30 September 2006

BOOK: Researching Latvia and Estonia

The Jewish Genealogical Society of Great Britain has a new addition to its series of guides: A Guide to Jewish Genealogy in Latvia and Estonia by Arlene Beare.

The compact, all-you-need-to-begin, 144-page guide has been updated and expanded from the original 2001 work, with new sections, databases and Web links. Readers will be prepared to tackle follow-up research.

The history section, with maps, offers a focus on where to look, while “Starting Your Research” provides the nitty-gritty on where and how to begin, archives, surnames, patrynomics and international and online resources, associations of former Latvians and Estonians, a good section on Latvian resources, and archives (including those from Lithuania and Belarus, which hold records of interest).

Latvian archives hold vital records -- military registers, census records, family lists, passport and registration books and more. The guide explains the holdings.

In addition to a list of 1891 Jewish firms in Riga (company name, type of business, owner’s name and address), both the Holocaust and Cemeteries sections hold a good overview of available data. Museums and libraries in Riga offer more relevant holdings, while the "Latvia and the Internet" section includes many Web links.

Special interest groups (SIGs) and links provide additional help, and a travel section lists recommended guides. Lists of communities and previous names, archival terms and translations are followed by a FAQ and bibliography. The Estonia section is smaller, but also holds the essentials.

Other guides in the reasonably-priced series (about $11) include genealogical resesource guides to Germany and Austria, the U.K., Lithuania, organizing your family history records, reading Hebrew inscriptions and documents and genealogical resources within the Jewish home and family.

To order, email publications@jgsgb.org.uk

29 September 2006

BOOK: The Jewish Victorian

Looking for your family's English branches and mysterious American and Down Under clues?

The Jewish Victorian: Genealogical Information from the Jewish Newspapers 1861-1870 by Doreen Berger, contains all birth, marriage and death records published in the London Jewish Chronicle and Jewish Record, including obituaries, wills, unusual deaths, murders, university degrees and other news items from the Ashkenazi and Sephardi communities.

In the pages of this book, a community lives through kidnapping, conversion, blackmail, libel and slander actions, suicides and tragic accidents, epidemics, and achievements of Jewish students at major universities, marriage grants to young couples, education, concerts, fundraisers, hiring of communal leaders and rabbis, and announcements of dancing classes for children and adults.

While intimate details of ordinary families fill its pages, there are also lengthy entries on well-known clans like Adler, Montefiore, Sassoon Rothschild and De Sola.

Berger’s first volume covered 1871-1880 and a third will cover 1881-1890.

“It is hoped that genealogists will be able to make connections to many other families,” she says. For any researcher whose families connect to the UK during these years, these volumes are invaluable.

The book also includes announcements from the Jewish Emigration Society, which assisted individuals and families moving to America and Australia.

Berger, a consummate researcher, has been unable to track down the original records from the society. She has researched the group for a book she's writing - a biography about the Rothschild ladies from Georgian England through the eve of WWII.

Among the announcements:

* To Australia, 1867-8: domestic servant Miriam Abrahams, 19; cigarmaker Lewis Abrahams, 17; and tailoress Ellen Abrahams, 15; Samuel Alexander; insurance broker F.E. Jacobs, wife; and Lewis Lyons.
* To America, 1867-8: Reuben Abrahams, wife, son; Hannah Jacobs, three children; Henry Lee; carver-gilder Isaac Martin; stickmaker Michael Massurus; cigarmaker Judah Miller, wife, two children; dealer Yael Goldsmid, 17; and Benjamin Goodman, wife, two children; cigarmaker David Jacobson, 30, wife, three children; Amelia Mendelsohn, married, four children; tailoress Julia Phillips, 24; and widow Eliza Poznaski, 30, one child, New Orleans.

* Lewis or Louis Alexander of Fleet Street was appointed the first Jewish postmaster in 1868.

* From America, Hon. J.P. Benjamin, former senator of the United States, was appointed Secretary of War in the cabinet of President Jefferson Davis of the Confederate States of America in 1861, his escape to the West Indies and the UK in 1865. He studied law in England, was admitted to the Bar, appointed Queens Counsel in Lancaster in 1869.

Ordering information: Robert Boyd Publications, 260 Colwell Drive, Witney, Oxfordshire OX28 5LW, UK. Email: boydpubs@ntlworld.com
"The Jewish Victorian: Genealogical Information from the Jewish Newspapers 1861-70;" 400 pgs; £29.95, airmail P&H £11.
"The Jewish Victorian: Genealogical Information from the Jewish Newspapers 1871-80;" 600 pages; £34.95, airmail P&H £15.

An even better tool for finding Sephardic roots

I’ve been waiting for a special book for some time.

Yesterday, I received the updated fourth edition of Sangre Judia: Espanoles de ascendencia hebrea y antisemitismo cristiano (Jewish Blood: Spaniards of Hebrew Ancestry and Christian Anti-Semitism), Flor del Viento Ediciones, Barcelona, May 2006.

For genealogists, especially those who know they have Sephardic roots and also for those who suspect Jewish roots, the new edition now offers nearly 6,000 Jewish family names found in pre-Expulsion and Inquisition records, identified by community and year. The previous edition listed about 3,000 without identifiers.

Although the book is in Spanish, it is not difficult to read if you've had some of the language in school. And, of course, the lists of names and places do not require linguistic abilities.

Well-known in Spain as an author and journalist, Pere Bonnin caused a minor revolution with his three sold-out editions of the book often known simply as Sangre Judia.

The new edition, longer by about 70 pages, also offers an appendix of 159 Jewish doctors (11-15th centuries) living in Catalan-speaking towns, prepared by deceased author Lluis Marco i Dachs, who wrote extensively on the Catalan Jews (Los Judios en Catalunya, Ediciones Destino, Barcelona, 1985), and an expanded bibliography.

Additionally, for readers who are not Jewish today, the book includes a well-written primer in its introduction to Judaism, detailed coverage of Spanish Jewish history, a history of anti-Semitism and the new anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism in Europe.

I see Pere and his wife on visits to Barcelona, and he’s provided me with copies of out-of-print books and name lists, which are now among my treasured possessions. Whether we’re sitting in the sun at an outdoor cafĂ© drinking thick hot chocolate or attending a concert, his gentle demeanor and devotion to his history and the Jewish people cuts through our multi-lingual conversations.

Pere is a Chueta of Mallorca – Jews forcibly converted 100 years before the Expulsion, never accepted by the Old Christians and discriminated against since.

He’s always asked why he wrote Sangre Judia, and he told me, “The book was painful in that it stirred up the feeling of being discriminated against for something that you did not do, but because of whom you are.”

But, he continued, it also brings great satisfaction. One reward is observing how today’s young Chuetas, unlike his, are not ashamed of their roots.

He’s received thousands of letters, e-mails and phone calls since the first edition. Readers ask how they can find more information about their names and history or how they may return to Judaism, and others are inspired to visit Israel.

Many are "touched" when they find their names or suspect they would be found there, and want to know more. Others, upset to see their names, deny any Jewish connections and, says Pere, "are angry, filled with hate, because they feel trapped by an identity they would prefer to erase."

Pere's goal is to have the book translated into English and distributed in the U.S. to reach Hispanic Americans whose ancestors were Spanish Jews.

Restoring Polish Jewish cemeteries

At this time of year we remember our ancestors and visit the cemeteries where they rest. Those whose families perished in the Holocaust often have none to visit, and many of our ancestral shtetl cemeteries are neglected or worse.

Dr. Norman L. Weinberg, executive coordinator of the Poland Jewish Cemeteries Restoration Project (PJCRP), has organized an online petition appeal to the German government to restore the Jewish cemeteries of Poland.

Weinberg recalls the invasion of Poland by Germany in 1939 and the murder of 3 million Polish Jews, and the desecration of Jewish cemeteries. Today, some 1,400 “devastated and desecrated” cemeteries exist there, along with unmarked mass graves, some in cemeteries and forests. Only a few have been restored, generally using funds from survivors and descendants of the towns.

Examples of desecration include Losice, the site of a Gestapo headquarters with a German bunker that is walled and paved with some 1,500 headstones. In Ilza’s cemetery, only fragments of headstones exist, but hundreds lie under a nearby roadway.

The cost for restoring the cemeteries including funds for perpetual care, protecting and memorializing the mass graves, is estimated at more than $200 million.

Why restore the cemeteries?

Says Weinberg, “We do this because Jews are buried in these sacred sites and we do this in memory of the six million Jews murdered in the Holocaust, including 3 million Polish Jews who had no proper burial.

“We remember them in our prayers, in Holocaust museums, memorials, books, the arts and educational programs. This is as it should be. But for the Holocaust, they and their descendants would have been caring for their cemeteries.

“Now the obligation falls to us. By saving and restoring the cemeteries, we can do for them what they cannot…one of the greatest of mitzvot, good deeds.”

Weinberg’s first cemetery project, in Ozarow in 2001, including contacting descendants, forming a Polish repair team and fund-raising. The cemetery dates back some 400 years, and has nearly 300 recovered grave markers.

During the work, two early 1700s stones were uncovered. Most others date from the 1800s. Dr. Eleanora Bergman of Warsaw’s Jewish Historical Institute suggests that this cemetery, like others in Poland, may have been built in layers as it filled, because of the limited burial space allowed Jews.

The Web site includes photographs of the town and cemetery, as well as its history.

By May of 2006, the PJCRP had been involved in 14 restorations, and has 30 more currently underway.

27 September 2006

Are you a Newburger or Neuburger?

A nice story in the Cleveland Jewish News, www.clevelandjewishnews.com popped up on my screen today:

Genealogy, memoir writing reunites family separated by the Holocaust
by John Newburger

In the 67 years since my family fled Nazi Germany, this summer was the first time I met another Newburger, a Neuburger to be precise.

I met Werner Neuburger, the second cousin I never knew I had. And I met about 50 members of my extended family - all Neuburger descendants of my grandfather's brother - from throughout the eastern U.S., at an annual gathering of the family at the New Jersey shore.

You can read the rest

Did my relative ride with "Black Jack" Pershing?

Readers’ questions are always welcome. As I look for answers, I range into history, geography and specialized subjects that are new to me. Genealogists never stop learning!

This week, Mike Corwin (Albuquerque, New Mexico) asked:

Do you have any recommendations for tracing Jewish soldiers?

My grandfather, who had 110 first and second cousins, had a first cousin who held a Congressional Medal of Honor, and also used to speak about another cousin who rode with “Black Jack” Pershing, and who also fought in China.
My father, who has since passed away, had a photograph of him at the Yangtze River that the cousin had sent to him. However, my mother has been unable to find it.
At first glance, the history matches Sam Dreben [Dribben, Drebben], but my grandfather’s version was that the cousin was a pipefitter who ran afoul of the law and joined the military instead of going to jail, while Dreben was supposedly a tailor.
I would appreciate any suggestions or references you think would be helpful.
Unfortunately, my grandfather died more than 20 years ago and none of the relatives can think of this cousin’s name although we all remember the story.

For starters, I went to www.jewish-history.com, which offers many interesting articles and links to a surprising number of resources. It has a very detailed article on Dreben (click on the Wild West section), and links to several sites with information about Jewish servicemen and women.

I searched JewishGen’s discussion group archives and found some interesting leads.

A JewishGenner in Austin, Texas came up with information about Dreben, who fought in Mexico about 80 years after the Alamo, as well as Louis “Moses” Rose (1785-1850), a French soldier who was at the Alamo in 1836 with Jim Bowie, Davie Crockett and William Barrett Travis. Rose’s story was recorded in the Texas Almanac of 1873 by William Zuber, son of Abraham Zuber, to whose ranch Rose escaped. Rose, according to Leonard, had been a lieutenant, and had received a Legion of Honor medal from Napoleon’s army. There were two others among the 182 Alamo defenders who may have been Jews; one was named Wolf.

Another Jew at the Battle of Bexar with Rose in December 1835, before the Alamo, was Moses Albert Levy, Sam Houston’s surgeon general. Levy served in the Texas volunteer army and the Navy. Born in Amsterdam, he lived in Matagorda County, and married a non-Jewish woman. His family in Richmond disowned him and allegedly he committed suicide in 1848.

The National Museum of American Jewish Military History in Washington DC, operates under the auspices of the Jewish War Veterans of the USA. According to the Web site, the museum’s archival collections contains substantial material from the Civil War to the present, including original photographs, letters, diaries, films, military documents, newspapers and manuscripts related to Jewish-American military history. It also has materials relating to the JWV (1896-present).

While there is a notice that individuals may make an appointment to conduct research, it also says that due to limited staff resources, the museum cannot undertake research requests for individuals. However, they may be able to recommend a private researcher.

As far as “Black Jack” Pershing, an entry at www.arlingtoncemetery.net relates that John Joseph Pershing was one of America’s most famous Army officers. Born in Missouri in 1860, he graduated from West Point and served in the Spanish-American War, the Philippines Insurrection, Mexican Expedition and was overall American Commander in Europe during World War I. After the war, he served as Army Chief of Staff.

In regard to the Yangtze Patrol and American Naval forces in China, there is interesting information at library.nps.navy.mil/home/bibs/yangtzeintro.htm, www.history.navy.mil/library/online/yangtze.html (Navy Department Library, Historical manuscripts and catalog), and www.geocities.com/songkhla.geo/YANGTZE.html, which offers pictures of the boats and other information.

It is possible that these sources may provide leads to crew lists, which might help in narrowing down the name of Mike's ancestor.

Once his name is known, Mike can check with the National Archives as to military records and pension records. Go to the online microfilm catalog, www.archives.gov/genealogy/military, which explains what resources are available dating from the Revolutionary War to the present, and offers a great deal of information on conducting searches.
Films may be borrowed via public library Interlibrary Loan at a public library or through a Mormon Family History Center.

Mike, please let Tracing the Tribe know if these resources have provided any answers.

And if anyone else has a lead for Mike, please post them here!

Galicia, Poland and "The Lost"

Join in a free genealogy day featuring major speakers at the Center for Jewish History, 15 W. 16th St., New York City, on Sunday, October 22, made possible by the cooperation of the CJH and the Jewish Genealogical Society (New York).

From 11.15 a.m., Gesher Galicia will hold its annual regional meeting, followed at 2 p.m. by the Jewish Genealogical Society (New York) meeting, featuring Daniel Mendelsohn, author of the critically-acclaimed The Lost: A Search for Six of Six Million, followed by a book signing.

Tracing the Tribe covered Mendelsohn's first public event on his new book at the International Conference on Jewish Genealogy. See August 14's entry, "At the ICJG: Six of the Six Million."

Gesher Galicia’s sessions will include the latest updates by research coordinator Pamela Weisberger; Peter Jassem’s “Unusual Resources in Western Galicia” and “The Revival of Jewish Culture in Poland;” and Michael Berkowicz, with details of the Museum of the History of the Polish Jews, to open in Warsaw in 2008.

Mendelsohn’s book is an odyssey of his search for six relatives who disappeared during the Holocaust. Spurred by desperate letters sent to his grandfather in 1939, he began hunting for eyewitnesses to his relatives' fates in Bolechow, Ukraine, (formerly Galicia). The quest for truth becomes an investigation into the meaning of memory, family and history, and he’ll speak on the "writer's angle" in genealogical research and emotions when moving between past and present to solve a family mystery.

For more information, see the following websites: CJH, www.cjh.org; JGSNY, www.jgsny.org; and Gesher Galicia, www.jewishgen.org/galicia.

19 September 2006

Family detectives: connections after 60 years of searching

Finding information to connect families or resolve questions frequently involves experts from several countries. This cooperation often leads to surprising connections, even after decades of searching.

Renee Stern Steinig (Dix Hills, NY) shares the story of another International Conference on Jewish Genealogy attendee who found much more than she expected.

Conference flyer in hand, 84-year-old Annette S. from Brooklyn, arrived at the registration desk on the first day. The paper indicated that attendees could connect with others with interests in the same towns.

“Is anyone at the conference from Vishnevets?” she asked Steinig.

Born in Vishnevets (in present-day Ukraine) in 1921, Annette last saw her parents and three younger siblings in 1938, when she was sent to stay with relatives in St. Louis, Missouri while she attended school. The family had hoped to join her, but that never happened. Annette knew that her family and everyone else from the town had likely perished, but she wanted to know what had happened.

In the conference's Resource Room, Annette found what she had sought for more than 60 years: Pages of Testimony at Yad Vashem were discovered for Chatzkel, Brukha, Yakov, Rakhel and Sonya Livshitz, submitted in Cyrillic by a gentile neighbor.

The volunteer translator wept as she read the pages to Annette.

Steinig shared the translation, offered by a Russian man living in Israel: “Germans gathered Jews in Vishnevets Ghetto. The house of the Livshitz family was burned. One day, the Germans killed the doctor, rabbi and few other respectable Jews and rumors reached us that all Jews will be killed. Our mother took me and my brothers away from town for two or three weeks, so as not to see their extermination.”

The neighbor, Mariya, was friends with the Livshitz daughters and remembered that their older sister Hanna (Annette) had immigrated to America before the war.

A researcher in Israel was able to phone the neighbor, who lives in Rovno, Ukraine, and Annette is planning to call her as well. She also plans to connect with other Vishnevets survivors through the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, www.ushmm.org in Washington, DC.

In addition to specific information on her family’s fate, Annette also received a 23-page Jewish history of Vishnevets from another conference attendee.

Unfortunately, Annette broke her shoulder immediately following the conference and her phone call to Rovno will have to wait until she returns home. Steinig plans to visit her after the holidays, as Annette is anxious to see her and give Steinig a gift for helping her.

The only gift Steinig wants is for Annette to call Mariya!

18 September 2006

Family detectives: Birth family located

International experts cooperate to help researchers find needed information. Several interesting cases were resolved at this year’s International Conference on Jewish Genealogy in New York. Here’s one of them.

Californian Bob P., 53, an adoptee, registered in late July for the conference after intense online searching for information on his birthmother.

He made use of JewishGen, www.jewishgen.org, and its Austria-SIG mailing list, where British researcher Celia Male’s sleuthing provided Bob with the names of his mother and her sister, born in 1920s Vienna, to parents from Galicia and Russia.

His grandmother, Blime Gross, was born in what is today Kopychintsy, Ukraine. According to American and Austrian records, his grandfather, Samson Tabacznik, was born in “Raszkow, Russia.” There are several locations with similar names, the correct one is still to be determined. The family left Austria for New York in April 1939.

Via e-mail, Renee Stern Steinig of the ICJG Conference Committee says she got to know Bob very well as they brainstormed for two weeks before the event: "By August 13, we were old friends."

At the conference, Bob took in lectures on New York City archives and libraries.
He then searched New York City marriage and death records for the unusual surname.

On the last day of the conference, Bob searched death indexes at the New York Public Library’s www.nypl.org Milstein Division of U.S. History, Local History & Genealogy, and discovered his mother had died at 45 in 1969.

Determined to examine every marriage license from every borough for an eight-year period, Bob found his aunt’s 1949 marriage in the New York Municipal Archive microfilms for 1944-1951. He walked across the street to the City Clerk's office and obtained the actual duplicate certificate with her married name.

He was soon on the phone with his aunt, 81, and his first cousins. He's been welcomed back to the family “with great warmth and joy,” reports Steinig, as they share photographs and stories of the mother he never knew.

Last weekend, he visited his newfound Aunt Jean and Uncle Morris in Florida, and on the second day of Rosh Hashanah, he’ll visit his mother’s grave at New Montefiore Cemetery on Long Island, NY, with a new first cousin.

In anticipation, Steinig visited the grave to check on its condition and trimmed the weeds with her garden tools – essential tools in many genealogists' backpacks. "It was sad to see her footstone, marked 'beloved daughter and sister.' "

Jewish genealogy's experts, networking and increasingly accessible resources mean that such connections are not only possible, but occur with greater frequency.

17 September 2006

For Fun: Swashbuckling Sephardic Pirates

Are you related to Samuel Pallache, Moses Cohen Henriques or Jean Lafitte?

If so, you now have something infinitely more romantic to research.

The article "Ahoy mateys! Thar be Jewish pirates!" by Adam Wills was in the September 9 Jewish Journal of Los Angeles.

He wrote about a book, as yet untitled, on Ladino-speaking Sephardic Jewish pirates who came to the New World after the Expulsion. The author is Ed Kritzler, and it will be out in spring 2007 (Doubleday).

Sounds like a great Pesach gift!

If this catches on, we'll soon need a Pirate SIG to join the already established special interest groups on JewishGen, Rabbinics, Belarus, Litvak, Latvia, Sefard and the others. The 27th IAJGS International Conference on Jewish Genealogy program committee should consider lining up Kritzler now for the July event in Salt Lake City. And pirate costumes for Purim will also be on the horizon.

The Genealogue -- the funniest genealogy blog around -- also has a take on it, "Oy Vey ... I mean ARRRGH!" genealogue.blogspot.com/2006/09/oy-vay-i-mean-arrrgh.html

Chris Dunham's The Genealogue is for you if you like your genealogy rib-tickling and mostly irreverent. When you're in need of a light-hearted look at our sometimes obsessive activity, read through his old and new postings, print them out, hang them on your walls. When a particularly sticky research problem has you gnashing your teeth, read a few of Dunham's postings.

And, if you're up for still more swash-buckling, check out International Talk Like a Pirate Day (September 19),

15 September 2006

At the IIJG: Genealogy and the humanities

“Every Jew is a historian and every Jew is a professional genealogist,” said Professor Israel Bartal of Hebrew University, in an often humorous session on genealogy’s relation to the humanities.

Every Jew, he said, is concerned with yichus (pedigree): “My mother used to say we are descendants of the Baal Shem Tov, and it took me 30 years to convince myself that we have no connection to the BESHT.” Bartal's research turned up a man in the same town who was called the second BESHT, and Bartal realized the latter was the ancestor his mother had meant.

For historians, he says, family histories can lead to problems with accuracy, since these family stories are often presented as history, but are actually meises (stories), not like historians’ “real” history.

Bartal’s Galician-born father boasted that he was Austrian, Polish, Ukrainian, Soviet and Israeli. Because borders shift throughout history, these contradictory-sounding claims could all be true. Family histories include rumors, legends and stories, and they often contain wrong dates, chronology and geography.

Bartal also said:

* All family genealogies are suspect and to be doubted until proven, such as claiming a family is related to the Vilna Gaon.

* History deals with change – not how things were but how things move from point to point with shift and movement. “Without change, there is no history.”

* When comparing phenomenons, historians look for patterns and try to compare those events. “A shtetl, cemtery, city, group, town is needed for comparison.”

* Most of the world's Jews today live in 10 cities; seven centuries ago, they lived in small or mid-sized locations. In 1897, Odessa was the largest Jewish town and most families there were the second and third generations in that city, and many had Belarus origins.

* Eastern European mass migration was preceded by a large internal migration within the Russian Empire. Genealogical sources indicate information on Jewish soldiers, plagues and epidemics. In 1831 and 1865, cholera killed thousands of Jews. Relevant resources might be Jewish hospital archives and name lists, while one research question might be how the epidemics influenced Jewish demography, while comparing this to non-Jewish demography.

At the IIJG: Ashkenazi Research

At the IIJG, well-known historian Dr. Ladislau Gyemant of Cluj, Romania gave a talk about Ashkenazi research priorities, and was just the latest of the speakers at the event to demonstrate the overlap of Ashkenazi and Sephardic research, as many so-called Ashkenazi geographical areas had Sephardic communities.

He indicated that a successful family history project includes three conditions: General and local history, knowledge of area registration systems and preservation and access to records. Important fields are demographic and immigration aspects, institutional structure of communities and status of the inhabitants.

During the first centuries of the second millenium, Eastern European populations expanded because of expulsions elsewhere, said Gyemant. All these countries had flourishing Jewish life from the mid-17th century to the early 18th century. Geographically, the area underwent political changes.

To do genealogical research, said Gyemant, researchers must understand history and migration, need to know what records are where, how to access them, and which community leaders were responsible for record-keeping.

From the late 18th century, he said, records are available for communities and individuals, including army, census and vital registers. For each town in Romania, for example, there are vital records for all inhabitants from 1865 (in other places, late 1700s, but for more contemporary records, 100-year privacy rules apply.

Among Gyemant's suggestions:

* Index Romanian archive resources.

* Inventory/index/publish official statistical records, census, etc. and begin to publish.

* Ashkenazi and Sephardic cemetery data is now available. Locations are known, but they must be organized by country and inscriptions deciphered.

* Inventory/index/publish school records, registers, Jewish soldiers’ names of wounded, decorated or who died.

Some communities, said Gyemant, had Ashkenazi and Sephardic groups, with respective institutions and organizations. One community has preserved registers in Ladino, Yiddish, Hebrew, German, Hungarian and Latin.

He added that Bucharest was first a Sephardic settlement, although today Sephardim are the minority, and that Southern Romania had a strong Sephardic community in the 18th century. In one town there were 116 Sephardic families and only 12 Ashkenazi families; today the majority are Ashkenazi.

At the IIJG: Sephardic research

About 25 years ago, if you came from Eastern Europe, you were told you can't do any research, said Sephardic genealogy pioneer Dr. Jeffrey S. Malka. "Sephardic genealogy is in the same place now."

The potential today is better than ever, he said, with more accessible archives in many countries, although Spanish and Turkish Ottoman Empire archives are still underutilized.

Not so long ago, says Malka, Sephardim were a majority in European Jewry. "In the Roman Empire, they were 25% of the Eastern Mediterranean population, and 20% of the entire Roman Empire population, about 8 million Jews worldwide. As late as the 12th century, Sephardim were 90% of world Jewry. When Toledo and Granada had 12,000 Jews each, the two largest German communities counted only 700 and 1,500 individuals."

As Sephardim suffered from conversions, persecutions, exiles and dispersion, their numbers fell to 50% of the world Jewish population by the 1700s.

“It is not a stretch to see that if Ashkenazim could trace their roots, they would find Sephardim,” Malka stressed. “This has already been discovered in rabbinic genealogy.”

Spanish archives hold approximately 3,000 notarial records per year per town, with Jews clearly identified, he said. The records aren’t hard to read once researchers become familiar with the handwriting, but they must understand historic spelling, naming conventions and languages.

Using his own family research as an example, he said that Malka in Hebrew is queen, but the Malka in his last name is Aramaic (spelled with an aleph) and means king. He traced the 1482 sale of a house in Toledo, in which all records referred to a single individual with many name variations: Aben Malka, Aben Maleque, Abenmaleq, Abenmalek, Aben Rey. Malka is Aramaic, Maleque/Maleq is Arabic and Rey is Castillian. All mean “son of Malek.”

Researchers should identify the original names of Conversos in various communities. Some are currently available in books on Barcelona, Mallorca and other places.

For other countries:

* Italy: Largely unstudied, although Nardo Bonomi of Florence is now working on archiving Jewish records.

* Egypt: Records remain inaccessible, with permission refused by elderly leaders. “It is imperative that backup copies be preserved,” Malka said. “In the past, fire destroyed a portion, and mice are eating the rest.” A very small portion of the records are at Yeshiva University. Stones from Cairo’s oldest cemetery have been used in construction.

* Curacao: Cemetery inscriptions were fortunately published long ago. Today, because of erosion, many are illegible, and the only source is the original research.

In many countries, village cemeteries are ignored and should be documented. Some have been documented by academics who refuse to share their work.

Most research is done by amateurs, said Malka, adding that they should be assisted through development of Sephardic genealogy tools, linguistics, methodology, record-keeping and documentation of sources

Researchers require knowledge of Hebrew, Arabic, Ladino, Spanish, and the ability to read Sephardic scripts. Malka also suggested that Israeli schools might teach the unusual scripts to develop a field of fluent Hebrew speakers who can read ancient records.

Malka’s recommendations: Elderly Sephardim should be interviewed; cemeteries should be photographed and documented; at-risk records should be copied; archives in Spain and Italy should be catalogued; name variants, geographic prevalence and sources should be developed; a Sephardic Jewish genealogical curriculum and access tools should be created; and support is needed for Mizrahi genealogy (Oriental Jews of Syria, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, etc.).

Resources: Looking for relatives?

Two newspaper archives will help you find details on relatives known and suspected: www.newspaperarchives.com (fee-based) and a new Google service: www.news.google.com/archivesearch.

The Google service returns results from newspapers and other sources, such as World War I Registrations (Ancestry.com), and results from newspaperarchives.com, which cannot be searched directly until you sign up with that Web site.

How can it help you?

With the new Google feature, I found not only myriad Tollin, Talalay, Talalaj, Talalai individuals, but in addition to the previously known WWI registrations, I learned about a relative who got a speeding ticket in 1958, obits containing brand-new details on spouses and families, court cases, patents, social notes, awards and much more.

On the Dardashti side, I not only found a long list of my past articles, but the information that our architect cousin John in California had won a cooking contest in 1974 for his Persian chicken and much more.

You can choose "all dates" or search by specific decades.

With the 219 results for Talalay and 318 for Dardashti on newspaperarchives.com, however, I couldn't access them until I signed up. As far as I can determine, the Google search showed all of that site's relevant listings.

Using Google, the newspaperarchives.com results will show in a new window. It takes a bit of time as all the text on the page must be scrolled through, but at least the name and the context can be seen.

Some earlier papers on Google show numerous OCR scanning errors in the search results -- so many that some entries look like a foreign language. However, the name being searched is in bold; you can click on the search and look in the text box. Just wear your thinking cap to decipher what it really says.

Well worth a search. Happy hunting!

And thanks to Dick Eastman who provided the Google link!

14 September 2006

At the IIJG: What's in a name?

Author Alexander Beider’s presentation on Jewish onomastics (the study of names), was introduced by Professor Aaron Demsky, Jewish Name Project director at Bar Ilan University, who underlined the importance of names in the Jewish people’s tribal framework, proving our identity and our place in the tribe.

Beider has authored a series of Avotaynu www.avotaynu.com books on Jewish surnames of the Russian Empire, Poland, Galicia, Ashkenazi given names and more, now standard Jewish genealogy reference.

He spoke on Jewish names and their relation to history (migrations, relations with non-Jews, languages, etc.), sociology, genealogy and linguistics (phonetics, morphology, semantics, etymology), and suggested future research projects:

* Ashkenazi names in the Hapsburg Empire, such as Czech lands (Bohemia and Moravia), Austria, Hungary, Slovakia, Translyvania and Transcarpathian Ruthenia, since name adoption in 1787.
* Hungarian surnames since the mid-19th century.
* Alsace-Lorraine archival data for 19th century name lists.
* Romania, following immigration from Galicia and local surnames.

However, he said, the most important will be a comprehensive list of Sephardic and Oriental names to include Arabic literature, medieval Spain and Portugal sources, Ottoman Empire and Italian sources. Linguistic analysis will include phonetics, morphology of diminutive forms and patterns, and cover historical periods, countries and languages.

Beider compared six major Sephardic onomastics books indicating their conflicting information:

* Adda: Considered an Arabic male given name, an Arabic word meaning custom, an Arabic female given name and a place name.

* Azulay: Considered a Berber place name in Algeria, a Berber dialectal word meaning good, and Spanish azul=blue.

Crucial problems, said Beider, include where and when the names were first used (Iberian Peninsula, Ottoman Empire, Converso communities in Europe, North Africa). Are they toponymics, patronymics, matronymics, occupations, Iberian suffixes or common nouns?

The only fault in his comprehensive list of sources was lack of Persian literature and the rich material in Judeo-Persian sources.

11 September 2006

At the IIJG: In the archives

Monday at the symposium began with a discussion of archival priorities, including acquisition and accessibility, by Central Archives of the History of the Jewish People director Hadassah Assouline, and Jean-Claude Kuperminc, director of the Alliance Israelite Universelle Library.

While Assouline and Kuperminc were to discuss Ashkenazi and Sephardic records respectively, it was apparent that there was much overlap, with Assouline stating that CAJHP is the history of one people, not to be divided.

Seemingly Ashkenazi repositories hold records from both communities. In the Lviv archives, there is material on the Belgrad Sephardic community, while there are Sephardic materials in Russian archives.

Assouline mentioned some of the fascinating CAHJP archival holdings:

* Partial list of ledgers of the Jewish Colonialization Association in Argentina, began by Baron Hirsch in the 1890s, which could help descendants to trace back to Europe.
* A list of Vilna Jewish residents who paid taxes in the 1790s, indicating patrynomics, occupations and amount paid.
* A register of the Alexandria, Egypt rabbinical court, shows the betrothal of a couple from Galicia, whose names are written in Ashkenazi script while the record itself is in Sephardic script.
* The Zionist Archives gave a list of 1919 pogrom victims to the CAHJP. From a small town near Bobruisk, Belarus, the list of wounded and murdered gives names, ages and occupations.
* A survey of documents from books and Polish court registers revealed the Lvov District, Chortkov, court records listing plague victims in 1770.
* The property inventory list of a noble family -- owners of the town of Shklov -- list a synagogue, Jewish names and more. These are very early records from 1668.
* A 1913 file contains correspondence of Austrian Jewish organizations with other communities, such as a list of taxpayers in Irkutsk, Siberia.

Assouline’s priorities are acquiring new resources and making the archive accessible by deeper indexing and computerization.

Kuperminc’s efforts have been focused on modernizing records of a wide range of mainly Sephardic countries. Although not a genealogy specialist, he focuses on issues of Sephardic archives for genealogy research, proposes clues and priorities to solve questions.

In 1992, the commemmoration of the Expulsion created new interest. Sephardic studies are taught in universities along with Ladino, while several Sephardic onomastics books have been published. Sephardic genealogy now has to be taken seriously, Kuperminc added.

AIU holds 19th century records for the Ottoman Empire, North African and Middle Eastern. Kuperminc added that the AIU website, www.aiu.org, offers access to some databases.
The AIU covers a great range of geography -- Balkans, North Africa, Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, France.

Resources include lists of subscribers, schools and material received from Moscow which was stolen by the Nazis and then captured by the Russians.

Kuperminc also wants to see a Sephardic equivalent to the ground-breaking Jewish atlas WOWW (Where Once We Walked, Avotaynu), which focuses on Russian Empire geography.

At the IIJG: A forest of family trees

Genealogy leaders from several countries gathered Sunday night in the intimate atmosphere of Hebrew University’s Beit Belgia. Although many had recently attended the recent New York conference, this event was ground-breaking.

Some 80 guests attended the opening of the International Institute for Jewish Genealogy's symposium on "Jewish Genealogy: Research and Teaching Priorities." The conference would, as Gary Mokotoff of Avotaynu commented, be remembered as the day genealogy emerged from a hobby to an academic pursuit.

Israel’s President Moshe Katsav sent a message commenting that despite exiles, deportations and persecutions, the Jewish people had preserved their heritage. He wrote that research into family roots emphasizes and supports Jewish continuity.

Douglas E. Goldman of San Francisco spoke about his initial connection to genealogy, at the age of 12 or 13, when he interviewed his three living grandparents. “I felt that this was an important thing to do,” he said.

Institute director Neville Lamdan said that, beyond the immediate horizon of deciding how to teach genealogy, the greater challenge is gaining recognition of Jewish genealogy as a distinct field in Jewish studies, and as an equal academic partner rather than as a mere hobby popular with the masses.

Although there are more than 60 universities with strong Jewish studies programs, not one teaches genealogy. Lamdan said it must be made a field of inquiry that contributes to Jewish learning in general and to the continuity of the Jewish people.

While Jewish history is the focus of Jewish studies, it is not the only discipline, added Lamdan. “We look at Jewish history through the prism of genealogy at the human and intimate level, extend Jewish family history to communities, then to the realm of Jewish social history.”

Contemporary historians study ordinary men and women who lived through history and survived, developing a subculture while preserving personal lineages and family histories.

Genealogy links to oral history, economic history, intellectual history, even to military history. Its connections are not only to social disciplines or humanities, but also to exact and medical sciences. Multi-disciplinary, inter-disciplinary and cross-cultural, it provides, for example, comparisons between Ashkenazi and Sephardic research, Jewish and non-Jewish communities in the same geographical area.

08 September 2006

On the horizon: Higher education for Jewish genealogy

An invitation-only symposium organized by the International Institute of Jewish Genealogy www.iijg.org will take place September 10-12 in Jerusalem.

"Jewish Genealogy: Research and Teaching Priorities" is being held jointly with the Centre for Migration and Genealogy, Isaac and Jessie Kaplan Centre for Jewish Studies and Research, University of Cape Town, South Africa.

The institute’s goal is to is to take genealogy beyond the leisure or hobby category and create a higher education curriculum for Jewish genealogy.

In particular, the symposium will investigate elements of university courses, and necessary tools and technology required to teach Jewish genealogy classes. This will add to resources developed over the past two decades, such as the increasingly frequent publications of reference and history books, yizkor book translations, online databases and DNA studies.

The event will bring together international genealogy leaders to develop goals for the next few years and create a list of research topics.

Officers of the three Jewish genealogy societies in Israel and other experts have been invited.
I will be attending and reporting from the seminar, so stay tuned for interesting developments.

Participants include:
  • Haifa University, Professor Gur Alroey
  • Central Archives for the History of the Jewish People, director Hadassah Assouline
  • Hebrew University, Professor Israel Bartal
  • Author Alexander Beider
  • Hebrew University, Avraham Hartman Institute of Contemporary Jewry chairman Sergio DellaPergola
  • Bar Ilan University, Project for the Study of Jewish Names coordinator, Professor Aaron Demsky
  • Jewish National University Library, deputy director Rosalind Duke
  • Douglas E. Goldman Genealogy Center at Beth Hatefutsoth, founder Douglas E. Goldman
  • Moshe Carmilly Institute, director Ladislau Gyemant (Babes-Bolyai University, Cluj, Romania)
  • Board for Certification of Genealogist and teacher at Samford Institute of Genealogy and Historical Research Thomas Jones
  • JewishGen managing director Susan E. King
  • Alliance Israelite Universelle Library, director Jean-Claude Kuperminc
  • IIJG director Neville Lamdan
  • Hebrew University, History Professor Dov Levin
  • Sephardic researcher/author Dr. Jeffrey Malka
  • IAJGS past president/genealogist/publisher Gary Mokotoff
  • Technology expert/researcher Dr. Stephen P. Morse
  • IIJG president Sallyann Sack
  • University of Cape Town (South Africa), Department of Hebrew and Jewish Studies head Milton Shain
  • Rabbinic genealogy expert Rabbi Shlomo Englard
  • Technion Faculty of Medicine, Nephrology and Molecular Medicine director Dr. Karl Skorecki
  • Israel Genealogical Society past president Jean-Pierre Stroweis
  • Sephardic genealogist/author Matilde Tagger
  • Weizmann Institute of Science, Department of Materials and Interfaces, Livio Norzi Chair Professor H. Daniel Wagner
  • Hebrew University, retired senior librarian/Galician Jewry expert Rabbi Meir Wunder
  • Open University of Israel, Center for Technology in Distance Education, director Yoav Yair

Race against time: Millions still unidentified

Since 1955, Yad Vashem www.yadvashem.org has worked to preserve the memory of six million Jews who perished.

It now needs volunteers to help collect Pages of Testimony to increase the Shoah Victims Database, which currently identifies some 3 million of the Jewish Shoah victims. An international campaign is aimed at recovering as many names of additional Holocaust victims as possible before the generation that remembers best is lost.

International Jewish communities, organizations and Jewish genealogists are being asked to lend their expertise to the historic project, encourage friends and family members to join in and add names to the database.

Yad Vashem believes that by cooperating and spreading the word, many missing names can be recovered. It is also cooperating in research projects to reconstruct pre-war Eastern European Jewish communities.

Volunteers will be working through synagogues, Holocaust centers, Jewish community centers, Jewish student organizations, senior centers, social service agencies, schools, camps, next generation groups, etc. Resource materials are available to assist volunteers; see the Community Outreach Guide, www.yadvashemorg/names/whyCollect.htm

To volunteer, send contact information to names.outreach@yadvashem.org.il (subject heading: Names Volunteer), which will reach outreach manager Cynthia Wroclawski of the Shoah Victims’ Names Recovery Project.

Was Zayde a Mormon? Removing names from the IGI

Readers have asked how to remove names they feel were inappropriately entered into the International Genealogical Index (IGI). The method is contained in an informative JewishGen InfoFile, www.jewishgen.org/InfoFiles/ldsagree.html, written by genealogist Bernard Kouchel.

The specific mechanism to request removal of names, along with additional information on searching the IGI, is at www.jewishgen.org/InfoFiles/ldsagree.html#A.

Kouchel writes:

If you feel a special connection to those who have gone before you and an increased responsibility to those who will follow, you will insist on removal of their names from the baptismal lists.

We were informed that requests for removal of your family's names from the IGI may be honored, and a confirmation notice may be sent if requested.

Removed names may reappear at a later date, so recheck the IGI periodically. Some say that the Ordinance Index contains historical records of Church activity and those recorded names will never be removed.

E-mail specific requests for IGI name removal to help@productsupport.familysearch.org.

LDS recommends that you submit the following information, if known:

The individual's name
The individual's birth date and place
The individual's parents' names
The individual's spouse's name
Your name, address, and daytime phone number
Your relationship to the mentioned individual
The reason you think the individual should be removed

Alternate address:
Family and Church History Department
Attention: Family History Support, IGI Corrections
50 East North Temple Street,
Salt Lake City, UT 84150-3460