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My grandpa was from Poland - Gresom Jopfa


paulajuvaw 1 | 13  
10 Dec 2008 /  #1
Hi, I have a Polish genealogy when it comes to my grandpa on my dad's side. His name was Harry Juva but his birth name was Gregory Juva. He came to New York City from Poland in 1930 as alone, about 20 years old from Masteshca, Poland (not sure how to spell it in Polish). Does anyone know anything about his mom and dads or anything else about him. He died in 1995. I am having a bad time trying to know more about him. He married my grandmother Della Germaine in about 1945 and had my dad Harry Juva, Jr. in 1947 and my aunt Arlene Juva Badanes in 1951.

Please tell me anything you know about Harry Juva and the Juva family from Masteshca, Poland.
Wroclaw 44 | 5,384  
10 Dec 2008 /  #2
Masteshca,

It might be more like: Maszczyca

Wait for someone wiser than me to reply.
Switezianka - | 463  
10 Dec 2008 /  #3
One thing is certain: Juva can't be a Polish surname.

Either it is not the original spelling of the name or the name is foreign. There is no 'v' in the Polish alphabet.
Wroclaw 44 | 5,384  
10 Dec 2008 /  #4
Thanx Switezianka.

paulajuvaw, google: juwa genealogy

It will bring up links for the family name in Poland.
OP paulajuvaw 1 | 13  
10 Dec 2008 /  #5
Yeah that's right his original name was Gregory (actually the Polish version of Gerson) Juva but he changed it to Harry Juva when he came to New York City.

Do you have any idea where Masteshca is?
I don't know how it's spelled. That's just how it sounds when it gets said.
Wroclaw 44 | 5,384  
10 Dec 2008 /  #6
paulajuvaw,

please read the above posts more carefully.

Then consult family and family documents... then we can move on together.
OP paulajuvaw 1 | 13  
10 Dec 2008 /  #7
If I add his picture here maybe someone else might recognize him.

I also reread it, but I can't add to it yet. This is very fascinating since it cracks the wall a little but I don't think we can jump to conclusions about the name Juva vs. Juwa. They might not be related.

If the town could be pinned down it would be easier to figure out on the web. Hopefully she will have an idea about the real spelling of the town.


  • Harry Juva, born in Poland as Gersom (Polish Gregory) Juva, 84 in 1994
Wroclaw 44 | 5,384  
10 Dec 2008 /  #8
If I add his picture here maybe someone else might recognize him.

First you have to check the Polish spelling of the family name. Then you have to find the town / village the family came from.

You should look for his Naturalization papers.

Did he serve in the US military. If so: check his military papers.

Read all you can at: polishroots.org

The spelling JUVA seems to come from Sweden / Finland. (in most searches)
OP paulajuvaw 1 | 13  
10 Dec 2008 /  #9
Hey, that was a good idea about the military records since my grandfather was a Navy scientist. And I looked in his box and she was right that the name wasn't Juva with a V. Where it says previous names he has Gresom Jopfa and that's what became Harry Juva. Still have to figure out about the town of Masteshca though.

It's really something since if we didn't have this conversation I wouldn't have ever known my maiden name was actually Jopfa and not Juva. I can't imagine why he would spell it so different.

In a some ways related issue, I am very interested in world cultures. In college, I studied over in Thailand. A good way to introduce yourself to the culture of a place is through its cuisine. What's a good place to learn about the kinds of food and drink my grandfather would have had growing up in Poland? The only thing I remember him making often was roast beef and potato hash. Gotta find out more...
Wroclaw 44 | 5,384  
10 Dec 2008 /  #10
What's a good place to learn about the kinds of food and drink my grandfather would have had growing up in Poland?

Check the food threads on the forum.

Read about the social history of Poland. Look at farm life, city life etc

Look at Polish websites for popular cities... check the photos.

Then you will understand more of your family history.

Do you have any old letters... in Polish. They are what will help you most. Not just what's written in them but also the postmark.

Is your family Jewish or other ? It is relevant.
OP paulajuvaw 1 | 13  
10 Dec 2008 /  #11
Yeah, of course I did look into that right away. With what I have there are some old Polish little books, although I'm sure my Aunt Arlene has more (but she's unlikely to share it). Of course it's impossible for me to read the books since they aren't in English. Little leather bound ones. Of course, and it's a good idea anyway.

Also interested in what Swettianklia has to say when she has a chance.
Wroclaw 44 | 5,384  
10 Dec 2008 /  #12
We have already come a long way: from Harry Juva to Gresom Jopfa.

You now have a better chance of finding his roots.

Go to:
ancestry.com
genealogy.com
Krakowianka 1 | 243  
10 Dec 2008 /  #13
Where it says previous names he has Gresom Jopfa and that's what became Harry Juva

You know, a lot of people changed their names when they arrived in the US. He could have one name, then entered the US as Gresom Jopfa, then americanized and changed to Harry Juva. Either way, they don't sound very Polish.

Did you do google searches for the names? Do you have any Jewish links in your family? The name Gersom is an old Jewish name... it was one of the sons of Moses.
Wroclaw 44 | 5,384  
10 Dec 2008 /  #14
Do you have any Jewish links in your family? The name Gersom is an old Jewish name... it was one of the sons of Moses.

This brings to mind the movement of Jewish people in the 1930's

Why did Grandfather move to the USA in 1930 ?
Krakowianka 1 | 243  
10 Dec 2008 /  #15
If he is Jewish, the early 1930s was a period when many Jews sought exile in other countries, feeling the unrest towards Jews, some sought visa's to the US (few due to immigration restriction act of 1924) and some to Palestine.
Wroclaw 44 | 5,384  
10 Dec 2008 /  #16
You might think I'm nuts, but I think his name could have been the other way around.
I get far more results with Gresom as a surname. Could it be Jopfa Gresom.

Also: Most results come up... eastern Poland.
OP paulajuvaw 1 | 13  
10 Dec 2008 /  #17
No, he always pointed out that his name was a form of Gregory from Poland before he changed it to Harry. No he wasn't Jewish, he was a solid atheist - very well rooted in reason and science.

And no, it's actually split on the form where he wrote prior names as first name Gersom and last name Jopfa ... I guess it could be Sopfa or Topfa based on the writing, but that wouldn't make as much sense as Jopfa which you could see how it could become Juva.
Krakowianka 1 | 243  
10 Dec 2008 /  #18
he always pointed out that his name was a form of Gregory from Poland

Gregrory in Polish is Grzegorz, not Gersom.

Even though he wasn't Jewish, maybe his family was, hence how he got that name.

Either way, you should try and chat with that aunt, or first verify what his real name is, because if you are saying Sopfa, Topfa, you will have a hard time trying to figure out history without a correct name.

Also, as Wroclaw stated, lots of names were written last name, then first name. You should find out the real name.
Wroclaw 44 | 5,384  
10 Dec 2008 /  #19
I guess it could be Sopfa or Topfa based on the writing,

If you scan it and post it then we might be able to read it. A collective effort, if you see what I mean.
OP paulajuvaw 1 | 13  
10 Dec 2008 /  #20
No need to scan it, I am 99 percent sure it is Jopfa. It isn't indistinct, I was just conceding there is a possibility it isn't that, but it doesn't really seem like anything but Jopfa.

Gregorz might be just a different version of Gregory. When dealing with the past, I like to keep in mind that what someone who has been there knows often trumps conventional wisdom. In this case, the actual man -Harry, Gregory, Gersom- explained it and I am persuaded he probably knew what he was talking about when it came to his own name.

Any luck on the town of Masteshca / Mastetchca / Mastishca / Mastitchca?
Wroclaw 44 | 5,384  
10 Dec 2008 /  #21
No need to scan it, I am 99 percent sure it is Jopfa

Then go to: JewishGen

Do a name check. Hundreds of names will come up. None of them will be Jopfa, but you will see some close matches. Joffa is one possibility.

You can use JewishGen to find the town or village. There are no exact matches for your spelling, but something might ring a bell.

In the photo you posted there are lots of photos behind your Grandfather. If they are original photos and you still have them. Take them out of their frames and see if anything is written on the back of them.
OP paulajuvaw 1 | 13  
10 Dec 2008 /  #22
He didn't believe in religion.
Wroclaw 44 | 5,384  
10 Dec 2008 /  #23
Any luck on the town of Masteshca / Mastetchca / Mastishca / Mastetchca?

Check post number two.

He didn't believe in religion.

You are fighting me.

JewishGen is not just for Jewish people. If you want to know about family in Poland it is the first website you should check.

You are doing everything wrong.

It doesn't matter what he said or did. The records will tell the truth.

Your Grandfather had a Jewish name in a Catholic country. He left Poland at a time when Jewish people left Poland. The closest spelling to your name shows up in eastern Poland... where a high amount of the population were Jewish.

Please, put some trust in what we are telling you.

For peace of mind. Contact a local Synagogue and ask about the name. It will cost nothing.
OP paulajuvaw 1 | 13  
10 Dec 2008 /  #24
I'm doing everything wrong? Great....

I was hoping to hear from some more people about their ideas too. I'm thanking you for your help though. I don't understand what you mean -a Jewish name in a Catholic country? How can you have a Jewish name? Judaism is a religion. He was from Poland, not Israel. I didn't know that about Jewishgen though and I am looking at it.
Wroclaw 44 | 5,384  
10 Dec 2008 /  #25
I'm doing everything wrong? Great....

The problem with Genealogy is that you must take your time. Sometimes it can take years just to find a great-grandparent.

You must get as much information as possible from family. But remember that some members of the family have secrets. Among these can be something embarrassing like a serious crime, suicide, or a child born out of wedlock.

Not serious enough for you, but serious enough for older members of family to lie. Remember that older people have a different attitude to life.

When you have your notes it is a good idea to find a forum with experts. Ancestry.com, Genealogy.com You might find people researching the same name, people who can help you because they done it all before.

Sites like polishroots.org have lots of ideas, essays and links that can send you in the right direction.

Familysearch The LDS website is an ongoing collection of all the people in the world. You should do a search of the website. It can give you birth, marriage and death records and a little bit more. Of course it doesn't have everyone listed, but you can be in luck.

Check census records. They can give you good information. place of birth etc.

Naturalization Records will give much needed information.

So, you see, it's about taking it slowly, getting it right and not allowing problems to get in your way.

It always helps to do a little research of the country and its people. For example check the history of Poland to see what events were taking place at a particular time. Wikipedia is great for this. It's not too long.
Grzegorz_ 51 | 6,161  
10 Dec 2008 /  #26
was a form of Gregory from Poland

No...

he was a solid atheist

So a chance that he was a Jew (Jew as ethnic group, If one's parents are Jews then the person is a Jew too, no matter If is religious or not) is really big as very few Poles born in those times were atheists.
Krakowianka 1 | 243  
10 Dec 2008 /  #27
Wroclaw gave some excellent advice to follow!

Gregorz might be just a different version of Gregory. When dealing with the past, I like to keep in mind that what someone who has been there knows often trumps conventional wisdom.

I'm not talking from convential wisdom, I'm telling you that Grzegorz is the official name in Polish for Gregory, no other variation is that name. Hence why your grandfathers name seems foreign. Like Wroclaw stated, he had a Jewish name in a Catholic country, it stood out, that's why he likely compared it to Grzegorz. This also leads to another point that I didnt want to get started on, to get flamed. A man with a jewish name, leaving Poland during the 1930s when most Jews fled, living in eastern PL where most Jews lived. Lots of items in common for you to research to be sure you know your family for real.

But remember that some members of the family have secrets. Among these can be something embarrassing like a serious crime, suicide, or a child born out of wedlock.

One of these secrets may be your grandfathers family. It was quite common to change your name for fear of being labeled Jewish. While you are pressing that he isn't. He may have been, and decided that secret will stay with him, or he is the first in his family to announce being atheist... doesn't mean the family line was. Keep an open mind when doing your research. If you press that on items you are unsure about, you wont get far in finding the truth.

When Poles came to the US, few came during the 1930 period, that's why this is setting off a flag. Also, Poles upon arrival would shorten their names, from Kowalski they could have changed to Kowal, or Koval, or possibly changed to the american word for their last name's translation. Transitions from Gersom to Gregory more likely, than to Harry. Harry is totally different, kind of what Jews did to hide the fact they were of Jewish descent.

How can you have a Jewish name? Judaism is a religion. He was from Poland, not Israel.

Are you serious? All jews do not reside in Israel, there was no Israel at the time your grandfather left Poland. Jews were dispersed all around Europe. They typically chose old names from the first testament. Gersom is not a polish name, very rare actually. A catholic polish mother in the early 1900s would not just pick a name like this, hence getting back to the topic to have an open mind in your research. Take the advice Wroclaw provided on checking out various sites & records. Do you know the names of Gersom's parents?
Switezianka - | 463  
11 Dec 2008 /  #28
I'm doing everything wrong? Great....

I was hoping to hear from some more people about their ideas too. I'm thanking you for your help though. I don't understand what you mean -a Jewish name in a Catholic country? How can you have a Jewish name? Judaism is a religion. He was from Poland, not Israel. I didn't know that about Jewishgen though and I am looking at it.

I can see you've got no idea about Polish and Jewish history. Instead of freaking out, better 'listen to ' Wroclaw, Grzegorz and Krakowianka.

I'll add some facts you should know.
Before II WW, Polish was a multicultural country. There was a lot of Jews in Poland. By the end of 19th century, among the Jews, many new SECULAR cultural movements started. Some Jews - and mainly the members of intelligentsia, doctors, lawyers etc. - gave up their religion and became atheist. Also, Zionism (that movement that led to creating the state of Israel), was a secular movement, supported mainly by atheistic or non-Orthodox Jews. In 1930s there was quite a few of educated, atheistic Jews in Poland (I even know one old Jewish retired doctor, who was born into such kind of a family). Most of them lead lifestyle that was more similar to the one of Polish intelligentsia than to the one of Orthodox Jews. And they identified themselves both as Jews AND Poles. Many great Polish intellectuals and artists of that period were Jews (e.g. Julian Tuwim, Bolesław Leśmian, Artur Rubinstein, Bruno Schultz). So, an atheist Jew was nothing unusual in 1930s Poland. What's more, many of them went to America to make business (if you want to learn something more about the social realia of these times, I'd recommend you to read some I.B. Singer).

What's more: your grandfather has got typically Jewish big nose. He's got a Jewish first name. The surname, no matter if Jopfa or Joffa, sounds rather Jewish than Polish. The proper Polish spelling of Gersom is GERSZOM, so if you're looking for it in Polish records, try it.

Grzegorz is the only equivalent of Gregory. There are diminutive forms: Grześ, Grzesiek, Grzesio, but you will not find nicknames in documents.

To sum up: most probably your grandfather was either a member of Polish Jewish intelligentsia or a Polish Jewish businessman.
The Jewish transcription of that name might be: יאפא גרשם . I'm not certain about יאפא, but I'm sure about גרשם (Gershom).
OP paulajuvaw 1 | 13  
13 Dec 2008 /  #29
Please don't say that big nose thing, that is so horrible, even if my grandfather is not Jewish. But it is antisemitic and wrong, it's disgusting.

I don't know if he had ancestors who were Jewish, all I know is our family have always been atheists. My grandfather Harry used to call the Christians dumb cows, which I'm sure no one here wants to hear since you all seem so anti-atheist. So that gives you some idea about what he thought of being part of a religion. So even if he had ancestors who were Jews, he was an atheist so it doesn't make sense for him to be called "Jewish" by people who have no idea who he was. Plus, you can't have a "Jewish name" as though it were some kind of other nationality. He was absolutely Polish, if maybe he had a name of another non-Polish origin from some long dead ancestor, I don't know, but that doesn't mean he was any less Polish.

Switerzianka, thank you for putting so much into Polish and Polish Jewish. I am going to go back to Jewishgen and try again with some inquiries. Anyway, I also got a message from another source talking about a Greek Polish variation on the name Gregory, which is also not Gerson/Gersom/Gerszom but is nonetheless Polish. Anyway, you've been big helps so far even if it seems unbelievable that we're getting somewhere.
yehudi 1 | 433  
14 Dec 2008 /  #30
Gershom is a Jewish name. Juva could be a distorted spelling of Joffe which is a common Jewish name. You seem confused by the idea that a person can be a Jew and yet be Polish and not religious. You have a lot to learn. Jews are an ethnic group with its own religion, that is scattered in every continent. We don't all live in Israel, although it's slowly moving in that direction. Not every member of the tribe believes in the religion, but ethnically they are still Jews. Poland was about 10% Jewish before WWII.

Since we're talking about your father's father, even if he was a Jew, it doesn't make you a Jew, since Jewishness goes through the mothers.

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