Meaning of "Zaidins": Unfortunately, so far nothing appears definitive. There are several possibilities.

(1) given the recent finds in genetic surveys by Family Tree DNA, the possibility of the link to the village of Zaidín, in Aragón, Spain seems stronger. It is well known that Jewish families emigrated to the Ottoman Empire from Spain during this time period. Family names in this part of the world were not uncommon and many took the names of the places they came from. In our case it may have been, "de Zaidin" (of Zaidin). That name could have survived for 300 years until the family arrived in Russia, when they would have dropped their surname (as was the Jewish custom upon crossing the border into the Russian Empire) until 1835 (though required in 1804 but not enforced until 1835 when a new edict was pronounced by Czar Nicholas I.) We have documentary evidence that the family was living in Lepel in 1841, within six years of the decree. If our family had been in Russia for only two or three generations, Moshe Zaidins (b. Circa 1790) would have easily known the family name and restored it, but adding the 's' at the end to show the family was of, from, or the son of Zaidin.*

(2) Alexander Beider, in his book, “Jewish Surnames in the Russian Empire,” suggests it means "kind-hearted" or "gentle".**

(3) "silken" or "silky" from the German seiden;

(4) unlikely but possible is "olive", from the Turkish zeytin;

(5) also unlikely but possible is from the Arabic, Zaydan, meaning "one who knows the law well."

The mystery behind the meaning of the family name is ostensibly lost to history. If you think you've got a lead, let us know.

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*In an in-person conversation with Yiddish scholar Salo Enis, he explained that in Yiddish, the 's' ending of Zaidins could well be the genative case, to show possession: of, from, or "son of" Zaidin.

** Salo Enis also explained that Beider viewed the name as descriptive of an attribute, as in the expression "Zaidiner Mentch" (Zaidiner, meaning fine or gentle like silk). It's analogous to someone taking the name, Glickman, which means 'lucky man".

History: The family's origins after the Roman destruction of the Second Temple, like that of most Jewish families, are obscured by time. There is some oral history that helps to trace our more recent wanderings. In 1955, Nathan Zaidens explained  that he was told by his family that sometime during the 18th century, his ancestors came from an area that is today, Georgia, historically part of the Ottoman Empire. This may have been borne out by a newly commissioned Y-DNA study. A Zaidins family member is participating in Family Tree DNA's Iberian Ashkenaz Y-DNA project. The results reveal with a high degree of certainty that our family lived in Spain prior to the Spanish Inquisition.

 

So, it looks like Spain to Ottoman Empire to Georgia, and from there north, possibly to Kiev. In the late 18th, or early-19th century, the family split up. Part traveled to what was then Lithuania, part went northwest to the area known today as Poland, and part stayed behind in Kiev. In 1902, the first exodus from the Pale of Settlement started when Yitzchok Zaidins, then 76 years old, departed Lepel for America. Four of his adult children and their families either traveled with him or soon followed. Other parts of the family left later, both voluntarily and involuntarily. Today, members of the extended family live all over the world.

 

  • Circa 1790

    Moshe born. Presumably, somewhere in Lithuania.

  • 1835

    Moshe Zaidins either had the surname already, or in 1835 adopted it. In Russian, it is spelled, заидинс. In Yiddish spelled זיידענס, and in Hebrew, זיידנס, and transliterated variously, depending on the convention at the time, as "Zaidins", "Zaidens", "Zaydens", or Zajdens".

  • 1841

    Earliest documentary record of Zaidens family in Lepel, Vitebsk Gubernia, Russia.

  • 1902-1904

    Yitzchok ben Moshe Zaidins departs for America. Port of entry is Detroit., settling first in Sheboygan, Wisconsin.

  • Post 1917

    Family members remaining were dispersed throughout USSR or killed by the Nazis. Many survived, some managed to leave.

 

 

 

 

 
 
Z

Family Tree DNA There is oral family history that the Zaidinses migrated into Eastern Europe through the Ottoman Empire. As a result of our participation in the Iberian Ashkenaz Y-DNA project, through Family Tree DNA, it now appears likely that the family's immigration path brought them there from Spain at the time of the inquisition.

 

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Zaidins family tree as of March 3, 2009. 650+ members and growing!

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