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Catching Butterflies: The Schmetterling Family of Galicia

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Today there are numerous inter-related Schmetterling families living throughout the word- principally in the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany, Israel and Austria that originated in the Austro-Hungarian province of Galicia in what is now Ukraine. In particular, the earliest records point to what appear to be several brothers living in Chorostkow (Khorostkiv). These apparent brothers are Chaim, Leibisch (c.1818), Wolf (1824) and Dawid Abraham. There is also a record for a contemporary named Moses who was born in 1827 and died in Zbaraz in 1845, but he has not been connected so far. These brothers’ families spread from Khorostkiv to Kopychynsti and numerous other towns in the general vicinity of Tarnopol and L’Viv (Lemberg) and Czernowitz in Bukovina (now Chernivitsi, Ukraine) in the mid to late 1800s and later, as many of these Shtetls emptied out, to Vienna and the United States in the late 1800s and 1900s.

The Schmetterling Name

The name Schmetterling (sometimes spelled Szmetterling or in some records Schmetter (without the “ling”) is German for “butterfly. Family traditions of some of these families as well as close connections to families such as the Aberbachs/Aurbachs and Ashkenes/Ashkenazis as well as to other families with origins in the Rhineland suggest the earlier German origins of the family, but so far a specific connection in the male line has not been identified.

Schmetterlings in Galician Towns

 (this section is under development)

Schmetterlings can be found in the following towns in Galicia:

Brzezany: There are records for a Schifre Schmetterling married to Israel Leib Hechtlinger but this family has not been connected yet.

Budzanow: Chaim Wolf (1864) married Sara Buchbinder and Chaja married Kelman Heitner. Two other Schmetterlings married Heitners in Budzanow but I have not been able to identify exactly how they are connected yet, though they certainly must be.

Choroskow/Khorostkiv: As mentioned above the earliest Schmetterlings found so far Chaim, Leibisch (c.1818), Wolf (1824) and Dawid Abraham were living in Khorostkiv as early as the 1820s. In Khorostkiv Schmetterlings married people with the surnames Ashkenes, Chaimowicz, Friedling, Meinstrich, Neuman, Stroh and Weinraub

Czortkow: In Czortkow, Moses Mendel married Chana Landman, but we do not yet know how Moses Mendel is connected.

Janow: In Janow, Sure married Chaim Fink and there are records for children of Ite. It is possible that Ite and Sure are the same person.

Kopychyntsi: At some point, perhaps as early 1830, Wolf (1824) moved to Kopychyntsi and appears to be the primaray progenitor of the Schmetterling family there. References to Schmetterlings can be found in Pinkas Hakehillot: Kopychinsty, Ukraine. In Kopychntsi, Schmetterlings married people with surnames Bomze, Bruh, Demberg, Engel, Gang, Heitner and Szutzman, Weinraub and Wiederman.

The Shoah

During the Shoah, the families that remained in Europe were decimated. Yad Vashem’s database contains records for at least 100 distinct Schmetterlings belonging to these families. Those that fled or managed to survive eventually made their way to (West) Germany, Israel, the UK, Australia and the United States. Some of the Schmetterlings murdered during the Shoah are:

Murdered in Bolechow: Otto and his wife in Sachsenhausen: Henriette (Ziegenlaub)

Perished on the S.S. Struma: Marcus and his wife Frida and their two sons Ernest and Victor.

Murdered in Kielce: Simon Selig

Murdered in Obodivka: Hersch and in Chernivtsi, his daughter Ettel Rittberg

Murderded in Opole: Ludwig

Murdered in Vienna: Aron

Schmetterlings Today

Many of the branches of the Schmetterling family can be traced to the present, but there are some that, so far, cannot. Furthermore, there are a handful of family groups that are most likely related due (repeating names and the proximity of one shtetl to another suggest a connection). Moreover, there are Schmetterlings living in Germany, Poland and other locations today who could possibly be related but whose genealogy has not yet been traced to these original Galician families.

Several Branches of the Schmetterling changed their surname when they emigrated to other countries. Some examples of changes include Sanders, Smith, Sterling and Gilead