Re: Hungarian Jewish Surnames #general

Roger Lustig <julierog@...>

Why this is, you ask? I don't think it is at all!

I just spent a few minutes at JRI-Poland. Looked for the name
KAMINSKI/KAMINSKY. A global search gives 646 records with an 'I', and 5
with a 'Y'.

Ah, but almost all of those records are >from Congress Poland and the
Pale (all but 4, in fact). >from 1867 onward, those records were kept in
Cyrillic. (The 4 >from Galizia all end in 'I'.)

So let's limit ourselves to records >from Congress Poland *before* 1867.
218 with an 'I', one (>from Kielce Gubernia) with a 'Y'.

Similar story with WARSZAWSKI/Y. 1731 to 7.

Bottom line: the name was spelled with an 'I' in Poland--when it was
spelled with Roman characters at all! I think you're on the right track
when you bring immigration into it: most of the Jewish immigrants >from
Poland & parts east came after 1880, and had therefore not had their
names written officially in Roman characters for at least 13 years (far
longer, if ever, in the Pale).

When they bought their tickets and boarded the ship--that's when the
name was written out in the Roman alphabet. Where? Hamburg, as often
as not...

Now, -SKI names just *couldn't* be spelled -SKY in Polish, but some
not-so-Polish names could be. Take LEWI/LEWY. Sure enough, JRI-Poland
has 115 LEWYs... go along with the 2,260 LEWIs. And plenty of those are pre-1867.

(OK--so there weren't a lot of Polish Gentiles named LEVY *or* LEVI.
But I think the point stands.)

All in all, I'd say that the phenomenon you describe is limited to
emigrants. Why didn't the -Y appear at the ends of the names of Polish
Gentile emigrants so often? Probably because, even though the vital
records were kept in Cyrillic for them too (after 1867), they were more
likely to have used Roman characters in their daily lives, their native
tongue being one that was written in the Roman alphabet. Oh, and they
came later, almost all after 1900, which would have raised the
likelihood of their being literate.

Roger Lustig
Princeton, NJ

Judith Romney Wegner wrote:

Maybe so, but the name itself is obviously
Polish, not German (i.e., not Prussian)! And it
is certainly true of Polish surnames that gentile
names end in -ski while the Jewish version of the
same name usually ends in names in -y

Does anybody know why this is? Did it happen
because when written in Yiddish (i.e. in Hebrew
alphabet letters) the -ski ending had to be
rendered with a letter yod -- which would then in
turn automatically be rendered as a "y" when
persons with such names came to European
countries or USA and had to transliterate their

Or was there by any chance a Polish law
requiring this difference in order to make it
possible to distinguish Jews >from "genuine"
Poles? I wonder why that would not surprise

Join { to automatically receive all group messages.