Names & Places

Part of the History of Jews in the Pale of Settlement

This is a summary of our knowledge to date of the origins and evolution of the branch of the Bogopolsky family that this website focuses on.

The family name would indicate that it was adopted by Jews living in Bogopol, a suburb of the town of Pervomaisk – which later became part of Pervomaisk as the city grew.

According to the Jewish Virtual Library, by 1800 there was already a growing Jewish population in Bogopol, and according to our own research the Jewish population grew rapidly during the latter half of the 19th century:

In 1776, 3 Jews lived in Bogopol
in 1784 – 80
in 1787 – 108
in 1790 – 141
in 1847 – 1399
in 1897 – 5909

At the beginning of the 20th century there was a well-developed Jewish community in Bogopol, which counted 7 synagogues, a Jewish cemetery, a kadisha (since the 1850s), a Jewish hospital (1899), a Talmud Torah (1901), a private Jewish boys school, a library (1906), and a heder (1916).

(background image: Bogopol in the 19th century)

However, the early part of the 20th century saw at least two major pogroms in Bogopol (1905 and 1919), which caused widespread looting, destruction of property and loss of life among the community.

Many Jews fled the area and attempted to find safety in other areas of the Pale of Settlement.

Nevertheless, by the early 20th century, the Jewish population of Ukraine may have been as high as two million.

Although many Jews living in Eastern Europe during the 1700s and early 1800s used a variety of traditional, patronymic, or professionally-derived names, there were still a substantial number who simply went by the formula: first name, plus ‘son of’, plus father’s first name. For example, ‘David Abrahamovich’. Sometimes, these got standardized into a true family name as succeeding generations continued to use the same patronymic, but in other cases, this never happened, and every generation had a new ‘last name’.

According to the literature, during the 1800s Jews in Polish-controlled areas were required to establish permanent family names. In many cases, families did this by adopting the name of the locality in which they lived. Some Jews living in Bogopol, therefore, would have adopted the name ‘Bogopolsky’ (meaning, “from Bogopol”) as a result of this requirement.

This has two important implications when attempting to trace family lineage:

1. Families unrelated by blood but living in the same locality could end up with the same family name.

2. Branches of the same family, living in different towns, could end up with entirely different family names in a manner that might make it quite difficult to later establish the relationship.

So, for example, the Bogopolsky family – while by no means a large family – has numerous representatives, even today, throughout Russia and Eastern Europe, Western Europe, Israel and the Americas. It is so far quite unclear what the actual relationships might be. We do know from immigration records, however, that there were Bogopolskys arriving in the U.S. as early as the turn of the 20th century (and probably earlier).

This website is concerned primarily with the branch of the Bogopolskys which traces back to the area of Kiev and Astrakhan, around 1900, and, most particularly, with the family of Nathan Bogopolsky and his wife, Golda (also called Olga), née Gorokowsky.

In the unified family biography on this site we attempt to recapture the lives and history of this family and its members, through several generations of upheaval and hope, striving and destitution, and hardship and achievement. We rely upon family lore, private and public documents, photographs and, in some cases, well-known events in which family members took part.