Tunick/Tunik Origins

Many of our Eastern European Tunick/Tunik ancestors were Ashkenazi Jews living in or near the town Stolbtsy, Belarus (45 miles Southwest of Minsk) during the late 1700's.

Jews began to settle in this area after 1501 when King Alexander of Poland readmitted Jews to Grand Duchy of Lithuania (an area including Belarus, Western Ukraine and Lithuania).

The name "Tunik" is listed in A Dictionary of selected Jewish Names, by Benzion C. Kaganoff, Schocken Books, New York, 1977. It states "TUNIK (G) from a town near Minsk." (page 204). The (G) refers to "Geographical, place names."
The name "Tunik" has been listed elsewhere as 'Tunik Jewish ( E. Ashkenazi): habitation name from a town so called near Minsk in Belorussia. Var.: Tunick."

The first written record of Jewish settlement in England dates from 1070, although Jews may have lived there since Roman times. They were brought to England from Rouen, France by King William the Conqueror.

Jews were expelled from England in 1290 by King Edward I's "Edict of Expulsion". They immigrated to countries such as Poland which protected them by law. A small community persisted in hiding despite the expulsion.

Jews were not readmitted into England for 365 years. In 1655 they were not officially readmitted but a small colony of Sephardic Jews living in London was allowed to remain by Oliver Cromwel.

Tuniks today throughout the world who do not regard themselves as Jews, may have had Jewish Ancestors who assimilated to avoid persecution. One example of many is Benjamin Disraeli, a British Prime Minister, who was of Jewish origin, but was baptized an Anglican (born 1804 - died 1881).

It is possible, though less likely, that some Jews garnered the name Tunik from Christian Tuniks prior to the 18th. Century. There are many references to Christian Tuniks listed in The Mormon Church LDS Records for 1550-1800.


(Author unknown)

Except for aristocrats, wealthy people and well off Jewish merchants, Jews did not get surnames in Eastern Europe until the Napoleonic years of the early 19th century. Most of the Jews from countries captured by Napoleon, Russia, Poland, and Germany were ordered to get surnames. The reason for the last names were for tax purposes. After Napoleon's defeat many Jews dropped their surnames and returned to "son of" names like MENDELSOHN, JACOBSON, LEVINSON, etc.

During the so called Emancipation, Jews were once more ordered to take on surnames. In Austria The Emperor Joseph ordered Jews to take on last names in the late 1700's. Similar edicts occurred in Poland in 1821 and in Russia in 1844. Probably some of our families have had last names for only 175 years or less.

In France and the Anglo Saxon countries surnames went back to the 16th century. Sephardic Jews had surnames stretching back centuries. Spain prior to Ferdinand and Isabella was a golden spot for Jews. They were expelled by Isabella in the same year that Columbus discovered America. The earliest American Jews were Sephardic.
In general there were five types of names (people had to pay for their choice of names, while the poor had assigned names):

1. Names that were descriptive of the head of household: Examples: HOCH (tall), KLEIN (small), GROSS (large), SHEIN (good looking), LEVI (temple singers), COHEN (priest), SCHWARTZ (dark), WEISS (white), BURGER (City dweller)

2. Names describing occupations: Examples: HOLTZKOCKER (wood chopper), GELTSCHMIDT(goldsmith), SCHNEIDER (tailor), KREIGSMAN (warrior), EISEN (iron), FISCHER (fish)

3. Names from city of residence: Examples: BERLIN, FRANKFURTER, DANZIGER, OPPENHEIMER, DEUTSCH (German), POLLACK (Polish), WARSHAW, and probably TUNICK or TUNIK

4. Bought names: Examples: GLUXK (luck), ROSEN and ROSENBLATT, ROSENBERG (roses), DIAMOND, KOENIG (king), SPIELMAN (spiel is to play), LIEBER (love)

5. Assigned names (usually undesirable): Examples: KLUTZ (clumsy), BILLIG (cheap), MONTAG (MONDAY) the day of the week troops came into a village to assign names


An excellent and scholarly explanation of Jewish First Names can be found at Jewish Genealogy/Given Names. In addition to discussing first name origins, there is a very useful chart listing first name variations.