Fri, 15 Oct 2021
I had a conversation with a co-worker about the origin of his name, in which he showed me the original Hungarian birth record of one of his ancestors. (The sample below does not include the line with that record.)
I had a fun time digging through this to figure out what it said. As you see, the scan quality is not good. The person writing the records has good handwriting, but not perfect, and not all the letters are easy to make out. (The penmanship of the second and third lines is noticeably better than the first.) Hungarian has letters ö and ő, which are different, but hard to distinguish when written longhand. The printed text is in a small font and is somewhat smudged. For example, what does this say?
Is the first letter in the second line an ‘f’ or a long ‘s’? Is “A’” an abbreviation, and if so what for? Is that a diacritical mark over the ‘e’ in the third line, or just a smudge? Except for the last, I don't know, but kereztségnek is something about baptism, maybe a dative form or something, so that column is baptism dates. This resolves one of the puzzles, which is why there are two numbers in the two leftmost columns: one is the birth date and one is the baptism date, and sometimes the baptism was done on a different day. For example, in the third line the child Mátyás (“Matthew”) was born on the 5th, and baptized on the 6th.
But the 6th of what? The box says “1845 / something” and presumably the something is the name of the month.
But I couldn't quite make it out (Bójkeló kó maybe?) and Google did not find anything to match my several tries. No problem, I can go the other direction: just pull up a list of the names of the months in Hungarian and see which one matches.
That didn't work. The names of the months in Hungarian are pretty much the same as in English (január, február, etc.) and there is nothing like Bójkeló kó. I was stuck.
But then I had a brainwave and asked Google for “old hungarian month names”. Paydirt! In former times, the month of February was called böjt elő hava, (“the month before fast”; hava is “month”) which here is abbreviated to Böjt elő ha’.
So that's what I learned: sometime between 1845 and now, the Hungarians changed the names of the months.
This page at fromhungarywithlove says that these month names were used from the 16th century until “the first third of the 20th century”.
[ Addendum 20211016: A further puzzle: The old name for June was “St. Iván's month”. Who was St. Iván? ]