Select Rubin Surname Genealogy

There is some confusion about its origins.  The name appears to derive from the given name of biblical times Reuven, meaning “behold my son;” but it may equally share roots with the German word rubin meaning “ruby” and a derivative of the Latin rubeus or red. 

Rubin in America, like the ornamental name Rubinstein (derived from ruby), tends to be a Jewish surname.  However, there are some non-Jewish origins of the Rubin name.

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Select Rubin Ancestry

The early Rubin surname in Europe was not Jewish in origin.  Names such as Richter Rubynus in 1240 and Nicolas Rubein in 1377 can be found in medieval German charters.  Ruby appeared in Reichenbach parish records in Switzerland in 1559; and Rubin cropped up in Markdorf in southern Baden and, more noticably, in Lauterbrunnen in the Swiss Berne canton.  The numbers there are not that large, about 1,000 in all of Switzerland today.

Rubin also appeared in northern Spain - Rubin de Celis from the village of Celis near Santander - and in Norrbottens Lan in northern Sweden.   The Spanish Rubins crossed the Atlantic; but the Swedish Rubins did not.

The Rubin arrivals in America reflect mainly Jewish and Yiddish origins - from the Jewish enclaves in Russia and Poland to Germany itself.  The peak years of immigration were from 1890 to 1910.

Rubins in Dolhinov near Minsk in present-day Belarus are said to have been there since the early 1700’s.  Barry Rubin's 2012 book Children of Dolhinov is an account of the Rubins from Dolhinov in Poland who made it to America in 1909.  Dolhinov was later the site of Nazi atrocities against the Jews in 1942The Rubins of Paszto in Hungary were also rounded up by the Nazis and sent to concentration camps.  Most of them died there.  But Ted Rubin survived, made it to America, and later fought for America in the Korean War.

Rubin - and sometimes Rubinchik, Rubinsohn, Rubinovsky, and other names as well - came to America as Rubin.  Rubin was one of the most commonly registered names for Russian Jews arriving at Ellis Island.  The first Rubin might well have been Avram Chaim Rubin from Rzeszow in Poland who came in 1858 and settled after the Civil War in San Francisco.

Many Rubins came to New York and they or their offspring made their mark there.  Among these Rubins have been:
  • Samuel Rubin from Bialystok in Russia who arrived with his parents in the early 1900's.  They opened a small dry goods store in Brooklyn.  He as a young man was a committed Communist, but later earned a large fortune from his cosmetics firm Faberge Perfumes. 
  • Another Sam Rubin who started working in the movie concession business selling candy in the 1920's at the age of twelve.  He became known as Sam the Popcorn Man for introducing popcorn into New York theaters.
  • Roberrt Rubin, a whizz-kid at Goldman Sachs and later US Secretary of the Treasury, who was born and raised in New York.  His grandfather had arrived penniless from Minsk in Russia, but grew wealthy speculating in Florida real estate during the 1920’s.  He lost it all in the Crash of 1929.  Robert’s daughter-in-law Gretchen Rubin is the author of the best-selling The Happiness Project.  
  • Donald Rubin who grew up in New York during the Depression of trade union parents.  His interest in Himalayan art was sparked by a painting he saw in a Madison Avenue art gallery in the early 1970’s.  He became a passionate collector and later founded the Rubin Museum of Art in New York.
  • Harvey Rubin who was born in Brooklyn and also grew up during the Depression years.  He moved to Larchmont and became an independent book publisher.  His son Jamie Rubin, married to the CNN reporter Christiane Amanpour, is a former diplomat and current editor of Bloomberg News.
  • and Rebecca Rubin, the replica doll which was created in 2009 by American Girl to portray the early 1900's Russian-Jewish immigrant girl.
Canada.  Montreal was a destination for many Jewish immigrants and, for some Rubins, also a way station on their way to New York.  Montreal’s Jewish quarter recorded 54 Rubins in the 1911 census.  Ruth Rubin was born there in 1906, the daughter of Russian immigrants.  She became an exponent of Yiddish folk songs.

Select Rubin Miscellany

If you would like to read more, click on the miscellany page for further stories and accounts:

Select Rubin Names

Sam Rubin was best known for introducing  popcorn into movie thraters in New York in the 1930's.
Jerry Rubin was a social activist in the 1960's and co-founder of the Yippie movement.
Robert Rubin was US Secretary of the Treasury during the Clinton administration in the 1990's.

Select Rubins Today
  • 1,000 in the UK (most numerous in London)
  • 10,000 in America (most numerous in New York) 
  • 2,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Canada)

PS.  You might want to check out the surnames page on this website.  It covers surname genealogy in this and companion websites for more than 800 surnames.

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