Bogopolsky History

This is a very preliminary summary of the history of the branch of the Bogopolsky family that this website focusses on.

The family name would indicate that it was adopted by Jews living in Bogopol, a suburb of the town of Pervomaisk - which later became part of Pervomaisk as the city grew.

According to the Jewish Virtual Library, by 1800 there was already a growing Jewish population in Bogopol.

Although many Jews living in Eastern Europe during the 1700s and early 1800s used a variety of traditional, patronymic, or professionally-derived names, there were still a substantial number who simply went by the formula: first name, plus 'son of', plus father's first name. For example, 'David Abrahamovich'. Sometimes, these got standardized into a true family name as succeeding generations continued to use the same patronymic, but in other cases, this never happened, and every generation had a new 'last name'.

According to the literature, during the 1800s Jews in Polish-controlled areas were required to establish permanent family names. In many cases, families did this by adopting the name of the locality in which they lived. Some Jews living in Bogopol, therefore, would have adopted the name 'Bogopolsky' as a result of this requirement.

This has two important implications when attempting to trace family lineage:

1. Families unrelated by blood but living in the same locality could end up with the same family name.

2. Branches of the same family, living in different towns, could end up with entirely different family names in a manner that might make it quite difficult to later establish the relationship.

So, for example, the Bogopolsky family - while by no means a large family - has numerous representatives, even today, throughout Russia and Eastern Europe, Western Europe, Israel and the Americas. It is so far quite unclear what the actual relationships might be. We do know, however, that there were Bogopolskys arriving in the U.S. as early as the turn of the 20th century (and probably earlier).

This website is concerned primarily (at this point) with the branch of the Bogopolskys which traces back to the area of Kiev, around 1900, and, most particularly, with the family of Nathan Bogopolsky and his wife, Golda, née Gorokowsky.

Nathan Bogopolsky is listed in official records as a native of Golovanevsk, Ukraine. Whether he actually lived there, or whether it was listed for registration purposes is not known. Later in life, we know that Nathan and his family lived in Astrakhan. At some point the family may also have lived in Odessa. One possible reason for the multiple relocations may have been the anti-Jewish pogroms of the late 19th century.

We currently know very little of Nathan or Golda's parents. Nathan's father was called Yakev, or Jacob, and his mother was Brayne. Golda's parents were David and Esther Gorokhovsky. The Gorochovskys had two sons we know of: Sholem and Mayer (not to be confused with Mayer Bogopolsky). As was customary at the time, Nathan and Golda named their first son after Yakev: Jacob Bogopolsky, later Jacques Bolsey.

Nathan and Golda had the following children, not necessarily in correct order: Alexander, Isaac, Jacob, Samuel, and Emma. In brief, their stories, as we know them so far, go like this:

Nathan and Golda seem to have been quite prosperous prior to the Russian Revolution. Nathan seems to have owned a pharmacy - possibly in partnership with his father-in-law. Later, he may have been involved in a paper factory. In the period before the Russian revolution the family appears, judging from photographs, to have been reasonably well-off. By the 1920s it appears that they had become nearly destitute, and were relying upon several of their children for support.

In the mid-1920s the family moved from Astrakhan to Kislovodsk, now in eastern Ukraine. This move may have been prompted by famines which struck the region of Astrakhan following the revolution.

Nathan and Golda, together with their youngest child, Emma, were murdered by Nazi forces during or shortly after the German invasion of Russia.

Alexander became a pharmacist, married, and had a son, Maior (Meyer), who served as Shipmaster in the Russian Navy. Alexander was denounced during the Stalinist purges and subsequently shot.

Isaac became a medical doctor, specializing in pediatrics. He was also a significant figure in the development of X-rays as a diagnostic and therapeutic tool in Russian medicine. Isaac and his family were trapped in Leningrad during the two-year siege by German forces, and Isaac was one of the few doctors still providing medical care throughout the siege.

Jacob left Russia in 1912 to study medicine in Geneva, Switzerland. Once the Russian Revolution broke out, Jacob was effectively cut off from his family in Russia - a situation that was to continue with few breaks for the rest of his life. In Switzerland, Jacob made a living as a portrait artist while attending medical school. Soon after his arrival, he began using the name 'Jacques Bolsky', and, occasionally, 'Boolsky'. He soon turned his attention to photography and began developing a series of still and movie cameras, including the well-known Bolex movie camera - later bought by the Paillard Company. After a succesful career in Switzerland, Jacob left for the U.S. in 1939, changing his name in the process to 'Bolsey'. There, he founded Bolsey Corporation of America, which produced cameras for the U.S. military, as well as the commercial market. Throughout his life, he continued to produce a wide variety of inventions, often in quite unrelated fields. At the time of his death, for example, he was revisiting designs for several electric cars, which he had first begun decades earlier.

Samuel became a prominent metallurgist, and was a key figure in the Russian war effort against the Nazis. To date, we have very little information about his life.

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