Jewish Names in Ottoman Court Records
(16th C Jerusalem)

by Mari ingen Briain meic Donnchada (Kathleen M. O'Brien)

© 2005-2008 by Kathleen M. O'Brien. All rights reserved.
Version 1.0, updated 19 January 2008


This article is a work in progress. The current version includes all examples of women's names from Cohen. A future version will include more information on men's names from this source.

The Source

Names in this article are taken from entries in:

Amnon Cohen. A World Within: Jewish Life as Reflected in Muslim Court Documents from the of Jerusalem (XVIth Century).

This source is a two volume set with the volumes labelled Part One and Part Two. Part 1 lists transations of entries from court records in Jerusalem. The entries translated in this source are only entries relating to Jews or the Jewish community in Jerusalem. Part 2 includes images of the entries from the original court records that are transcribed in Part One.

In his Preface, the author provides a description of the documents used for his work as well as the issues relating to his access to these documents.

He explains what the sijill is on page 3 of the Preface:

For students of Muslim history, and of Ottoman history in particular, the documents stored in the archives of the sharī‘a religious court of Jerusalem (commonly known as the sijill) were looked upon as the crown jewel.

On pages 6 and 7, he describes the 16th century records and their modern condition:

[...] Of the 82 volumes for the 16th century, 66 were written in Arabic on pages measuring 28 x 21 cm; 16 volumes of Turkish documents were copied on the same paper which was then folded in the middle; hence these volumes measure 28 x 10.5 cm.

The sijill documents were originally kept separately by the court ... Some time during World War II all of these volumes were leather bound, ... Although the main purpose of the bindings was to better preserve this precious collection, and in themselves the bindings are very impressive, substantial damage to parts of these volumes resulted from poor workmanship. [...]

Actually, all these documents are drafts of court cases. The final decisions were given or sent to the litigants; hence there is often reference to "its writer" (kātibuhu), usually the court scribe who penned the original document. A rare confirmation of the fact that these sijills were regarded as copies, and not originals, is provided in volume 55, page 172 (a) ...: a kadi (very likely a junior one) is reerred to as "the writer of its original" (kātib aṣlihi), i.e. the authentic document describing the case and quite often reporting the decision reached by the judge, the copy of which was made in the sijill series, which remained in the court. [...]

The volumes are arranged chronologically, i.e. the court scribe (kātib) would copy the daily proceedings, indicating at the outset both the date and the day of the week. [...]

Transcriptions of the Names

Regarding the transcriptions of names found in this source, the author says:

[A]ll personal names have been transcribed exactly as they appeared in the original. [...] We avoided "correcting" a scribe's errors when refering to things Jewish, particularly in cases where personal names were cited, even when the Hebrew original form was readily identifiable (hence Hayin was not rendered {H.}ayim, nor was Fraym replaced by the doubtless correct Hebrew Efrayim). Family names hardly existed in the 16th-century Ottoman Jerusalem; a person was referred to by his or her first name followed by the father's name. The latter relationship was indicated by the Arabic equivalent for "the son of" (ibn) or "the daughter of" (bint), both of which we rendered "b." for the sake of brevity.

In the entries in this source, the author has transcribed (or transliterated) names, but has otherwise translated or summarized the entry. As a result, it is sometimes difficult to tell if a reference to an occupation appears as a comment in the entry or actually appears a locative byname in the full name.

In this article, I have transcribed the transliterated form of the name as it appears in Cohen's translated entries in Part One.

Name Constructions Found in Women's Names

Name Construction PatternNumber of Examples of this Pattern
[feminine given name] bint [father's given name]72
[feminine given name]38
[feminine given name] bint [father's given name] [unidentified element]2
[feminine given name] bint [father's given name] [father's occupational byname]2
[feminine given name] bint [father's given name] ibn [grandfather's given name]1
[feminine given name] bint [father's given name] [woman's descriptive byname]1
[feminine given name] [woman's occupational byname]1

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