Sunday, November 4, 2012

The Origins of Surnames - Shavlik

And the Search Begins

Just yesterday in Genesis 14:17,  I came across a name for a valley in Israel called Shaveh.  What struck me is how close that name is to my maternal grandfather's name:  SHAVLIK.  The valley has also been called the Valley of Siddim and the Valley of the Kings.

Shaveh is pronounced Shaw-vay' in Hebrew.  The word means: the plain

So I decided to google the meaning of the name SHAVLIK and what did I find?  Over and over again I found the following meaning:

Hebrew for: the plain, that makes equality

 Many Yemenite Jews' family names are consisting of the place in which their ancestors have come to Yemen (like Sana'a) and an "i" in the end (like the family name "San'ani"), indicating belonging to the place they have originated from.

From the above we might assume that the origination of the surname SHAVLIK could give clue to the original location of the family, ie the plain of Shaveh.  Definitely HEBREW, which was a direction I suspected we were going.  Now to figure out the reason for the 'lik' on the end.  Could it be that 'lik' is the part of the word as above that means 'that makes equality'.

We already know that I have a blood peculiarity found in peoples of Mediterranean Descent.  We also already know that the 'GESCH'' Y (male) DNA shows a direct line to the GESCH family being of Jewish descent via the priestly line of Levi.  They were Ashkenazi Hebrew's, originating in Central and Eastern Europe, their special dialect is still widely used in Ashkenazi Jewish religious services and studies in Israel and abroad, particularly in the Haredi and other Orthodox communities. It was influenced by the Yiddish language.

HOWEVER,  I've also found that my Slavic maternal grandfather's (who I believe showed physical signs of being of Mediterranean Descent) last name is also found in the Jewish Holocaust records causing me to suspect that this family is also of Jewish ancestry along with and especially his wife with the surname KRSKA from Moravia.  Many people who came from Moravia were Messianic Jews, ie people who were Hebrew and converted to Christianity.  My mother also has the same blood peculiarity that I do which means it came from my maternal line and not the paternal Ashkenazi Jewish line.

Thus, this will commence into the beginning and addition of the study of the meaning of names in combination with the research of the Genelogy of this family.

So what can names tell us? 

Surnames can tell us many things depending on how the name is spelled and the derivatives that are possible.


"The oldest use of family names or surnames is unclear. Surnames have arisen in cultures with large, concentrated populations where single, personal names for individuals became insufficient to identify them clearly.  Many cultures use additional descriptive terms in identifying individuals. These terms may indicate personal attributes, location of origin, occupation, parentage, patronage, adoption, or clan affiliation. These descriptors often developed into fixed clan identifications which in turn became family names as we know them today.
In China, according to legend, family names started with Emperor Fu Xi in 2852 BC   His administration standardised the naming system in order to facilitate census-taking, and the use of census information. For scientific documentation that matrilineal surnames existed in China before the Shang Dynasty (1600–1046 BC) and that "by the time of the Shang Dynasty they (Chinese surnames) had become patrilineal", see Matrilineality in China.

In Japan, family names were uncommon except among the aristocracy until the 19th century.

In Ancient Greece, during some periods, formal identification commonly included place of origin.  At other times, clan names and patronymics ("son of") were also common. For example, Alexander the Great was known as Heracleides (as a supposed descendant of Heracles) and by the dynastic name Karanos/Caranus, which referred to the founder of the dynasty to which he belonged. In none of these cases, though, were these names considered essential parts of the person's name, nor were they explicitly inherited in the manner which is common in many cultures today.

In the Roman Empire, the bestowal and use of clan and family names waxed and waned with changes in the various subcultures of the realm.   At the outset, they were not strictly inherited in the way that family names are inherited in many cultures today. Eventually, though, family names began to be used in a manner similar to most modern European societies. With the gradual influence of Greek/Christian culture throughout the Empire, the use of formal family names declined. By the time of the fall of the Western Roman Empire in the 5th century, family names were uncommon in the Eastern Roman Empire. In Western Europe where Germanic culture dominated the aristocracy, family names were almost non-existent. They would not significantly reappear again in Eastern Roman society until the 10th century, apparently influenced by the familial affiliations of the Armenian military aristocracy.  The practice of using family names spread through the Eastern Roman Empire and gradually into Western Europe although it was not until the modern era that family names came to be explicitly inherited as they are today.

In Ireland, the use of surnames has a very old history. Ireland was the first country in Europe to use fixed surnames. As noted in the Annals, the first recorded fixed surname was Ó Cleirigh which recorded the death of Tigherneach Ua Cleirigh, lord of Aidhne in Co. Galway in the year 916.

In England, the introduction of family names is generally attributed to the Normans and the Domesday Book of 1086. Documents indicate that surnames were first adopted among the feudal nobility and gentry, and only slowly spread to the other parts of society. Some of the early Norman nobility arriving in England during the Norman Conquest differentiated themselves by affixing 'de' (of) in front of the name of their village in France. This is what is known as a territorial surname, a consequence of feudal landownership. In medieval times in France, such a name indicated lordship, or ownership, of the village. But some early Norman nobles in England chose to drop the French derivations and call themselves instead after their new English holdings."


  1. I think more particularly, the surname originates from a town in Lithuania called Siauliai. In Yiddish the name is called Shavl. The -ik ending most likely means, "a man from Shavl", thus a Yiddish name place with a Slavic ending. My Jewish Kubasiak paternal line matches with a Shavlik family on 25 markers.

    ~Ezra Jacob

    1. Mazel tov! Could you share your Paternal line with me so I can see where we match up. This is not my only Jewish Connection. SHAVLIK is my maternal grandfather. GESCH is my paternal grandfather from Berlin. They apparently lived across the street from the Jewish community. A cousin did a Y DNA and not only discovered they were originally Jewish but of the tribe of Levi.

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