Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Tombstone Tuesday - Josephine and Joseph Fuka


Josephine Fuka
Born 24 June 1864
Died 27 Febuary 1944

Joseph Fuka
Born 15 April 1861
Died 18 May 1920

This is a pretty simple inscription, but the use of lots of abbreviations can make things tough. In a previous post, I presented a chart with the Czech names for the months, with different forms including the abbreviations.

Another thing this tombstones illustrates is one of the ways that Czech can form feminine names. In this case we see the name Josef "Joseph" and the feminine form Josefa "Josephine". You simply add -a to the masculine form of the name. For tombstones this will generally work, but in other contexts things get more complicated. There is also another pattern you will see for surnames. These, however, are topics for future posts.

This monument (full picture below) is located in Resurrection Cemetery on the South Side of Chicago.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Surname Saturday - Le Bourhis

Genealogy rarely provides simple answers to the question of who our ancestors were. We want something that we can hold on to, something that changes the way we see ourselves. We often embrace part of our ancestry. We try some recipes, take a dance class or start learning a new language. At the same time, we ignore the complexity that is there. We may downplay other parts of our family's past. Even in those cases that seem most clear cut, you may find surprises.

These complexities are sometime found even in the names of our ancestors. For all of human history, people have been moving around and mixing. Evidence for this is written in to our DNA and often displayed in surnames. Most names cannot be simply described by phrases like "an English name" or "a Russian name". Sometimes, names will even combine elements from more than one language.

One such surname is that of my second great grandmother, Marie Eugénie Le Bourhis. Marie Eugénie was born in Nantes, France on August 26, 1879. Her parents were from the department of Côtes-du-Nord (now Côtes d'Armor). Her father was born in Plouguernével, where many generations of Le Bourhis had lived before him.

The origin of the name is complicated. The name in its current form is clearly French; it includes the French definite article Le "the" and the name follows French orthography (spelling conventions). The name itself, however, has its origin in the Breton language, the Celtic language of Brittany. The area these ancestors were from was Breton-speaking. Bourhis comes from the Breton word bourc'hiz ['burxis], which means "people who live in a small market town". The word bourc'h by itself is the word for "village" or "small market town". Notice the combination c-apostrophe-h. It is used to indicate a velar fricative like the German ch in Bach. Without the apostophy ch is pronounced like English sh.

There is a suffix -ad in Breton which is used to indicate an inhabitant of a place. For example, Brittany is Breizh and so breizhad is one way of referring to a person from Brittany. In the plural, -ad is replaced by -iz and so breizhiz means Bretons. Bourc'hiz follows this same pattern with the singular form bourc'had, and thus means "inhabitants of a small market town". Bourc'hiz can also have the meaning of "middle-class" or "bourgeois".

There is one further layer to this name. The Breton word for a small market town is a Germanic borrowing. This word is related to the -burg of Hamburg and the -bury of Kingsbury (discussed here). This borrowing occurred long ago, perhaps before the Bretons migrated to France from Great Britain. The same Anglo-Saxons invasions that brought this word may have also caused the migration.

So, when someone asks what kind of name Le Bourhis is, you can simply state that it is Franco-Germano-Celtic.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Online French Records - Nantes

Thanks to my discovery of online records in France, I have had a couple of very productive months of genealogy. The branch that had long been the one that I knew least about has grown substantially over the last several weeks and continues to do so. This is the branch of my great grandmother who I wrote about in an earlier post. She was born in Nantes, France.

Many French records are kept in the departmental archives. France is divided into 100 departments. The department is one of the most important administrative divisions. If you are looking for records, you will have to figure out what department your ancestors lived in. Nantes is in the department of Loire-Atlantique (formerly Loire-Inférieure). The departmental archives have an extensive collection of online records, including Parish records of baptism, marriage and burial from the 1500s to 1792 and civil records of birth, marriage and death from 1792 to the beginning of the 20th century. In order to do effective research you will also have to find out the commune that your ancestors lived in. The commune is the smallest administrative unit and the most important for tracking down the records.

My great grandmother was born in the commune of Nantes in the department of Loire-Atlantique. However, in this case, the commune records are not kept in the departmental archives like the rest of the communes of this department. Nantes, the largest city, has its own municipal archives with the same types of records in addition to a number of other online collections of records, pictures, maps and photographs. Several indexes are provided for locating records. You should start with the table décennale which provides a ten-year indexes for records. For my great grandmother, my search for her birth record would start with the table décennale of births (naissances) for 1893-1902. On page 212, you will find the entry for Suzanne Jeanne Gardahaut. This entry will point you to record #343 in the register for the 6th canton in the city of Nantes for the year 1900. With this information I can begin my search of the appropriate register and find the birth record. In this same set of records, you will also find the birth record for my uncle Léon Eugène Gardahaut (pictured above). However, because he was born before my great great grandparents married, he is listed under his mother's surname, Le Bourhis.

Once you have found a record, it will often give information that will help in finding other records. For someone who has done genealogy mainly in the US, you will probably be pleasantly surprised by how informative the records are.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Surname Saturday - Rogers

By a strange coincidence, the one surname (so far) that occurs on both my mom's side and my dad's side is Rogers. By another coincidence, on both sides I have Rogers marrying other Rogers, the only two cases of same surname marriages in my family tree. On my dad's side are my fourth great grandparents, Josiah Rogers and Jane Rogers, and on my mom's side are my fifth great grandparents, Abel Rogers and Hannah Rogers.

Josiah and Jane lived in Warren County, Tennessee. They are generally believed to be cousins, although I have not found direct evidence of this. According to the 1850 Census, Josiah Rogers was born in North Carolina around 1798 and Jane was born in Tennessee around 1801. I believe Jane Rogers is the daughter of Levi Rogers and Sarah Cope, based on the will of Levi Rogers and circumstantial evidence from the 1850 census. In his will, reference is made to both a Jane Rogers who is a daughter and a Josiah Rogers, the only male Rogers in the will not described as a son. In the 1850 Census, Jane and Josiah are living near Levi Rogers' sister, Polly, and several of Levi's children who are mentioned in the will.

Abel Rogers and Hannah Rogers lived in Lyme, Connecticut. They married on Feb. 19, 1874 at the New Haven Second Church in Lyme. According to his Pension file, Abel Rogers was employed as a teamster in the United States Service during the Revolutionary War.

The surname Rogers is derived from a patronymic, a name which provides information about the father. Rogers means "son of Roger". Forms with a final -s are the primary English way of forming patronymics, although surnames derived from patronymics with -son are common due to Scandinavian influence in Scotland and the northern parts of England as are those with the French prefix Fitz- (French fils "son") and Celtic Mac- or Mc- (from the Gaelic word for son).

Rogers and Soundex
Michael John Neill's Genealogy Tip of the Day was about the problems you can encounter when dealing with languages other than English. He gives some very good advice about being wary when doing Soundex searches on French surnames in particular. It is important to keep in mind that Soundex was designed with English in mind, so often falls apart when dealing with non-English names. Soundex is a great tool, but even with English names the results may miss something. In an earlier post I discussed some of the problems with the surname Simpson and the variant form Simson. Rogers is another name that can cause some problems for Soundex. One of the most common variants of Rogers is Rodgers. The alternation between "g" and "dg" is one that will result in different Soundex codes. Rogers has the Soundex code R262, while Rodgers has the code R326. If you have names where either "d" or "dg" can occur, like Rogers, Padgett or Egerton, you need to be careful when using Soundex.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Tombstone Tuesday - Matěj Jaroš

ZEM. 18 SRPNA 1914

Here rests
Matthias Jaros
Died August 18, 1914
Rest in peace dear husband and father
Now we part in sorrow, in heaven
we will meet together

Czech Dates

If you have only worked with Western European languages, be ready for new challenges when working with a language like Czech. The Czech language is a Slavic language, distantly related to English, German and French, but more closely related to Polish, Russian and Serbo-Croatian. It has sounds, structures and vocabulary that may be unfamiliar and difficult at first. One important difference that a genealogist is likely to encounter is the names of the month. In most of the languages of Western Europe the names of the months are derived from their Latin names. As a result, it is usually fairly easy to guess the names of the months in languages like French, Spanish, Italian, Dutch or German. However, in Czech, you will have to learn or look up the names for the months.

To make things even more difficult, the forms you will find in a dictionary are not the ones you will most likely encounter. Czech is a language like Latin (here) where the relationships between words are signaled by special endings. In dates, you will find the genitive form, which indicates possession, just as in English we use the preposition of in dates, "the third of December". Thus, we find the form srpna "of August" on the tombstone instead of the form srpen, which we would find in a dictionary. It is also common to find abbreviations for the months. The Czech months are listed below, first in the nominative (the dictionary form), next in the genitive as it will appear in dates, and finally in the abbreviated forms.

EnglishCzechGenitive formAbbreviations

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Surname Saturday - Schoendorf

Paul Schoendorf, my great-great-grandfather, settled in Cleveland, Ohio at the end of the 19th century. He came from a village outside Gersheim, which is now in the German state of Saarland, near the border with France. The name Schoendorf has a number of features that are very typical of German names. Words and names are often long and complex in German. However, by breaking words into their parts it can be easy to discover the meaning of a name. In turn, this my give clues to the origins of your family.

The name Schoendorf can be easily broken into two parts. The first part of the name comes from the adjective schön, meaning "beautiful". The second part of the name is the German word Dorf, which means "village". It is a common element in many German place names, perhaps most famously in the city of Düsseldorf. And, because it is common in place names, it has also become common in surnames, as in the name of the founder of Bergdorf Goodman department store in New York. Together, the meaning of Schoendorf is the somewhat generic "beautiful village".

The Umlaut
You may have noticed that the word for beautiful in German has the letter O with two dots written above it (ö). This character is usually referred to as an "O with umlaut". The name Schoendorf would also be written with this symbol in a German-speaking country. So, when looking in German databases, it may be necessary to type the name as "Schöndorf". When the umlaut character is unavailable, instead of simply dropping the two dots, the letter is written with a following E. This is also a very common convention that has been followed by many German immigrants when adapting names. For example, the very common German name of Müller is often found as Mueller. If you have a name, which you think is German, that has vowels "oe", "ue" and "ae", you may want to consider substituting these vowel pairs for the vowel with umlaut, "ö", "ü" and "ä". You may find something new this way. If you are going to type these characters a lot, you may want to look into the keyboards settings on your computer. If not, it is easy to produce these symbols in Microsoft Word. Simply type ctrl + shift + ; and then type the desired vowel. You can then copy and paste where needed.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Bilingual Tombstones

Tombstones or funerary monuments with inscriptions in more than one language have been around for thousands of years. After the Romans defeated Carthage in the Punic Wars, some of the inhabitants of North Africa put up funerary monuments with inscriptions in both Latin and Punic, a Semitic language closely related to Hebrew. In a few cases, Greek was added to the mix For example, one monument from what is now Libya reads:
Punic: brkt bt bʕlšlk 'm qʕ'ʕly hrb
Latin: Byrycth Balsilechis f(ilia) mater Clodi medici
Greek: Βυρυχθ Βαλσιαληχ Θυγατηρ μητηρ Κλωδιου ιατρου
"BRKT daughter of BʕLŠLK, mother of Qʕ'ʕLY the doctor"
-from Bilingualism and the Latin language by James Noel Adams, p. 216
Bilingual inscriptions are also found in many American cemeteries. It is a common practice in some Jewish communities where tombstones are inscribed in both Hebrew and English. If you come across a tombstone, or any document, in two or more languages, you should not assume that the two inscriptions say the same thing. Although they often contain similar information, they may be different in important ways.

Tombstone of Sarah Ethel Saul

Oakland Cemetery in Atlanta is the final resting place of author Margaret Mitchell and golfer Bobby Jones. It is also the home of two significant Jewish sections, including Atlanta's oldest Jewish burial ground. The two sections have many bilingual tombstones. The tombstone of Sarah Ethel Saul illustrates just how different inscriptions in two languages can be. The English inscription identifies her simply as a mother, gives her name and her birth and death years.

The Hebrew inscription on the other side provides much richer genealogical information.

At the top of the tombstone are the letters pe nun, which is an abbreviation for the Hebrew phrase meaning "Here lies". The letters with either one or two dots are used to indicate abbreviations. Roughly, the Hebrew translates is:

H(ere) l(ies)
the esteemed and modest woman
Mrs. Sarah Ethel, daughter of Mr. Hayyim
Mordecai, wife of Mr. Joseph Saul.
She died 5 Tevet (5)686.
She was 90
at her death

Note that the date is given using the Jewish Calendar. The thousands are often left out in the year. There are many calendar converters online, such as the one here.

The final letters (not translated) are a reference to 1 Sam 25:29, "May his soul be bound up in the bond of eternal life".