Select the search type
  • Site
  • Web
DNNArticle - View
Charlap - Kharlap
Created by Administrator Account in 3/7/2010 1:49:48 PM


... I saw your 'Notes on Polish Surnames' on the internet. I'm a (VERY) beginner at researching my family heritage. I know, for example that my great-great and great grandfathers lived in Slonim, Poland in the mid to late 1800's. The names that I have are as follows:

Mishel Charlap - son, Yosef (Joseph Charloff/Charlaff) who married Sarah/Sara. They had a son, David Charlaff (dates believed to be 1878-1944).

The names you mention lead me to believe we're dealing with Jewish ancestry, correct? This does matter, because while there is obviously considerable overlap in research methodology for Jews and Christians from Poland, there are also factors that can make the practical issues involved very different. Just for example, most Polish Gentiles had surnames by the 1700's, often a century or two earlier, whereas most Jews living in the Commonwealth of Poland (which included modern-day Lithuania, western Ukraine, and Belarus, which is the country Slonim is in now) did not take surnames until required to by authorities in the 1800's. This means that Jewish surnames were given during a period for which many historical records still survive, so we can trace them back sometimes and say things much more definitively about them than we can about Christian surnames, many of which were established long before the earliest surviving records.

If I'm right and the family was Jewish, I recommend using the library to try to get a look at two books. One is Alexander Beider's A Dictionary of Jewish Surnames from the Russian Empire, ISBN 9626373-3-5, published 1993 by Avotaynu -- you can learn more about it by visiting Avotaynu's Web page at Beider mentions this name under the spelling Kharlap (as a phonetic rendering of the Cyrillic spelling); he also mentions it in his book on Jewish Surnames from the Kingdom of Poland (spelled there as Charlap because of Polish phonetics), and the info in both books is similar, but the Russian book has extensive introductory comments more relevant in your case. Beider briefly discusses the origin and meaning of the name, and gives references that tell "about the story of this family."

Another book that might prove very helpful to you is the just-published Jewish Roots in Poland by Miriam Weiner, 1998, ISBN 0-96565-080-4. For more info see the Web page at It is a wonderful book, enormously helpful for doing research in Poland. Since your family appears to have come from what is now Belarus, it would be less helpful, but might still prove very useful.

Both these books are expensive, that's why I recommend trying to get a peek at them through a library; you may find them well worth the money, but it'd be best to see them and know first. Weiner's book is $50 + $8 shipping, Beider's is $75 + shipping (right now I can't find the catalog, so I don't know how much shipping comes to).

Beider's book suggests strongly that there is some real info available about the Charlap family, so I really think you want to get a look and see about following it up. A lot of times I have to tell people there probably isn't much material on their specific families -- in your case it just might be otherwise. I hope so, and good luck!

Copyright © 1998 W.F. Hoffman. All rights reserved. Used by permission.




Copyright 2008-2017 Version 7.04.01 by PolishRoots   |  Privacy Statement  |  Terms Of Use