Follow the Paper Trail:  Linking 19th & 18th Century Documents  

Using Bridge Records to Find Our Ancestors on 18th Century GDL Censuses

Since Jews were not required to have surnames until the early 1800s, there are only a few families with surnames on the Grand Duchy lists for 1784 and 1765. This is one of the main obstacles to finding your family on these 18th century documents.

Without surnames it is necessary to understand naming patterns to recognize a family. Knowing that Jews named their children after deceased grandparents or other close relatives, and that naming patterns, with versions of the same names used repeatedly over the years, helps identify an ancestor's household.  Good sources of information about traditional Jewish naming patterns include Infofiles by Warren Blatt and others on the JewishGen website
under the category "Names." All serious researchers should consult Alexander Beider's book, A Dictionary of Ashkenazic Given Names: Their Origins, Structure, Pronunciation, and Migrations (especially the Introduction). To help recognize name equivalencies and variations from country to country and over time, Professor G. L. Esterson's searchable Given Names Databases for Jewish given names used in Europe during 1795-1925 for fifteen central and Eastern European regions is invaluable.

In order to recognize your family before they had a surname, you need to find them on lists on which they had surnames.  Many types of 19th century documents can help you to trace back to the 18th century.
The larger the family group that you are able to identify on early 19th century records, the greater your chance of correctly identifying them on the earlier documents. Some early 19th century vital records without surnames can also be helpful: there are translations of 1808 -1809 death records which include patronymic names and fathers' fathers' names that have been done by volunteers for Jewish Records Indexing-Poland (the data needs to be downloaded).

What follows are examples of how researchers traced their families from 19th century records on which they had surnames and used this information to identify them on 18th century census and tax lists, where they rarely had surnames. The basic genealogical research principle of trying to obtain independent verification from different sources is particularly important in this effort. Many types of records have been used: vital records, tombstone inscriptions, revision lists, box and candle tax lists, applications for internal passports, and official correspondence and inheritance files. Follow the hyperlinks to detailed explanations of how this has been done with different documents and in different places:

  18th Century Links to the Family of the Vilna Gaon - by Chaim Freedman

Jewish Patronymics Extracted from Early 19th century Parish Vital Records as Links to the 1784 GDL Census for the Wiejsieje Kahal - by Dorothy Leivers

 The Komisaruk Family of Raseiniai - by Chaim Freedman  (1858 revision list of Jewish Agricultural colony of Grafskaya, Ekaterinoslav Province →1847 Lists of Rassein Jews who applied to become farmers in Novorussia (south-east Ukraine)1846 List of people unable to pay taxes 1816 revision list of Rassein1784 census of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, Rassein Kahal, Girtagola village1764 census of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania)

 ●  Hadassah Lipsius¡¯ Charney Family of Mir, Belarus - by Hadassah Lipsius (1836 Warszawa (Warsaw) marriage record  →1816 Mir revision list1795 Mir revision list1784 GDL census)

  Using a Late 19th Century Will to Trace Shabashevich Family of Raseiniai, Lithuania - Eric Goldstein (1875 Will  1858 revision list1816 revision list  →1784 Grand Duchy of Lithuania census for Vidukle, Rassein Kahal)

   Discovering the Relationship Between Two Branches of her Grushka Family by Ada Green (Cemetery tombstones in Port Elizabeth, South Africa and  New York g Death Records1874 family list1816 revision list  →1784 census of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania records for Krakes Kahal, Lithuania)

  The Friedland Family of Ariogala, Lithuania by David Hoffman (Beginning with family lore1882 birth certificate1874 Ariogala family List  → 1848 taxpayers list  → 1846 candle tax list  → 1816 revision list  → 1784 census of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania1765 GDL census)

  Salant 18th Century: The Family of Rabbi Yosef Zundel Salanter by Chaim Freedman

  1784 Keidaniai Census Confirms the Katzenellenpogen Family Rabbinate by Dr. Neil Rosenstein

  The Mandel¡¯s of Lyakhovichi (Lechovich) & the 1784 Lithuanian Census by Dr. Neville Mandel-Lamdan