19 August 2009

Philly 2009: Where are Schwinglasse and Schnatte?

"Where are Schwinglasse and Schnatte?" asked Bernard Purin of the Munich Jewish Museum, at the Philadelphia conference's German SIG luncheon. Over the course of his talk, I learned Uspork wasn't a new brand of Spam.

Readers may ask, "Nu? She never talks about German ancestors, so why did she go?"

While my ancestry has little German connection (as far as I currently know) – with the exception of my interest in the Sephardic communities and immigrant ancestors traveling through Hamburg's port – I signed up for the luncheon for the title alone, which was published as "Where the hell are Schwinglasse and Schnatte?" There are few program titles at genealogy conferences that utilize four-letter words, even those as inocuous as "hell."

Purin’s topic was fascinating, as he illustrated the impact of Hebrew, Yiddish and local dialects on names of people and places.

He's been director since 2003 of the Jewish Museum in Munich, was director of the Jewish Museum of Franconia Fuerth & Schnaittach (1996-2002); and curator of the Jewish Museum in Vienna and the Jewish Museum Hohenems. Until 2007, he was secretary of the Association of European Jewish Museums. Purin teaches museum studies and Jewish studies at the universities of Tuebingen and Munich.

Until the mid-19th century, Yiddish (Judeo-German) was the common language of Central European Jews, but there was no standard Yiddish in use. Local German dialects influenced the Yiddish. His talk focused on how dialects influenced pronounciation and spelling of Jewish names of people and places and how basic knowledge of German dialect can help decode terms.

In one ketuba (Jewish marriage contract) from the Jewish Theological Seminary library, Purin found mention of the town of Schwinglas, written in Hebrew, of course.

Pointing up the use of technology in genealogy and recognizing the value of Google, he did some research and discovered the town was called Schwinglas-he.

“He” (pronounced “hay”) was short for hej or heim (home). And, in the Alsatian dialect, the town of Schwindratzheim was called Schwindglas-hei. Problem solved.

Uppe led to Uppheim in Alsace, and Purin stressed that dialect knowledge is valuable. He learned that it was also called Dupig-je (he) or Duppinheim. Other towns mentioned in documents (and the real town name),were Kulps-he/Kolbsheim, Rus-he/Rosheim, and Witn-he/Wittenheim.

Figure out the suffixes, said Purin, and the pieces of the puzzle may make more sense.

In Alsace, he used the example of Bischwill (French) or Bischweiler (German). Weiler is a small village or part of a village; in dialect, It will be willer or will.

Papersah, Papersha or Fafersha, in Hebrew, was a bit more of a search as P and F in Hebrew are represented by the same letter. In Israel, as an example, the name FINK may be written or pronounced PINK and vice versa.

Purin demonstrated that Papersha or Papersch-heim was Pferschheim, Pfersche or Pferse and that the town was, in reality, Pfersee (near Augsburg).

As mentioned above, I learned that Uspork wasn't a new brand of Spam. Instead, Purin unraveled its etymology demonstrating that Uspork -> Ashpurg -> Aschpurg -> Aschburg -> Aschaffenburg. In dialect, it is pronounced Aschaburg.

Instead of contractions, sometimes the entire name was changed. He used the Franconian example of Wassertrudingen, with a Christian connotation (although I didn't catch Purin's explanation). The Jewish community called it Wasserdrillingen or Wsserdruningen to avoid the other connotation.

Onolschbach or Onolzbach in another ketubah was also a puzzle, although investigation proved it was Anschpach -> Ansbach near Nuremberg.

Sometimes the names were shortened, such as in the example of Arlingen which came from KleinErdlingen. The family name ERLANGER originates there.

Gmund was the nickname for Georgensgmund, also with a Christian connotation. The Jews didn’t want to use the Christian part of the name, and only kept the last part.

Hebrew abbreviations were another common puzzle and Purin presented some interesting examples. Sometimes, he reported, the full original name is rarely found today. In ancient times, everyone knew what the full name was, but not today.

B”k, Bk”s,BK"Sch -> BurgKunStadt, hard to find in full reference.
H”B -> HagenBach
B”D -> BaiersDorf
MM’D -> MemmelsDorf
Erlingen -> Kleinerdlingen (with family names ERLINGER/ERLANGER)
N”Sch -> Nikolsburg or Nikolof while N”Sh -> NikolSHburg, Nesch or Nasch, or Nikols(CH)burg

One abbreviation the audience seemed to know immediately was F"F" or P"P" for Frankfurt. The family name POPPER was fairly shouted out by the audience when Purin asked what family name came to mind.

The family name ASCH came from A"Sch -> Eisenstadt.

According to Purin, there are resources for such names, such as a Yad Vashem-published book, only in Hebrew, about these Jewish communities.

Another book, with 30 volumes published from 1951-2008, is a major source and other encyclopedias of place names for areas in Austria and Germany are available. He suggested searching for such titles as Ortsnamenbuch or Ortnamenlexikon.

Amazing what we can learn at lunch!

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