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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.

02 December 2016

The Jews of Tire, Turkey

Tire, is a town in Izmir province, which is located in the western part of the Anatolian Peninsula, on the eastern side of the Aegean Sea. With its climate, location and large seaport it has long been an important city, dating back at least 5,000 years.  
The Jewish community in the area is also long established, dating back to sometime in the early 1400's when 2 Ottoman sultans invited the Jews who had been persecuted in Spain and Portugal to settle in the Ottoman cities. The community truly became a melting pot as not only did the Jews come from Spain and Portugal, but also  Greece, and in the 17th century, places such as Italy and Holland. It was in the early 1600's, when the Jewish people truly
became a community and built their first synagogue. In 1609, Rabbi Isaac HaLevi Dayan, arrived from Istanbul, becoming the first Rabbi of Izmir.

Even with the long history of this area, this post is not about that, but is about the incredible work being done to document the Jews who lived in Tire.
Under the leadership of Murat Sanus, the people of Tire will never be forgotten.  His website,, is a wonderful example of a project that brings family history to life.

The site is very friendly to  researchers and includes incredible amounts of information. In addition to the records we are familiar with this project includes a treasure trove of pictures documenting the families of Tire. In addition to the website, a book of the community, Jewish Citizens Lived in Tire,  has been published and they are hopefully of producing a film about Tire. I would encourage everyone to search through the databases and see what an incredible resource this is. 
Thanks to everyone involved, they will never be forgotten.

18 November 2016

Ohio, County Death Records, 1840- 2001

In past posts on this blog we have discussed some of the records from the State of Ohio which were available at FamilySearch. Those records included the Death Certificates from 1908-1953, as well as various birth and marriage records from the county level.  Now, a new database has been added which helps complete the full picture of the people of Ohio. The Ohio, County Death Records, 1840-2001 collection includes almost 1 million images taken from the county courthouses. These images also include some records that exist from the time before statewide death certificates in 1908. More information on this database can be found in the FamilySearch wiki, at the following link, Ohio County Death Records.
When first studying any database I begin with the same surname, Cohen. I do this because I can get a good indication of how complete the collection is by how many records for the Cohen name are included. In the case of this collection a search of the collection shows that 3,118 results for the name are included.  I chose the very first entry which was the death of a 3 year old boy, Max Cohen, who died on 1 November 1881.
The record associated with young Max is the Coroner's verdict which was filed with the Clerk of the Court of Common Pleas on 14 November 1881. This document came from a Coroner's Inquest which was held to examine the untimely death.
The death of the 3 year old boy is a very tragic story. From the account, given by his mother Bertha Cohen,  at the inquest we find that the family lived on the second story of a three story building in Cleveland. The third story was home to a saloon, from which every morning they threw the empty beer kegs out of the window. On this morning young Max went out to see what was causing the noise when he was hit by one of the empty kegs and killed. The first part of her statement is shown below.

While the record documents a tragic event, it is important because it comes almost 30 years before the State of Ohio began the keeping of death certificates. The records that would exist of this child are few and this is just a piece of a very small puzzle. Using the clues we have, the name and age of Max, his mothers name, Bertha, and their address we can find them in the 1880 Federal Census of Ohio. That record, shown below, further completes the puzzle.

The record tells us that at the time of the census, Max was the youngest of five children of E. and Bertha Cohen. It also shows us that at the same address lists John Lederer a saloon keeper, the same name given in the inquest.
With this information we are able to return to the Ohio, County Births, 1841 - 2003, database we mentioned earlier. There we are able to find the record of Marx Cohen the son of Elias and Bertha Cohen who was born in March of 1878 in Cleveland, Cuyahoga, Ohio. That record is shown below.

We can now follow young Max from birth to death. Even though he died young and was not able to leave a long paper trail we have enough information that we can make sure he is never forgotten. We should be supportive of all groups that make the effort needed for these records to be available for researchers to use.

03 November 2016

International Jewish Genealogy Month

Yesterday, November 1st was the beginning of International Jewish Genealogy Month sponsored by the International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies (IAJGS). This is a great opportunity for all of us to do something this month to remember our Jewish ancestors. It is a wonderful time to gather as a family to remember those who made you possible. below are a few ideas to celebrate this month.
  • Call a living relative and document what they remember. It always a shame when someone passes and we realize we delayed doing this and will never have that chance again.
  • Gather your family together and teach the younger generations about the family they may never of had the chance to meet. keep those memories alive in those you will follow you.
  • Visit a cemetery and document any of the information who find there.
  • Join a Jewish Genealogical Society. This will not only provide people who can help you with your own family research but may also give you the chance to share with other what you know. The IAGJS has a list of the societies around the world, and it can be accessed from this link,
Let us all try to do something for our families this month, we never want our ancestors to be forgotten.

27 October 2016

The Early Jewish People of Oregon

The very first Jews to arrive in the Oregon Territory, Jacob Goldsmith and Lewis May, arrived in 1849, 10 years before Oregon became a state. Both men were German born Ashkenazic Jews who being merchants opened a general Store in the city of Portland. The timing of these men was perfect, as over the next few years many mining camps developed along Jackson's Creek, as miners made their way from San Francisco in search of the gold which had been discovered.
While the gold first brought miners to Oregon, they were quickly followed by Jewish merchants who established stores supplying mining equipment, food and all dry goods to the people. These merchants were able to take advantage of family connections and brought all types of materials into their stores. They also expanded their base of influence and sent other members of the community into other cities of Oregon. Places such as Albany, Eugene and The Dalles soon had Jewish communities established by these new merchants.
These first German born Jews were quickly followed by Jews from Russia, Turkey and the Isle of Rhodes. However, the greater amount of new immigrants came from the Russian empire in the 1890's. They made their homes in Portland, where the community already was established with the things they needed such as synagogues and Kosher food. The Sephardic Jews established their own synagogue in Portland in 1910 and it still exists today. The last big wave of immigrants into Oregon did not happen until the fall of the Soviet Union in the 1980's. Today, the Jewish community is established statewide with congregations in well over 30 different cities. The Jewish Population of Oregon is today somewhere over 40,000 people.
Recently, FamilySearch has added a new database which could help people search for their ancestors who were in Oregon. The collection, Oregon Deaths, 1877-1952 includes over 114,000 images containing the vital records of much of the early Jewish community. As I usually do, I performed a basic search using the surname Cohen. The results that came back showed 227 entries contained in the records. Below, is the death certificate I found by doing a search for Ruben Cohen who I knew died in 1942. It is a very standard certificate and I was also able to find the name of his father (Dave) and spouse (Sophia).

While the death certificate is exactly what we would expect to find, the collection also has a few surprises. In the search of the surname Cohen, the record of Fred Cohen was included, however not with a death date, only a birth date. That would not be the way one would usually find someone on a death index. Following the link to his name, I found that the record for him was not a death certificate, but was a Registration of Birth for him. The record (shown below) is dated 23 Jul 1946 and appears to be the record of Fred Cohen having his birth recorded almost 55 years after his birth.

The beautiful thing about this record for a genealogist is how he has documented the important information about his parents. We now know his father was George Cohen, born in Posen on 18 Feb 1840, and his mother was Mary Lewis, who was born in Abursuitz, Germany on 17 May 1854. This is wonderful information and just reinforces that no matter how much the index provides it is always a great idea to look at the original record.