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27 December 2011

The Mosenthal Family of South Africa, London and Kassel, Germany

Recently I was able to attend the annual meeting of the Jewish Genealogical Society of Great Britain. While there I took the time to again visit one of my favorite places, Willesden Cemetery. Walking the grounds of this beautiful place, always causes me to ponder not only my own ancestors but it also helps me remember all of the Jewish people and the legacies they left behind.

This blog has in the past touched ever so slightly on the history of the Jews of South Africa, however that visit to Willesden Cemetery in London has led me to spend more time studying the area and its great people. As I was walking the grounds, I came across a headstone that I don't recall seeing on my earlier visits. That headstone (shown below) is of Otto Mosenthal, son of Adolph and Henrietta Mosenthal who was born in London on 13 December 1857 and died in Kimberley, South Africa on 17 November 1881.

In the area surrounding resting place of Otto, were the graves of his parents. The headstone of Adolph, not only provides us with his dates of birth, 12 Apr 1812, and death, 21 Jul 1882, but also adds his place of birth, Kassel, Germany. All of the information obtained from these stones intrigued me. I wanted to know what caused a man born in Germany to marry, move to South Africa, where a child was born and then return to London, where he died.

In an earlier post I talked about the earliest Jews in South Africa, people such as Benjamin Norden, in whose house was held the first service in Cape Town. In studying the early history of South Africa, you quickly find that the first Jews, such as Norden, began arriving in the early 1830's. Many of these first Jews were the merchants who built the foundation of many future commercial enterprises. One such group, were the Mosenthal brothers, Adolph, Julius and James. James, was the first to arrive in Cape Town, where he went to work for a relative, Mr. Kilian, as a clerk, but within a few years, after the death of a wife, he returned to Kassel. Then in 1841, he returned to South Africa with his brothers. By 1842 the brothers had set up their first business, Mosenthal and Brothers, in Port Elizabeth.

Trading in many cities in the interior of the country, the brothers became traders in wool,hides and ostrich feathers. In the mid 1850's the brothers travelled to Asia, where upon their return they introduced the first 30 Angora goats to South African. This became another very successful buisness for them.

Over time the Mosenthal's business grew and expanded throughout South Africa. They became a major influence in many cities. They were very loyal to their friends and family, often bringing them in from Kassel to work for them. It has been estimated that almost half of all the Jews who arrived in South Africa between the forming of their business and the early 1870's came for one reason, to work for the Mosenthal's, many of these from Kassel.

The impact left behind by the Mosenthal is incredible. In addition to their business, various members of the family served in politics and civil service. They were instramental in establishing many public services, such as libraries. Later in life, Adolph and his wife returned to London, where they also had families. Many members of the family became quite wealthy, son Henry (Harry) died on 12 January 1915 in London. His will probated on 13 March 1915 at the Principal Probate Registry left an estate valued at over 500,000 pounds.

The records of the Mosenthal family are being added to the Knowles Collection and will be available soon, some in the Jews of Great Britain database, and some in the Jews of Africa and the Orient database.

16 December 2011

Happy Hanukkah

As this time of year, my wish for all is that you and your family will have Peace and Joy. May we never forgot our ancestors who sacrificed so much for us. May you all have a very Happy Hanukkah.

13 December 2011

The Jews of Antigua and Barbuda

There is not a lot to the Jewish history of Antigua and Barbuda. The first Jews to live there were probably some Sephardic families who had arrived in the late 17th century through the early part of the 18th century. The numbers of Jews who lived there during these early times was probably very small, most likely well under a hundred, in fact most were Jewish merchants or traders, who travelled between Antigua and other Islands, such as Nevis. A good example of these travelling Jews can be found in the Knowles Collection-Jews of South America and the Caribbean. Abraham Abudiente (also known as Gideon) and his wife Bathesheba, are both buried in the Jewish Cemetery in Nevis, however they and other members of the family lived at times in Antigua. Many of the Jews who had lived in and travelled to Antigua left in the late 1600's. This was because laws were passed in 1694, that prevented Jew's from being traders in commodities and from being participants in the slave trade. Even though the law was quickly repealed in 1701, most Jews left and became some of those that settled in the early communities of North America.
Since so many of the early communities in the United States were founded by Jews from Antigua and other areas of the Caribbean it is very important to add Antigua and Barbuda to the list of Caribbean Islands that should be searched for ancestral ties for those American families.

03 December 2011

The Jews of Finland

The Jewish history of the country of Finland is somewhat confusing. For well over a thousand years the area we now call Finland was actually part of Sweden. Under the laws of the Kingdom of Sweden, the Jews were only allowed to live in three of the major towns, none of which were located within the area of modern day Finland.

In 1809, during the Napoleonic Wars, Russia defeated Sweden, and Russia gained control of Finland and the Grand Duchy of Finland was established within the Russian Empire. Even though they were now under Russian rule, the Swedish constitution and legal system was maintained, thus the Jews were not allowed to settle within Finland.
Thus, the Jewish history of Finland truly began in the early part of the 19th century, because the Jewish soldiers who had served in the Russian army in Finland were allowed to stay in Finland after being discharged. A decree was issued in 1858, which allowed discharged soldiers and their families to stay in Finland, this decree was not based upon religion, so all were treated equally. In 1869, another decree provided guidance as to which occupations these soldiers could have. This included the Jewish soldiers.

In 1889, the government issued a decree that for the first time was almost entire addressed to the Jewish community. This decree put severe restrictions upon the Jews, such as not being able to work outside their own city, and even then having to work in the same restricted occupations. Children were only allowed to stay in Finland as long as they lived with their parents and only if they didn't marry. Also those Jews who lived in Finland and were drafted into the Russian Army were not allowed to return to Finland after their service.

The Jewish population of Finland in the 1880's and 1890's probably never exceeded more than 2,000 people. It was during this time that the Jews began to work for their independence. Finally, in 1917, Finland gained its independence and the Jewish community began to have rights, and for the first time Jews could become Finnish citizens.

From the time period after World War I up until the beginning of World War II, most of the Jews of Finland continued to work within the clothing and textile industries. As Jews began arriving from Russia, more and more attended university and started working in professions such as lawyers and doctors. After World War II, the Jews were entitle to all the rights of any citizen, they were truly Finnish. The majority of the Jewish population of modern day Finland, lives in three cities, Helsinki, Torku and Tampere, with vast majority in Helsinki. The majority of the Jews in Finland are Ashkenazic.

30 November 2011

Finding Jewish families in the Border Crossing records into the United States.

As we all know, the United States of America became home to so many of our Jewish families in the period from the 1880's till after World War II. For this reason many of us begin our searches in records such as passenger arrivals at Ellis Island and U.S. census records. While these types of records are great sources for locating our families, they sometimes are lacking in the information they provide. Another wonderful source that should be used more often are the Border Crossing records of those arriving into the United States, from Canada and Mexico.

The records of the arrival on American soil from Mexico are available for various time frames for port of entry's in Texas, Arizona and New Mexico. The search able indexes to the record cards can be found on the Family Search website. They can be found in the catalog or also has them available. The information that these records provide is amazing. The records of the arrival in Laredo of the Chayo family shows all the information that can be taken for each record.
On 26 Jun 1920, the family of Ezra and Farida Chayo arrived at Laredo, Texas. The record at left is the card for Ezra Chayo, a merchant. According to the record he is 35 years of age, born in Aleppo, Syria. His family is of Turkish descent and he is a Hebrew who speaks Yiddish. The record also states that they are on their way to Argentina via New York City. It is very doubtful that all of this information could be found on either a record from Ellis Island or a census record.
In addition to Ezra, the cards for his wife Farida, and children Nazilla, Elias, Marcos and Violet are found. The cards for Marcos (b.1917) and Violet (b. 1919) give Mexico as the place of birth while the others list Aleppo. All of this is wonderful information for tracing your family.
The border crossings for those entering the United States from Canada are also available through FamilySearch or Ancestry. many of the records, such as this one for the family of Abraham Abugou are taken from the passenger lists of those arriving at US ports from Canada. This one is from St. Albans, Vermont.
The record shows Abraham, his wife Sonia and their daughter all from Lithuania. It states that they will be living with his sister Eta Abugou Littman at her home in Worcester, Mass.
While this is still great information, it is not quite as detailed as the records from Mexico. Regardless of this, it is another reminder of how important it is to check every possible record when researching our families. The story these documents create can be most vital for researchers.

29 November 2011

Lt. Gen. Milton J. Foreman, military hero

One of the newest additions to the Knowles Collection, the Foreman/Fuhrmann Family records includes the histories of some amazing people. The records document the family of Gerhard Fuhrmann and their journey from Dirmstein, Germany to the United States.
Once they arrived in the United States the family became well established in Chicago. The family can be found throughout the records of that wonderful city. Of all the great people in the family, one especially stands out, Lt. General Milton J. Foreman.
Milton J. Foreman, was born in Chicago to Joseph and Mary (Hoffman) Foreman. He studied and became a lawyer. He was admitted to the Illinois bar in 1899. He was active in politics and served on the city council. In 1895 he enlisted in the Illinois National Guard. He served as Captain , First Illinois Cavalry, Spanish American War. He worked his way through the ranks in the military and in 1920 was appointed Brigadier General. In 1921 he was named Major General and commanded the 33rd Division. He finally retired in 1931 and was promoted to Lieutenant General.
Lt. Gen. Foreman was a true American hero. From his service in the Spanish American War and World War 1, he was recognized for his actions. He was awarded for bravery the Distinguished Service Cross, the Distinguished Service medal, Silver Star citations, the French Legion of Honor and the Belgium Order of the Crown. Maybe the greatest award came when during World War II, a merchant ship was named the S.S. Foreman.
A truly great family and a remarkable man. The records of this family will be in the Knowles Collection after the next update.

28 November 2011

Edith Elizabeth Jales, Paddington, London

The headstone below is that of Edith Elizabeth (Coulson) Jales, wife of Frederick William Jales. She died in 1930 in Paddington, London, England. She and Frederick were married in June of 1905, also in Paddington. She is buried in the Paddington Cemetery on Willesden Lane.

I would be most interested if anyone has any additional information on this family.

21 November 2011

The Jews of Uzbekistan

Various traditions state that the Jewish community of Uzbekistan, dates back between 1,500 and 2,000 years ago. These traditions tell of Jews going into exile after the destruction of the Temple, or fleeing Persian persecution. Which ever history is correct, it shows the long history of the Jewish people of the area now known as Uzebekistan. As they were forbidden to own their own land, most of the early Jews into Uzebekistan were merchants.

With a few exceptions, the Jews of Uzbekistan have lived under hardship and turmoil. Their homeland has over the generations been invaded by many people or groups who wrecked havoc on central Asia. During the 14th century, the land was under the rule of Tamerlane. The Jews of the time, especially those who worked as weavers helped the area prosper. In fact Samarkand, the capitol city was also became a major Jewish city.
After the death of Tamalane, the conditions under which the Jews were forced to live became worse. As new people took over they would enact laws that would take away rights from the Jewish people.

Under Muslim rule, Jews were forced to live in the Jewish quarter, they had to wear certain clothes, and they had restrictions upon the way the built their homes. These conditions stayed with the Jews until the 1868 Russian invasion.

After the Russian invasion, the Jews had some rights restored to them, and they were given equality with the Muslims. One right that was restored was the ability to freely acquire property, they could finally own their own homes. During this time the Jewish community flourished. Some became wealthy cotton merchants, while others owned large amounts of land and buildings. The Jewish community during this time reached about 75,000 people.

The Russian Revolution of 1917 again changed the lives of the Jews. Free enterprise and the freedom of religion were outlawed. Where before the revolution there were more than 30 synagogues in the city of Samarkand, by the middle of the 1930's there was only one. The Jews were being driven into communism.

The modern day Jewish community is not what it once was. It is believed that over a million Jews fleeing the Holocaust passed through the country. Of those, a little more than 200,000 stayed. By 1970, only about 100,000 remained. Today the Jewish population of Uzebekistan is about 20,000, and the majority of those live in Tashkent, Samarkand and Bukhara. Uzebekistan gained it's Independence twenty years ago in 1991. Times have not been easy and many have immigrated to Israel and the United States.

Through generations of persecution, the Jews of Uzebekistan have somehow been able to keep their Jewish identity. At this time of year as many around the world are celebrating Thanksgiving, I am thankful for all of our ancestors, who overcame much and never lost that identity.

14 November 2011

Ten Powerful "Search" Features at

As we continue the search for ancestors, we often turn to the various databases available on the Internet. There are many wonderful places to search for those missing family members, if only we knew the best way to search through the records, and where to begin. One of those websites is
Now, Phill Dunn, author of the Brit-Ish Heritage Forum blog has broken down how best to use the search engine. Its an incredible help to all those looking in Familysearch for their families. His article can be found at
Phill is a very accomplished researcher who specialises in London and big city research. His years of experience searching for those tough to find ancestors, has taught him how best to work through the various databases. Using that knowledge to help us all through Familysearch, we be a benefit to many. Even long time users of Familysearch will find this very helpful. Please visit his blog to learn how.

11 November 2011

Remembering Our Veterans


The Jews of Monaco

I have just returned from London, where I was able to revisit the Willesden Jewish Cemetery. While there, I was able to view the headstones of a prominent family with ties in many parts of the world, the Mosenthals. Adolph Mosenthal was born in Germany in 1812, his wife Henrietta was born in 1822, also in Germany. Together they left Germany and in the late 1840's arrived in South Africa. Once in South Africa he established a family business, that became one of the largest players in the trading of diamonds. In a later post I will talk a lot more of this family. It is what was listed on the headstone of Robert Mosenthal that drew my attention to this post.

On his headstone (at right) it states that he died on 28 Mar 1884 in Monte Carlo. His death, like some other British Jews, being given as taking place in Monaco, brings up interest as to the Jewish community located there.

Prior to World War II there were a few Jews who lived in Monaco, maybe only 250-300. They were for the most part Ashkenazic Jews from France. During the war as the Jews faced persecution from the Nazi's, the government stepped in and issued false identification papers to Jewish residents to protect them from being sent to the camps. The police, however did arrest some and and turned them over to the Nazis. In a great show of support, Prince Louis II refused to dismiss any Jewish government workers and protected people such as Edouard de

Rothschild from being handed over to the Nazi's for almost certain transportation to the camps.
The current Jewish community was officially organized in 1848. Most of the Jews in Monaco are not official citizens but residents who are mostly from France and the United Kingdom. There are also a few Jews from France and North Africa.
The entire Jewish population, both citizens and non-citizens number about 1000, located mostly in Monte Carlo. This would mean that the community makes up about 3% of the entire population, which would mean that only Israel has a higher per capita total of Jewish residents in the entire world.

25 October 2011

Records of the Jews of Hungary

The dedication and talents of those who are researching their Jewish families throughout the world never ceases to amaze me. I am almost weekly being contacted by people whose research has led them to document not only their own family but also the lives of those who lived in the same cities and countries. I feel completely overwhelmed when these good people, donate their great work to the Knowles Collection to help others.
Over the last few weeks, one of these incredible researchers has donated numerous databases to the Collection that document the Jewish communities of Hungary. The first database consists of the Jewish residents in the 1869 Census of Hungary linked as families. I will document in a later post about her great work and the history of the Jewish people in Hungary, but I felt the need today to thank everyone for their dedicated research and love of all of our ancestors. Her work will be added to the Knowles Collection- Jews of Europe database and will be available to all very soon.

14 October 2011

The Great Solomon Family Reunion 10-12 March, 2012

On the 10th-12th of March 2012, I will have the honor of attending and speaking at The Great Solomon Reunion, to be held in Melbourne, Australia. It has now been almost 200 years since the Solomon's settled in Australia, and what better way to celebrate than having a great reunion? With family expected from many countries, it will be a great chance to meet new family, and say hello to old friends. I hope to see you there.

12 October 2011

A Synagogue A Day

Yesterday's post about postcards of synagogues, prompted a wonderful friend to introduce me to another great location for pictures of Synagogues. A Synagogue A Day, is the home to the images from the William A. Rosenthall Judaica Collection at the College of Charleston (one of America's nicest cities).

The collection is another great way to learn more about the way our ancestors lived, and is a great source for all family historians. A special thanks to Ann Hellman for making me aware of this collection.

11 October 2011

Jewish Postcard Collection

So often as I research the lives of Jewish families from all parts of the world, I find myself wondering about the places they were from. I think about their families, their homes, what was their life like. I also think a lot about the places they gathered, such as the synagogues.

Image my joy to find that someone has been added postcards of so many of those places online. Stepanie Comfort has been gathering postcards of many of these same places.

At there is a large collection of these postcards from all parts of the world. The photo at left of the Sephardic Synagogue in Girona, Spain is just one of hundreds. This site is an incredible place to see those places that were so important to our ancestors. Thank you Stephanie for your work

06 October 2011

The Jacobi family and the Jews of Greenland

One of the newest additions to the Knowles Collection, is the family history of the Jacobi family. This record, which is also part of the collection compiled by Rabbi Malcolm Stern, documents a family from the province of Posen in the late 1700's.

The family begins with Jacob Jacobi who had three children. Grune Jacobi, the oldest, was born in 1790 in Neustadt, Posen and died in 1876 in Charleston, South Carolina. Most of her family like so many others settled in and around the Charleston area, one of the great Jewish communities in pre-civil war America. One of the intriguing things about this family however are the other locations where they settled.

Grune's brother, Neuman Hirsch Jacobi was also born in Neustadt, in 1794. He however moved to Copenhagen, Denmark where he died in 1881.While some of the descendants of Neuman also made their way to Charleston and others American cities, many also stayed in Europe, most in Denmark and some even lived in Greenland. These Jacobi's from Greenland now become the first Jews from that country to be included in the Knowles Collection.

Not many Jews have ever made Greenland their home. Those who visited were for the most part Danes or Germans who had trade with the inhabitants. Greenland, while self governing since 1979, has been a part of Denmark for over 300 years. While few in numbers it is nice to finally have representation from Greenland. Hopefully more will follow.

04 October 2011

History of the Jews of France

In July of 2012, the annual conference of the International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies (IAJGS) will be held in Paris, France. As was mentioned in a recent posting in this blog the conference already has a wonderful website that is available ( With a Jewish population of around 500,000, France has the third largest Jewish population in the world, trailing only Israel and the United States. With the conference fast approaching, it seems like a great time to explore the history of the Jews of France. Some of the interesting facts about the Jewish history of France include;
  • The history goes back over 2,000 years, when France was part of the Roman empire. During this time it was probably more about groups of individuals than an actual community, however there was a presence.
  • The first Jewish communities in France are dated from the mid 5th century through the early part of the 6th century. These communities were in Brittany (465), Valence (524) and Orleans(533). In the later part of the 6th century a community was established in Paris and even built their own synagogue.
  • Beginning in 1096 and lasting up until the middle ages in the 1400's, the Jews of France lived through a great deal of persecution. At various times they were imprisoned, forced to wear identifying clothing, forced to give up their land and freedoms and even murdered.
  • Beginning in the early 1500's Jews began arriving from Portugal, as they fled the Inquisition. At this time was also the first time that Jews were allowed to legally live in France.
  • Jews began arriving from Poland and the Ukraine in the middle of the 17th century. The Jews of France thrived and became an active part of the business community. In the late 1700's many of the anti-Jewish laws were repealed.
  • The Jews began moving back into Paris in the late 1700's. The Sephardic Jews settled on the Left bank, and places such as Bordeaux and Avignon. Ashkenazic Jews on the other hand settled the Right bank. The first synagogue opened in Paris in 1788.
  • In 1790 the Sephardic Jews were granted citizenship and less than 6 months later the Ashkenazic Jews received the same.
  • Following the French Revolution, the Jews began to restore their communities, reopening schools and even opening a Rabbinical seminary that is still in use today.
  • Beginning in the early 1900's up through the war, France received Jews from many areas, including Turkey, North Africa, Greece and many countries of Eastern Europe.
Today, with a vibrant Jewish community in an absolutely beautiful city, the IAJGS conference promises to be a major success. I look forward to attending.

29 September 2011

The Gomez Family, Sephardic influence from the Caribbean in New York

In 1792, under a buttonwood tree at 68 Wall Street, in New York City, 24 brokers gathered and signed the Buttonwood Agreement, that would eventually lead to the creation of the New York Stock Exchange. That event would have such an incredible impact on the world as the New York Stock Exchange is now the center of the financial world. It is one of those men whose own history is also a great example of the effect the Sephardic Jews of the Caribbean have had on early America. Those who study the history of the exchange will note that Isaac M. Gomez (1768-1831) was a broker who resided at 32 Maiden Lane in New York, but that is far from the whole story. Who was this man and where did he come from?
Isaac Moses Gomez was born on 28 July 1768 in New York City into a sephardic Jewish family. His father, Moses Gomez (1728-1789) lived his whole live in New York. His mother, Esther Gomez, daughter of Isaac and Deborah De Leon Gomez was born in Barbados in 1739. Isaac married into a Jewish family from Newport, Rhode Island, when on 26 May 1790 he married Abigail Lopez (1771-1851), daughter of Aaron and Sarah Rodriguez Riveira Lopez. He and Abigail became the parents of 10 children.
In looking into the family tree of Isaac, the influences from the Islands of the Caribbean become very apparent. In the family record that has been preserved in the papers of Malcolm Stern (FHL Film #1013428) Isaac gives details on some of his own ancestry. Included within those are;
  • Mordecai Gomez married a Miss Esther Compas of Jamaica by whom he had three sons, Moses, Isaac, and Jacob. Moses married in Jamaica, and Isaac married Esther Jesurum in Curacao.
  • Daniel Gomez (his grandfather) married Rebecca De Torres, daughter of Joseph and Simha De Torres, of Jamaica. They had 2 sons before she died. He then married Esther Levy of Curacao.
  • Isaac Gomez married Deborah De Leon of Barbados.
  • Benjamin Gomez married Esther Nunes of Barbados.
The influence of these Caribbean Jews, like so many other families was then taken to places such as New York, Philadelphia and Newport, all places the family settled in. The Gomez descendants then married into prominent families. These families had familiar surnames such as Seixas, Levy and Hendricks.
This proves once again how research into early United States families must begin with a search of the records of the Caribbean Islands.
The records of the Gomez family have been added to the Knowles Collection- Jews of South America and the Caribbean and will be available after the next update.

28 September 2011

The Guggenheimer Family, from Bavaria to Virgina

The latest addition to the Knowles Collection is a family history of the Guggenheimer family. Abraham Guggenheimer (1779-1864) was born in Bavaria where he married Dolze Bacharach (1785-1855). Abraham and Dolze became the parents of 11 children, born in Hurben, Bavaria. It was many of these children who became the first of the Guggenheimer's to migrate to the United States, most settling in Virginia.
Like many early American Jewish families, the early Guggenheimer's have left an incredible legacy for their descendants. Some, like Nathaniel Guggenheimer, have distinguished themselves in service to their new country. On the 15th of September of 1863, the Governor of Virginia, John Letcher, signed a commission making Nathaniel Guggenheimer a Captain in the First Regiment of Cavalry of the 12th Brigade and the first Division of the Virginia Military. Others, such as Joseph N. Ulman, married into the family, he married Ella, daughter of Isaac, he being the grandson of Abraham and Dolze. Joseph N. Ulman, served his country as a judge on the Supreme Court of Baltimore.
The Guggenheimer's were in America in the early 1840's, and were established in Virginia cities such as Richmond, Lynchburg and Warm Springs. This did not stop the family from extending their influence to others areas as well. Clara, a granddaughter of Isaac and Clara Guggenheimer married into the Binswanger family of Philadelphia, themselves an early respected Jewish family.
The Guggenheimer are another example of an early Jewish family that quickly identified themselves with their new home and became very influential in those communities. The records of the Guggenheimer family have now been added to the Knowles Collection- Jews of North America database and will be available after the next update.

26 September 2011

The Jews of Mali

The Jewish history of Mali may go back as far as biblical times when the Egyptian Jews settled in in the northern part of the country. We know, however that in the eight century a group of traders who travelled the world, known as the Rhadamites, settled in Timbuktu and the area that surrounds it.
History tells us that the next large wave of immigrants came in the late 1300's when Jews fleeing persecution in Spain found their way to the area of Timbuktu. These Jews settled three settlements that still exist today, Kirshamba, Haybomo and Kongougara.
Even later, in the 1492, King Askia Muhammed came to power in Timbuktu. He ordered that all Jews convert to Islam or face execution. Because of this the Jews became scattered, some fled, some converted and some chose to stay in Mali. Those who stayed faced generation after generation of persecution. As the persecution continued, the community went away leaving no Jews by the 1900's.
The lack of a community existed until the most modern time, in the 1990's when the past Jewish heritage became more well known. That heritage was documented by historian Ismail Diadie Haidara, who has now formed a group known as Zakhor. Zakhor hopes are to reestablish the Jewish community, through such things as learning Hebrew, collecting the histories and preserving the cemeteries of their ancestors.
To learn more about our heritage is a worthy goal for all and best of success to them.

15 September 2011

Growth Brings Change

Thanks to the incredible support from people throughout the world, The Knowles Collection has grown too large for it's current format. Last updated in May of this year to include the records of about 240,000 Jewish people, the collection will be updated sometime in the next month. The new update will bring the collection to almost 320,000 names, or a 33% growth in 4 months.
The growth, has come from many sources, most notably cemetery records and donations of family records. While these have been from all parts of the world, the database most effected is the Jews of the Americas, which has grown very quickly. The growth of the Jews of The Americas database will continue to experience a lot of growth, as we have received a large number of records from places such as Brazil.
In order to handle all this growth, some of the Knowles Collection databases are being changed. With this update, we are splitting the Jews of the Americas database. The databases will now be;

  1. Jews of North America

  2. Jews of South America and the Caribbean

  3. Jews of Europe

  4. Jews of British Isles

  5. Jews of Africa and the Orient
It is only because of the help of so many that this is possible. I am very grateful to all for this support.

14 September 2011

From Spain to America, the family of Isaac Harby

Much has been written in this blog about the migration of Jews from Spain and Portugal, to Europe and eventually the Caribbean and then to the southern United States. Another wonderful example of this is the biography of Isaac Harby, which is contained in the collection. The biography, which was contained in the family bible was written in Isaac Harby's own handwriting. In his writings he first discusses his families beginnings, where he writes,

"My ancestors fled to Spain and then Portugal, where they remained until the pestilence of the inquisition drove them to Africa"

He further adds;

"I find my grandfather, Isaac Harbie, about the middle of the 18th century, employed in the business of a lapidary at Fez in Morocco and in his barbarian majesty's good confidence."

He then talks about the birth of his own father, Solomon, when he writes;

"Of this issue six children were born, the youngest of whom was Solomon, my father, born in London, 1762."

Then writing of their arrival in the United States he states;

"Solomon Harby emigrated to America and remained three years at Jamaica from 1778 to 1781. He married Rebecca Moses at Charleston, South Carolina, in 1787. She was the daughter of Myer Moses, a rich and patriotic Israelite who assisted his country during the Revolutionary struggle."

Like so many others, the Harby family travelled from Spain to Portugal, then to Africa and London before their journey to America by way of Jamaica. Further proof how important it is for all those researching early American Jewish families to carefully study the records of the Caribbean. The records of Isaac Harby and his family have now been added to the Knowles Collection- Jews of North North America database and will be available after the next update.

08 September 2011

Argentina National Census 1895 at

One of the newest databases available free of charge at will be a great tool for those with Jewish ancestry in Argentina.
That database is the Argentina National Census 1895.
Taken on 10 May 1895, the collection is a name search able census with 3.8 million images. It can be found in the Historical Record Collections section of the website.

Argentina was a great melting pot for people from many countries, a fact that becomes obvious as the census is searched. To search the collection simply find the following link:

Once in the collection simply search by name. Using the surname Cohen, I found 161 hits for people with that surname. Included in those was the record below, which shows James Levy and his wife Bella Cohen de Levy. They were listed as having the religion of Israelita. The information shows they were both born in England and had been married 27 years with 3 children. Those three children, Samuel, Daniel and Anita are all living in the same home in Buenos Aires. Many thanks to FamilySearch and best of luck as you look for your own families.

07 September 2011

The Jews of French Guiana

As I have been going through the birth and marriage records of Suriname, the names of places from French Guiana have been appearing. If one studies the history of the area this is not at all surprising. French Guiana was first settled in 1604 by the French, and captured a few years later by the Dutch.
The original Jews in French Guiana arrived just as many others in the Caribbean did, with the help of the Dutch West India Company. This was a very beneficial relationship for all, as it gave the Dutch the settlers they needed and gave the Jews a new home.
The next group of settlers arrived on 12 September 1659, when a group of Portuguese Jews from Brazil, led by David Nassy arrived. Nassy came from the island of Cayenne, where he was a leader of that Jewish community. In the 1660's, 150 Jews arrived in Cayenne from Leghorn, Italy.
During this time life was good for the Jews, they were allowed to worship as they pleased. They were also developing their own sugarcane plantations and become successful in their work. This all changed in 1664, when a fleet of five ships arrived from France. They brought with them 1200 settlers who took control of the country. The Jews who were there surrendered on the condition they could continue to practice their religion. Even with these conditions, most of the Jews began to leave, making their way to Suriname. In 1667, British Forces captured what was left of the community and moved them to either Suriname or Barbados to work on their sugarcane plantations.
A search of the records of Suriname finds many of the families who started out in French Guiana, most notable the surname Nassy. These records from Suriname have been added to the Knowles Collection- Jews of the Caribbean database .
Today, the Jewish community in French Guiana is small, most likely less than 100, however they have been established for over 350 years in the Caribbean and because of the records they left, their footprints can still be seen.

31 August 2011

Lazarus David Family

One of the newest additions to the Knowles Collection, is the history of the Lazarus David family. Lazarus David was born in 1734, most likely in Swansea, Wales and died on 22 Oct 1776 in Montreal, Canada. He married Phoebe Samuel, daughter of Ezekial Samuel, of Rhode Island in 1761. The history which includes information on over 750 people is a wonderful documentation of an important Jewish family.

The lives of the members of this family touch many parts of the world. In addition to Canada and the United States other countries of influence include France, Italy, West Indies, England and Ireland. One of most amazing things is how many different people were involved in either the military or government affairs. These included;

  1. Eleazer David, b. 8 Jun 1811 son of Samuel and Sarah (Hart) David. He married Eliza Lock Walker dau of Capt. Charles Walker formerly of 15th and 24th Regiments.

  2. Golda Adela David, b.13 Jan 1846 in Piza, Italy dau of Eleazer and Eliza (Walker) David. She married John S. Dyde whose father was Aide de Camp to Queen Victoria.

  3. Baruch Frederick Weber Hart, b. 22 Nov 1814, son of Benjamin and Harriot (Hart) Hart, he married a Miss Davis, niece of Jefferson Davis, President of the Confederate States of America.

  4. William Solomons, b. 28 May 1777 in Montreal, son of Ezekial and Elizabeth (Dubois) Solomons. He was an Indian Department Interpreter. He had 4 children with an Indian girl, Agibicocoua before later marrying Marguerite Johnson and fathering ten more children.

The David family is truly a remarkable family full of service to various nations and peoples. These records have been added to the Knowles Collection -Jews of the Americas and will be available after the next update.

26 August 2011

The Jews of Yemen

The history of the Jews of Yemen is a very interesting story, full of things that are very unique to them. The way they arrived in Yemen, the way they lived, and the relationship they had were all different from other communities, even those in the same region.
There has been a Jewish presence in Yemen for centuries. While we may not know exactly when they arrived, it most likely was in the 7th century BCE. The local tradition states that Jews left Jerusalem after they heard Jeremiah warn of the destruction of the Temple in 629 BCE. Historian's lean more toward the arrival of the Jews in 900 BCE. They believe these Jews were part of King Solomon's traders. Whichever is the correct time frame, it is a long history.
The early years of the Jews being in Yemen, was a time of of peace and strength. The rulers of the time had a large section of their people who converted to Judaism, then in the 3rd century, the ruling family also converted, which made Judaism the religion of those who governed. The Jewish rule ended in the early 6th century when the Ethiopians took power.
Ethiopian ruled ended in the seventh century, and because of it, life for the Jews would never be the same. At that time the Muslims took control which made the Jews now a lower class, no longer the equals of others.
They were now required to pay special taxes, and lost most all contact with other Jewish communities, they were isolated in many ways. The isolation from other communities had a lasting influence. Their culture and lives began to resemble those of the Arabs, the only people they had contact with. This period lasted till the 1200's when the Rasulides Tribe of Africa ruled the area. They were in control till the mid 1500's when the Turk's took over.
In 1630, the Zaydis tribe took control from the Turks and again the Jews were forced into a period of history that was most unkind to them. Restrictions were put back in place, they were no longer allowed to live in the cities, they also could not build any home that was taller than a Muslim home. In the late 1600's, part of the community was drive out to Mawza, on the Red Sea. There many starved and died. Later they were brought back to help the economy, because they were the skilled craftsmen and artisans. This pattern continue for the most part until 1948 when Israel became a state. By 1950 the majority of the Jews of Yemen had immigrated to Israel.
Today, the Jewish community of Yemen is very small and because of years of being subjected to unfair laws and rulers have lost most of their Jewish identity. There are now those within the community trying to restore the honor that was lost, may their work be blessed.

22 August 2011

IAJGS 2012 Paris, France

As we have now completed the 2011 conference of the International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies (IAJGS), we can begin to look forward to next year's event. The conference will be held in Paris, France from the 15th to the 18th of July 2012. The organizers already have a website available ( that provides information as it becomes available.

I look forward to seeing everyone there.