The Name
The Origin
Key Questions
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Family trees:

Avraham b. Chaim

Bernard b. Abraham

Ephim b. Ber

Joseph b. Joseph

Joseph b. Yehuda-Leib

Gerasim b. Joseph

Other Eliasbergs





The Name

The differences in the surnames belonging to the different branches of the Eliasberg-family (and even within one and the same branch), are caused by:

  1. Resemblance of the Hebrew characters 'sin' and 'shin'
  2. Migration and corruption of the surname
  3. Migration and translation of the surname
  4. Corruption of the surname by clerks

Since all variations of the surname can be explained in these three ways, we are strengthened in our conviction that at least all Eliasbergs, Eliashbergs and Harils/Harelis are related and find their origin in the family of the Eliasbergs from Lithuania.

The same cannot be said of the other two, known to be related, variations: Ellisberg and Elsberg. There might be other Ellisbergs and Elsbergs who have no connection with this family whatsoever.

1. Resemblance of the Hebrew characters 'sin' and 'shin'.
This probably is the eldest reason of variations in the surname, since it is caused during the transliteration of Hebrew to Roman (or maybe even first Cyrillic) characters. The only difference between the printed 'sin' and the 'shin' is a dot:

'sin': sin and 'shin': shin

The dots were only used in Biblical Hebrew:

'Biblical Hebrew' is the language of the Hebrew Bible as fixed by a Jewish scholar named Aaron ben Asher by c. 900 CE. It is the result of centuries of meticulous editorial activity on the part of the 'massoretes' or 'preservers of tradition (masora)' who devised numerous methods, including systems of vocalization and punctuation, to ensure that the text of the Hebrew Bible was preserved unchanged.

'A Modern Introduction to Biblical Hebrew', John F.A. Sawyer, Oriel Press ltd., London 1987. p. 181

This might however all be completely off-topic, considering that there probably have been just a few occasions where the name was printed in Hebrew characters. It's a lot simpler to assume that the name mostly has been written by hand in Hebrew and the difference between the 'sin'- and 'shin'-characters in written Hebrew is non-existing: there's just one character for both sounds.

2. Migration and corruption of the surname.
Helen Elsberg Dempsey wrote: "His name was originally Eliasberg but was changed by the immigration workers when he arrived in Ellis Island."; Barbara Abeillé (née Ellisberg) wrote: "My grandfather's name must have been americanized when he arrived in NYC."

This illustrates how the name can be corrupted during migration, with as possible motivation to make the name sound less Jewish. It's been common practise at the end of last century and the beginning of this century to shake off the Jewish identity to forget the pogroms of the past and increase the possibilities of the future. This motivation might also explain the marriage and the obvious Catholic character of the names of Joseph's (j14051848) and Maria Zimmerling's children. Another reason might have been that this Joseph Eliasberg wasn't related with the other Eliasbergs and wasn't Jewish at all, to quote Jim Yarin:

Alas, your Eliasberg family was obviously not Jewish back to 1848, so I would deem it difficult to find much of a connection with the very Jewish Eliasberg family of Ivenets.

I believe the name first originated from a German town or estate, thus the likelihood that the origin of the name is identical, while the families are not.

This statement, however, is not supported by the hints and clues (alas, no clear evidence) coming from the Dutch Eliasberg family.

The variations on the surname, like Ellisberg and Elsberg, introduce the 'problem' that the variations don't guarantee a relationship with the Elias(h)berg-family. Ellisberg could be the result of other immigrants being inspired by their arrival at Ellis Island and Elsberg is not too uncommon a surname, at least in The Netherlands, with 'els' being the Dutch name for the alder-tree.

3. Migration and translation of the surname.
Some of the Elias(h)bergs who moved to Israel have translated the literal meaning of 'Eliasberg', i.e. 'Mountain of Elija' into Ivrit, resulting in Haril, Harel and Hareli.

4. Corruption of the surname by clerks.
Vera Rubisova wrote:

"By the way, your explanation of why there is such a difference in spelling of our last name exactly matches the one given to me many years ago in Moscow by one of my uncles, Valentin Eliasberg. He even insisted that Eliashberg is a more correct version. Mind you, thanks to some clerk in the 1930th, his version of our last name is El'asberg (hard to spell it in English, some kind of Arabic would help, it sounds like El-Yasberg)."


Contacts: Paul Eliasberg and Ruth Marcus; page last built on Sunday, 12 January 2020