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16 February 2017

Jews of Haiti

While today the Jewish community of Haiti is not large, the island has a very complex history of the Jewish people. It is believed that the first Jew to arrive in Haiti was Luis de Torres, who was travelling as an interpreter for Christopher Columbus, however the first true community was established by Dutch Jews in the early 1630's.
When the French colonized Haiti in 1633 these Dutch Jews immigrated from Brazil to work on the sugar plantations. Only 50 years later the Jews were expelled from all French Colonies, including Haiti, when the French passed the Code Noir (Black Code), which forbade the practice of any religion other than Roman Catholic. Some Jews however were able to stay in Haiti under special residence permits. The Jews who stayed were broken into two groups, Portuguese Jews from Bordeaux and Bayone, and the Jews of Curacao.  These two groups of Jews settled apart from each other, with the Portuguese Jews settling in the Southern part of the country, and the Jews from Curacao the Northern part.
Haiti was much like the rest of the Caribbean countries where there was a lot of movement of the Jews between the islands. This was because of many different reasons, but included, fleeing restrictions on religion, the Islands falling under the control of unfriendly countries and the destruction caused by storms and weather.
A great example of the movement of Jews around the Caribbean is the Moise family. Abraham Moise Sr. was born in Alsace in 1736. As a young man he left home and after a voyage over the ocean arrived on the island of San Domingo. There he made his home and established himself as a businessman. Around 1779, he traveled to the French Colony of St. Eustatia, an important center for the shipping trade. It was there that he met Sarah, who would become his wife.
Abraham and Sarah had 9 children, 7 sons and 2 daughters. Of these children the first 3 were born on the island of San Domingo. It was the 4th child, Hyam who was born in Port Au Prince, Haiti on 18 Mar 1785.
In the early 1790's there was an uprising against landowners on San Domingo, which forced the Moise family to flee with little more than the clothes on their backs. The family then made passage off of the island and made their way to Charleston, South Carolina. In Charleston, the family prospered, not only in business but also in service to their new country. The family tree is full of family who served during the Civil War, and at least one early member who served in the Revolutionary War.
In later years, the country of Haiti, came to the rescue of many families during the Holocaust. In 1937, Haiti issued visas to Jewish families trying to escape the Nazis. Today, the Jewish community numbers under 100, however their influence on the Caribbean and United States Jewish communitys is incredible, proof that very few people can make a difference, a valuable lesson for all.

07 February 2017

British Newspaper Archives, Obituaries

One of the newest collections to be updated at FamilySearch will be a great source for those searching for ancestors from the British Isles. The collection, British Newspaper Archive, Obituaries covers the 1800 - 1900 time frame. The obituaries included come from a variety of newspapers from all parts of Britain. This amazing database, which at this time includes over 237,000 images was provided to FamilySearch by the British Library in partnership with FindMyPast.
The Gluckstein family, were prominent English Jews and I used them to show how this collection works. I entered the name Gluckstein into the database and 13 results were returned.

From the list above, I selected the first entry, the obituary of Montague Gluckstein. This obituary follows his death in 1922 and was published in the The Evening Telegraph and Post. Below is the extended entry from FamilySearch.

Under the image (located on right side) this record states that in order to see the original document, the user either needs to sign in or visit a local Family History Center. It is well worth it to do so, as the full image will be seen. This obituary is shown below.

This is a very valuable resource and a special thanks goes to the British Library and to FindMyPast.

26 January 2017

International Holocaust Remembrance Day

Jewish Quarter, Amsterdam
Tomorrow, January 27, 2017, has been recognized as International Holocaust Remembrance Day. The day was designated in 2005 by the United Nations General Assembly, in hopes that all member nations would honor the memory of the over 6,000,000 European Jews murdered by the Nazis. The 27th day of January, was chosen as it was the date in 1945 when the Soviet troops liberated Auschwitz- Birkenau, the largest of the Nazi death camps.
We all have different reactions and emotions when we discuss and remember those who were killed. For some, the thoughts of a loved one, perhaps a brother or sister, or parents who never returned home, fill their hearts and minds. Many remember their older neighbors and friends, taken from homes without warning. Yet others, who may not have been as closely affected pause to remember those who they never met, yet don't want to ever forget.
 In my own situation, I was just 11 years old when I first learned that I had Jewish ancestry.
Morris David Rosenbaum
It was the discovery of my Great Great Grandfather, Morris David Rosenbaum, a Polish Jew, which started my own personal journey to find my Jewish heritage. In the last 40 or so years, I have experienced the excitement of the search, and the joy of new discoveries. Over the years, I have been very blessed, I have found the names of family members who passed long before my birth. With the help of people all over the world, I have met living relatives, and have shared with them the memories of our family. I have stood on the land where my ancestors lived and I have placed stones upon their headstones. The writings they left behind, have at times helped guide my own life and they have touched my heart.
Morris David Rosenbaum came to the United States very early, in the  1850's. After being a successful merchant in San Francisco, he finally made his way to Salt Lake City. With that early arrival, I  felt relief in knowing that he and his children were save from the death camps. However, early on in my journey I started to find the records of his  6 sisters and their families, who never left Fordon, Poland and whose own children and grandchildren were murdered. It was very emotional for me and after sometime I took a pause from those families because I didn't know how to move forward.
Hall of Names
This all changed in the summer of 2015, when I visited Israel for the first time. One afternoon I was able to visit Yad Vashem, The World Holocaust Remembrance Center. From the moment I entered the grounds, I was overcome with feelings I didn't expect to have, feelings of emptiness for the members of the family I either had not documented completely or hadn't yet discovered. At the conclusion of my visit, I was able to visit The Hall of Names, an area where the records of those who were murdered, are collected and preserved. While standing there and looking up at the photos, I soon found myself thinking of each and every member of my family who I knew had died. I also at that moment rededicated myself to find the names and records of the other family members to make sure they were never forgotten.
Berlin Marriage of Phillip Meyer and Mabel Wittowski 7 Dec 1899
Upon returning home I returned again to the records of my family, making sure I had not missed anyone. I wasn't sure I would find anyone, but I was going to try. Up until this point every record I had involved my Polish families and I kept telling myself that Salt Lake City was a long way from Europe and that somehow helped families deal with the pain. I soon made a discovery that made me realize that it was impossible not to be personally touched by the Holocaust no matter where you lived. The Rosenbaum sisters all married and a few had husbands who were part of the extended Auerbach family, another Fordon family.
Members of the Auerbach family had also settled in Salt Lake City in  the 1800's and had become very successful merchants. One, Rosa, had married Gustave Meyer and had raised 7 children in Utah. Many never left and are buried in the B'nai Israel Cemetery, in Salt Lake City. One son however, Phillip, who was a very successful architect, left Salt Lake and moved back to Berlin, where he married an Australian girl and made it their home. The search for their records forever changed me. I knew they had been murdered about 15 Oct 1943 in the Theresienstadt Camp, but the finding of the marriage record from 1899 truly showed me that everyone was affected by the Holocaust.
On the marriage record, part of which is shown above, there are a few different pieces of information  that are very noticeable. First, the marriage takes place on 7 Dec 1899 in Berlin, yet on 12 Jun 1939, the Nazi's stamped the document with their emblems, the Iron Eagle and Swastika. Second, this document which had been tarnished in 1939, included the information on the parents of the bride and groom. It was there, just a few inches from a Nazi symbol that the mother of the groom was listed as Rosa, maiden name Auerbach, of Salt Lake City. To me the Holocaust had come home. Every feeling imaginable hit me at once. I was sick, mad and determined to make sure that all family members would be found, I was not going to let these murderers get away with it. I was going to make sure that my family was never forgotten.
I have continued my search for family members who perished and have found a few. I truly feel we need to do everything possible to keep their memories alive. At my desk in the Family History Library, I have always kept a quote that reminded me what was truly important, and now it is even more so. The quote by Arthur Kurweil says;

"When the Nazis rounded us up, they took away our names and gave us numbers. We genealogists are involved in taking away the numbers and giving back the names."

I would hope, that we all can rededicate ourselves to remembering those who lost their lives, and help the stories be told. I am very thankful to all of you who have helped me and continue to do so, for without each other we have nothing.


17 January 2017

Knowles Collection Updated

With the beginning of the new year, the time has come to update the Knowles Collection. The collection, which consists of 6 databases that contain the genealogical records of the Jewish people, now contain almost 1.4 million people. The individual databases and the number of records within it is as follows;

  • Jews Of North America  609,491
  • Jews of Europe 459,431
  • Jews of British Isles 228,344
  • Jews of Africa, Orient and Middle East 42,836
  • Jews of Caribbean and South America 21,844
  • Jews of South Pacific 21,528
As the collection continues to grow, the people in the databases continue to benefit from the additional sources. The 6 databases now contain over 4 million source citations. The collection adds between 5-10 thousand records each month, of all types, however I am most thankful to the many people who have added their own family records.
The collection is available free of charge on the FamilySearch website. The steps to access the collection can be found at this link, Accessing the Knowles Collection

06 January 2017

Accessing the Knowles Collection

Over the last few weeks I have been asked to review how to access the records of the Knowles Collection. The collection continues to grow and will be updated in the next few days, so this seems like the appropriate time.

Since March of 2016, the collection has been found through the  FamilySearch website (below). The collection can be accessed through the 4 simple steps shown below.

  • Click on the SEARCH tab on the home page of From the drop down menu select Genealogies (Below).

  • This link will take you to the main search page (below). After filling in the name you are searching for, select Community Trees from the drop down box at the bottom of the page. 

  • The results for the search will then be shown. The top entry is the Samuel Montague Gluckstein, that we were looking for. 

  • Clicking on his name at left will take you to the full record (below). The top band on the page identifies the collection as being Community Trees- Jewish Families (Knowles Collection).

From the record above, all of the personal information for Samuel Montague Gluckstein can be accessed. The links in blue and the arrows can be used to find that information.

I am constantly overwhelmed by all of the people who have donated their own family records to the collection. My thanks to you for sharing those records with others, which has been very helpful as researchers have found new connections.

23 December 2016

Happy Hanukkah 2016

As everyone around the world makes final preparations with their families, I would like to take this opportunity to wish everyone a HAPPY HANUKKAH.

19 December 2016

South Africa, Transvaal, Probate Records from the Master of the Supreme Court, 1869-1958

For those with ancestry in South Africa,  over 1.5 million images of probate records have been added to the Historical Collections at These records are the South Africa, Transvaal, Probate Records from the Master of The Supreme Court, 1869-1958.
Doing a search of the name Cohen yields 192 records, including that of Maurice Cohen who died at the age of 38 on 3 Mar 1901 in Kuruman, Cape Province, South Africa. Since the records have been transcribed, we are able to gain some very valuable information just from viewing  the index (shown below).

However, it is not until the original image is viewed that the full benefit of these records is shown. The record is the death notice for Maurice. In addition to the information from the index, we now also have the name of his father, Solomon Jacob, mother, Rachael, wife, Louisa,  and children, Samuel, Kate and Mabel. Also, the location of his birth in the index is stated as being Russia, but the original record expands that to being Palanga, Kurland, Russia. This truly has become a record of his entire family.

This collection is a valuable tool for those looking for family in South Africa. As with all FamilySearch records it can be viewed from home at

14 December 2016

IAJGS 2017 The Perfect Gift

As we quickly approach the beginning of Hanukkah, many of us are wondering how we may bring our families closer together. One wonderful way to do this is to give a registration to next years International Conference on Jewish Genealogy, which will be held in Orlando, Florida from 23-28 July 2017. 
The conference blog is now up and running and gives more information. It can be found at Orlando Conference Blog.

I hope to see you all there.