Various forms of a family name borne by Ashkenazic Jews in many countries. Though each of these forms now represents groups that are distinct from one another, and that, apparently, are not interconnected by ties of relationship, they all seem to have had a common origin and to have been used and given without discrimination. It is, nevertheless, possible that the name at the outset was applied to more than one family. All records prove that the original seat of this family was Prague, the capital of Bohemia; and the transcription of the name in two separate words, , or , or the abbreviation of the same, —which latter has often been misunderstood (see Nos. 19, 27, below)—clearly indicates its etymology. It is derived from the Alt'-Schul' or Old Synagogue, which still exists at Prague, and is not to be confused with the Altneuschul; and the first Altschuls, or Altschulers, were either prominent attendants at or patrons of this place of worship (see Names).
The name Altschul is supposed to have been first borne by a descendant of Provençal refugees who had settled in Prague about 1302. Prague, besides being the place of origin, was also the chief seat for several centuries of the Altschul or Altschuler family. But after the expulsion of the Jews from that city, in 1542, many of the Altschuls who found an asylum in other countries did not return; and so, from the sixteenth century on, we find them prominent in what is now Russian Poland, Lithuania, and Russia proper (see Nos. 9, 23, 30), and in Italy (see No. 28).
Later, members of the family dispersed still further (see Nos. 3, 4, 12, 25, 29); and to-day the name is borne by numerous families throughout Austria-Hungary, Germany, Russia (where it is claimed that the writer Moses Rivkes and even the Gaon of Wilna are Altschuls), England, and America. In the United States several Altschulers have achieved distinction, notably the Hon. Samuel Altschuler, candidate for the governorship of Illinois, and Alschueler, the violoncellist.
Reliable records from which to prepare a complete genealogical tree are lacking. The three charts given below are perhaps all that can be established with any degree of certainty. For the reason just stated, some members' names appear in the following biographical notices that are not in the charts, and vice versa. Because it occurs most frequently the form of "Altschul" has been adopted throughout the three tables, as well as in the list of individual members; though, as has been said, the other forms of the names also occur.