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Whether you found us by accident or by design...
Whether you are a Turkel, Tirkel, Tyrkel, an Ex or a Wannabe.
Whether you are Jewish, Christian, Muslim or a even a Republican.

We're here to provide all of our in-laws, out-laws, friends and relatives with a place to post an occasional note or item of family interest and as a traffic cop, to direct you to sites with information about Turkels. 


There are Christian, Jewish and Muslim Turkels scattered all over the world today. While we may no longer share a common faith, we all probably have a common origin; in the Ottoman Empire. So, no matter how far our families may have wandered, we are still cousins. To borrow a line from a well-known American humorist, author and radio personality - Garrison Keilor, "...our women are strong, our men are good-looking, and our children are above average".

My Turkels are doubtless Sephardic Jews whose connection with the Ottoman Empire may go back for as much as 500 years. While some Jewish Turkels still reside in modern-day Turkey, and hundreds live in the USA, I am certain that we all occasionally wonder how did it all begin?

By the end of the first millennium, Jews were to be found in virtually every country of eastern and western Europe. Centers of Jewish population ranged from London to Mainz and from Moscow to Madrid. Interestingly, very few Jews remained in what is today, the state of Israel, with the vast majority living in the Diaspora. Following the Crusades, Jews were systematically expelled from every "Christian" country. Such expulsions reached their peak during the 14th and 15th centuries. As they were expelled, many Jews simply moved to an adjoining territory, however, as each area in turn adopted its own version of anti-Jewish restrictions, Jews began to search for an ultimate safe haven. This was provided by the Turks, and for almost 500 years (from the 11th to the 16th centuries) there was a steady inflow of Jews into Turkish territories. In 1453 the last "western" outpost (Constantinople) in the middle east, fell to the Turks. During this period many Jews chose to settle in eastern Poland, Lithuania and the western Ukraine, however it is clear that the Turkels were among those Jews who migrated instead to the Turkish empire or to Turkic countries or areas which were conquered by the Turks (northern Africa, the middle east, and much of eastern Europe). In any event, it is clear that they wound up living under Turkish rule, as did many of the world's Jews, by the beginning of the 17th Century.

Many Turkel cousins, having no experience with Turkish names, thought that the name Turkel meant "hand of the Turk". However, Akif Baysal, a Turkish visitor to the Turkel.Com website recently sent this e-mail: " Hello Turkel. I have a comment. yes, Turk-el/Turk-eli=hand of Turk, you are right partially, it may also mean "land". I suspect that originially it can be Turk-eli=land of the Turks.. It is more common and significant for people originated from the land of Turks. we have many examples of (town names etc) where -eli ending changed to be pronounced as -el".

If this assessment is correct, then the name Turkel actually means "one who is from Turkey or the land of the Turks". Not a very exciting theory -- but probably the most plausible of all those that are proposed.

By the mid 18th century, Jewish Turkels likely lived in many of the major cities of the Ottoman Empire. While many of our Turkel cousins still reside in Turkey, some lived in the Turkish provinces bordering the Black Sea -- most likely, its northern shores. It is probable that our branch of the greater "Turkel Tribe" found themselves in the area of Turkey captured by Russia's Catherine The Great in 1783. Just 7 years later, in 1791, the Empress created the Pale of Jewish Settlement. Many Turkels were forced to move to that portion of the Pale closest to the Black Sea territories. A few Turkels, not wanting to live under Russian domination (after enjoying the relative freedom of Turkish rule) determined to move farther westward to Austria-Hungary and Czechoslovakia. In 1797 Austria began readmitting Jews. Our family's verbal history seems to support this theory (the story about the Turkel who lived in or near Odessa and whose pet fox attacked the wife of a Russian military officer, causing the Turkels to flee westward).

In 1797 all persons living under Austrian rule were required to take a surname, and 7 years later (1804) all persons living in the Russian Pale had to do the same. Seeing as how our forbearers had only a few years earlier been Turkish citizens, it is understandable that they either kept their Turkish surname or took one that indicated their Turkish origins.

While our family's Turkish connection is clear, there are some contradictory theories that have been circulated. None, however, can explain the presence for many centuries of the Jewish Turkels currently living in Turkey. One story would have the Turkels originating in Raussnitz/Rousinov, Czechoslovakia as descendants of a young man who was kidnapped by the Turks. Another suggests our origin was among the defenders of Vienna when it was besieged by the Turks in the 17th century. Others suggest that Turkel is merely a shortening of the name "Turkeltaub" (German). It is humorous, but understandable that each branch of the Turkels would like to believe that all Turkels originated in their sthetel. Actually, it is most likely that our family arrived at its name as suggested by our Turkish correspondent, simply by virtue of having spent hundreds of years living in the Turkish empire. Likewise, our families' sojourn in the villages around Tremblova, Podwalaczeska, Tarnopol and the western Ukraine was probably quite brief (only 2 or 3 generations). Accordingly, it is logical to focus on Turkey and not the Russian "Pale" for our family's origins. Indeed, as "Wandering Jews" we may never have felt truly at home in any country, but the name implies that at some point we acknowledged our Turkish connection -- 500 years is a very long time! 

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