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18 December 2017

Captain Ben L. Salomon, Congressional Medal of Honor.

At one time or another most researchers are guilty of not digging deep enough when putting together the history of an ancestor. We have spent so much time digging into their past that once we identify them we quickly move on to the next generation. Yes, we want to find the entire family but what have we left behind, what have we overlooked? has a wonderful database on there website, U.S., WWII Jewish Servicemen Cards, 1942-1947.  In doing some research in that database, I found the record of Capt. Ben I. Salomon.  The card gave the basic information, informing us that Capt. Salomon, age 30 of Los Angeles, California, the son of Bess Salomon, was killed in action on 9 July 1944. He was killed during the Battle of Saipan on the Marianas Islands.
 The information provided on this card does show that Captain Salomon was a hero who gave his life serving his country, yet there is so much more to the story.
On 1 May 2002, almost 70 years after his death, Capt. Salomon was awarded the Congressional Medal Of Honor. In the citation with the award (shown in its entirety below) his actions in protecting and saving the lifes of the wounded who were in his aid station are documented. He truly is a hero, and his actions that day should be read by all as an example of paying the ultimate sacrifice for others.
May his name always be remembered and may we always try to document the complete story.

01 December 2017

The Jews of Istanbul

The history of the Jewish community of Istanbul has traces back to the Spanish Inquisition in 1492. As the Sephardic (Spanish) Jews were forced to flee their homes in Spain in order to avoid forced conversion or even death, they needed somewhere with more safe to take their families.  They found that safety in Istanbul, where the Ottoman Sultan Beyazid II granted them refuge in the Ottoman Empire. The Sultan saw the great benefit of 
having the great knowledge, of science and business, that the Jewish community would bring with them. This support caused the Jewish population of Istanbul during the Ottoman Empire to grow to over 500,000.
Turkey also became a home for Ashkenazic Jews who were fleeing Russia during the 1800 and 1900's. As with previous leaders, Ataturk, the founder of the Republic of Turkey, also welcomed famous scientists who were under threat in Germany and Austria to the Nazi regime, to find safety in Istanbul.
That once great community of a half of a million is today just a small piece of what it was.  In the early 1940's a wealth tax was put on the people. Even though it was intended for the wealthy Turks, it had severe effects upon the Jewish population. Many people estimate that between 25-35K Jews were forced to flee the country when they became unable to pay their debts. Later the Istanbul pogrom of September 1955 against the Greek, Jewish and Armenian communities caused another 10,000 Jews to flee the country.
Today, the population is about 25,000, with most Turkish Jews living in Istanbul. Even though the numbers are smaller there are still more than 25 synagogues throughout the country. 
Ahrida Synagogue (
One of these, the Ahrida Synagogue, was built in 1453, before the Muslim conquest, and still is in use today.
For those interested in researching the Jewish family from Istanbul, one of the best ways to start is at the Sephardicgen website. Compiled by Dr. Jeffrey Malka, this site is a must for anyone researching Sephardic roots. Below is just a part of the sources he has for research in Istanbul.

17 November 2017

Solomon and Associated Families Reunion 2018 10-12 March 2018 Melbourne, Australia

  On 4 August 1817, Emanuel and Vaiben Solomon were convicted at the Durham Assizes and sentenced to seven years of transportation. On 22 December 1817, the vessel Lady Castlereagh, loaded with 300 prisoners, including the Solomon brothers, sailed out of Portsmouth, headed for Australia. They arrived in Sydney on 1 May 1818. 
In honor of the upcoming 200th Anniversary of the arrival of the Solomon family in Australia, it is now time for theSolomon Family Reunion 2018. I had the honor to attend the Great Solomon Reunion in 2012, which was held in Melbourne, Australia. It was such a delight to meet some of the nicest people I have ever met. This years reunion will also be held in Melbourne, at the Parkview Hotel Melbourne.
Melborne Synagogue
What a wonderful opportunity for the Solomon and related families worldwide to come together to honor their ancestry. In addition to reunited with old family and friends, the reunion, to be held the 10-12 of March, will include great food and 2 days of talks and presentations about the Solomon family. What a great chance to get out of the cold and snow that many places will be dealing with and head to the warmth of beautiful Melbourne.
All information about the reunion can be found at the Solomon Family Reunion 2018 website.

18 September 2017

Rosh Hashanah 2017

A beautiful sunset as seen from the steps of Yad Vashem, gives us hope for the incredible year ahead. May it be a year of peace, joy and happiness to allyour families. HAPPY ROSH HASHANAH everyone.

The Census Records of Denmark

In September of 2016, I wrote in this blog about FamilySearch adding the database of the 1911 Census of Denmark to their online collections. This database, which at the time only had about 440,000 images, showed what could happen when all interested people work together. The original images were provided by the National Archives of Denmark, the name index provided for by MyHeritage and the database hosted at no charge at
Since the time of that article, the databases containing the Census records of Denmark have continued to grow. This is a continued benefit of the joint efforts of MyHeritage, FamilySearch and the National Archives of Denmark. While a year ago the 1911 Census contained 440,000 images, today it contains over 2.7 million. The number including in the other census years are shown below.

The records themselves, while all a little different are very easy to read and understand. Even without a knowledge of the language, researchers should find good success in finding their families. I few example of the other years are shown below.

1860 Census of Denmark

1890 Census of Denmark

1916 Census of Denmark
Hopefully with the continued efforts of websites and archives working together, we will continue to see great record collections made available for researchers.

06 September 2017

Society For Crypto-Judaic Studies Annual Conference Philadelphia, PA Nov 5-7, 2017

The Society for Crypto-Judaic Studies (SCJS) founded in 1991 has become the leading society for those researching the history of Sephardic Crypto-Jews. As part of their society, they come together once a year to allow all interested parties to work together to further the studies of Crypto-Jews. This year will be their 27th conference. The 2017 Annual Conference of the Society for Crypto-Judaic Studies will take place in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on November 5-7. For more information visit

31 August 2017

The Touro Synagogue, Newport, Rhode Island

In a post in January of 2016, I talked about the Jewish history of Rhode Island. In the post I talked about the Sephardic Jews, many from the Caribbean who settled in Newport, and made it a very important place for the Jewish people.  This past week I had the honor of being able to visit the synagogue and take a tour of this beautiful historic building. The synagogue was completed in  1763, making it the oldest existing synagogue in North America. The pictures below, give a small glimpse into the historic treasure.

12 August 2017

IAJGS 2018 Warsaw, Poland 6-10 August

The 2017 IAJGS Conference was a great success and much was learned. Now its time to turn our sights ahead to the 2018 Conference to be held in Warsaw, Poland from the 6th to the 8th of August. Please make plans to join us there.

17 June 2017

Louisiana Deaths, 1850-1875, 1894-1960

The state of Louisiana has always been an important place for the Jewish people. With a major port and being a natural link to the Caribbean area, many early Jewish families in the United States can tie their own ancestry to the records of the state. Now, FamilySearch has added over 800,000 death records to its free collection.
This database, Louisiana Deaths, 1850-1875, 1894-1960, includes an index and the images of Louisiana death certificates. The records from 1850-1875 are for Jefferson parish, while the other years include the statewide records. Doing a search for the surname Cohen yields almost 700 records of death. Included in those was the name Littman Cohen who died at the age of 76 in 1876. The index is shown below;

The information includes the names of parents and spouse, as well as the place of birth and death. This is all of the information that came from the original death certificate (shown below)which is also included in the database.

This is another great source for those with family ties to Louisiana and as usual is available for free at

10 May 2017

The Jews of Burma (Myanmar)

Recently, I have had the opportunity to take another look at a most interesting family, the Battat family.  It was almost 6 years ago when I was first introduced to their history and I found it amazing. At that time I was given access to a collection of records that I called the records of the Battat Family of Iraq. This collection had histories and documents that traced the family through the lands of Persia, which is modern day Iran. Now, this same family is taking me on a journey to another area of the world, Burma.
The history of the Jews of Burma is much different than that of Iran, and it covers a much shorter time frame. The first Jew to be recorded in the records of Burma, was Solomon Gabirol, an 18th century commander in the army of King Alaungpaya, however the first group of Jews didn't start to arrive until the mid 1800's.
It was at this time that Jewish families like the Battat's, most of whom were from India and Baghdad, first started establishing communities in Burma. These groups, who were mostly merchants, established businesses dealing with cotton and rice trading, and prospered under the British rule in places such as Rangoon and Mandalay. It was during this time that the Jewish population peaked at around 2,500 people. However, this all changed in 1942.
With the Japanese invasion of Burma in 1942, the Jewish community began to leave the country. With the Japanese and the Nazi's being allies it was not a place that the Jews felt comfortable being, so most fled to India. Later those who had stayed immigrated to Israel and the United States. The family of Ezekial Moses Battat and his wife Sally, had actually left even earlier, in 1931.

The family of 10 arrived in New York on 4 November 1931 on board the SS Olympic. At the time of the Petition for Naturalization in March of 1934, the family had established their new home in San Francisco, California. The 1940 United States Census (shown below) shows the births of the children all in Burma.

The Jewish population of Burma today is probably well under 100 people, but hopefully the traditions they established will now be carried on by the descendants of those families that once flourished there.

01 May 2017

Yom HaAtzmaut (Independence Day) in Israel Happy Birthday Israel


David Ben-Gurion, who was the first prime minister of Israel, publicly read the Declaration of Independence of Israel on May 14, 1948. According to the Jewish calendar, this was the fifth day of Iyar, the eighth month of the civil year, in the year 5708. The anniversary of this date on the Jewish calendar is known as Yom Ha'atzmaut and usually falls in April or May of the Gregorian Calendar.

07 April 2017

Jewish Genealogy Society of Maryland - Join Us 23 April 2017

Sunday, April 23, 2017
Pikesville Library meeting room
1301 Reisterstown Road
Pikesville, Maryland

The Knowles Collection: What is it and How Do I Use It?

Looking forward to see you there.

04 April 2017

British Columbia Death Registrations, 1872-1986, 1992-1993

In the past this blog has written about some of the collections available at for Britsh Columbia. The databases tend to provide a lot of very valuable information for those researching their own families. Now FamilySearch has updated the British Columbia Death Registrations, 1872-1986, 1992-1993 collection. This collection now contains almost one million records.
Included are many types of death registrations, including overseas casualties, delayed death registrations, and delayed registrations of Native American deaths.  Also within this collection are a large amount of registrations of deaths of members of the Jewish community. Although there are almost one million records, most images are covered by privacy laws and cannot be shown. Hopefully as time passes the images will be added.
In an attempt to see what information can be gained from this collection I did a search for Boris Cohen, who I know died in British Columbia. Boris was born in September 1928 in Arborg, Manitoba and died on 26 February 1985 in Vancouver, British Columbia. He was buried at the Schara Tzedeck Cemetery in New Westminster, Vancouver, British Columbia.
The death records found for Boris Cohen did not disappoint. Below, is the record from this collection.
Thanks to this record we now know that Boris was the son of Morris and Rose Cohen and was the husband of Tamara Lewerton. All of this information is wonderful for those looking for more information on their ancestor.
As with all FamilySearch records, this can be searched for free from any computer. 

06 March 2017

Missouri, Reports of Separation Notices, 1941-1946

Recently, I have been looking into the records of a prominent Jewish family from the St. Louis, Missouri area. In many ways they were like so many other families who had settled in the United States looking for somewhere to raise their growing family without the restrictions of their homeland.
In the 1920 United States Census we find the family of Max and Mary Cohen and their 6 children. Max, a shoemaker and Mary his housewife were both Russian Jews, who had made their home on Carr Street in St. Louis. The record of the family is shown below.

By 1940, the family, now including 9 children had moved to a new home, at 1453 Hamilton Avenue, still in St. Louis. The children in the family were making their living by working in pharmacy's, both as Registered Pharmacists or Clerks working in the pharmacy. The 1940 United States Census lists on the family over two pages, as shown below.

The records above are nice to establish the family unit and to place them together in St. Louis, however other than names, ages and occupations they really don't tell us their individual histories. However, thanks to a database found at, we may be able to add some nice information to at least one child. That database, Missouri, Reports of Separation Notices, 1941-1946, are the records of those leaving the military after World War II. The original records are held at the Missouri State Archives in Jefferson City, Missouri.
Searching this collection, which includes almost 350,000 records, I searched for the son, Julius. In the 1920 census he is listed as being an infant, less than 1 year old, and in 1940 he is shown as being 21 years of age, which tells us he was likely born 1919 or 1920. The other clue we have is that in 1940 his occupation was listed as being a stock clerk.
Using that information, with the knowledge of name, age and occupation, searching the database identified the following record.

If there was any doubt that this Julius, who gives his date of birth as 25 Aug 1919, the clincher is that he gives his address as 1453 Hamilton Avenue, the same address as the 1940 U.S. Census. The additional history that we learn about Julius, tells an incredible story. During his service in World War II, he is listed as serving the the following battles, Normandy, North France, Rhineland and Central Europe. From this service to his new country he was awarded various medals, including an amazing 6 Bronze Stars. What an incredible example of providing service to your country and to those in other countries that you may never had met before. What a great example.
A special thanks to the Missouri State Archives for making these records available.

27 February 2017

IAJGS 2017- Orlando, Florida, Registration is Now Open

The registration for the 2017 IAJGS Conference On Jewish Genealogy is now open. All of the information can be found at the conference website

16 February 2017

Jews of Haiti

While today the Jewish community of Haiti is not large, the island has a very complex history of the Jewish people. It is believed that the first Jew to arrive in Haiti was Luis de Torres, who was travelling as an interpreter for Christopher Columbus, however the first true community was established by Dutch Jews in the early 1630's.
When the French colonized Haiti in 1633 these Dutch Jews immigrated from Brazil to work on the sugar plantations. Only 50 years later the Jews were expelled from all French Colonies, including Haiti, when the French passed the Code Noir (Black Code), which forbade the practice of any religion other than Roman Catholic. Some Jews however were able to stay in Haiti under special residence permits. The Jews who stayed were broken into two groups, Portuguese Jews from Bordeaux and Bayone, and the Jews of Curacao.  These two groups of Jews settled apart from each other, with the Portuguese Jews settling in the Southern part of the country, and the Jews from Curacao the Northern part.
Haiti was much like the rest of the Caribbean countries where there was a lot of movement of the Jews between the islands. This was because of many different reasons, but included, fleeing restrictions on religion, the Islands falling under the control of unfriendly countries and the destruction caused by storms and weather.
A great example of the movement of Jews around the Caribbean is the Moise family. Abraham Moise Sr. was born in Alsace in 1736. As a young man he left home and after a voyage over the ocean arrived on the island of San Domingo. There he made his home and established himself as a businessman. Around 1779, he traveled to the French Colony of St. Eustatia, an important center for the shipping trade. It was there that he met Sarah, who would become his wife.
Abraham and Sarah had 9 children, 7 sons and 2 daughters. Of these children the first 3 were born on the island of San Domingo. It was the 4th child, Hyam who was born in Port Au Prince, Haiti on 18 Mar 1785.
In the early 1790's there was an uprising against landowners on San Domingo, which forced the Moise family to flee with little more than the clothes on their backs. The family then made passage off of the island and made their way to Charleston, South Carolina. In Charleston, the family prospered, not only in business but also in service to their new country. The family tree is full of family who served during the Civil War, and at least one early member who served in the Revolutionary War.
In later years, the country of Haiti, came to the rescue of many families during the Holocaust. In 1937, Haiti issued visas to Jewish families trying to escape the Nazis. Today, the Jewish community numbers under 100, however their influence on the Caribbean and United States Jewish communitys is incredible, proof that very few people can make a difference, a valuable lesson for all.

07 February 2017

British Newspaper Archives, Obituaries

One of the newest collections to be updated at FamilySearch will be a great source for those searching for ancestors from the British Isles. The collection, British Newspaper Archive, Obituaries covers the 1800 - 1900 time frame. The obituaries included come from a variety of newspapers from all parts of Britain. This amazing database, which at this time includes over 237,000 images was provided to FamilySearch by the British Library in partnership with FindMyPast.
The Gluckstein family, were prominent English Jews and I used them to show how this collection works. I entered the name Gluckstein into the database and 13 results were returned.

From the list above, I selected the first entry, the obituary of Montague Gluckstein. This obituary follows his death in 1922 and was published in the The Evening Telegraph and Post. Below is the extended entry from FamilySearch.

Under the image (located on right side) this record states that in order to see the original document, the user either needs to sign in or visit a local Family History Center. It is well worth it to do so, as the full image will be seen. This obituary is shown below.

This is a very valuable resource and a special thanks goes to the British Library and to FindMyPast.

26 January 2017

International Holocaust Remembrance Day

Jewish Quarter, Amsterdam
Tomorrow, January 27, 2017, has been recognized as International Holocaust Remembrance Day. The day was designated in 2005 by the United Nations General Assembly, in hopes that all member nations would honor the memory of the over 6,000,000 European Jews murdered by the Nazis. The 27th day of January, was chosen as it was the date in 1945 when the Soviet troops liberated Auschwitz- Birkenau, the largest of the Nazi death camps.
We all have different reactions and emotions when we discuss and remember those who were killed. For some, the thoughts of a loved one, perhaps a brother or sister, or parents who never returned home, fill their hearts and minds. Many remember their older neighbors and friends, taken from homes without warning. Yet others, who may not have been as closely affected pause to remember those who they never met, yet don't want to ever forget.
 In my own situation, I was just 11 years old when I first learned that I had Jewish ancestry.
Morris David Rosenbaum
It was the discovery of my Great Great Grandfather, Morris David Rosenbaum, a Polish Jew, which started my own personal journey to find my Jewish heritage. In the last 40 or so years, I have experienced the excitement of the search, and the joy of new discoveries. Over the years, I have been very blessed, I have found the names of family members who passed long before my birth. With the help of people all over the world, I have met living relatives, and have shared with them the memories of our family. I have stood on the land where my ancestors lived and I have placed stones upon their headstones. The writings they left behind, have at times helped guide my own life and they have touched my heart.
Morris David Rosenbaum came to the United States very early, in the  1850's. After being a successful merchant in San Francisco, he finally made his way to Salt Lake City. With that early arrival, I  felt relief in knowing that he and his children were save from the death camps. However, early on in my journey I started to find the records of his  6 sisters and their families, who never left Fordon, Poland and whose own children and grandchildren were murdered. It was very emotional for me and after sometime I took a pause from those families because I didn't know how to move forward.
Hall of Names
This all changed in the summer of 2015, when I visited Israel for the first time. One afternoon I was able to visit Yad Vashem, The World Holocaust Remembrance Center. From the moment I entered the grounds, I was overcome with feelings I didn't expect to have, feelings of emptiness for the members of the family I either had not documented completely or hadn't yet discovered. At the conclusion of my visit, I was able to visit The Hall of Names, an area where the records of those who were murdered, are collected and preserved. While standing there and looking up at the photos, I soon found myself thinking of each and every member of my family who I knew had died. I also at that moment rededicated myself to find the names and records of the other family members to make sure they were never forgotten.
Berlin Marriage of Phillip Meyer and Mabel Wittowski 7 Dec 1899
Upon returning home I returned again to the records of my family, making sure I had not missed anyone. I wasn't sure I would find anyone, but I was going to try. Up until this point every record I had involved my Polish families and I kept telling myself that Salt Lake City was a long way from Europe and that somehow helped families deal with the pain. I soon made a discovery that made me realize that it was impossible not to be personally touched by the Holocaust no matter where you lived. The Rosenbaum sisters all married and a few had husbands who were part of the extended Auerbach family, another Fordon family.
Members of the Auerbach family had also settled in Salt Lake City in  the 1800's and had become very successful merchants. One, Rosa, had married Gustave Meyer and had raised 7 children in Utah. Many never left and are buried in the B'nai Israel Cemetery, in Salt Lake City. One son however, Phillip, who was a very successful architect, left Salt Lake and moved back to Berlin, where he married an Australian girl and made it their home. The search for their records forever changed me. I knew they had been murdered about 15 Oct 1943 in the Theresienstadt Camp, but the finding of the marriage record from 1899 truly showed me that everyone was affected by the Holocaust.
On the marriage record, part of which is shown above, there are a few different pieces of information  that are very noticeable. First, the marriage takes place on 7 Dec 1899 in Berlin, yet on 12 Jun 1939, the Nazi's stamped the document with their emblems, the Iron Eagle and Swastika. Second, this document which had been tarnished in 1939, included the information on the parents of the bride and groom. It was there, just a few inches from a Nazi symbol that the mother of the groom was listed as Rosa, maiden name Auerbach, of Salt Lake City. To me the Holocaust had come home. Every feeling imaginable hit me at once. I was sick, mad and determined to make sure that all family members would be found, I was not going to let these murderers get away with it. I was going to make sure that my family was never forgotten.
I have continued my search for family members who perished and have found a few. I truly feel we need to do everything possible to keep their memories alive. At my desk in the Family History Library, I have always kept a quote that reminded me what was truly important, and now it is even more so. The quote by Arthur Kurweil says;

"When the Nazis rounded us up, they took away our names and gave us numbers. We genealogists are involved in taking away the numbers and giving back the names."

I would hope, that we all can rededicate ourselves to remembering those who lost their lives, and help the stories be told. I am very thankful to all of you who have helped me and continue to do so, for without each other we have nothing.