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LANGUAGE: Spelling of Locality Names, Alphabets and Accents, Transliteration

A major consideration in preparing the data for the two Jewish Roots books and subsequently for this database was the issue of language and how it related to the spelling of locality names. Due to border changes during various wars and the recent emergence of the independent countries of the former U.S.S.R., documents within the archives of these countries are written in Polish, German, Russian, Hungarian, Ukrainian, Moldovan (the same language as Romanian), Lithuanian and Yiddish.

The Ukrainian language came into official use when Ukraine declared its independence in 1991. For example, pre-World War II documents in Ukrainian archives are usually in the Russian language, while documents in the archives in Western Ukraine in Ivano-Frankivsk, Lviv and Ternopil (pre-World War II) are written in Polish or German, and documents in Southwestern Ukraine are in Hungarian. The finding-aids and indices are generally in Russian throughout most of Ukraine.

In the Moldovan National Archives, documents written prior to 1917 are in the Russian language, while those documents written from 1917 to 1945 are in Moldovan.

In the Polish State Archives, documents created during 1868–1917 (Eastern Poland) are in the Russian language. Documents in southern Poland are in German while other documents are in the Polish language.

In the archives of Lithuania and Belarus, relevant documents in this database are all in the Russian language.

The dilemma of how to accommodate both the current national language (locality names) and Russian spellings (archival documents) was a major issue in the design of the database published in the two
Jewish Roots books and also for this website. After extensive consultations with knowledgeable people in the region and the subject, it was ultimately determined to transliterate the locality/town names based upon the Russian language.

For locality/town names in the database, the source for town name spellings was based upon entries in
Where Once We Walked: A Guide to the Jewish Communities Destroyed in the Holocaust, by Gary Mokotoff and Sallyann Amdur Sack (Teaneck, NJ: Avotaynu, 1991) and as defined by the U.S. Board on Geographic Names. A confirming source was Index to Names on AMS 1:250,000 Maps of Eastern Europe, Vols. I and II. (Washington, D.C.: Corps of Engineers, Army Map Service, 1966).


It is anticipated that most visitors to this website will be English-speaking and, accordingly, locality names in the database are alphabetized in the Roman alphabet. Therefore, the Polish alphabet is not applicable to this database. While this may be disturbing to our colleagues in Poland, the decision was made in order to accommodate the majority of visitors to this website.

Several languages reflected in the documents of this database are based upon an alphabet that includes accents (Polish, Romanian, Hungarian, Ukrainian and Lithuanian). Due to the complexities of the multitude of languages in the documents, no accents were used at all in the database.

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