I found this document in my grandfather's attic and would be thankful if someone could tell me (a) what this document is, (b) whether there are any names written, and (c) which, if any, religious meanings or implications could arise.

Yellowed, slightly tattered document consisting of a printed Hebrew form, with Hebrew script filled into certain spaces, and with Cyrillic printing at the bottom

Thank you all.

  • 14
    In case anyone is interested, the Russian text at the bottom says (in old orthography): "Sample of a wedding record for a maiden. Allowed by the censorship on 7th January 1846 in Vilna. Vilna, <address of the printer>"
    – Nikolai
    Commented Jul 9, 2015 at 14:21

3 Answers 3


As Danny Schoemann says, it's a ketubah. A Ketubah is a Jewish marriage contract. The text in this form matches the standard text presented and translated on this Chabad.org page.


  • Groom: Yehuda Leib, son of Avraham Noah. He is also a Levi
  • Bride: Toiba Rachel, daughter of Yisrael Arye
  • Witness: Aharon Leib, son of Moshe the Levi
  • Witness: Abba David, son of Baruch


It is dated Wednesday the 12th of Cheshvan 5670, which corresponds to October 27, 1909 on the Gregorian calendar, or after dark on Tuesday, October 26th. Since they were in Russia, which didn't adopt the Gregorian calendar until 1918, it would have been Oct. 14th (or 13th after dark) on the Russian (Julian) calendar.


The city is given as אוטייאן which is the Yiddish name for the former shtetl which is now the Lithuanian city of Utena. At the time Lithuania was part of the Russian Empire.

The form

The form was printed in Vilna by the Katzenellenbogen family printers. Vilna was one of the few places in the Russian Empire where Jewish documents and books were allowed to be printed, so their documents were used at the time all around Russia (and it doesn't necessarily mean your ancestors were in Vilna themselves).

As Fred and Nikolai translate, the Russian text at the bottom says (in old orthography): "Sample marriage record for a maiden. Approved by the censor 7 January 1876 city of Vilna. Vilna to printer A.G. Katzenellenbogen on Nikolayev Alley to d. Dombrowski No. 64/18 1876 city."

Other facts

It was a first marriage for the bride as she is referred to as a virgin.

The specific choice of wording "מבי אבוה" ("from the house of her father," rather than "מבי נשא") that was filled in appears to indicate that the bride's father was alive at the time of her wedding.

Any chance this is your grandparents' marriage contract? Perhaps their parents?

  • 9
    Uh, the USSR didn't exist until after the October Revolution (1917). Instead, this was in the Russian Empire, which existed until the February Revolution (1917). Commented Jul 9, 2015 at 12:32
  • 2
    The date written in the document is בשנים עשר יום לחודש..., i.e. the 12th day of Cheshvan, not the 20th. This corresponds to Wednesday, October 27, 1909 (Gregorian) or October 14 on the Russian (Julian) calendar. [The wedding may well have taken place on Tuesday evening after dark, but there's no way to tell from the ketuba whether or not that's the case, as it would be written as יום רביעי regardless.] Commented Jul 9, 2015 at 18:04
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    Thank you all for you remarkable efforts and wonderful answers—I appreciate that truly. In fact, based on the mentioned names I do believe this to me that this is my great-grandparents marriage contract. I always felt very strongly attracted to Judaism, started to read the Torah myself and finally it does make sense! Could someone answer the question regarding the religious implications—if any—this document has for me?
    – Jonah
    Commented Jul 9, 2015 at 19:30
  • 2
    I incorporated corrections from @NoachmiFrankfurt (Russia/USSR), Gershon Gold (Toiba), Ari Brodsky (date off by 8), and the witnesses names, as recommended by Shalom and Fred.
    – Isaac Moses
    Commented Jul 9, 2015 at 20:33
  • 3
    I think the bride's father's middle name is Arye, not Ari, since that diagonal mark appears both times so it is probably an apostrophe indicating the abbreviation and not a stray mark.
    – WAF
    Commented Jul 10, 2015 at 2:33

The religious implication of this ketubah is that it may be possible to use it to establish, in a Jewish court, certain facts about the listed bride and groom:

  • That they were Jewish. On this basis, their children would also be Jewish, as would any children of their daughters, of their daughters' daughters, etc.

  • That the man was a Levi. On this basis, he, his sons, his sons' sons, etc. (who were born to Jewish mothers) would be eligible for a certain slot in the Torah reading ceremony. In addition, first-born sons of any men in that patrilineal line or of any of their daughters would be exempt from the Pidyon Haben ceremony.

  • In addition, as a Levi, the man was not a Kohen. On this basis, there are various restrictions that would not apply to him, his sons, his sons' sons, etc. Most notably for personal status purposes, they would not be prohibited from marrying converts.

  • That they were duly married as of the listed date. Besides all of the uplifting spiritual results, the main technical result of a Jewish marriage is that it establishes, unless and until it is ended by Jewish divorce or death, a super-strict prohibition on the wife marrying or having an affair with any other man. If the wife transgresses this prohibition with another Jewish man and has children as a result, the children could have the technical status of mamzer, which would restrict whom they could marry. (The husband is prohibited from marrying another woman or having affairs, too, but the consequences of transgression are not a harsh.)

Of course, exactly how this document would be treated in a Jewish court is up to that court, the circumstances of whatever case is before them, and any other relevant evidence about the case or about the document itself.

  • If I missed anything or got anything wrong, I invite edits, of course.
    – Isaac Moses
    Commented Jul 9, 2015 at 20:21
  • 2
    And you can give them Maaser Rishon. And they are exempt from Pidyon Peter Chamor, and from giving Zeroa' Lechayayim and Keiva.
    – Double AA
    Commented Jul 9, 2015 at 21:11

this isn't a religious implication, but it could probably serve as document to help prove Jewish lineage if you were to ever consider Israeli citizenship (Aliyah). And maybe if you were looking for a Jewish name for a child, you might consider one of these names, or a variation in English, as is traditional to name a child after one of the ancestors. Names can be a useful tool for children to remember from where they come.

  • 1
    As Israeli citizenship directly enables and facilitates living in the land of Israel, which is of supreme religious value in Judaism, the value of a document in potentially achieving Israeli citizenship is a religious implication.
    – Isaac Moses
    Commented Jul 10, 2015 at 13:50
  • @IsaacMoses Questions of Israeli laws regarding Aliya have generally been considered off topic here
    – Double AA
    Commented Jul 10, 2015 at 14:37
  • @DoubleAA I didn't say anything about MY-topicality.
    – Isaac Moses
    Commented Jul 10, 2015 at 14:37
  • @IsaacMoses The only implications of the document that are valid answers here are seemingly the on topic ones.
    – Double AA
    Commented Jul 10, 2015 at 14:38
  • 1
    @DoubleAA, I didn't say anything about the validity of this answer. Regarding that, the topicality of the first sentence is moot, since the following sentences directly invoke Jewish tradition.
    – Isaac Moses
    Commented Jul 10, 2015 at 14:41

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