Patronymic Naming and Cemetery Research

Date & Time
Sunday, Feb. 4, 2024
1:00 PM - 3:00 PM
Location Virtual Program
Ticketing $5 for the general public, Free for JGS Pittsburgh members

Learn how to make sense of the names on cemetery stones.

Headstone inscriptions provide one of the most important tools for researching Jewish genealogical history: patronymic naming, or names derived from paternal ancestors. This presentation will familiarize attendees with the evolution of family surnames and the practice of patronymic naming. Recognizing the components of patronymic naming, participants will learn how to take advantage of these clues to link their family through generations. Nolan Altman will review an actual case study using headstone inscriptions and will show participants online resources to help find headstone information.

Altman will also show examples of headstones and explain what you’re likely to find if you take a trip to the cemetery. He will explain the meaning of symbols that you will find on stones. Even if you can’t read Hebrew, you can understand the inscriptions. He will also show many examples of inscription trends, some odd inscriptions, and errors in inscriptions…even well-known ones. With a presentation on cemetery records, you wouldn’t expect to leave laughing, but he guarranties you will.

This program is possible through the generous support of the William M. Lowenstein Genealogical Research Endowment Fund of the Jewish Community Foundation.


“Patronymic Naming and Cemetery Research” is a collaboration between the Jewish Genealogy Society of Pittsburgh and the Rauh Jewish Archives at the Heinz History Center. Please register online. The program is free for JGS-Pittsburgh members and $5 for the general public. To become a member of the JGS-Pittsburgh and receive a free membership code for this program, please visit its website.

This program will be recorded and made available to current JGS-Pittsburgh members.

About the Panelist

Nolan Altman was bit by the “genealogy bug” when he was inspired to write his family history in 1996 in memory of his mother. After making use of the valuable information on JewishGen, he volunteered to do data entry on various projects. In time, he was asked to become the Coordinator for JewishGen’s Holocaust Database and subsequently the Coordinator for the JOWBR (JewishGen’s Online Worldwide Burial Registry) project. Nolan works with volunteers from around the world helping to grow both databases for the benefit of family members and researchers. Nolan currently holds the position of JewishGen’s Director for Data Acquisition and focuses on growing the JOWBR, Holocaust and Memorial Plaques databases. In 2021, JOWBR won the IAJGS Outstanding Project Award.