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Stephen Colbert asked tonight on Twitter, "what exactly did paul krugman's ancestors do? sell krug?" I figured I'd check some records and see if I could answer Stephen's question.

Paul Krugman was born "of poor Russian-immigrant stock [and] raised in a small suburban house on middle-class Long Island" by parents David (who worked in insurance) and Anita Krugman. Stephen Morse's one-step birthday finder places David's date of birth in 1924, which puts him in range of the 1930 census. There is only one David Krugman, born about 1924, to be found in the census, the son of Bennie and Fannie Krugman of Brooklyn, New York. Bennie worked, not with "krug," but with "Cotton Goods." The census says that Bennie and Fannie and their eldest son Sam all immigrated in 1922, which leads us to the Ellis Island database, where we find Borys, Fejga, and little Symcha Krugman disembarking on 6 Aug. 1922. All three were natives of Brest-Litovsk, in what was then Poland, and is now Belarus. Bennie's petition for naturalization, filed 23 Sept. 1927, confirms that Paul Krugman's father was Bennie's son, and that the immigration record refers to this family. It appears that Fannie died a couple of years after the census, but Bennie was living in Brooklyn as late as 1942, when he registered for the draft. He was then unemployed, which leaves our search for a krug seller at a dead end.

The man ending of "Krugman" suggests a German origin, and krug has a couple of possible meanings in German. Maybe when it came time for Paul's ancestors to adopt a surname, they paid tribute to the guy who made their beer mugs.

(Incidentally, Bennie's passenger record mentions both his sister Frejda Krugman, back in Brześć, and his elder brother Isidor Freed, living in Brooklyn (here's his gravestone). Isidor's widowed mother, "Geneive Freid," lived with him in 1930. Further research would be needed to determine why the brothers had different surnames, and whether they shared both parents.)

Corrections and additions are welcome in the comments.

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