By Gil Dekel, PhD.
This article traces the origins of the Yahya family, and their descendants: the Charlap family and subsequent branches (Budowla, Danowitz, Kiejsmacher, Grapa, Kopyto, Kur, Kuropatwa, Lapin, Lew, Lewin, Mankuta, Pakciarz, Pasternak, Parczewski, Podkowa, Ser, Smolarczyk, and Tama).
Yahya (Ibn Yahya, Don Yahya, Donchin, Don Yechiya, Jacchia)
The earliest known person to use the name Ibn Yahya was Yaish Ibn Yahya (see number 77 in this list), son of Chiya al-Daudi. Yahya is a variation of Chiya. ‘Ibn’ means ‘son of’. Yaish Ibn Yahya means ‘Yaish son of Chiya’.
Yaish Ibn Yahya was a 12th century scholar, politician, and a military leader for both the Moors and the newly founded Kingdom of Portugal. There may were earlier branches of the family who used the Yahya name and other equivalents.
The Yahya family lived in Spain and Portugal until the expulsions of 1492-1497. From there they travelled along two routes. One was north, to Holland, and from there eastward through the Baltic Sea to north-eastern Europe. The other route was to the countries along the rim of the Mediterranean Sea.
Charlap (Charlop, Charlip, Harlap, Charlaff, Charloff, Sharlip)
The first known Charlap was Chiya al-Daudi (number 76), born circa 1080-1090. Chiya, who lived in Portugal, was known by the Hebrew acronym Charlap, which stood for ‘Chiya, first among the exile in Portugal’ ‘חייא, ראש לגולי פורטוגל’. The name Charlap was an honorary title. It was not a surname at that time.
Chiya’s descendants were known as Ibn Yahya for some 500 years, until one of Chiya’s descendants – Eliezer ben David Ibn Yahya (number 92), born circa 1590 in Salonika, Ottoman Empire – assumed the name Charlap as a surname. Eliezer is the first known Charlap in northeaster Europe. He was invited to be the Rabbi of Tykocin in Poland. Upon his arrival he has taken the surname Charlap in honour of his great ancestor, Chiya al-Daudi, who lived some 500 years earlier. The Hebrew acronym Charlap, now a surname, stood for ‘Chiya, Chief Sage of the Exile in Poland’ ‘חייא, ראש לגולי פולין’.
The Charlaps spread out in all directions from Tykocin, and were especially prominent in the Jewish community of Suwalki Guberniya.
Budowla (Budovitch, Budd)
The Budowla family descend from David ben Shimon Charlap (number 99) who was born in northeastern Poland circa 1718. ‘Ben’ means ‘son of’. David’s family was concentrated around Tykocin. Several members have migrated eastwards into what is now Belarus. In the middle of the 19th century, two sisters, who were descendants of David Charlap, married two Budowla brothers, Yankel and Shmuel. They lived in Baranowicze (Baranovichi) and gave rise to the Budovitch family.
The Danowitz family descend from Berl ben Kalman. ‘Ben’ means ‘son of’. Kalman was son (or maybe the uncle) of Shimon (Samson) Charlap (Number 98). We are not sure if Kalman used the name Charlap. The Danowitz family married cousins from other branches of the family and are especially closely related to the Lewin, Pasternak, and Ser families. The Danowitz family lived in Ciechanowiec and the surrounding area.
Kiejsmacher (Kasemacher, Kizmacher, Kiejsman)
The name, which means ‘cheesemaker’, relates to the name Ser, which means ‘cheese’. Indeed, Sender Ser was also known as Sender Kiejsmacher. The Kiejsmachers intermarried with Sers, Mankutas, and Kurs, and are descended from Mendel ben Aron. Aron was a son of Kalman. Kalman was son (or maybe the uncle) of Shimon (Samson) Charlap (Number 98). Main centres of the Kiejsmachers were Nur, Ciechanowiec, Czyzewo, and Bialystok.
The Grapa (Grappa) family was concentrated in Lomza Guberniya, Poland, and lived in Brok, Zareby Koscielnie (Zaromb), Czyzewo, Ciechanowiec, Nur, and other nearby communities. They intermarried with the Mankuta and Smolarczyk families of Charlap family tree and also with the Czerwonagura, Gura and Krystal families, with whom Charlap have ties. Those Grapas on Charlap family tree descend from Hersch Grapa who married Beyla bat Zebulon (Zawel) Smola. Zebulon (Zawel) Smola was great-grandchild of Kalman Charlap. Kalman was son (or maybe the uncle) of Shimon (Samson) Charlap (Number 98). Zebulon was one of the progenitors of the Smolarczyk branch of the family.
Kopyto (Kopito, Kopitowsky)
The Kopyto name is derived from a Slavic term for ‘horse’s hoof’. The Kopytos descend from Yosef ben Aron. Aron was a son of Kalman. Kalman was son (or maybe the uncle) of Shimon (Samson) Charlap (Number 98). The Kopytos intermarried with the Kur, Ser, Pasternak, and Mankuta branches of the family, and with allied branches such as Samorog, Czerwonagura, and Ritholtz. The Kopytos spread throughout Lomza Guberniya: Zaromb, Cyzewo, Nur, Ciechanowiec, Andrzejewo.
Kur, Kuropatwa (Kuhr)
Kuropatwa is the Polish term for ‘partridge’; one of the meanings of Kur is ‘cock’. Another is ‘thumb of the miller’. In any event, those family members bearing these names were very closely related. They descend from Basia bat (daughter of) Kalman, the niece of David Charlap (David, see number 99). Basia who married Yosef, known as both Kur and Kuropatwa. Their children used both names. Kurs and Kuropatwas were mostly concentrated in Nur, Czyzewo, and Ciechanowiec, but went as far as Bialystok. They intermarried with Sers, Kopytos, Lews, Pasternaks, Kiejsmachers, Mankutas. Chuna Kur married Gittel Ser, daughter of Zebulon (number 101A) ben Avraham Charlap (number 100).
Lapin (Lappin, Lappen)
The Lapins descend directly from David Charlap (number 99). Members of the family frequently married their Charlap cousins as well as those from the Shereshevsky family. There were two main centres of the Lapins. One was Grodno (the city and the other towns in the Guberniya); the other centre was further north in Taurage, Kretinga, and other towns in Lithuania. Both groups were involved with Shereshevskys.
Lew, Lewin (Levine)
Lew and Lewin were apparently interchangeable names within the family. The name is a derivative of the Yiddish term for ‘lion’, and is one of the most common names among East European Jews.
Many from Lomza Guberniya bearing that name belong on the Charlap family tree, especially those from Nur and Ciechanowiec. The Lews and Lewins descend from two brothers, Abraham and Chaim, sons of Zalman Lew, who was son of Kalman Charlap. Kalman was son (or maybe the uncle) of Shimon (Samson) Charlap (Number 98).
Descendants of these brothers often married cousins in various branches of the Charlap family especially Pasternaks, Danowitzs, and Sers.
The Mankuta family descend from Michel and his wife. The wife was a daughter of Kalman (who was son (or maybe the uncle) of Shimon (Samson) Charlap (Number 98)). She was niece of David Charlap (Number 99).
The name Mankuta means ‘sleeve’, ‘cuff’, or ‘left-handed tailor’ in Polish. The majority of the family lived in Zaromb and Andrzejewo, but spread out to many of the family centres throughout Lomza Guberniya where they married cousins from many other branches of the family.
This name means ‘a person who leases land for dairy production’. They were in the same business as their Ser and Kiejsmacher cousins. Some lived in Ciechanowiec, but the biggest group were in Tykocin and Wysokie Mazowickie. The Pakciarz line comes from a brother of David Charlap (Number 99). We do not know his name. There were several Pakciarz-Ser marriages, and it was often said that “the milkman (Pakciarz) wed the cheesemaker (Ser)”.
A common name among eastern European Jews; it means ‘parsnip’ and was commonly given to subsistence farmers or produce dealers. They are interconnected with the Lewin, Danowitz, and other branches of the family and descend from Beryl ben Kalman (Kalman was son (or maybe the uncle) of Shimon (Samson) Charlap (Number 98)). The Pasternaks in the Charlap family lived in shtetls of Lomza Guberniya such as Nur, Ciechanowiec, Czyzewo, and Zaromb.
The progenitor of the Parczewski family that are connected to Charlap is in the same line as the Mankuta family. Indeed, the wedding of Yehudis Parczewski to Kalman Mankuta gave rise to one of the modem families in the Charlap tribe.
Parczewskis also married into the Kur branch and other families which may have ties to Charlap, such as Strossman and Lubar. The name Parczewskis derives from a town some distance from where Charlap’s Parczewski lived with their Mankuta cousins.
Podkowa means ‘horseshoe’ in Polish and was given to members of the family that became Kopyto. The two names are apparently interchangeable. Early Podkowas married cousins from the Kiejsmacher, Lewin, and especially the Ser lines. Chaya, daughter of Lazer Podkowa and Esther Elka Lewin married Sender Ser. Sender Ser was grandson of Zebulon Zawel Ser (Charlap) (Number 101A).
Chaya and Sender Ser had ten children, most of whom married cousins whose names were Ser, Kiejsmacher, and Danowitz.
Ser (Sir, Sahr, Cyr, Cear, Syr, Serr)
The Sers were concentrated in Ciechanowiec, Nur, Kosow Lacki, and Brok. A grandson of David Charlap (Number 99) was Zebulon (101A) ben Avraham Charlap. Zebulon, born circa 1760, was the first in the Charlap family to use the name ‘Ser’. He had at least six siblings, all of whom used the honorary title ‘Charlap’ as their surname. Sers married into most of the other lines of the family.
Smolarczyk (Smola, Smolar, Smoliar, Greenfield)
The Smolarczyks lived in Ostrow Mazowieckie, Zaromb, Nur, Ciechanowiec, Shterdyn and Kolonie Obiecane. The name comes from the Polish word for ‘pitch’ or ‘tar’.
This branch of the family descends from Yitzhak ben Aron, born circa 1767. Aron was son of Kalman. Kalman was son (or maybe the uncle) of Shimon (Samson) Charlap (Number 98). The name Tama means ‘dam’ in Polish; the progenitor of this branch of the family worked on the many waterways in the area of Nur and Ciechanowiec.
Tamas married their cousins in the Mankuta and Ser families and were closely allied with the Kwiateks, a possible branch of Charlap tree.
The 21st century
In December 2020 my brother and I embarked on a new project to uncover the living family members. We found and made contact with descendants that are living today in Israel, USA, Australia, UK, Norway, China, and Kazakhstan. Some surnames used today by family members are:
- Hanukayev (Hanukaev, Hanukayav)
There is a further article listing surnames.
- This article is largely based on an article by Arthur F. Menton, published in Newsletter of Congregation Charlap Yahya, Volume 11, number 1, May 2000. In 2021 Arthur’s article was edited, revised, and updated with new information by Gil Dekel. Work done with Arthur’s permission.
- For more information, see: Gil Dekel, The Origin of the Surname Charlap, May 2021.
- More about Charlap and Ser, see: Arthur F. Menton, The Book of Destiny – Toledot Charlap – Chapter XXV, February 2021.
- See: Arthur F. Menton, Charlap-Yahya family: lists of surnames adopted, and towns the family come from, June 2021.
1 August 2021. © Gil Dekel.