19 October 2008

Gendisasters.com: Our Jewish ancestors

Gendisasters.com is subtitled "events that touched our ancestors' lives." It compiles information on historic disasters, events and tragic accidents our ancestors endured. We can learn about their lives and deaths, unfortunately, in some cases.

Database and records are searchable by surname. I tried a quick search for COHEN and obtained numerous references to articles detailing someone with this name as a victim (or related in some other way) to disasters involving a fire, hurricane, tornado, avalanche, train, plane, ship, mine, home accident and others. Locations were across the US, with events from the mid-1850s, 1860s, 1880s, 1900s, 1910s, 1930s, 1940s and into more contemporary times.

A recent post details a September 23, 1892 synagogue panic on Rosh Hashanah. According to the transcription by Tim Taugher, the story appeared on September 24 in the Knoxville, TN The Daily Journal, the Journal and Tribune, and the Baltimore, MD Sun.

There were four synagogues in the tenement building at 27 Ludlow St., named as Talmud Torah Ohel Itzchok, Padolski/Podolski Society, Sons of Aaron and Beit Achim Anschel. Some 2,000 men, women and children were worshipping, when the fire started in Talmud Torah as the cloth covering the bima (altar) caught fire from a burning candle, causing the ensuing panic. The Rabbi was named as WALIOZINSKI, the assistant SOLOMON and secretary KRAMER.

The article gives the first and family names, type of injury (or death), ages and addresses (in some cases). There are spelling variants - likely a result of OCR (optical character reading) processing - in the articles. Here are only the family names of the victims: FRIEDMAN/FREIDMAN, MILLKER/STILIKER, ALTMAN, BOISUK/BORSUK, COHEN, DACKOWITZ, SMILOWITZ, GREENBURG, BECKER, ROSENTHAL, BEYMA/BOYAM, PORTMANN.

In addition to the named victims, the police captain said an additional 25 individuals were taken to their homes with no report given.

Here is a portion of the transcription. Read the complete story via the link above.

Is a Jewish Synagogue in New York City.
A Rush Results in Packed Stairways and Frightful Confusion.
And More Than a Dozen Persons More or Less Seriously Injured.

NEW YORK, September 23. - There are four Jewish synagogues in the tenement house, No. 27 Ludlow street. They were all crowded this morning with devout Hebrews attending the festival services of New Year when some person in one of the places of worship raised the cry of fire. Immediately there was a panic, everybody rushing for the doors. The stairway, which is not very wide, became packed with people. They piled right on top of one another in the stairway. Some person out on the street had enough presence of mind to send out the fire alarm which brought the department to the scene. The firemen succeeded in extricating the people from the blocked stairway and found four dead and about a dozen injured.

Following are the names of injured persons at Governeuer's hospital:
Rebecca Freidman, 40 years, fractured skull.
Tillie Millker, 33 years, skull fractured and will probably die.
Julius Altman, 9 years, thigh injured.
Rachael Boisuk, 47 years, skull fractured.
Ida Cohen, fractured skull, injuries fatal.
Herman Cohen, 15 years, wrist fractured and internal injuries.
Rachel Dackowitz, skull fractured.
Annie Cohen, 58 years, widow, skull fractured, injuries fatal.
Mrs. Annie Smilowitz, several ribs broken. Simon Greenburg, 33 years, skull fractured, injuries fatal.

The alarm was caused by setting fire by a burning candle to the cloth drapery over the altar in the synagogue of Talmud Thorah, which is on the second floor front. There were four congregations, numbering nearly two thousand persons, men, women and children, worshipping. The stairway was narrow, and Mrs. Annie Smilowitz, a very short woman, fell, blocking the passage way and causing the deaths of those right behind. The four synagogues were the Padolski society, Talmud Thorah, Sons of Aaron and Betti Achin Anschef. There was also a Hebrew school in the building. ...

Historical newspapers can be valuable to all researchers. You could learn important family details that might explain a family mystery or a relative that disappeared.

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