A look at British Mandate Palestine name changes

I’ve been doing some research into name changes, and wanted to share some of the process of name changes that occurred in British Mandate Palestine (pre-state Israel, from 1919 to 1948).

If you’re interested in searching these name changes, note that these are all searchable online at the Israel Genealogy Research Association web site. Search results include the image of the English version of the name change publication, which I’ll explain below.

Name changes during the mandate were published regularly in the official government paper, called, in English, the Palestine Gazette. The paper was also published in Hebrew (as העתון הרשמי) and Arabic. While looking through files in the Israel State Archives, I came across a folder that contained many of the name change lists from 1941-1946. In the folder, you can see the original lists that were submitted for publication. This usually included the original request letter, a list of the name changes in English, and another list in Hebrew and Arabic as appropriate. Sometimes corrections were also made. Let’s go through an example.

Here is the letter submitting a list of name changes on May 11, 1942:

Included was this list of name changes in English (over two pages):

And a list in Hebrew (and one name at the end in Arabic):

Note that the last name in the English list (Moszesz Hake) is not alphabetical, but in the Hebrew list it is in the correct location. This followed into the publication as well.

Those lists were then published in issue 1196 of the Palestine Gazette on May 21 (ten days after the above was submitted):

And in the Hebrew edition:

Note that in English, it gives their citizenship as Palestinian (most likely meaning they were naturalized citizens), and in the Hebrew it also says Palestinian, but adds an acronym (א“י) at the end. That acronym stands for ארץ ישראל (Eretz Yisrael), the Land of Israel. The same acronym shows up in all official documents where the words Palestine or Palestinian were used in Hebrew, most prominently on currency and stamps.

A little over a week after publication another note shows up in the file, requesting corrections:

Including a list of three corrections:

These were actually correct in the original lists. The mistakes were made when it went into the Gazette. Those corrections were then published in issue 1200 of the Palestine Gazette on June 11 (nine days after the correction was submitted):

There is no correction in the Hebrew edition, since the mistake wasn’t in the Hebrew.

Name change lists are a critical resource for genealogists, but these lists are important for another reason. The twenty plus years of name changes, published in matching Hebrew and English, provide a map between the languages for both given names and surnames, at a critical time when many Jews were just exiting the shtetls of Europe. Not only can you see the names they switched, you can also glean the connections between different names.

In the above corrected list two of the men were named Moses (spelled Mojzes and Moszesz) and both, unsurprisingly, changed their name to the Hebrew name Moshe. You can see in the full list that one woman named Gitla (good in Yiddish) changed her name to Tova (good in Hebrew), and that one man named Jankiel (a Polish diminutive of Jacob) changed his name to Jacob. What’s interesting about that last one is that in Hebrew there is no change in the given name. It shows the Hebrew form of Jacob (יעקב) for both the old and new given names (although the surname does change). It’s also a little odd since you wouldn’t think a diminutive name for would be used in an official document (but he used it in his naturalization, which is also on the Israel State Archives web site).

I’ll be sharing more on these lists in the future.

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