Prelimary Research

Written by Bob Padgug, Buffalo, NY (1999)

Editor's Note 10-20-2004--during our many years of research since bpadgug wrote this,I've found numerous informative web sites that have helped to describe the era of the mass immigration of Eastern European Jews near the turn of the 20th century. Also, we've discovered historical sites of how these immigrants lived and survived after their arrival to the United States. You will see some words in this text that have been highlighted and underlined. Click on those words to links to other web sites with historical information. Each web site or photo will appear as a new window on this page. When you're finished viewing the page or photo, just close the window to return to this page. Enjoy! jpadgug

Since this is being circulated, I will write a preliminary report on my cemetery tour Sunday, 1/10/1999.  Information is coming in so quickly and we make many conjectures. We need to keep everything in perspective. I will continue sending all my email directly to Judy has the entire mailing list. It is better if only one list is maintained. I will refer to her as JPadgug to avoid confusion since my wife is also Judy Padgug. I will refer to myself as bpadgug since there are two "Robert Allen Padgug" loose in this world!


JPadgug placed a PADGUG family tree stemming from Louis Joseph Padgug born 1857 in Russia on the web and also did some inquiries on JewishGen, the homepage of Jewish Genealogy.  bpadgug stumbled on it quite by chance and emailed her.  We decided to work together to start a PADGUG homepage filled with research about the name.  The primary initial research tools were several web phone listing search engines and the SSDI, a listing of all individuals since 1962 for whom a Social Security Death Benefit was claimed. PADGUGs appearing on the phone lists were called.  Several of these calls led to other contacts (Since we work with the PADGUG last name, we have difficulty tracing married daughters.  We can only find them by word-of-mouth). Two family trees resulted - the initial LOUIS JOSEPH PADGUG (1857) tree and another stemming from JOSEPH PADGUG born about 1863.  All PADGUGs found on either the phone lists or SSDI could be placed in one of these trees.

JOSEPH PADGUG is reported by all family members to have been from Minsk, Russia emigrating about 1899.  Louis Joseph Padgug emigrated about 1888.  We have no consistent documented point of origin.  Samuel Padgug, father of bpadgug, had reported an origin of "Boltava Gubernia".  This is most probably Poltava Gubernia, which was a province of the Jewish Pale in Russia.  Murray Padgug, uncle of bpadgug, reported the town name was "Pryluk".  There is a town named Pryluki in Poltava Gubernia.  It is likely that the point of origin was thus Pryluki, Poltava Gubernia, Ukraine but is undocumented and hardly as consistently convincing as the Minsk origin for the other tree.  There is universal agreement that both families are Jewish.

1850 Minsk/Ukraine Map
You do not have to download the Cyrillic program to view this map, just click on "cancel" and proceed. You can also enlarge the image for better viewing.

There is also a consistent concept on both sides that the name PADGUG had its origins from Greek PEDAGOGUE. Two Midrashim (Rabbinical writings dating probably from the 4th Century ACE) were found referring to a pedagogue with the word transliterated into Hebrew.  bpadgug has seen others over the years.  The absence of vowels in written Hebrew could explain the differences in pronunciation.  This word has also been found in a Hebrew Dictionary of the kind used by scholars to study ancient texts.  Therefore, it is quite likely that the name stems from a Greek word meaning teacher, which evolved into Hebrew, then Russian and finally English upon arrival to the USA.

The Russian Empire required all Jews to adopt a surname, passed from father to son without change, in the early 19th Century.  Jews resisted but were forced to comply between about 1805 and 1850.  Some families, usual well known rabbinical families, had names before 1800.  Listings of Jewish surnames in the Russian Empire have been compiled over the years.  They are extensive.  The name, PADGUG, does not appear.

There also seems to be a consistent gap between the two PADGUG families.  Each side knew its own genealogy quite well.  We all had a vague knowledge that there were other PADGUGs out there.  We assumed there was a link between all of us.  Nobody recalls talk of a brother or cousin who "came over".

Given the assumed derivation of the name, it is hard to believe that two families could give the same English spelling right off the boat without some common origin.  It could be coincidental that two teachers independently selected the name to ultimately transliterate into Russian and then to English in the same way.


During discussions with the Minsk PADGUGs, it was mentioned that NATHAN PADGUG was buried in Queens, NY at the Mt. Hebron Cemetery.  A call to Mt. Hebron revealed 6 graves, JOSEPH, ESTHER, NATHAN, ANNETTE, GEORGE and FANNIE.  Murray Padgug had a vague recollection of visiting the graves of LOUIS JOSEPH and his wife ROSE.  He indicated the site was also in Queens.  The Jewish Genealogy Website has a listing of all Queens Jewish Cemeteries.  bpadgug called cemeteries from the list. The second call resulted in a stroke of pure luck.  Mt. Zion Cemetery had a listing in their computer for RACHEL PADGAG.  bpadgug has had his name misspelled enough times not to let a single vowel get in the way. Fortunately the woman in the cemetery office was the Jewish equivalent of a saint.  She delved into cemetery records, finding Rachel Padgug to be buried in the "baby graves" on a plot registered to the Baron Hirsch Lodge #53.  She was then able to find a map of Baron Hirsch burials, discovering graves for LOUIS and ROSE.

bpadgug visited the graves at both cemeteries on 1/10/1999, photographing the stones.  All stones were in excellent condition with the exception of RACHEL PADGUG (We'll assume the cemetery record to be a simple misspelling).  The "baby graves" are in a small strip of land down the edge of the plot.  The density of graves in the area is unreal.  Obviously a small strip was set aside for this necessary function.  Graves for young infants were placed in chronological order down this strip.  RACHEL is # 12, died 10-13-1905 according to cemetery records.  The markers for all "baby graves" are totally washed out.  Several are sunken.  It was impossible to read any.

All other stones were read and photographed.  Currently Rabbi E. Schwartz, a friend, teacher and all around nice guy, is translating the Hebrew on the stones to make sure nothing is missed.  bpadgug was able to read most of the info on the stones.  As is the custom, the stones contain the Hebrew given name including father's given name and the date of death according to the Hebrew calendar.  Then the American name and Gregorian date is included.  Some have additional text in Hebrew and English.  A complete translation from Rabbi Schwartz will follow.  A few interesting points:

  1. LOUIS JOSEPH has the Hebrew name of YEHUDA LAYB bar SHMUEL i.e. JUDAH LAYB son of SAMUEL.  We now know the given name of his father.  There has been a family legend that an ancestor named Samuel, a teacher, chose the name PADGUG. (I decided to use the spelling LAYB since it is more indicative of the pronunciation)
  2. ROSE PADGUG, wife of LOUIS JOSEPH, had the Hebrew name, RACHEL.  This is a problem.  It is uncommon for Ashkenazi Jews to name a child after a living person.  If this were a child of LOUIS JOSEPH and ROSE, then they would not have named her RACHEL.  Investigation is being done to see how a very young, unnamed infant would be identified.  It is common to use the name SARAH for a Jewish girl whose name is unknown.
  3. JOSEPH PADGUG had the Hebrew name YOSEF bar YEHUDAH LAYB, JOSEPH son of JUDAH LAYB.  I deliberately spelled the name YEHUDAH differently from that of YEHUDA.  In Hebrew on the stone, the final letter is HAY for JOSEPH but is an ALEF for LOUIS.  YEHUDAH is the normal Hebrew spelling found in scripture; Rabbi Schwartz believes YEHUDA to be a Yiddish spelling.  (Scanned photos will follow as soon as they are back from Rabbi Schwartz).


We now have a second tantalizing mystery. Not only is the surname spelled the same in English but also the father of JOSEPH has a very similar (if not identical) Hebrew name to LOUIS JOSEPH. The names are close enough that the discrepancy may be purely related to the background of the engraver.  Remember JOSEPH (1863) and LOUIS JOSEPH (1857) are born about the same time.  They are not brothers since their fathers have different names. The father of JOSEPH must be alive at the time LOUIS JOSEPH was born. Why would LOUIS JOSEPH be given the same Hebrew name as a living person? The obvious conclusion would be that at the time of the birth of LOUIS JOSEPH in 1857, his father SAMUEL was unaware of another YEHUDAH LAYB although they both used the same surname, PADGUG. Of course, remember that it may not be customary but it does happen. There were two SAMUEL PADGUGs living simultaneously, a son and grandson of LOUIS JOSEPH.  Each of them named a son ROBERT ALLEN PADGUG.  It does happen.  I really don't know if the Hebrew names are the same.


Eastern Europe has opened to travel and genealogical research.  Records are becoming available.  The Mormon Church, LDS, microfilms vast amounts of genealogical documentation worldwide for their own religious purposes.  They are very good about sharing the information with interested parties.  Recently an index of surnames from the Minsk area was placed on the web.  A listing for PODGUG in an 1861 Minsk birth record appears.  JPadgug is following up this information.  Death Certificates have been requested from the NYC Archives for LOUIS JOSEPH, ROSE, RACHEL and JOSEPH by bpadgug.  Social Security application for BENJAMIN, son of LOUIS JOSEPH has also been requested.  Microfilms of passenger ship arrivals into Castle Garden, NYC, in 1888 have been ordered.  Eventually we may hire a researcher in the Ukraine and Minsk area to investigate.  In addition, a mailing to everyone on the PADGUG list will be made including all our information requesting additions and corrections.

We are also pursuing records of the Baron Hirsch Lodge #53.  This is one of a multitude of fraternal organizations, which provided support for the vast number of Jewish immigrants arriving in the late 19th and early 20th Century.  Most are defunct now and records may no longer exist.  JOSEPH is buried on a plot from the United Sons of Israel.  Their records could also be pursued.

Obviously if any of you know additional information or have a correction, please contact JPadgug or bpadgug.  Any documentation would be fantastic.  Old notes from a conversation with a parent or grandparent or recollections of a conversation.  Old photographs.  Call a relative and discuss it.  Any tiny bit of information can open a whole new line of investigation.  The single mention of Mt. Hebron Cemetery opened the whole gravestone investigation.  Send all along any idea; no matter how far out.  If anyone is available and interested in New York City then a trip to the Archives there would be a great time saver.  bpadgug gets down there occasionally and will get there when possible.