30 November 2010

Hanukkah Greetings

Wishing everyone Peace and Joy this special time of year. Happy Hanukkah to all.

W. Todd Knowles

22 November 2010

The far reaching influence of the Fordon Jews part 2

As I have documented more than once in this blog, my great- great grandfather was from the small town of Fordon in Poland. As I am always looking for anything that has to do with the Jewish community there, I was quite happy to find not one, but two references to the homeland.
In the records of the Hebrew Cemetery, located at the corner of Canal and South Anthony streets in New Orleans, is found the following information taken from two headstones.

Moses Levy
Died Dec. 20, 1868
aged 30 years
Native of Fordon, Prussia
M.S. Marks
Born in Fordon, Prussia
May 6, 1799
Died Aug 27 1867
It always nice to find the names of those who could have had an influence upon your family. The search continues.

18 November 2010

The Family Abendanon

During the Inquisition many Jews fled from Spain and Portugal, and settled throughout other places in Europe especially England and the Netherlands. One such family maybe the Abendanon family. Family tradition is that they fled Spain and settled in England or the Netherlands and then settled in the Caribbean.

The earliest trace of the family is on the Isle of St. Eustatias, where Jaim Abendanon was in the early 1700's. However, because of the records being burned, the names of his parents have not been found. Following his stay in St. Eustatias, the family is found in Suriname, and from there the family tree is more defined. The family name does appear in records of England, where at Bevis Marks Synagogue in 1709, Moshe the son of Joseph Abendanon was married.

If you know anything of the parents of Jaim Abendanon, or of the family please feel free to contact this blog (knowlescollection@familysearch.org ). Your help would be greatly appreciated.

15 November 2010

Dutch influence within the Jewish communities of the Caribbean

The history of the Dutch influence in the Caribbean begins far before the largest groups of settlers arrived. Because of the strength of their naval fleet in the late 1500's, the Netherlands became a major force in global commerce throughout South America and the Caribbean as early as middle of the 1600's. Through the Dutch East and West India Companies, the Dutch extended their territories wherever they could.

Another reason for their ability to become a strong player in extending their markets was the fact that because of the war with Spain, many money people, such as bankers and traders, had moved their businesses from Antwerp to Dutch cities, such as Amsterdam and Leiden. Having such great access to capital markets enabled the Dutch to move ahead with expansion.

In the 1590's the first two ships sailed out of Amsterdam headed for the spice markets of Maluku. Both ships returned having made large profits for their owners. The success of these voyage led to the establishing of businesses to further trade through Africa, South America and the Caribbean. All of this expansion put the Dutch in direct competition with other countries, which led to all countries invading possessions of each other, trying to keep control of their interests. Many of the Caribbean locations changed hands numerous times because of this.

Generally, the Dutch were very good to the Jews who settled throughout the Caribbean, they gave them freedoms and because of this the Jews were successful.
In Suriname, where the first Jews arrived in the late 1530's, they were allowed to own their own plantations, in fact by the mid 1700's they owned one fourth of the plantations. Where once it flourished, today the population of Suriname is small, perhaps only a few hundred.

Another Dutch controlled island, Curacao, was totally accepting of the Jews as well. The Jews began arriving in the 1650's, many coming from Brazil. The Jews were so well accepted that they were the only foreigners who didn't have to leave the city at night. By the 1800's, the island was home to the largest Jewish community in all the Americas. In Curacao, the Jews became successful businessmen and because of their language skills they were in demand as interpreters, which made Curacao a major port of commerce for both Europe and the Americas. Not all communities became established as Suriname or Curacao. Places such as Aruba or St. Maarten never became as big a player in the commerce. They however did have their own communities.

The influence the Dutch had did not stop with the Caribbean, it reached far greater than that. The Jews of Curacao and the other Caribbean Islands, were amongst the first Jews into North America. A search of the early records of places such as Newport, Charleston, New Orleans and almost all pre-1850's communities, will show how these Jews helped settle the early North American communities.
In earlier posts on this blog, I have discussed 2 resources available to researchers that would be most helpful in researching Dutch Jews in the Caribbean. On 20 Oct 2010, I wrote about AKEVOTH- The Dutch Jewish Genealogical Data Base (http://www.dutchjewry.org/), which is home to the records of the Jews of Holland. Many of the early Caribbean families will be listed there. Also, on that same date I wrote of the website www.jewishphotolibrary.com which house the photos of Jono David. He is "documenting the Jewish world, one photo at a time". In his collection, he has indeed preserved much of the visual history of these communities. Both of these sites would be very helpful for those searching for Dutch Jews in the Caribbean.

The Jews of Aruba

As the Knowles Collection continues to grow, a few things are becoming very obvious. First, the family trees that are being donated from around the world continue to show how many of our families are related, and secondly, the Dutch had an incredible influence on Jewish migration, especially to pre- 1800 Caribbean countries.

Today I received a family tree that illustrates this. Within this tree the two most common surnames are Henriquez and Nassy. The majority of this tree is made up of families that eventually settled in Aruba, however neither family started there.
The Henriquez family left Holland, arrived in Curacao and eventually moved to Aruba. The Nassy family also left Holland and made there way to Curacao, however they then moved to Suriname before arriving in Aruba.

The history of Jewish life in Aruba dates to the early 1750's. At that time Moses Solomon Levie Maduro, a Sephardic Jew, received permission to move himself and his wife and six children from Curacao to Aruba. Other Jewish families followed, but never with the same amount of numbers as places like Curacao.
The modern day community received official recognition from the Dutch government on 1 Dec 1956 and opened their Synagogue, Beth Israel on 4 Nov 1962. In the 1920's a large group of Polish Jews arrived. The community may be small but now has over 250 years of history.

Gentleman's Magazine

In researching our family histories we are always looking for that wonderful new source. Sometimes, however, it is the older unused source that can provide us with the information we are seeking. One of those great unused sources is The Gentleman's Magazine.

Beginning in January of 1731, the magazine was published monthly, until 1907, when publication was ceased.
Within the volumes, one can find all sorts of information, from biographies, histories and even poetry and pictures. For those researching their family histories, the information on births, marriages and deaths is incredible. The collection of the Family History Library includes the bound volumes as well as the complete index. The indexes (FHL book # 942 B2g index)shown at right, is 75 volumes by itself. The index shown is a small part of the index for the family surname Goldsmid. Simple to use, simply look in the volume corresponding to the year and then turn to that page.

A few examples of the Goldsmid family are shown here. First in 1803 on page 788, is announced the marriage of Isaac Goldsmid to his cousin.

Further in 1846 part 2, page 84, is listed the title by which Sir Isaac Lyon Goldsmid will use in England. Finally, the issue for 1815, the deaths of 2 children of Isaac Lyon Goldsmid are listed. On page 381 we find that Daniel, the second son and George, the fourth son died at Brighton.

While this collection is available at the Family History Library it is also available online and can be searched. A very valuable tool that should be checked for any mention of English families and especially those in London.

12 November 2010

The Jews of Suriname

The history of the Jewish Community of Suriname dates back to the 1600's. Various histories state the the first Jews arrived in the late 1630's from Holland and Italy. The largest group of new arrivals actually occurs in the 1650's. These Jews for the most part were the descendants of those driven out of Spain and Portugal during the Inquisition. They settled in Brazil where they built good lives on large plantations. As the Portuguese got more power in Brazil, the Jews moved on. Eventually they arrived Suriname.

The third group of Jews arrived in 1664, under the leadership of David Nassy.

Some of the important dates for the Jews in Suriname include:

  • 17 Aug 1665 Jews were given many privileges, including freedom of religion, freedom to plant and trade. They were also given land for a synagogue and cemetery.

  • 1667 Suriname, an English colony surrenders to the Dutch fleet.
  • 1672 The first synagogue is built.

  • 1719 Portuguese Synagogue consecrated in Paramaribo.
  • 1737 The new Portuguese Synagogue was dedicated.

These are just a few dates, for an incredible history of the Jewish people of Suriname, visit the website http://www.angelfire.com/mb2/jodensavanne/. The work that has gone into this site is wonderful, and if you have family, who have lived in Suriname, it will be a great research tool.

The collection of the Family History Library includes records of the Jewish Community. These records are now being added to the Knowles Collection. Included in these records are the birth, marriage and death records of the Portuguese and German Jewish Congregations (FHL film #38837 items 4-7 and film #'s 38835, 38844 and 38845) of Suriname. were filmed almost 70 years ago, they are easy to read and understand. Most of the birth records are 3 generations, with the mother's father being given.

In addition to the website mentioned above, another great source for researching the Jews of Suriname is now available. in the book "Remnant Stones; The Jewish Cemeteries of Suriname" (FHL book #988.3 V3b), authors Aviva Ben-Ur and Rachel Frankel, have compiled the epitaphs from the headstones of the Jewish People. Any researcher will find this a great addition to their work.

09 November 2010

The Jews of Singapore.

By modern standards, the Jewish Community of Singapore is not that old. In 1819, the first Jews arrived in Singapore. They came with Sir Stamford Raffles, when he established Singapore as a trading outpost. Since the early 1820's, when the Sultan sold the land to England, the population has slowly risen.
In 1840 the first synagogue was built. The impact of people migrating into Singapore led to a new larger synagogue beginning to be built in 1875. That synagogue, Maghain Aboth Synagogue, was established in 1878 and is today the oldest Synagogue in the Far East.

The 1931 census of Singapore puts the Jewish population at 832 Jews. When World War II broke out in 1939 there were close to 1500 Jews, many of whom were interned by the Japanese. After the war many migrated to Australia, the United States and Israel. As a result the population today stands at about 1000. The majority today are of Ashkenazic descent, a big change from the original settlers who were most Sephardic from Baghdad.

Records of the Jews of Singapore, including some burial records are now being added to the Jews of Africa and the Orient database and will be available after the next update.

04 November 2010

Beth Israel Congregation, San Francisco marriage records

In searching through the microfilms of the collection of the Judah L. Magnes Museum in California, I have some wonderful records. One of the more surprising finds has been a collection of marriage certificates from Beth Israel Congregation in San Francisco (FHL film #1031330 item 3). These certificates, such as the one below, include certificates from 1882 through 1935. A large part of these are certificates from before the earthquake of 1906. The fact that they survive and are available is incredible.

Beth Israel was founded in 1860, and was the first conservative congregation west of Chicago.

These marriage records are for the most part during the census years which makes them even more valuable. The information on the certificates is usually enough to help locate other family members in the censuses. The marriage above of Solomon Honigsberger (age 37) to Esther Appel (age 22) occurs on 18 Aug 1888. A search of the 1900 census (below) finds the couple living on Santa Clara Avenue.

In addition to the bride and groom, we now also have twin sons and the brides mother, Caroline Appel, a widow born in Iowa in 1848. Using the information from this census, we can search the 1880 census for an Esther Appel born in Iowa to a mother Caroline. In the 1880 census (below) we find the family. We now know that Esther is one of at least 5 children born to Samuel and Caroline Appel. We also know that the Appel's are of German origin. We should always use the information we have to build our families as completely as possible.

These records are now being added to The Jews of Americas database and will be available after the next update.