Recording of life events

Recording of life events

Jewish shtetl dwellers marked life by the Jewish (lunar) calendar and were unconcerned with the accuracy, or existence for that matter, of secular records based then on the Julian calendar.

They customarily registered their children’s birth much later, sometimes years after the fact, multiple children at the same time. The month and the day would loosely match the position in the Jewish month or proximity to a Jewish holiday. A child born on the 3rd day of Passover would get registered as born on a random day in March or April but would celebrate its birthday every year on a different date.

Deciding on a birth year required serious thought. Parents of a girl, if they were prudent, would make her younger – it made sense to give yourself more time to arrange a marriage. For a boy, the choice was not that straightforward. It was influenced by the ever-changing rules of army draft and by his health; an unlucky guess could later lead to having to declare a draft-eligible son a fugitive or, God forbid, to let him become a Tsar’s soldier.

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