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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 1920 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 העטון 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. It seems only Jewish names were published in the Hebrew edition, and only Arab names were published in the Arabic edition, but all names were in the English edition. One can see the Arabic name in the English list (Samira Mahfouz) is not in the Hebrew list. This makes one wonder what other differences existed between the different editions.

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 name 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.

Updates to Polish archive links

A change mentioned previously has finally happened, and the Polish State Archives (PSA) site szukajwarchiwach.pl has started redirecting links to it to the new site szukajwarchiwach.gov.pl. I wrote about the differences between these two sites previously in Figuring out the Polish State Archive changes. Now that the change has happened I’ve taken some time to go through over 5000 links in the Compendium that go to the PSA web sites, and correct them. If you’re not interested in the technical details, just go look at the archival links for Polish towns in the Compendium. If you want to understand more about how and why these were added, see my original introduction to these links in Introducing archival records info in the Compendium. For more information about the B&F Compendium of Jewish Genealogy in general, see About the Compendium.

Continue reading Updates to Polish archive links

Watching my Rootstech Session

I’d like to thank the hundreds of people who viewed my session (Using the B&F Compendium of Jewish Genealogy) during the three-day Rootstech Connect Conference. The session will be available until next year’s conference, so if you missed it you can still watch it. As the conference itself is over now, I am directly linking to the video here. If you do like the video, you can still go to the Rootstech session page and like it by clicking the thumbs up button. You can watch the video on this page, or click on the title to load it in YouTube, where it should show up larger.

Thank you to Rootstech for accepting my presentation, and for including it in the General Jewish Genealogy Overview series.

Speaking at Rootstech Connect

I am speaking at Rootstech Connect (February 25-27), the online conference sponsored by FamilySearch, that has over 500,000 registered attendees. Rootstech started out as a conference focused on the convergence of genealogy and technology, but over the past ten years has become the largest genealogy conference of any kind worldwide. This year’s conference is only online, and will be by far the biggest genealogy conference ever held.

I will be speaking about how best to utilize this site , in particular the B&F Compendium of Jewish Genealogy (the link is available now: Using the B&F Compendium of Jewish Genealogy). Like most of the lectures, mine will be available as video-on-demand, so you can watch it anytime during the 3-day conference, and should also be available for the next year online.

Continue reading Speaking at Rootstech Connect

Ten Year Site Anniversary

Ten years ago today, I posted my first article on this site, then a blog on Google’s Blogger platform. The post itself was thinking aloud about whether to switch genealogy programs from Reunion 9 to Family Tree Maker, which had just been introduced on the Mac for the first time (in case you’re wondering what I decided back then, I’m using Reunion 13 now).

How the first post on this site looked back then (more or less)
Continue reading Ten Year Site Anniversary