Archive for ‘Names’

February 28, 2012

Dying For Diacriticals … Beyond ASCII — #HowTo, #Genealogy, #Polish

by C. Michael Eliasz-Solomon

Stanczyk mused recently upon a few of the NAMEs in my genealogy:

Bębel, Elijasz, Guła, Leszczyński, Kędzierski, Wątroba, Wleciał, Biechów, Pacanów, Żabiec

If you want to write Elijasz (or any of its variants) you are golden. But each of the other names require a diacritic (aka diacritical mark). Early on, I had to drop the diacritics, because I did not have computer software to generate these characters (aka glyphs). So my genealogy research and my family tree were recorded in ASCII characters. For the most part that is not a concern unless you are like John Rys and trying to find all of the possibly ways your Slavic name can be spelled/misspelled/transliterated and eventually recorded in some document and/or database that you will need to search for. Then the import becomes very clear. Also letters with an accent character (aka diacritic) sort differently than  letters without the diacritic mark. For years, I thought Żabiec was not in a particular Gazetteer I use, until I realized there was a dot above the Z and the dotted-Z named villages came after all of the plain Z (no dot) villages and there was Żabiec many pages later! The dot was not recorded in the Ship Manifest, nor in a Declaration of Intent document. So I might not have found the parish so easily that Żabiec belongs to. I hope you are beginning to see the import of recording diacritics in your family tree.


The rest of my article today teaches you how to do this. Mostly we are in a browser, surfing the ‘net, in all its www glory. After my “liberal indoctrination” (aka #RootsTech 2012), I have switched browsers to Google’s Chrome (from Mozilla Firefox) browser. Now I did this to await the promised “microdata” technology that will improve my genealogical search experience.  I am still waiting,  Mr Google !!!   But while I am waiting, I did find a new browser extension that I am rather fond of that solves my diacritical problem: Virtual Keyboard Interface 1.45. I just double-click in a text field and a keyboard pops-up:

Just double-click on a text field, say at . Notice the virtual keyboard has a drop down (see “Polski“), so I could have picked Русский (for Russian) if I was entering Cyrillic characters into my family tree.

But I want to keep using my browser …            OK!  Now I used to prepare an MS Word document or maybe a Wordpad document with just the diacriticals I need (say Polish, Russian, and Hebrew) then I can cut & paste them from that editor into my browser or computer application as needed — a bit tedious and how did I create those diacritical characters anyway?

I use  Character Map in Windows and Character Palette -or- Keyboard Viewer  on the MAC:

Now if I use one of these Apps, then I can forgo the Wordpad document  ( of special chars. ) altogether and just copy / paste from these to generate my diacritical characters.

What I would like to see from web 2.0 pages and websites is what Logan Kleinwaks did on his WONDERFUL website. Give us a keyboard widget like Logan’s, please ! What does a near perfect solution look like …

Logan has thoughtfully provided ENglish, HEbrew, POlish, HUngarian, ROmanian, DEutsche (German),  Slavic, and RUssian characters. Why is it only nearly perfect? Logan, may I please have a SHIFT (CAPITAL) key on the BKSP / ENTER line for uppercase characters? That’s it [I know it is probably a tedious bit of work to this].

Beyond ASCII ?

The title said  beyond Ascii. So is everything we have spoken about. Ascii is a standard that is essentially a typewriter keyboard,  plus the extra keys (ex. Backspace, Enter, Ctrl-F, etc.) that do special things on a computer. So what is beyond Ascii? Hebrew characters (), Chinese/Japanese  glyphs (串), Cyrillic (Я), Polish slashed-L (Ł), or Dingbats (❦ – Floral Heart). You can now enter of these beyond ascii characters (UNICODE)  in any program with the above suggestions.

Programmer Jargon – others  proceed with caution …

The above are all UNICODE character sets.  UTF-8 can encode all of the UNICODE characters (1.1 Million so far) in nice and easy 8bit bytes (called octets — this is why UTF-8 is not concerned with big/little endianess). In fact, UTF-8‘s first 128 characters is an exact 1:1 mapping of ASCII making ascii a valid UNICODE characters set. In fact, more than half of all web pages out on the WWW (‘Net) are encoded with UTF-8. Makes sense that our gedcom files are too! In fact UTF-8 can have that byte-order-mark (BOM) at the front of our gedcom or not and it is still UTF-8. In fact the UTF-8 standard prefers there be no byte order mark [see Chapter 2 of UNICODE] at the beginning of a file. So please FamilySearch remove the BOM from the GEDCOM standard.

If FamilySearch properly defines the newline character in the gedcom grammar [see Chapter 5, specifically 5.8 of UNICODE] then there is nothing in the HEAD tag that would be unreadable to a program written in say Java (which is UTF-16 capable to represent any character U+0000 to U+FFFF) unless there is an invalid character which then makes the gedcom invalid. Every character in the HEAD tag is actually defined within 8bit ascii which can be read by UTF-8 and since UTF-8 can read all UNICODE encodings you could use any computer language that is at least UTF-8  compliant to read/parse the HEAD tag (which has the CHAR tag and its value that defines the character set). Everything in the HEAD tag, with the exception of the BOM is within the 8bit  ascii character set. Using UTF-8 as a default encoding to read the HEAD will work even if there is a BOM.

January 18, 2012

Name Changer – Eliasz becomes Eliasz-Solomon – #Polish, #Jewish, #Catholic, #Genealogy

by C. Michael Eliasz-Solomon

Stanczyk like almost all genealogists wrestles with names. What is in a name? Well if your name has Slavic roots then your name will be like a Polish sausage made from a family recipe, with no two ever completely alike. As a jester, I could appreciate John Ryś ‘s article, “Dealing With Sound Equivalents in the Polish Language“, from the PGSA’s Fall 2011 Rodziny journal, pages 20-22. What caught my eye and my heart’s fancy was the sub-title, “How Can One Possibly Misspell a Simple Three-Letter Name…”. Indeed! This jester empathizes with John Ryś. My own family, as I have always joked about, is very unlike Polish names. Look it has three vowels … out of six letters !  How could you possibly misspell that ??? Well this is about names — but not their difficulty or their many misspellings for which Slavic names are legendary — a real genealogical nightmare.

This article is about name changes. Let me just state up front, that my own name has been changed. As of 10-January-2012, my family has legally changed its name and is hence forth called:  ELIASZ-SOLOMON. This jester “hyphenated” his name to reflect and to honor my wife’s family. Her name became inverted from Solomon-Eliasz to Eliasz-Solomon so that all of us in the burgeoning family of ours (including our sons) would have the same name, spelled the same way. What’s in our name?

Let me break it down this way. ELIASZ (also spelled Elijasz, Heliasz, and Eljasz — misspelled/mistranscribed too many ways to enumerate) is Polish for ‘ELIJAH’ the prophet from the Old Testament who was translated by God. You might think it is a Jewish name since that is its etymology. If it is so, I have not found it to be so for my family for whom I have Catholic records back into the 1690′s. There are in fact Jewish Eliasz (and many other variations besides those listed above) and I have often remarked on this fact to my father. For it was common for Jewish families when they were forced to adopt permanent family names to select a family name from the Bible. That leads me to the second/Jewish part of my name, SOLOMON. Everybody, just about the whole world, knows that SOLOMON is from the great, wise king SOLOMON (third and last king of the unified kingdom of Israel). Solomon in America, is the reverse of Eliasz. It is mostly a Jewish family name, although there a good number of Anglo-Saxon Solomons (usually spelled Salomon or Soloman). Of course, the Jewish and the Christian versions of the Solomon name are often spelled the other way engendering more confusion on the name.

So we are a PROPHET-KING family  name now.

Now most Central European genealogists, know our ancestors changed their names quite often, to our dismay — since there was no Internet to record these changes and make them public for future genealogists. In my own family lines through just my paternal grandmother alone, we see that LESZCZYNSKI (also a king name) became LESTER. We also see that SOBIESZCZANSKI became SOBB. So name changes are nothing new for my family (and I assume for yours as well). In fact,  name changes have been happening for a long while. Recall that JACOB had his name changed to ISRAEL (“wrestles with God”).

Contrary to popular notion our ancestors did not change their name going through Ellis Island. Your name coming into the USA had to match the ship manifest and ticket,  so no names were changed (although I am quite sure that some Americans came here under an assumed name — using the tickets purchased by another person). The most common way was to change the name on the NATURALIZATION papers (which is no doubt how the mis-notion of changing the name coming from Ellis Island started). My own aunt Alice was Aleksandra on the Ship manifest (1913) and on US Censuses until she changed her name when she became a US Citizen and adopted Alice.  Our ancestors did a name change to  “Americanize” their names, often quite humorous in their attempt to do so.

Of course, for centuries women have changed their names when they got married. Now a days, women and men adopt hyphenated family names at marriage. It is unclear what the next generation afterwards will do when two already hyphenated people marry; as it seems unlikely they will adopt a four name hyphenation as a family name out of a practical matter (computer systems hate extremely long names — just look at the social network software: Facebook or Twitter). So name changes will become a regular hurdle for modern genealogists to get over (particularly so when one considers divorce rates).

Here is a little info for genealogists unfamiliar with the process:

  1. A petition is filed with the court (in the county where the person lives)
  2. The name change is published in two newspapers (pre-determined by the court)
  3. A judge will issue a decree declaring the name change

Afterwards, the normal paper records will document the name evolution from old name to new name for the individual. But it will be best to check both names. Besides court records or newspapers, I have seen the name change annotated in church records too!

So future descendants whoever you may be. Be forewarned, ELIASZ-SOLOMON was once ELIASZ or SOLOMON. That should be obvious. But for my descendants and my wife, Tereza,  it all started in 10-January-2012 — please take note. I am also offering an apology to future genealogists for further muddying the waters on whether or not the name is Catholic or Jewish — just deal with it. Legal Decrees are shown below …

C. Michael Eliasz-Solomon

Tereza D. Eliasz-Solomon


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