JewishGen Discussion Group #JewishGen Re: Hungarian Jewish Surnames #general

Roger Lustig <julierog@...>

I wouldn't want to rely on a spelling-related rule such as the I/Y
distinction that Evelin proposes.

In Prussia, where German was the official language, the letter "y" was
used inconsistently, often as a matter of fashion or nationalistic
expression. The same surname may be found in vital records alternating
frequently between an -i ending and a -y ending over a long period of time.

For example: the KATSCHINSKI family of Upper Silesia, originally in
Sohrau. In 1812-36 they appear only in the Sohrau records (32 times),
and always with the -Y ending. (5 different spellings of the rest of
the surname though!) 1837-42: 2 -Y endings >from other towns. 1843-49 we
see only -I (5 records). 1850: 3 -Ys. One of them is a marriage that
is also recorded in another town--but with the -I ending. For the rest
of the 1850's there are 9 -Ys and 14 -Is, often the same person (father
of a child) being recorded both ways. And so on.

The same phenomenon may be observed in just about any other surname
ending with -I/-Y. LOEWY/LEWY/LEVI/LEWI/LOEWI/etc. is just one example.
Even a name >from a German word is spelled inconsistently, because
German itself was spelled inconsistently: MAI/MAY.

As for Hungarian names, the rule doesn't sound any more sensible
either--but for the opposite reason. In Hungarian, the alphabet
includes things that look like multiple-letter combinations, but are
treated as single letters. Those include "gy", "ly", "ny", and "ty".
Hungarian spelling is highly phonetic, with one letter or letter
combination having only one value. So names ending with a particular
sound require a particular spelling, no matter who's using them.

Check out for
examples of Hungarian names belonging to Jews. Start with John KEMENY
(KEMENY Janos), president of Dartmouth, inventor of BASIC, etc.

Roger Lustig
Princeton, NJ

Evelin wrote:

Tom Klein has accurately observed that a Hungarian Jewish name ending
in "y" would be unusual. Robert Neu, one of Hungarian SIG's most
erudite volunteers, says that one way to distinguish Jewish Hungarian
from non-Jewish Hungarian names is that the former end surnames with
the letter "i" and the latter use the letter "y".

I just wish to add that the surname "i" instead of "y" ending seems to
be true not only for Hungarian Jews but also for Jews living in Prussia
and probably at other places as well.

For example the WASBUTZKI / WAZBUTCKI surname comes >from Seirey, a
place of former Prussia. This ending "i" ending was kept as long as the
family lived in Eastern and Central Europe. It changed to the "y" ending
for people who moved and settled in the States. The "i" ending has been
used by my relatives living in Latvia, Eastern Prussia, Germany proper
and my grandfather born in Suwalki.

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