Names of Kagan and Cohen from the all Lithuania Database #lithuania

Howard Margol

Based on records I have obtained >from the Lithuanian archives, and contacts I
have had with a number of individuals looking for the name "Cohen", I have
found that generally speaking the name in Lithuania was Kagan or Katz rather
than Cohen. I suggest that, in researching records, look for Kagan or Katz as
well as Cohen.

Howard Margol
Atlanta, Georgia

David Reed <davereed7@...>


I'm reaching out in case you have similar advice for a relative who used the last name Levin after emigrating to US in early 1900's. Name searches so far are not returning results in Lithuania. 

Thanks for any info,
David Reed

Shlomo Katz

Russian has no "H" sound, so "Kohen" became "Kagan.
Another common name, "Heller," became "Geller."

Shlomo Katz
Silver Spring MD


I noticed the same thing. My wife's Cohen relatives from Debeikiai/Anyksdciai, Lithuania were also called 'Kagan'  in Lithuania. After arriving in Chelsea, Mass. in the early 20th c, the name was  changed to Cohen and then eventually to Cagen and in one branch, Chandler.

Katz in our family,  was used in the USA as a shortened version of what had been Kadishevitz in Lithuania. Kadishevtiz is somewhat unique and easy to search; not so with Katz.

Richard Brown
Glastonbury, CT

Peter Cohen

It took me awhile before the "ah-ha" moment, but some years back I had this realization...Not only is there no H in Russian, so it would be written as a G, but the Litvak pronunciation spoke the O sound as AY. My father's oldest brother was the only one of his siblings to say "tayrah" instead of 'torah". Growing up, a lot of the old men at my synagogue used that pronunciation. So "Kagen" = "Kayen" = "Kohen".
Peter Cohen

JoAnne Goldberg

One point of amplification: although Russian does not have the
equivalent of an H (so "Hamlet" is "Gamlet") there is a guttural H, eg
the first sound in the word "challah." It is represented in the Russian
language by the letter X.
JoAnne Goldberg - Menlo Park, California; GEDmatch M131535


Michele Lock

The second post above asks about finding Jewishgen entries for persons using the name Levin in the US, who were originally from Lithuana:

I had this situation with my Lavine family branch, not knowing what surname they used back in Lida (whose records are on Litvaksig). My experience is that the records will be indexed as 'Levin' and not Levine or Lavine. Even if you enter 'Lewin', the records will be indexed as Levin on Jewishgen.

There is still the issue of your US family shortening their surname from something like Lewinsky or Levitan, or similar variations. In the end to cover nearly all the bases, I searched for 'Starts with Lev' and also 'Sounds like Levin', and 'Phonetically like Levin', and just had to go through the records.

Some of my family were listed as Lewin or Levin on their ship passenger lists, while others used the surname Lev or Lew when they traveled. It turns out that in Lida the family used the surname Lev. When I searched just on that, I finally found their records.
Michele Lock

Lak/Lok/Liak/Lock and Kalon/Kolon in Zagare/Joniskis/Gruzdziai, Lithuania
Lak/Lok/Liak/Lock in Plunge/Telsiai in Lithuania
Rabinowitz in Papile, Lithuania and Riga, Latvia
Trisinsky/Trushinsky/Sturisky and Leybman in Dotnuva, Lithuania
Olitsky in Alytus, Suwalki, Poland/Lithuania
Gutman/Goodman in Czestochowa, Poland
Lavine/Lev/Lew in Trenton, New Jersey and Lida/Vilna gub., Belarus

Russ Maurer

I can't improve on Michele Lock's excellent strategies for this particular name search. I think it is helpful for researchers to keep in mind that civil records were recorded in the prevailing language at any particular place and era. For Lithuania, this was often Russian, but at some times was Polish, or German, or Lithuanian. Whatever the language, the intent was to render the name phonetically. Let us assume the name was pronounced LEVIN as understood by an English speaker. It is the V that creates problems.

The Russian alphabet includes V (in Cyrillic print, it looks like the Latin letter B). This presents no problem for indexers who invariably render Левин as Levin.

The Polish alphabet (and likewise German) uses a W to represent the V sound. Thus the name would be recorded as LEWIN in Polish or German records. An indexer would probably just copy the name as written rather than render it phonetically, which is how we end up with LEWIN records.

The Lithuanian alphabet includes a V, so the name root would be LEVIN. Lithuanian adds various endings to indicate gender and marital status (of women), so one would be likely to find LEVINAS (male), LEVINAITE (unmarried female), or LEVINIENE (married female). LitvakSIG generally includes the root name to facilitate search, eg, LEVINAS / [LEVIN]. A search on the root name will find such records.

I hope this helps to explain why a thorough search may require several different variations to cover all the possibilities. And that's before considering that names might have been misspelled in the original or misread by the indexer.

Russ Maurer
Records Acquisition & Translation Coordinator, LitvakSIG