Home > Personal conversation > Who put the ‘h’ in Ghertner?

Who put the ‘h’ in Ghertner?

January 11, 2012 Leave a comment Go to comments

It’s a safe bet this wasn’t done at Ellis Island (Simon Ghertner may not have been there).

Also Simon’s brother, Smil-Lieb, spelled his name the same and he did not come to America  as he lived his whole life in Romania.

This story goes back generations before Simon. For centuries, Jews had no last names; last names were private. At that time, for example David’s son Isaac was known as ‘Isaac ben David’.

The introduction of permanent last names into European Jewish life came with the decision of European governments to make their Jewish populations, which had previously been granted a large measure of communal autonomy, fully subject to the same state regulations and bureaucratic record-keeping as were other citizens. In the Austrian Empire, which ruled much of southern and eastern Poland, Jews were ordered to take such names in the 1780s and ’90s; in Germany, in 1797; in tsarist Russia, in 1804.

Read more: http://www.forward.com/articles/13721/#ixzz1j74QlSW2

Ghertner is derived from ‘Gardener’ (or maybe ‘Gaerdener’); or perhaps gardener; we might be descendants of farmers. When the Jews took surnames, some took the names of …

their professions, by which they may already have been known locally: Thus, Itzik der shekhter, Itzik the slaughterer, became Itzik Schechter, and Yosl der shuster, Yosl the shoemaker, became Yosl Schuster. Some arbitrarily took names that appealed to them: Rosenblum, “rose blossom,” for instance, or Goldstein, “gold stone.” And some named themselves for places.

Ghertner probably was originally Gertner and these ancestors might have been from another Eastern European country, such as Poland (I always wondered why I liked kielbasa). There was a 19th century migration of Jews from Poland to Romania, in search of ‘a better life’. In Romanian, Gertner is pronounced as Ghertner (with the ‘h’) so that is the proper spelling; and it is indeed a Jewish name.

On 10 Jan 2012, I spoke with a woman who was born in Roman, Romania and emigrated to America in 1973 and her Polish born father moved to Roman about 1920 as an infant. He knew four Ghertner brothers from Roman. One was a doctor; one a lawyer; one moved to Israel and was a jeweler. The fourth was Aaron and he was an accountant (and a communist); to ‘hide’ his Jewishness, Aaron changed his name to Alexandru Gradinaru.

  1. February 9, 2012 at 5:38 AM

    Good stuff! How do we know “Ghertner” is derived from “Gardener”? Is there some genealogy of last names, or is it based on sound? It is true when you say “Ghertner” with a southern accent (like all y’all do ;) it sounds Gardner-esque.

    • February 9, 2012 at 8:58 AM

      I do not have genealological records that links Gardener with Ghertner. It may have been more correct to say the name ‘Ghertner (or Gertner)’ was derived from the occupation ‘gardener’ (or German Gärtner) at the time Jews were forced to assume last names, which varied with the Eastern European Country of residence.

  2. Andy Ghertner
    March 19, 2012 at 9:17 PM

    Gary, this is a great blog! I can’t wait to forward it to my family. I’ve always been the family historian in my small Ghertner clan, but as the older generations have passed on, I’m sure I’ve lost some valuable data. I’d love to see the family tree that you’ve compiled, maybe you or I can provide each other with a few missing links as I am convinced that the very few Ghertner clans across America are all related. Feel free to e-mail me.

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