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30 September 2010

Knowles Collection Update

On this the last day of September of 2010, the Knowles Collection databases were gathered for the next update, which will take place within the next week. Since the last update in July, the collection has grown almost 25% to include the records of over 140,000 Jewish people. Many new records have been added, but none more important than the many family trees donated by people around the world. It is an honor to have so many show their support for the collection. The new totals for the individual databases are;

Jews of Europe 20,775 individuals
Jews of the Americas 30500 individuals
Jews of British Isles 86000 individuals
Jews of the Caribbean 2400 individuals
Jews of the Orient and Africa 700 individuals

28 September 2010

Prague Cemetery, Stuttgart, Germany

In the middle of Stuttgart, Germany lies the Prague Cemetery. While the gates are locked and the grounds are not accessible, it is still possible to see the headstones of some of our ancestors. Thanks to the work of those who have passed this spot, some of the information is now available. From these pictures, the records of some of the residents of Stuttgart will continue to be preserved. Hopefully all the records will one day be preserved.

The records from this cemetery can be found in the Jews of Europe database.

20 September 2010

The Peixotto Family

Some of the recent additions to the Knowles Collection shows just how much influence one family can have. The Peixotto family becomes a prominent American Jewish family. However, their journey to America is an interesting one.

The Maduro and the Peixotto families, both left Spain to avoid persecution. As with so many others, they made their way first to Amsterdam and then on to Curacao, in the Caribbean. On Aug 18, 1765, Samuel Levy Maduro, son of Moses Levy Maduro married Leah Cohen Peixotto in Curacao. She was the daughter of Daniel Cohen Peixotto. Samuel Levy Maduro then assumed the name of Peixotto. Members of this family then made their home in New York City, arriving in about 1807. Once in America this family married into many other early Jewish families.

Remnants of this family can be found throughout the world Some of the most notable are:
  1. Daniel Levy Maduro Peixotto (18 Jul 1800-1843) Born in Amsterdam, the son of Moses Levy Maduro Peixotto. educated in Curacao, he came to new York with his father, and graduated from Columbia at age 16. He then received his medical degree three years later at the age of 19. Frequent contributor and editor to various newspapers. Very active in politics. Also President of the New York Medical Society.
  2. Benjamin Franklin Peixotto (13 Nov 1834-1890). Son of Daniel Levy Maduro Peixotto, he was an attorney, American Consul and journalist. Went to Cleveland and became editor of the Cleveland Plain Dealer. At time of the persecutions of Rumanian Jews, he was appointed by Pres. Grant to be Consu-General to Rumania. His influence led to Rumania being granted Sovereign Kingdom status in1878.
  3. Daniel Levy Maduro Peixotto (17 Mar 1854-24 Oct 1898). Captain of the Third Regiment United States Volunteer Infantry. Born in New York, he died in Guantanamo Bay Cuba, from a fever contracted during the Spanish American War. He was military governor and provost marshall of Guantanamo Bay.

The list of distinguished members of this family is almost endless. Their lives impacted not only America but many countries. They are truly an example of the good that can be done in a new homeland. The records of this family can be found in The Jews of The British Isles, The Jews of Europe, The Jews of The Americas and The Jews of the Caribbean. More records are being added now and will be availble in upcoming updates.

The Jews of Morocco

The Jewish community of Morocco was at one time a thriving prosperous group. Today, the population has dropped from over a quarter of a million people as recently as the 1950's, to a group closer to 5000 in size. Today, the largest community is in Casablanca.
The Jewish community dates back over 2000 years, which Jewish colonies in Morocco even before it became a Roman Empire. Under the Romans, the Jews of Morocco enjoyed being treated as equals. Other important times in the history of the Jews of Morocco:

  • In the 7th century, many Jews fleeing Spain, settled in Morocco and brought with them a modern life.
  • Jews lived in peace until 1033, when thousands of Jews were murdered in Fez, and the women were taken into slavery.
  • In 1066 the Almohades came to power and conditions improved for the Jews community.
  • In 1391 Jewish refugees arrived from Spain and brought strength to the community. This continued between 1492 and 1497 when people arrived from Spain and Portugal.
  • Beginning in 1438, the Jews were forced to live in special quarters, called mellahs.
  • The condition of the Jews only started to improve with the election of a French Protectorate in 1912. At this time they were given equality and religious autonomy.
  • In 1948 there were about 270,000 Jews in Morocco. However as times became more uncertain, many emigrated to places such as Israel, United States and France. Today the ancient community may not have the same numbers but hopefully the heritage is still alive.

17 September 2010

Jews of Shanghai

The history of the Jewish community in Shanghai, China includes several times when Jewish immigrants made the city their new home. The first instance was in the mid 1800's when the Sassoon's arrived. They were prominent Sephardic businessmen who arrived from Baghdad. They made a good life in Shanghai and helped build up both the Jewish community and the city itself.
The second group to make Shanghai home, were the Jews fleeing the Bolsheviks in Russia. They arrived in the early 1900's. The third group to arrive,in the early 1930's, were the Europeans who were fleeing the Nazi's. Shanghai wasn't necessarily their first choice, but it was somewhere that was willing to accept them. At one time this community numbered over 30,000 people. They were a prosperous people, establishing themselves in their new homeland.

In February of 1943, in an attempt to satisfy the Germans who wanted the Japanese to implement the final solution in Shanghai, the Jews were moved to the "Ghetto" where they lived in a very confined, tightly packed area. A few years after World War II ended, civil war came to China. This caused all refugees to flee again. This led to not only the closing of synagogues and businesses, but to the end of the Jewish community.
The community as it was may now be gone, but what is left of this time however is an incredible collection of stories about the Jews who lived in Shanghai. Three people, Georg Armbrüster, Michael Kohlstruck, Sonja Mühlberger have published Exil Shanghai 1938-1947 , a Collection of articles on the Jewish community of Shanghai, China, composed primarily of refugees from Germany and Austria, during the period of 1938-1947 (FHL book #951.1301 F2e) This source also includes a CD that includes a list of 14,800 foreigners registered with the Japanese police (CD #1497)

Anyone who has family in Shanghai from this time frame, would be well advised to investigate this book.

Marcus Baum of Prussia and South Carolina

In the early 1900's, Dr. Barnett A. Elzas compiled the records of the Jewish Cemeteries of South Carolina (FHL film #1013426 item #15). While most of the graves give just birth and death information, sometimes the information from the tombstones gives much more. Such is the case of the information for Marcus Baum.

"This Shaft is erected to Commemorate the Life and Death
of Marcus Baum, Born in Schwersenz, Prussia, on the 7th day of March 1833
The sterling qualities of his nature were illustrated by his brief career, to
which a glorious Death in defence of his adopted Country formed a fitting close.
In the Battle of the Wilderness on the 6th day of may 1864 he fell at the side
of his beloved Chief, Gen. J. B. Kershaw, a martyr to the "Lost Cause"
His bones now mingle with the dust upon that field of Honor, but his
memory is enshrined in the hearts of those who esteem it a privilege
to erect this humble momento."
From history we know that The Battle of the Wilderness, fought May 5–7, 1864, was the first battle of General Ulysses S. Grant's 1864 campaign against General Robert E. Lee.

16 September 2010

Cigar makers of London

As we do more and more research into Jewish families, it becomes quite clear that certain areas dominate various industries. A simple search of census records through the late 1800's shows that one of those areas was the East End of London. This area, namely Spitalfields, Whitechapel and Bethnal Green, is the home to the tobacco industry and most of the Cigar Makers in the British Isles.

Being a cigar maker in London, meant working long hours, at a low wage. It was work that was repetitious, day in and day out. The largest group of these workers were cigar makers were immigrants from the Netherlands. The 1881 Census belows shows a typical immigrant family that has settled in Spitalfields, with dad and his four sons working as cigar makers.

This was by no means the only family like this, this example fits hundreds of other families, many of whom were immigrants from the Netherlands. These immigrant workers not only worked together but lived together, they can be found on the census as neighbors of one another.
The records of these families can be found in The Jews of The British Isles.

15 September 2010

Jews of Hong Kong

The first Jews in Hong Kong began arriving shortly after it was ceded to Great Britain by China in 1842. As most of the Jews were transfers from such places as Canton, the community did not grow very fast.
Most of the early Jews were from Baghdad and had connections to the Sassoon family. In the early 1880's there were probably not more than 60 or 70 Jews in Hong Kong, most if not all were Sephardic. Up until the late 1950's the population did not grow a great deal, most likely never more than 300 Jews during this time. The change that took place however is that in this time the community evolved to where probably 2/3 were now Ashkenazic. Today, the Jewish community numbers about 7500. Some of the major milestones within the community are:

  • The Jewish Community was first established in 1857.
  • The Hong Kong Jewish Cemetery, located in Happy Valley on the Island of Hong Kong was established by a grant in 1858. It was expanded in 1904.
  • First synagogue established in 1870.
  • New synagogue in memory of Leah Sassoon built in 1881.
  • Only Jewish governor of Hong Kong, Sir Mathew Nathan served in early 1900's.

Today, the majority of Jews in Hong Kong are from the United States, Great Britain and Israel.

Some of the records of The Happy Valley Cemetery can be found at and are also part of The Jews of The British Isles.

Unusual Occupations of English Jews

Its always fun to look through the records for our ancestors. Yesterday as I was researching a couple of English families I came across a couple of interesting items.

The first entry is from the 1861 Census of England. Living at #4, Lower Road in Islington, is the family of Joseph Andrade. A very typical family, mom, dad and one daughter. What is unusual is the father's occupation. he is listed as a"Ostrich Feather Manufacturer". Up until this moment, I always thought this was the job of the Ostrich.

The second entry was from the 1891 Census of England. According to the transcript online, Harris Dancyger was listed as being a "water maker". This would be an incredible talent to have, and be a wonderful thing for our world. However, if you look at the original census, you will find that he is actually a watchmaker.

Sometimes, it pays to take a closer look at the original records.

14 September 2010

Dancyger Family of Russia and London

In the records of Sandy's Row Synagogue in London, we find at least three marriages of people with the surname of Dancyger. In all three, the only information given about their families is that their father is listed as Harris Dancyger, beyond that not much is known.

A check of the 1901 British Census finds the family of Harris Dancyger living at 35 Scarborough Street in Whitechapel.

From this census we find that Harris age 48, is a Jewish Minister from Russia. His wife, Jane is also 48 and is herself from Russia. From the census we find that there are 7 children still living at home at the time of the census. In addition to the family of Harris we find three other families of the same surname. While the name is not a common one and they are most likely all related, the census just doesn't give us enough information to know for sure.

There is however a great source for this time frame. In 2004, Miriam Pollak released her great work on the Jewish Chronicle of London. That work, The Jewish Chronicle Project; Personal Announcements 1900-1909 (FHL CD#2697) is a must for those researching England families at the turn of the twentieth century. In searching the database for the surname Dancyger, we get 6 hits. Of those hits, one adds a great deal of information to what we already know. It says:

Death 28 Oct 1904

Jerrochaim (Jerochoam) Dancyger
of 16 Brantridge Street, Bow
In his 81st year
Wife; Mrs. B. Dancyger
Relatives: Rev. H.Dancyger (son) 35 Scarboro Street
Mr. S. Dancyger (son) 27 East India Dock Road
Mr. J. Dancyger (son) 435 Commercial Road
Mr. J. Dancyger (son) 18 Brantridge Street
Mrs. London (daur) 65 Ellen Street, Commercial Road
Mrs. Saunders (daur) 331 Commercial Road
Mrs. Fisher (daur) 16 Brantridge Street
Jewish Chronicle 4 Nov 1904
Additional Notes: Tombstone set at Edmonton Cemetery 19 Nov 1905.

With the additional information provided by this great source, we now know that the other three Dancyger families are indeed the parents of Harris, and the families of his two brothers Jacob and Joseph. What began as three sinple marriage records is now a combined family numbering close to fifty people. What a wonderful source.

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

10 September 2010

Jewish Community of Bridgetown, Barbados

The first Jews began to arrive in Bridgetown in the 1650's. Most of the early settlers were Sephardic merchants from Brazil. Most had Dutch heritage as did so many of the early Jews throughout the Caribbean.
The first synagogue was consecrated in 1754. However, it was destroyed by a hurricane in 1831 and rebuilt in 1833.By the 1920's the Sephardic community was for the most part gone, however Ashkenazic Jews from Russia began to arrive after WW 2. Records from the cemetery at Bridgetown still survive, some dating as early as the 1660's. Those records have now been added to The Knowles Collection: Jews of the Caribbean, and will be available after the next update (mid October 2010)

04 September 2010

Jews of Leghorn (Livorno)

In some of the early Jewish families in the British Isles, it is not uncommon to see mention of Leghorn as a place of origin. Leghorn or Livorno as it is now better known, was the main port of Tuscany, in central Italy. In the 1600's Leghorn became a very important place for trade between the Atlantic and North Sea ports, and those of the Mediterranean. In the early 1600's there were only about 130 Jews in Leghorn, but the numbers soon grew, to almost 1300 by 1650 and almost double that by the end of the century. Almost all of these Jews were of Spanish origin , or came through other cities after having left Portugal.

One of the most esteemed of the Leghorn families is the family Meldola. Well known printers of their time, the family influenced the lives of many Jews. Rabbi David Meldola was born in Leghorn in 1797, the eldest son of Raphael Medola. He was a prominent member of the London Sephardic community, serving as acting Chief Rabbi for over 25 years until his death. He along with Moses Angel founded the London "Jewish Chronicle". He died in London in 1853.

His father, Raphael was born in Leghorn in 1754 and died in London on 1 Jun 1828. he was a preacher for many years and obtained the title of Rabbi in 1803.

His grandfather, Moses Hezekiah Meldola was born in Leghorn in 1725 and died in 1791. He was a well known philologist and wrote many books on the Semitic languages. He was appointed professor of Oriental languages at the University of Paris.
In many ways the Meldola family and the city of Leghorn, were perfect for each other, one a beautiful place that one can't easily forget, the other a family whose works will never be forgotten.
The records of these members of the Meldola family can be found in The records of The British Isles.

02 September 2010

Mordecai Sheftall of Savannah, Georgia

In the collection of the Family History Library, there is a most interesting document. On film #1013426 item #6, you will find the records from the Mordecai Sheftall family bible. In the pages of this book (such as the page at right), the vital records of the Sheftall family of Savannah, Georgia are recorded. While it is not many pages, it begins to tell the story of a wonderful family.

The story of Mordecai Sheftall is an important one in the history of the United States,and in the history of the early Jews in the United States. Some important information of his life, includes;

  • Born 2 Dec 1735 to Benjamin and Perla Sheftall, immigrants from England.

  • At age 17 began his profession as a merchant, trading in deer skins.

  • Age 18, bought 50 acres in Vernonburg, which was near Savannah.

  • Married Frances Hart of Charleston in 1761, and by 1767 they owned about 2000 acres, where they began raising cattle.

  • In 1772 he donated 11/2 acres for the establishment of Georgia's first large Jewish Cemetery.

  • Took a very active part on the American side of the Revolutionary War. He was commissioned as a Colonel, making him the highest ranking Jew in the American Army.

  • 1782, elected by Congregation Mickve Israel to its board of directors.

  • In 1790 he was appointed President of the Congregation

  • He died on 6 Jul 1797.

The story of the life of Mordecai Sheftall is one of service and charity. He gave all he had to others, included using his own funds to pay for the needs of the men who served under him in the war. He provided their food, clothing, uniforms and even their guns. He truly gave everything for what he believed in.