01 June 2008

Revised Russian Empire Name Dictionary

Avotaynu's Gary Mokotoff has announced that the long-awaited revised edition of A Dictionary of Jewish Surnames from the Russian Empire, by Dr. Alexander Beider, will be published this summer.

The original 1993 edition (760 pages; the new one will have 1,048 pages) is one of my most frequently used books, and I'm looking forward with great anticipation to the new edition.

It "lives" on top of my computer's CPU, and every time I'm asked a question about a name, I mark that entry with a transparent colored stick-on tab - there are a lot of tabs today. I've also gone through the entire book and marked all the Sephardic-origin names in green (no reason for that color, that's what I had when I started!).

When the new edition arrives, I'll have to transfer all these little tabs to the new book, and add more, because the new edition offers 20,000-plus additional surnames or variants - 72,000 total. There's also a 200-page intro section on the origin and evolution of Eastern European Jewish surnames and the index to 5,000-plus Russian Jewish surnames referenced in the intro.

The dictionary section references Beider's other works to indicate a surname may have migrated from elsewhere; the etymology (origin) of nearly all 72,000 surnames; Czarist Russia districts where the name was found, the root surname description, and variant surnames of the root.

Authors of 19th-early 20th century works solicited advance subscribers to finance publication and printed the subscriber's names and towns in Prenumerantn lists. These lists help family history researchers pinpoint where ancestors may have lived at a specific time. Those who pre-subscribe to the revised edition - by June 15 - will see their names and towns included as advance subscribers.

See the differences between the first page of each edition here and here. The complete table of contents for the two-volume work is here.

I wrote to Gary asking if our family's entry - Beider spells it Talalaj - includes any new information. The short 1993 entry for our very rare name says it is found in Mogilev and Chernigov, and that its meaning in old Ukrainian is idle talker or chatterer. Unfortunately, for us, no new information is included, but I'm sure thousands of other readers will find more information for their own names.

We were hoping for something on its Hebrew/Aramaic construction and its meaning (related to rebirth or hope - Isaiah 26), its inclusion in the Anim Zemirot sung on Shabbat mornings, or the variant Talalaikhin (which indicates descent from a female Talalai). It's OK; maybe in the third edition?

Until June 15, order both volumes ($118); volume I ($99) or volume 2($20); to order books now, click here. Current subscribers to Avotaynu's quarterly journal will receive an additional 15% discount, if ordered by June 15. Subscribe to the journal now to receive the discount.

Beider's other essential reference works (Avotaynu): A Dictionary of Jewish Surnames from the Russian Empire (1993), A Dictionary of Jewish Surnames from the Kingdom of Poland (1996), A Dictionary of Ashkenazic Given Names (2001), and A Dictionary of Jewish Surnames from Galicia (2004).

1 comment:

  1. Hi, may I ask you to look up my name (Karpel'son) in your 1st edition? I doubt I would buy a book to just read a small entry, but I am genionly interested in the etymology of my family name.

    Thanks, Kirill