Collected Name Resources from LoARs (2010-present): - Eastern European (Baltic) -
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Collected Name Resources from LoARs (2010-present)

Articles from Juliana de Luna, Lillia de Vaux, and Alys Mackyntoich

- Eastern European (Baltic) -

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July 2013 - Juliana de Luna Link to LoAR Cover Letter

Continuing with the Eastern European theme, this month I'd like to highlight some new resources for documenting Baltic names. We normally refer to the Baltic states as modern Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia. However, linguistically the situation is somewhat different. Lithuanian and Latvian are "Baltic languages," related to other Slavic languages. We have resources for Lithuanian, and to a lesser extent Latvian, names. Estonian is related to Finnish and we know of no useful resources for documenting period names.

A little history: the area was for most of our period part of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. In that area, a variety of languages were spoken and written, mostly Lithuanian, Polish, and Ruthenian (also known as Chancery Slavonic, and the ancestor of modern Ukrainian and Belarusian). The last was written in Cyrillic, the other two in the Latin alphabet. Sometimes documents were also written in Latin and German, but mostly for communication with outside states.

Until relatively recently, our best resource for Lithuanian names was an article from the English language journal Lituanus: "Lithuanian Names," by the mundane scholar William Schmalstieg ( However, recently, ffride wlffsdotter (Goutte d'Eau) has published a pair of articles. The first is "16th and early 17th C. feminine names from Lithuanian records" ( The second is "Early 17th century bynames of bridegrooms, from a wedding register from Lankeliskiai parish, Lithuania" ( These new articles represent a substantial increase in our knowledge of Lithuanian names, and we hope she continues to find resources to mine.

So, what's in these resources? Early Lithuanian names were dithemic (made from the joining of two themes or stems), like the masculine Kantibutas or Jovirdas. As Christianity (both Orthodox and Catholic) spread in Lithuania by the 11th century, Christian names from East and West became more common. In the late 14th century, Catholicism became the official state religion. Through this time, a variety of "Christian" names were introduced and became common. By late period, most people appear to have Christian names: the most common women's names in ffride's article are Anna, Kataryna, and Zofiia.

Family names as such appear by the late 14th century, but will still not be universal by the end of our period. Early bynames are mostly patronymic in form, such as the c. 1400 Dravenio s{u-}nus or the gray period Mikailunos. In Ruthenian context, bynames of relationship are rather like those in Russian, using forms like M{i-}kolaevna and sometimes adding words like dochka "daughter" (cognate with Russian doch'). See ffride's "16th and early 17th C. feminine names from Lithuanian records" for more details on these constructions.

Other kinds of bynames are found as well. In ffride's article on feminine names article, descriptive bynames are found. Additionally, women are described as relatives (wives, daughters, etc.) of men using masculine occupational descriptions that may be bynames. Another byname pattern found in the period around Christianization is the use of two given names, one Christian and one "native Lithuanian," connected with alias or unmarked, such as the Latinized Michael alias Minegal or Joannes Gosztowdo, both from the late 14th or early 15th century.

Latvia has a rather different history, as it falls under German control by around 1200. Riga will become part of the Hanseatic League and German and Latin will be the languages of record for most of the Middle Ages. A partial list of Latvian given names was created by Aranhwy merch Catmael, "Medieval Latvian Given Names" ( These names are mostly Christian, even in the 13th century. This may reflect the earlier Christianization of Latvia and/or the greater German influence there.

There are no online sources for Latvian family names. However, the book Die Rigaer und Revaler Familiennamen im 14. und 15. Jahrhundert: unter besonderer Berücksichtigung der Herkunft der Bürger, by Liselotte Feyerabend (Köln: Böhlau, 1985) has information about 14th and 15th century family names in Riga. Most of them are German, but there are some examples of

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