Latvia SIG #Latvia New Project: Creating Data Base for Jewish Given Names #latvia

Prof. G. L. Esterson <jerry@...>

Dear LatviaSIGers,

The purpose of this posting is to announce and solicite your help in
the creation of a new data base of Jewish given/personal names for
Eastern Europe and Europe. David Curwin and I (both of Israel) are
working together on this data base and we are seeking others who might
also want to collaborate or contribute relevant information.

This data base will include those given names which our ancestors used
in their daily lives (Hebrew, Yiddish, and secular) as well as those
which they took on when they emigrated to other countries (English,
Spanish, Portuguese, etc.). It is felt that such a linked list of
given names will be an important resource for those researching their
ancestors in Eastern Europe and Europe.


Our goal is to establish a data base of linked given names for Jews who
lived in Eastern Europe and Europe, and who may have emigrated to other
countries. The data base will be published to the web and will also be
distributed to interested persons in a format which will allow it to be
imported to their data base and spreadsheet programs for personal use.


Our ancestors had three sets of names which they used in their daily
lives: Hebrew names used for ritual purposes (aliyot in shul, marriage
contracts, etc.), Yiddish names (used as the language of communication
among Jews), and Secular names (used in contacts with non-Jews and
government agents). In each case, there was a widespread use of
nicknames based on the original names. Inevitably, some names >from one
category crossed over into the others. Thus, we see Yiddish names
which were combined with the original Hebrew names and were then used
for ritual purposes as if they were truly Hebrew names (these are
called kinuim in Hebrew).

Nearly all of the archival documents which we Jewish researchers obtain
in the course of our research, use the Yiddish and secular names, and
occasionally, the Hebrew names. In most cases, the Yiddish names (or
their nicknames) are the ones found in these documents. But the Hebrew
names are quite important to us as Jewish genealgists because they
express the continuity of the use of given names >from generation to
generation, and in the absence of other information, make it possible
to make educated guesses as to what were the likely names of
grandparents -- previous generations. So, being able to link Yiddish
or secular names to Hebrew names is of major importance.

When our ancestors emigrated to other countries, they took on secular
names (and nicknames) associated with that country's language. This
process of absorption was such that, statistically, certain foreign
language names were more desirable than others, so that those names
became associated with the original names >from the "old country"; this
association varies with the locale and date of immigration. This
linkage is statistical and not deterministic, but it is never the less
very useful to know this if one is beginning research knowing only
family members >from one's own country and wants to work backwards to
the "home." Again, knowing the nature of the linkage to, say, English
given names and nicknames, can be very useful in making educated
guesses as to the family Hebrew, Yiddish, and secular names in Eastern Europe.

One can reasonably expect differences in the foreign-language given
names for family members who immigrated to different English-speaking
countries (e.g., the U.S. or South Africa), but there should also be
certain types of similarities. A knowledge of these differences would
also be useful in tracing family members in countries other than one's
own country.

Accordingly, it is reasonable to consider that a linked data base of
given names as described above would be a useful genealgical research tool.

This is the rationale for the creation of a linked given-name data base.


So far, nearly 450 records (sets of given names) have been entered into
the data base. The sources for these data have been: (1) Our own
knowledge and acquired data, (2) Data obtained >from others, (3) Data
extracted >from the new 1858 Revision Lists acquired through the
LitvakSIG Uyezd Project, (4) Literature sources, and so on. We had
also hoped to be able to obtain data >from the results of the Cemetery
Project, but unfortunately, the given names listed there are only the
English ones, and no given names in Yiddish or Hebrew seem to be listed
on the CD-ROM which I have.

The fields used so far in the existing data base include the following

1. Gender
2. Hebrew given name
3. Hebrew nickname
4. Yiddish given name and kinui
5. Yiddish nickname and kinui
6. East European secular name
7. East European secular nickname
8. English given name (U.S./Canada)
9. English nickname (U.S./Canada)

We are inviting persons in South Africa, the U.K., Australia, and New
Zealand to help us to find the linkages between the original
Hebrew/Yiddish/Secular names and the corresponding names in those
countries of immigration, and will expand the fields in the data base


In accord with this approach, we have put together a data base of
nearly 450 records. In some cases, we have nearly a full complement of
names for all of the above fields (English only). In other cases, we
have only Yiddish and Eastern European secular names (this is typically
what one finds in the available Revision Lists and other archival
documents). There are cases for which we have only the Yiddish given
names, Yiddish nicknames, or Yiddish

The current draft version of the data base requires much work in order
to find, for example, the Hebrew and/or English given names which
generally are linked with the Yiddish and/or Eastern European secular
names, or their nicknames.

There are the beginnings of research in the U.S. to examine cemetery
gravestones in order to study statistically the connections between the
Hebrew/Yiddish names and the English names listed on the tombstones.
This type of research will be of major importance in discovering the
links between the original Eastern European names and those in the
countries of immigration.

There are other types of research along these lines which can be
defined, but this will have to wait until later, or until others become


We want to invite you to participate in this project, either as a
collaborator, or as a contributor of data which you may have collected
in your own research, or which you can extract >from your own genealogy
data base. If you do have data which you can submit, please do send it
to me for inclusion in the data base. If you want to become involved,
please write to me.

We would be delighted if you have the time, and would be willing to
collaborate or give us data. We are also be eager to hear your ideas
on other approaches which could be undertaken.

Please write!

Professor G. L. Esterson E-mail:

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