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 Genealogy – A How-to for Tracing Ancient Jewish Ancestry. Available here: http://www.amazon.com/Secret-Genealogy-Volume-Suellen-Ocean/dp/0965114082
As genealogists our task is to reach into the past. We find the father then we want the father’s father but eventually we reach silence. Who were these people? One way to decipher who your ancestors were is by analyzing their names. The surnames (and first names) of ancestors will not unequivocally tell us what religion they were but those who have ancestors with names resembling “Jacob” or “Lion” might want to change their line of thinking. Don’t assume your ancestors have always been Christian. Try looking at it from a different standpoint. Maybe they were Jewish and they abandoned an odd name along the way but kept resemblances of it. In the Torah (Bible), “Jacob” is referred to as “Israel.” One of his sons was Judah from whence came the name “Jew.” Judah is synonymous with “lion.” In the ancient past, a Jewish man could sign documents as either “Judah” or “Lion.” Eventually Lion became a surname.
Suellen Ocean is the author of Secret Genealogy – A How-to for Tracing Ancient Jewish Ancestry, Secret Genealogy II – Uncovering the Jewish Roots of Our Christian Ancestors and Secret Genealogy III – From Jewish Anglo-Saxon Tribes to New France Acadians. Available here:
Secret Genealogy: http://www.amazon.com/Secret-Genealogy-Volume-Suellen-Ocean/dp/0965114082
Secret Genealogy II: http://www.amazon.com/Secret-Genealogy-II-Christian-Ancestors/dp/1484053222
Secret Genealogy III: http://www.amazon.com/Secret-Genealogy-III-Jewish-Anglo-Saxon-Acadians/dp/148407579X
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