Sorting Saturday: Origins of the Broida Family Name, Part 2

Ships “Britannic” and “Germanic,” both White Star Mail Steam Ships. John Zelig Karklinsky Broida may have crossed the ocean in about 1875 on a similar ship. Public domain, via Wikipedia.

Broida Family (Click for Family Tree)

Last week we posted the 1991 note from Hilda Fish Broida, in which she told the family legend of how the Karklinskys became Broidas once they got to America. Cousin Mitch added some good comments to the blog, including one on John Zelig Broida being long gone, and since he likely was the first immigrant, we cannot know why the name was changed. I wanted to add a version of the family legend that was told to me.

John Zelig Broida’s granddaughter, Gertrude Belle (Broida) Cooper, told me many years ago (probably early 1980s) that she did not know for sure why the Broida name was chosen, but she believed it was to honor a rabbi from the Old Country (Lithuania).

Simcha Mordechai Ziskind Broida (his birth name) was a Lithuanian rabbi who lived in the northwest part of Lithuania. The Karklinskys were in the southeast, but word of the Rabbi’s Talmud Torah would have spread far and wide.

Known in later years as Simcha Zissel Ziv, he was a student of Yisrael Lipkin Salanter, a proponent of Musar, or Jewish ethical considerations, including moral conduct and discipline. Salter had set up a school in Vilna, which was near the ghetto of Eishyshok (now known as EišiškėsLithuania), around the 1840s, when John Broida’s father was a young man. A traditional yeshiva focused on studies of the Torah exclusively, but Rabbi Salanter added in Muser studies and even non-Jewish courses to help encourage students from drifting away from Orthodox Judaism. When Salanter left Vilna in 1848, his students, including Simcha Zessel Ziv, carried on with schools of their own.

After the death of Simcha Zissel Ziv, his brother and son, both also named Broida, continued the movement to change education.

Since John Zelig Karklinsky Broida was born in 1857, and immigrated to the US in 1874 or 1875, the time frame and place does fit for them to know about Rabbi Broida. Perhaps someone in the Karklinsky family, such as John’s father, even attended Rabbi Ziv’s school.

So we have established that John Zelig Broida, our ancestor and the first Karklinsky immigrant, could have known about Rabbi Broida and his progressive school.

The idea that names were changed by the workers at Ellis Island is a false one, and probably so at Castle Garden as well. (John’s immigration was before Ellis Island opened, but we have not found him in the records of Castle Garden, so he likely disembarked at another port.) Ellis Island employed workers of many nationalities who could speak the language of the immigrants who did not know English. They were able to spell names and places correctly because they were so familiar with the language. This may not have been the case at all other ports, thus possibly Hilda’s statement about John being given the name Broida as it was the name of the Irishman in front of him could be true. As Cousin Mitch stated in one of his comments last week, however, there really are no Broidas in Ireland, and we would find Irish Broidas in America if that man in front of John was truly named Broida. (We have not found any Irish Broidas in the US.)

Instead, consider the number of Irish persons named “Broidy” or “Broda”- definitely similar to “Broida” depending on the pronunciation. So it is possible that there was an Irishman in front of John Zelig Karklinski whose name was Broidy or Broda, and the government employee gave that name to John as well. Another possibility was that when John heard the man in front of him give the name Broidy or Broda, he thought of the Rabbi back home named Broida. Then, when asked his name, he gave the name “Broida” instead of “Karklinsky” to honor the work of the Rabbi, and perhaps, give him one tie to his former home that was then so far away.

As Mitch said, we will never know this answer for sure, but there are definitely a few possible pathways that the name “Broida” became the surname for so many persons now living in the United States.


Notes, Sources, and References: 

  1. Simcha Zissel Ziv–
  2. Helm Talmud Torah–
  3. Musar movement–
  4. History of Eishyshok–


Click to enlarge any image. Please contact us if you would like an image in higher resolution.

We would love to read your thoughts and comments about this post (see form below), and thank you for your time! All comments are moderated, however, due to the high intelligence and persistence of spammers/hackers who really should be putting their smarts to use for the public good instead of spamming our little blog.

Original content copyright 2013-2017 by Heritage Ramblings Blog and pmm.

Family history is meant to be shared, but the original content of this site may NOT be used for any commercial purposes unless explicit written permission is received from both the blog owner and author. Blogs or websites with ads and/or any income-generating components are included under “commercial purposes,” as are the large genealogy database websites. Sites that republish original content as their own are in violation of copyright as well, and use of full content is not permitted. 
Descendants and researchers MAY download images and posts to share with their families, and use the information on their family trees or in family history books with a small number of reprints. Please make sure to credit and cite the information properly.
 Please contact us if you have any questions about copyright or use of our blog material.