Red star on the map shows where
the town of Zavel was in Lithuania in the 1700s. You can see
the migration was southerly to Ukraine where the Chernigov
and Glukhov areas were located.
Through a combination of family related history, Miriam' Weiner's
Ukrainian research, and conclusions from documents which are
in our possession, we have put together the story of the earliest
Zavelsky we know of, Ilya Zavelsky, born circa 1795. Ilya had
two known sons, Eliezar and Moishe.
Eliezar and his wife Mina Cherwenke had four known sons, Moishe
Aron, Kusil, Berel and Zalmon. Moishe had three known sons,
Kusil, Mark and Elias. We have traced over 700 descendants of
According to the book, "A Dictionary of Jewish Surnames
From the Russian Empire," the Zavelsky name (Zavelskij)
was most common in the Chernigov province of the Russian Empire."
This district, includes the town of Glukhov where Eliezar, Moishe
and their parents settled. Today Glukhov is part of Ukraine;
the Ukrainian transliterated spelling of the name is Zavelskiy.
The book also lists the name Zavelskij with two origins. One
is that Zavelskij was derived from the village of Zavel, in
Lithuania. The second origin is that the root of the name Zavelskij
was Shaul derived from the Biblical name Saul. It is somewhat
common that there are two derivations of a name.
The first one, based on the village name Zavel appears to be
the time in history that we are researching. Between 1772 and
1815, the map of Eastern Europe changed dramatically as a result
of the three partitions of Poland and the Napoleonic wars. Before
the partitions of Poland, Jews had been prohibited from living
in the Russian Empire. Our first Ilya could well have been living
in the village of Zavel, in Lithuania at this time. In 1795
the Jews of Lithuania were incorporated into the Russian Empire.
The town of Zavel became a part of the Vilna district of Russia.
Migration of the new Russian Jewish subjects into other areas
of the empire was restricted to the confines of the Pale of
Settlement unless their father or grandfather had served in
There is another version of how the Zavelsky name was acquired
that was told to me by Ilya Zavelsky, of Virginia, great grandson
of Kusil Zavelsky, the son of Moishe. Ilya's legend was prefaced
by the following:
"My grandfather, Ilya, told my father that all Zavelsky's
are related because there was one man in the beginning of the
family." Below, is an excerpt from Ilya's letter telling
the legend that has been passed down through his family. It
tells how his part of the Zavelsky family settled in the southern
region of Russia. Click
here to read the legend.
According to our documentation we believe that this first soldier
was Moishe Zavelsky, brother of Eliezar and son of Ilya, and
that Moishe entered the army from Glukhov. Both stories point
to the town of Zavel as the origin of the Zavelsky name. It
is my conclusion that Eliezar and Moishe's father Ilya, was
born in Zavel. The family migrated to Glukhov, but the name
reverted to the original birthplace of Ilya.
Eliezar married Mina (Minnie) Cherwenke. Their four sons, Moishe
Aron, Kusil, Berel and Zalmon were raised in Glukhov. Eliezar
spent his time studying in the Yeshiva while his wife supported
them by running a "Shenk" (tavern). Using resources
in both the United States and Ukraine we have traced descendants
of Eliezar's and Mina's through seven generations. This includes
over 500 direct descendants of Eliezar and Mina and their four
known sons.During the latter half of the nineteenth century
and early parts of the twentieth century, the Zavelsky family
migrated to various parts of Russia and to America.
llya's son Moishe had settled in the Azov area after his military
service. He married and had three children. We have traced some
of his descendants.
The name Zavelsky was not carried on by all the early family
members immigrating to the United States. Zalman Zavelsky
(son of Moishe Aron Zavelsky) became Solomon Sovel. The seven
sons of Zalmon Zavelsky (son of Eliezar Zavelsky) became Franklins.
Elias Zavelsky, son of Berel Zavelsky became Elias Zavel,
and ultimately Elias Ephrat.