Who Was Bessie Goldfarb Named For? A Study in Naming Patterns

Before I write about Bessie Goldfarb Malzberg and her family, I want to explore a question that bothered me since I first learned her name.

It struck me as odd that Sarah Brod Goldfarb named a daughter Bessie since that was her sister’s name—my great-grandmother Bessie Brod Brotman. Even their Yiddish names were the same. On the ship manifest for Sarah and her four children, Sarah’s second daughter is listed as Pesie, and my great-grandmother Bessie was listed as Pessel on her ship manifest. I assume Pesie was a nickname for Pessel. Incidentally, Pessel is also my Yiddish name—in honor of my great-grandmother Bessie.

The National Archives at Washington, D.C.; Washington, D.C.; Series Title: Passenger Lists of Vessels Arriving at Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Record Group Title: Records of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, 1787-2004; Record Group Number: 85; Series: T840
Ancestry.com. Pennsylvania, U.S., Arriving Passenger and Crew Lists, 1800-1962

Year: 1891; Arrival: New York, New York, USA; Microfilm Serial: M237, 1820-1897; Line: 29; List Number: 73, Ancestry.com. New York, U.S., Arriving Passenger and Crew Lists (including Castle Garden and Ellis Island), 1820-1957

Since Eastern European Ashkenazi Jews did not name children for living relatives, I assumed that Sarah’s Bessie was named for either the same person her sister Bessie had been named for or for a relative on Sam’s side of the family. But who was that person?

I decided to explore the naming patterns in the Goldfarb and Brod families a bit further to see if they provided any clues. Sam and Sarah’s first son was Julius (Joel was his Hebrew name), and it appears obvious that he was named for Sam’s father who was also named Julius Goldfarb.1 I will refer to Sam’s father as Julius I and Sam’s son as Julius II.

Sam and Sarah’s second son Morris (Moische), born in 1886, could have been named for a relative on Sarah’s side, and that’s possible here, but since four of Sam’s siblings—his brother Louis and his half-brothers Max, Meier, and Julius 2—all had sons named Morris Goldfarb,3 I think it’s more likely that Morris was also named for an ancestor on Sam’s side though I don’t know who that would be. Perhaps an uncle or a great-grandfather.

Then came Gussie (Gittel) Goldfarb, born in 1888. My grandmother Gussie Brotman was born in 1895, and she was a first cousin to Gussie Goldfarb. Sarah’s death certificate states that her mother was named Gittel, and her sister Bessie’s second marriage certificate says her mother was Gittel, so both Gussies—Gussie Goldfarb and my grandmother Gussie—were named for their maternal grandmother Gittel, my great-great-grandmother. (My daughter carries on the naming pattern as her Hebrew name is Rivka Gittel for my grandmother.)

New York, New York City Municipal Deaths, 1795-1949″, database, FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:2WT7-T1D : 3 June 2020), Sarah Goldfarb, 1937.

Certificate Number: 22138, Ancestry.com. New York, New York, U.S., Extracted Marriage Index, 1866-1937

That brings me to Bessie. She was born in 1890, and I don’t know who she was named for. Sam’s mother was Dora Kleinman. Dora died not long after Sam’s brother Louis (Lazar) was born in 1859. Louis Goldfarb named his first daughter Dora in 1889 for his mother. It seems odd that Sam didn’t have a daughter named for his mother.4 It makes me think Sam and Sarah may have had another daughter named for Dora who died before they left Europe—unless Dora Kleinman had a double name and Bessie was named for her other name.

Julius I’s second wife was named Rebecca Kirschenbaum,5 so did Sam name Bessie for his stepmother Rebecca? Or was Bessie named for a Brod, possibly the same unknown ancestor for whom my great-grandmother Bessie was named? I don’t know.

After Bessie came Joseph. I don’t see any Josephs on the Goldfarb side, and Sarah Brod and Bessie Brod’s father was named Joseph Brod according to the two records depicted above. So I think it’s very likely that Joseph Goldfarb was named for his maternal grandfather, Joseph Brod.

Leo was the next son, born in 1899. I don’t have any clues as to his namesake. On the  1900 census, Leo  was listed as Lewis, and on the 1905 NYS census he was Louis. Only in 1910 did his name appear as Leo. Sam’s brother Louis was still living when Leo was born, but maybe Leo was named for the same ancestor for whom his uncle Louis was named.  Sam’s half-brother Max had a son named Lewis born in 1901, so perhaps he also was named for the same ancestor.6  I don’t see anyone else with an L name in the Brod family so I think Leo was named for a Goldfarb, not a Brod.

Sam and Sarah’s last child was Rose, and that’s a name that appears four times among Sam’s relatives.  Sam’s brother Louis named his second daughter Rose born in 1891. Sam’s half-brother Max named a daughter Rose in 1901, and Julius Jr. had a daughter named Rose born in 1919. I would assume that Max and Julius, Jr. named their daughters for their mother Rebecca, but who did Sam and Louis name their daughters Rose for? I don’t know. Perhaps their stepmother Rebecca, or perhaps a great-grandmother or other female relative.7

Just to add to the data set here, my great-grandmother Bessie had five children with my great-grandfather Joseph Brotman—Tillie, Chaim (Hyman), my grandmother Gussie, Frieda, and Sam. With his first wife Chaye, Joseph Brotman had four children: Abraham, David, Max, and Taube. Only the name Gussie is repeated among her sister Sarah’s children although Max Brotman, like Morris Goldfarb, was Moische in Europe.

To summarize my assumptions: Sam and Sarah’s son Julius was named for Sam’s father Julius. Their daughter Gussie and son Joseph were named for Sarah’s parents, Gittel and Joseph.  Morris and Rose are names that occur frequently in the Goldfarb family so those two children probably were named for a Goldfarb relative. Leo was originally Louis, a name that appears in the Goldfarb family, so I am inclined to think he was named for a Goldfarb.

But I am without a clue about the ancestor for whom Bessie was named. If my assumptions are correct, it would mean that four of Sarah and Sam’s children were named for a Goldfarb ancestor and only two were named for a Brod ancestor. That makes me think Bessie might have been named for a Brod, and maybe for the same relative for whom her aunt, my great-grandmother Bessie, was named. But I can’t be sure.

And sadly without records for those earlier generations, I probably never will know.


  1. KLG family history and various other sources and records. 
  2. Sam’s father Julius I had a son with his second wife Rebecca who was also named Julius; I will refer to him as Julius, Jr. That seems quite odd—unless Julius I died before Rebecca gave birth to Julius, Jr. Unfortunately I have no records to know for sure. What I do have is a family history compiled by Kay Goldfarb.  Kay’s book says that Julius died 1879-1880 and that Julius, his son, was born in 1880. So it seems probable that in fact Julius I did die before his son Julius Jr. was born. 
  3. KLG family history and various other sources and records. 
  4. Ibid. 
  5. Ibid. 
  6. Ibid. 
  7. Ibid. 

20 thoughts on “Who Was Bessie Goldfarb Named For? A Study in Naming Patterns

  1. I thought you had lost me but the summation got me back on track. So it looks like most children were given Goldfarb ancestors’ names. You only know the names Joseph Brod and Gittel and not their ancestry? Could it be that one of them had a strong Goldfarb connection that makes it look like the naming pattern is lopsided? Does that make sense?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Since there are no records that exist for that area that have not already been discovered and digitized on JewishGen, I will never be able to get back any further to know for sure. But all those Jewish families were somehow connected by marriages. My hunch is that there was a Bessie who was the grandmother of my great-grandmother and perhaps both Bessies were named for her. But I will never know for sure as I will never be able to find the records for my great-great-grandparents Gittel Schwartz and Joseph Brod. 😦

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Assuming that people have been named after near or distant relatives is the key to explore the mysteries of the origin of names in the family. Worse is the situation when parents like my wife and I break all the rules and name their children with no connection to their ancestry.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Naming patterns can be both a blessing and a curse! Maybe records will surface one day to help you sort the origins of Bessie’s name. Your family certainly is fascinating – I love all the details you manage to find, analyze, and summarize here on your blog 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • I don’t think any records exist that far back or the researchers at JewishGen would have found them when they searched in the town. So I am learning to accept that this is all that I will be able to learn. Thanks, Teresa!

      Like

  4. Very interesting. While not the same name, my dad and his brother were both given a name with the first initial as someone who had recently died – Robert was named for his grandmother, Rebecca and my dad, Gordon, was named for his other grandmother, Goldie.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s interesting that they were both named for women. Today that happens all the time, but at one time (and even today in Orthodox circles) boys had to be named for men, girls for women. Since my younger daughter is named for three men and my younger grandson is named for five women, we have obviously abandoned that part of the tradition!

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  5. Hi Amy, I feel your hunch is half way there and one day (when you’re least expecting it) it will become clear what’s happened with “Bessie” and all the identifications. My bird-brain hurt trying to figure out how .

    Liked by 1 person

    • I guess I left a lot of people in the dust. Sometimes I write a post to sort out my thoughts for myself, and I guess this was one of them. 🙂

      Like

  6. You did a good job analyzing the naming in the family. Very solid, but it’s so difficult to know for sure. The gardener said to me the other day that his sister must have been named for so-and-so, and I said, I really don’t think so. I think she was named for your grandfather’s sister Sura. That made more sense to me than what the gardener came up with, and it did to him, too. But until I said that he was thinking of a different branch.

    Liked by 1 person

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