So I asked the genealogist who contacted me if there was a woman with the last name "Ishmael" in our family, as my older sister said she once saw that name in the family bible.
She also said there was a star of David next to her name?
The genealogist replied that "Elizabeth Ishmael" was my great-great grandmother, mother to Anna, who was mother to my grandmother :).
The genealogist is checking with her client for permission to reveal heritage testing info, if there was Jewish DNA found in her testing - which I would be thrilled over :)
Now, as much as I'd LOVE it, if we found out we were Jewish, I'm skeptical - because even though the name "Elizabeth" is a combination of two Hebrew words (see below), during that time period, it might have been unusual for a Jewish person to have the first name of "Elizabeth" - as in the mother of John the Baptist and the cousin of Mary, Jesus's mother - because that particular combination name can only be found in the New Testament, and with close familial ties with Christ.
Nowadays, nobody really cares lol - Christians, Jews, Muslims, and many other faiths, even atheists, now name their children biblical names just because they like the sound of them or their meaning, or because they knew someone with that name.
But just about a century or so ago, naming someone with an historically Christian name if you were Jewish was a no-no, or conversely, naming someone an historically Jewish first name if you were Christian was a no-no - or at least Christians picked and chose from the OT as to which names were okay, it seems?
So they're all biblical - and I get why NT biblical first names were avoided by Jewish people, that makes total sense sense.
What I don't get is why only certain Old Testament biblical names were considered once "Jewish," but other OT names weren't, with Christians of a bygone era?
Okay, so I get why the OT name "Saul" was/is avoided in general, especially by Christians - though the first King of Israel and initially started out on the right track, he became a bad dude and obsessed with killing David out of jealousy.
However, other names like "Solomon, Benjamin, David, Rachel, Leah" - despite being revered OT biblical people by both Christians and Jews, were avoided names by Christians and once almost exclusively considered Jewish first names in America, up until like the 20th century.
It doesn't make any sense - they're all biblical, and we Christians named a lot of our kids OT first names prior to the 20th century, names like Isaac, Aaron, Samuel, Jonathan, Elijah, Noah, Jonah, Sarah, Esther, Deborah, Rebekah/Rebecca - but for whatever reason, only certain OT first names were once considered Jewish and avoided by pre-20th-century Christians versus others.
Why was that? Weird, right? I don't get it.
Also, although both "Eliza" (or "Elisha," meaning "Joyful to God") and "Beth" (meaning "Oath of God") are both Hebrew words, the actual name of "Beth" can found in combination with other words in the Talmud/OT, but the specific combination of "Eliza" and "Beth" for a specific person's name is only found in the NT, referring to Elizabeth, the mother of John the Baptist, and the cousin of Mary, mother of Jesus.
Also, the last name "Ishmael" isn't necessarily either Jewish OR Muslim - in fact, it's more likely not (see below) - but it would be super cool if it was:)
If you're wondering how Muslim is even a possibility, remember that Abraham's two sons - Isaac from Jewish Sarah and Ishmael from Egyptian Hagar - both were claiming birthright to his legacy.
Thus, Isaac is considered the father of the Jewish nation and Ishmael is considered the father of the Muslim nation.
Remember, these were Hebrew-Arabic names with meanings - so as a result, "Ishmael" as a surname can be found in both Jewish and Muslim families, and "Isaac" can be found in both Jewish and Muslim families.
(In fact, we have a Palestinian family here in Lexington with the last name of Isaacs.)
In fact, the last name of "Ishmael" is actually more common today in Muslims, because he is considered the father of the Muslim nation.)
Regardless, the surname "Ishmael" first appeared in the UK in the 12th century, when the population had increased and people began to have last names/surnames to avoid confusion.
From what I've been reading, there were apparently at least 4 ways you could get this last name, so no way to know if UK surnames like "Enoch" "Isaac" or "Ishmael" are Anglo-Saxon, Jewish, or Muslim unless you take a DNA test (which the genealogist's client has, so I asked her, last night, and am waiting to hear back):
1) Baptized-from-birth Christians in the UK simply began to take their father's first name as their surname/last name as the population increased to avoid confusion.
Kind of like the Scottish (and some Irish) with "McGregor" (meaning "son or/heir of Gregor") or the Irish do with names like "O'Leary" (meaning "of Leary, " though that's often location.
Another option was to use your profession as your surname - i.e., Miller, Smith, Thatcher, etc.)
Because until late-medieval times, people didn't have or use - and the church did not recognize - last names/surnames, only your given Christian first name that you were baptized with.
Thus if your father's first name was "Ishmael," an option besides using your profession as a last name was to simply take your father's first name as your surname by the 13th century on.
2) Christianized pagans, forcibly or not - usually forcibly.
3) Christianized Jews, forcibly or not - usually forcibly.
4) Refugees or captives to the UK from Muslim territories during the Crusades and the "Reconquest" - Christian, Jewish, and Muslim - either already Christian (like Spain) or became Christianized, forcibly or not.
Interestingly, the last name "Ishmael" was at one time the most plentiful in the UK.
Even more interesting, most of the Ishmael descendants that came to America can be found in Kentucky :)
Also, a Jewish friend once asked me my grandmother's father's family was originally Jewish lol
I think because her maiden name is German and found in both non-Jewish and Jewish Germans, plus her family's physical traits?
I said I didn't think so, they were hard-core Southern Baptist, but while the genealogist is checking, might as well check my grandmother's father side too, right? lol
That would be super cool, if we were Jewish :)
Thus, we still don't know, waiting to find out - exciting!
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