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31 May 2011

The Jews of Zimbabwe and related databases at Familysearch.org


The Jewish history of Zimbabwe begins at the end of the 1800's. The country, then known as Rhodesia, was a British colony, with a Jewish community made up mostly of Jews from Eastern Europe, mostly Russia and Lithuania. These early Jews in Rhodesia moved quickly to establish themselves in their new homeland.

In 1894, they formed their first synagogue, which was a tent in the city of Bulawayo. This synagogue was home to about 20 Jews. The following year, 1895, a second community established a synagogue in Salisbury (Harare). Finally in 1901, a third was established in Gwelo. These first Jews, mostly Ashkenazic, numbered about 400 at the turn of the century.
In the 1920's and 30's Sephardic Jews began arriving in Rhodesia from Rhodes, later joined before World War II by German refugees fleeing the Nazis. After the end of the war, Jews arrived from places such as South Africa and the British Isles, hoping to benefit from the prosperity that was being felt in Rhodesia. The Jewish population peaked at around 7500 people by the 1960's.
The years from 1964 to 1980, saw a great deal of unrest within Rhodesia, which eventually led to the Civil War that resulted in the country becoming the independent Republic of Zimbabwe on 18 Apr, 1980.

One of the amazing things about the records of the Jews of the area, is that many of them survive. One example of this is Zimbabwe, Death Registers, 1890-1977, which have now been added to the free databases at http://www.familysearch.org/. This database includes all you were recorded, not just the Jewish citizens.

In order to find the records, visit http://www.familysearch.org/ and find the world map on the main page.


Once there, click on the map of Africa or the word Africa. This will bring up a listing of all the databases for the continent of Africa. Included in those, will be the following,


While the databases are not searchable by name they can be browsed by date, the second database has over 328,000 images, which if one is patient, can yield a great deal of information. The record below is the record of Harry Rosenberg also known as Harry Rose, who died on 27 Oct 1918. The record includes the names of his parents, Harris and Muriel, as well as his wife Mabel Frances. Also, further down can be found the name of his son, Geoffrey Gabriel Samuel Rosenberg.
What a great source these free databases are for anyone looking for family in the records of Zimbabwe.

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