Re: Cause of death: Syphilis #lithuania

Stephen Weinstein

The person might not have had syphilis at all.

This issue was discussed at length in the Latvia SIG discussion group
a few years ago. I will briefly address a few points. You can go
through the old posts in the Latvia SIG for more detail. Most of it
should be applicable to Lithuania as well.

The original records were written in Russian, in an alphabet that has
been obsolete for almost a century, except possibly in Bulgaria (after
the Bolshevik Revolution, the Soviet Union adopted a simplified
alphabet instead of using the one that had been used under the Czars).
As a result, the spellings on the records are not likely to match
modern spellings.

The translations of Latvia death records were done by a French artist,
who knew multiple languages, but was not a physician and might not
have known obscure medical terminology.

For the cause of death, some of the records list a word which Google
translates as "Tabes". The word "Tabes" has several meanings, and it
is not clear which of these is the one that Google means. One of
these meanings is a complication of untreated syphilis. It is now
rare, because syphilis normally gets treated before this complication
develops, but it would have been more common when there was not yet an
effective treatment for syphilis.

So, there are several possibilities:
1. Misdiagnosis in the 19th century when modern diagnostic tests were I
not available
2. "Tabes" could be an incorrect translation
3. The word could refer to one of the other conditions also called
"tabes", in which case "tabes" would be a correct translation, but
there is no connection to syphilis. It's like seeing a word
translated as "right", but not knowing whether it means the correct or
it means the opposite of "left".
4. It could be syphilis.

I think it would be interesting to see if there were more deaths from
this cause in places that had more divorces. (I would assume that
both divorce and syphilis would be more common in places with more
adultery, and that syphilis outbreaks would lead to divorce, and that
divorce makes it easier for syphilis to spread, but I don't really
know any statistics on any of this.) If the divorce rate seems to be
tied to the frequency of this cause of death, that would suggest it is
syphilis; if there is no relationship to divorce, then it's more
likely to be some other medical condition.)

Stephen Weinstein
Camarillo, CA, USA

On Monday, August 18, 2014 8:35 PM,

<> wrote:

While looking at death records on the Lithuania Database, I came across the
Causee of death for a Rivka age 40 as "tabes Syphilis".

I will admit to being a little surprised.

Do you think this was an accurate diagnosis?
If so, how prevalent was syphilis in Jewish communities in the 19th century?
Would Rivka have been aware that she had syphilis during her lifetime?
Would it have been a source of shame to her and her family? Presumably her
husband had it, so would it have been a source of shame for him as well,
or just for the woman?

I'm just trying to get a sense of societal norms and pressures.

Thank you so much.

Alison Greengard
Lakewood, Colorado, USA

ARON/AARONS in Riga, Latvia; Uzventis, Lithuania; and Philadelphia, PA, USA.
GREENGARD in Virbalis, Lithuania
WEBER in Kosice, Slovakia
NEUMANN in Leszno, Poland
KOZMINSKI in Kepno, Poland
ARON in Phalsbourg, France and New Orleans, LA, USA
HALPHEN in Metz, France
FRIBOURG in Paris, France
KAPLAN in Slonim and Baranovichi, Belarus
TARGOWNIK in Miedzyrzec Podlaski, Poland
FILUT in Ciechanow, Poland
GLAZ in Varniai, Lithuania

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