Where to search Middle Eastern genealogy online
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Where to search Middle Eastern genealogy online

Sacramento : CA : USA | Feb 02, 2010 at 12:08 PM PST
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102 ways to apply career training in family history/genealogy

When searching Middle Eastern and surrounding areas genealogy, don't skip generations. Each generation is a vital link in countries where thousands have the same name. See my book, Tracing Your Baltic, Scandinavian, Eastern European, & Middle Eastern Ancestry Online: Finnish, Swedish, Norwegian, Danish, Icelandic, Estonian, Latvian, Polish, Lithuanian, Greek, Macedonian, Bulgarian, Armenian, Hungarian, Eastern European & Middle Eastern Genealogy (All Faiths). Also see some of the following genealogy sites on Cyndi's List:

Ethnic Genealogy Sites on Cyndi's List

When searching Middle eastern genealogy, some religious names are used by both Muslims and Christians. European names may be translated into Arab in some Arabic-speaking countries. For example, among many non-Muslims in Lebanon Peter becomes Boutros. And George becomes Girgis or Abdul Messikh, servant of the Messiah (Christ). See the video: "Searching_Genealogy_Records_in_the_Former_Ottoman_Empire.wmv."

Hebrew/Aramaic: Meshiach-Messiah, Arabic: Messikh-Messiah. Similar pronunciations. You might have names such as Deeb (wolf) or Dib (bear). Among Muslim surnames, Shammout means 'strong.' Jewish names from the Middle East might be Nissim (miracles) for a first name and Mizrahi (from Egypt and/or from the East) as a surname along with names such as Gemal, Duek (Dwek), Mansour, and Tawil (tall). The first name, Adam is used by all religious groups as is Yusef, or Joe.

Among Syrian/Lebanese Sephardic/Mizrahi names, the name Mizrahi, means from Egypt/from the East. Other Mizrahi names in Arabic might be Douek, Gemal, Mansour, and Elwi (sweet), just to mention a few. Haddad, (smith) can be Christian or Mizrahi Jewish as are the surnames, Atiyah or Farhi. See the website, Farhi: Les Fleurs de L'Orient.

You can trace the name, Farhi, from Damascus, as a Syrian-Jewish-Mizrahi name all the way back to France and Spain and Middle East location in medieval times. There even are house maps for locating places on streets that had no names that exist. The Sephardic community blended with the Mizrahi community after the 1492 expulsion from Spain. So you'll find in Syria and Turkey old records of Spanish surnames when researching genealogy.

In the past, women had the choice of taking their husband's surname or keeping their maiden names. Neutral names used by all religions in the Levant and among the Chaldeans of Iraq and Assyrians also include Tewfik (fortunate).

Arabic and Turkic-speaking areas didn't use surnames until after the end of the Ottoman Empire. Then in Lebanon and Syria, numerous Christians took Biblical surnames and first names or European names such as Arabic versions of George, Thomas, Jacob, and Peter. These names in Arabic were Girgis, Toumas, Yacoub, and Boutros. Some Lebanese Christians and Jews took the name of an occupation, such as Haddad, meaning 'smith' as in blacksmith, goldsmith, or any type of metal worker or 'smith.'

After 1928 in Turkey, but not in any other Middle Eastern nations, a modified Latin alphabet replaced Arabic script. Four years later (1932) the Turkish Linguistic Society simplified the language to unify the people. Suddenly surnames were required in 1934. Old titles indicating professions and classes were dropped. See the Turkey website.

In Middle Eastern countries under the former Ottoman Empire such as Lebanon and Syria, most people had no surname until 1932-1934. A father's given name was taken as a middle name such as Yusef Girgis, meaning Joe or Joseph George, that is Joseph, son of George. It came in handy in the days before surnames were required. Now this type of name often is used as a middle name. For example, a Christian Lebanese male might be called Joe, son of George, written as Joseph George, plus a surname. Sometimes the surname had a Christian meaning such as Kourban, or Khoury.

Some Lebanese Christian families after 1932 took similar names such as Peter Jacobs or George Thomas, using European first names for both names. Or the surnames could be translated into Arabic such as George Boutros, with Boutros meaning Peter translated into Arabic pronunciation.

The name Thomas in Lebanon is spelled in Arabic translation as Touma or Toumas. In Syria and Lebanon, and parts of Iraq where Assyrian Christians still speak Aramaic in the church, that language is still used in names. Assyrians may use a popular ancient pre-Christian name such as Sargon, after an ancient Assyrian king.

When surnames in Lebanon became required, you have popular names such as Peter George Khoury in America being translated back to Arabic in Lebanon as Boutros Girgis Khouri. Or immigrants with Arabic names coming to America could change the spellings to sound easier to pronounce in the new country back to Peter George Khoury, as one example.

In the Levant, daughters have a first name and their father's given name. An example might be "daughter of Yusuf" or Joe's daughter. But the female child also will have a first name, such as "Aya." Her surname would be Yusuf. A woman might be known in public as mother of her oldest son, for example, Om (mother) Adam, that is mother of Adam. The Om Adam or Om Ahmed is used mostly by Muslim women. At home, her family calls her by her first name, such as Samira.

When early Lebanese immigrants came to Ellis Island with many other immigrants in the 1890s, names were translated to more European-sounding names back then. For example, Aya Yusef might have been changed to Aya Joseph. When surnames became a requirement in the 1930s, many began to use professions again or place names. For example Halaby, a surname, means from Aleppo, Syria. Antaky, a surname, means from Antioch.

In the USA the largest Lebanese community in America is in Dearborn, Michigan, with lots of genealogy societies and cultural clubs focusing on ancestry. In Lebanon, most first names prior to 1870 were Christian. The Christian names in 19th century Lebanon and Syria could also be spelled like European names.

Very popular were Greek names in Lebanon such as Petros (Peter) which later became (Boutros) in Arabic (as there's no 'p' sound in Arabic). If you're searching Assryrian names, for example Middle Eastern Christian names from Northern Iraq and other places where Assyrians live, including Iran, there are large communities of Assyrians in the USA with their schools and churches. Check out the Assyrian Nation Communities web site.

Resources

Researching Your Lebanese or Syrian Ancestry

Sacramento County Genealogy Databases

Lebanon Genealogy Forum

Tracing Your Baltic, Scandinavian, Eastern European, & Middle Eastern Ancestry Online

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AnneHart is based in Sacramento, California, United States of America, and is an Anchor on Allvoices.
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