Cause of death: Syphilis #lithuania


Alison Greengard
 

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

Researching:
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


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
stephenweinstein@yahoo.com
Camarillo, CA, USA

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

<AlisonGreengardaligreengard@comcast.net> 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

Researching:
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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Martha Forsyth
 

Stephen Weinstein wrote, in response to the original query, that:

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).
I respectfully submit that this information is not quite true. It's not
the ALPHABET that is now "obsolete", but simply that there are a few
spelling differences. Not all that many, and once you get used to them
they're not much problem. Bulgaria also reformed their spelling,
probably around the same time. I know both languages: the alphabet is
nearly identical, with a couple of letters used in Russian that are not
used in Bulgarian, and some phonetic differences.

Anyone who can read the present-day Russian (or Bulgarian) should be
able to make things out in the old spelling, after a little introduction
to "what changed" - English Wikipedia has a nice article on this:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Russian_spelling_reforms

Martha Schecter Forsyth
Newton, MA

MODERATOR'S NOTE: Please respond privately to continue the discussion
about the Cyrillic alphabet. Responses to the original queries about
syphillis may be shared with the list.


Stephen Weinstein
 

There were hundreds of individuals who reportedly died of "tabes",
with ages ranging >from 3 months to 65 years.

Go to http://www.jewishgen.org/databases/Latvia/ (JewishGen Latvia
Database) and change the first pull-down >from "Surname" to "Any
Field", type "tabes" in the top-right box, and click the search
button. It finds 260 records.

This discussion group does not support Russian characters. The word
looks like cyxoTKN, except that the last character looks like a
backwards N, and all the characters come up to the same height, i.e.,
the top of the T is level with the top of the y. If anyone wants to
see it in the word in the proper alphabet, e-mail me and I can respond
privately.

Stephen Weinstein
stephenweinstein@yahoo.com
Camarillo, CA, USA


Harvey Kabaker
 

I think it was a mistake to include the word "syphilis" in connection
with tabes (sounds like babies) as a cause of death. Not sure where it
came in, but as I read Stephen Weinstein's original post, the term
"tabes syphilis" appeared in a record in the Lithuania database.

As Stephen describes the Russian word, it transliterates as Sukhotki,
and translates as tabes. A medical reference describes tabes as
emaciation, wasting away, >from chronic illness. Given the state of
medical knowledge at the time, it makes more sense to see this as a kind
of blanket diagnosis for the effects of starvation, malnutrition,
perhaps TB, failure to thrive in infants, withering in old age, and so on.

As Dr. Rosett pointed out, tabes dorsalis describes a neurological
degeneration of the back as a complication of syphilis. Here, syphilis
is a cause, not a definition, of tabes.

Harvey Kabaker
Silver Spring, MD


----------------------------------------------------------------------

Subject: Re: Cause of death: Syphilis
From: Stephen Weinstein <stephenweinstein@yahoo.com>
Date: Wed, 20 Aug 2014 19:25:57 -0700
X-Message-Number: 1

There were hundreds of individuals who reportedly died of "tabes",
with ages ranging >from 3 months to 65 years.

Go to http://www.jewishgen.org/databases/Latvia/ (JewishGen Latvia
Database) and change the first pull-down >from "Surname" to "Any
Field", type "tabes" in the top-right box, and click the search
button. It finds 260 records.

This discussion group does not support Russian characters. The word
looks like cyxoTKN, except that the last character looks like a
backwards N, and all the characters come up to the same height, i.e.,
the top of the T is level with the top of the y. If anyone wants to
see it in the word in the proper alphabet, e-mail me and I can respond
privately.

Stephen Weinstein
stephenweinstein@yahoo.com
Camarillo, CA, USA