An affiliate of
Polish-Jewish Genealogy —
|Adjectival Form||Capital City|
|Kujawy-Pomorze||kujawsko-pomorskie||Bydgoszcz & Torun|
|Lubusz||lubuskie||Gorzów & |
|Warmia i Mazury||warmińsko-mazurskie||Olsztyn|
16. What given names (first names, forenames) were used by Jews in Poland?
c ts ch, h kh ć, cz, ci ch ś, sz, si sh ż, rz, zi zh ą om, on ę em, en j y dz j ł w w v
The given names used in the civil registers were the Yiddish secular names used by Jews in the everyday lives, not the Hebrew shem ha-kodesh used for religious purposes. You will therefore typically see "Leib" rather than "Arya", "Hersz" rather than "Cwi", "Wolf" rather than "Zev", "Ber" rather than "Dow", "Chil" rather than "Jechiel", "Szyia" rather than "Jehosze", "Chackiel" rather than "Jechezkiel", "Mordka" rather than "Mordechai", "Icek" rather than "Icchok", "Jankiel" rather than "Jaków", etc. See the presentation on Given Names for more information on religious vs. secular names and Yiddish nicknames.
There were only about 100 different male names and 100 different female names commonly used by Jews in Poland — however, each of these names had potentially dozens of diminutives (nicknames) and variants. For example, the name "Leib" could be "Lejbusz", "Lejbuś", "Leibka", "Leibel", "Lewek", etc.
Here are statistics of the most popular Jewish given names in two Polish towns: Chęciny (Kielce gubernia) and Łomża (Łomża gubernia), including what percentage of each town's Jewish population bore that name.
Chęciny Łomża Male Female Male Female 1 Moszek 6.5% Sura 6.4% Abram 7.4% Sora 7.2% 2 Herszel 5.8% Ruchla 6.2% Mosza 6.9% Chaja 6.2% 3 Icyk 5.2% Hana 6.1% Idzk, Ajzyk 6.8% Ryfka 6.2% 4 Lejbus 4.9% Laja 5.6% Lejb 6.4% Rochl 5.5% 5 Abram 4.1% Ester 4.6% Jankiel 6.1% Leja 5.5% 6 Josek 3.9% Haja 4.3% Hersz 5.5% Chana 4.0% 7 Dawid 3.8% Fajgla 4.2% Chaim 4.6% Fejga 3.7% 8 Wolf 3.6% Rywka 3.9% Mejer 3.7% Szejna 3.1% 9 Izrael 3.4% Gitla 3.0% Dawid 3.4% Ester 3.0% 10 Jakób 3.3% Marya 2.9% Ber 3.3% Marym 2.4% 11 Majer 3.2% Raizla 2.7% Szmul 3.0% Dwejra 2.1% 12 Haim 3.0% Malka 2.5% Wolf 3.0% Malka 1.9% 13 Szlama 2.8% Bajla 2.3% Joszk 2.9% Gitel 1.9% 14 Mordka 2.7% Szandla 2.0% Izrael 2.8% Bejla 1.8% 15 Szmul 2.4% Liba 1.5% Lejzor 2.7% Etka 1.6% 16 Berek 2.3% Frajdla 1.4% Mortek 2.7% Liba 1.5% 17 Mendel 1.7% Hinda 1.4% Szloma 2.5% Rejza 1.5% 18 Lejzor 1.6% Dwojra 1.4% Aron 2.3% Frejda 1.3% 19 Boruch 1.4% Blima 1.2% Eliasz 1.8% Chawa 1.2% 20 Eliasz 1.3% Perla 1.2% Zelman 1.4% Hinda 1.2% 21 Szymon 1.3% Brandla 1.1% Boruch 1.3% Tauba 1.1% 22 Zelman 1.2% Pesla 1.0% Mendel 1.3% Mindla 1.0% 23 Aron 1.1% Itla 1.0% Beniamin 1.2% Raszka 1.0% 24 Abela 1.0% Mindla 1.0% Zelik 1.1% Pesia 1.0% 25 Pinkus 1.0% Tauba 1.0% Juda 1.0% Basia 0.9% 26 Judka 0.9% Golda 1.0% Fajba 1.0% Brajna 0.9% 27 Michel 0.9% Hawa 0.9% Owsieje 0.9% Elka 0.8% 28 Fiszel 0.9% Basia 0.7% Rubin 0.8% Cyrla 0.8% 29 Kalma 0.9% Mirla 0.7% Pejsach 0.6% Bluma 0.8% 30 Szaja 0.9% Cyrla 0.6% Szymon 0.6% Fruma 0.7%
- Chęciny: Based upon study of 72,446 given names mentioned in the Jewish vital records of Chęciny, 1826-1884, as extracted from LDS microfilms by Dolores Ring.
- Łomża: Analysis of all 13,271 Jewish births recorded in the city of Łomża, 1827-1886, as extracted from LDS microfilms by Michael Tobias.
- Diminutives, variants, and different spellings have all been grouped under the most popular spelling/variant in each town (For example, Hana, Chana, Hany, Hani, Channa, Hanna, Hena, Henia, etc. were all counted as "Hana" in Chęciny, and as "Chana" in Łomża. Mojesz, Mojsej, Mojsze, Mojzesz, Mośka, Mosza, Moszek, Moszka, Moyzes, etc. were all counted as "Moszek" in Chęciny, and as "Mosza" in Łomża).
- Double names (e.g.: "Sura Ryfka") have been counted twice — (e.g.: once as "Sura" and once as "Ryfka").
50% of all people had one of the top 12 names for each gender. 65% of people had one of the top 20 names for each gender; and that these 60 root names represent 75% of all people.
Virtually every name commonly used by Jews in Poland is a variant of one of these names listed in the two attached documents. They are rendered here in the Cyrillic (Russian), Latin (Polish) and Hebrew alphabets:
For more information on the given names used by Jews in Poland, see
- Hoffman, William F. and George W. Helon. First Names of the Polish Commonwealth: Origins and Meanings. (Chicago: Polish Genealogical Society of America, 1998). 426 pages.
- Beider, Alexander. A Dictionary of Ashkenazic Given Names: Their Origins, Structure, Pronunciation, and Migrations. (Teaneck, NJ: Avotaynu, Inc., 2001). 728 pages.
- Presentation on Jewish Given Names.
17. Why do women's given names often end with "i" or "y"?
This is another effect of Polish-language declension (see Question #5). In Napoleonic format birth registrations, the mother's name will most often be in the genitive case. For example, in a birth registration the mother's name might appear as "Chai Gitli" — but her name is actually "Chaia Gitla" (nominative case). In context, the Polish text in the registration says that the child was born "z małżonki jego Chai Gitli", meaning "of his wife Chaia Gitla". The mother's name is the object of the preposition in this sentence, and therefore needs to be in the genitive case.
Here are the rules for the conversion of a genitive name to nominative. For names ending with a vowel (where 'j' is considered a vowel):
- If the penultimate (second-to-last) letter is a consonant, then change the final '-i' or '-y' to an '-a'.
Examples: 'Ryfki' → 'Ryfka'; 'Szeyny' → 'Szeyna'.
- If the penultimate letter is a vowel, then add an '-a'.
Examples: 'Laj' → 'Laja'; 'Hai' → 'Haia'.
For more information about Polish-language declensions, see the article “How to Pronounce Your Polish Town and Family Names and Recognize Their Most Common Grammatical Transformations”, by Fay Vogel Bussgang, which can be found in:
18. Who are the witnesses?
Most of the Napoleonic registrations state that they were written "in the presence of" two other individuals. These are the witnesses. The registration document usually states the witness' names, ages, occupations, and town of residence. The registrations are usually signed by the person reporting the event (if they are literate), by these two witnesses, and finally by the civil registrar. Signatures might be in Polish, Russian, or Yiddish.
The person reporting the event is usually the first person mentioned in the registration document. For birth registrations, this is almost always the father of the child; for marriage registrations, it is usually the rabbi who performed the ceremony. For death registrations, it is more variable, but it is often the widow/widower, parent, or a child of the deceased, depending upon the age of the deceased. The person reporting the event sometimes does not sign the document, because they were not literate in the required language (Polish or Russian, depending upon the time period). The two witnesses were usually literate in the required state language, and did sign the registration.
Most often, it is the same handful of individuals that witness virtually every Jewish registration in that town. They are "professional witnesses", so to speak. Often, their occupation is listed as szkolnik or podszkolnik ("assistant szkolnik"), who are minor officials in the Jewish community — the synagogue caretaker (shammes, in Yiddish), beadles in the Jewish court, collectors of taxes, personnel of the cemetery, etc.
In the earliest Napoleonic registrations, before the early 1820s, the witnesses were more often relatives of the person reporting the event. This information can be very helpful in your genealogical research, since patronymics and relationships were also stated. But starting the the early 1820s, this practice of using relatives as witnesses gave way to the use of the standard "professional witnesses" for all events.
19. Were most of the men illiterate? Often there is no signature of the father on the records.
The literacy rate in Hebrew/Yiddish was very high. But the literacy rate in the state languages (Polish/Russian) was not. Often a clerk required a Polish signature, which many Jews could not provide, so the record states that the person "did not know how to write" — which most often means that they could not write Polish or Russian. Jews would sometimes sign with three circles "OOO" rather than "X"s, which they considered as making the sign of the cross.
20. What are 'alegata' (marriage supplement) records?
“Alegata” — also known as "marriage annexes" or "marriage supplements" or "marriage proofs", or in Polish as "dowody" (evidence) or "aneksy" or "dokumenty do akt małżeństw" or "dowody do aktów małżeństw" — are supplemental documents that are supplied at the time of marriage. They typically include transcripts of the birth registration of the bride and groom, or proof of death or divorce of a former spouse. If the bride or groom was from another town, the Alegata files include transcripts of records from that other town.
Other documents relating to the bride and groom may also form part of the Alegata files. When a birth record could not be produced by the bride or groom, a protocol (sworn statement from witnesses, including details of the birth) was created. Reasons for the lack of a birth registration transcript include "record-keeping did not exist at that time" and "the birth was not recorded by the parents".
All towns in the Kingdom of Poland recorded Alegata records, just as they did for birth, marriage and death records. The Alegata are a separate parallel set of records; a part of the standard Napoleonic civil registration.
However, not all Alegata records survived. The Alegata were the least likely type of records to be preserved, since they consist of loose papers, as opposed to bound volumes like the birth, marriage and death (BMD) registers. They appear to have survived for about half of the towns where BMD records have survived. Alegata records which are less than 100 years old are usually kept in the town's Civil Records Office (Urząd Stanu Cywilnego). The older records are typically be held in the regional branch of the Polish State Archives (PSA) which holds the Jewish vital records for that particular town.
An inventory of the surviving Alegata records for each town can be found in the PSA's online PRADZIAD database.
There is usually no index to the Alegata records, although they do tend to follow the same sequence as the marriage records for each year.
The coverage for each town is spotty — most often, fewer years of marriage supplement records have survived than of marriage records. JRI-Poland plans to index Alegata in the future.
The Mormons have microfilmed only a small handful of these records, for a few towns, mostly in the Suwałki region. They are described in the FHL Catalog as "Dokumenty do akt małżenstw", for the towns of Bakałarzewo (1833-1852), Białystok (1927-1939), Czyżew (1881-1885), Filipów (1830-1884), Grajewo (1885), Łoździeje [Lazdijai] (1848-1855), Przerośl (1831-1847), Pułtusk (1819-1820), Puńsk (1851-1868), Sejny (1861-1884), Sereje [Seirijai] (1883-1911), Suwałki (1809-1874), Tykocin (1829-1875), Wiejsieje [Veisiejai] (1885-1912), and Wiżajny (1847-1879). The years listed here are not inclusive; there are gaps. See the FHLC for specific microfilm numbers.
There have been several articles about and extracts of marriage supplement records published in Landsmen, the Quarterly Journal of the Suwalk-Lomza Interest Group for Jewish Genealogists. See "Tykocin Jewish Marriages in the early-to-mid-19th Century", by Donald M. Levinsohn, in Landsmen, Volume 5, Number 4 (Spring 1995), pages 20-41.
AGAD Archiwum Główne Akt Dawnych, the Central Archives of Historical Records, in Warsaw. < http://www.agad.archiwa.gov.pl>. akt Polish word meaning 'document'. Often seen as a column heading in vital record indices and extracts, to denote the record numbers. (plural: akta). bann document of intent to marry; announcement. (In Polish: zapowiedzi). BMD acronym for "Birth, Marriage and Death" records. Cyrillic alphabet used for the Russian language.
А Б В Г Д Е Ё Ж З И Й К Л М Н О П Р С Т У Ф Х Ц Ч Ш Щ Ъ Ы Ь Э Ю Я
FHC LDS (Mormon) Family History Center, branch library. < https://www.familysearch.org/locations>. FHL LDS (Mormon) Family History Library, in Salt Lake City, Utah. < https://www.familysearch.org/locations/saltlakecity-library>. FHLC LDS (Mormon) Family History Library Catalog. < https://www.familysearch.org/#form=catalog>. gmina a subdivision of a powiat, an administrative unit that may be one town or a group of towns and villages. Akin to a "township". gubernia geographical/political subdivision of the Russian Empire, similar to a province, which applied to the Kingdom of Poland from 1844 until World War I. (Russian: Губерния). JRI-Poland Jewish Records Indexing - Poland, an organization whose goal is to create searchable on-line indices of Jewish records from Poland. JRI's database is hosted by JewishGen. <http://www.jri-poland.org>. landsman someone who originated in the same village prior to immigration [Yiddish: לאַנדסמאַן] (plural: landsleit לאַנדסלײַט). LDS Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, commonly used to denote the Mormon Family History Library. matronymic a name based on the mother's given name. monogenetic surname from a single progenitor; all bearers of the surname are related. obwód district, subdivision of a gubernia. palatinate geographical/political subdivision of pre-partition Poland (before 1795), similar to a province. patronymic a name based upon the father's given name. polygenetic surname originating from multiple progenitors; all bearers of the surname are not related. powiat district, subdivision of a gubernia. (plural: powiaty). PSA Polish State Archives. (in Polish: Naczelna Dyrekcja Archiwów Państwowych). starosta A government official, the head of a powiat. (plural: starosci). uezd, uyezd district, subdivision of a gubernia. (Russian Уездъ = Polish powiat). USC Urząd Stanu Cywilnego = Civil Records Office, where vital records less than 100 years old are usually stored in each town. województwa geographical/political subdivision of the Kingdom of Poland until its inclusion in Russia's gubernia system in 1844, and again following World War I through the present. Sometimes called a “voivodeship” in English.
|Questions & Answers, Part 1|
|Vital Records in Poland||
Polish-Jewish Genealogy —
|JewishGen InfoFile Index||JewishGen Home Page|
Thanks to Fay Bussgang, Lauren Eisenberg Davis, Stanley Diamond and Alex Sharon for their valuable input and assistance with this document.