Slate magazine’s language blog has posted a piece by Parsippany writer and Yiddishist Bennett Muraskin on “Jewish Surnames Explained.” The article, a version of which originally appeared on Jewish Currents, explains that the “overwhelming majority of Jews lived in Eastern Europe and did not take last names until compelled to do so. The process began in the Austro-Hungarian Empire in 1787 and ended in Czarist Russia in 1844.”
I only recently found out what our family name was before a great uncle changed it to “Carroll” when he immigrated to America. According to a trove of documents my father recently gave me, my grandfather signed his last name as ”Karoltchouk” when he arrived in France via Poland in 1913; on my grandmother’s “Permis de sejour a un etranger,” issued in Paris in 1914, it’s spelled “Karolchouk.” Of course that may be a nod to French phonetics; I haven’t found the original Russian or Yiddish spelling.
I asked Bennett if he had any insight into the name’s origins — he didn’t. Anyone out there who can tell me more about the name?