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The names come from shari’a court records, one of the richest primary sources available for the lives of ordinary people in the Ottoman empire. This particular batch was transcribed into the modern Turkish alphabet and placed online by ISAM, the Istanbul Kadi Registers Project, which focuses on records from Istanbul and its immediate surroundings.

I used the earliest record available for each of the five surrounding communities:

9 Nolu Üskudar Kadi Sicili, recorded 1534-1536

BALAT MAHKEMESİ 2, recorded 1563

GALATA MAHKEMESİ 5, recorded 1575-1576

EYÜB MAHKEMESİ 3, recorded 1585-1587

Rumeli Sadareti Mahkemesi 21 – Rumeli Sharia Court Records, Vol. 21, recorded 1594-1595

It wasn’t possible to include Constantinople proper because the earliest record dated to 1618, within the gray period for the SCA but not as solidly 16th century as I would like. I may analyze the Constantinople records separately at a later date.

My method was simple: Search the PDFs for the text string “bt.” (bint), which located all the female names that were given at full length; “cariye” (female slave), which helped to locate the names of female slaves who were listed by given name only; and sometimes “kiz” (girl, daughter) or other terms that were associated with female names.

Searching for the names of women whose names were given in shortened form was an exercise in frustration. The words associated with female names were many, varied, and most damning, untranslatable–the records were transcribed into Turkish but they were still written in Ottoman, a defunct dialect heavily larded with Arabic and Persian loanwords, which has no good dictionary online and which makes Google Translate toss its cookies. For every time I found a search term that was definitely associated with females, there were five search terms that probably meant “heretofore” or “in the event of” or some other useless phrase. And even when I found a useful search term, the lack of a translation meant I ran the risk of double-entering a name that was given elsewhere in full form. When I did know what the word meant, often I could confirm that I had already entered the woman’s name. To make a long whine short, my methods extracted all the female names that contained bt. and most of the names of slaves whose full names weren’t given, but extracting the names of free women who were listed only by given name was dependent on my dwindling patience. However, based on my initial attempts to extract partial names, the missing names are drawn from the same name pool as the extracted names, so neither frequency data nor the final name list should be affected significantly.

What does significantly affect frequency data is duplicate names. There were 241 names distributed among 775 women, but 145 were borne by only one woman and 38 were borne by only two. On the other hand, 65 women were named Ayşe, 65 were named Fatma, 43 were named Emine, and 25 were named Kamer. Men’s names followed the same pattern, with a third of the men bearing the names Mehmed, Mustafa, Ali, Hüseyin, and Hasan. That means a lot of Ayşe bint Mehmeds and Emine bint Mustafas wandering around. Indeed, in a case that appeared in another article, a group of five picknickers included two unrelated Fatma bint Mehmeds. Add in the case of converts, who were all surnamed “bint Abdullah,” and you have a headache in the making.

So a number of unrelated people can be expected to have the same name; and, because of the nature of the law, the same people often appear in several rulings in the same volume. If the exact same people appeared together over and over again, I usually caught it and deleted the duplicate entries. However, if the cast changed or I was too tired to remember previous cases, I let the spreadsheet fill up with duplicates. The remedy is a close reread of each case that contains duplicate names. I haven’t done the reread yet, though, so take my frequency data with a grain of salt.