Eric M. Bloch
In response to Ellen Korpi's excellent questions regarding the
Lviv database, let me briefly explain the transcription process.
We have a dedicated group of transcribers who are oftentimes
dealing with poor images and even poorer handwriting. Their
transcriptions go through a thorough review process by
experienced validators who double check each and every entry.
When uncertain of an entry on the original document, the
validators review names in the existing database as well as a list
of surnames >from the Dictionary of Jewish Surnames in Galicia
by Alexander Beider. After validation, I review the changes made
by the validators to resolve any differences. Through this process,
I believe we have achieved a transcription accuracy of over 95
As to why a surname may be spelled differently in different
records for the same person, there may be several reasons. We
have seen such differences even within a given entry where, for
example, a baby's surname may be spelled slightly differently
than the father's surname, or even the mother's married surname
is sometimes slightly different than her husband's surname; or a
marriage record where a bride's or groom's surname was slightly
different than the father's surname.
It should also be noted that we have transcribed some records
that have been duplicated in multiple books. It is not easy to
determine which is the primary source and which is the copy.
There are often spelling differences for the same record between
one book and the other. In most cases, the difference appears to
be a German spelling versus a Polish spelling, even though the
language used is German.
My observation is that a combination of careless entry by
registrars, lack of spelling convention at that time (thus spelling
it the way it sounds), conversion >from Hebrew characters to Latin
characters, the time period of the record, and whether the
record was held by the Jewish community or civil authorities
(perhaps affecting whether German or Polish spellings were used)
were the main reasons for such spelling differences. As an
example of how politics might affect spelling, my Hungarian
ancestors were originally WEINBERG, but around the 1860s when
Hungarians wished to Magyarize their names and distance
themselves >from the German influence they began to use the
name WEINBERGER instead.
No doubt over time some people may have intentionally changed
their name to differentiate themselves >from relatives. I've seen
this in my own family (WITTELS vs. WITTLES, KERNES vs. KERNIS).
In one case it was to avoid confusion in bank accounts and the
other we speculate had to do with avoiding mispronunciation of
the name in America.
Regarding transcription of house numbers, reading the
numerators in the fractions has been extremely difficult,
resulting in a slightly higher source of error than with surnames.
Some of the differences you noted may have occurred when
As we all know, in genealogy answers are not always easy to
come by. Is, for example, Itzik ORECH, Isak ORUCH and Isaac
URECH the same person? You have to use other cues to help
decide, such as house numbers, community (congregational)
family numbers, spousal names, date ranges of children, etc. to
help you decide.
In all cases you will probably want to examine the source
documents on microfilm to satisfy yourself about the
transcription accuracy. An added benefit will be the additional
information you may find that was not transcribed, such as
occupations and notations added years later.
Eric M. Bloch, Coordinator
Lviv Vital Records Transcription Project