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Translation, Transliteration, and Database Standards for the ALD

The ALD has data from original records in a number of languages and alphabets including Old Cyrillic, modern Russian, Yiddish, Hebrew, Lithuanian, Polish, and Old German.

LitvakSIG developed a set of standards for translating, transliterating, and databasing records that would satisfy the majority of our researchers, yet still remain as true as possible to the original documents. Some notes about these standards:

Geographic Names

LitvakSIG subscribes to the generally accepted practice in citing geographic locations using their contemporary spelling. This allows us to tie our databases in uniformely with other searchable online databases.For most of our records, this means the current Lithuanian spelling of the place, e.g. Kaunas, not Kovne, Kovno, Covna, etc. However, some places are now in other countries, like Belarus. For those we use their contemporary Belorussian name.


People,naturally, become very attached to their own spelling of their family name, but please keep in mind that the spellings of names -- both first and last -- may be different from the ones you are familiar with and accustomed to. It is important to remember, moreover, that these documents were created during many different times, in different languages, and by many different people whose mother tongue was NOT Yiddish.

And, LitvakSIG has dozens of people doing translation and transliteration work. Then, again, even in the native languages, we see names spelled differently and evolving over time. These are for the researcher to explore in more detail through the use of primary sources.

LitvakSIG has tried to stay as close as possible to the Library of Congress Standards for Transliterating Russian. However, that is only one of the languages of our records.

And, despite the wonders of the Daitch- Mokotoff System,a researcher must vigilantly check all possible spellings of names, both given and family names because many will have different DM-Codes.

An example of variation in translation and transliteration of a surname is the name LURIE. It shows up in the ALD variously as LURIA, LUIRY, LUIRIY, LURIE, etc. Similarly, names beginning with "Y" or "J" can be particularly confusing in English when JACOB(SON) is rendered IAKOB, YUDEL(SON) becomes IUDEL, and JOFFE shows up as IOFFE, or YAFFE, etc.

Then, too, there is always the possibility of seeing various Lithuanian endings added to the base surname… Males can have their surnames appended with: -as, -is, -ys, -us, -e or -a. And, females with names ending in -iene (or –uviene) are married or widowed, while the endings: -aite, -yte, -ute and -iute denote unmarried women. We see this with many of the Interwar Period records like Internal Passports. In many cases, we put both the Lithuanian spelling of the name and a translated version of the name into what we might have seen when a translation was done from the earlier Russian Empire records.

One place a researcher may want to start to explore variations of given names is the Lithuania Given Names Database.

Database Templates

LitvakSIG has a number of templates we use for gathering data from records. These are developed, and adjusted over time, in conjunction with JewishGen so that we can standardize data in the ALD. Researchers who contribute to Projects and Data, however, get data in Excel format using these templates and can combine data from many lists to do more extensive and complete research. Using Excel files is a great way to deal with the issue of variation in the spelling of names.

For a list of the templates we use, you can see this page on the JewishGen website. For a list of the databasing rules we use, you can read further information on this JewishGen page.