Tradition of naming babies as a tool in genealogy research #general


A new discussion of Jewish naming traditions was started recently by
Maureen Goldberg, specifically about the girl's name of Nackamki. I think that it
now has been well-settled that this particular name must have been a nickname
for, or misspelling of, Nachama. I was among the participants who sent this
Digest comments to that effect.

This forum's ever-alert and capable Sally Bruckheimer, however, has
pointed out the ambiguity of my saying that,

"Among American Reform Jews (and please note that I do mean Reform, as
distinct >from families who are more observant and traditional) the custom always
has been to try and keep the opening sound of the original first name.
Therefore, 'Nachama' might become 'Nancy' or 'Natalie.' Or it might become
something completely unrelated."

I could have explained this concept more thoroughly. We all understand
that it is the tradition of Ashkenazic Jews to name babies after deceased loved
ones. This is a broad-based custom throughout the Diaspora, applying equally
to all Ashkenazic (but not Sephardic) Jews. I was not implying that only
Reform Jews follow this naming tradition.

Still, what I should have said was that, in the later part of the 20th
Century, among American Reform Jews, the custom always has been to try and keep
only the opening sound of the original first name, as opposed to using the
original foreign name in its complete form. For one example, "Rochel" became
"Rose," "Rose" became "Ronda," "Ronda" is becoming... "Rachel?"

Though I am, myself, named in memory of my paternal grandfather, it has
been my own anecdotal observation that more observant Jews rarely cross gender
lines in naming.

Additionally--and, again, this is my own anecdotal observation--it is rare
to find an observant Jew who has changed the name of deceased person being
memorialized when naming a new baby. Therefore, "Nachama" usually would be kept
as "Nachama," rather than being modernized to a "more American" version of
the name.

Nonetheless, on three separate occasions, I have met American-Jewish women
named Nathana, Jacoba and Davida, which only clouds these naming waters more
murkily. Since Nathan is the English version of Nachum, and Nachum is the
masculine version of Nachama, it is possible that Ms. Goldberg should be looking
for a "Nathana."

My own extremely assimilated cousins no longer bother even with adapting
the child's English name >from the name of the deceased loved one. My little
cousin, Justin, was named for our mutual uncle, Sidney, Shlomo in the Hebrew.
Justy's Hebrew name is, indeed, "Shlomo," used at his bris and his Bar Mitzvah
and, if he marries a Jewish girl, it will be used again for significant life
passages later to come.

And, for future generations, this new naming habit will make Jewish
genealogy research even more difficult.

Judy Segal,

Lithuania (Shavli, Upyna), Vilna, Ilya in the former Vil. Gub., now Belarus, St.
Petersburg, Paris, Britain incl'g London & Dublin, NY; BAYERN, HERSHKOWITZ (all
spell'g) ROSENBERG, KOHN, HABER, RAPOPPORT of Budapest, Austria, former Hungary,
then Czechoslovakia, now Slovakia (probably Kosice, Huncovce), NY,
SCHWARTZBERG (all spell'g) of Kishinev, first Ukraine, now Moldava, Canada, NY.

Join to automatically receive all group messages.