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31 January 2011

The Jews of Sing Sing

As we research our families, we all seem to find those ancestors who are considered the Black Sheep of their respected families. While it happens to us all the only difference is the extremes to which these people have gone to achieve such distinction.

Well known author Ron Arons has now documented the lives of some of those who may be considered the blackest of black sheep, the Jewish inmates of Sing Sing prison in New York. Beginning with an ancestor who served time "up the river", this is a fascinating read about those who found themselves on the wrong side of the law.

The most incredible part of this book as I read it, was how well it portrayed the lives of immigrants to their new country, I could develop a picture in my own mind of what life must have been like. These people were sons, fathers and husbands who all had their own families. The only difference being that many of their family photos also included a side portrait. This should be a must read for anyone whose family came to America through New York City.

In addition to his book, Ron has now developed a line of clothing so that we may all take pride in being the Black Sheep of our own family. I can think of no better way to attend a family reunion, than by showing up in a Black Sheep of the Family shirt. The book and the clothing can be found at Thanks Ron for a great book.

28 January 2011

Raphael Tuck and Sons

As one walks through the beautiful grounds of Willesden Cemetery in London, it is easy to lose yourself thinking of the lives behind the headstones. It often seems  every corner turned leads to a new story. Such is the case with the monuments of Sir Adolph Tuck and his brother Herman Tuck. The brothers were 2 of the seven children of Raphael Tuck and his wife Ernestine Lissner of Kozmin, Poland.

The story of the Tuck family is so much more than these beautiful markers. Arriving in England in the mid 1860's Raphael soon began selling pictures and frames. He was joined in business by 3 sons in 1871, and Raphael Tuck & Sons, publishers was formed. Shortly thereafter they published their first Christmas card. Business was good and in 1893, they were granted a Royal Warrant by Queen Victoria, becoming Publishers to Her Majesties the King and Queen. Soon they had offices in Paris and New York, as well as London.
Adolph Tuck, produced the picture postcard in 1894, a picture of Mt. Snowden in Wales. In addition, he was the first to sell a set of numbered postcards, they were printed in 1898 and the first was of The Tower of London. Over time the company printed and sold books, greeting cards, scrapbooks and puzzles. In fact Sir Adolph Tuck is widely credited with restarting the sending of Valentine Day cards, which he did in 1925.
We are fortunate  that many of the items published can be found in galleries and museums because like so many other businesses, the original records were destroyed in the bombing blitz of London during World War II.
The records of the Tuck family can be found in the Knowles Collection- Jews of the British Isles.

25 January 2011

Peter Rubinstein and Family of Romania and England

The histories of our ancestors are filled with the stories of tragedy and suffering. So many had given up so much of their lives in order to find new homes where they could live without fear of being killed for being Jewish. As I have been looking at a few of the families in the Knowles Collection- Jews of The British Isles database, one family in particular has caused me to think a lot about what their lives must have been like.

What little we know about Peter and Rosie Rubinstein and their family comes from the 1911 Census of England. At the time of that census they were living with 5 children at 140 Great Clowes Street in the parish of Broughton, Lancashire, England. Married for 31 years, they were both born in Romania as were the five children living with them. Those children were Joseph (b.1886), Nathan (b.1887), Sarah (b.1889), Harry (b. 1892) and Jane (b.1903). The census (shown below) is taken from

We can assume from this census that the family arrived in England sometime after 1903 when the youngest Jane was born in Romania. A double check of the 1901 Census does not find any mention of the family. The part of this story that has me thinking so much about this family is the information provided on total children in the family. In those columns we find that Peter and Rosie had 13 children born alive of whom 7 were still living and 6 had died by the time of the census. I can't help but wonder at how hard it must have been to leave their home in Romania after having suffered so much there. I of course don't know the circumstances behind their move, but it does make me grateful for all those who did sacrifice for us all.

The Jewish history of Romania may even go back as far as 101 C.E. when Jews may have arrived as merchants with the Roman legions. We do know that Jewish immigrants arrived in 1367 after being expelled from Hungary and again in the 16th Century after being expelled from the Balkan Peninsula. The modern history of Romania begins in the early 19th Century when Romania was really just starting to seek its own Independence.

From 1821 through the 1848 revolt against Russia, and up till 1878 the Jews of Romania were constantly trying to obtain basic rights. It wasn't until The Congress of Berlin in 1878, which finally gave Romania its own independence, that Jews began to hope that they would receive those rights. These hopes turned out to be fruitless as the treatment of Jews only got worse. For many the only hope was to leave Romania for a new life elsewhere. Between 1900 and the beginning of World War 1, almost 70,000 Jews left Romania, leaving about 240,000 Jews residing there at the beginning of the war. I wonder if this is what led to the Rubinstein's making their way to England.

The stories of the Rubinstein's may never be fully known, but the records of this family can be found in the Knowles Collection-Jews of the British Isles database.

18 January 2011

Jews of Panama

As I have continued the extraction of the synagogue records from St. Thomas, I am finding many families that have arrived in St. Thomas from the country of Panama. These families, such as the Levy Maduro, Piza and Delvalle's are more of those that have given the Caribbean such a rich Jewish history.

The first Jews to arrive in Panama were Spanish and Portuguses Conversos, who like many others were forced to practice their Judaism in secret. This only began to change in 1821 when Panama became attached to Columbia at the end of colonial rule. The first Jews to arrive were a few Sephardic families from Jamaica and Ashkenazic Jews from The Netherlands. The first Jewish Congregation, Kol Shearith Israel, was founded in 1876.
Following the completion of the Panama Canal, Jewish migration into Panama increased, however it was not until 1933 that a second Congregation was established. Jews from Syria and Israel established that congregation, Shevet Achim and built a synagogue. A third synagogue, Beth El, was established by Jews who had fled Nazi Germany.
Today, the Jewish population of Panama was less than 10,000, mostly located in Panama City. An interesting fact is that Panama is the only country other than Israel, which had 2 Jewish Presidents during the 20th Century, Max Delvalle and Eric Delvalle Maduro.
Those who were recorded in the records of St. Thomas, will be able to be found in the Knowles Collection- Jews of the Caribbean after the next update.

13 January 2011

Naumburg Family

Within the papers of the Malcolm Stern Collection are include some documents pertaining to the Naumburg Family (FHL film #1013431). In these papers are some of the historical information for the family as far back as 1612. The family has a rich tradition of supplying Cantors to congregations throughout the world.

Beginning with Abraham Naumburg who served as Chasan in Prag in 1612, many generations of the family have served as Cantors, passing it from father to son. A few generations after Abraham we have Baruch, who was the father of;

a. Wolf, who was a cantor in Grosslogou, Germany in the late 1600's. He was the father of;

b. Elkan, who was a cantor at Fuerth in the early 1700's. He had sons;

1. Samuel, who was a cantor in Kassel, Germany where he died in 1754.

2. Baruch, who was a cantor in Witteldhofen, Germany. He had 2 sons;

a. Jacob, who was a teacher in the Isaac Speier School in Offenbach in the late 1780's. He died there in 1811.

b. Elkana, born in 1746, he was the cantor in Treutchlingen, Bavaria and also served as a Mohel in the neighboring communities. Elkana's son Baruch then had a son named Samuel, who became the chief cantor of the Temple Consistorial Israelite in Paris, France. Wolf, the younger son of Elkana, followed his father as cantor in Treutchlingen.

It was the family of Wolf who immigrated to America where they continued their tradition of service to their community. His oldest son, Louis was born on 11 November 1813 in Treuchtlingen. He died on March 4, 1902 in New York. From 1850-1860 he was Chasan at Congregation Keneseth Israel in Philadelphia, and from 1865 to 1870 he was reader and teacher for Congregation Rodeph Shalom in Pittsburg.

Another son, Elkan, was born in Treuchtlingen on 1 Jan 1835 and died in New York on 31 July 1924. Although a well known banker and philanthropist, he is probably best known for his love of music. He was the donor of the band shell located in Central Park in New York City. Because of this donation thousands of people have been able to enjoy wonderful music in a beautiful setting.

The records of this family have now been added to the Knowles Collection - Jews of Europe and Jews of Americas databases.

08 January 2011

The Jews of St. Thomas part 3

In going through the birth records from the Jewish Congregation of St. Thomas, an entry caught my eye. It shows the hazards of living on a Caribbean Island, something most of us will never understand. It states;

In the year 1867, on October 9, Tishri 5628. Isaac Levy Toledano was born to Levy Toledano a merchant, and Branca Toledano in St. Thomas.

Remarks: Born in this Island, and omitted to be registered on account of hurricane, earthquake and subsequently his mother's death.

Lets be grateful for all those who strive so hard to document the records of our ancestors, even through perilous times.

07 January 2011

Ruth Waller of California and Minsk, Belarus

Ruth Waller was born on 19 August 1921 in California. She died in Aug 1948 in the City of Minsk, Belarus.

Very little is known beyond this photograph. It is believed that she was a Jewish girl who joined forces with a charitable group to deliver clothing and food to those in need after World War II.
If anyone has any information about this woman or her family, I would love to hear from you.

05 January 2011

IAJGS 2011 Washington, D.C.

The 2011 IAJGS International Conference on Jewish Genealogy will be held in Washington, D.C. from the 14th to the 19th of August. Registration is now open. The conference hotel this year is the Grand Hyatt Washington. Hosted by the Jewish Genealogy Society of Greater Washington, this years conference looks to be another wonderful opportunity to get together with other researchers for a week of learning and meeting new friends. To register or obtain more information, visit their website at I hope to see you there.

04 January 2011

The Jews of Belgium

The Jewish history of Belgium dates back to the first century AD, when the first Jews arrived in the area now known as Belgium. They arrived at that time with the Romans. The earliest mention of the Jews was in the early 13th century in the Duchy of Brabant.
In 1261, Duke Henry III ordered the expulsion of all Jews from that area. These early Jews also suffered during the Crusades, as those who refused to be baptised were put to death. For the most part the Jewish community disappeared after that.
The next major influx of Jews into Belgium came in the 16th century as Sephardic Jews fled Spain and Portugal and settled in places such as Belgium and the Netherlands. At this time a large community developed in the area of Antwerp.
In the early 1700's, Belgium began to have a more open Jewish community, which allowed the Jews more security and freedoms. Over time Belgium fell under the rule of France and the Dutch government, which also allowed them to be more open. It was during this time that the first major group of Ashkenazic Jews began to arrive.
The Jewish population of Belgium eventually grew to be almost 100,000, with more than half of this total based around Antwerp. The second largest community was in Brussels. Between the two cities, they probably accounted for over 75% of all the Jews in Belgium. This was the Jewish population shortly before the outbreak of World War II.
Belgium was occupied by the Nazi's from 1940 to 1944. During the war around 25,000 Jews lost their lives, many at Auschwitz. Today there are about 40,000 Jews living in Belgium, of which 1/2 live in Antwerp. Today's Jewish Community of Antwerp is one of the largest in all of Europe, with over 30 synagogues.

At this time the first Jews from Belguim are being added to the Knowles Collection - Jews of Europe database, and will be available soon.

01 January 2011

One Name Studies

As we start the year 2011, we are adding a new feature to this blog. There is now a section on one name studies. I am most happy to add the site of the Toledano family as the first. Hopefully this will help spread the word of the great work they are doing. If you know of any that should be featured here, please let us know.