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TRANSLITERATION VARIANTS           by James Hannum


There are usually more than one accepted transliteration of a word or name, from the Russian and Ukrainian alphabets into the Roman (English) alphabet.  Examples:

Михайло = Mykhailo or Myhailo

Ольга = Olga or Olha

Цар = Tsar, Tzar, or Czar

Russians and Ukrainians use any of the above spellings, depending on their personal preferences; each is an accepted transliteration into English from the Russian or Ukrainian spelling.  The reason for this is that the Cyrillic and Roman alphabets do not correspond well in their sounds.  That is, both alphabets have many sounds that do not really exist in the other, so there are more than one accepted way to transliterate a word.   The sound "zh" does not exist in the English language, for example, and is written in the Cyrillic alphabets of Russian and Ukrainian as an "x" with a vertical line through the middle.

Here is an example, from an analysis we did in a recent case: 

TZEREDYAKIVA-Nek.-u.-Schwester-Nadya-1923.jpgWhen Nekhemiya ROTH signed her name to the 14 August 1926 letter, it appears that she merely copied the spelling as it was printed in Ukrainian on the signature line.  When the clerk typed this letter, he spelled her name just as it is spelled on her appostiled ZAGS records.  He did not type it as she had spelled it herself on the earlier letters, perhaps because of his own personal preference against mixing alphabets.  Nekhemiya of course had the right to sign her name (make her mark) in any way she chose.  In the 1927 letter, where there was nothing for her to copy, she chose to write it with mixed alphabet and transliteration (spelling) that did not match the ZAGS documents, but who is to say she is wrong in this?  There is more than one accepted way to transliterate (spell) her name. 

Holtzsheibe.jpgLets look at the alphabetic letters Nekhemiya used to sign her name in the 1927 letter.  The letter "J" does not exist in the Russian and Ukrainian alphabets.  It is a Polish letter, corre-sponding in sound fairly closely to the Roman "Y."  The next letter she wrote is a Y, pro-nounced in Russian and Ukrainian as the letters oo in the English word "food."  The other letters in her signature are the same as her 1926 signature, until you get to the second to last letter, which looks like a lower case b and an upper case I.  These look like two letters, but in the Russian alphabet they are one letter, pronounced like no sound in the English language, but sounding like a cross between an "I" and a "U."  In the first document she uses this Russian letter, but in the second document, the distribution letter, she copies our transliteration and uses the "backward N," one of the Russian "I" letters.

Nekhemiya wrote of her childhood during the end of the czar (tsar) Nicholas II reign.  As you know, the big trouble began in 1905 in the old Russian Empire (Ukraine was in said empire), with the first failed revolution, which was followed by years of bloody reprisals, economic devastation, and fighting between Reds and Whites, which was heaviest in the years following the "Russian Revolution of 1917," but continued with enough violence and uncertain outcome to continue the chaos in the life and law of the people until the mid-1920's. 

Bauernhofhilfsmittel.jpgNekhemiya was born in Ukraine in 1911.  Her school years were spent more finding enough food than with education.  Most of the western half of Ukraine, including the entire region where Nekhemiya was born, was Poland until the year 1945.  Nekhemiya therefore learnt what little reading and writing she could in both Polish and Ukrainian, as well as Russian.  As I saw in a handwritten short note she once sent me, her spelling abilities in her native language are extremely bad.   There were four or five spelling mistakes on each line, and she mixed her alphabets. 

School learning was particularly difficult during the first half of the 20th century for the Jews.  Nekhemiya is a diminutive variant of the feminine given name Nekhomo, found in the book Russian-Jewish Given Names (1998) by Boris Feldblyum, Pg. 64:  "Nekhomo... Nakha, Nakhe, Nekhamka, Nakhama, etc."  We will need to introduce more acceptable evidence of all the above if this case does not settle and goes to trial.

Herrlich-wiederaufbau-.jpgThe Belarussians (who mostly speak only Russian today, not Belarussian, due to the USSR years), sometimes transliterated the "A" in HANNUM to a Cyrillic (Russian) "A," but the officer handling my visa application once insisted that HANNUM should be transliterated as it was on my Ukrainian visa etc., with the Belarussian "E."  Neither the A nor the E have the exact right sound, so it was a tossup... but the visa officer was adamant, and claimed that there was no proof I was the same person as in the other documents; I had entered Belarus from Ukraine.  Finally we convinced her on every point of the name except the double "N."  In Russian double Ns are pronounced twice, with an audible syllible break between them.  She insisted that the Ukrainian documents containing a single N was a different name, and we had to spend three hours finding and procuring a new translation and notarisation, this time with a single N: ГАНЕМ (GANEM), for Russian has no letter "H" and transliterates it as a G!  Heinrich Himmler is transliterated as Ginrek Gemler!

All this can make big difficulties in genealogical research.  It's bad enough that some people didn't know how to spell their own names (or what year they were born in), but when transliteration vagaries give governmental officials options on how to spell the surnames and village names, a lot of time can be spent going down the wrong paths.




EEH has many times obtained access to "private" and "no longer extant" hospital, institution, and orphanage records.  These records are important because they usually contain the names and addresses of next of kin.  Pictured here is Royal Berkshire Hospital in Reading, Berkshire, Eng.


Ellis Island in the New York City harbour served as the major US immigration station from 1892 to 1924; during that period an estimated 12 million immigrants passed through Ellis Island , where they were processed by immigration authorities and most obtained permission to enter the United States.  Ellis Island was host to the largest human migration in modern history.  



       ...and in vital record offices, land offices, churches, & cemeteries.



Jewish orphans at the Lemberg (Lwów) Ghetto, Poland in 1942±1



Click the triangle in the above video to hear the harmony of the Barry Sisters in tribute to Franz Kafka, in Yiddish and then in English.  During his lifetime, Franz Kafka burned an estimated 90 percent of his work.  After his death at age 41, in 1924, a letter was discovered in his desk in Prague, addressed to his friend Max Brod.  “Dearest Max,” it began.  “My last request:  Everything I leave behind me . . . in the way of diaries, manuscripts, letters (my own and others’), sketches and so on, to be burned unread.”  Less than two months later, Brod, disregarding Kafka’s request, signed an agreement to prepare a posthumous edition of Kafka’s unpublished novels.  “The Trial” came out in 1925, followed by “The Castle” (1926) and “Amerika” (1927).  In 1939, carrying a suitcase stuffed with Kafka’s papers, Brod set out for Palestine on the last train to leave Prague, five minutes before the Nazis closed the Czech border.  Thanks largely to Brod’s efforts, Kafka’s slim, enigmatic corpus was gradually recognized as one of the great monuments of 20th-century literature.
Wiener Opfer    Wiener Skulptur

Wiener Staatsoper        Vienna        Wiener Skulptur         


Moise Kisling (above) was born 22 Jan 1891 to a Jewish family in Craców, Austria-Hungary. In the 1890s artists coming to Paris began to settle in Le Bateau Lavoir, a commune in the Montmartre area where small studios were rented. It became a haven for Fauvists and Cubists. Starting from the 1900s André Derain, Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso, Max Jacob, Juan Gris, Kees van Dongen and other artists lived there.  Such was the milieu in which Moise Kisling found himself when he came to Paris in 1910 with a letter of recommendation to Sholom Ash, a well-known Jewish writer who managed to help the young artist. 

Kisling later decided to settle in Montparnasse. He rented a studio at 3 Rue Joseph Bara, where he lived for 27 years. According to a contemporary, Kisling was “the axis around which everything rotated at Montmartre”. His artistry manifested itself in everything. 

Kisling emerged as a famous artist who sold well. He always worked hard. Unlike other artists, he had a strictly regulated working day, which began at 9 o’clock in the morning when models came to sit, had a break for lunch, which he had together with his friends at La Rotonde, Le Dôme or La Coupole, then back to work and more meetings with friends, now at dinner in the evening. Famous model Kiki sat for some of his pictures. She found it hard to stick to Kisling’s strict routine and was invariably excused – after all, theirs were friendly rather than business relations.



London-Ankunft-Judische-Fluchtlinge-1939-copy-2.jpg     9391 לאָנדאָן אָנקומען פון אידישע רעפוגעעס פעברואר
    London Ankunft der jüdischen Flüchtlinge Feb 1939
     London arrival of Jewish refugees Feb 1939

Junge Hände hoh
יינגל מיט הענט אַרויף, נאַציס מיט גאַנז
Boy with hands up, from Nazis with guns

Osteuropaischen-Ghetto-Karte-1941-1942.gif    געטא מאַפּע      Ghetto Map


Nürnberg Trials, 1946                          Nuremberg Trials           1946           Nürnberger Prozesse






JCC Manhattan  Katz's Deli, Lower East Side Manhattan




Milton Berle Milton Berle







Formed in Israel, the Ariel Quartet (below) moved to the United States in 2004 to continue its professional studies.  The resident ensemble in the New England Conservatory’s prestigious Professional String Quartet Training Program through their graduation in 2010, the Ariel has won a number of international prizes, including the Grand Prize at the 2006 Fischoff National Chamber Music Competition.  After they won the Székely Prize for their performance of Bartók, as well as the overall Third Prize at the Banff International String Quartet Competition in 2007, the American Record Guide described the Ariel Quartet as “a consummate ensemble gifted with utter musicality and remarkable interpretive power” and called their performance of Beethoven’s Op. 132 “the pinnacle of the competition.”



אייראפעישער עמיגראַנט העריטאַגע

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European Emigrant Heritage



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