A message from the past
June 14, 2010 8:44 AM   Subscribe

A very old family photograph has come into my possession. On the back of the photo is a message written in Yiddish. Can you (or anyone you know) translate this?

Best guess dates the photo to Lithuania in the mid-late 1800s.
posted by gnutron to Writing & Language (8 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
If you don't get a helpful response here, register (free) with Jewishgen and post your photo to Viewmate. People there answer this sort of question all the time.
posted by Joe in Australia at 8:54 AM on June 14, 2010

You might want to post a slightly higher quality scan. The handwriting is a little messy and I'm having a bit of trouble making out the letters. I don't speak/read Yiddish (just Hebrew) - but its the same alphabet.
posted by jourman2 at 9:43 AM on June 14, 2010

Here goes, by line:

בע קינדערליך א זומן צמו? אונז?
?? [maybe] Zumen's children 'Tzmu' us ?

???? האבן מיט זיך גענומן
??? took with us

זענער? א גרויסער ???? האבן?
(not sure at all about his, except that it has the word 'bigger/larger/older' in it)

ווייסט אויס ער איז ניט קיין גוטער שרעקען וועגן רייסקען וויילע רייסקין
(two lines together)
apparently, he's not all that scared of traveling because traveling

(ok, I'm just loosely translating from here on out, but there are two words that I don't get, and are repeated. They may be referencing something the writer knew. Also, the handwriting deteriorates further down the page.)
will take long with us, and maybe, probably, 'tzmu' will be able to hasten and wake? 'tzmu' ('s?) children, as 'Zumen' are as well… … … because he didn't … … he rented/hired 6 pictures … (something about sending some pictures in the meanwhile, for you, 'Pesha') it will (something) for you, one of… … …


I have no idea, but it clearly involves traveling, and Zumen and Pesha were certainly common Jewish names (Zumen being a form of Zalmen) 100+ years ago.
posted by mhz at 9:52 AM on June 14, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks mhz.

jourman2: flickr downsizes the image for display. If you are a flickr member, you can click on "all sizes" and see the image at it's original scan size. (768 x 1040)

I posted the image to JewishGen, too. Once they approve the image, I'll see what kinda answers pop up there.
posted by gnutron at 9:59 AM on June 14, 2010

@gnutron: Just FYI, I'm logged into Flickr and I don't see the "All Sizes" button on your image. I do see it on some other Flickr images, so I'm not sure what the difference is.
posted by davr at 10:45 AM on June 14, 2010

Response by poster: Damn Flickr and their convoluted privacies and permissions.

I reposted the image here on photobucket. Larger size, hopefully a bit easier to decipher.
posted by gnutron at 11:01 AM on June 14, 2010

mhz - brilliant. Wow. I wish I knew Yiddish as well. The only suggestion I have off the bat is that the word that you're translating as Zumen could also be z'man - a time for something. i.e., in time to hasten and wake?

I'm working on the rest seeing if there's anything that I can come up with that mhz hasn't yet.
posted by Sophie1 at 11:52 AM on June 14, 2010

The context leads me to see it as a name, plus the extra ו can't be z'man. Also, although many Yiddish writers mix in some Hebrew (Yiddish for time is ציייט, not זמן), this seems to be entirely in Yiddish.

Still, anything that helps it make any sense is better than what I hacked together!
posted by mhz at 3:30 PM on June 14, 2010

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