31 December 2013


Happy New Year !
May 2014 be a wonderful time for all.
May we all have great success in finding our ancestors.

30 December 2013

Manchester, England Melting Pot of Middle Eastern and North African Jews

In the previous post on this blog it was announced that the information taken from the headstones in the Jewish section of the Southern Cemetery in Manchester, England had been added to the Knowles Collection- Jews Of The British Isles and would be updated soon. However what that information does not completely show is the incredible amount of Jewish families from areas outside the British Isles who made Manchester their home.
The areas represented include some of those with the oldest known Jewish communities in the world. Some of these were once thriving places for the Jews but now because of war and unrest the Jewish populations are not what they once were. In some cases, the clues to the families origins comes directly from the headstones, in others, a little research is needed.

EGYPT. A great example are the Jews of Egypt. The Jewish history in Egypt is one of the oldest of all communities, dating back over 2,500 years. In modern times many Jews fled to Egypt after the expulsion from Spain. The Jewish population of Egypt was over 75,000 as late as 1900.  On the headstone of Samy Sinvor (1921-2012) his birthplace is given as Cairo, Egypt. Other families in Manchester, when filling out the 1911 Census give their place of birth as Alexandria. Today, few Jews live in Egypt.

ALEPPO, SYRIA. Another old historic community, the Jews have been in Aleppo since at least the 4th century when the ancient synagogue was built. The current synagogue was originally built in the 9th century. In modern times the Jews of Aleppo were merchants who
traded throughout the world. They were known to be successful in their work. Much of this changed however in 1869 when the Suez Canal opened. This began the decline of the economic condition of the Jews. Many of the Jews began to move to Western Cities, such as Manchester.
Murad Salem (1860) and his wife Pauline (1866) were both born in Aleppo as was their oldest child Isaac. The next 2 children were born in Beirut as they made their way out of the area. In 1901 their daughter Violet became the first of their remaining 8 children to be born in the Manchester area. There are numerous families buried in Manchester who have ties to Aleppo. Names such as Abadi, Dewik and Harari are easily found, and all are prominent names from the community of Aleppo.

TUNISIA. Another ancient community, however they still had a community over 100,00 people as late as 1950. However, after Tunisia gained its independence in 1956, anti-Jewish decrees were put in place, the Jewish council was abolished and the Ancient Synagogues, cemeteries and Jewish quarters were all destroyed. During this time and in later unrest most Jews fled to Israel. Some however also
fled to cities in the west. Many settled in areas where families had settled earlier. One example of an earlier family to settle in Manchester was the family of Moise and Camille Aboud. They were both both born in Tunis as was their daughter Lucie, who was born in 1908. According to the 1911 Census of England their second child, Victoria was born in Argentina, before the family settled in Manchester.

These are but just a few of the families that have helped make the Jewish community of Manchester what it is. It truly is a place which the rich cultures of old established communities continue to thrive. In addition to these there are other families from old established beautiful areas such as Greece and Turkey. May those communities always prosper, and thanks to the people of Manchester, I am sure they will.

20 December 2013

Southern Cemetery, Manchester, England

Southern Cemetery, which is located in the Greater Manchester area is the largest cemetery in the United Kingdom and the second largest in all of Europe.  The cemetery opened in 1879 and included a Jewish section at the western corner of the cemetery. The property was original 40 hectares of land, however an additional purchase that was opened in 1926 almost doubled that amount.

The information from the headstones from the Jewish section have now been transcribed and are being added to the Knowles Collection - Jews of the British Isles. They will be available after the next update.

05 December 2013

IAJGS 2014 Salt Lake City- Call for Papers

The call for papers for the 2014 IAJGS conference to be held in Salt lake City, Utah is now open. More information can be found at http://conference.iajgs.org/2014/.

20 November 2013

Belgium Civil Registration at FamilySearch

One of the most important records for all family historians has always been the government records of Birth, Marriage and Death. These Civil Registration documents can provide very important information not only for the person of record, but also parents, siblings and spouses.
Now, FamilySearch has just updated some of the Civil Registration records for Belgium. The areas that have been updated and the years covered are;
  • Belgium, Antwerp            1609-1909
  • Belgium, Brabant             1582-1912
  • Belgium, East Flanders    1598-1906
  • Belgium, Hainaut             1600-1911
  • Belgium, Limburg            1798-1906
  • Belgium, Liege                 1621-1910
  • Belgium, Luxembourg      1608-1912
  • Belgium, Namur                1800-1912
  • Belgium, West Flanders    1582-1910
The records can provide a good amount of information. The example below is the death record of Jacob Meyer Cohen, who died on 17 August 1853. This record comes from the Belgium, East Flanders collection. The top image is the index, and the bottom image is the original record. 

The records are part of the Historical Collections at www.familysearch.org and are free to all.

19 November 2013

IAJGS 2014 Salt Lake City - A Great Hanukkah Gift

With Hanukkah  quickly approaching, now is the perfect time to give those you love a great gift. Help your family members and friends become rededicated to family and give them a trip to Salt Lake City for the 2014 International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies (IAJGS) Conference.

11 November 2013

Remembering all Veterans

On this day, as we remember all those who have served their countries in hopes that one day peace may be enjoyed everywhere, we say THANKS.

07 November 2013

Happy 350th Birthday Touro Synagogue

Much has been written on this blog about the important Jewish history of the Caribbean, both in it's influence throughout the world and in the incredible people who called it home. Another great example of this can be found in Newport, Rhode Island at the Touro Synagogue.
In the 1650's, fifteen families from Barbados became the first Jewish families in Newport. Like so many other Caribbean families they were descended from families who came from Amsterdam and London and had found new homes in places such as Suriname, Jamaica, Barbados and Curacao. They quickly formed  "Yeshuat Israel" the second oldest Jewish congregation in the United States. The congregation prospered and grew, until such time that they built what is today "America's Oldest Synagogue", the Touro Synagogue which was dedicated in 1763. On December 1st of this year, the synagogue will be re-dedicated as part of its 350th birthday celebration.
The incredible history of this treasure can be found at tourosynagogue.org


04 October 2013

The Jews of Turkey

Recently, I posted about the records of Michigan, Detroit Manifests of Arrivals at the Port of Detroit, 1906-1954, available at www.familysearch.org.  In those records, well over 400 list themselves as being Jewish and having been born in Turkey. In addition, when one searches the records of border crossings into the United States from Canada and Mexico, there are also a good amount of people who come from Turkey.
The fact that Turkey had such an influence should not be surprising, as the Jewish history of Turkey is very long. As far back as biblical times, the people of Turkey were trading partners with the Israelites. During the time of the expulsion the Sultan Bayazid II of the Ottoman Empire offered refuge to the the Sephardic Jews being driven out of Spain and Portugal,  where they would be free from persecution. In fact, over hundreds of years before the expulsion, Jews fleeing many countries found refuge in the land. Some of them included;

  • Early 1300's. Karaites from Europe.
  • 1370's. Jews expelled from Hungary.
  • 1390's. Jews expelled from France by Charles VI.
  • 1400's. Sicilian Jews who were expelled.
  • 1530's. Jews from Italy arrived
  For hundreds of year after the expulsion, the Jews of the Ottoman Empire were able to flourish, perhaps like they had never flourished before. The majority of the Jews lived in four major cities, Istanbul, Izmir, Safed and Salonica. By 1500, there were more than 1,500 Jewish households in the city of Istanbul and by the middle of the 1500's that number was more than 7500. The Jews became prominent in medicine, politics, business, arts and literature. In fact the Jews established the first printing press in the Ottoman Empire in 1493.
 The country of Turkey became an independent state in 1923, and have been able to maintain its history of neutrality and of being a refuge for those that need help. During World War II, Turkey became a safe haven for those fleeing the Nazis. Today the Jewish population of Turkey, which is over 90% Sephardic, numbers about 20-25,000. The majority are in Istanbul, but smaller communities are in places such as Izmir.
The Knowles Collection - Jews of Africa and the Orient is now beginning to add some records from Turkey. The records of Altindag Jewish Cemetery in the city of Izmir, are now being entered. These incredible records, thousands of them will soon be available.

IAJGS Jewish Genealogy Facebook page

For those wanting to keep up on the latest news with the International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies (IAJGS) take a moment and join the IAJGS Facebook page. It is the best way to keep current on all things related to Jewish Genealogy Societies.

03 October 2013

Jewish Inhabitants of Gibraltar, 1791-1792.

The Knowles Collection - Jews of Africa and the Orient database has been growing of late. In addition to cemetery records from Turkey, the additions have also come from Gibraltar. The Inhabitants of Gibraltar, 1791-1792 have now been added to the collection and will be available after the next update.
This Collection (FHL film #1729538 item 8) was filmed over 20 years ago from manuscripts in the Archive of the Government of Gibraltar. Included are almost 800 people.

24 September 2013

Happy Valley Jewish Cemetery, Hong Kong

  It seems day by day the genealogical world gets smaller and smaller. It really wasn't that long ago that in order to find the records of our ancestors we had to travel to countries worldwide hoping to view that one record that would break through a barrier. Now, through the benefit of the Internet we can bring those same records into our living rooms. A great example of this are the records of burials in the Happy Valley Jewish cemetery on the Island of Hong Kong.
The records of the cemetery do not include a lot of people, however if it is your family member that is buried there, having access to those records is priceless. Now, these records can be accessed through the FamilySearch website. In the Asia and Middle East section of the Historical Record Collection, is the China, Cemetery Records, 1820-1983. As of May of 2013, this collection had over 72,000 browse able images.
The Jewish Cemetery at Happy Valley is just one of dozens that make up the collection. The list below is just a partial list of those cemeteries.

By clicking on the link Jewish Cemetery (Happy Valley), a further list of the years covered is shown.

In the list shown, I selected the year 1958. In that year there were 8 Jewish Foreigner's Interred in the cemetery.

The place of birth is not shown but I believe the majority were born in the British Isles. Again, its not a large collection, but how many of us will ever get the chance to walk through the grounds of this burial ground of our ancestors.

11 September 2013

Italy, Mantova, Mantova, Jewish Records, 1770-1899

There continues to be some great records being made available at www.familysearch.org for those looking for their Jewish families. Over the last year or so a large number of collections containing the records from Italy have begun to appear in the Historical Collections of FamilySearch. These new databases are part of the
Italian Ancestors Community Project. It seems almost weekly new records from Italy are being added.

This past week 3 new databases were added that look to  have a lot of potential for finding Jewish families. The first database is the Italy, Mantova, Mantova, Jewish records, 1770-1899.     This collection is comprised of the birth, marriage and death records within the custody of the Archive for the Israelite Community of Mantova (Archivio della Communità Israelitica di Mantova). As of today, the collection is very small and is not name search able, however as more and more of the records are indexed the collection will be easier to use. The image below is just one page for the original records. Mantova is located in the North Central part of Italy, south of Verona.


In addition to the Jewish records of the community, 2 other databases are also being added to. While they are not Jewish collections they should be very helpful in tying together the family units. They are;
As with the Jewish records, both are new databases and are small. However, it is possible that people will be able to find their families in all three collections. While there are many doing the indexing, if you have language experience in Italian, it is very easy to get started in sharing your knowledge with others. Visit https://familysearch.org/volunteer/indexing for more information.

03 September 2013

Louisiana, New Orleans Passenger Lists, 1820-1945

One of the earliest challenges faced by most researchers looking for their Jewish ancestors is finding them as they arrived in the United States. There are many different ports where they may have landed and its not always easy to find which one to search first.
As more and more of those records become available online that search is helped.
Now, FamilySearch has begun to add the original passenger lists for the arrivals at the Port of New Orleans for the years 1820- 1945. The records for New Orleans are so nice because so many include Sephardic Jews who came into the United States from the Caribbean and South America. The collection is name search able and images are still being added The information is very good. The pages below show the arrival of Moses Cohen, who arrived on 29 Aug 1919 on board the S.S. Metapan which was sailing from the Christobal Canal Zone.

From the passenger list we are able to find that he was 32 years of age, a merchant, a citizen of Cyprus. We also learn that he was Hebrew and that his last permanent address was in Colon, Panama. His closest relative still living in that country is his brother Joseph who resides in Panama City. Records of this type are such an amazing source of great information.

24 August 2013

South Africa, Natal Province, Civil Marriages, 1845-1955

Over the last year the Knowles Collection - Jews of Africa and The Orient has added many records from South Africa.These records have included burial records, synagogue records, and a few family histories. Now www.familysearch.org has begun to add more records which are a great benefit for researchers with family in South Africa. The records of various provinces have begun to be added. Included in those records are the Civil Marriage records from 1845-1955 for the Province of Natal.

Images of the actual certificates are also included. The certificate below is for the marriage of Barney Cohen and his bride Essie Smolensky, who were married on 6 September 1936 in Durban.

As with most of the Historical Collection databases, a transcription (below) is also available, which gives the basic information from the certificate. In this case we find that the information came from FHL film #1938559.

In addition, a complete list of the South African databases can be seen by visiting the Africa page of the Historical Collections.

13 August 2013

IAJGS 2014 Salt lake City, Utah

We have just completed another great IAJGS conference, in fact Boston was one of the best ever. It will take a very long time to go through all that was learned at this incredible gathering. Many thanks to all those who made it so successful.
It is now time to start looking ahead to next year. The 2014 IAJGS International Conference on Jewish Genealogy will be held from July 27 - August 1, in Salt lake City, Utah.

18 July 2013

Knowles Collection updated

The six databases that comprise the Knowles Collection continue to grow. Because of this, all of them were updated and the new records made available for people to search for free. The growth in the collection is coming from various sources, most notably cemetery records and family histories that are being donated. The Knowles Collection now has genealogical records for over 800,000 people. The databases and the number of people included is listed below.

   The Jews of North America                                            300,192
   The Jews of Europe                                                         268,279
    The Jews of The British Isles                                          167,930
    The Jews of Africa and The Orient                                 26,428
    The Jews of South America and The Caribbean          19,724
      The Jews of The South Pacific                                         20, 897

The easiest way to search the collection is to visit the Community Trees section of FamilySearch.org. A link is provided at the top of the main page of this blog. That link will take you to the general search page for the databases posted there. That page is below.

Searching this page will search everything posted, however if you simply want to search an individual collection, click on "Advanced Search".

 The drop down box will then allow you to select an individual database.

 In the example below,  I have selected the British Isles tree and asked for all entries that have the surname Gluckstein.

 The results show 144 people with the surname Gluckstein in the British Isles.

 The record below is the results for Samuel Henry Gluckstein. The record also includes his parents, wife and children.

Thank you to all you have donated their own records or helped in anyway.

03 July 2013

Emma Lazarus and the Statue of Liberty

On the 22nd of July in 1849, Emma Lazarus was born in New York City. She was the forth of seven children of Moses Lazarus and his wife Esther Nathan. Her family were descendants of Sephardic Jews from Portugal, who had been successful in the business of refining sugar.
From a very early age, Emma studied literature and became fluent in various languages, including German, French and Italian. She became well known as a poet, and later as a novelist and playwright. In the early 1880's, Emma began to advocate for the poor Jews who were arriving in New York. She was one of the founders who helped establish the Hebrew Technical Institute, which gave those Jews arriving from Europe the chance to learn a trade and become able to support themselves. She was also well known as calling for the creation of a Jewish homeland years before others.
Emma was truly a remarkable woman in so many different ways, however it is for one poem that she most well known. In 1883, she wrote, The New Colossus. She wrote this piece and then donated it to an auction, that was raising money to build a pedestal for the Statue of Liberty. 
After writing the poem, she traveled twice to Europe, and on her return from the second trip she fell ill and 2 months later, on 19 November 1887, she died. She was buried at Beth Olom Cemetery in Brooklyn, New York. Her early death not only took away a great Jewish woman, but also deprived her of the chance to see her poem be placed on the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty. It was placed there in 1903. That poem (below) has been seen by millions of people as they arrived looking to start a new life. Her work has given so many hope, when they had nothing else.

The New Colossus

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
"Keep ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she
With silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!" 

 Emma Lazarus , 1883

Tomorrow, 4 July 2013, the Statue of Liberty is scheduled to reopen following repairs  for the damage caused by Hurricane Sandy. Her incredible words of hope will once again be an inspiration to all. May we never forget all that those new immigrants risked as they searched for a new home.

01 July 2013

Spain, Province of Córdoba, Municipal Records, 1509-1947

Many of us have been looking for years for those lost Jewish ancestors. What may have began with a simple search to find everyone with our own surname, soon becomes an obsession, controlling our time and wallets. It is why we are so fortunate to be living in a time when so many records containing the records of our families are becoming available on the Internet. A great example are the records of Spain.

Over the last few months FamilySearch has been increasing their collection of the Municipal Records of the provinces of Spain. Millions of records have been added, some date to the middle of the thirteenth century. The list below shows the records as of July 1st. Those with the camera in front also have the images attached.

The records themselves can be quite helpful for the genealogist. They can include, Civil Registration, censuses, military records, and any other miscellaneous records. The collections will continue to grow as they are published. A great example of using these records to build family ties are the records from the Province of Córdoba.
A search of this database for the information for  Juda Cohen yields three records. The first is from the 1920 census of Córdoba. The record shows:

 By clicking on the "View Image" tab, the original record can be viewed (below). It shows Juda Cohen and his wife Rafaela Caballero Prado living together with their 7 children.

The second record, the 1908 Census adds the name of Toledano to Juda's name (see below). It shows the family of he and his wife and their two oldest children.

The third record is actually a record for his wife. In the 1904 census (below), she is show as a single person.

Again, by clicking on the "view Image" icon we can see the original record. In it, Rafaela is shown as living with her mother, Antonia Prados Torres.

Interestingly, by going back to the 1908 Census, the next record, which appears at the top of the following page, shows Antonia Prados Torres, living next door.

These databases as well as those from the other countries of Europe can be found in the Continental Europe section of the Historical Record Collections, at Familysearch.org. As with many of the records at Familysearch, it is the incredible work of thousands of people indexing them, that makes it possible for all to use them. A big thanks to all who have helped. Happy hunting.