The origin of my surname has always been something of a mystery. Unlike other branches of my family, the Salmans have been largely untraceable. No vital records have been found from the town in Poland whence they came, Hrubieszow, nor from neighbouring towns in the Lublin Voivodship.
In 2004, I visited my father’s 77-year-old cousin who survived WWII in Paris but lost her parents, who perished in the camps, and baby brother, who was killed along with his nanny during an Allied bombing raid on the outskirts of Paris towards the end of the war. She told me that our name was originally spelled Zalman and that the family came from Pinsk, Belarus. She actually spells her maiden name Szalman, which is common to both Poland and Hungary.
I have never been able to corroborate this story, mainly because I’ve been unable to access records in Belarus from abroad. However, my research on JRI Poland and other databases on Jewishgen.org, reveals that most Salmans came from Belarus, specifically from Grodno province and its capital Bialystok, which is nowhere near Pinsk.
Origin of the name
Salman is most likely a derivate of Solomon, as in King Solomon of Israel. Variant spellings include Salomon, Salamon, Salaman, Shalman, Szalman, Zalman, Zelman, Selman, Solman, Salmon, Sallmann, etc. The Arabic equivalent is Suleiman and its variants Sleiman, Sliman, Slimani; however, Salman is more common as a Muslim first name for boys, especially in Pakistan.
Salman is also more of a popular first or second name for Jews, as is Salomon and Zalman. In fact, when German authorities assigned surnames for Jews starting in the 18th century, Salman might have gone from second name to surname. For example, certain descendants of Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi, whose patronymic surname was Borukhovich (after his father, Boruch), dropped their last name, replacing it with Zalman/Salman. (On an aside, other Zalman descendents adopted the patronymic Schneerson as their surname, as in the famous rebbe, Menachem and Meir Schneerson.)
Salman may also be a shortened version of the patronymic Salmanovitch, Salmanowicz, etc.
The Swedish Connection
In 2014, during a family Passover seder, I found out that my father’s oldest first cousin, in his early 80s, had relocated to a town near Malmo, Sweden with his Polish second wife (who had lived in Sweden during the 1970s), after living in California since the late 1960s. Albert Salman was born in Hrubieszow in the early 1930s, so he has a better memory of the place and the war, though it is too traumatizing for him to talk about. (My own father and his sister were born in 1942 in Uzbekistan, then part of the Soviet Union.)
Incidentally, around the same time two years ago, I was contacted via Jewishgen.org/JRI Poland by Kris Salman from Gothenberg, Sweden, on behalf of his father Jozef, who does not speak English. Kris told me that his Salmans come from Komarow, a village in the Lublin Gubernia, closer to Zamosc. I was immediately intrigued, not only because of the name and distance, but also other similarities between our family experiences, outlined in the table below.
|Kris Salman (Komarow)||Tara Salman (Hrubieszow)|
|Grandfather Izak Salman born in Komarow in 1912 (Izak’s father was Josef)||Grandfather Isaac Salman born in Hrubieszow in 1913. (Isaac’s father was Jacob)|
|Grandfather was a tailor, from a family of 8, very poor||Ancestors were tailors, from a family of 8.|
|Izak fled to Omsk, Russia during the Second World War.||My grandfather, his brother and their families fled to the Soviet Union either during or before WW2 – Siberia, then Uzbekistan.|
|Izak and his wife returned to Szczecin, Poland after the war.||My grandfather and his family returned to Szczecin, Poland after the war.|
Like my family, Kris’s Komarow Salmans have been largely untraceable. A search on JRI Poland turns up nothing more than a 1876 marriage between a Szia Salman, originally from the town Laszczow, and a Chasie Szar. Kris’s great-grandfather Josef could have been the son of Szia, but at this point it’s all speculation. Since no vital records can be found, genetic testing is the only way Kris or his father and me or my brother (who seems to have inherited more Salman genes) can determine if we’re related at all, but not how.