13 May 2009

Bulgaria: Let your fingers do the walking!

Let your fingers do the walking - in Bulgaria in 1919!

The 1919 Directory of the Kingdom of Bulgaria was a commercial directory, like today's Yellow Pages, arranged alphabetically by geographic locations and then by professions and occupations.

Jewish names from the directory have been indexed, and are now available in a searchable database at SephardicGen.com. There are some 1,350 names in 22 localities. If your ancestors lived in Bulgaria, it is a good place to search.

SephardicGen indicates that this directory was published in German in the city of Leipzig. This seems to be the reason why a name may have somewhat different spellings. The Bulgarian names were subjected to German language spelling conventions. So use creative spelling to find names of interest.

Examples given in the database introduction are Maschijach instead of Mashiah or Aladschem instead of Aladjem, etc. Additionally, the Bulgarian surname suffix -ov (son of) is spelled -off or -ow.

I always try new databases with COHEN using "exact" - no hits resulted. Remembering the German-language aspect of this directory, I then searched for KOHEN using "sounds like." This resulted in a list of 39 KOEN, including a KOENOWA and KOHEN. Searching for KOHEN "exact" produced a list of 10 hits.

In 1920, there were some 16,000 Jews; in the country, but only 1,331 in 22 locations were listed in the directory. This was a business directory, so many occupations were not listed (teachers, employees, peddlers, workers, etc.) are not listed.

The breakdown - number of Jewish individuals in each category - looks like this: Academic (62). Agriculture (7), Building trades (17), Finances (135), Industry (129), Manual (129) and Trade (872).

Each category includes further breakdowns:

- Academic professions: Attorneys, architects, dentists, pharmacists, physicians etc.

- Agriculture: Beekeeping, farm owners, rice growing and silkworm breeding.

- Building: Only entrepreneurs.

- Manual professions: Bakers, milliners, saddlers, shoemaker, tailors, etc.

- Industry and manufacture: Chemical products, iron, food, clothing, paper, furniture, etc.

- Finances: Banking, money changers, etc.

- Trade: All products and goods.

Think about businesses today and you'll see why one person's name may be found under different occupations. It is perfectly understandable.

Importers may have worked in several unrelated product lines, acting as wholesalers or retailers. Family members may have been active in different fields, but worked together to combine resources, perhaps sharing an office, warehouse and/or retail space.

The index fields are surnames, given names, occupations (translated from German), scanned image page, original directory page, and the address (if provided). While those in the big city of Sofia generally indicate street addresses, smaller provincial locations do not.

If your family was in Bulgaria around this time, you might find important details.

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