20 August 2006

At the ICJG: Talking Turkey

Among numerous Sephardic topics at the ICJG was Leon Taranto's session on genealogical resources for Jews of the Ottoman Empire and modern Turkey.

The community's growth was directly linked to the 1492 expulsion from Spain, and an invitation for the refugees to settle in Turkey. This led to a large Sephardic influx, joining the small Ashkenazic community that had settled in Istanbul in the 14th century following Eastern European expulsions.

The online Istanbul Jewish genealogy project has been spearheaded by Daniel Kazez, a cellist and music professor at Wittenberg University in Ohio. He has been assisted by volunteers in Turkey and elsewhere and seeks additional helpers for the ongoing project.

Currently searchable online are 35,000 marriage records and 30,000 burial records, issued by the Turkish Chief Rabbinate since 1886, the Ashkenazic community since 1923 and the Italian congregation since 1870. The Ashkenazic records (1923-2003) add the mother’s name. More than 30,000 different surnames are represented.

Work has also been done on Izmir, which was home to 35,000 Jews. Online records include 6,000 burials from 1934.

Taranto noted that archival records are often written in solitreo, a particularly difficult form of handwriting that only a few experts can read. Saul Biton of the Atlanta Sephardic Congregation has created a transcription chart that seems somewhat helpful.

More resources worth a look

Sources for Izmir data include Avraham Galante’s nine-volume work, now being indexed by Matilde Tagger of Jerusalem. The Central Archives for the History of the Jewish People (CAHJP) in Jerusalem holds Izmir records from 1760-1970, including wedding dowry registers. Professor Dov Cohen has extracted a list of 7,300 names of brides and grooms.

ETSI, a Sephardic genealogical journal printed in France, provides English summaries of its articles, which include coverage of consulate and notarial records, dowry records and diaspora colonies. Click for more about ETSI.

The newly published Guidebook to Sephardic and Oriental Sources in Israel, by Tagger and Yitzhak Kerem (Avotaynu, 2006) offers a wealth of information, www.avotaynu.com, and for more, see Dr. Jeffrey Malka’s website, www.orthohelp.com/geneal/sefardim.htm

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