We are studying the genealogy of Polish and Russian immigrants to the United States, whose surnames mean, are derived from, or sound like surnames meaning cherry or cherry brandy or liquor, in an effort to find the descendants of cousins and siblings of Lazarus Vishnick, whose page on our website is here. We know that he had a nephew who spelled the family name Wyshniak, and that the consistent transliteration of people's surnames upon immigration was varied, and not considered all that important back in the 1800's and early 1900's, when the sound of the name was more important than how it was spelled.

In many cases, the translation of the surname as rendered on the passenger lists by officials, at ports such as Ellis Island, is what became the family name. In other cases, the spelling of the family name was changed on a child's birth certificate, and that new spelling became the legal family name. In other cases, people used a different surname throughout their lifetimes, without ever changing their name legally, so a genealogist hunting for them would need to know both surnames, in order to locate various records. An interesting discussion of how this applies to researching Polish records for Russian Polish surnames is at http://www.jewishgen.org/InfoFiles/pl-sname.html.

With regards to the meaning of the name, I've heard that vishnick means cherry, and vishnicki means cherry brandy, although other family members have said vishnick means brandy as well. But, it seems the meanings are all similar, however you spell the surname, and whether you ask someone who knows Polish, Russian, or Yiddish. If you want to read more about the meaning of these surnames, and see the best webpages we found on this topic, when searching for definitions on the web, then click here.

With regards to the genealogy of this surname group, our immediate personal interest is in families from Makow, which is near Warsaw, but we are entertaining the theory that all, or most all, of the families with related surnames are descended from one patriarch, whose descendants spread out over Russia, Poland, and other parts of Europe, creating the distinct ancestral groups we know of today.

Most of the current families in this group which are located in the United States are from Russia, apparently the Ukraine, and their ancestors immigrated in the late 1800's and early 1900's. Most lived in New York, but there are other distinct clusters early on, especially in Minnesota, New Jersey, and Illinois.

There are a significant number of families in this group who came from Germany or who went to the United Kingdom, as well. Our cousins in this group who are currently in England, are descendants of Lazarus Vishnick's youngest son, Joseph Vishnick, who was born in 1891 in Makowa, Poland.

One of the most annoying challenges we face as researchers of this family of surnames, is the astounding number of ways that the surname can be spelled, and the total inability of Soundex and Metaphone systems to find all related spellings successfully.

These systems seem to be based on an English rendition of consonants, without allowing for the possibility that many consonant combinations also belong in the list of matches which, unfortunately, do not appear. This means that if, for example, you search for Wishnick at Ancestry.com, you'll turn up Wishnicks and a lot of Washingtons, but no Wisniks or Wozniaks.

The Daitch-Mokotoff system of soundex used by JewishGen is much better at catching variations but, even there, I have run into instances where I had to enter more than one variation of a surname, in order to turn up the matches I was seeking.

A quick search of the JewishGen Family Tree of the Jewish People turned up the following similar surnames, using the Daitch-Mokotoff system:

Veshancey, Veshnock, Vicencia, Visencio, Vishniac, Vishniak, Vishnick, Vishnik, Vissing, Vucinic, Wasong, Wassing, Wassong, Wassyng, Wasung, Wasznicki, Weisneck, Wieseneck, Wishank, Wishnick, Wishnig, Wishnik, Wisnicki, Wissing, Wiszniak, Wiznak, Wizniak, Wiznik, Wosnick, Wozieniak, Wozniak, Woznica, Wozniuk, Wysong

Searching both the Social Security Death Index and the California Death Index for possible relatives, we have found listings for the following surnames:

Vichnick, Vischnuk, Vishnek, Vishnevsky, Vishniak, Vishnick, Vishnik, Visnick, Wachnicki, Washenko, Washienko, Wischnack, Wischnak, Wishing, Wishna, Wishnack, Wishnak, Wishne, Wishnek, Wishner, Wishni, Wishniak, Wishnick, Wishnig, Wishnik, Wishnuck, Wisniak, Wisnik, Wiszniak, Wochneik, Wochnick, Wochnik, Woshnak, Wuchnic

Given the failure of the current search technologies to totally mechanize the process of searching for related surnames, in addition to yielding surnames which may not even belong in this surname group, such as Washington, the above are not necessarily complete listings, and the lists are still formidable.

Clearly, researching all the surnames mentioned on this page to find out which are related, using traditional genealogy, would be a huge project. Fortunately, though, modern technology gives us the additional tool of using DNA testing to locate distant cousins. Once we know whose DNA matches that of a known family member, we can focus our energies on putting together the paper trail that shows us exactly how we are related.

While non-invasive DNA testing is not something everyone can afford, it is something well within the means of many genealogists, running anywhere from around $100 to about $200 for basic Y DNA testing, depending on the level of testing you choose to have performed. Only men carry the Y-chromosome that can be used for this type of definitive DNA testing, and testing the DNA of one male in a line of known relatives provides a DNA profile for the complete male line. And no blood testing is required, testing is performed on cells from the surface inside the mouth, obtained by rubbing with a simple swab.

However, if you have Vishnick or Wishnick or other Cherry Brandy surname ancestors but no known direct line male descendants in your family, it is also possible to have autosomal DNA testing performed, which tests the DNA which is mixed and matched from both the mother and father at conception, and where pieces and chunks are passed on to you from all your ancestors. The drawback of this kind of testing is, because people with Jewish ancestry from the same regions in Europe tend to share a lot of autosomal DNA due to intermarriage over the millenia, you can match someone without necessarily knowing who your common ancestor or ancestors were, whether the autosomal DNA segments you share with someone come from your Vishnick or from some other mutual ancestor you may not know about.

However, we now have had autosomal DNA testing performed on several of our Vishnick family members, and autosomal testing could still tell us whether there was more likelihood that our Vishnick families are related.

For all these types of DNA tesing, we recommend using http://www.familytreedna.com for testing as it is a well established lab with a huge database. Discounts are available to individuals whose surname has a surname project associated with it, and our surnames do have associated projects. Once your results come in, they can be posted anywhere you choose, if you choose to post them publicly, including Ancestry.com. Whether or not you publish the results, FamilyTreeDNA.com will notify you if you have any matches in their huge database, as well as sending you updates, and you have the option of joining, for free, additional surname projects.

A soundex search for associated surnames already having members who have DNA results in the http://www.FamilyTreeDNA.com database, as of March 9, 2008, turned up the following potentially related surnames:

Vishinski, Vuksinich, Wacenske, Waggoner, Wagner, Wagoner, Wajshonig, Wakenshaw, Wassner, Wegener, Wegner, Weisinger, Weisner, Weissinger, Weizner, Wesnak, Wesner, Wessinger, Wiesinger, Wiesner, Wiggington, Wiggins, Wigington, Wikenczy, Wisener, Wishnack, Wisner, Wisneski, Wisnewski, Wisniewski, Wissinger, Woessner, Wojcinski, Wojnar, Wozniak, Woznica, Wysong

Please note that not all of the above surnames which were turned up through soundex searches belong in our surname group. However, as time has gone on, we have discovered that names we would not consider to fall in this group actually once had Vishnick or Wishnick as their surname. So, we have proceeded with caution with regards to removing names from the list.

The most appropriate project for many of our members to join seems to be the Polish project. While many of our ancestors harken from countries not thought of as Poland, anyone with ancestors from the area now comprised of Poland, Lithuania, Belarus, Ukraine, and Latvia, which also includes the former Galicia, Silesia, and White Croatia, many of whom referred to themselves as Russians, Hungarians, or Austrians, still often fall in this geographic area. We suggest you check out the Polish Surname Project website for yourself at http://www.familytreedna.com/public/polish. You also may wish to check out the various Jewish surname projects on the same site, such as the ones at http://www.familytreedna.com/surname_det.aspx?group=Jewish_Polesie, and at http://www.familytreedna.com/public/JewishPolesie, and the Jewish Ukraine West project, among others.

But many members of this surname group are not of Polish or Jewish ancestry. Which of the families in this surname group are related remains to be seen, so please do consider DNA testing wherever your direct line male ancestors harkened from, and whatever their religious persuasion. There are regional projects for all over the world, and feel free to email us if you have questions about which project is appropriate to join. Testing can be performed without joining a project, but it costs so much less if one joins a project that finding an appropriate geographic or surname project seems well worth the effort.

There are additional labs that perform DNA testing, such as the one used by Ancestry.com and 23andme.com. Plus, more people are requesting DNA testing from FamilyTreeDNA.com all the time, and everyone is able to post their results and look for matches at http://www.ysearch.org/, no matter what lab they use. So, we strongly encourage people who do not see their family name in the results list, to order a test anyhow.

Our 37 marker Vishnick DNA results are in, so if you want to take a peek at them, check them out on our DNA Results page. And if you are or have a direct line male Vishnick, Wishnick, or other related surname in your family, please do consider making it a family project, with everyone chipping in together to order a Y DNA test. You might just turn out to be our cousins!

Again, this surname study is an ongoing project, still in it's beginning stages. If you are a member of our family, find any errors, wish to collaborate efforts, or have more information you would like to see added to this page, please click here to contact us!


  1. Interviews with family members
  2. United States Federal Census Records for 1900, 1910, 1920, and 1930, available online (by subscription and at Public Libraries) at Ancestry.com and at Public Libraries through the Heritage Quest Census database.
  3. The JewishGen Family Tree of the Jewish People at http://www.jewishgen.org/gedcom
  4. California Death Index 1940 to 1997, formerly at http://vitals.rootsweb.com/ca/death/search.cgi?cj=1&o_xid=0000584, now available for free at https://www.familysearch.org/search/collection/2015582
  5. Social Security Death Index, formerly available online for free at http://ssdi.genealogy.rootsweb.ancestry.com, now available from Ancestry.com by paid subscription, or for free from Genealogy Bank, from Familysearch.org, and at subscribing public libraries.


This page is http://freepages.rootsweb.com/~thecohens/family/brandysurnames.html
Original URL: http://freepages.family.rootsweb.com/~thecohens/brandysurnames.html

Discussion written October 07, 2012
Reference hotlinks updated November 25, 2018

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