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Not Every Sam was a Schloime

Updated: Apr 14




– by Susan Weinberg –


In Jewish genealogy, the fluidity of given names is often a brick wall. You can't find the record if you don't know the name. 


Jewish traditions have unique features, presenting both challenges and clues. Typically, a Jewish child receives a secular name and a Hebrew name. For Ashkenazic Jews, that name is usually after a deceased grandparent or great-grandparent. When several cousins bear the same name, you can assume that a grandparent of similar name probably died shortly before.  


Our ancestors came from another country where they had a secular name, a Hebrew name, and often a nickname. They Americanized their name, selecting a new name that may or may not resemble their former name. Having made that leap into a new life, they often continued to modify their name, trying on new identities.  


To work your way back you will want to learn their Hebrew and Yiddish names. To follow their trail in the United States, you will need to trace name changes. So how do we do that?


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