Spelling is Irrelevant (in Polish Archive records)

Polish clerks were often very creative in their spelling of names – both given names and surnames. It wasn’t really their fault; the mother tongue of many Jews living in Poland was Yiddish, and while they might have spoken the local language, few probably wrote it.

This helped my personal research in realizing that my grandmother’s maiden name was spelled in Polish in varied ways at various times. The same couple might have had children’s births or marriages or deaths written as “PRAJS” or “PREIS” or “PRAIS.” But in Hebrew, it was more consistent, usually with two “yuds” and sometimes with one.

My fifth cousin Dana Preis and I first made contact several years ago. He recounted the incredible story of our connection: SEARCHING FOR PREIS AND FINDING PRAJS.

We knew by dint of the town of origin that we had to be from the same family – but how? Two resources locked the pieces into place: the YadVashem site with its database of Shoah victims’ names, and JRI-Poland, the organization that extracts into English the vital details of Jewish vital records and enables searching these details. A Yad Vashem database search found testimonies for Dana’s father Zelig’s father and Zelig’s aunts and uncles, submitted by Dana’s grandfather’s first cousin. With the assistance of JRI-Poland, we found the vital records (housed in the Polish State Archives Civil Records Office) with birth registrations of Zelig and his siblings, confirming their parentage.

While Zelig’s father’s cousin was no longer alive, her children lived in Israel – Zelig’s second cousins. What I found extraordinary, and bit surreal, is that Dana and his newly discovered cousin both had a daughter born on the exact same day of the exact year.