Genealogy… What Do Names Tell Us? That They’re Jews?

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Names are becoming my favorite genealogy tell-all. Yes, they can and do change through the years but even the changes are telling. In today’s modern world, about once a week I hear of Jewish names that were Anglicized. Usually, it’s a radio talk show host, TV personality or otherwise famous person in the public eye. It happened a thousand years ago, and it still happens today. It’s not uncommon for people to dislike their name but it is unfortunate that when culture meets culture, a cherished surname can become one that’s continually laughed at.

One of my Dutch ancestors had the word “Jow” written after his name, and no one knows what that means. I think the Early American Dutch clerk thought he was writing “Jew.” Jood is Dutch for Jew. My husband’s great-great-grandfather was named Gedeon. In parentheses, is the word “Jeddi.” And speaking of nicknames, the word “Jew” is sort of an English nickname. Jehudi is the ancient Hebrew word for Jew. I wonder… Jehudi… Jeddi. I’m sure it was his nickname. Like Robert to Bobby or James to Jimmy. But it’s still fun to explore these things. And wonder…

Suellen Ocean is the author of Secret GenealogyA How-to for Tracing Ancient Jewish Ancestry. Available here: http://www.amazon.com/Secret-Genealogy-Volume-Suellen-Ocean/dp/0965114082

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