23 December 2016

Happy Hanukkah 2016

As everyone around the world makes final preparations with their families, I would like to take this opportunity to wish everyone a HAPPY HANUKKAH.

19 December 2016

South Africa, Transvaal, Probate Records from the Master of the Supreme Court, 1869-1958

For those with ancestry in South Africa,  over 1.5 million images of probate records have been added to the Historical Collections at FamilySearch.org. These records are the South Africa, Transvaal, Probate Records from the Master of The Supreme Court, 1869-1958.
Doing a search of the name Cohen yields 192 records, including that of Maurice Cohen who died at the age of 38 on 3 Mar 1901 in Kuruman, Cape Province, South Africa. Since the records have been transcribed, we are able to gain some very valuable information just from viewing  the index (shown below).

However, it is not until the original image is viewed that the full benefit of these records is shown. The record is the death notice for Maurice. In addition to the information from the index, we now also have the name of his father, Solomon Jacob, mother, Rachael, wife, Louisa,  and children, Samuel, Kate and Mabel. Also, the location of his birth in the index is stated as being Russia, but the original record expands that to being Palanga, Kurland, Russia. This truly has become a record of his entire family.

This collection is a valuable tool for those looking for family in South Africa. As with all FamilySearch records it can be viewed from home at www.familysearch.org.

14 December 2016

IAJGS 2017 The Perfect Gift

As we quickly approach the beginning of Hanukkah, many of us are wondering how we may bring our families closer together. One wonderful way to do this is to give a registration to next years International Conference on Jewish Genealogy, which will be held in Orlando, Florida from 23-28 July 2017. 
The conference blog is now up and running and gives more information. It can be found at Orlando Conference Blog.

I hope to see you all there.

02 December 2016

The Jews of Tire, Turkey

Tire, is a town in Izmir province, which is located in the western part of the Anatolian Peninsula, on the eastern side of the Aegean Sea. With its climate, location and large seaport it has long been an important city, dating back at least 5,000 years.  
The Jewish community in the area is also long established, dating back to sometime in the early 1400's when 2 Ottoman sultans invited the Jews who had been persecuted in Spain and Portugal to settle in the Ottoman cities. The community truly became a melting pot as not only did the Jews come from Spain and Portugal, but also  Greece, and in the 17th century, places such as Italy and Holland. It was in the early 1600's, when the Jewish people truly
became a community and built their first synagogue. In 1609, Rabbi Isaac HaLevi Dayan, arrived from Istanbul, becoming the first Rabbi of Izmir.

Even with the long history of this area, this post is not about that, but is about the incredible work being done to document the Jews who lived in Tire.
Under the leadership of Murat Sanus, the people of Tire will never be forgotten.  His website, www.jewsoftire.com, is a wonderful example of a project that brings family history to life.

The site is very friendly to  researchers and includes incredible amounts of information. In addition to the records we are familiar with this project includes a treasure trove of pictures documenting the families of Tire. In addition to the website, a book of the community, Jewish Citizens Lived in Tire,  has been published and they are hopefully of producing a film about Tire. I would encourage everyone to search through the databases and see what an incredible resource this is. 
Thanks to everyone involved, they will never be forgotten.

18 November 2016

Ohio, County Death Records, 1840- 2001

In past posts on this blog we have discussed some of the records from the State of Ohio which were available at FamilySearch. Those records included the Death Certificates from 1908-1953, as well as various birth and marriage records from the county level.  Now, a new database has been added which helps complete the full picture of the people of Ohio. The Ohio, County Death Records, 1840-2001 collection includes almost 1 million images taken from the county courthouses. These images also include some records that exist from the time before statewide death certificates in 1908. More information on this database can be found in the FamilySearch wiki, at the following link, Ohio County Death Records.
When first studying any database I begin with the same surname, Cohen. I do this because I can get a good indication of how complete the collection is by how many records for the Cohen name are included. In the case of this collection a search of the collection shows that 3,118 results for the name are included.  I chose the very first entry which was the death of a 3 year old boy, Max Cohen, who died on 1 November 1881.
The record associated with young Max is the Coroner's verdict which was filed with the Clerk of the Court of Common Pleas on 14 November 1881. This document came from a Coroner's Inquest which was held to examine the untimely death.
The death of the 3 year old boy is a very tragic story. From the account, given by his mother Bertha Cohen,  at the inquest we find that the family lived on the second story of a three story building in Cleveland. The third story was home to a saloon, from which every morning they threw the empty beer kegs out of the window. On this morning young Max went out to see what was causing the noise when he was hit by one of the empty kegs and killed. The first part of her statement is shown below.

While the record documents a tragic event, it is important because it comes almost 30 years before the State of Ohio began the keeping of death certificates. The records that would exist of this child are few and this is just a piece of a very small puzzle. Using the clues we have, the name and age of Max, his mothers name, Bertha, and their address we can find them in the 1880 Federal Census of Ohio. That record, shown below, further completes the puzzle.

The record tells us that at the time of the census, Max was the youngest of five children of E. and Bertha Cohen. It also shows us that at the same address lists John Lederer a saloon keeper, the same name given in the inquest.
With this information we are able to return to the Ohio, County Births, 1841 - 2003, database we mentioned earlier. There we are able to find the record of Marx Cohen the son of Elias and Bertha Cohen who was born in March of 1878 in Cleveland, Cuyahoga, Ohio. That record is shown below.

We can now follow young Max from birth to death. Even though he died young and was not able to leave a long paper trail we have enough information that we can make sure he is never forgotten. We should be supportive of all groups that make the effort needed for these records to be available for researchers to use.

03 November 2016

International Jewish Genealogy Month

Yesterday, November 1st was the beginning of International Jewish Genealogy Month sponsored by the International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies (IAJGS). This is a great opportunity for all of us to do something this month to remember our Jewish ancestors. It is a wonderful time to gather as a family to remember those who made you possible. below are a few ideas to celebrate this month.
  • Call a living relative and document what they remember. It always a shame when someone passes and we realize we delayed doing this and will never have that chance again.
  • Gather your family together and teach the younger generations about the family they may never of had the chance to meet. keep those memories alive in those you will follow you.
  • Visit a cemetery and document any of the information who find there.
  • Join a Jewish Genealogical Society. This will not only provide people who can help you with your own family research but may also give you the chance to share with other what you know. The IAGJS has a list of the societies around the world, and it can be accessed from this link, http://www.iajgs.org/blog/membership/member-societies/.
Let us all try to do something for our families this month, we never want our ancestors to be forgotten.

27 October 2016

The Early Jewish People of Oregon

The very first Jews to arrive in the Oregon Territory, Jacob Goldsmith and Lewis May, arrived in 1849, 10 years before Oregon became a state. Both men were German born Ashkenazic Jews who being merchants opened a general Store in the city of Portland. The timing of these men was perfect, as over the next few years many mining camps developed along Jackson's Creek, as miners made their way from San Francisco in search of the gold which had been discovered.
While the gold first brought miners to Oregon, they were quickly followed by Jewish merchants who established stores supplying mining equipment, food and all dry goods to the people. These merchants were able to take advantage of family connections and brought all types of materials into their stores. They also expanded their base of influence and sent other members of the community into other cities of Oregon. Places such as Albany, Eugene and The Dalles soon had Jewish communities established by these new merchants.
These first German born Jews were quickly followed by Jews from Russia, Turkey and the Isle of Rhodes. However, the greater amount of new immigrants came from the Russian empire in the 1890's. They made their homes in Portland, where the community already was established with the things they needed such as synagogues and Kosher food. The Sephardic Jews established their own synagogue in Portland in 1910 and it still exists today. The last big wave of immigrants into Oregon did not happen until the fall of the Soviet Union in the 1980's. Today, the Jewish community is established statewide with congregations in well over 30 different cities. The Jewish Population of Oregon is today somewhere over 40,000 people.
Recently, FamilySearch has added a new database which could help people search for their ancestors who were in Oregon. The collection, Oregon Deaths, 1877-1952 includes over 114,000 images containing the vital records of much of the early Jewish community. As I usually do, I performed a basic search using the surname Cohen. The results that came back showed 227 entries contained in the records. Below, is the death certificate I found by doing a search for Ruben Cohen who I knew died in 1942. It is a very standard certificate and I was also able to find the name of his father (Dave) and spouse (Sophia).

While the death certificate is exactly what we would expect to find, the collection also has a few surprises. In the search of the surname Cohen, the record of Fred Cohen was included, however not with a death date, only a birth date. That would not be the way one would usually find someone on a death index. Following the link to his name, I found that the record for him was not a death certificate, but was a Registration of Birth for him. The record (shown below) is dated 23 Jul 1946 and appears to be the record of Fred Cohen having his birth recorded almost 55 years after his birth.

The beautiful thing about this record for a genealogist is how he has documented the important information about his parents. We now know his father was George Cohen, born in Posen on 18 Feb 1840, and his mother was Mary Lewis, who was born in Abursuitz, Germany on 17 May 1854. This is wonderful information and just reinforces that no matter how much the index provides it is always a great idea to look at the original record.

04 October 2016

The Jews of Nicaragua

When compared to other countries, the Jewish community of Nicaragua is very small. The community began when Jews arrived from Eastern Europe after 1929, and the majority of them made their homes in Managua, the capital city. It was never a very large group, as the Jewish population probably never surpassed 250 members.  

In 1972, when the community was less than 50 years of age, the country was devastated by a major earthquake. Seven years later the government of Nicaragua was overthrown by the Sandinista government, who were not welcoming to Jews. In fact, they punished any Jews who remained for their support of the past government. These two events led most of the remaining Jews to flee to the United States or other Latin American countries.
In 1990, Jews began returning after the overthrow of the Sandinista, however as late as the year 2000 the population was still probably less than 50 people.
Even with such a small population and a short history, the Jews of Nicaragua deserve to have their records preserved. They should be able to document their history.  This all goes back to the great quote from Alex Haley, which states,

"In all of us there is a hunger, marrow-deep, to know who we are and where we have came from".

For this reason I am very excited to introduce a very valuable database available at FamilySearch. The collection, Nicaragua Civil Registration, 1809-2013, has been updated to now include over 2.5 million images of these wonderful records. Of course, the smaller congregation of Jews will only be a small part of this collection, however the dates cover the entire time the Jews were here.
As an example I searched for the record of a couple I knew were married in the early 1950's. Searching for the marriage of Edward Bernard Cohen and Edith Retelny in the 1950's, I entered that information into the search box. The results are shown below.

From this incredible record we were able to learn the names of both sets of parents for this wedding that took place on 22 August 1954 in Managua. In addition, by clicking on the View The Original Document link under the original, a full size image appears (partially below).

These records are a wonderful example of how if we look far enough we can find records that will help us identify our ancestors. Even though they are not a Jewish record, and in fact for a large part of the time of these records, the government was very much against the Jews, these records are still available which help document the Jewish people. Thanks to FamilySearch we can even search for them from the comfort of our own homes.

30 September 2016

Rosh Hashanah 2016 (5777) - Happy New Year

As Rosh Hashanah approaches I find myself reflecting on all that has blessed my life this year. I find myself thinking of all my friends and family and thank you for being the people you are. 
I wish you and your families a New Year full of happiness, good health and peace.

L'shana tovah tikatev ve'techatem l'alter l'chayim tovim - may you be inscribed and sealed for a good year, for a good life immediately.

13 September 2016

Home of Peace Cemetery, Los Angeles, California

 Over the last few days I had the opportunity to visit California to meet with some members of the wonderful Jewish Genealogical Society of Los Angeles. It was a great chance to renew old friendships as well as make new ones. It is at gatherings such as this, that I am reminded of why I enjoy Family History.

Our meeting was held at the Burton Sperber Jewish Community Library of Los 
Angeles, located at the American Jewish University. The library was very comfortable and inviting, which caused many of those gathered to come together in groups to talk about family. This is almost always my favorite part, learning that even though our families may come from different places at different times, their life experiences when handed down to us, make us more alike than than we would have expected. Before and after the meeting I was able to enjoy one of my other favorite family history events, visiting some local Jewish cemeteries. On this occasion the majority of my time was spent at the Home of Peace Cemetery in Los Angeles.
 The Home of Peace Cemetery was founded in 1901 when a local Jewish man, Kaspare Cohn,  donated 30 acres of land for the cemetery. Other cemeteries are nearby but I found myself drawn to this place. The reason I like to visit cemeteries is most likely the same as everyone else, to feel the incredible amount of history contained in the lives of those buried within.  The Home of Peace, while not as big as some cemeteries, has more than its share of history.
It is true that we may never know all that these people experienced in their lives, because all we sometimes have is a name, date of birth and date of death. With that little to start with, it may only be the family that can fill in the blanks. However, there are some stones that give us a little look into the lives of those buried here. It is a few of those types of stones that show a little bit of the history here.

The first stone, that of Max Davidsohn, in just a few short lines, lets you know something about the life this man led. It states,

"Beloved and Devoted Husband, Father, Grandfather and Great Grandfather, Saved Thousands of Jews From Death Camps. We Shall All Miss Him."

It may be impossible to truly know how many people today have him to thank for their lives, but words only can not possibly be enough to honor him, we should never forget him.
The second stone, also shows someone who affected many lives but in a totally different way. During a time when many needed a way to take their minds off their troubles, whatever it may be, including the concern for their families in Europe during the war, they looked to comedy and movies. 
One of the groups that filled this need were three Jewish brothers from Brooklyn, the Three Stooges. Born to parents Solomon Horwitz and his wife Jenny Goldsmith, both of Lithuanian ancestry, the Three Stooges became one of the most famous acts of the time. Eventually, Jerome (Curly) and his brother Samuel (Shemp) would change their last name to Howard and make their homes in California. Upon their deaths, both would have the Home of Peace become their final resting place. 
Their lives were much different, yet they all touched many lives. One helped people flee, and the others helped people cope. In life, they may never have known one another, yet in death they all contribute to the history and the story that remains at the Home of Peace Cemetery.
May they all be remembered.

06 September 2016

Denmark Census, 1911

One of the newest databases at FamilySearch, the 1911 Census of Denmark, shows how we all benefit when websites and archives work together. This census, which was the 13th census conducted since 1787, is now available because of the work of many. The original images of the census were provided by the National Archives of Denmark, the name index was provided by MyHeritage and they are now available for free at FamilySearch. The records are in wonderful condition and very easy to use.

The collection consists of 447,000 images which have been indexed by name, gender, marital status, relationship to head of household and birth date. In addition information such as religion and place of birth can be found on the original images from the census.
The image below, is a great example of this census. It shows Jacob Cohen, who was born on 10 Oct 1865 and his wife Olga, who was born on 10 Oct 1883. The final member of the household is son Elieser who 3 years old, having been born on 7 July 1908 in the city of Copenhagen. All 3 members of the family are listed as being Mosaiske in the column showing religion.

This collection is not only wonderful for those whose ancestry leads to Denmark, but it also gives all of us a great deal of hope that the future of genealogy will include many more examples of people working together for the good of all. A big thanks to all who came together for this collection.

01 September 2016

European Days of Jewish Culture, 4 September 2016

This Sunday, September 4, is the European Day of Jewish Culture (EDJC). Over 2 dozen countries will be celebrating. In 2016 the theme of European Days of Jewish Culture will be Jewish Languages.
A great amount of information pertaining to Jewish languages as well as some wonderful information Jewish Culture and Heritage is available at the European Association for the Preservation and Promotion of Jewish Culture and Heritage (AEPJ) website.

What a great opportunity this provides for Jews all over the world to learn a little more about our heritage. A great thanks to the European Association for the preservation and Promotion of Jewish Culture and Heritage for making this possible.

29 August 2016

The Jews of Albania

Albania is a country that has a Jewish history that may date back as many as 2000 years. There are historians that believe the first Jews in the country arrived as slaves on ships from the Roman empire. The first synagogue was built in the 5th century in the Southern port city of  Sarande.
 The history of this time is not well known, and its almost 1500 years later before we know much about this community.  
By the early 1500's, communities of Sephardic Jews had began to be established. Most of the major cities of Albania had these established communities, including Berat, Elbasan, Vlore and Durres. These Jewish families were the descendants of those Jews who were expelled from Spain and Portugal. In 1520, the city of Vlore had Albania's only Synagogue and over 600 Jewish living in the city. That synagogue was destroyed during World War I. 
Over time the Jewish population of Albania slowly declined, until 1930, at which time the national census only recorded 204 Jews. In 1937, the Jewish community was officially recognized by the government. With the rise of the Nazi's many German and Austrian Jews took refuge in Albania. Even in 1938, the Albanian embassy was perhaps the last European country to issue Visa's to the Jewish people, which caused it to become a safe haven to the Jewish people. The Jews in Albania were protected by the Muslim's who lived there. This protected even continued after the Nazi's occupied the country. Because of becoming known as a safe haven for Jews, the Jewish population had risen to over 2,000 people by the end of World War II.
When Albania became a communist county, all religion was banned from the country, which meant the Jewish community was now isolated from Jews in other countries. This was true of all religions and not just the Jews. With the fall of communism in 1991 the Jews were dealing with tough times. This was not because of anything against them, but more to do with the general economic state of the entire country. This condition led to the majority of the Jewish population emigrating to Israel, leaving only a few dozen Jews within the borders of Albania.
Today, the Jewish population is probably no more than 50, however a new synagogue was opened in Tirana in 2010.

22 August 2016

California, Napa and Butte Counties, Obituaries, 1866-1992

FamilySearch has added some obituaries for 2 counties located in Northern California. The bits are part of the collection of California, Napa and Butte Counties, Obituaries, 1866-1992. The collection as of now has just a little under 50,000 images, however the information provided is very good.
I did a search for someone I knew who should be in this collection. Sadie Cohen was the wife of Nathan Manuel Appel. Not only did I find her listed in the obituary of her husband but the information provided in the basic search  gave me many family connections.

The original clipping of the obituary is also available but I have not added it here. If your family resides in this area this could be a very valuable collection. As with all FamilySearch collections it can be searched free of charge from home.

16 August 2016

Another great conference, looking forward to next year.

Once again the IAJGS International Conference on Jewish Genealogy was a great success. With about 1000 people attending from all over the world, it was a wonderful opportunity to see old friends and to make new ones. The experience provided by researchers from all different
Seattle Pier
backgrounds provided  a wide variety of lectures and presentations. In addition, the local society, The Jewish Genealogical Society of Washington State did a wonderful job of showcasing their beautiful state.
Temple De Hirsch Sinai
As we leave Seattle with thanks to all those who shared their talents and skills with us, we also look forward to next years conference.
From the 23-28 of July in 2017, we will gather together again in Orlando, Florida for the 37th International Conference on Jewish Genealogy. Under the direction of the IAJGS and the local society, The Jewish Genealogical Society of Greater Orlando, once again we will all be rewarded for our attendance. I look forward to seeing you all there.

06 July 2016

IAJGS 2016 - Seattle, One Month to Go

Just over one month till Jewish Genealogists from around the world gather in Seattle for a great week of sharing knowledge of our Jewish ancestors. Its not to late to join us, I look forward to seeing everyone there.

10 June 2016

War of 1812 Pension Records

On 5 Nov 1796, Jacob Cohen, the son of Solomon Cohen was born in Georgetown, South Carolina.  In 1816 in Charleston he married Rachel Lopez, a native of Charleston. Jacob and Rachel had 2 children before Rachel died at the age of 39 in June of 1833.
 Later, Jacob married Sarah Barrett, who was born in 1809 in Charleston. To this marriage were born at least 4 children. Jacob Cohen died  on 13 June 1871 at the age of 75.
Early in his life Jacob enlisted and participated in the War of 1812. In an attempt to find more information about Jacob and his service I was able to search the War of 1812 Pension Application Files that are beginning to be made available from fold3.

In searching the fold3 website I was indeed able to find the War of 1812 Widow's Pension for Jacob Cohen alias John Cohen, who served as a Private in the Georgia Militia under Capt. Bullock.

The file included numerous documents, three of which provided great information as to his life. The first, shown below, is just a quick view of his service, and residence after the war. We now know that he enlisted on 22 Jan 1815 and was discharged on 23 Feb 1815. This record also provides us with the date of marriage to Sarah Barrett, as it shows that date was  22 Oct 1834.

The other 2 documents that provide  the most information are the Widow's Brief and the Summary of Proof. The first is a statement by the widow where she shares the information of why she feels she should be entitled to a pension and the second is the reply where the pension is either accepted or denied. The documents below provide her reasoning and in this case the acceptance of that claim including the record of his receiving 160 acres of land.

These records are being made available through fold3 because of the generosity of many groups. A project, the War of 1812 Pension Digitization Project, is under way to get these documents digitized so that they may all be available for the public to view. More information about how to help may be found at the Preserve the Pensions website. What a great opportunity to help preserve some wonderful records.

25 May 2016

United States Headstone Applications for U.S. Military Veterans, 1925-1949

This upcoming Monday is Memorial Day in the United States, a time when many people will visit the graves of those you have passed. As part of this families will place flags on the graves of those who served the country in the Armed Forces. This event may be the first time that the younger members of families learn about their ancestors and hopefully they will be copying the information as a foundation of their own genealogical journey.
It is very timely that FamilySearch has recently updated a database that will help provide additional information to the headstone itself. That database, United States Headstone Applications for U.S. Military Veterans, 1925-1949, includes the images, which have been indexed, of over 621,000 applications. These applications were received by the Cemetery Division of the Quartermaster General and are now held at the National Archives.
The more recent applications, such as the one below for Maurice Cohen, tend to give a little more information than the earlier ones. However, because of the years involved it is possible to search for the families in the Federal Census records. While relationships are not given, the applicant is usually a family member. That combined with the address of the applicant and the name of the cemetery may help identify them in other records.

Below is the application, dated 14 Aug 1934 for Moses Cohen who died on 19 Feb 1934. This earlier application lacks a couple of pieces of information that are on the later applications. Both give the name, date of death and cemetery where the burial will be, however the earlier application is missing the date of birth and the date of enlistment.

These records can be a great way to find out more about our ancestors who served their country and the headstones provide a nice tribute to their service. May we all take a moment and remember our loved ones and their heroic service.