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30 May 2012

Oppenheimer family of Germany

One of the great joys of working in Family History is reading  the incredible histories behind some of the families. The histories of our ancestors can be great learning tools, a wonderful way to  help current generations remember those who have gone before. In the last few days I have been made aware of one of those amazing families, the Oppenheimer family.
The family story begins with Max Oscar Oppenheimer, who was born on the 19th of April 1915, in Schrobenhausen, Bayern, Germany. Max was the oldest of two sons born to David and Maria Kraus Oppenheimer. Max, is on the left in the picture here,
next to his brother Ernst. We know from the family records that from May to October of 1940, Max was forced to work in the Ziegelei (brick factory) at Hochfeld, Augsburg. It was while working there that an accident cost him his right index finger.
Fortunately, he was able to get out of Germany, and on the 23rd of Mar 1940, he set sail out of Genoa, Italy on the SS George Washington, headed for a new home. On 1 Apr 1940, with $9 in his money, he arrived in New York City.
At about the same time, on 16 Nov 1923, in Bad Wildungen, Hessen, Germany, a daughter was born to Isidor and Lina Lilenstein Mannheimer (pictured at right), named Erika. Her life was much different than of Max Oppenheimer. In November of 1941, she moved to Kassel, where her parents were already living, and less than three weeks later she was rounded up and deported to the Riga Ghetto, she being prisoner number 62042. Over the next four years she was deported from one Concentration Camp to another, including Matau, Kasierwald, Stutthof, and finally Thorn-Korben. Finally, on the 27th of January 1945, Erika was liberated from a camp in Bromberg. Her mother also was liberated but her father was murdered in 1942 in Riga. Erika made her way to Bremen, where on the 22 of August 1946 she sailed for America. She arrived on 31 August on board the SS Marine Perch.
The evil that Erica and the millions of others faced daily can never possibly be put into words. Hopefully, families will continue to share the stories of those who didn't return, we must never let them be forgotten.

Even though they came to America and different times, under different conditions, their paths would cross. On the 14th day of June in 1947, Erica and Max were married in New York City. The engagement card (pictured at left) even identifies the hometown of each of the bride and groom. From 1947 till 1959 the couple lived in Brooklyn, until moving to Flushing, Queens, New York.
The story of Erica and Max, and their families has been beautifully compiled by a child Richard Oppenheimer. His work on this family has yielded a database that now holds almost 3,000 people, and hundreds of photos and stories. In addition to the Oppenheimer and Mannheimer families, other families include the Lilenstein, Nussbaum, Metzger, Kraus and Luchs families, covering over 300 years in Germany. A special thanks to Richard Oppenheimer for the sharing of the history of this family. His database is now being added to the Knowles Collection- Jews of Europe database and will be available shortly.

25 May 2012

Memorial Day

This weekend in the United States is the Memorial Day holiday. Original began after the Civil War to honor those who had fallen in service of their country, it has become a way to not only honor our war dead, but to remember all of our ancestors. This year may we all remember those who have sacrificed so much for each of us, regardless of whether they may have served and died in war, or served by fighting daily for survival.

 May none of them ever be forgotten.

23 May 2012

U.S. Virgin Islands census records

Much has been made on this blog of the influence the Caribbean Islands have had on early American Jewish communities. With so many people using the Caribbean as their destination after leaving Amsterdam and London, it is an important place to research in building those early families.
A very valuable source in locating these families are the census records from the U.S. Virgin Islands. These records, which are on microfilm in the collection of the Family History Library, date from 1841 to 1911. Unlike the census records from the British Isles, which were taken every 10 years, this collection is taken more often, usually about every five years. There are some censuses taken more often such as 1855 and 1857 followed by 1860.
The records are very nice and identify the families by religion. The record below is of the De Leon family living in Christiansted on the Island of St. Croix, this is taken from the 1841 census (FHL Film #39201)

This record shows how this family is very much like many of the families. The father was born in Amsterdam, the first child in St. Thomas and the rest in St. Croix. All 10 members of the family are listed as being part of the Israelite religion.
The record below, also from Christiansted is from the 1846 Census (FHL Film #39305). The head of the family is Sarah Amalia Coopmann who like all the family was born in St. Croix.

An interesting point from this is under the heading of religion it states; Jewish Church. Not exactly a way I have ever seen the Jewish religion referred to.
These census records, which in whole covers 71 rolls of microfilm, are a valuable source for anyone researching ancestors who either lived in the Caribbean or found themselves in early U.S. communities. and may have passed through.