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SEARCHING THE BELARUS GIVEN NAMES DATA BASE

The Late Professor G. L. Esterson
Ra'anana, Israel


EXPERIENCED USERS: Go directly to the Search-Input Form.

THE BELARUS GIVEN NAMES DATA BASE (GNDB)

A searchable data base has been set up for the Jewish given names used in Belarus during 1795-1925, and links are made in each record to the new local vernacular names adopted in this same time period in nine Foreign countries (Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Mexico, Palestine, South Africa, UK, US) to which Belarus Jews immigrated. Thus, this data base includes the Hebrew, Yiddish, and local & other-European-country secular names used in Belarus, as well as the new vernacular names used in foreign countries.

This data base of linked Belarus and foreign-country given names was derived from Hilchot Gitin books, archival Belarus records, given names books, non-European gravestone readings, contributions from researchers, and other sources. This data base allows genealogists to define all of the Jewish and vernacular names which an ancestor may have used in Europe and in his new country of immigration.

Each record in the Belarus data base has one field containing a Primary given name (like Yehuda Leyb) which was recognized by Jews as the Legal Jewish name for recording the names of women and men in Jewish legal documents (get, ketuva, and other Jewish contracts), and for calling a man to the Torah for an aliya. Other fields in the record contain all the Yiddish and secular names which were commonly linked to the Primary name in Belarus; some of these names were major names (like the Yiddish name Yehuda), while others were simply names of endearment (like Yiddish name Yidele), dimnutives (like Yudya), or others. Still other fields contain all the foreign vernacular names a Belarus emigrant might have adopted in one of the nine foreign countries to which he migrated. Each name field contains between 0 and 35 given names, depending on the Belarus and foreign name popularity and usage.

Since normal onomastic studies (the origin and history of given names) would not lead to the correct structure of our data bases as described above, we used for this purpose instead the rabbinic sources known as Hilchot Gitin -- Jewish law books written by expert, prominent rabbis as guides for the community rabbis who prepared the Jewish divorce documents, and for synagogue officials to call men to the Tora for an aliya. In these books, the Primary name becomes the center around which all the other names circle.

Since this is an on-going project, we present here a table of the current status of the six sequential work phases, updated as the project proceeds; status is given by an index of completion on a scale from 0 to 10. Item 1 is the number of records in the current data base. Individual indexes of completion are also given for the nine foreign countries to which European emigrants immigrated.

Number of records in current data base               1031

Create Basic-Hebrew names data base                    10
Enter Hilchot Gitin Hebrew/Yiddish names                9
Enter archival Hebrew/Yiddish/EuroSecular names         1
Enter foreign Hebrew/Yiddish/Vernacular names           0
Standardize Yiddish names                               0
Refine records in data base                             0

Argentina                                               1
Australia                                               0
Brazil                                                  0
Canada                                                  1
Mexico                                                  0
Palestine                                               0
South Africa                                            1
United Kingdom                                          0
United States                                           1

18 November 2001

SEARCHING IN THE BELARUS GNDB

FIRST-TIME USERS:  If you want to avoid confusion and frustration in using the GNDB, read the descriptions of the search options below. Once you understand these guidelines (it's easy!), you can go directly to the Search-Input Form.

This example shows the fifteen fields in the Lithuania record for the legal Hebrew double name YEHUDA LEYB:


  Gender:               M
  Legal/Hebrew Name:    Yehuda haMechune Leyb\Leyba
  Origin:               Genesis 29:35
  Yiddish Names:        Ihuda/Yehida/Yehuda//Leb/Leyb
  Yiddish Nicknames:    Yidele/Yidl/Yodka/Yuda/Yude/Yudka/Yudl/Yudya/Yutka/Yutke//
                          Lebus/Lev/Levik/Levke/Levko/Levon/Leyba/Leybl/Leybela/
                          Leybele/Leybish/Leybka/Leybke/Leybush/Liba/Libe/Libele/Liva
  Origin:               Leb from Yiddish/German "lion"
  Secular Names:        Leo/Lyuba/Yulyus
  Secular Nicknames:
  Origin:

  US Names:             Isidore/Judah/Julius/Yidel//Leo/Leon/Leonard/Louis
  US Nicknames:         Sol
  UK Names:             Julius//Lewis/Louis
  UK Nicknames:
  South Africa:         Alfred/Israel/Judah/Julius/Levi/Louis//Leo/Leopold/Lewis
  SA Nicknames:         Udie

All records contain NAME-ONLY fields (like "Yiddish Names") with all names delimited by the character "/". There are also two types of TEXT fields: the "Legal/Hebrew Name" field and the "Origin" fields both containing names delimited by the character "\". The "Gender" field contains only an "M" or "F" -- no names. Thus, (1) you can search for a specific name inside name-only and all-text fields using a "Global TEXT Search", or (2) you can search for a specific name using "sounds-like" Daitch-Mokotoff Soundex. These two options also contain aids like logical "AND" and "OR", and the ability to specify beginning letters for a name (e.g., Yeh* would find Yehuda as well as Yehudis in Global Text Search).

Global Text Search of ALL Fields does exactly what it says -- it looks for an input search name as is, wherever it appears, without regard to the delimiters, and it does this throughout the entire set of fields (name-only fields and text fields). You can search using the exact spelling of a name or the first few letters of the name.

Global Text Search (option one) allows the use of logical constructs like AND/OR (DM Soundex does not). If you use "Alter OR Moshe" or "Moshe OR Alter" with option one in the Lithuania GNDB, then you will find seven results in both cases -- the two Alter's, the three Moshe's, and an additional two Moshe's found in text. The search engine seeks the two names wherever they may be in the record.

D-M Soundex (option two) searching can be very effective in finding names for which you do not know the exact spelling (for whatever reason). It will find all names which SOUND LIKE the name which you enter, because they all have the same DM-Soundex code. On the one hand, it helps overcome your lack of knowledge of the "correct" spelling of the name, or how it might be spelled in the data base using the GNDB standard. On the other hand, it may find lots of names in which you are not interested. DM Soundexing sometimes produces two different codes for one given name.

The only possible modification with DM Soundexing is the use of square brackets [ ]. For example, in the Lithuania GNDB, searching on "Moshe" will lead to 29 records retrieved, but using [Mo]she to search will yield only 16 records -- you are limiting the search to only those hits which begin with the exact letters "Mo", but which have the desired DM Soundex code for Moshe. You should experiment with this scheme and learn its advantages and limitations.

CURRENT LIMITATION USING D-M SOUNDEX

D-M Soundex does not work right now on the Origins fields. If you wish to search on these fields, use Global Text Search.

THE ALL-INCLUSIVE ASTERISK "*"

The two available search options then are:

1. Global TEXT Search of ALL Fields, ignoring delimiters
2. Daitch-Mokotoff Soundex

Under option one, you can use an all-inclusive asterisk "*" to represent any letters of the alphabet. This very useful capability allows you to search exactly for the beginning of a name in cases where you are not sure how the whole name is spelled.

For example, consider the Yiddish name NOTL, as it is transcribed using the YIVO standard, but which you think could be Notel or Nottel or Notell. If you try "Notel", "Nottel", or "Notell" using option one in the Lithuania GNDB, you will find no hits -- these spellings do not exist in the data base. But if you try "Not*" using option one, you will find six hits -- five for the Hebrew name Nasan (for which Notl is a kinui) and one for the Legal/Hebrew name Note (for which Notl is a kinui).

Another example: MOSHE. If you try "Moshe" as the search input using option one in the Lithuania GNDB, you will find five hits -- three for Moshe including its double names, and two for Moshe used in the "Origin" field where it is referred to in text. If you try "Mos*" using option one, you will find the same five hits. If you try "Mo*" using option one, you will find that the search engine will not accept your input, stating that you must use at least three characters in this way.

You should experiment with these variations to learn how they work best.

SUMMARY OF SEARCH GUIDELINES

For the case where you know one or two Yiddish names (say) and want to find all the other Yiddish, Hebrew, and European secular names which were linked to your one or two, the best initial approach is probably to use option one with the first few letters of the name, along with the asterisk, e.g., "Not*". However, it might be worthwhile to back this up with a second trial in which your input is "[Not]l" using option two (DM Soundex). After trying the last one using the Lithuania GNDB, you might also have a go at the input "Notl" using option two (interesting?!)

The above case is probably the most popular use of the GNDBs. In general, a combination of both search options would work the best and minimize the possibility of missing names of which you should be aware, but some of these trials may give you lots of false positives.

For the case where you want to enter an English vernacular name (for US, UK, SA...), say Morris, option one would give twenty hits for the Lithuania GNDB. However, option two (Soundex) with input Morris would yield 29 hits -- it finds a number of names of females which have the same DM Soundex as Morris. In general, for English vernacular names, option two is NOT a good choice because DM Soundex was not set up for English names and does not work well with them. The use of the old NARA Soundex for English (and perhaps other foreign) names is currently under consideration.

Entering foreign vernacular names is useful when you want to find all of the possible vernacular names an immigrant might have used, or you are looking for all the Hebrew, Yiddish, and European secular names from which the vernacular name might have come -- this could turn out to be a large number of possibilities because many different European Jewish names were translated into the same English vernacular foreign name.

Searching on foreign names is probably the second most interesting use of the GNDBs. You undoubtedly will work out alternative approaches which will work for you and your own special needs.

For a detailed, field-by-field description of the fields' contents, see the Description of the Data Bases.


GIVEN NAME SEARCH INPUT FORM

This search input form allows you to accomplish ONLY one of two different search directions (don't try to fill out both red and blue data):

1. European-to-Foreign: Enter your ancestor's given name for his European country of origin, and obtain all his possible European Hebrew, Yiddish, & Secular names, plus the foreign-country vernacular names he might have adopted.

2. Foreign-to-European: Enter your ancestor's vernacular given name for his foreign-country of immigration, and obtain all the possible foreign-country vernacular given names he might have adopted, plus the European given names he might have had in his European country of origin.

SUMMARY OF SEARCH OPTIONS

Try out these search options yourself until you feel confident that you can use them for your own searches, and then use them as guidelines for setting up your own searches.


  Global Text Search:            DM Soundex Search:

   Notl   Alter OR Moshe           Moshe
   Not*   Yehuda AND Leyb          [Mo]she
   Moshe
   Mos*
1. EUROPEAN-TO-FOREIGN SEARCH
European Country: Belarus
SearchName:
SearchField:
Search Type:
Foreign Country:
 
2. FOREIGN-TO-EUROPEAN SEARCH
Foreign Country:
SearchName:
 
Search Type:
European Country: Belarus

A list of the SOURCES used to obtain the given names data for the Belarus GNDB can be found SOURCES
here.



ALL ABOUT GIVEN NAMES & THE DATA BASES

This web site includes several articles which you will want to read, in order to learn more about the GNDBs and how they were developed, and in order to broaden your background in the topic of Jewish given names, Judaism, and Jewish history. Come back to this section often.

DESCRIPTION OF THE GIVEN NAMES DATA BASES
   1. INTRODUCTION
      1.1. Project Goals
      1.2. Preparation of the Data Bases
      1.3. A Name-Acquisition Scenario
   2. DESIGNING THE DATA BASES
      2.1. Assumptions, Guidelines, and Constraints
      2.2. European Geographic Regions
      2.3. Criteria Used in Choosing Project Countries
      2.4. European and Foreign Country Population Data
   3. DESCRIPTION OF COMPUTER DATA BASES
      3.1. Definition of Data Base Fields
      3.2. Yiddish Given Names
      3.3. Legal/Hebrew Given Names
      3.4. Given Names Data Sources
      3.5. Computerized Given Names Sources
      3.6. Sample GNDB Search Results
GIVEN NAMES, JUDAISM, & JEWISH HISTORY
   1. INTRODUCTION
   2. HOW JEWISH GIVEN NAMES CAME TO BE CHOSEN
      2.1. Factors which Define the Jewish People & Nation
      2.2. The Nature of Jewish Given Names
      2.3. Names of U.S. Immigrants, 1880-1920
   3. JEWISH HISTORY AND JEWISH GIVEN NAMES OVER THE AGES
      3.1. Ancient Period (3150 BCE - 500 CE)
      3.2. Middle Ages (500-1500 CE)
      3.3. Renaissance 1300-1700)
      3.4. Age of Enlightenment (1700-1900)
      3.5. Project Period (1795-1925)
   4. DEVELOPMENT OF YIDDISH OVER THE AGES
      4.1. Beginnings and Growth
      4.2. A Cultural and International Language
      4.3. Yiddish Dialects
      4.4. YIVO Standard Yiddish
   5. JEWISH GIVEN NAMES, 1795-1925
      5.1. Hebrew Names
      5.2. Yiddish Names
      5.3. Jewish Secular Names
TRANSCRIPTION OF YIDDISH/HEBREW GIVEN NAMES
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