Recently Ancestry.com sent me a link to a new document linked to my grandfather Samuel (Omansky) Samuels. It was his Canadian Naturalization paper. This wonderful piece of information gave me some information I never had before – his city of origin – Chigirin, Ukraine.
The Canadian naturalization paper for Samuel Samuels
There is a FANTASTIC website that provides the history of the Jewish residents of Chigirin here – www.jewua.org/chigirin but here are some highlights:
Jews have been living in Chigirin since at least the 1600s where they have had a long history of community involvement. In 1897, out of a population of nearly 9,000 people 3,000 were Jewish. By 2001 that number was 2. A series of pogroms starting in the late 1800s around the time my grandfather and grandmother left which led to significant persecution and diminishment of the Jewish population of Chigirin. World War 2 continued the persecution in tragic fashion. One stories related on the website is as follows:
“On March 8 1943, the Burlaky family whose mother was a Jewish convert into Christianity, were buried alive in the sands outside Chigirin. On the orders of the Nazi soldiers, they dug their own graves. The boys sang:” No one will find out where my grave is…” while digging. Five people died – Mariya Burlaka, her daughter Daryna, two sons Ivan and Fedir, and Mariya’s blind sister, whose surname was Pasichna.”
The website reports “There isn’t a single Jewish gravestone remaining at the cemetery as the last four were looted by the locals in 2011“.
Such a tragic and horrible history for a people who were strong contributors to the community throughout its history over the past four centuries or more.
I should say the district is also known as Chigirin (named after the town) and my grandfather’s last name was Omansky until about 1910 when he changed it to Samuels. Omansky is likely from Umanskiy. In the early 1800s European Jews were forced by law to take permanent surnames instead of patrynomic or matrynomic last names Ben and Bat (son of, daughter of).
Many Jews took topynomic names based on the city or town they were living in. Umanskiy and varients Umansky, Umanskey, Omansky, Omanskey etc. likely derive from and mean “of Uman”. Uman is a town in the region of Chigirin. So there is a possibility that my grandfather is from Uman but it would seem more likely that his family history/name derives from Uman but they had settled in/moved to Chigirin otherwise he would have listed Uman of birthplace and not simply the region.