The genealogy of Mordechai Margolis of Kalwarija, Lithuania has been researched in depth by Dr. Neil Rosenstein in his out-of-print book The Margolis Family (1984). Update: This book is now available in digital form at Center for Jewish History Digital Collections (350 MB download).
Ironically, my family did not have a copy of this book and I finally managed to get my hands on it after I had recreated a lot of Dr. Rosenstein's research myself through Ancestry, JewishGen, Landsmen, family stories, and other sources on the Internet. The online Frankel graves in the Hebrew Cemetery in Peoria Illinois, the Polish records online on JewishGen, and several books about notable Jewish businessmen in the late 19th century on Google Books were amazing resources. And I cannot say enough good things about the socio-cultural history of Suwalk-Lomza that one learns from subscribing to the Landsmen. You need to situate yourself in the culture and time to understand marriages and migrations.
Geni was the impetus for me [Hatte Rubenstein Blejer] to discover my Margolis roots and connect with many Margolis, Frankel and other cousins. We've brought together on Geni descendants of most of the children of Mordechai Margolis and Hinde Bas Dov Ber Margolis. In fact, a number of us are the descendants of multiple children of Mordechai and Hinde Bas Dov Ber, due to cousin marriages. In at least one case, one branch of our family may be descended from three of their children.
Dr. Rosenstein's most famous book, The Unbroken Chain, traces the Katzellenbogen rabbinical line of which the Margolis family is a branch. The fact that I am here on Geni and sought and brought together my cousins -- Frankel, Margolis, Margolis-Kalwaryiski (Simon, Gal), Schoolberg (Halsan, Tweedy), Zirilstein (McElhinny), Rosenberg (Loeb), Levin (Scherr), Mishkowsky (Mishkoff), Levitin (Leider), Zox, Katz, and others -- is a tribute to an unbroken chain in our family, that was passed to me in family stories by my "Baba" and (great) Aunt Janet, of Peoria, Illinois, the daughters of Harry Frankel and Hattie Bramson Frankel of Przerosl, Suwalki, Poland, and great granddaughters of Mordechai Margolis and Hinde Bas Dov Ber Margolis.
I have to add a personal note here. I am the daughter of a Reform Jewish man and a Mayflower descendant mother. My father passed away when I was eight years old. I find it amazing that I went on to be a student and scholar of Hebrew, Arabic and other Semitic and related languages; and to live in Jerusalem, Israel where I met my husband and decided that I wanted to return to my grandparents' Jewish roots. It's almost as if my blood impelled me, considering the many respected philologists, Semitic scholars, and rabbis I am descended from. And yet, I only learned of my ancestors decades after I was drawn to Hebrew, Semitic languages, and Jerusalem. Similarly, my cousin, Linda Eve Frankel, fell in love with Italy and only learned decades later about her ancestor Rabbi Meir Katzellenbogen, Chief Rabbi of Padua.
The BESHT (the Baal Shem Tov) testified to three families of pure lineage in the Jewish nation: Rappaport, who are Kohanim; Horowitz, who are Levites; and Shapiro, who are Israelites. Another reading states the family name Margaliot, in place of Shapiro.
...between 60 and 80 old rabbinic families ... are the ancestors of all of the Ashkenazic Jewish families of today... listed here... Among these families, there are 'weak' and there are 'strong' families. Strong families I call those families who had numerous children, married into many other families, produced many scholars and rabbis, were rooted in the community, and preserved their names... A short list of these 'strong' families would include Katzenellenbogen, Margolis / Margaliot, Horowitz-Segal, Shapiro, Rappaport, Frankel, Ashkenazi, Katz-Cohen, Ginzberg, Jaffe, Halperin, Halevi, Landau, Lipshitz, Zack-Zackheim, and Brode. The genealogical ancestry of these families dates between the 10th and 15th centuries, and even before.
Our Margolis family did indeed marry into other rabbinical families including the Katzenellenbogen, Horowitz, Luria, Spira/Shapira, Treves, Epstein, and others, as detailed below.
Polish Spelling and Pronunciation
- "j" is the Polish spelling for the sound "y" (Lejb, Kalvarija, Szejna)
- "v" is the Polish spelling for the sound "w" (Kalvarija)
- "sz" is the Polish spelling for the sound "sh" (Myszkowski, Gersz, Eliasz, Szterling, Golsztok, Szejna)
- "sl" is the transliteration of an "l" sound that English doesn't have (Przerosl)
- "g" is the Polish spelling for "h" (Ginda, Gersz)
I am sometimes inconsistent in whether I use the transliteration from Polish or the English equivalent or the contemporary English or even the Hebrew. For example, Icko is what one finds as the transliteration of the Polish version of the name "Yitzkhak" in Hebrew, "Issac" in English. In the records, you find either "ts" or "c" for the sound in the Polish Yiddish nickname for Betzalel: Calko or Tsalko. While I know Hebrew, I don't know Polish, nor am I an expert in Polish Yiddish and certainly not in Lithuanian Yiddish, so bear with me and email me with any questions.
Children of Mordechai Margolis and Hinde Bas Dov Ber
- Elijah (b. c. 1807) married Sarah daughter of Zorach LNU
- Judah Leib (b. 1798) married Badana Myszkowsky, daughter of Judah Myszkowski
- Sulka (b. c. 1800) married Reb Chaim Ber Sterling
- Kaila (b. c. 1810) married David Aryeh Leib Bernstein (later Zirilstein)
- Jacob (b. c. 1812) married Rochla Bardin who was the daughter of Eliyahu Bardin of Baklerove and a possible descendant of the Vilna Gaon
- Abraham (b. c. 1820) wife's name UNK
- Zvi Hirsch (b. c. 1810) married Anna Rosa LNU
Marriages Between Cousins
I am a descendant of eldest son, Judah Leib, through two of his children. This is standard for our family to be descended from several siblings, as many as three even. His daughter, Eva (Chava) Margolis is my great great grandmother. She married Joseph (Josel) Frankel. Less is known about the Frankel family's genealogy, but recent research both traditional genealogical and confirming DNA testing has confirmed that the Frankel family was from Ratnycia, Trakai, Lithuania, a small town associated with Merkine (Merecz), Lithuania. See the related project on the Frankel Family of Ratnycia on Geni.
I am also a descendant of Judah Leib's son, Issac, who is my great great great grandfather. His granddaughter, Hattie Bramson (named Bodana for her paternal grandmother Badana Myszkowsky) married the son of Chava Margolis, Harry (Elias Hirsch) Frankel.
List of Cousin Marriages (Work in Progress!! Will be a large list.)
- Harry Frankel and Hattie Bramson
- Judah Leib Margolis and Basha Leah Margolis
- Issac Margolis and Hinde Bernstein
Common Given Names
Harry and Hattie Frankel are my great grandparents. I am named (Hatte, Hebrew name Chava) for Hattie Bramson Frankel and her mother-in-law, Chava (Eva) Margolis, as well as for my WASP great grandmother Hattie Hawley Stowe. As in most Jewish families, given names repeat and are an excellent clue to lineage, when other clues are also present. According to my cousin Linda Eve Frankel (also named for Chava Margolis Frankel I believe) and according to my memories, some people called Chava Margolis Frankel, Hattie as well. She did not come to the United States until she was over 70 years old and the Census records show her as Eva Frankel, living with Ida Zox (her daughter) and family in Illinois. The stained glass windows in the Huntington, West Virginia synagogue that are in memory of Abe H (A.H.) Frankel's paternal grandparents memorialize her as "Hattie Frankel".
Names that repeat: Zvi Hirsch/Harry, Issac, Elijah/Elias, Hinde, Mordechai/Marcus/Max, Joseph, Eve (Chava), Hattie, Badana/Bodana, Abraham/Abe, Judah Leib/Leo, Asher, Charles (Calko), Sulka (Sola/Sophie), Kaila, Bertha (Bashka).
For example Mordechai and Hinde Margolis' children included: Elijah, Kaila, Judah Leib, Zvi Hirsch, Jankel (Jacob), Abraham and Sulka.
Judah Leib and Badana's children included: Asher, Zvi Hirsch, Issac, Moses Dov Ber, Chaim, and Bashka.
Joseph Frankel and Chava Margolis Frankel's children included: Judah, Leib, Elias (Elijah) Hirsch, Issac, Charles (Betzalel/Calko), Hinde (Ida), Mordechai (died in infancy).
Ancestors whose names repeat for several generations:
- Moses Dov Ber - Mordechai Margolis' father-in-law
- Mordechai - Mordechai Margolis and his grandfather and many many descendants named Mordechai/Max/Marcus/Marx
- Elijah (Eliahu, Elias) - Mordechai Margolis' son and Mordechai Margolis' grandson Hirsch Elias
- Abraham - Josel Frankel's father and his grandson, Abe Frankel
- Judah Leib - Judah ben Betzalel Loew Maharal of Prague and Chaim Judah Leib (Mordechai Margolis' uncle), and Judah Leib Margolis' grandsons Joseph (Judah) Frankel of Iowa and Julius (Leib) of Peoria
- Hinde - Mordechai Margolis' wife, Hinde Bas Dov Ber and Hinde Horowitz, Mordechai Margolis' 5th great grandmother, wife of Meir Wahl Katzenellenbogen, Hinde Bernstein (Kaila Margolis' daughter), Hinde Frankel (Chava Margolis' daughter)
- Zvi Hirsch - Mordechai Margolis' cousin Rabbi Zvi Hirsch Levin(e) of Virbalis and Charleston and Baltimore, Elias Hirsch Frankel, Zvi Hirsch (Judah Leib's son)
- Asher - Mordechai Margolis' uncle, brother of Samuel Margolis, and Judah Leib's son, Asher, father of the Dayton Margolis family
- Issac - Elijah and Judah Leib both had sons named Icko (Yitzkhak)
- Badana - Badana Myshkowsky
- Calko - Betzalel Loew, Josel Frankel's grandfather Tsalko Frankel
- Shmuel R' Shmuel Schick, Mordechai Margolis' great grandfather and Shmuel Margolis, Mordechai Margolis' father
- Sulka/Sola - Sulka Margolis, Judah Leib Margolis' sister
The history of the Margolis family in the early 19th century is the social history of Suwalki and Lithuania Jewish life and culture.
Where did the Margolis Family Come From?
The family of Mordechai Margolis was from Kalwarija, Lithuania although my branch settled in nearby Przerosl, Suwalki region, now in Poland. The general area that the family lived in in the early 19th century was the Suwalki region. My hypothesis is that they had moved eastward over the centuries, and may have lived as far east as in Vilna and the surrounding area. One of the teachers of the Vilna Gaon was a Margolis (Moses Margolis) and may have been an ancestor of Mordechai Margolis. As to the relationship of this Margolis family with another, well documented, Margolis family, the exact relationship has not been discovered. The dates and names work however for the teacher of the child prodigy to be Mordechai Margolis' grandfather.
Notable Ancestors and Relatives
[If you want to know how you are related to some of our prominent ancestors, click on the relationship button at the top of their profile if you are a Pro member, if not, email me and ask.]
As mentioned in the overview, rabbinical families intermarried extensively and our Margolis family is thus related to a number of the prominent rabbinical families of Europe. You will find the names of the following rabbinical families below: Heller, Loew, Luria, Treves, Horowitz, Katzenellenbogen, haLevi Segal, Schick, Spira/Shapira.
Rabbi Samuel Zalman [First of the Shapira's: of Speyer] Shapira was his 11th great grandfather.
Mordechai Margolis' 7th great grandfather, Rabbi Moshe Heller-Wallerstein was the Chief Rabbi of Germany. His son, Avraham haLevi Frankel Heller-Wallerstein was the son-in-law of Rabbi Yehuda ben Betzalel Loew, the Maharal of Prague.
Moshe Heller-Wallerstein's son Nathan haLevi Heller-Wallerstein was the father of Mordechai Margolis' 5th great grandfather, Rabbi Yom Tov Lipmann haLevi Heller.
Mordechai Margolis' 7th great grandmother, wife of Rabbi David Drucker, was the sister of Moshe Isserles, the ReMa and the mother of Devorah Rivkah.
Devorah Rivkah and Saul Wahl "King for a Day" Katzenellenbogen were Mordechai Margolis' 6th great grandparents.
Also Mordechai Margolis' 6th grandparents were Rabbi Pinchas Horowitz and Miriam Isserles, sister of Rabbi Moshe Isserles, the ReMa.
The Katzenellebogen family were united with the Horowitz family in the marriage of Mordechai Margolis' 5th great grandparents: Pinchas and Miriam Horowitz's daughter, Hinde Horowitz and Meir Wahl Katzenellenbogen.
Sarah Klauzner, granddaughter of the sister of Rabbi Yehuda ben Betzalel Loew, the Maharal of Prague, and wife of Moses Wahl Katzenallenbogen, was Mordechai Margolis' 4rd great grandmother.
His 3rd great grandparents were Moses Wahl's daughter, Chana Katzenellenbogen, and Nathan haLevi Segal, who was the grandson of Rabbi Yom Tov Lipmann haLevi Heller
- Rabbi Meir Katzenellenbogen / רבי מאיר קצנלנבוגן Maharam of Padua
- Rabbi Yom Tov Lipmann HaLevi Heller "Tosfot Yom Tov"
- Rabbi Yehuda (Judah) ben Bezalel Loew Maharal of Prague
- Rabbi Shmuel Shmelke Horowitz Av Beit Din (Chief Rabbi) of Nikolsburg
- Rabbi Yishayahu ben Moshe Asher haLevi Horowitz
- Rabbi Moshe ben Israel Isserles, the ReMa
- Rabbi Moshe haLevi Heller-Wallerstein Chief Rabbi of Germany
- Matityahu II Treves, Chief Rabbi of France
- Rabbi Shmuel Schick of Pruzhany
- HaRav Shmuel of Speyer, the ancestor of the Shapira Family
- Rabbi Aharon Luria the 1st Luria
Mordechai Margolis' ancestors were all rabbis or wives or sisters of rabbis. The Margolis (Margaliot) can reportedly be traced to Spain. Certainly families they married into, such as the Horowitz and Epstein, can be traced to Spain. Rabbi Meir Katzenellenbogen was both the Chief Rabbi of Padua and of Venice in the 16th century. We can trace our family's movement eastward by looking at where each subsequent generation served as rabbis and lived, died, and raised a family.
Rabbi Meir Katzenellenbogen / רבי מאיר קצנלנבוגן Maharam of Padua was the 8th great grandfather of Mordechai Margolis, as follows:
- His 8th ggf, Rabbi Meir Katzenellenbogen / רבי מאיר קצנלנבוגן Maharam of Padua who died and is buried in Padua, Italy.
- His 7th ggf, R' Meir's son Rabbi Shmuel Yehuda Katzenellenbogen-Mintz / שמואל יהודה קצנלנבוגן who lived and died also in Padua, Italy.
- His 6th ggf, R' Shmuel's son Saul Wahl Katzenellenbogen (1 day King) / שאול ואהל-קצנלנבוגן who was born in Padua, Italy but lived and died in Brest, Belarus.
- His 5th ggf, R' Saul Wahl's son Meir (Meier) Wahl Katzenellenbogen, הרב מאיר ואהל קצנלנבוגן, also known as Meir Shauls and MAHARASH, was a Polish rabbi. At the beginning of his rabbinical career, Wahl was the Av Beit Din at Tykocin, Poland, later moving on to the Av Beit Din position of Brest, Belarus. He was integral in the formation of the Council of the Land of Lithuania in 1623, the controlling legal body for the Jews of Lithuania
- His 4th ggf, R' Meir Wahl's son Moses Wahl Katzenallenbogen, משה קצנלנבוגן
- His 3rd ggm, R' Moses Wahl's daughter Chana Segal
- His 2nd ggf, Chana Segal's son Moshe Halevi Segal/Heller
- His ggm, Moshe Halevi Segal/Heller's daughter Nissel Schick, ניסעל שיק, married to R' Shmuel (Samuel) Schick, rabbi in Pruzhany, 45 miles NE of Brest.
- His grandmother, Nissel Schick's daughter Mrs. Mordechai Margolis
- His father, R' Shmuel Margolis
- Himself: Mordechai Margolis of Kalwarija, Lithuania
Interestingly, probably coincidentally, Bezalel is a common Frankel family name and of course Judah is a Margolis family name.
Rabbinical posts in 19th century Lithuanian held by Margolis family
Mordechai Margolis' son, Elijah Margolis, was rabbi in Przerosl, Radun, Rokishok and probably Wizhajny. His son, Isaac, born in Merkine, was rabbi in Druskininkai (which neighbored Ratnycia where the Frankel family was from) and subsequently rabbi of the Congregation Anshe-Kalvariya, New York. His son Mordechai was head of the rabbinical court in Alexota and rabbi in Disna. His son Asher ("Isser") was rabbi in Rokishok.
Suwalki-Lomza Socio-Cultural Patterns in the 19th Century
The history of the Margolis family in the early 19th century is the social history of Suwalki and Lithuania Jewish life and culture. Cousin marriage is rampant among the Margolis and Frankel families. There is early emigration -- to South Carolina, Illinois and Iowa. There is a family branch in England and one in Sweden, whose descendants can be found in England/France and Denmark/U.S. respectively. There are sparse records, especially for my Kalwarija ancestors. There are innumerable marriages with other Suwalki and Lithuania families both in Europe and in the U.S. – Abramsky, Bardin, Bernstein (Zirilstein), Bramson, Brody, Bryman, Epstein, Ginsberg, Goldstok, Hirschhorn, Rosenberg, Schiff, Schilobolsky (Jacobson), Schoolberg (Shoolberg, Scofield), Starling (Sterling), Triwasch (Travis), Visanska (Wishanski), Wallk (Vilkowski), Wistynietsky, Zox (Zaks, Zax).
We can learn a lot about the culture and marriages in that era and that region from the families the Margolis family intermarried with and where those families were from. Similarly, their immigration and professional patterns exemplify the history of Eastern European Jewish immigration of educated, well off families in the late 19th century.
Shifra Margolis, daughter of Judah Leib and Badana Margolis married Jacob Schilobolsky, of Wizajny, Suwalki. The children changed their name to Jacobson (after their father's given name Jacob) in the United States. Shifra Margolis' son, Judah Joseph Jacobson (named for his paternal grandfather Judah Leib Margolis I assume), was a candy distributor.
Shifra Margolis Schilobolsky's daughter, Dvora Jacobson, married Moyshe Zundel Triwasch (later changed to Travis) and they settled in Mariampole. Their son Sam Triwasch (Travis) settled in Chicago like his older brothers. Sam and his wife Doris Travis, had a daughter Elaine (Sunny) Travis Gordon, who has written an online history of famous Mariampolers.
Ida (Hinde, named for Hinde Ber Margolis her grandmother) Frankel, daugher of Joseph and Chava Frankel, married Leyzer (Lewis) Zox or Zax.
Issac Margolis, son of Judah Leib and Badana, married Reszka Goldstok (Goldstek, Goldsteg) of Raigrod.
Szeyna Margolis, daughter of Issac and Reszka Margolis, married Szaya (Isiah) Bramson of Szczuczyn. Their daughter, Hattie (Bodana) Bramson married her cousin Harry Frankel. The Bramsons settled in Ohio and in Israel.
Rabbi Zvi Hirsch Harry Levine was Mordechai Margolis' nephew, son of his brother, Haim Judah Leib Margolis. Rabbi Levine married Esther Winstock of Virbalis. She was the daughter of Sara Friedlander Winstock, whose maternal grandfather was the Vilna Gaon.
About Rabbi Levine: "Born in 1807, son of Chaim Laib and Soreh Margolis, Levine was one of the first trrained and ordained rabbis to come to America. His notebook demonstrates an excellent command of Hebrew and a high degree of learning. Hirsch Zvi was instructed first by his father, a descendant of a long line of rabbis and learned teachers, including Rabbi Yomtov Lipman Heller (1579 - 1654), the famous "Tosfos Yomtov," who produced a well-known commentary and other works, and led the Jewish communities of Prague, Vienna, and Krakow. Soon after his marriage the young Margolis attended a Lithuanian yeshivah (school for Talmudic study), received his semikhah (ordination), and settled in his wife's hometown of Wirbalin."
There is the adoption of a cousin's child, also from a rabbinical family, by Yosel Frankel and Chava Margolis' daughter Rochla Leah Frankel Bryman. Her daughter, Masha (Mashke) Bryman Abramsky, was apparently born a Winograd (Horowitz), the third great granddaughter of Rabbi Shmuel Shmelke Horowitz.
- Shmuel Horowitz, Shmelka MiNikelsburg
- his son Jacob Horowitz
- his son Isaac Horowitz
- his son Moses HOROWITZ (WINOGRAD)
- his son Samuel WINOGRAD
- his daughter Masha WINOGRAD who became Masha Bryman and later married Nissan Abramsky. Masha Bryman Abramsky died in the Holocaust.
Notable Members of the Margolis and Frankel Families
- David Tebele Efrati, author of Toldot Anshei Shem, Warsaw, 1875. One of the earliest nineteenth century rabbinical genealogies. He records his major ancestral lines: Yehuda Yesod of Vilna, Yom Tov Heller Tosfot Yom Tov, Yehudah Leib Maharal of Prague, Moshe Kremer of Vilna, and Shaul Wahl-Katzenellenbogen. He traces their descendants, including: Ashkenazi, Berlin, Efrati, Eizenstadt, Eliasberg, Eliash, Epstein, Gaon of Vilna, Gunzburg, Heller, Horowitz, Katz, Katzenellenbogen, Klausner, Landau, Levin, Lipshutz, Luria, Maharal of Prague, Mirels, Rapaport, Ratner, Rivlin, Simchovitch, Shapira, Shick, Shneurson, Teumim, Vitkind, and Zukerman.
Migration and Immigration Patterns
As for their immigration patterns, the earliest Margolis family members to immigrate to the U.S. settled in Charleston, South Carolina. The majority ended up in Illinois and Ohio, with a few in Philadephia and New York.
Rabbi Zvi Hirsch Harry Levin(e) an early immigrant to Charleston, South Carolina, who studied in Virbalis, was born a Margolis-Kalwaryski. Rabbi Levine was the nephew of Mordechai Margolis, son of his brother Haim Judah Leib. From the name, it appears that Haim Judah Leib died young, since Mordechai named his eldest son Judah Leib. The Rosenberg, Visanska, Winstock and Levin(e) families of Abbeville, South Carolina are distant relatives. The Levin(e) family moved to Baltimore while Rabbi Levine was still living. The Frankel and Wallk (Vilkowski?) families of Peoria and the huge Margolis family of Dayton are closer relatives, as is the Schiff family, the Zox family of Columbus and the Mishkoff (Myszkowsky) family. See the project on Przerosl for a list of the small number of Jewish families living in this town. I strongly suspect that my Wallk relatives from Peoria (my great Aunt Janet married Meyer Wallk) were immigrants from Przerosl (the Vilkowski family), given the very close relationship and multiple intermarriages of the Wallk and Frankel families.
(It turns out that the Visanska family is in fact from the same branch of the Katzenellenbogen family. We are descendants of Moshe Katzenellenbogen's daughter Hanale Heller (Katzenellenbogen) whereas the Visanska are descendants of Moshe Katzenellenbogen's son Pinchas)
Looking for the family of my Frankel great great grandfather, I found in the Landsmen journal my Margolis ancestors recorded moving from town to town as they took positions as rabbis, studied in yeshivas, or married – Radun, Virbalis, Veiseijai, Sejny, Augustow, Przerosl, Filipow, Rakishok, Baklerowe, and Balbieriskis. In response to my Family Finder ad in the Landsmen, Marlene Silverman pointed out that my third great grandmother, Badana Myszkowsky Margolis, was widowed early and re-married her relative, Abram son of Izrael Epstein of Baklerowe. I realized that our marriages allied us with families far from Kalwarija and Przerosl. My gg grandmother was Badana (Hattie) Bramson, also a cousin of her husband, Eliasz Gersz Frankel. (Her grandfather and his mother were siblings.) The Bramsons were from Szczuczyn. My third great grandmother, grandmother of Hattie Bramson, was Rajsza Goldstok, likely from Raigrod.
Armed with a good sense of Suwalk-Lomza geography, families, and cultural patterns, I set out to find my Frankel great great grandfather’s origins. My great great grandparents were Josel ben Abram Frankel and Chava (Eva) Margolis. I have conclusive evidence now that Josel Frankel's family was from Ratnycia, Trakai District, Lithuania, which is associated with and close to Merkine (Meretch, Merecz). Chava (Eva) Margolis was born circa 1835 in Przerosl, Suwalki, daughter of Judah Leib Margolis and Badana Myszkowsky. Judah Leib Margolis (b. 1799 Kalwarija, Lithuania) was the son of Mordechai Margolis (b. 1780 Kalwarija, Lithuania). The family name was often Margolis-Kalwaryski or just Kalwaryski ("from Kalwariya"). Although the family had a Hebrew appellation, there were not surnames in Lithuania until the early 1800s, when people took surnames of several types:
- name of town of origin (Kalwaryski)
- name of father (patronymic, Abramsky, Bramson, Isserles, Jacobson)
- name of occupation (Blecher/Blejer from "tinsmith" in Yiddish)
- older appellation (Margolis from Margalit "pearl" in Hebrew, Frankel, Levin from "haLevi" in Hebrew)
Among the given names that repeat in our Frankel family for generations starting in Lithuania are Joseph (Josel), Leo/Louis (Leib) Charles (Tsalko, Betzalel), Abe (Abram, Avraham), Harry (Hirsch), and Janet (Gena). These were the names of the Ratnycia Frankel family, which is why originally decided that this Frankel family might be Josel Frankel's relatives and ancestors.
My great great grandfather Josel Frankel had a cousin Joseph Frankel who emigrated to New York City whose daughter Rosa Frankel married his son Charles (Calko) Frankel. Another cousin, Hirsch Frankel, had a son Leo (Leib) Charles FRANKEL who married Josel and Chava’s daughter Rebecca Frankel and settled in Philadelphia.
I traced my Frankel ancestors to Ratnycia and Merkine from the 1834 and 1858 Lithuanian Revision Lists. The dates and given names match. Josel Frankel of Merkine was born c. 1838 to Abram (b. c. 1817) and Leah Rosinsky. Abram was the son of Tsalko (b. c. 1796) the son of Leyba (b. c. 1771) the son of Ephroim (another common Frankel given name).
Another supporting fact is that the Margolis family has close connections with Merkine. My great great grandmother’s cousin, Rabbi Issac Margolis of Kalvarija moved to Merkine, to marry his cousin, Hinde Bernstein, daughter of Kaila Margolis and David Aryeh Lejb Bernstein. Rabbi Issac’s father, Rabbi Elijah Margolis was rabbi of Przerosl, Radun, Veijeisai, and Rakishok. Judah Lejb, Kaila, and Elijah were siblings. Another sibling was Jankiel, who Marlene Silverman of Landsmen pointed out married into the Bardin family of Baklerowe. Once you realize how marriages and rabbinical posts connect somewhat remote towns in our region, you start to understand how my orphaned great great grandmother, Chava Margolis, might be matched with a boy from Merkine. It would be interesting to know whether Chava Margolis’ step-father Abram ben Izrael Epstein of Bakerlowe had a connection to Merkine. My third great grandfather, Judah Lejb, died when my gg grandmother was 2 years old. Who determines the bridegroom when the father is deceased -- the step-father or the aunts and uncles (Elijah and Kaila, Judah Leib's younger siblings)?
Mordechai Margolis and Hinde Bas Ber's children followed paths that provide insight into their time and which allied them with other families of the region.
- Elijah (Eliyahu) was a respected rabbi in various Suwalki and Lithuanian towns. His son and grandsons would also be well-known rabbis and Hebrew scholars. His son, Issac, became the rabbi of Congregation Anshei Kalwariya in NYC. Issac's son, Max Leopold Margolis, was a renown Hebrew scholar in the U.S.
- Judah Leib died young and his widow remarried Abram Epstein, a member of the prominent Epstein family of Suwalki. Many of his descendants settled in the Midwest, in Ohio and Illinois. They intermarried with the Wistnynietzky, Schilobolsky (later Jacobson), Frankel, and Bramson families. A few of his descendants live in Israel (Abramsky, Margolis-Kalwariyski, Bramson and their descendants). One of Judah Leib's descendants was the founder of Hillel, Rabbi Benjamin Frankel, who died at age 29. Another. Haim Margolis-Kalwariyski immigrated to Palestine in the First Aliyah as an agriculturalist and teacher of agriculture. He was the founder of Tel Hai in Israel, and was, a well known early proponent of Jewish - Arab co-existence in the early 20th century.
- Abraham remained in Kalwariya but his descendants settled in Sweden, Denmark, and the U.S. again predominantly in the Midwest. Some of his descendants live today still in Denmark.
- Kaila Margolis Bernstein's daughter, Hinde Bernstein, married her first cousin, Issac Margolis, son of Elijah Margolis. They lived in Merkine (Merecz) where their son, Max Leopold Margolis was born. One of Kaila's daughters, Ida settled in England with her husband Aaron Schoolberg (or Shoolberg).
- Sulka Margolis Sterling's descendants are less well documented but it appears that two of her daughters married a Margolis cousin, as was the custom. Another daughter married a Henigson.
- Jacob moved to Baklerove where his wife's father, Elias Bardin, was the rabbi. Rosenstein documents one son, Mordechai born in 1846. Chaim Freedman in Eliyahu's Branches documents both the son, Mordechai and a daughter Sulka Klinkoswstein born 1849.
- Zvi Hirsch is the ancestor of the Rosenbergs of South Carolina who married other early Jewish immigrants - Winstock and Visanska. In addition to three Rosenberg brothers, the famous rabbi Zvi Hirsch Levine, who was apparently this Zvi Hirsch's uncle, also was an early Jewish immigrant to South Carolina.
In 1929, Harry Frankel sailed to Europe with his daughter, Janet, his sister-in-law Bertha Finkel Frankel, wife of his brother, Issac, and Bertha's son Abraham H ("A.H.") Frankel. I heard about the trip from my (great) Aunt Janet. Then I met the Israeli Bramson relatives who had escaped Przerosl, Poland before the Holocaust, leaving behind their parents. They told me that visit was the last time they saw my great grandfather and my Aunt Janet. I found the great ocean liner's records on Ancestry in 2009, which confirmed my memories. In 2010 I met my cousin, Linda Eve Frankel, A.H.'s granddaughter and she too knew about "The Trip". In fact, she had a photo postcard of three young Jewish cousins, Aunt Janet, A.H., and an unidentified cousin (from the family resemblance) dressed very fashionably, linked arm in arm walking down the street in Berlin, where they stopped on their way to Przerosl I presume. Linda Eve recently found online a recording of the orchestra of the cruise ship playing dance music from that era and the menu from some gala dinner on the ship. And she found A.H.'s very terse diary of the trip. We plan to put all these items on Geni (links and photos) associated with this project.
Family Who Stayed in Eastern Europe
The Abramsky family stayed in Przerosl, including Nissan Abramsky and his wife, Mashke Bryman Abramsky, the daughter of Rocha Leah Margolis and Leyzar Bryman. Several of their sons emigrated to Palestine.
Where the Margolis Family Lived in Europe
As a rabbinical family, our path appears to have followed the path of the Jews in Europe and our notable ancestors served as Chief Rabbi or Av Beit Din (head of the rabbinical court) and were prominent rabbis in the centers of Jewish life of their era, such as Cordoba, Padua, Vienna, Prague, Krakow, and Brest-Litvosk.
The earliest ancestor with the surname Margolis that is documented currently is Mordechai Margolis' grandfather. In hypothesizing where the Margolis family lived, I have relied upon the movements of the other rabbinical families with whom we formed marital alliances over the centuries.
Golden Age of Spain. Roughly speaking, our ancestors are seen in Spain in the Golden Age, during the Muslim rule of the Iberian Peninsula (711–1492), when Jews were generally accepted in society and Jewish religious, cultural, and economic life blossomed. The major Jewish presence in Iberia continued until the Jews were forcibly expelled en masse pursuant to the edict of expulsion by Christian Spain in 1492. Rabbi Shmuel Hanagid for example is an ancestor of Mordechai Margolis who was a Talmudic scholar, grammarian, philologist, poet, warrior, and statesman (born 993 - died after 1056), born in Mérida and lived in Córdoba and Granada.
Germany, France, Italy, Austria, Bohemia. In the 15th and 16th centuries, having left Spain, our ancestors lived in Western Europe first and gradually moved eastward, as they encountered persecution in Western Europe and opportunity in the East. The Katzenellenbogen family took their name from an estate in Germany, but lived in Italy in the 16th century, in Padua, where our ancestor Rabbi Meir Katzenellenbogen / רבי מאיר קצנלנבוגן Maharam of Padua. Rabbi Meir was born around 1480. In his youth, Meir and his parents moved to Prague, where he studied under the well known Rabbi and Talmudist Jakob Pollak. In his twenties he moved to Padua to further his studies, seemingly because R. Polak moved to Krakow in 1506. Padua (Venetian Republic) was the seat of a famous academy of Jewish learning and its Jews were of high social standing, renowned for their learning and wealth. On his arrival R. Meir entered the Yeshiva of the most prominent Rabbi of his day, Rabbi Yehuda HaLevi Minz, whose granddaughter he married. He succeeded his father-in-law, Abraham Minz, in the chief rabbinate of Padua, which office he held until his death in 1565. He was also nominally rabbi in Venice, where he went several times a year.
Rabbi Meir's wife's grandfather and our ancestor, Rabbi Yehuda HaLevi Minz, was from a rabbinical family from Mayence (Mainz). According to the Jewish Encyclopedia, "the descendants of this alliance between the Minz and Katzenellenbogen families emigrated afterward to Germany and then to Russia..."
Our more distant ancestors lived in Germany and in France in the late 14th and early 15th century. Rabbi Aharon Luria (the First Luria), רבי אהרון לוריא, born in Worms and Chief Rabbi in Alsace, was Mordechai Margolis' 10th great grandfather. He was the founder of the Luria line of learned leaders and married Miriam Spira/Shapira (1403-1450), also known for being a learned person, whose mother was from the Treves family. Her grandfather, Mordechai Margolis' 12th great grandfather was Matityahu (III) Treves, Chief Rabbi of Paris, of France, and of Marseilles.
We are direct descendants of the sister of Rabbi Yehuda ben Bezalel Loew Maharal of Prague. Talmudist, Kabbalist, chief rabbi of Prague. Popularly known as the "MaHaRaL", the abbreviation of "Moreinu Harav Rabbi Loew" ("Our teacher Rabbi Loew"). The Maharal of Prague was a towering giant in Torah and Kabbalah and a leader of European Jewry during the sixteenth century. Within the world of Torah and Talmudic scholarship, he is known for his works on Jewish philosophy and Jewish mysticism and his work Gur Aryeh al HaTorah, a supercommentary on Rashi's Torah commentary. The Maharal is particularly known for the legend that he created The Golem of Prague, an animate being fashioned from clay, using mystical powers based on the esoteric knowledge of how God created Adam. Born in Posen, he took the position of Rabbi in Nikolsburg (Mikulov), Moravia, in his late 20s and remained there for some 20 years.
Family names Judah, Leib, and Bezalel (Calko, Tsalko) could well have been passed down generations in honor the memory of our relative. Loew is a "kinnui" -- secular calque for the Hebrew name Judah, meaning like "Leib" 'lion' since the tribe of Judah was associated with the lion (hence Gur Aryeh al HaTorah, a play on Rabbi Yehuda Loew's name).
Rabbi Yishayahu ben Asher Moshe haLevi Horowitz is another notable ancestor of Mordechai Margolis, his 9th great grandfather. The "Horowitz" are mostly a single most illustrious family of Levites, with hundreds of prominent rabbis, who trace their lineage back some thirty generations to Gerona, Spain. In the 15th century, around the time of the expulsion of Jews from Spain, they moved to the town of Horovice just outside Prague. Yishayahu Ben Asher Moshe Halevi Ish-Horowitz (1460 - 1515, Prague) was one of the leaders of the Prague Jewish community, a wealthy man who was very influential in that city. There were at least three generations of Halevi-Horowitz prior to Yishayahu in Bohemia. The family first arrived at the settlement of Horowitz (a village and castle bearing this name were located 55 km southwest of Prague, but today this is a town: in 1999 its population was 6,500 residents), later moved to Prague. The Levite family became known in Prague as "Ish-Horowitz" (the man of Horowitz). A synagogue called "Pinkas Schul" (named after Pinchas Horowitz), is located in the Jewish quarter of Prague, and currently constitutes part of the Jewish Museum in Prague.
Miriam Horowitz, the sister of the ReMa, was Mordechai Margolis' 6th great grandmother. Her brother, our relative, Moses Isserles (Kraków, Poland, 1520 - 1572), was an eminent rabbi, Talmudist, and posek, renowned for his fundamental work of Halakha, entitled ha-Mapah, an inline commentary on the Shulkhan Aruch. He is also well known for his Darkhei Moshe commentary on the Tur. Isserles is also referred to as the Rema (רמ״א), the Hebrew acronym for Rabbi Moses Isserles.
Mordechai Margolis' 7th great grandfather, Moses HaLevi Heller-Wallerstein (b. 1520 Wallerstein, Germany, d. 1580), was Chief Rabbi of Germany. His son Rabbi Avraham HaLevi Frankel Heller-Wallerstein (b. Lublin, d. Vienna, Aug. 3, 1572) married Rachel Loew (Maharal daughter, d. 1633, Prague).
Moses haLevi Heller-Wallerstein was also the father of Rabbi Nathan HaLevi Heller. Rabbi Nathan died at the age of 18 in 1579 just before his son Gershon Shaul Yom-Tov Lipmann Halevi-Heller-Wallerstein was born in Wallerstein (d. 1654 in Krakow).
East Prussia, Poland, Lithuania. In the 17th and 18th centuries, our ancestors moved eastward as Jews were pushed out of the German ruled areas and as new towns arose on the eastern frontier. Our 17th century ancestor, [ Rabbi Yom Tov Lipmann HaLevi Heller "Tosfot Yom Tov" was the Chief Rabbi (ABD) of Nikolsburg, Vienna, Krakow and Prague. Rabbi Yom-Tov Lipmann Heller was raised by his Grandfather, Rabbi Moshe Wallerstein. Yom Tov Lipmann ben Nathan ha-Levi Heller, (b. Wallerstein, Bavaria, 1578; d. Kraków, August 19, 1654), was a Bohemian rabbi and Talmudist, best-known for writing a commentary on the Mishnah called the Tosafot Yom-Tov (1614-7). Heller was one of the major Talmudic scholars in Prague and in Poland during the "Golden Age" before 1648.
Brest was the largest and the most important of the first five Jewish settlements in Lithuania, dating from the second half of the fourteenth century, and continued in that leading position till the rise of Wilna in the seventeenth century.Among the rabbis of Brest in the late 16th and early 17th century were a number of members of the Katzenellenbogen family, including Mordechai Margolis' gggg grandfather, Meir Wahl:
- Ze’ev-Wolf, son-in-law of Saul Wahl; previously rabbi of Lomaz.
- Joseph Casas, son-in-law of Wahl.
- Abraham (Abrashky), son of Saul Wahl; was president of the yeshibah.
- Meïr Wahl, son of Saul Wahl; officiated till 1631. He founded the Lithuanian Council in 1623, by permission of Sigismund III., of whom his father was a favorite.
Mitnagdim and Lubavitch
Although many of our ancestors were involved in the Mitnaged ("Misnagdim") movement, it turns out that we have notable Lubavitch ancestors/relatives, such as
In Memory of those members of the Margolis and Frankel Families who Perished in the Holocaust
- Sheyna Margolis Levitin z"l, daughter of Asher (Isser) Margolis, perished in the Vilna Ghetto.
- Nissan Abramsky z"l and his wife Masha Bryman Abramsky z"l, daughter of Rocha Leah Margolis Bryman. Nissan died in 1941 in Stolpcy, Poland according to the Yad ve-Shem database. Masha died in 1942 in the Lomazy forest, according to the database.
- Deborah (Devora) Margolis-Kalwaryiski, who perished at Auschwitz in the Holocaust with her husband, and son
- David Alex Levin, Deborah's husband
- Dan Levin, Deborah and David Alex Levin's nine-year old son
- Rivke Abramson age 25, student in Disna, Belarus (Vilna area), great granddaughter of Elijah Margolis.
Towns Where Our Ancestors Lived
- Families - Bardin, Epstein, Sterling.
Baklerove/Baklerowe/Bakalarzewo is where Jankel Margolis, son of Mordechai Margolis, settled with his wife, Rochla Bardin, daughter of the well-known rabbi of Baklerove, R'Eliahu Bardin. Badana Mishkowsky Margolis, the widow of Judah Leib Margolis, married Abram son of Israel Epstein of Baklerove. The Sterling family who the Margolis family intermarried with over and over lived in Bakalerzewo.
Located in Suwalki Gubernia, it is close to a number of well-known Suwalki shtetls, including:
- Przerośl 10 miles N
- Suwałki 11 miles E (Visanska family from Suwalki)
- Wiżajny 20 miles NNE (likely origin of Visanska family name)
- Augustów 22 miles SE
- Rajgród 25 miles S
- Sejny 28 miles E
Our family are documented living in Augustow and Sejny and intermarrying with residents of Rajgrod. In addition, the name of the Visanka family is undoubtedly from Wiżajny, although I have found their ancestors living in the town of Suwalki.
BREST-LITOVSK (in Polish, Brzesc; in Russian documents, Brestye, and later, Berestov; and in Jewish writings, Brisk or Brisk de-Lita = “Brisk of Lithuania”): A fortified town in the government of Grodno, Russia, at the junction of the Mukhovetz river with the western Bug; capital of the district of the same name. The Jewish population of the city in 1897 was 30,252, in a total population of 46,542; that of the district (including the city) was in the same year 45,902, in a total of 218,366, or 21.02 per cent.
Brest was the largest and the most important of the first five Jewish settlements in Lithuania, dating from the second half of the fourteenth century, and continued in that leading position till the rise of Wilna in the seventeenth century. According to Bershadski, the well-known charter of Grand Duke Vitold, dated July 2, 1388, was originally granted to the Jews of Brest only, and was extended subsequently to the other Jewish communities of Lithuania and Volhynia. Brest-Litovsk soon became the center of trade and commerce, as well as of rabbinical learning, and the seat of the administration of the Jewish communities of Lithuania and Volhynia.
The fifteenth and sixteenth centuries must be regarded as the golden age in the history of the Jewish community of Brest. In the charter of Casimir Jagellon, granted Aug. 14, 1447, to all Jews in Lithuania and Poland, Brest is mentioned, among other important provincial towns, as controlling many territories. In 1463 the same king presented a Jew named Levan Shalomich with several estates in the district of Brest, and leased to him certain villages (“Russko-Yevreiski Archiv,” i., No. 5).
When, in 1472, merchandise belonging to Itzek (Isaac) of Brest, collector of taxes, was arbitrarily seized in Prussia, the bishop of Wilna and six secular councilors of the king interceded in his behalf before the grand master Henry Richtenberg (ib. No. 6). From the edicts of King Casimir IV., dated May 30, 1487 and May 12, 1489, and of Grand Duke ALEXANDER JAGELLON, Oct. 14, 1494, it appears that the customs duties of Brest and its districts were farmed by Jews of Brest and Lutzk (ib. Nos. 14-25). During the reign of Casimir all the important commercial and financial operations of Lithuania were concentrated in the hands of the Jews, especially of those of Brest, among them the brothers Danke, Pessah, and Lazar Enkovich (ib. Nos. 34, 46). In 1495 Alexander banished the Jews of Brest and other Lithuanian cities to Poland, whence they were permitted by him to return in 1503. During the banishment the synagogue of Brest was presented by Alexander to the Christian inhabitants of Brest to be used as a hospital (“Slownik Geographiczny,” s.v.); but when the Jews returned it was given back to them.
Among the rabbis of Brest in the late 16th and early 17th century were a number of members of the Katzenellenbogen family, including Mordechai Margolis' gggg grandfather, Meir Wahl:
- Ze’ev-Wolf, son-in-law of Saul Wahl; previously rabbi of Lomaz.
- Joseph Casas, son-in-law of Wahl.
- Abraham (Abrashky), son of Saul Wahl; was president of the yeshibah.
- Meïr Wahl, son of Saul Wahl; officiated till 1631. He founded the Lithuanian Council in 1623, by permission of Sigismund III., of whom his father was a favorite.
Disna (Dzisna) Disna is a town in the former Vilno district, Poland, today Molodechno district, Belarus. Jews are believed to have first settled there in the 16th century. Evidence of an organized community is from the late 18th century. In 1797 there were 412 Jews in Disna. In 1847 there were 1,880. At the end of the 19th century there were 4,617 (68.3% of the total population). Disna was under Soviet occupation in WW II until July 2, 1941, when the German army entered Disna. There were then 6,000 Jews in the city, including refugees from central Poland. The Germans burnt down the synagogues. On August 3, a ghetto was set up. On July 14–15, 1942 the entire ghetto was destroyed. The inhabitants were all taken to Piaskowe Gorki where they were murdered. About 2,000 persons broke out of the ghetto and sought refuge in the forests. The Germans hunted down the escapees, but some succeeded in organizing partisan units, while other Disna Jews joined the Fourth Belorussian Partisan Brigade.
Kalvaria (Kalvarija, Kalvariya, Kalwarija)
Mordechai Margolis was from Kalwarija and his children were born there and some of them remained there. How the family got to Kalwarija, I have not discovered. I assumed that in the early 1700s the town needed a rabbi. Since Mordechai Margolis' son Elijah and his sons and grandsons were rabbis and Mordechai's uncle was a rabbi, it is possible that he was an early rabbi of Kalwarija.
Kalwarija is in the Mariampole District, 10 miles from Mariampole. Hence, our relatives in the U.S. were Mariampoler. It is also called Kalvaria-Suwalk. Before WWI, it was in the Suwalki District. It is close to Vilkovishk.
Jewish settlement began when the place was a village called Teraba. In 1713 the Jews were given a permit by King Augustus II to build a synagogue. Residents included a number of Jewish weavers. In 1803 the synagogue was rebuilt. There were 5 Jewish prayer houses in Kalvaria. In 1897 it had a total population of 8,420, including about 7,000 Jews.
Prominent scholars and notable residents mentioned often include our relatives: Rabbi David Shlomo Margolis (Margoliot) a rabbi of Kalvaria; Isaac Sterling poet; Elijah ben Mordecai Margolis (Margoliot), rabbi at Rakishok; his son Asher; Isaac ben Elijah Margolis (Margoliot), author of "Ma'oz ha-Talmud; Isaac ben Mei'r Margolis (Margoliot), author of "Har Zahuon". We know who Elijah (Eliahu) Margolis is, as well as his sons, Isaac and Asher. I assume Isaac Sterling is a relative, given the marriage of Sulka Margolis, Elijah's sister, to Reb Sterling. And I assume that Rabbi David-Shlomo and Isaac ben Me'ir are relatives of some sort.
Mordechai Margolis' daughter Kaila Bernstein and her husband David Aryeh Leib Bernstein (later Zirilstein) lived in Merkine, as did some of their children. Their daughter Hinde Bernstein and her cousin and husband, Isaac Margolis, lived there and their son Max Leopold Margolis, the Semitic language scholar, was born there. Joseph Frankel appears to have been from Merkine.
Meretch (Merkine in Lithuanian) lies in the South Eastern part of Lithuania, on the right bank of the river Nemunas, where the river Merkys and the small stream Stange flow into it. It is a very old urban settlement, where in the 14th century a fortress had already been built on a hill near the town, the remains of which still exist today, and the area was one of battles between the German Crusader Order, the Lithuanians and the Poles.
In 1387 the Lithuanian Great Duke Vytautas and the Polish King Jagelo (Jogaila) converted its residents to Christianity.
In 1576 King Zigmunt-August granted the town the Magdeburg Rights for self rule. At that time the exact site of the town was determined and four columns were erected at its four corners, two of which apparently still exist.
During the 17th an 18th centuries' wars, Meretch was badly damaged. In 1655 it was occupied by the Russians and totally burnt down. In 1707 Tzar Peter the First arrived in Meretch with his army, awaiting the Swedes. The Russians took horses, cattle and food products from the residents and burnt the rest, as a result of which many Meretch residents starved.
During the uprising of the Poles in 1794 led by Koschiusko, Meretch was again burnt down and ruined by the Russians.
In the 19th century, under Russian rule, the town was included in the Trakai district of the Vilna Gubernia, becoming an important commercial center because of its location at a junction of the important roads Kovno-Grodno and Vilna-Suvalk, and being situated along the water ways of the Nemunas and the Merkys.
In 1869 its population numbered 1,494 residents, and by 1882 - 2,148 residents lived there. The people of the town made their living from agriculture, fishing, mushroom drying and commerce.
Pruzhany is 45 miles NE of Brest (Brest-Litovsk) and was the town in Belarus where Mordechai Margolis' great grandparents lived. His great grandfather, R' Shmuel Schick, was the rabbi of Pruzhany. It had a Jewish community at the end of the sixteenth century, when Joel Sirkes held his first rabbinate there. The community is first mentioned in Russian documents in 1583 ("Regesty i Nadpisi"). In 1628 the Council of Lithuania adopted a resolution that Pruzhany should be its permanent meeting-place, but the resolution seems not to have been adhered to. The number of its inhabitants in 1817 is given as 824; but it grew fast under Russian rule, and, notwithstanding the almost total destruction of the town by fire in 1863, it had, by 1865, a population of 5,455, of whom 2,606 were Jews. Read more in the Jewish Encyclopedia article. The best-known rabbis of Pruzhany include several relatives of the Margolis family: Abigdor b. Samuel (d. 1771, at the house of his son Samuel, the last rabbi of Wilna); Enoch b. Samuel Schick (went later to Shklov; died about 1800; great-grandfather of Elijah Schick, or "Lida'er"); YomṬob Lipmann (son of the preceding, and probably his successor); Elijah Ḥayyim b. Moses Meisel (about 1860; now  rabbi of Lodz; born at Horodok, government of Wilna, Jan. 9, 1821); Jeruham Perlman (from 1871 to 1883; removed to Minsk); Elijah ha-Levi Feinstein (born in Starobin. government of Minsk, Dec. 10, 1842; successively rabbi of Starobin, Kletzk, Karelitz, and Khaslavich).
The name of the town in Suwalki (now Poland but then part of Prussia) that my branch of the Margolis family is from is Przerosl. Here is a website from our cousin, Hank Mishkoff, who lives in Dallas, of photographs from the town. Another site designed by Hank Mishkoff talks about the still existent Jewish cemetery where our ancestors were buried. You should read the article about Przerosl as depicted 50 years after the last Jews lived here by Polish students from Przerosl from our cousin, Hank Mishkoff's website. Notice the references to our Abramsky and Bramson relatives. Hattie Bramson Frankel was a Bramson. Rochel Leah Frankel who was Harry's sister who stayed behind had a daughter who married Nissan Abramsky. They both perished in Europe but their descendants live in Israel and I visited them. Here you can read about the children of Chava Margolis Frankel and Joseph Frankel.
The Goldstok family is from Rajgrod. Issac Margolis, son of Judah Leib and Badana, married Reshka Goldstok (Goldstek, Goldsteg) of Rajgrod
Rajgrod, an urban settlement on Lake Rajgrodzkie, before 1867 it had miasteczko ["small town"] status; it is in Szczuczyn powiat, Przestrzele gmina, Rajgrod parish. It lies along the highway from Warsaw to Kowno [now Kaunas, Lithuania], between Grajewo and Augustow, 239 km. from Warsaw, 33 km. from Szczuczyn, 18.7 km. from Grajewo, 3.2 km. from the Prussian border. The settlement occupies a peninsula jutting into the lake, and on the edge of the peninsula an embankment rises (an ancient citadel ruin), called Gora zamkowa [Castle Hill], quadrangular at the top, measuring 390 paces in circumference. Rajgrod has a wooden parish church, a Reformed Protestant church, a synagogue, an elementary school, gmina office, post office, and drugstore; it has 217 houses, 3,916 inhabitants (1,932 men, 1,984 women). The settlement has 2,696 morgs of land. There are six fairs held here yearly. The populace, mainly Jewish, supports itself with retail trade, of which the main article is smoked fish (whitefish and eels). Read more here Source: Slownik Geograficzny Krolestwa Polskiego - Warsaw [1888, vol. 9, p. 495-496]
Translated by William F. Hoffman, Polish Genealogical Society of America Winter 1998 Bulletin.
The Bramson family is from Szczuczyn. Sheyna Margolis, daughter of Issac and Reshka Margolis, married Shaya (Isiah) Bramson of Szczuczyn. Notice that Sheyna's mother was from Rajgrod, a town close to Szczuczyn, which may not be coincidental.
Szczuczyn is located in the former Lomza Gubernia, near the northeastern border of Poland. It is near other important shtetls, including:
- 3.5 miles N of Wasosz;
- 8.4 miles SW of Grajewo;
- 9.3 miles NE of Grabowo;
- 10.2 miles NW of Klimaszewnica;
- 12.2 miles NNW of Radzilow
- 15.1 miles NNE of Stawiski;
- 18.3 miles NE of Kolno;
- 19.3 miles WNW of Goniadz;
- 19.6 miles N of Jedwabne;
- 20.0 miles SW of Rajgrod;
- 25.5 miles N of Wizna;
- 27.9 miles NNE of Lomza
The first mention of Szczuczyn was in 1466 when it was mentioned in documents as a village that belonged to private owners by the name of Scipin [c pronounced tz]. In 1692 it received the status of a town called Szczuczyn. In 1699, it got permission from Augustus II, the King of Poland, to hold five fairs a year and a weekly market. The city developed during the period of Prussian rule from 1795-1806 and during the Napoleonic Kingdom in the 19th century. The population grew almost threefold in that century. The economy of the city was based on crafts and commerce. At the end of the 19th century all kinds of small workshops were established, engaging in liquor production, milling and carpet making.
In 1852 there was a big fire that destroyed 186 houses - only 59 were left. Some Jewish families were found in Szczuczyn in the 18th century, and in the 19th century, parallel to the development of the city, the number of Jews increased. Many Jews migrated from the villages around Szczuczyn after they had been deprived of their traditional occupations, such as liquor manufacture and sales.In 1877 the Jews represented 75% of the total population and their main income was derived from petty trade. Some of them dealt in horse-trading during the fairs. Jews were also involved in crafts, especially in shoe-making and tailoring. Some of them established their own small manufacturing companies and in the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century, Szczuczyn became known in the region as a summer resort and people came even from Warsaw and other big cities. Most of the summer tourists were Jews.
Around 1820 an independent Jewish community was established, followed by a synagogue and a wooden Bet Midrash [House of Study].
In 1858 two buildings were renovated and another house of study was added. The community had its own Rabbis, and of those known to us, the most famous was Rabbi Yehoshua Heshl, and after him, Rabbi Noah Chaim Eisenstadt. Read more about Szcuczyn here.
Several Margolis ancestors were associated with the Yeshiva in Virbaln/Virbalis. Rabbi Zvi Hirsch Levine (Margolis) studied there and married a Winstock daughter from Virbalis.
Virbaln can be found on the main road stretching from Kovno (Kaunas) to East Prussia (now under Russian rule), about 90 kilometers (60 miles) southwest of Kovno and 4.5 kilometers (3 miles) away from the (former) German border, and the railway station with the same name (now Kybartai) which is on the railway route from St. Petersburg to Berlin.
The town of Virbaln was founded in 1539-1540 at the initiative of the Queen Bona Sfortsa, the wife of King Zigmunt "The Old". The name was then Nova Volia. It is found in documents under this name until the eighteenth century, but in the sixteenth century it already had a second name, "Verbolov". In 1593 King Zigmunt Vaza granted it "The Privilege of a Town" (The Magdeburg Privilege). He also prohibited construction of synagogues and other non-Catholic praying houses in Virbaln. This "Privilege" was also observed in Virbaln during the Lithuanian rule. There was a municipality and a mayor.
Until 1795 Virbaln was included in the Polish-Lithuanian Kingdom. The same year the third division of Poland by the three superpowers of those times - Russia, Prussia and Austria, divided Lithuania between Russia and Prussia. The part of the state that laid on the left side of the Neman river (Nemunas) including Virbaln was handed over to Prussia. During the Prussian rule (1795-1807) Virbaln was named Wirballen.
According to the Tilzit agreement of 1807, Polish lands occupied by Prussia were taken away and "The Great Dukedom of Warsaw" was established on those lands. The King of Sachsonia, Friedrich-August was appointed as the Duke. At the core of the Constitution of the Dukedom was the Napoleon Code, according to which everybody was equal before the law, however the Jews were not granted any civil rights.
During the years 1807-1813 Virbaln belonged to the "Great Dukedom of Warsaw" and was included in the Bialystok District. In 1813, after the defeat of Napoleon, whose retreating troops passed through the town, all of Lithuania was annexed to Russia, and Virbaln was included in the Augustowa Region (Gubernia). In 1866 Virbaln was included in the Suwalk Gubernia. The construction of the main road in 1829 from St. Petersburg to Warsaw stretching through Virbaln, spurred the growth of the town.
The town developed fast and served as a connecting terminal for transfer of goods from Russia to Western Europe.
During Russian rule (1813-1915) the town was renamed Verzhbelova boasting a grand railway terminal near the border with Prussia, built on the route from St.Petersburg to Berlin in the sixties of the nineteenth century. The new town developing around the station - Kybartai - grew fast and in a few years surpassed Virbaln.
The city, known in Medieval Hebrew under the name Vermayza or Vermaysa (ורמיזא, ורמישא), is known as a former center for Judaism. The Jewish community was established in the late 10th century, and the first synagogue was erected in 1034. The Jewish Cemetery in Worms, dating from the 11th century, is believed to be the oldest in Europe. The Rashi Synagogue, which dates from 1175 and was carefully reconstructed after its desecration on Kristallnacht, is the oldest in Germany. Prominent rabbis of Worms include Shlomo Yitzhaki (Rashi), Elazar Rokeach and Yair Bacharach. At the Rabbinical Synod held at Worms at the turn of the 11th century, rabbi Gershom ben Judah (Rabbeinu Gershom) explicitly prohibited polygamy for the first time. For hundreds of years, uninterrupted, the Jewish Quarter was the centre of Jewish life until Kristallnacht in 1938, when much of the Jewish Quarter was destroyed.
Suwalki and Lomza (thanks to the Suwalk-Lomza SIG)
These two Gubernias are important to the history of our family because movement and marriage between residents of these two provinces (Gubernia) was allowed, whereas it was difficult or impossible otherwise, so our ancestors lived in various towns in these provinces and intermarried from families from Suwalki or specific Lomza districts.
"These two gubernias were created in 1866 from the former Augustow Province. All of Suwalki gubernia had been part of Augustow Province, as had four districts of the new Lomza gubernia - Kolno, Lomza, Szczuczyn and Wysokie Mazowieckie. For much of the 19th c., Russian-Polish Jews were not permitted to marry outside of their own gubernia (with some exceptions, usually for prominent families). Thus, there was a lot of inter-marriage among families within the former Augustow Province [i.e. Suwalki gubernia and the four districts of Lomza gubernia cited above]. Jews in that area shared a common "Litvak" culture, which primarily looked to the great Jewish center of Vilnius for its community models."
In the Suwalki District of Suwalki
- The Schilobolsky family is from Wizany.
- The Bramson, Frankel, Margolis and Mishkowsky families lived in Przerosl.
- Badana Margolis of Przerosl re-married a Abram Epstein from Baklerowe.
- The Visanska family associated with the Winstock/Levin/Rosenberg families in South Carolina is likely from Wizajny.
In the Szczczyn District of Lomza
- The Bramson family is from Szczuczyn.
- The Goldstok family is from Rajgrod.
- The Mishkowsky family lived in Szczuczyn and Grajewo.
- Chava Margolis and Yosel Frankel lived shortly in Sejny, Suwalki.
- The Brymans lived in Augustow, Suwalki.
- The Wallk family, associated with the Frankels is likely from Wolkowyszk, Suwalki.
- The Margolis (Kalwariski) family is from Kalwariya, Suwalki.
- The Winstock family is from Wierzbolowo (Virbalis or Virbalin), Suwalki.
- Rabbi Zvi Hirsch "Harry" Levine (nee Margolis) who married a Winstock studied in Wierzbolowo.
- The Itelsons lived in Wysztyniec (Vishtinetz), Suwalki.
As the two northeastern-most gubernias (provinces) of the ten gubernias of the "Kingdom of Poland" (also known as Congress Poland or "Russian Poland"), Suwalki and Lomza were bordered by East Prussia on the west and northwest; the mainland of the Russian Empire to the northeast and east, namely Kovno, Vilna and Grodno gubernias; and by other provinces of the Kingdom of Poland to the south and southwest. Suwalki and Lomza gubernias were each comprised of seven "powiats" or districts, as follows:
Suwalki gubernia districts (and major towns in each, in addition to the district capital):
- Augustow (Holynka, Lipsk, Raczki, Sopockin, Sztabin)
- Kalwarya (Krasna, Lubowo, Ludwinowo, Olita, Simno, Urdomin)
- Marjampol (Balwierzyszki, Poniemon, Preny, Sapiezyszki)
- Sejny (Berzniki, Krasnopol, Lozdzieje, Sereje, Wiejsieje)
- Suwalki (Bakalarzewo/Baklerow, Filipow, Jeleniewo, Przerosl, Wizajny)
- Wladyslawow (Sudarg, Szaki)
- Wolkowyszk (Kibarty, Wierzbolowo (Virbalis), Wysztyniec).
[Today only the districts of Augustow, Suwalki, and part of Sejny are in Poland; the others are in Lithuania.]
Lomza gubernia districts (and major towns in each, in addition to the district capital):
- Kolno (Jedwabne, Stawiski)
- Lomza (Nowogrod, Sniadowo, Wizna, Zambrow)
- Makow (Krasnosielc, Rozan)
- Ostrow Mazowiecki (Andrzejewo, Brok, Czyzewo, Malkinia, Nur)
- Ostrolenka (Goworowo, Myszyniec, Suchcice)
- Szczuczyn (Grajewo, Radzilow, Rajgrod, Wasosz/Wonsocz)
- Wysokie Mazowieckie (Ciechanowiec, Jablonka, Sokoly, Tykocin).
- Sept 2011 - I did my DNA test and am using my matches to explore the Frankel and the Margolis tree more. New names that are part of the family: Itelson, Amsterdam, Magid, Ashkenazi, Teomim, Adelson?, Fisher?, Bacharach, Sirkin?, Rabinowitz, Stein. New towns associated strongly with our family: Ratnycia (near Merkine), Lazdijai, Varena, Druskienki, Viliampole, Vilnius, Slobodka. The Itelsons and Prozners and their descendants (descendants of Itel Margolis Prozner, aunt of Mordechai Margolis) lived in Vilnius, Merkine, Viliampole, Vishinetz, and Slobodka for instance.
- The Unbroken Chain: Biographical Sketches and Genealogy of Illustrious Jewish Families from the 15th-20th Century, Two volumes, Dr. Neil Rosenstein. Computer Center for Jewish Genealogy; 2nd edition (1990). See Vol 1, p. 18 Chapter 2 "Descendants of Moshe Katzenellenbogen of Cheml for the reference to our Margolis family. See also the related project The Unbroken Chain
- The Margolis Family, Dr. Neil Rosenstein. The history of the family and the tracing of its ancestry and descendants, including the families of Zirilstein, Schoolberg, Brody, Kantor, Lieberman, Abramson, Feigelman, Kahanov, Levitin, Sterling, Henigson, Rosenberg, Ginsberg, Bramson, Wistynietzky, Frankel, Schilobolsky (Jacobson), and Travis. Computer Center for Jewish Genealogy, 1984. Out of print, but occasionally available through Amazon from used book sellers. 350 MB download available at Center for Jewish History Digital Collections.
- Ashkenazic Rabbinic Families, by Dr. Neil Rosenstein. The origins of Ashkenazic rabbinic dynasties, including a genealogical chart. In The Rav-SIG Online Journal.
- Lithuanian Jewish Communities, Nancy Schoenburg and Stuart Schoenburg. Jason Aronson, Inc. 1996.
- Read about Chava Margolis and Joseph Frankel's son, Joseph (Judah) Frankel, who settled in Centerville, Iowa.
- Jewish Virtual Library article on Disna
- The Suwalk-Lomza Interest Group for Jewish Genealogists