Author Topic: What language? 19th century marriage certificate from Constantinople  (Read 684 times)

Offline JessicaRussell

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Hello, I am trying to work out what language (if any) the script (middle of 3rd line down) in this marriage certificate is written in, and wondered if anyone would be able to help please?

https://www.ancestry.co.uk/mediaui-viewer/tree/153219456/person/302030935740/media/4b9d0abf-ea5f-4138-9d80-c3c23b0193e0


It's from a marriage in Constantinople in the Ottoman Empire, 1838, between my grandfather's great-grandparents.  We were told that great grandmother on the certificate was Greek, but the unknown script appears not to be.  I wondered if it might be some sort of Albanian script.  For the purposes of the certificate they have translated her name to Marie Stanthe (?) but it's hard to read.

Thank you for looking, in advance.

Jessica

Offline Daniel

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Re: What language? 19th century marriage certificate from Constantinople
« Reply #1 on: September 17, 2018, 12:13:11 PM »
Interesting question. The link you posted, however, requires a sign in to ancestry.com, so I can't view it. You could post it here as an attachment or link to it somewhere else.
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Offline JessicaRussell

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Re: What language? 19th century marriage certificate from Constantinople
« Reply #2 on: September 17, 2018, 12:35:03 PM »
Thank you Daniel, sorry about that.  Also thinking I should have entitled this post: Which Language...

I've tried to attach but it's too large, so hopefully it can be accessed here now. 

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1H3SE6DODxHxw117axxUkA-Chp0gI5K4t/view?usp=sharing

Since I posted earlier I've doubted myself thinking it's not a language at all, or it's phonetic symbols.  However, the bridegroom worked for both the Ottoman and British governments as an interpreter, so I think that the inclusion of the script I am curious about must mean something.   

Offline Daniel

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Re: What language? 19th century marriage certificate from Constantinople
« Reply #3 on: September 17, 2018, 02:11:47 PM »
OK, I can see it now! Deciphering handwriting in an unfamiliar script (even if you know how the printed characters look) can be very challenging. An obvious case is with Cyrillic cursive (https://apics-online.info/surveys/42) which can actually look misleadningly like Latin cursive. However, here, at least we're working with separate characters. I'll attach just the name part of the image here so everything is in one place.

What I see really does look like Greek, at least for some letters. I know only a little bit of Greek, and I'm not especially familiar with handwriting, so I'll have to guess here. Asking a Greek speaker would be a good next step. What I see in the image looks something like this:
/μαριωg στραθη/

The last name is particularly clear. The first is uncertain. All of the letters I wrote above are Greek, except for the first name's final "g" (in bold) which is just what it looks like to me. Maybe that's just a fancy tail on an alpha so it would be another 'a'? Otherwise I'm not sure...

Transliterating we'd get:
"MarioX Strathi"

The first name is then a bit of a mystery. If it's just "Maria" then in Greek it would be "Μαρία", letter-by-letter the same. I don't know what the extra ending is there.

The last name is interesting: it quite clearly isn't "Stanthe" (at least as far as I can read the letters), but looks fairly close. The English translation could actually be a change (some people would do that for various reasons, either that it sounds/looks better in a language, or because they want to sort of hide their ethnic origins, often the case with immigrants at Ellis Island, etc.), but I don't know if that would make sense in parallel usage as in this certificate. The English version, as you say, is not especially clear. So maybe it does just say "Strathe". Does that look possible? I think maybe.

So "Maria Strathe" seems reasonable. But I'm still not sure what the ending on the first name is. Maybe it's not actually the Greek form of the name, so you might look up other forms of "Maria" in Europe (you mentioned Albanian, for example, but look more broadly too) to see if you can locate one that has some kind of ending in the feminine form like "ioX" where X is some yet-unknown letter. Starting with a list like this might help: https://nameberry.com/list/63/Marys-International-Variations -- I don't see this specific form listed there, but maybe if you keep looking. It's possible it's also a historical variant or something.

The next step would be to ask a Greek speaker, and maybe to reach out to some genealogy experts for that part of the world. Asking linguists a question like this can give you some technical information, but for really figuring it out we're limited by how much specific knowledge we have of individual languages-- from this point, this is a 'bottom up' question (from knowing the specific right language) question rather than 'top down' (narrowing possibilities, guessing based on cross-linguistic patterns). Remember also that even though it does appear to be the Greek alphabet, it's possible that the name itself is originally from another language and just then spelled in Greek (perhaps following immigration, or marriage, or just an older traditional name in the family from generations before). I can't personally help more because while I know a lot about linguistics I know relatively little about genealogy or Greek specifically. I hope that helps some though!
« Last Edit: September 17, 2018, 02:26:02 PM by Daniel »
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Offline JessicaRussell

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Re: What language? 19th century marriage certificate from Constantinople
« Reply #4 on: September 17, 2018, 02:23:01 PM »
Wow!  So interesting, thank you.  Maybe the family story is true then regarding the Greek great grandmother.  I will keep looking as you suggest, but it's really helpful to have an expert eye to set up the critical questions. 

Many thanks again. 

Offline JessicaRussell

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Re: What language? 19th century marriage certificate from Constantinople
« Reply #5 on: October 01, 2018, 10:59:30 AM »
Hello again, just to update, whilst I have not entirely solved the translation riddle I have managed to work out that the Greek bride lived in the Phanar (Fanar/l) on the marriage certificate which was the Greek area of Constantinople.  So whilst we don't have the exact name translation, the help on here has guided my research to further evidence allowing me to reach the conclusion that my ancestor was indeed Greek along with all that entailed in the 1800s in the Ottoman Empire.  Thank you.