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28 February 2011

The Levy Maduro Families of Nicaragua

In the history of Jewish families throughout the world, Nicaragua is not often mentioned. In fact the Jewish population in that country has probably never been more than a couple of hundred people. The majority of modern day Jews began arriving in Nicaragua from Eastern Europe in the later part of the 1920's. The majority of them settled in Managua, the capital city. The Jewish population before this time is rarely if ever mentioned.

The fact they Jews are not mentioned before this time does not mean they didn't exist. In the records of the Jew's of St. Thomas, we find records of some residents of Nicaragua. Amazingly the three main families that recorded births from Nicaragua are all from the same family. In Leon, Abraham Haim Levy Maduro and his wife Anne have daughters Judith (1866) and Hilda (1874). Also in Leon, Elias Levy Maduro and his wife Anna, have sons Samuel (1869) and Jacob (1870). A third member of the family, Solomon Levy Maduro, a merchant and his wife Esther Lindo, record the birth of a son, Edward (1901) in the city of Grenada.
Amazingly, this family appears to be in Nicaragua 60 years before the first mention of Jews in Managua. Were they the only Jewish families at that time, or were their others that helped build a foundation for later families. This search should be interesting.
The records of the Jews of St. Thomas have now been added to the Jews of the Caribbean database and will be available after the next update.

25 February 2011

Sephardic Families of Nevis

Much has been written about the Jews of the Caribbean, and it seems as almost daily contacts are made to the families there. Today is no different. I have been looking at a pedigree of an early Sephardic family that has possible ties through three different lines to Nevis. Those lines are Pinheiro, Abendana and Arrobas.

The Island of Nevis may have had a Jewish community as early as the mid 1600's, most being planters and sugar merchants., however the first records don't began until 1671, when the islands received their own government, separate from Barbados.

In fact, the high taxes placed upon the Jews of Barbados caused many to flee to Nevis, so much so that Nevis became overcrowded. There is no official count of how many Jews were on the Island, however, there must have been a strong community. The clues left behind that point to a strong community include a cemetery, which dates to the late 1600's, as well as the remnants of a Jewish School.

The three families on my pedigree are all very prominent Sephardic families from the London area, in fact all three have family members being married at Bevis Marks Synagogue in the mid 1700's. The early residents of Nevis had ties to the London area. Are these early settlers related to those in London? Probably, however now the work begins to bridge the gap between Nevis in the late 1600's and London in the mid 1700's.

24 February 2011

The far reaching influence of the Fordon Jews part 3

In the continuing effort to document everyone I find from the ancestral home of Morris David Rosenbaum, I have had some more good residents of Fordon, Poland brought to my attention.
At the Judah L. Magnes Museum in California, are held many family histories. Included amongst them are the records of Oser and Bertha Michelson Meyer(FHL film #1031331). According to this record, Bertha and her sister Henriette, both married men from Fordon.
The first sister, Henriette Michelson (1827-1916) married Benjamin Levy(15 Feb 1826-8 Jun 1900). The second sister, Bertha (1834-25 Sep 1897) married Oser Meyer (1824- 30 Sep 1894). Both families raised their families in the San Francisco area and are buried at the Hills of Eternity Cemetery in Colma, California.

22 February 2011

Jews of Uruguay

A recent email I received from a reader in Mexico detailed the history of some wonderful families from his own history. Included in those histories were a few mentions to some of his people who came from Montevideo, Uruguay.

The Jewish history of Uruguay goes back as early as the 16Th century The community at that time was not large, however there were a few who had arrived and avoided the Inquisition. The first real record of a Jewish community began with a settlement in the 1770's.

The modern Jewish community of Uruguay today probably dates back to the 1880's. However by 1909, the Jewish population of Montevideo, the largest community in the country was only about 150. The first synagogue in that community did not open until 1917.
The time of the greatest number of immigrants into Uruguay was the 1920's and 1930's. Many of these immigrants were people who stopped on their way to Argentina and Brazil and then never left. Later, after the establishment of the State of Israel another wave of immigration took place. This group of Jews, almost 20,000 in number came from places such as Algeria and Egypt.
Today, the Jewish population of Uruguay is around 25,000 people almost 90% of which live in Montevideo. At the turn of the 20Th Century, the population was almost 3/4 of Sephardic origins, but today it is close to 3/4 Ashkenazic.

21 February 2011

1894 Commercial Directory of the Jews of the United Kingdom

There are many great sources for finding our Jewish ancestors. Depending on which country our ancestors lived in, those records may or may not be easily obtainable. Thanks to the internet some of these records are now able to be viewed in our own homes. One great source for Jews of the British Isles, is the 1894 Commercial Directory of the Jews of the United Kingdom by G. Eugene Harfield.

This directory, while a great tool for identifying where our ancestors had their businesses, has not always been the most accessible source. Now, thanks to Internet Archives ( everyone can search this from their own home.

The directory, which is done alphabetically by location, provides names, addresses and type of business. This directory can then be used as a stepping stone toward more genealogical records. In the example at left, we have J. Mosesson, of 9 Charles Street, working as a house-furnisher in West Hartlepool, Durham, England.

With that information, it is then easy to search the 1901 England Census and find the family. The census record below, taken from, shows Jacob and his wife Helene, living at that same address with their daughter and four grandchildren.

This is a great source that should be used for those with British ancestry. The Internet Archives site, has thousands of other records that can be a great help to all researchers.

14 February 2011

Guild Of One-Name Studies

Over the past months I have written about families that have either great family websites or family organizations. Most recently the family Toledano was mentioned. The question is, how does one find if such an organization exists for their particular surname? One very good way to fins such an organization would be to check the website of The Guild of One-Name Studies (
Reader Debbie Kennett was kind enough to remind me of the work of this organization. Founded in 1979, the Guild of One-Name Studies is now home to more than 7,850 surname studies registered by over 2,300 people. Debbie's own work on the Cruse/Cruwys family can be found there, and provides a wonderful example of how a study can create a great location for those researching family names to come together.
This website should be one of the first stops for anyone researching their family surname, or registering a new name. Thanks Debbie, for a great reminder.

The Lost Shanghai Jewish Graves

One of the readers of the Knowles Collection blog has brought my attention to a wonderful project underway in Shanghai, China. It is the attempt by the Jewish community there to restore and document the history of the Jewish people by finding and restoring the headstones from the old Jewish cemeteries.
As has been written about here before, before World War II the Jewish community of Shanghai was a strong thriving community, with many refuges from Eastern Europe, including a large Polish group. According to their own website,,
the Jewish population of Shanghai reached as many as 20,000 people, with 4 Jewish Cemeteries which held up to 3700 graves.
In 1951, the four cemeteries were moved to an international cemetery located in the western part of the city. During the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976) the cemeteries were demolished and the graves and headstones were smashed and thrown away.

The graves and headstones were lost, until in 2001, when 2 headstones turned up in an antique shop. This find began what has now turned into a wonderful project to restore some of the Jewish history of Shanghai.

Included on the website is a list of those headstones found so far, including members of the Sassoon family, which was one of the most influential families of the area. Another section also has pictures of those headstones, and is a wonderful place for anyone with family who journyed to or through Shanghai to visit. A big thanks to this group for a wonderful project and a great opportuity for everyone to support them.

10 February 2011

Isaac and Rachel Cohen D' Azevedo and the Jews of Trinidad and Tobago

Probably the first Jews to arrive in Trinidad and Tobago came in the later part of the 1700's. This first group was not large by any means but put down a good foundation within the country. The first major group of arrivals came in the late 1800's.

These Jews were made up of groups arriving from Portugal as well as from the neighboring islands of the Caribbean, such as Curacao and St. Thomas.
A good example of one of the families from another island, would be the family of Isaac and Rachel Cohen D'Azevado. They were the parents of seven children, 6 daughters and 1 son. The first four children were born on the island of St. Thomas, and the last three were born in Port-Of-Spain, Trinidad.
The largest wave of immigrants came in the late 1930's, fleeing Nazi Germany. Towards the end of the decade the Jewish population had grown to about 650-700 people. Unfortunately, after the outbreak of war, many countries put restrictions about those people who had fled Germany. Many were put in internment camps and all saw there quality of life reduced. This caused many to leave the island, and eventually the Jewish population faded to but a few. Today, the population numbers but a few dozen.
The records of some of those Jews from Trinidad can be found in the records of the Jews of St. Thomas and are now being added to the Knowles Collection-Jews of the Caribbean database.

08 February 2011

Jews of Thailand

Over the years I have learned of some of the history of the Jewish people in Thailand. I knew that the earliest Jews were Sephardic Jews who came from Baghdad in the 1600's. Most of them lived in the area of Bangkok.

Later, the community increased as some Ashkenazic families came from Russia. In the 1970's and 80's they were joined by Persian Jews who were fleeing the persecution they were receiving in Iran. Today the majority of Jews in Thailand, probably less than 1,000 still live in Bangkok, however there are also synagogues in places like Phuket, Chiang Mai, and Koh Samui.
What I was unaware of is the strength of today' Jewish community. A friend who has recently visited has made me aware of the work of Chabad of Bangkok. Their work in helping Jewish tourists to Thailand feel welcome and at home is outstanding. Founded in 1993, their work has led to hundreds of thousands of Jews being able to receive assistance in maintaining their Jewish traditions. More can be read about the group by visiting

07 February 2011

Knowles Collection Update

The Knowles Collection continues to have incredible growth. In September of 2010 the collection was updated to include the records of 140,000 people. Today, the collection has again been updated to now include the genealogical records for more than 195,000 people.

The collection which is comprised of 5 individual databases has seen growth in all areas of the world. When it was first introduced on in August of 2007 it held the records of less than 7000 Jews, almost all from the British Isles. Today over 60 different countries are represented and over 10,000 records are added monthly. The growth and support from the genealogical community has been wonderful. The individual databases are:

  • Jews of the British Isles 104,100 people
  • Jews of the Americas 53,000 people
  • Jews of Europe 33,200 people
  • Jews of the Caribbean 4,500 people
  • Jews of Africa and the Orient 800 people

The collection, which is freely accessible, can either be downloaded as a Gedcom or can be individually search. To find the links for doing this visit The Knowles Collection wiki page at Family Search Wiki, which is located at

03 February 2011

The Jews of Venezuela

Much has been written on this blog about the history of the Jews throughout the Caribbean and South America. Yet another country seems to have been influenced by these Jews.

The earliest Jews to arrive in Venezuela, did so in the middle of the 1600's when groups of marranos lived in the cities of Caracas and Maracaibo. Many of these Jews however continued lived their Jewish lives in private. This began to change however in the early 1800's when

sephardic Jews from the Dutch colony of Curacao began to migrate into the city of Santa Ana de Coro. The Jewish cemetery of Coro was established by these same Jews from Curacao in 1824 and is now the oldest Jewish Cemetery in continuous service in the Americas.
Later, some families arriving from
St. Thomas, settled in other cities such as Barcelona. The family of Jacob and Benvenida Jesserun Lindo had 8 of their 9 children born there from 1847 to 1866. Another family, Abraham and Rebecca Henriques Moron lived in Barcelona from at least 1843 till 1855 when their first 8 children were born.

The Baiz family was a prominent family from Venezuela who migrated to New Jersey and established themselves in the Jewish community there. Their history was told in an earlier blog entry. The Jewish population of Venezuela slowly rose through the beginning of the 1900's till there were about 6000 Jews living their in 1950. After World War II and following the 6 Day War in 1967 the population grew dramatically. This later group of immigrants included a large number of Sephardic Jews from Morocco. With this immigration the Jewish population peaked at just under 50,000 people, mostly in Caracas.

Another indication of the impact the Jews of Venezuela have had worldwide is that the records of them can be found in The Knowles Collection-Jews of Caribbean database as well as the Jews of the Americas Database.