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21 December 2012

The Balch Institute for Ethnic Studies, Philadelphia

Perhaps the finest center for information regarding any kind of ethnic research with the United States is the Balch Institute for Ethnic Studies, located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Named for John Balch, who came to America in 1658 from Somerset, England, the first of the family to arrive. Over 250 years after his arrival, Emily Swift Balch (1835-1917) in her will stipulated that in the event that her boys not provide heirs,  the family estate be used to create a library in the city of Philadelphia. Her dream came true when in 1976, the 200th anniversary of the United States, the Balch Institute opened its doors to the public.
With the opening of the institute, people had a high quality place to not only compile the records of our immigrants ancestors, but a place to research and find out more about those who risked so much for us.  In January of 2002 the Balch Institute merged with and became part of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania ( The collections of the 2 societies are very important for those with immigrants from all over Europe, and the records of the Jews of Philadelphia from those collections are amazing records. Amongst them are:
  •  Jewish petition cards to bring relatives to the United States, 1923-1935. (FHL Film #1570326 item 3).  When naturalized citizens petitioned to have their families brought to America, they filled out these cards. Not only do the give the name, address, and naturalization date of the petition but then all vital information about those wishing to come over. This can include, names, dates and places of birth, and most incredibly a listing of all places the person has lived before. What a great way to track your family as they travelled through Europe. Many of these also document people who travelled to the US through South America and the Caribbean. The record below is  the petition of Flora Widupsky Ackerman, who wants to bring her parents from Germany.    
  •   Nursery Case Files, 1904-1950 (FHL Film #1571687-1572027). Before 1918, the Young Women;s Union was established to provide a nursery and temporary shelter for those Jewish immigrant families that needed help. In 1918, it was incorporated as the Neighborhood Centre and these 28 rolls of microfilm are the copies of those original records. The information provided includes names, dates of birth, marriages, deaths, occupations and an incredible amount of family relationships. The two documents below show part of the file of the Greenfield family. In the first the information on the family is shown and on the second a list with addresses of the relatives. As these records are from the Census years, this is a wonderful way to verify families.

  •  Jewish immigrant aid societies' records of Jewish arrivals, 1913-1947 (FHL Film #'s 1570140-1570251). These microfilms are an alphabetical listing of the Jewish arrivals into various ports, but mostly the Port of Philadelphia. families are listed together which makes this appear just like a census record. There are over 100,000 people listed in this collection.
These three collections, as well as the others in the Family History Library Catalog generally are from the same time frame, 1880-1940. This enables the researcher to find multiple records of the families and then find them in other records such as the United States Federal Census. The easiest way to locate the records in the collection of the library is to do a keyword search in the catalog for Balch Institute. This search will show all 26 records, Jewish and non-Jewish, available through the Family History Library.

06 December 2012

Hanukkah 2012

At this time of year, as our thoughts are turned to our forefathers, may we all find peace, joy and happiness in all things. My thanks to each of you for all that you have given me. May you all have a Happy Hanukkah.


30 November 2012

Michigan, Detroit Manifests of Arrivals at the Port of Detroit, 1906-1954

One of the latest databases at FamilySearch to be updated is the Michigan, Detroit Manifests of Arrivals at the Port of Detroit,1906-1954.   
This collection, which is name search able, now includes almost 1.7 million images, of the card file containing the information on individuals who entered the United States through the Port of Detroit.
The index cards include an incredible amount of information on those entering. Included in the record is the following:

  • Port and date of departure
  • Port and date of entry
  • Name of ship
  • Country of citizenship
  • Name of passenger
  • Age, gender, marital status and occupation of passenger
  • Birthplace of passenger
  • Place of last permanent residence
  • Name and address of friend or relative at last address
  • Final destination
  • Name and address of friend or relative in U.S.
  • Physical description 
The card below is the record of  Hilda Kazdan Cohen who came across on 16 Apr 1936.

 In addition, since the collection is in alphabetical order, it is possible to search all people of the same surname very quickly, which helps identify other relatives who themselves are included in the collection. As always, this database is free to search.

20 November 2012

Knowles Collection -Jews of Europe updated

The growth that continues to take place has made it possible to update the Knowles Collection - Jews of Europe database. The database was last updated in August of 2012 to include the records of 82,800 people. Today's update increases that number by 60%.  The number of people who are now  included in the records is over 134,700.
The majority of the growth comes from two major sources;
  1. The 1869 Hungarian Census. This database is now about 70% loaded into the collection. This collection is possible because of the wonderful work of Marelynn Zipser, who has spent years extracting this information. My thanks to her for making this accessible for everyone.
  2. Headstones from Cemetire- du Pere-Lachaise, Paris, France. This information was gathered in August of 2012, by myself as I was in Paris speaking at the International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies (IAJGS) conference.
In addition to the sources above, the database has also benefited from the family histories that people have continued to add. I am most grateful to all of those who have shared the records of their families
with me, as so many are now able to document their own families.

16 November 2012

Russian Jews in the Australian Imperial Force (AIF)

At this time of year in the United States, we celebrate two major holidays, Veterans Day and Thanksgiving. The first honors all those who have served their country. The second holiday, Thanksgiving, gives us all a chance to pause and give thanks for all that we have. It is not surprising that to many of us, you can't have one without the other.
I am most thankful to those who have served, like my own father, who put his life on hold to serve as a proud member of the United States Marine Corps, without them we wouldn't have all the freedoms we enjoy.
A great example of others who have given of themselves through  their military service is the Australian Imperial Force (AIF). Australia formed it's regular army in 1901, which was backed up by an all volunteer militia. When World War I broke out, the Australian government committed to send 20,000 troops to support the British Military. The regular army formed in 1901 was only allowed for home defense, so a new overseas force was formed. That overseas force is the Australian Imperial Force.
The first of the AIF ships left Australia in November of 1914 bound for Egypt to receive training. Upon arrival the Australian Forces were combined with the New Zealand forces to form the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC). Some of these troops were sent to defend the Suez Canal, however most were sent to the Gallipoli Front. Of these troops, over 1/3 paid the ultimate sacrifice before they were ordered to withdraw at the beginning of 1916. After their withdraw from Gallipoli, most of the troops serving in the Anzac's were then sent to the western front, where they fought for about 2 years. Over the course of the First World War, no country lost more men that did Australia. Over 300,000 troops served and almost 60,000 of them gave their lives. For them I am thankful
It wasn't just Australian and New Zealanders who fought in the AIF, there were troops from many countries. The fourth largest national group were the over 1,000 Russian servicemen who fought in the AIF. Of these, about 130 were Jewish. Elena Govor, has written a book about the Russians who served and also has a website where these servicemen are listed. That website,, is a great resource for anyone searching for those who served. The website also has information about her book.
The website includes a list of all Jewish servicemen who were from Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Belarus, Ukraine and Russia. The information about each serviceman is amazing. Clicking on the name Wolf Dorfman, gives the following;

The information with the red links, takes you to the original records held in other archives and libraries. The genealogical information is very complete and thanks to Elana for all her hard work. May we never forget the incredible service and sacrifices that our ancestors made for us. We should all give thanks to them.

13 November 2012

Jews of Azerbaijan

The history of the Jews of Azerbaijan is a very long and for the most part a peaceful one. The approximately 7.5 million people of Azerbaijan, which is located on the southern end of the Caucasus Mountains are a very diverse group. The country is surrounded by the countries of Russia, Georgia, Armenia, Iran and the Caspian Sea.
The Jewish community today numbers about 30,000 people,  with about 2/3 of those located in the city of Baku. The Jewish community of Azerbaijan is for the most part comprised of 2 different groups, the Ashkenazi Jews and the Mountain Jews, who are of Persian origin.

Ashkenazi Jews began arriving in the 1800's, when Russia, which was in control, tried to influence the people by bringing in  Russian heritage. This group also grew during World War II as other Jews fled the Nazi's.
The Mountain Jews on the other hand have a history that probably dates back over 2000 years. Many of these came from the area that is now Iran and are said to be descendants of the Jews who left Israel after the destruction of the First Temple. They survived for such a long time by settling in areas that others didn't travel, the extremely remote areas of the mountains.
When the Constitution was written in the early 1990's, religious freedom was given to all, and no state religion was declared. This freedom led to the Jewish community being somewhere between 75-100 thousand people. While the freedom still exists, many families have now emigrated to Israel, Russia or the United States because of the  poor economic situation.

07 November 2012

New York, County Marriages, 1908-1935 at

In 1908, New York began requiring marriage records for all counties. Now the FamilySearch website has begun to add these records to it's Historical Collections Databases. While the counties are included, New York and its boroughs are not included. The collection as of today is a little over 40% complete and includes over 558,000 images. More will be added as the indexing is complete.
The collection is very easy to find as it is included in the section for United States databases. The record itself is listed as New York, County Marriages, 1908-1935.
The collection is name searchable. Looking for a family that I am familiar with, I did a search for Samuel Goldberg who was born in 1882 in England. I know he married a woman by the names of Yetta, who was born in Russia in about 1889. As of the 1940 United States Census, this family is living in Rochester, New York. That record is below:

Doing the search I was able to locate the following record:

 Going one step further, I was able to click on the link that allowed me to view the original record. That record shows that the happy couple were also married in Rochester.

As with all FamilySearch databases, it free of charge and available to all.

18 October 2012

Denmark Marriages, 1635-1916

 The Jewish history of Denmark is almost 400 years old. In 1622, Denmark became the first of the Scandinavian countries to allow the Jews to settle on a permanent basis. King Christain IV, invited the Sephardic communities of Amsterdam and Hamburg to establish communities in the city of Gluckstadt. Those who accepted this invitation were for the most part traders, financiers and jewelers.

 There were some Jewish communities that existed from the beginning of the seventeenth century in other areas under Danish rule, but this was the beginning of Jewish life in Denmark. The Jewish population of Denmark slowly grew over time. By the end of the 1700's there were close to 2000 Jews in Denmark, which about 75% of those in the city of Copenhagen.
In 1814, the Jews were granted civic equality and in 1849 they received full rights of citizenship. These two events led to more and more Jews wanting to live in  Denmark. The numbers reached about 3,500 Jews by the mid 1800's and about 6,000 by the early part of the 1900's. Until the end of the 1700's hundreds the Jewish community was strictly orthodox, then in the early 1800's Reform Judaism was introduced.
In the collection of the Family History Library are the records of the Mosaic Congregation of Copenhagen (Film numbers 44,590-44,595). These records cover the time from 1693-1953. Included are the births, marriages and deaths. Below is the 12 August 1813 marriage of Aron Philip to Hanne Moses Cantor. 

These records were microfilmed in 1950, so the quality is not the highest of quality. However, many of these records have now been indexed at They are included as part of the Denmark, Marriages, 1635-1916 database.

 When that same marriage is search for here, the following is the result.

 The images are not included at this time, however the names and dates are given , as well as the Family History Film number. To access this collection at FamilySearch, just follow the link below.

As always, Family Search is a free database that can be searched from your home.

15 October 2012

At the 2012 International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies (IAJGS) conference held in Paris, France this past year, Dr. Jeff Malka received the lifetime achievement award for his incredible work in Sephardic Genealogy. His work and the work of other genealogists can be found at the website. The homepage of that site (below) is easy to follow and makes it very simple to find databases for your own are of interest.

The tabs down the side will lead you to an incredible amount of resources, from Sephardic history, surnames and family trees. The websites by country tab is one that I find most useful, as it will take you directly to the databases that exist that will be most helpful for your own research. The list of those countries (below) covers the Sephardic world.

Anyone with Sephardic family should make this site a regular part of your research. Congratulations to Dr. Malka for this great honor.

04 October 2012

Texas, Birth Certificates, 1903-1935

 It seems that almost daily new databases are becoming available at that will be a benefit to those researching their Jewish ancestors. One of the new databases should be very helpful to those whose families settled in the state of Texas. Texas, Birth Certificates, 1903-1935 is now available in the Historical Collections of FamilySearch.
So many of our Jewish ancestors entered the United States through the Port of Galveston and then made their homes in Texas. This database is not only name searchable but also includes the original images. As of now it has over 1.5 million images and 3.1 million records. Those numbers will continue to grow as the records are added to. When you search by name, a transcription of the original certificate is made available. The record below is the transcription for the 1913 birth of Moses Rosenblatt.

The transcription gives the majority of the information including names of the parents and date and place of birth. However, if you click on the view image tab, you may find additional information. For this entry the original does indeed add more details.

We now know the father was a butcher and both parents are identified as being Hebrew. It should be noted that since this database contains records from many different jurisdictions not all the records look the same or provide the same information. Regardless, it can be a very useful tool for Texas Jewish families.

19 September 2012

United Kingdom, Maritime Births, Marriages, and Deaths, 1787-1933

Another collection of records helpful to those looking for their Jewish ancestors has arrived at The collection, the United Kingdom, Maritime Births, Marriages, and Deaths, 1787-1933, has been added to the Historical Collections. While it is not large at this point, only about 42,000 records, it does include the images, which have been provided by
The collection is name searchable and very easy to use. The search page (shown below), as with all the Historical Collections allows the researcher to search by various pieces of information.

The images for the collection are very clear and easy to decipher. The records below are examples of a birth record and a death record. Included on both are the names, dates of the events and the ship name.

While small now, this collection could add valuable assistance for those whose families travelled from country to country by ship. This collection could provide the information needed to fill in those missing records.

13 September 2012

Belgium, Civil Registration, 1795-1910 at FamilySearch

The number of records available at for finding our Jewish ancestors continues to grow. On 5 September 2012, the Belgium, Civil Registration database for the years 1795-1910 was increased to include over 560,000 records.

The database is part of the Historical Collections section at FamilySearch, and can easily be accessed for no charge through the home page. The records for Belgium are available in the Continental Europe section (as shown below).
At this time the collection does not include the images, it is only an index, however, the information provided is very useful. The two records below, show the incredible information that can be found from a death entry. The top entry shows the death of 1 year old and the bottom entry, a 53 year old man. The amount of information provided for researchers is incredible and should be very beneficial to those with ancestry from Belgium.

07 September 2012

Estonia Population Registers 1918-1944 at FamilySearch

As the Historical Collections section at continues to grow some wonderful records are emerging for those with European ancestry. One of the newest collections to be added is a great example. The Estonia Population Registers for 1918-1944 have started to be added.
The  records which comprise this collection were made after the Russian Revolution through the end of World War II, and include records of taxpayers, citizens, Jews, Germans, and prisoners of war. They include records such as inhabitant records and tax censuses.
The records themselves were created on the local level and later transferred to the national Archives, were they are housed. The writing in the records differs, as they can be in German, Russian or Estonian. The record below is an inhabitant record from the city of Aakre.

This is a new collection that has just been added, it is not complete and at this time it is not name searchable, however the records are listed by location and as of 7 September 2012 there are over 370,000 images. As with all the FamilySearch databases, the records from Estonia are provided free of charge at More information about this database can also be found at the FamilySearch wiki.

31 August 2012

The Far Reaching Influence of the Fordon Jews - Part 6

It is well documented in this blog that I get very excited at any mention of the Jews from Fordon, Poland, ancestral home of my Rosenbaum family. As the previous post mentions, I have been going through the early death certificates from the State of Utah. As I have researching this collection, I came across the death certificate for Samuel E. Levy, who died in Salt Lake City on 22 January 1941.
Samuel Levy was born the 24th day of November, 1873 in San Francisco, California and had been a resident of the local community for 36 years. The certificate (shown below) also provides the information for his parents. The information provided shows that both is father Solomon and mother Henrietta were born in Fordon. Of great interest to me is that Samuel, born of parents from Fordon came to Salt Lake City from San Francisco. My ancestor, Morris David Rosenbaum was born in Fordon, travelled throughout the United States, finally arriving in San Francisco. Once there he made his way to his final home in Brigham City, Utah. They followed much the same trail just 50 years apart.

28 August 2012

Utah State Death Certificates 1904-1960

For some years now the State of Utah has had the death certificates for the years 1904-1960 online. A free database, I have used it many times to find the death certificates of my family. It has always been very convenient for researches to be able to download those documents instead of waiting for the mail to find you. That website, is very easy to access and a great resource for those with Jewish families in Utah.

In addition, the certificates for the years up to 1956 are now available at

 The certificates themselves are very high quality and a wonderful resource. The certificate below for Gussie Block wife of Louis L. Block. One of the things I really enjoy about the certificates from this time frame is the fact that the Doctor of record is Milton Pepper, a prominent member of the Utah Jewish community. I have always felt I would love a certificate signed by "Dr. Pepper".

24 August 2012

Knowles Collection updated

The growth of the various databases that together comprise The Knowles Collection continues. Today, the collection has been updated to include the records of almost 450,000 Jewish people, which is an increase of almost 50% since the last update.
In addition, a new database has been added, The Jews of the Southern Pacific. This new database reflects the amazing amount of records and donations coming from Australia and New Zealand. The six databases and the number of records they include are ;

  • The Jews of North America         173,300
  • The Jews of The British Isles       145,000
  • The Jews of South America and the Caribbean     11,900
  • The Jews of Africa and the Orient       11,500
  • The Jews of The Southern Pacific       15,750
  • The Jews of Europe          82,800
Over the last few months many people from all over the world have been donating their records to be added to the collection. I am very humbled by the incredible work many researchers have done to preserve their families. Hopefully the work of finding our families will continue to grow.
In the upper right hand corner of this blog is the link to the historical Families Collections of Those collections is where the databases are located and where they can be searched.

21 August 2012

Ohio, County Marriages, 1789-1994 at

It seems as if each week, FamilySearch brings out more and more wonderful databases for finding our Jewish ancestors.  This week, the first part of the "Ohio County Marriages, 1789-1994" have been added to the Historical Collections at At this time the collection is about 74% complete and includes over 2.1 million images.

The search is very easy, simply start by putting the name in that you are looking for. I was interested in searching for the name Moses Abrams, as I know he was married in Ohio to Mamie Koliskey. In many different records both names are spelled different ways, so I started by searching for just the first name Moses. That search gave me over 300 results, one of which was the following;

By clicking on the view image button on the left side of the record, I was able to pull up the original record of the marriage on the 30th of July 1900 of Moses Abrams and Mamie Koliskey.

As we look at the information provided for Moses we see that he was born in Pennsylvania in 1878 and at the time of the license he was living at 38 Orange Street. If we look at another of the free databases at www.familysearch, the 1900 United States Census we find a Moses Abrams living on Orange Street. He is listed as being born in 1878 in Pennsylvania. At the time of the census, he is living in the household of his sister and her family. Using the various databases, all available for free, we are started in put together a very nice record of this family.