Living room:

Stories about the family’s history


Background about our family lines.

More stories will be added later,
so check back from time to time!


Ted's side


Some researches writing in the 1950's said that the Smetters descended from the Huguenot family of "de Smet." This was an assumption made based solely on the similarity of names and the "German" nature of the Smetters line in America. (The Huguenots were French Calvinist Protestants of the 16th and 17th centuries. Many Huguenots moved to Germany. )

Most current research indicates that the Smetters were not German, but were desecended from the Smither family that came to America from the British Isles. Some settled among the Germans in Pennsylvania and became known as Pennsylvania Dutch. Here the name changed from Smither to Smithers, and later to Schmetter or Schmetters, Smothers, Smathers, Smethers, or Smetters. Some of the family line in Pennsylvania moved to the Carolinas and used the name Smathers.

Smither family history indicates that they were found in in Yorkshire, England since ancient times, as Lords of the manor of Smithers, some say well before the Norman Conquest and the arrival of Duke William at Hastings in 1066.

Go to the SMETTERS surname list.


"Framp" means "strong or firm" and is from a British word meaning "fair" or "Brisk," and the "ton" at the end of the name means "farmstead" or "enclosure." Frampton means "one who comes from Frampton." It is a habitation name, taken from various places. There were about ten places in Glouschestershire and one Dorest, England with the name. Most locations take the name from the Frome river and the Old English word "tun" which means an enclosure or settlement. A primary location was the homestead Frampton on the Frome River in England. It was in what was known as Freola's people village --"freo," means free. The place called Fampton in Lincs probably gets its name from the Old English name "Framece," a derivative of "fram," which means valient, plus the Old English "tun." In Doresethsire, northwest of Dorchester, was a town of Frampton. Three parishes are known as Frampton Courts.

Framptons are from the Anglo-Saxons in England of about the 10th century. Descendants are traced to Norman, Welsh, Saxon, or Irish ancestors. The family was of the aristocracy of England--the House of Frampton. They derived maternally from a Norman chieftan. The "ton" ending of the name indicates they were Anglo-Saxons--not Celts, Danes, or Germans since the ending is not found in those names. At the time of the Norman Conquest in 1066, the principal seat of the English Framptons was at Dorsetshire, in the County of Dorset. In 1794, a pavement of unusual size and beauty was unearthed at Frampton in Doreset. It was a pavement laid during the Roman occupation.

In 1300, John Frampton's oldest son married Marjorie Morton, of Morton (Moreton) House. A Frampton served as a member of Parliament in 1354, was knighted in 1371. A Frampton was Knighted, made Sheriff in 1387, and was granted a crest and a coat-of-arms. The Framptons actually have two family crests or coat-of-arms. The first is a greyhound sitting and has a collar ring with wings. The second crest a fabled creature--a demi-griffin (a half-griffin)--with claws outstretched. Between the claws is a mullet or staff.

Go to the FRAMPTON surname list.


The name Compton means "one who comes from Compton (hollow estate). It is the name of many places in England. It comes from the Old English "cumb"- a short, straight valley-- and "tun"--an enclosure or settlement. Various spellings are Cumpton, Coombe, Comton, etc.

Our earliest Compton ancestor in America seems to have been David Compton who lived and kept tavern in Broome County, New York. In 1798, David settled four miles above Binghamton, near the Susquehanna river. He was the second military captain in this region. Joseph Compton (apparently his brother) settled near Binghamton on the south side of the river.

Go to the COMPTON surname list.


According to a history by William Forrest Shonkwiler, the family name probably came from German for "shoen" which means beautiful, and "weiler," a word derived from the Italian "villa" or the French "viller" and means a village or town. The 'pretty' or 'beautiful' village that provided the Shonkwiler family with its name was located in the Rhien-Pfals region of southwestern Germany which was part of ancient Palatinate. The village was located in foothills of the Vosage mountains in the wine producing regions between the Moselle and Rhine rivers. It was about 50 kilometers east of the border of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg. Thirty miles to the southwest was the ancient Roman city of Trier which was founded in 15 A.D. Ritberg was about ten miles to the northeast. Enemies often invaded the land. Few people stayed outside the friendly town's wall after dark.

In the first half of the twentieth century, about 200 people inhabited the town. Most farmed land, at night returning to two-story stone houses that had attached barns. Those who did not farm worked in factories in Trier and Bitberg.

Go to the SHONKWILER surname list.

Mitzi's side


The Satinovers came from Palestine, Romania, central Europe, or western Russia. Harry Boonin, a noted Jewish genealogist stated about 1985, that the family name of Satinover came from the name of the town Satanov from which they originally came:

Satanov, a townlet called Satanov in Podolia, Ukrania.
Location: Khmelnitsky district, Ukraine
Foundation date of Jewish community: 16th century
Pre-Holocaust population: approx. 2500

Go to the SATINOVER surname list.


The Tovrog family goes back only a few generations by that name. The surname Michelson was also used. Even the Michelson name probably was not used as a family designation before the early 1800. Until then, many people, especially the Jews, did not use surnames. In the beginning of the 19th century, laws were made in Europe that required almost everyone to have a fixed family name.

The name of Tovrog occurred at least by the end of the 19th century when Label Michelson’s married son Max came to America.  Max and his familywent the last name of Tovrog; his wife was Freda Bobrov.  It is possible that emigration officials hearing him speak in a Russian or Yiddish accent, recorded his name as Tovrog rather than similarly sounding Bobrov.

Taking on a mother or wife’s surname name was common among European Jews. Sometimes the mother’s surname was used if she were from a famous rabbinical family or was the family breadwinner (while the men studied in the Yeshivas). In some countries, rabbinical marriage ceremonies were not recognized by the local governments, thus causing children to assume the surname of the mother. Other reasons given for changing surnames were to circumvent mandatory, military service under the Czars. Tradition says the name change in the Michelson-Tovrog line came from fear the Czarist authorities would locate the family in America.

Go to the TOVROG-MICHELSON -BRENNER surname list.


The Brenner line closely associates with the Tovrog-Michelson line and shares relatives. Ida Brenner and her husband Benjamin Tovrog were first cousins--grandchildren of Label Michelson. Marriage among cousins was not uncommon before the 20th century. Many European royal families were related in this way. In Jewish families, elegible mates had to be found within their community of faith.

The surnames of Brenner and Brender are derived from the German word for the Alembic apparatus of distilling which is "brenner" (burner). The names were often assumed by a distiller of alcohol, particulary in Eastern Europe, where Morris Brenner's family came from. Working in a trade there was licensed by a government monoply. Names denoting occupation, trades, crafts, and professionss and trade were extremely common among most peoples, including the Jewish people. Ashkenazi Jews in particular seemed to have used this source for creating family names, especially from the 19th century when laws were passed in Europe forcing all Jews to assume fixed family names, which until them they had not deemed necessary. In many parts of Germany, when family names were chosen, there was a prohibition on using names that were specifically Jewish, such as Cohen or Levy.

The Edict of 1789 in the Austro-Hungarian Empire required all Jews to register with the burgermeister with a Germanic family name for purposes of taxation and military conscription. Most Jewish-Germanic surnames were desciptive of occupation, geographic location, or religious background. Many surnames came from other sources, such as appearance, patronyms, some matronyms if they were more prestigious, etc. The haste in which such laws were enforced may explain why many used the name of their trade or tools used in the trade. The wide range of Jewish family names coming from occupations illustrates the variety of trades they had and the areas where the dominated.

Go to the TOVROG-MICHELSON -BRENNER surname list.


Michelson simply means "the son of Michel." Michel is a German form of Michael. Michael was one of four archangels who surrounded the throne of the Lord. The name means "who is like God" or "Godly". In the Hebrew Bible (Daniel 10), Michael is the constant defender of the Jewish people and is God's messenger. Michal also was the name of the younger daughter of the Biblical King Saul. She became a wife of King David.

Many Jewish and non-Jewish given and surnames are based on Michael, among them the German Michel/Michl. The French use Michel, Italian forms use Michele, the Russian Mikhail, the Hungarian Mihaly, and the Rumanina Mihai(l). Various spellings include Meisel and Maisel to Meysel and Meusel, and could have produced the forms Miss and Miess.

Some sources connect Michael with house signs which pictured a mouse (in German "maus") or a Titmouse (in German "meise"). Before the 19th century--prior to the modern system of addressing property by number and street name--European houses generally were identified with a picture sign or shield hanging in front.

Among Jewish people, Michael is recorded in 1212 at Wuerzburg in Germany, Michaleis in 1261 at Main (Germany), Michahel in 1334 at Strasbourg, France; Mikiel in 1337 in the Hainot, France; Michelin in 1392 at Colmar, France, Michaellis in 1400 in France; Meisel in 1477 at Prague (Bohemia); Michel in 1550 in Hessen, Germany. Michelis (1678), Michelis and Michelupp (1720), Miess and Miss (1721), Mischke (1731), and Machelopp (1745) are documented in the lists of visitors who attended and Leipzig fairs in Germany. Misch, Maechel, and Meishchel are recorded in 18th-century Alsace, Germany.

Distinguished Michelsons include the siblings Albert, Charles, and Miriam who were Mitzi's cousins. Albert was the famed physicist who won the first American Nobel prize in physics. Charles was the speach writer for Theodore Roosevelt. Miriam was a noted novelist, whose books were published over a forty year span.

Go to the TOVROG-MICHELSON -BRENNER surname list.


Little is known of our specific Rappaport ancestors -- only that Mitzi's paternal grandmather Paulina Rappaport was born about 1883 and came to America from Romania in 1903 to stay with her sister in Chicago who was married to Leon Rubin (Rubenstein). Apparently sometime later Paulina's mother Bessie also came to America.

Various branches of the Rappaport family claim a common Kohenitic (priestly) origin. The names of Rapa or Rappe ha-Kohen are found about 1450. At that time Meshullam Kusi Rapa ha-Kohen, the earliest known member of the family, lived on the Rhine in Germany. Several decades later the family disappeared from Germany, probably due to the expulsion of the Jews from Mayence Oct. 29, 1462. In 1467, in Mestre, near Venice, the wealthy Rappe is found as collector of alms for the poor of the Holy Land. In Venice the physician R. Moses Rap was exempted in 1475 from wearing the Jew's badge.

Go to the SATINOVER surname list.