how the conversation, conducted via an exchange of email messages [see End Note #3] went:

Me: “I was able to find (from FamilySearch.org) Max Fraiman and his family in the 1910 census, which I have attached to this email. Family Search also has an index for his death, listed as 2 March 1920. His father's name is given as Philip Fraiman (this would fit with Fayvish, IMHO) and his mother is named as Rachel. Do the children's' names fit your family? Thanks!”

Yedidya Fraiman: “Pretty amazing coincidence. My English name is Philip. I don't think my parents knew anything about my father's great-grandfather (or at least never mentioned it), but I'll ask.”

Me: “Are the names Hyman, David, Jacob, Rose (and Fannie, Max's wife) familiar to you???”

Yedidya: “My great aunt (i.e., my father's father's sister) was named Rose.”

Me: “What was your grandfather's name?”

Yedidya: “Herbert (I don't know his Hebrew name, as he emphasized his American-ness - but it may have been Chaim (not sure)”

While I am still not absolutely sure that Max is indeed “my guy,” this is another piece that fits fairly well into the narrative that Max or Mendel Fraiman was the brother of my great grandmother, Shayna Fraiman Zabitz. I will continue to evaluate this information in context with the rest of the data I have collected. Thank you for reading! Comments, criticism, and correction of fact always welcome.

End Notes:

#1 Bess Waldman, The Book of Tziril: A Family Chronicle (New York, New York: Adama Books, Second Edition 1988), page 101.

#2 "United States Census, 1910," database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/M5QR-5GS : 29 October 2015), Max Fraiman, Manhattan Ward 7, New York, New York, United States; citing enumeration district (ED) ED 85, sheet 1B, NARA microfilm publication T624 (Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.); FHL microfilm 1,375,021.

#3 Yedidya Fraiman, on 7 August 2016, to Barbara Zabitz, email with the subject line: “Cousins?”, privately held by Barbara Zabitz, Oak Park, Michigan

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