What is this (probably) Lithuanian last name supposed to be?
May 12, 2014 9:55 AM   Subscribe

I need help deciphering a last name in a 1914 birth record. It sounds Lithuanian, but I think it is spelled worng, because I can't find anyone else with that name...ever.

I am doing some family research for my husband, who knows very little about his background and who has very little living family. I found a birth record for his great aunt that has his great-grandmother's maiden name on it, which is great! Except! No one else in the world seems to have that last name. It is written as "Wyzkitu" or "Wyzkito" ( you can see it here.). In a census she indicated her nationality as Lithuanian and she was living in the Brockton, MA area in the early part of the 20th century. I have searched census and immigration records for variations of that name and come up with nothing, so I'm looking for alternatives. My thought is maybe she verbally gave her name in the hospital and they wote it down however they thought it should be spelled. So, maybe you are Lithuanian and this name seems familiar? Maybe it sounds the same but has a c in it somewhere? Any ideas?
posted by Biblio to Grab Bag (19 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I don't know what that last name could be, but it could well be a Polish/Polonized last name. Part of my family came from Lithuania and is ethnically Lithuanian, yet that part has a Polish/Polonized last name owing to a bunch of old-country stuff I only half understand. My brother, who has done the genealogy and the historical reading, understands it better.

Just throwing that out there as a possible clue.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 10:09 AM on May 12, 2014 [2 favorites]

In this copy of the record it looks like "Wyzkiti."

I generally handle these problems by using the Ellis Island database as a foreign surname repository. Go here and enter the surname. Select "sounds like." (If that doesn't work, try "is phonetically.") Check the "Lithuanian" box and then search.

Doing this gave me several similar names of which Wyzkiti could be a corruption.

Here are some other records with alternate spellings of Elizabeth's last name.
posted by Knappster at 10:13 AM on May 12, 2014 [7 favorites]

Seconding the advice Knappster gives above. However, be aware that it appears that many times, the officials at Ellis Island would put down what they thought they heard.

My great-grandfather came from the Lithuania/Estonia area, and what we finally figured out was his actual last name was the strangest American English bastardization thereof.
posted by kuanes at 10:18 AM on May 12, 2014

From this website, supporting Rustic Etruscan's comment:
There are several letters that are not in the Lithuanian alphabet - Q, W, and X
For this reason there are no Lithuanian surnames with these letters. One exception might be the letter "W" which was due to polanization or russification attempts of Lithuanian names. Some Lithuanians objected and kept the letter "V" or used the letter "V" as part of the suffix of their name.
Anyway, looking at that list of "V" Lithuanian surnames my guess will be Vazgytė.
posted by Kabanos at 10:21 AM on May 12, 2014

If you have an idea of when she arrived in the US you might search on that, rather than the name. That will help you locate the papers from the ship they arrived on. Passenger manifests may or may not have the original spelling depending on how they traveled and who filled out the paperwork.

Of course, the manifests aren't gospel, either. My grandfather traveled from Russia (although he was Polish) and was listed as a Russian citizen. He first traveled to Liverpool, England and his name was given an Anglicized spelling. But when he eventually arrived at Ellis Island, the US immigration folks gave it a new spelling that was different from the one they recorded in Liverpool. Neither matches exactly the original spelling and only approximate the original pronunciation.

One other thing, the Polish tradition is for unmarried women whose family name ends in -ski to have their last name end in -ska. If this (or something similar) is true in Lithuania, you might want to add that to your search.
posted by tommasz at 10:25 AM on May 12, 2014 [1 favorite]

Married or widowed suffix is ienė; unmarried is aitė/ytė/utė (depending on last vowel of the surname).
posted by crush-onastick at 10:39 AM on May 12, 2014 [1 favorite]

The fact that her last name (per Knappster's "other records with alternate spellings") is also spelled Vinskite is important; it might suggest a name derived from Vincas, the Lithuanian form of Vincent, but that's just a wild guess.
posted by languagehat at 3:20 PM on May 12, 2014

I have Polish genealogy in the state and literally 12 spellings for the same name. It's tough to say from 1 spelling what the name is. You could head over to reddit's genealogy subreddit. They have some truly gifted researchers that could help if you give them the info you know.
posted by beccaj at 5:48 PM on May 12, 2014

So here's a few more versions of her name...Elizabeth Vinskite, Elizabeth Wuskuli. She says she's Lithuanian on censuses.
posted by beccaj at 5:56 PM on May 12, 2014

Holy cow, guys, you have all been so helpful. I found her under Lesbeta Vinskite and found another birth record. Her husband Anthony Demolles is listed as Antony Demullis. Here is the record. Weirdly, they are listed as Polish, but I guess that's not that uncommon.
Thanks so much!
posted by Biblio at 7:19 PM on May 12, 2014

Sorry, I see Knappster also found her in another record. Awesome.
posted by Biblio at 7:23 PM on May 12, 2014

She was called "Elsbada" in the 1900 census.
posted by Knappster at 7:26 PM on May 12, 2014

Knappster - nice find on the 1900 census.
So on one census it's Russia as country, but they speak Lithuanian. The enumerator was specific so I would take that as the most likely. Also- shifting borders could make several of the answers correct, even though they are different, depending on the year.
I had trouble finding the origin of Demolis/Damoles/Damolis. It seems to be a one of name (from that region). I haven't been able to find them on ANY immigration records. Frank Damoles lived next door to Tony. I don't know who he is to him (too old for brother maybe? too young to be father?) but Lithuanian and surely related.
posted by beccaj at 8:00 PM on May 12, 2014

Oh, I am pretty good, but I never would have found the Damwillis family! You may be interested to know that they spell it Demolles today.
I found a Richard Demullis who was born in 1898 and died in Brockton. I also found a few people named Damolis who immigrated from Kowno and Lekronis. It's something to go on, anyway.
posted by Biblio at 8:11 PM on May 12, 2014

I THINK on her death record her name is listed as Venckus. Check out the Massachusetts death index for 1968. The Elizabeth Demolles.
posted by beccaj at 8:17 PM on May 12, 2014

One other note- I think there was a Barbara Demolis (born Lithuania) marries a Genis that is a possibility for a sister.
posted by beccaj at 8:25 PM on May 12, 2014

beccaj-argh! I am embarrassed to say that I found that death record ages ago and stuck it in the Ancestry.com "shoebox" and forgot about it.

I am making a list of possible family for Anthony. I'll add Barbara.
My husband's grandparents divorced before he was born and he has never had any contact with the Demolles relatives. Although his maternal grandmother and her sister BOTH married a Demolles brother! (2 of Anthony's sons)

I should sic you all on some of my own mysterious ancestors! I have one rogue in particular who needs finding...maybe next month! :)
posted by Biblio at 5:15 AM on May 13, 2014

> Weirdly, they are listed as Polish

Lithuania and Poland were part of the same country for a long time, and the cultural language of Lithuania was Polish for a long time (Lithuanian was basically a peasant language), and they were adjacent regions of the Russian Empire with a lot of population mixing, and Poland is a lot more familiar in the West than Lithuania, so that's not surprising. Similarly:

> So on one census it's Russia as country, but they speak Lithuanian.

That's because Russia (the Russian Empire, to be precise) was their country; there was no independent Poland until after WWI.
posted by languagehat at 11:34 AM on May 13, 2014

The think that helped me the most when I was at this point was immigration records. I am not sure why but I haven't been able to find any for the Demolles crew. I have a very rare name. It's my mom's maiden name and there were about 15 families in history people through out the US with that name (that were from Poland and no the more likely Russia). I ended up researching each and every family and linked them (recently after about 30 years). It was one document that the seemingly unrelated family mentioned my aunt (with a very rare last name).

So long story, short if there is something like Demoles and from Lithuania I would bookmark it.

And if you have any other brick walls you want help with PM me!! I've come to lots of brick walls after 30 years of doing this and someone else's is like a fun crossword puzzle for me to do at night.
posted by beccaj at 12:47 PM on May 13, 2014 [1 favorite]

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