31 December 2014

Happy New Year

Happy New Year to all. May the year ahead be full of joy and happiness to you.

18 December 2014

California, Oakland, Alameda County, Obituary Card Files, 1985-2011

The ongoing effort by FamilySearch to add as many death records as possible, today benefits those whose family is in the area of Oakland, California. The newest collection, California, Oakland, Alameda County, Obituary Card Files, 1985-2011, is smaller, only about 69,000 images but the information is incredible.
Doing a basic search of the surname Cohen, 315 results were returned. The image below is the first few entries on that list.

The first person in the results is Sylvia Cohen Zarkin, who died in 2008. The information given shows us the various people mentioned in her obituary, including a spouse, a child and numerous other people. However, if you then click on her name, an expanded record shows the relationship of every person mentioned (shown below).

One more click on the name and you can view the original obituary. The original collection, which has been gathered from various newspapers is housed at the Oakland, California Family History Center. As more obituaries become available, they will be added to the collection. As with all the record collections, it may be viewed from the warmth and comfort of your own home for no charge.

08 December 2014

District of Columbia Deaths, 1874-1959

It seems as though the death records being added to the FamilySearch website just keep coming. Today over 529,000 images, all name search able have been added for the District of Columbia, for the years 1874-1959.
The records are very easy to use. I did a search for Moses Rosenbaum, who I knew died young sometime shortly before 1920. I found the record of Moses Rosenbaum who died on 29 November 1919 at the age of less than one year. From the index (shown below) we find some great information.

We now know that he was the son of Solomen Rosenbaum and Mabel Camilla Healey who lived at 52 Green S. E.  We also know that he was buried on 1 December 1919 at Adas Israel Cemetery. We also have the option of looking at the original document by clicking on the View the Document in the upper right hand corner of the image above. That will take us to the original death certificate (as shown below).

This database can be found by clicking on the following link.  District of Columbia Deaths, 1874-1959.  As with all FamilySearch databases it is free for all.

01 December 2014

The Jews of Zakynthos

Zakynthos, or Zante as it is sometimes known, is located at the southernmost tip of the Ionian Islands, off the western side of Greece. The Jewish history of the area most likely dates at least into the late 15th century. We do know for sure that when visited in 1522, the Island had over 30 Jewish families and its own synagogue.
In the 1560's, visitors to the island found 20 heads of families, most of either Sicilian or Portuguese origin on the island. They were for the most part wealthy merchants who were heavily involved in the maritime trade that was happening between Venice and Constantinople. These Jews appeared to live under some form of restriction, as
they were forced to live in a ghetto and as early as 1518, had to wear a Jewish identification badge.
The first known Rabbi of the community was Joseph Forman who was from Seres, in Macedonia. By 1686 the population of the Jewish community was a little more than 1,000 people.
By 1700, there were 2 synagogues in the city of Zante, the first was the Zante Synagogue and the second, built in 1699 was the Candia Synagogue. Over time, the area was under the control of other groups which led to various restrictions put upon them, such as being forbidden to participate in the politics of the island or not being allowed to join guilds or trade associations. By the early 1890's the Jewish population had dropped to about 150.
Zakynthos would also become a place known for the historic act to protect the Jews.  At the outbreak of World War II, there were about 275 Jews in the community. The Nazi's occupied Greece and requested a list of all the Jews in the community for deportation to the camps. The mayor, Lukas Karrer and Bishop Chrysostomos refused to provide the names. Instead,  they hid the Jews in the rural areas outside the town. Because of their heroic actions, every Jew of Zakynthos survived the war. Statues of these two brave men stand on the site of the that first synagogue, and in 1978, Yad Vashem, honored them with the title of "Righteous among the Nations".

25 November 2014

Michigan Obituaries, 1820-2006

Benjamin V. Cohen was born on 23 September 1894 in Muncie, Indiana. He was the last of five children born to Moses and Sarah Cohen, both of whom were Polish immigrants.
He attended the University of Chicago, where he earned an undergraduate degree as well as his law degree. Upon graduation he moved to Washington D.C., where he began a career which would see him gain credit as one of the authors of some of the laws that became the basis of President Roosevelt's New Deal. He died in Washington D.C. in 1983.
Even though he was born in Muncie, Indiana, educated in Chicago, Illinois and worked and died in Washington D. C., the above information came from an obituary that was published in the Grand Rapids Press on 16 August 1983. That obituary (shown below) is part of one of the new collections available at www.familysearch.org.

That collection, Michigan Obituaries, 1820-2006, currently has over 68,000 images which are name search able. The transcription (shown below), provides the vital information from the obituary, including the names of other who are listed.

For those with family in Michigan or who may have been mentioned in Michigan papers, this is a great collection which can be searched free of charge from the luxury of your home.

21 November 2014

03 November 2014

Veterans Day - Remembering Those Who Served

On the 11th day of November every year much of the world pauses to remember those who served their countries in the military. In the United States we call it Veterans Day. In other parts of the world it is known by names such as Remembrance Day or Armistice Day. Some countries take this opportunity to remember those who died in World War 1, while in the United States it has been extended to all who have served in the military.

It seems only right to honor those who have given so much for so many. These men and woman have bravely left so much behind, including family and home, to fight to in far away lands to preserve freedom for all.
Whatever their service was, we honor them in different ways. For those who died serving the commonwealth,  the beautiful monument at left in London honors them.
While Arlington Cemetery, which is just across the Potomac River from Washington D.C. (picture at top of page) honors row after row of American veterans.
One of the greatest joys a family historian can have is to help remember those who served and to document their lives. We are blessed to have so many great resources to help us do this.
The headstone below is from Arlington Cemetery. It honors 1st Lt. Dennet S. Gurman who was killed in action along with nine others at Celebes Island on the 4th of July 1945.

By searching through the various databases we find that in addition to this marker, he is also remembered with a marker in the family burial plot at Mount Hebron Cemetery in Flushing, New York (Find a Grave). That marker gives his full name as Dennet Sidney Gurman. In addition, he is remembered by a memorial at the Manila American Cemetery, Fort William Mc Kinley, Manila, The Philippines. 
Other great resources include an index to the over 5,500 Jewish burials at Arlington National Cemetery, which is maintained by the Jewish Genealogical Society of Greater Washington.

That index, which is search able for free, gives great information for researchers. In addition to a photo, the information from the headstone has been transcribed (at right). We now know 1st Lt. Gurman's, who is shown as being from New York, was born on 31 Aug 1924.

With the information from the various sites above it becomes much easier to find the family of  1st Lt. Gurman. Thanks to Ancestry.com we are able to find him in both the 1930 and 1940 United States censuses. Those records (below) show him with his parents and siblings. I am sure that at the time of the 1940 census they had no idea that only 5 years later he would give his life for his country at the age of 21.

As we all take a moment next week to remember those who served, let us all also take a moment and try to find those they left behind, and to all veterans... Thank You.

30 October 2014

California, County Birth and Death Records, 1800-1994

Over 2.1 million images of birth and death records of various counties in California have recently been added to www.familysearch.org. These records which have been obtained from county courthouses cover the years 1800-1994. Not all the records are name search able as of today and a few counties are not included. However, the collection is a great place to search for your California ancestors.
The image below is the search results for Ben Cohen, who died on the 23rd of July, 1945.

Even though the search gives us great information, such as the names of his parents and spouse, it is not until we look at the original that more detailed facts are added. The original (below) provides the additional information that Ben Cohen was a Rabbi and that he and his parents were all born in Lithuania.

This should be another great resource for all those with family in California. As with all other records at FamilySearch, the collection is free and search able at home.

13 October 2014

Pennsylvania Obituaries, 1977-2010

In recent months, FamilySearch has been contributing a great deal of time and effort toward the indexing of obituaries. These will be a great tool for researchers in located their families. A great example of these records is the new database that FamilySearch has just published, Pennsylvania Obituaries, 1977 - 2010.  This collection, which as of today has over 96,000 images, is the collection of the Old Buncombe County, North Carolina Genealogical Society.
This collection is easily searched and as with all other FamilySearch collections can be searched for free at any time. In the standard search box (shown below), I did a search for all obituaries of the surname Cohen. 

The search results showed 277 different obituaries featuring the surname Cohen. The first few entries are shown below.

At this point, clicking on the name of the deceased will provide some more excellent information. In the example below I clicked on Ruth M Cohen. In addition to many great family relationships, I now also know the name of the newspaper where this obituary appeared, The Reading Eagle/Reading Times.

At this point, we are then able to go one step further and see the original obituary.

What a great source for the family researcher.

25 September 2014

How did he end up in Price, Utah? The burial of Rickie Layne Cohen

The city of Price is located on the eastern side of the State of Utah. A town known mostly for the mining industry that is located there. The winters in Price are cold and the summers are are very moderate. The 8,500 or so residents are almost evenly split between the Catholic, Greek Orthodox and Mormon populations. The one thing that Price does not have, and really never had is a Jewish population. In fact, the closest Jewish community world be in Salt Lake City, which is about 120 miles away.
Because of this lack of a Jewish tradition in Price, most people would just drive by, no need to delay the journey to their own destination. However, if they did pass by, they would miss the final resting place of someone known worldwide, who is buried in the Price City Cemetery.
Rickie Israel Cohen, was born in 1924, the son of Russian immigrants. He was the son of a mother, Sonya Ludwig, who was a popular comic in the vaudeville days, known as Gypsy Sonya. Rickie, himself began entertaining others at an early age and by his teens was touring as a ventriloquist.
Rickie, got his big break when in 1955 he was discovered as he was performing his show in a nightclub on the Sunset Strip. 
It was at Ciro's nightclub that his show was seen by Nat "King" Cole, who came to see his own wife sing. Cole liked the show so much that he encouraged Ed Sullivan to have him on his show, which he did on January 1, 1956. This first show led to many more and he became very much in demand. For, most of the next half century, he performed in nightclubs all over the country. In 2002 he was given the lifetime achievement award from the International Ventriloquist Association.
So with all of this fame, having performed all over the world, having been born in New York and dying in California, how did he end up in Price, Utah? Its actually very simple, I believe its because the most important thing in his life was not the fame, but the family.
His wife, LaRue Olsen Layne, who he met in California, was actually a small town girl from Price, Utah. After being married for 56 years before her death in 2002, it seems only natural he would follow her home.
In fact not only are they still together side by side, but also at rest next to them is his mother, Gypsy Sonya. I wonder if in those early years as Russian immigrants and hard working vaudeville entertainers, they could have ever imagined their final resting spot being in a small Utah mining town.

24 September 2014

Happy New Year


Wishing you a

Happy and Blessed

New Year

Texas, Naturalization Records, 1906-1989

Another new collection that will be very helpful for those looking for their Jewish ancestors has now
been added to the collections at FamilySearch. That collection, the Texas, Naturalization Records, 1906-1989, features naturalization records held by the National Archives- Southwest Region. The majority of the collection is comprised of indexes and declarations of Intent.
This collection, which as of today has over 85,000 images will continue to grow over time as more images become available and the records are indexed.
The image below, is the Declaration of Intent for Max Cohen, who was born in Russia in 1875, and declared his intent in 1917.

This is a great source for all those whose family ended up in Texas.

15 September 2014

The Jews of Guatemala

The Jewish history within Guatemala is shorter and much smaller than most of its Central American neighbors. While there were certainly Jews in the country who came during the Inquisition, the present day community's roots begin in mid 1800's. Those first group of German immigrants were small in number and for the most part isolated from other Jews in the region, and because of this the did not have much influence with other Jews in other countries.
The second wave of Jewish immigrants, those whose impact is still visible in Guatemala started arriving in the early 1900's. The first arrived from Germany and various Middle Eastern countries, and were followed in the 1920's by Jews from Eastern Europe. Many of this latter group did not plan on staying long. They arrived in Guatemala from Cuba and were hoping to have visas from the United States so they could continue on their journey.
Being Jewish in Guatemala has not  
always been favorable. The country has at times acted to limit the arrival of new Jewish immigrants. In the early 1930's, the government ordered the expulsion of all peddlers from the country. This was meant to hurt the Jews as the majority of peddlers were Jewish. The order was not carried out, however laws were passed to ban peddling. This ban forced many Jews to emigrate elsewhere as they could no longer support their families.
In 1936, under pressure from the German community, laws were passed that would limit the number of immigrants of "Asian origin" which included people from Poland, the majority of who were Jewish. Due to these restrictions, the Jewish population was less than 1000 people in 1939. The majority of them lived in Guatemala City, Quezaltenengo and San Marcos.
Guatemala, even with their history of trying to restrict Jewish immigration, was the first country in Latin America to recognize Israel and it was also the first country to open its own embassy in Jerusalem. Today the majority of the 900 Jews still live in Guatemala City still struggle to maintain numbers as many of the Jews still seek ti immigrate for a better future.
Over the last few years more genealogical records of the people of Guatemala have become more accessible to researchers. As of today, FamilySearch has six databases of records from Guatemala, including Civil Registration from 1877-2008. The record shown below is the birth record of Augusta Stahl Cohen, daughter of Adolo Stahl and his wife Rosa Cohen. She was born on 28 Jun 1888 in Guatemala City.

The Stahl family were part of that first group of Jews who immigrated into Guatemala from Germany int the mid 1800's.

08 September 2014

The Jewish Community of Leadville, Colorado

The history of Leadville, Colorado can be traced to the early Gold Rush of the late 1850's. In 1859, Gold was discovered in California Gulch which started the Pikes Peak Gold Rush. In 1860, near present day Leadville the town of Oro City sprung up and by 1861 its population had grown to over 5,000 people, all trying to make their fortunes. The boom in Oro City was brief as the mining was hampered by the presence of heavy black sand.

It wasn't until 1874, however, when the gold miners from Oro City, discovered that the heavy sand that had hampered gold mining actually contained a high content of silver. They traced that sand back to its original source and found several silver lode deposits. The city of Leadville was founded near these deposits in 1877, which started the Colorado Silver Boom. By 1880, Leadville, which at an elevation of 10,152 feet is the highest incorporated city in the United States, had become one of the worlds largest silver camps, with a population of over 14,000 people.

The first Jews began arriving during the boom times of Oro City, in the early 1860's. While there may have been a few who came to mine, the majority are listed in the various census records as merchants, tailors and business owners. In fact, one of the most well known of these merchants was David May. May, who was born in Germany in 1849, arrived in Leadville in 1877, and got into business with Moses Shoenberg. He also became very involved in the Jewish community and in the City itself. He was one of the organizers of the Hebrew Benevolent Association and later was elected vice president of Temple Israel and was chairman of the building committee. He served Leadville as County Treasurer.
In 1877, he opened a new clothing store in Leadville. That first store would over time become The May Department Stores Company, which would go on to become a multi-billion dollar company. In 1880, he married Rosa Shoenberg, the sister of his business partner. They however left Leadville shortly before the turn of the century and moved to Denver. The 1900 United States Census (below), shows the couple with their three children. His occupation, listed as Clothing Manufacturer, is very understated for what he would become.

 During the summer of 1884, the synagogue in Leadville was built. That synagogue,  Temple Israel, took only two months to build and was dedicated on Rosh Hashanah on September 19th, 1884. That synagogue survives to this day, although it is mostly used as a museum reflection on the rich history of the Jewish community in this old frontier town.
In the late 1870's it became very clear that the community had a need for a burial ground. In June of 1879, Gustave Jelenko, known as Fred, died, and in early 1880, became the first to be buried in the Hebrew Cemetery. By 1880, over 100,000 square feet of land in the southwest corner of Evergreen Cemetery had been transferred to the Hebrew Benevolent Association, to become the final resting place of the Jews of Leadville.

The burial ground (above) sits in a beautiful wooded setting and the Jewish community has done a tremendous amount of work to reestablish the missing markers and preserve this beautiful place. It was truly a beautiful, peaceful place that I enjoyed visiting very much.
The information from the markers was documented and will be a part of the Knowles Collection - Jews of North America after our next update.

19 August 2014

New Zealand, Archives New Zealand Probate Records, 1848-1991

Familysearch has just published a collection of probate records held by Archives New Zealand for the time period 1848-1991. The records come from various courts throughout New Zealand. The published collection has over 2.7 million images, however the images for probates issued during the past 50 years are not available for viewing.
The collection is very easy to use as it is name search able. Searching for the name Cohen, there were 158 different probates for that name. The record below is for Siegmund Cohen, whose will was probated in 1903 in the court of Wanganui. The index information (shown below) gives all the vital information.

The original record can be found by clicking on the "View the Document" linked located in the upper right corner. The wills are very easy to read and in the case of Siegmund Cohen give a lot of good family information. The record below is page one of the will which gives the name of his wife, Mathilda,  the names of their four sons,  Maurice, Louis, Edward and Leon, and their sons.

Page two of the will also provides the names of his two daughters, Clara and Lena. This collection may not have as many Jewish families as a European collection but it does give great help to those with ancestry in the Pacific.

13 August 2014

Maine, Vital Records, 1670-1907

For those with Jewish ancestry in the State of Maine, one of the newest collections at Familysearch will be of great benefit. That collection, Maine, Vital Records, 1670-1907, contains over 1.8 million images of birth, marriage and death records from Maine. Also included in the collection is a complete name index which makes it a lot easier to search for your family.
The records in the collection come from 2 sources, the State Board of Health, Division of Vital Statistics and the State Archives. The collection is divided into three parts, Vital Records Prior to 1892, 80 towns, Vital Records, 1892-1907, and Delayed returns for births, deaths, and marriages, 1670-1891.The records themselves, are very easy to understand. The 2 examples shown below, are a birth and death.

The marriage records are slightly different, they are actually a two part document. The first part is a simple record of the marriage. The record below is for the wedding of Max Cohen, a 37 year old widower, and Rebecca Povich, a 30 year old widow. The marriage took place on 16 November 1903 in Ellsworth, Maine.

This marriage record provides very good information, however the second part of the marriage record adds even more vital information. The document below, gives the information on the parents of both the bride and groom. With that information and due to the fact most of these records are during the census years, it makes it possible to locate the families in the various United States censuses.

As with all of the collections at www.familysearch.org, these records are available for free from any computer.