Yiddish: Great-grandmother? #general

Liz Hanellin

Dear Genners,

Yesterday, I hit genealogical pay-dirt when I found a handwritten document
that my great-uncle Isidore SHUKET (born in Lipovets, Ukraine in 1906;
immigrated to the US in 1923) created in the 1970s, with a list of some
of his family members and friends and the years in which they passed away.
There are parallel English and Yiddish listings. It's clear that the first
approximately 10 people on the list are relatives and, excitingly,
although I recognize a couple of the relatives' names, there are eight or so
that are new to me!

The English and Yiddish listings sometimes provide different information,
so that, for example, the English listing "Uncle Yolek" coincides with the
Yiddish listing "Fetter Yolek Shuket" (my transliteration) -- so, I know
which side of the family Uncle Yolek was on! However, the very first person
on the list, who died in 1918, is listed in English simply as "The Old Freda"
and in Yiddish as "Di Alta Freda" (again, my transliteration).

I have heard the term "alta bubby" used to refer to a great-grandmother,
but I would like to hear what others think regarding usage of the term "alta"
preceding a first name. Is there an Eastern-European tradition of using this
word simply as a term of respect for an elder? A specific family relation? A
distinction >from another person with the same name? There is no Young Freda
on the list (although there is a Cousin Alta Wasserman) and I know that
neither of his grandmothers (or other relatives that I am aware of) was a Freda.
"Di Alta Freda" passed away when my great-uncle was only 12.

Thanks for your thoughts!

Liz Hanellin
New York City

Researching, on this side of the family: SHUKET, SPECTOR and their various

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