April 23, 2003
1. Web-Site on Family Names in the USA
2. Were Some Immigrants from Germany Really of Jewish Origin?
3. W. E. Filmer: OUR SCYTHIAN ANCESTORS
1. Web-Site on Family Names in the USA
This website provides surname distribution based on various censuses and
also gives a person a rough idea as to surname frequency based on color
coding of results. I found it quite interesting.
it is also potentially useful in our studies. Different family groups were
much more prominent in
certain areas of the USA than in others.
2. Were Some Immigrants from Germany Really of Jewish Origin?
David Willis <firstname.lastname@example.org
Subject: [Ethnic Origins
One wonders how it could be that hoards of Jewish immigrants appeared
in 1800's and 1900's, but almost none before then. For the past year, I
have been intensively reviewing records on my own ancestors and their
neighbors and relatives in western VA. I have no proof, but I suspect
that there may be some immigrants to America in the 1700's who were
Jewish back in the Old Country (primarily Germany), and may have chosen
to change their religion, and in some cases their names, around the time
3. W. E. Filmer: OUR SCYTHIAN ANCESTORS
There follows extracts from an old article that makes some interesting points:
[for the article in full go to the web site:]
OUR SCYTHIAN ANCESTORS
By W. Edmund Filmer B.A.
WITHIN half a century of the House of Israel going into exile, the
Scythians were mentioned for the first time in any historical document.
These documents, which date from the reign of Esarhaddon, King of Assyria
(681-669 B.C.), were recovered from the archives of Nineveh and are now in
the British Museum. They reveal that the Scythians were then located among
the Medes where the Bible tells us that some of the Israelites had been
placed in captivity (2 Kings 18: 11). The same documents also prove that
another new people called Gimiri were also located in the same area at that
time. Unless we are to suppose that three distinctly different peoples
arrived in that area within the space of fifty years, we may conclude that
all three were actually the same people under different names.
Now the name for Scythian in the Assyrian language was Iskuza, but there
has been no explanation for the initial 'I' unless it be that the name was
derived from 'Isaaca'. The Israelites may well have called themselves
Isaaca, or house of Isaac, Amos did so a few years earlier (Amos 7:16). It
should be realized that in Hebrew the accent falls on the last syllable, so
that Isaac would not be pronounced as it is in English. Consequently, the
'I' could easily get lost altogether to form the Greek name Skuthae.
Herodotus (VI 1, 64) informs us that the Persians called all Scythians
Sacae, and in every trilingual Persian inscription that mentions the Sacae
(Saka), namely, that on the Behistun Rock, another on a gold plate, and a
third in the tomb of Darius, the name is always translated Gimri in the
Babylonian version. Since it is well known that the Assyrians used to call
Israel Khumri, this could well be the origin of the later form Gimiri. It
is, therefore, not unreasonable to believe that the Iskuzi and the Gimiri
were both, in fact, Israelite exiles.
Prayers to the Sun-God
The documents that first mention the Scythians belong to a series of
cuneiform tablets classified as politico-religious texts. They include
enquiries made by Esarhaddon of Shamash, the sungod, through his priests,
concerning the movement of troops, in particular those sent into Media to
collect tribute. From these enquiries we learn that the people with whom
they had to contend were not only the indigenous Medes but also the Gimiri
and the Iskuzi or Scythians.
In one of these enquiries King Esarhaddon asks, 'Regarding Partatua, King
of the Iskuza who has just sent his ambassador to Esarhaddon, King of
Assyria, about a princess I ask you Shamash, great lord, if Esarhaddon
gives a princess to Partatua King of the Iskuza for a wife, whether
Partatua will observe and keep his oath to Esarhaddon, King of Assyria?'
(translated from Politische-religiose Texte, p.30, by E.G. Klaube). As we
shall see, there are grounds for believing not only that the marriage took
place, but also that a military alliance between the Scythians and
Assyrians was made, for Herodotus relates that on one occasion a Scythian
army under the command of 'Madyes son of Protothyes' (Partatua) came to the
relief of Nineveh. 'A battle was fought' he says, 'in which the Medes were
defeated, and lost their power in Asia, which was taken over in its
entirety by the Scythians' (1, 103, 104).
Now the Medes, and their northern neighbours, the Mannai, who dwelt around
the shores of Lake Urmia, were renowned for their knowledge of riding
horses. The Scythians evidently learned the art from them, and in
consequence of their alliance with the Assyrians, were free to ride far and
wide. In fact, Herodotus says that for twenty-eight years 'they behaved
like robbers, riding up and down the country and seizing people's property.
At last Cyaxares and the Medes invited the greater number of them to a
banquet at which they made them drunk and murdered them, and in this way
recovered their former power and dominion' (1, 106).
The Scythian Dispersion
Strabo, referring to the tirne of Scythian supremacy in Asia, recorded that
the Sacae'occupied Bactriana, and acquired possession of the best land in
Armenia which they left named after themselves Sacasene' (XI, vili, 4). T
Migration into Europe
Following the fall of Nineveh in 612 B.C., and the subsequent collapse of
the Assyrian power in 609, the Scythians were deprived of their most
powerful ally and consequently came under increasing pressure from the
Medes. As we have seen, Herodotus records that in the reign of Cyaxares the
Medes regained supremacy over them. As a result, all Scythians west of the
Caspian Sea would have been forced to retreat northwards into south Russia
through the Dariel Pass in the Caucasus. Clearly this migration must have
begun about 600 B.C., and this agrees with the fact that the earliest
Scythian tombs in Russia have been dated to about 580 B.C. It should be
noted that archaeologists have arrived at this date solely on the basis of
the Greek objects found in the tombs, and vathout any reference to the
political situation described above.
Not long before the end of the century other groups of Scythians had got as
far west as the Carpathians, for Darius, king of Persia, in an attempt to
conquer their land in 512 B.C., came into contact with them soon after
crossing the Danube from Thrace.
The earliest tombs in Russia, such as that at Kelermes on the northern
slopes of the Caucasus, and the Litoy barrow, contained weapons and other
articles decorated with gold that show a close connection, not only with
the earliest Scythian designs at Ziwiye, but also with Assyrian, Median and
Coloured illustrations of these and many other beautiful objects have been
published in Treasures from Scythian Tombs by M.I. Artamov, former Director
of the Hermitage Museum, Leningrad, who wrote: 'In the animal style so
typical of Scythian art, the figures of animals in the oldest examples are
of Near Eastern derivation. The compositions with the tree of life, seen in
the gold settings of the swords from both Kelermes and the Melgunov
treasure, not only reproduce an ancient Mesopotamian subject, but in no way
differ stylistically from similar Assyrian and Urartian designs' (p.27).
All this goes to show that the Scythians of south Russia must have come
from south of the Caucasus, and not across the Volga from central Asia, as
historians used to think.
Customs and Beliefs
Some customs of the Scythians may well be survivals from their Israelite
ancestors. We know, for example that according to the Mosaic Law the pig
was unclean, and Herodotus tells us that the Scythians 'never use pigs for
sacrifice, and will not even breed them anywhere in the country' (IV, 63).
Hosea condemned the Israelites for using sticks for the purpose of
divination (4:12), and Herodotus says:'There are many soothsayers in
Scythia, and their method is to work with willow rods. They bring great
bundles of them which they put down on the ground; then they untie them,
lay out each rod separately, and pronounce their prophecy' (IV, 67). In the
Oxtis treasure there are a number of gold plaques depicting soothsayers,
with their bundles of rods, and it is thought that the Scythians used to
sew these on their garments as lucky charms.
Although Herodotus says that the Scythians attached great importance to
their national traditions, he nevertheless tells a story that reveals the
old Israelite weakness for pagan religions. He relates that a certain
Scythian named Anacharsis, while travelling in Greece, saw some people
celebrating a festival in honour of the mother of the gods and, when he got
home, he offered sacrifices to this goddess, for which he was duly punished
by death. He also mentions another, named Scylas, who used to put on Greek
clothes, and take part in Greek religious ceremonies (IV, 76-78 ).
The Scythians Divided
At first the Scythians dominated the whole of the steppe country between
the Carpathians and the Sea of Azov, and their territory according to
Herodotus, extended to a similar distance inland (IV, 101). This agrees
with the fact that some of their tombs have been found on both sides of the
Dnieper nearly as far north as Kiev. During the fourth century, however,
the Sarmatians began to move westwards from the Don as far as the bend in
the Dnieper which, according to Herodotus, was the traditional burial
ground of the Scythian Kings. It is interesting to note that no tombs in
this central area have been dated after the middle of the fourth century,
the greatest concentration of later burials lying to the south between the
lower Dnieper and the Crimea.
It is often overlooked, however, that a considerable number of royal
Scythian graves dating from the fourth century and later have been found
south of Kiev and the Pripet marshes in an area extending from the Dnieper
as far west as the upper reaches of the Dniester. One of the first to
appreciate the significance of this fact was M.I. Rostovtsev who wrote: 'We
cannot but recognize that in the fourth and third centuries the Scythians
endeavoured to install themselves as a ruling class in the northern regions
of their empire, to transform their suzerainty into a real domination, and
to extend that domination as far as possible to the north. It will not be
denied that this Scythian expansion, hitherto unnoticed, is an historical
fact of the first importance' .
M.I. Rostovtsev: "Iranians and Greeks in South Russia", (1922, p.98).
The Northern Scythians
The testimony of both history and archaeology is that the northern
Scythians continued long to retain their national identity. Thus Strabo,
describing the various parts of Asia and Europe shortly before the
beginning of the Christian era, wrote: 'Of the portions thus divided, the
first is inhabited in the region toward the north and the ocean by the
Scythian nomads and wagon dwellers, and south of these by the Sarmatians'
(XI, 11, 1). Thus it is clearly stated that at that tirne the Scythian
nomads dwelt to the north of the Sarmatians as far as the 'ocean'. This may
mean either the Baltic or the North Sea.
Again, Pliny the Elder, in his Natural History (IV, xiii) written early in
the Christian era, mentions various islands in the 'Northern Ocean' off the
coast of Scythia. One was named Baunonia, possibly Bornholm, which was said
to lie 'off Scythia at a distance of a day's voyage from the coast, on the
beach of which in springtime amber is cast up by the waves'. He also
mentions a report that 'three days' sail from the Scythian coast there is
an island of enormous size called Balcia', which may well be a description
of Scandinavia. Such statements plainly reveal that the northern Scythians
had migrated as far as the Baltic coast.
A Change of Name
In his description of central Europe, from the Danube to the Baltic, Pliny
states that,'The name of the Scythians is everywhere changed to that of
Sarmatae and Germans. This old designation has not been continued for any
except the most outlying sections of this nation who live almost unknown to
the rest of mankind' (Natural History, IV, xii). By outlying sections of
the nation, he doubtless meant those on the north coast of Europe just
mentioned. Unfortunately, the true meaning of this important statement has
been completely obscured in the Loeb edition of Pliny by a mistranslation
that reads: 'The name of Scythian has spread in every direction as far as
the Sarmatae and Germans.'
The reason why the name Scythian was changed was because the country
immediately north of the Black Sea had long been called Scythia, but by the
last century B.C., it had become occupied largely by Sarmatians.
In order to distinguish between the Sarmatian inhabitants and the true
Scythians, the Romans dropped the name Scythian and substituted Sarmatae
and German!. However, Pliny thought it unnecessary to give the reason as it
was then well known. Strabo, on the other hand, as a Greek writer, felt an
explanation was called for, but he confused the Scythians with the Celts.
He said: 'It was for this reason that the Romans assigned to them the name
Germani, as though they wished to indicate thereby that they were the
"genuine" Galatae, for in the language of the Romans, "germani" means
"genuine"' (VII, 1, 2). He should have said the Germani were the 'genuine'
Scythians, not Galatians.
Prior to 100 B.C., the land bordering on the southern Baltic Sea - now
Poland and the former East Germany - had been rather sparsely populated,
but from that date onwards cemeteries increased in number with the
introduction of new burial rites.
Previously, the bodies of the dead were invariably cremated, the ashes
usually being buried in an urn, but grave offerings rarely accompanied the
interment. Later inhumation, that is, burial without cremation, was
introduced, and an increasing number of graves contained the dead person's
most valued belongings. In addition, there were an increasing number of
chieftains', or princes' graves, containing a wooden chamber in which the
body was buried along with silver and gold ornaments.
Since the Scythians usually buried their dead without cremation, often in
timber tombs, and were noted for the quantity and value of the weapons and
ornaments that were placed in them, the new burial rites may well be
accounted for by their arrival in these lands.
However, owing to the terrain in northern Europe being less suitable for
breeding horses than the Russian steppes, horsegear and horse skeletons are
no longer found in the graves. On account of this and other minor cultural
changes, the chieftains' tombs of northern Europe have not been recognized
by archaeologists as Scythian, even though Strabo and Pliny reported that
Scythians actually inhabited these regions.
A significant fact, noted by Polish, Scandinavian and even German scholars,
is that the chieftains' graves in south Poland are at least a century older
than the earliest ones on the Baltic coast, implying a migration from south
to north. A further important fact is that these graves all lie on or to
the west of the Vistula, the area east of that river being cut off from an
immigration from south Russia by the Pripet marshes. Finally, in the early
centuries of the Christian era, these burial rites spread north into the
Danish islands and Jutland peninsula.
Now Tacitus and Ptolemy name the region of the River Elbe and the base of
the Jutland Peninsula as the places inhabited by the Angles and Saxons
before they came to Britain. According to Roman terminology, this was
'Germany' but it is interesting to note that the British historian,
Nennius, in his account of the arrival of Hengist and Horsa in Thanet, says
that 'messengers were sent to Scythia' for reinforcements. The context
shows that these came in fact, from north Germany, so evidently the ancient
name of the 'genuine' Scythians persisted long in northern Europe.
It is thus possible to trace our Anglo-Saxon ancestors back, not only to
northern Europe, but to south Russia and finally to Media where the
Israelites were placed in captivity.