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The Given Names Data Base for each European country contains a number of records which depends on how many Hebrew and Legal given names were popular in that country.  Each record contains a set of fields, each one containing either given names or the origins of given names of a certain category, e.g., the Legal name of that record.  The fields in each European country's records resemble those in the Lithuanian records, shown here for the Hebrew name "Avraham:"

Gender                         M
Legal/Hebrew name              Avraham
Origin of Legal/Hebrew name    Genesis 17:5
Yiddish names                  Abrom/Avrohom/Avrom
Yiddish nicknames              Abale/Abele/Abil/Abl/Abrasha/...
Yiddish Names Origins
European Secular Names         Abraham/Adolfo/Avramets
European Secular Nicknames
European Secular Names Origins
US Names                       Abe/Abel/Abraham/Adolph/Arthur/...
US Nicknames                   Abie
UK Names                       Abraham
UK Nicknames
South African Names            Abe/Abel/Abraham/Albert
South African Nicknames

   The Fields
   Special Symbols in the Fields
   Transcription of Hebrew & Yiddish to Latin Characters   
   Hilchot Gitin
   Original Data Sources


If a field is blank (and therefor is not displayed), this indicates that no information was available to enter in the field.  This could be the case for Gender, Legal name, origin, or other names fields.

The Gender field can take the value "M" or "F."

The Legal or Hebrew name is the primary name for a male, and can be either the Hebrew name for a woman who had a Hebrew name, or her Yiddish/secular name or nickname, if she had been given no Hebrew name at birth (as for many women).  The Legal name is the one which must be used to call a man to the Tora, or to record the names of men and women in Jewish legal documents (ketuvot and gitin).  Legal names can be double names (like Yehuda Leyb in Eastern Europe, or like Yochanan Johann in some West-Central or Western European countries);  triple and quadruple names were also used on occasion.

The Origin of the Legal name was usually a Tanachic name (from the five books of Moshe, the Prophets, the Writings, the Mishna, or the Gemara), including perhaps a Yiddish name (for multiple Legal names), for a man; such names were Hebrew, Aramaic, Greek, Roman, Yiddish or of some other origin and accepted by the Rabbis.  For women, the origin of their Legal name was usually the same as for men if they had a Hebrew name, or if not, was their Yiddish name for Eastern European women from Yiddish-speaking areas, or even a European secular name for Western European women.  The origins of all given names are a topic of much discussion and dispute among reseachers;  there may have been multiple paths traversed between an original Yiddish name and a specific Yiddish nickname.

The Yiddish name was one accepted as such by Jews speaking Yiddish.  Yiddish names which came directly from a classical Hebrew name were written exactly like that name in Hebrew characters, although they were usually pronounced according to the local Yiddish dialect.  Hebrew-derived Yiddish names were/are required by the rabbis to be written exactly like the Hebrew names in Jewish legal documents.

The Yiddish nickname was either a diminutive name, a familiar name, or a term of endearment.  Such names were distinguished by specific formats, including special suffixes;  for numerous examples of nicknames and suffixes, see  Yiddish Names .  For men, in most cases, Yiddish nicknames did not qualify for use as part of the Legal multiple name, particularly names of endearment.  For women, however, names of endearment were frequently taken as their Legal names, and indeed were popular with women for this purpose.  For some Hebrew names, the number of linked Yiddish nicknames can be very large in comparison to the number of regular Yiddish kinuim for the same Hebrew name.

The Yiddish names origins are given where they were known.  Frequently, Yiddish names came from secular names of German, Slavic, Polish, Belarus, or a few other European sources, and were either imported as-is to the category of Yiddish name, or were modified to make them phonetically correct for Jews speaking Yiddish.

European secular names were European names of non-Jewish origin, but which were used by European Jews.  Some of these names came from non-Jewish bible variations of names contained in the Jewish Bible (Abraham is one example).  European secular nicknames derived from the previous category, but had been converted into nicknames in Europe, or by Jews using them.  Secular names were used by-and-large in contacts with non-Jews.  See  Jewish Secular Names  for more details.

When the Origin of the secular name was known, it was entered in this field.

The GNDBs include the foreign vernacular names adopted by Jews when they immigrated to foreign countries; for example, for Lithuania:  US, UK, or South Africa.  Normal foreign vernacular names and nicknames appear in the last fields of the record.  These names are statistically linked to the Hebrew, Yiddish, and European secular names in the prior fields of the record.  Some of these fields are incomplete due to the difficulty of finding appropriate data sources.

Some Hebrew names for men and women were so popular that they generated large numbers of Yiddish names and nicknames.  It happened at times that these names fell into several easily defined threads or groups of names for a specific Primary name.  When these threads were large, the threads were separated into individual records, each having the same Primary Hebrew name, but differing Yiddish, secular, and foreign names, according to the thread.

It is generally true that Yiddish names and nicknames had differing popularities and pronunciations in different European countries;  accordingly, the GNDB fields for Yiddish and secular names are different for European countries that fell into different Yiddish dialect regions.  Never the less, migrations and other factors often introduced given names from outside dialect regions, which sounded foreign locally.  Such "outsider" names are to be found in each of the European data bases, but usually not in large numbers.  These exceptions do not vitiate the generalizations about the uniformity of Yiddish pronunciations and name choices within one country.

If the GNDB for your European region of interest is sparse because it is still being developed, you should consider visiting the GNDB sites of other nearby regions, particularly those in your  Yiddish-dialect region .  This may give temporary help in finding alternative names for your ancestor.

The names listed in each name field are possible alternatives which might have been used by a single person.  While some persons might have used a number of these names, it would have been unlikely that he used every one of them at one time or another.

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In the names fields of each records, alternative names are separated from one another by a special delimiter:  "/", "\", "//", or ""//.....//".  The forward slash "/" separates alternative names and is used in all name fields.  The backward slash "\" separates alternative Yiddish or secular names within a single Hebrew multiple name;  example:  "Asher Zelig\Zelik".  The double forward slash "//" is used in the case of Hebrew multiple names to separate the first name listing for the first Hebrew name, from the second name listing for the second Yiddish/secular name;  example:  Yiddish names -- Aser/Asher/.../Usher//Zelig/Zeligman/.../Zelikman.  For a Hebrew triple name, another double forward slash "//" would be used to separate the second Hebrew name's list from the third one.  Within each name list, the names are presented in alphabetical order.

For some Hebrew double, triple, or quadruple names, the Rabbis specified in Hilchot Gitin books that at times the ORDER of the names within the Legal/Hebrew name could be changed or reversed.  In such cases, the two Hebrew names which can be reversed are marked with an asterisk "*" to the right of the second name.  An example is: Esteyr AnyHebrewName * ham. Estshe, which can be either Esteyr AnyHebrewName ham. Estshe, or AnyHebrewName Esteyr ham. Estshe.

In cases of uncertainty of the spelling or validity of a given name, it was marked with a question mark "?".

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Most archival documents contain Hebrew and Yiddish given names transcribed to a European language such as Cyrillic or Polish, depending on the country of origin.  In Yiddish-speaking European countries, Hebrew and Yiddish names were used in speech, and when written, were recorded in Hebrew characters.  However, when these names were recorded by government officials, they were transcribed into the language of record of that country so that the recorded name sounded like the name that was heard in conversation.  Accordingly, although such records (if faithfully recorded) did preserve the sound of the names, they have no intrinsic value for Jews today except possibly the familiarity that goes with seeing such records over and over again in European formats.

On the other hand, Jewish community records were uniformly written in the  Standard written Yiddish  in use during the time period 1795-1925, with Hebrew names given in Standard written Hebrew.  Unfortunately, the vowel points required for some of the vowel sounds were generally omitted, since all Jews knew the proper name pronunciations.  This leaves Jewish genealogists today with several different possible vowels for some names recorded in Yiddish.  Fortunately, it is known today how most names were pronounced differently in the four or five different Yiddish dialects of Eastern Europe, and these recorded Yiddish names can now be properly expressed for each European country.

In the GNDBs, for consistency and to preserve the feel of the original names, both the European and Yiddish language versions of Hebrew and Yiddish names in source documents have been transcribed into standard non-European Latin-character versions, preserving the original pronunciations.  Accordingly, the data bases usually contain European-language versions of names (like Polish "Icik") only in the local or European secular name field, their Yiddish or Hebrew versions (like Latinized-Yiddish "Itsik") being in those fields.  Hebrew names were transcribed to Latin letters using a modified version of the  Standard of the Academy of the Hebrew Language (Israel) , and Yiddish names and nicknames were transcribed to Latin letters using a  modified YIVO (Yidisher Visnshaftlekher Institut) Standard .  These Standard Transcription procedures allow users to work out the correct 1795-1925 pronunciation of the names in each European country.  In some European countries (e.g., Holland), some Hebrew and Yiddish names are given in their local-language spellings as well as in their Standard Hebrew and Yiddish transcriptions, to assist researchers not familiar with the native tongue of that country.

However, this still leaves some genealogists with the problem of converting the European-language Yiddish names they find in archival documents into Latinized-Yiddish names, so that they can use the GNDBs.  The solution proposed for this problem is the development of short computer programs for each European language which can be used to convert Yiddish names recorded in that language to standard Latinized-Yiddish names, either manually, or automatically on-line.  It is hoped that this facility will be available in the future.

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The Rabbis frequently deemed it necessary in divorce contracts (gitin) to record vernacular (Yiddish, secular) names along with the Hebrew name (shem hakodesh) of an individual to distinguish him from other persons, or for other legal reasons;  this led to the inclusion of detailed name considerations in many Hilchot Gitin books (the laws of divorce).  A similar problem existed for the Gabai in a synagogue -- by what proper Hebrew names to call to the Tora in an aliya, men who were not certain of their proper names?;  this led to the writing of books as guides for the Gabai on how to combine the Hebrew and linked vernacular names of a man for this purpose.  An example of the latter is "Sefer K'ria Hak'dosha" by Rabbi Yehuda Yudl Rosenberg, New York (1918).

In such cases, these considerations led to the recording in gitin of legal double, triple, or quadruple names, the first name being the original Hebrew name (if it existed), the others being Yiddish or secular names, depending on the European country.  Two forms of such recording were used:  haMechune ("known as"), or demitkari ("called").  Examples are:  Asher haMechune Zelig (in gitin), or Asher Zelig (when called to the Tora);  and Avraham demitkari Aba (in gitin), or Avraham Aba (when called to the Tora).  Detailed rules were established for distinguising between these two terms.

Over the centuries, the Rabbis who dealt with the subject of gitin worked out a set of rules specifying which Yiddish or secular names must be written with the shem hakodesh (which was the primary name in Judaism), and how to spell these additional names using Hebrew letters.  The rules took into account by what name a man was called to the Tora in an aliya, by what name(s) family and friends addressed him, what were the vowels in his Yiddish/secular name and how they related to those in his shem hakodesh, whether the additional name was a kinui or a diminutive/endearment name, and numerous other factors.  These rules were not spelled out precisely in one place but were agreed upon by all the Rabbis involved in setting up the rules, and so became somewhat obscure to outsiders.  However, the Hilchot Gitin book "Get Mesudar" by Mintz does give and explain many of these rules, but they are distributed in many places throughout his book.

In some special cases, it was unclear to the Rabbis whether to write haMechune or demitkari, or whether to write the original Hebrew name with or without the Yiddish kinui.  Indeed, there were on occasion disagreements between different authoritative rabbis, or the issue might be very much subject to local considerations.  So, they might suggest that both of the options haMechune and demitkari be considered by the community rabbi writing the get, or also for him to consider whether or not to include the kinui at all.  In such cases of uncertainty, the community rabbi needed to consider the local factors in making his decision.

It is also true that the authoritative rabbis who prepared Hilchot Gitin books may not have been aware of the existence of some Yiddish names, but a local community rabbi might be aware that names not mentioned in Hilchot Gitin books required being incorporated into a legal double name.  So, the community rabbi may have written the special Yiddish name in a get on his own authority, even though the name was not listed in the Hilchot Gitin book which he normally used as his source.  Thus, it is possible that Jewish genealogical researchers might discover double names which are not found in the Given Names Data Bases, since the data bases were based only on the Hebrew double names which were listed in Hilchot Gitin books.


The individual given names stored in the data bases were extracted from a number of different sources during the names-research project.  In general, many thousands of records were scanned for this purpose.  The main types of sources are:

Names extracted from the Tanakh and other classical Jewish sources
     (in Hebrew, Aramaic, English)
Hilchot Gitin books of earlier centuries (Hebrew/Yiddish)
Given names books in English and other languages (mostly English)
On-line JewishGen or SIG data bases (English)
On-line family trees (English)
News group postings (English)
News group archives (English)
Data donated by individuals from their trees (English)
International Cemetery Project data base (English)
Ada Greenblatt's US cemetery data base (contributed by AG)
Foreign-country cemetery data bases from other researchers

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