A member of a genealogy forum has posted an encrypted text that was left behind by an ancestor of his. Can a reader solve this mystery?

Dave Oranchak, whom many readers of Klausis Krypto Kolumne know as a Zodiac killer expert, has brought an interesting cryptogram to my attention. It was posted in the Facebook genealogy group “Lemko Ancestry & DNA”.


The Beltan cryptogram

Here’s the cryptogram in question:


The Facebook poster writes: “I received this copy from my cousin. His father was born in Galicia/Poland and was Ruthenian. This came to his father’s house. […] He said it came from Ukraine. My dad was military with a security clearance but he died in 1981. The note was written in 1992. My cousin’s been going through things put away after his dad died.”

Though this cryptogram seems to stem from eastern Europe, it starts with English cleartext:

June the 16 92

This means that the cryptogram is dated June 16, 1992, which is younger than most manually encrypted messages I have introduced on this blog. The first word in the third line could be “Miss”. On the second half of the note the words “Good bye” can be read.


An encrypted love letter?

To me this document looks like an encrypted letter. My guess is that it is a love letter sent from a young man to his spouse. A military or spy message is unlikely, as professional encryption methods available in 1992 did not require the use of a non-standard alphabet.

The encryption algorithm used could be a MASC (monoalphabetical substitution cipher). If so, it should be possible to break this encryption with a frequency analysis or guessed words.

Does a reader know what “Beltan” means? Nothing shows up when I type in this word on Google.

If a reader can decipher the Beltran cryptogram, please let me know.

Further reading: Who can solve this encrypted diary entry?

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Kommentare (6)

  1. #1 Tony
    18. Juli 2017

    Perhaps Beltan = Beltane, which is the anglicized name for the Gaelic May Day festival. Most commonly it is held on 1 May, perhaps that also agrees with the use of “Galicia” above. Just a guess, looking for word patterns.

  2. #2 Dan Girard
    19. Juli 2017

    The writer seems to have skipped a letter here and there: the ‘s’ in “is”, the ‘o’ in “going”, and the second ‘s’ in “sees”:

    Miss Faith Price
    As there i no supper
    this week but there
    will be next week
    Bid is ging to have
    one. I have got Jim on
    his ear. I told him that
    John was to see you
    last week and was
    up Monday night.
    You must not tell
    him any better
    for he will ask you
    about it the
    first time he see
    you. That is all.
    Dont let Lamia see

    Good by
    C.H. Line
    Good by Darling
    x Kiss for you

  3. #4 David Oranchak
    19. Juli 2017

    Thanks, Dan – your solution looks good!

  4. #5 Klaus Schmeh
    19. Juli 2017

    Dan Girard: Thank you very much! It’s apparently not a love letter but at least a letter from a man to a woman. I wonder why this message was encrypted.

  5. #6 Dan Girard
    20. Juli 2017

    Klaus: I think this letter probably originated in a place called Belton, in the United States. There are at least three cities of that name in the U.S., one in Texas, one in Missouri, and one in South Carolina. The phrase “on his ear,” meaning “angry” or “exasperated,” was an American slang expression of the late 19th and early 20th centuries; so I think the date of the letter is probably 1892 rather than 1992.

    If I understand the letter correctly, it was encrypted because it involved a deception of some kind, with Mr. Line informing Miss Price of what he had told “Jim,” and warning her not to tell him anything different.