The Jewish Name Game

I just received two of the death certificates I ordered from New York City.

One belonged to my great grandmother which has given me the exact date of death and also the cemetery in which she was supposedly buried. Naturally, as is my luck, I can’t find her listed in the cemetery records. It can never be that easy!


The other belonged to my 2nd great grandmother which gave me a lot of information. Her parents’ names- particularly her father’s name, were on the certificate as well as, bonus- her mother’s maiden name. It also listed her cause of death, address at the time of death, and again cemetery.


Now, regarding Fannie’s certificate, I should have a lot new information to look for. Yeah…well, not really. Searching for Mendel Citron has given me nothing- not even a census record. The same with Sarah Ostrow- although I have found quite a few things regarding birth records in Poland- I have no way of being sure it’s the right person.

Complicating matters is the Jewish name dilemma. Most practicing Jews had two names- their everyday name, and their Hebrew name. So while Fannie might have been known by that moniker- it doesn’t necessarily mean that’s the name she was buried with, she may have been buried under (no pun intended) her Hebrew name. I, of course, have no idea what that might have been.

This plays into the fact that I can’t find her parents in any census records- I should at least be able to find them in 1900 or 1910. So either A) they were missed by the census takers, B) the names have been transcribed or originally recorded incorrectly, or C) they used different names, which again, I have no idea what they would be.

I’m assuming that “Washington” listed as the cemetery in which Fannie is buried is the Washington Cemetery in Brooklyn, but, big surprise, she’s not listed in their records.

I’m hoping that when Fannie’s marriage certificate comes in it will confirm her parent’s names and maybe, dare I hope, give an origin that isn’t as vague as Austria. With my luck, it will say Russia.

Of course, finding their graves might not be helpful either. 

Multiple people have looked at these tombstones belonging to my 2nd great grandparents



and have been unable to translate the inscriptions. This is because they are in Yiddish, which basically no one nowadays knows how to read. If they had been in Hebrew, it would have been no problem- but apparently there’s enough variation between Yiddish and Hebrew that they are not mutually intelligible.

I’ve been trying to get on to the website, but I’m guessing it’s down for something or other right now. I’m very curious about Sara’s last name Ostrow. It seems there are multiple towns in Poland with that name. Would she have the town name as her last name or would someone just have pinned it on her because that’s where she was from?? And is Ostrow even the original last name? No idea.

We shall see if I find anything today. I’m hoping, but not hopeful. 

P.S. If anyone knows how to read Yiddish, or knows someone who does, hit me up!!!


3 thoughts on “The Jewish Name Game

  1. The dreaded ‘Fannie’. I have three relatives whose records show Fannie as their name and I can’t find them after they move out of their parent’s house. It seems to be a generic nickname for women of a certain era. My relatives use Fanny as a nickname for Frances, Mary, Sophronia, Francine, and Stephanie. I couldn’t begin to guess Jewish women’s names that go by Fannie!

    • I’ve been lucky with this particular Fannie- she seems to have stuck with the name- although I doubt it was her actual given name. I’m in the same boat as far as what her Hebrew name would have been. No offense to our ancestors, but I personally am glad that the name has gone out of style!

  2. Hi, have you found translations for the graves?( They are in Hebrew, the language of the Old Testament, not Yiddish which is a dialect of an old version of German with Hebrew religious terms added. ). I can translate them for you. Lena’s Jewish name was Leah and she was the daughter of Yehuda Yechiel Cantor and the wife of Shabtai Robinowitz. Samuel was Shabtai the son of David Robinowitz. Hope this helps.

    I’m trying to trace Austro-Hungarian Bresslers and am interested in what you’ve found on yours. My GGM was Lena/Lea Bressler and her father was Joseph Bressler and they were born in Dubrinycs in Ung County of the AustroHungarian Empire in the early and mid 1800s. Can you contact me directly via email?


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