How did you get that name? its as plain as a Pikestaff!

We’ve said it a hundred times: transcribing the earliest extant UK Synagogue records is hard work and requires many qualities, foremost amongst which :

  • A knowledge of the cursive Hebrew alphabet;  ditto Hebrew names, European place names, and the kinds of occupations  and professions  our 18th and 19th century forebears  might have followed  excellent eyesight
  • perseverance
  • Intuition
  • A large degree of luck

And it was a good dose of luck that  led us to first find, and then solve, one such puzzle.

In order to simplify searches in,  we’ve been thinking about  rationalising  spellings across the various tables, without betraying the original intentions of our transcriber.  We have started by looking at the “additional” words in the patronymics. rather than the names themselves: for example Schneider or Shneider?

As you well know, consulting the microfilms of the original registers requires a trip to the Archives, so we don’t  have the original Hebrew to hand,  but In the following example, the consonants must have corresponded to Sh-N-K. Susser has  rendered these as as Shnook (long-nosed?). Lewin gives it as Schnuk. And we had it as ………. well. let’s not go there since, top of a long list of results in a  Google search, were multiple instances of a, rather dodgy word in modern French slang!

Now this is where Lady Luck took a hand because, whilst I was trying to resolve the Sh-n-k problem, Gaby was researching a family with Dutch origins and chanced upon this

2nd marriage, daughter of David Barend Ber Lissa and Rebecca Salomon Snoek

Event: event 1809 Amsterdam on the list under nr. 48.40[?]: the wid.Jochem Elias = Gittele, widow of Jochanan Luria, 68 yrs.old.

Event: was naturalized 8 Jun 1812 Amsterdam assumption of name Snoek

Proust had his madeleines.  Those of us old enough to have lived through WW2 will remember Snoek – and not in a good way.  It mostly came tinned, although there might have been some sold fresh at the fishmongers. but, although it was off-rations and was intended to provide much needed protein., no-one liked it and the tins lay rusting on the shelves..  I never quite knew what it was, only that it smelled unpleasant and tasted worse,  but a check today of the online encyclopaedias describes it  as ”Snoek or Snook is used in various forms as the common name for several species of fish. The name derives from the Dutch name “snoek” for the pike”


And guess what!

The only English family that we have found with this unusual word in their patronymic were called PYKE eg:

Jonah PIKE 
Elizabeth PIKE

Julia PIKE
Moses PIKE
(Child) PIKE


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