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30 August 2010

The Jews of Sweden

The history of the Jewish Communities in Sweden is not as long as many countries. This was do mostly to the restrictions placed upon the Jewish people who wanted to reside there. Up until the late 1600's, any Jew who wanted to reside in Sweden had to be baptised into the Lutheran church.

While there were no doubt Jews living in Sweden, practicing in Secret, the Jewish community was not officially recognized until the 1770's. Some other historical facts;

  • Aron Izak, a seal engraver from Germany was the first Jew who was granted permission to settle in Sweden.

  • 1775 The Island of Marstrand, off the coast of Goteborg, granted permission for all foreigners, including Jews to live on the island.
  • 1776 The first Jewish Cemetery was consecrated

  • 1782 Jews were allowed to settle in Sweden without converting to Christianity. They were also allowed to build synagogues, and engage in business.

  • 1838 Jews were given civil rights and legal protection

  • 1840 About 900 Jews lived in Sweden.

  • 1920 Jewish population reaches 6500.

  • 1951 Jews were allowed to hold political office.

In the records of the American Jewish Archives, Malcolm Stern has very few Swedish families. One family however, that of Solomon Plau are early residents of Stockholm, with some births as early as 1794 (FHL film #1013431)

27 August 2010

The Sephardic Family Piza

As one researches more and more Jewish records, it becomes very obvious that we all descend from some incredible families. One of those families is the Piza family.
Although the location of where this family comes from is still open for debate, we do know the family was in Amsterdam as early as the late 1600's. There earlier references to the surname in such places as the city of Piza, Italy; Bologna, Spain and various locations in Portugal. In many of these places, the Piza or De Piza, family are very prominent members of the community.
The tree at right (FHL film #1,013,431), shows the family of Joshua Piza and his wife's, Hannah and Beneveaida Sacuto, sisters from Amsterdam. Joshua and his family left Amsterdam in the 1820's and settled throughout the Caribbean, including places such as Jamaica, Barbados, St. Thomas and Curacao. This families works, have laid a wonderful foundation for many Jewish Communities.

Some of the records of the Piza family are in The Jews of the British Isles, while many others are soon to be located in the Jews of the Caribbean.

26 August 2010

The Jews of Valencia and Tortosa and the Spanish Inquisition

For over 30 years the Ventura family has been researching the history of their family, which was driven out of Spain during the inquisition. Their journey has taken them to archives throughout Spain and Italy. The completion of that search has yielded a remarkable treasure for Jewish researchers.

Their history, is now an incredible book, "The Jews of Valencia and Tortosa and the Spanish Inquisition" (FHL book #946.7 K3v). The book, which has been compiled mostly from the trial notes, documents the Jewish families of the area from the late 1300's through the early 1500's. It is the desire of the family to share this history with everyone, so it has now been donated to, and is now part of the collection of the Family History Library. It is available for all researchers to search.
The records of these families can be found in The Jews of Europe.

25 August 2010

Sir Otto Jaffe, Lord Mayor of Belfast

Over the course of history, many Jews have served their communities in government positions. Some of the more well known include Sir Otto Jaffe, who was born in 1846 in Hamburg, Germany but came to Belfast, Ireland with his family in 1852, where his father Daniel established a business exporting Irish Linen. For about ten years, from 1867-1877, Otto lived and worked in New York. At that time his brothers retired from the family business so Otto returned to Belfast to lead the company. Eventually the family business, " Jaffe Brothers" became the largest linen exporter in Ireland.

Jaffe, was never one to shy away from service. At various times he served as a Justice of the Peace, a member of the Belfast Harbour Commission and a governor of the Royal Hospital. In 1899, Jaffe, who had given up his German citizenship and become a British Citizen, was elected Lord Mayor of Belfast

The 1901 Census, above, shows the family of Otto and Paula Jaffe, with their household. He was reelected as mayor in 1904 after having served as High Sherriff of Belfast. He was also very active in the Jewish community. In 1871, his father established the Belfast Hebrew Congregation. Between then and 1903, the congregation increased from about 50 members to well over 1000. In 1904, he opened the new synagogue at Annesley Street, of which he paid most of the construction costs.
The life that he enjoyed in Belfast, would change drastically on 7 May 1915, when the Lusitania was torpedoed by the Germans off the coast of Cork. This led to a lot of anti-German attitudes, and even though he was loyal to the Crown, and had a son serving in the British Army, he was accused of being a spy. In June of 1916, he resigned as Alderman and moved with his wife to London, where he died in 1929. His wife, was to ill to attend the funeral, and died in August of that same year.

The records of the Jaffe family can be found in The Jews of The British Isles

19 August 2010

Finding Jewish Families at

A wonderful tool for those researching for their Jewish ancestors, is Record Search at record search is the home of hundreds of databases holding hundreds of millions of individual records. To often it is overlooked because there are no Jewish specific databases, however, the records of our ancestors can be found there. A few easy steps can find those family members.
The image above is the starting page for searching Record Search. You have two options, either enter your names in the search boxes, to search all the records at once, or click on the Search or Browse our record collections. Should you choose the second option, you will be taken to the map below.
Once the map above appears, simply click on the region that you think you would most be able to find your family. For the record, according to this map, the British Isles are part of Europe. I know that is not the case, but for now we have to live with it. Once an area is chosen, the individual databases for that location will appear. If you click on Europe, you will see a list of all the countries. I then clicked on the Netherlands, which gave me the databases listed below. The red star signifies that the database is new. Record Search is constantly being added to and should be checked often.
From the list above I chose the first database, Netherlands Births and Baptisms, 1564-1910. I chose this because I know a family I am researching, the Gluckstein's were very prominent in Amsterdam before making their way to London. By entering the surname Gluckstein into the search box, I obtained the results listed below.

This is indeed the family I was looking for. The Gluckstein family moved from Holland to London and became leaders in business, military and government service. Even though it was not a Jewish database, the family was there. Record Search can be a great tool for Jewish researchers.

The records of the Glucksteins can be found in The Jews of the British Isles.

The French Connection

The city of New Orleans has always been known for its great French heritage, from its founding on 7 May 1718, by the French Mississippi Company till today with the strong influence of its French Quarter and French architecture. During the 1840's -1860's, New Orleans was one of the largest cities in the United States, and probably the largest in the south.

The large french influence was also felt among the Jews of New Orleans. In the marriage records of Congregation Gates of Prayer (FHL film #1012748 item #3), a large number of those being married list their nativity as being France. On the record below, Fanny Bacharach of New Orleans and Michel Schmulen of France were married on 18 Sep 1873. As we turn to the 1880 United States census ( we find a little more about the family. Michel and Fanny Schmulen are living with their 2 daughters in St. Mary's parish. Their ages at the time of the census are 44 and 25. Therefore if those are correct they would have been 37 and 18 on the day of the wedding.

The records of the Jews of New Orleans can be found in The Jews of the Americas.

17 August 2010

Jewish Community of Curacao

As one looks at the settlers of some of the early American Jewish congregations, a few surprising things are found. Amongst the early communities such as Newport (Rhode Island), Charleston (South Carolina) and New Orleans, many of the people either came from or had roots to Curacao. These families, which included such names as Maduro, Peixotto, Naar and Seixas were very established Sephardic families.
What was it that made this small Caribbean island so special, and such an important early residence for Jews. In the late 1400's, Jews fled
Spain and Portugal to avoid the Inquisition. Most went to places such as Amsterdam. Some of those who went to Amsterdam didn't stay long. They took passage on ships heading to Curacao, a Dutch-owned, Caribbean island.
Upon arrival in Curacao, they established their
congregation in 1651. In 1732, they built Mikve Israel-Emanuel, the oldest synagogue in continuous use in the western hemisphere. This Sephardic synagogue became their home, and over the years would influence so many American Jewish congregations.

The records of the Jews of Curacao, can be found in both The Jews of the Americas, or The Jews of the Caribbean.

Baiz of Venezuela

In his book First American Jewish Families, Malcolm Stern includes a family which shows just how wide an impact one family can have. He shows Jacob Baiz (b. 19 Jan 1843) the son of Abraham Baiz and Sarah Miriam Naar, was married in Elizabeth, New Jersey, on 11 Mar 1868 to Emily Mendes Seixas (b. 5 Sep 1848), the daughter of Abraham Mendes Seixas and Hannah Pardo.
While we do gather a lot of vital family information from his book, it is not until we start searching the census records to see just how much impact one family can have. In the 1880 United States census shown below ( we find Jacob and Emily living in Manhattan, New York where he is serving as Consul General of South America.

As you look closer at the census, it quickly becomes clear. Jacob, was born in Venezuela to a father from St. Thomas and a mother from New York. Emily was also born in Venezuela to a father from South Carolina and a mother from Holland. In addition their servants were 2 from Ireland and 1 from St. Croix. What an incredible upbringing these children must have had with such an international heritage.

The records of this family can be found in The Jews of the Americas.

Henry Raphael of London and Melbourne

The story of Henry Raphael is a very interesting one. It actually is two very different stories that when combined tell an incredible story. The first takes place in London, where in 1825, Henry is born to Phillip and Grace Raphael. Not a lot is known of his life in London, except that on 4 Jun 1851, in the Great Synagogue, he married Caroline Simmons.

Caroline was the daughter of Simon and Catherine Simmons of Edgeware Road, London. Apparently the two families got along well as her sister, Esther married Henry's brother Ralph. The census below, taken in 1851, shows Caroline living with her parents (

The second part of the story of Henry Raphael takes place in the far away land of Australia. In his incredible book These Are The Names: Jewish Lives in Australia 1788-1850 (FHL book #994 K3l), John S. Levi, documents his life in Australia. The original source should be looked at as it is a wonderful history, however a few of the highlights are:

  • Arrived in 1842
  • Founding member of the Melbourne Hebrew Congregation in 1843.
  • Reputation as a heckler and trouble maker.
  • Left Melbourne to"find a wife", but returned before 1854, when he was accused of calling the officers of the synagogue "a set of thieves", because of this he was fined and his membership cancelled from 1 Jan 1854.
  • A son, Joseph George Raphael was born on 21 Jun 1861.
  • Became involved in the creation of the East Melbourne Synagogue in the 1870's.

This most colorful story ended when Henry Raphael died on 3 May 1894. His wife Caroline died on 3 March 1896, at the age of 62.

The records of this family can be found in The Jews of the British Isles.

16 August 2010

These Are the Names: Jewish Lives in Australia 1788-1850

It is not very often that a source comes along that can cover the Jewish community of an entire country.For Australia, that has indeed happened.
In his book These Are The Names: Jewish Lives in Australia 1788-1850 (FHL book # 994 K3l), Rabbi John S. Levi, lays the foundation of the history of the Jewish people in Australia. Regardless of whether they came free or as convicts, Ashkenazim or Sephardim, man or woman, there stories are beautifully told here. The book even provides the references to other sources vital to family researchers.
In his own words, I believe Rabbi Levi, in the Author's Note section, tells us what makes this book so important. he says " These Are The Names is written for the layman to pick up and read. I hope the references will lead investigators to do their own research. I have tried to provide the clues. I for one, believes he has been most successful.

Hanau family pedigree

For many years people from throughout the world wrote to Malcom Stern at the Hebrew Union College Library, seeking his help with their family histories. In their letters to him, they included some wonderful family histories, family records and even some beautifully drawn family trees, such as the one above. These records have been microfilmed by the Genealogical Society of Utah, and are available on 6 rolls of microfilm (FHL film #'s 1013427-1013432). These records are from all countries and are a source all researchers should investigate.

11 August 2010

Sir Edward Albert Sassoon

The Sassoon family is one of the truly remarkable families in Jewish history. This family, known worldwide, finds its origins in Baghdad, Iraq. The head of the family, Sassoon ben Salih, was a banker to the provincial Governor of Baghdad. Later, his son, David, took his own family and fled to Bombay, India, where he established the international business firm of David Sassoon & Company. In Bombay they became a very prosperous family, even becoming known as the "Rothschilds of the East".

Some members of the family eventually settled in England. Sir Edward Albert Sassoon was born in Bombay India on 20 June 1856. He was the fifth and youngest child of Sir Albert Abdallah David Sassoon, the son of David Sassoon. Upon his father's death in 1896, he became baronet. Sir Edward Albert married Aline, the daughter of Baron Gustave de Rothschild of Paris, in 1887.

Throughout his life he established himself in many fields. He was a military man, serving as a Major in the Duke of Cambridge's Hussars Yeomanry. He was a member of Parliament, a director of and leader in several business, as well as President of the
London Spanish and Portuguese Congregation.
Sir Edward Albert Sassoon died on 24 may 1912 at Park Lane, London. The marker at right is located at the Willesden Liberal Cemetery, Pound Lane.

The records of this family are located in The Jews of the British Isles

Norden family of London and Cape Town

In the previous post, I discussed briefly some of the history of the Jews of South Africa. In that post I mentioned that in 1841 the first meeting of the Congregation took place in the Norden home. That home belonged to Benjamin Norden, of Cape Town, who arrived with Willson's party of settlers in 1820. While all of this is true, it doesn't tell the whole story of the Norden Family and their impact on the country of South Africa.

Benjamin, was born in London in about 1798, the son of Abraham and Abigail Nordon. he had 4 brothers and 1 sister, all born in London. Joshua Davis (b.1800), Marcus (b.1803), Samuel (b.1805), Harry (b.1806) and Sarah. After arrival, he became very involved in the Jewish community. First the congregation gathered in his home, until 1849, when the synagogue was completed. He was the one responsible for the building of this new synagogue, the first in Cape Town. In 1858, he and his wife Abigail returned to England. The family can be found in the 1861 census (

Benjamin died on the 14th of May 1874 in Ramsgate, Kent, England. He and his wife Abigail are buried in the Jewish Cemetery in Ramsgate. That cemetery, is located on land that Benjamin and his wife presented to the congregation in 1872.

Benjamin's brothers also left there mark on their new homeland. On 25 Apr 1846, Captain Joshua Davis Nordon, died at the head of his troops during the Gaika War. he was buried in Grahamstown, with full military honors.

Marcus, bought land in Grahamstown, and settled there.

Samuel, was killed in 1858, leading a charge of men during the Basuto War.

Harry, bought land and settled in Graaff-Reinet.

Sarah, married John Norton.

This is truly a remarkable family, which has left a rich legacy for their descendants.

The records of this family can be found in both The Jews of the British Isles and The Jews of Africa and the Orient.

09 August 2010

Jewish Research in South Africa

The history of the Jews of South Africa is in many ways the same as the Jewish history of the United States. The numbers may not be the same, but the time frame of settlement is quite similar. The first explorers to sail around Cape Horn, Dias and da Gama, were given assistance by Jewish map makers in Portugal. Their journey, in the late 1400's, comes about the same time as Columbus arriving in America.

While some Jews arrived in both countries up until the mid 1600's, the biggest wave of immigrants came to both countries in 19th century. The arrivals of Jews into Cape Town in the 1820's led to the founding of the first congregation there in 1841. That congregation, known as Gardens Shul, held its first service in the Norden home. These early settlers established themselves in many enterprises, including the fishing industry, diamonds, shipbuilding and the raising of Angora sheep for the mohair industry.

The main immigrants in the late 1800's to mid 1900's were from Eastern Europe and the United Kingdom. Saul Issroff, has edited a wonderful set of books on migration from the UK to South Africa from 1906 to 1930. this collection documents those who left the UK and journeyed to South Africa. This book, Jewish Migration to South Africa, Passenger lists from the UK 1906-1930, can be found in the collections of many libraries and would be a great asset to researchers.

The collection of the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, includes this collection, as well as many others beneficial to anyone searching for their own Jewish ancestors in South Africa. Amongst those records are the records of the Jewish Congregation in Cape Town. These records of birth, marriage and death cover the 1851 to 1989 time frame (FHL film#'s1560759-1560775).

In her blog, Tracing the Tribe, Schelly Talalay Dardashti, brings to our attention the first international conference of the International Society for the Study of African Jewry, to be held in London. It is well worth reading her comments as anyone with South African Jewish ancestry would benefit from this.

UK: South African Jews conference, Oct. 30-31

The first international conference of the The International Society for the Study of African Jewry is set for October 30-31, at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London.

04 August 2010

The synagogue records of Mattersdorf, Hungary

For many years the town of Mattersdorf was under the rule of Hungary. The city was located in the Bergensland region, that area between the Austrian Alps and the lowland area of western Hungary. Since 1921 however, it has become Mattersburg, Austria's eastern most province. Believed to have been settled by brothers fleeing Spain in the 1400's the population of Mattersdorf has fluctuated from around 400 in the 1740's to almost 900 in the by the early 1800's.
In an article published in the spring of 2007 (Avotaynu: The International Review of Jewish Genealogy, Vol. XXIII. No. 1, Spring 2007) Carole Garbuny Vogel and Yitzchok N. Stroh, give a beautiful desription of not only the history of Mattersdorf, but also of the families that lived there. One of those families was the Abeles family. The family Abeles lived in Mattersdorf and also a few neighboring towns such as,Eisenstadt and Lackenbach. They were a large family and to this day number hundreds, if not thousands of desendants.
Some of those descendants, hoping to preserve the records of the community have translated the birth, marriage and death records and linked them together as families. The total number of persons linked together is over 7500 people. These records have now been added to the
Knowles Collection, and are available for anyone to use.

These records are available in the Jews of the Europe database.

03 August 2010

Museum Of Family History

As we research our Jewish families, eventually we seem to always end up in that cold, dusty archive somewhere in the world. While, the thrill of finding that long lost ancestor makes any location more tolerable, I would still like to stay in the comforts of my own home as long as possible. To me, finding a relative while dressed in my pajamas, is just as fun as being cold. For those who like to start their research from home, the perfect museum has arrived.

The Museum of Family History ( has no walls, you can't drive there to visit, and even if you did, finding a proper parking space would be impossible, because the museum exists only in cyberspace. Its goal is simple, To Honor and Preserve the Memoryof Our Jewish Families and Culture for the Present and Future Generations.

The museum has an incredible collection of records for family research. Some of the records include histories of communities, cemetery collections, memorials of those who died in the Holocaust, and so much more. It is truly an incredible resource for anyone with Jewish ancestry, regardless of country of origin.

Gombin Jewish Historical & Genealogical Society

One of the joys of being involved in Jewish family history research, is always seeing new wonderful webites, and if I am able to come across a site that deals with Poland, that is all the better. So imagine the excitement this morning as I have been reading through the website of the Gombin Jewish Historical & Genealogical Society (

Even though Gombin, may be most famous for its wooden synagogue, which was first built in the year 1710 and restored in 1893, this website is a wonderful place to learn more about the Jewish community there. While some sections appear to still be a work in progress, I have found myself unable to leave the site, and thank them for their incredible work.