Heritage Florida Jewish News - Central Florida's Independent Jewish Voice

JGSGO "My Jewish Roots" Workshop 'Jewish Names'


(L-R) Lois and Ron Simmons, winners of a one year subscription to Ancestry.com, World Explorer Edition; Marlis Humphrey, president of the IAJGS.

The ninth in the series of ten monthly JGSGO (Jewish Genealogical Society of Greater Orlando) Workshops was held at The Roth Family JCC on May 2, 2017.

The guest speaker was Warren Blatt, managing director of JewishGen.org, a genealogy website that features thousands of databases, research tools, and other resources to help those with Jewish ancestry research and find family members. Blatt spoke on Jewish given names and surnames, their customs, origins, and variations, all important considerations in finding ancestors.

Among the surprising revelations: Blatt emphasized that genealogy is about people, not their surnames. It's only in the last 200 years that surnames came into use across much of the area where Ashkenazi Jews originated. There is no such thing as a real name: Jewish people were not attached to their names and are not necessarily related by surname. It could be named after a current address, occupation, town, etc. And, "spelling doesn't matter"! You have to be open-minded as to the spelling of a name in your research. Names changed. Not at Ellis Island, but as a part of the assimilation process, with only a small percentage "legally" changed in the courts. Names were often shortened, translated, Germanized, Americanized, etc.

Abraham, Isaac and Jacob did not have surnames. The closest thing to a "real name" would be the Hebrew name on a tombstone. Jews, Blatt explained, have two names. Their religious name in Hebrew for synagogue use (weddings, bar/bat mitzvah, etc.), and their everyday name. The Ashkenazic tradition was to name the newborn after a deceased relative. This tradition began in the 1st-2nd century and became common in the 12th century. Independent of sex, the child could be named after the closest deceased relative, starting with the father/mother, then grandparents, great-grandparents, etc. Otherwise the names could have biblical ties, or be related to colors, personal qualities, animals, etc.

One of the many revelations from Blatt: The U.S. Census-taker wrote what he heard in his/her language. So, for example, Yiddish names in Boston would need to be interpreted with a Boston accent in mind! For example, "Salit" would be Charlotte. Similarly, passenger lists would be written in the language of the shipping company.

These are only a few highlights of the wealth of information provided at the Workshop-for more on Jewish Names, a video recording of the lecture and two extensive handouts are available to JGSGO members. To join the JGSGO, go to http://www.jgsgo.org/membership.

Three special opportunities:

• A workshop for finding relatives in the Holocaust

• The first ever "Roots-Athon"-Whether you are just beginning your family history research or have hit a brick wall, bring your laptop to the first JGSGO "Roots-athon", Sunday, May 21, from 1 p.m.-4 p.m. at the Central Florida Hillel. JGSGO mavens will provide one-on-one help. There will be doorprizes. Pre-registration is required. Pre-register for either in-person or online participation at http://www.jgsgo.org/MyJewishRoots.

• The premier International Conference on Jewish Genealogy right here in Orlando. For the first time, the upcoming 37th IAJGS International Conference on Jewish Genealogy will be held in Orlando July 23-28 at the Disney Swan Resort. More than 300 lectures and workshops and one-on-one consultations will be available. Ancestry.com, Ancestry DNA, FamilySearch, MyHeritage, JewishGen, and FamilyTreeDNA will be there to help you and answer questions. Henry Louis Gates Jr., host of the PBS hit series, "Finding Your Roots," will be a featured speaker. More than 1,000 attendees are expected. The conference is well known for helping thousands of individuals discover their ancestors. For more information visit http://www.iajgs2017.org and "like" us at https://www.facebook.com/IAJGSConference/. Questions? Email info@iajgs2017.org.

The next in the series of workshops will be "Holocaust Research," presented by Marlis Humphrey, president of the IAJGS (International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies) Thursday, June 8, at 7 p.m. at the Rosen JCC on Apopka Vineland. Mavens will be available to help you get started. The workshop is FREE and open to the public. Bring your own laptop to participate in the lab portion. It is also possible to attend via the Internet. Pre-registration is required. Pre-register for either in-person or online participation at http://www.jgsgo.org/MyJewishRoots.


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