22 April 2009

UK: Jewish Knowles Collection database grows

A useful database for readers tracking Jewish family history in the UK is the Knowles Collection, a free database of Jewish records focusing on the British Isles. It is also especially useful for researchers of Sephardic families (see below).

It now has some 40,000 records, built on the original 8,000-name collection organized by late historian Isobel Mordy. A retired mathematician, she used a complex code to link UK Jewish families.

Download the Knowles Gedcom at the Jewish Family History Resources Page at FamilySearch.org. I had no trouble downloading the Gedcom into my Family Tree Builder 3 (MyHeritage.com) and opening it from there.

A quick look at the names was interesting and, in addition to the Ashkenazi names, there are a very large number of Sephardic names listed with dates in the 18th-19th centuries.

Just looking at the first letter of the alphabet, I found the following Sephardic names:
ABABI, ABADY, ABADI, ABAGUIL, ABECASIS/ABECASSIS, ABENATAR, ABENDANA, ABISDID, ABOAB, ABOHBOT, ABUDACHAM, ADUTT, AFFRIAT/TT, AFLALO, AFRIGAN, AGUILAR, AILION / ALION /AYALON / AYELION / AYLION, ALBERGA, ALERES, ALETRINO, ALMOSNINO, ALOOF, ALVARENGA/ALBARENGA, ALVARES/Z, ALVARES MENDES, AMAR, ANCONA, ANDRADE, ANDRADE DA COSTA, ANGEL, ANIDJAR, ARBIB, AROBAS, ARROBAS, ASCOLI, ATTIAS, AZAR, AZEVEDO DE COHEN, AZUELOS and AZULAY.
Scroll down through the alphabetical list, and see many more Sephardic names both common and rare, with interesting name variants that may provide additional clues. One hint for your search of the Gedcom - after downloading into your software program - is to substitute B for V, V for B, A for E, E for A, etc.

Clicking on names of interest in the Family Tree Builder 3 name list on the left, brought up the nice family graphic tree on the right.
“The complexity of the code Mordy used to index her research is daunting even to the most experienced researcher,” said Todd Knowles, author and manager of the Knowles Collection and a British Reference consultant for Salt Lake City's Family History Library. It took Knowles a few years, but he ultimately managed to transcribe the records from Mordy’s work into a more easily searchable genealogy database.
The advantage of the database is that it links tens of thousands of Jewish individuals into family groups. Knowles expanded Mordy’s 8,000 names to more than 40,000, with records from more than 100 sources.

Some sources were maintained until the mid-1980s, bringing contemporary individuals into the collection, as well as other records, such as census, probate, Jewish communal/synagogue records (birth, marriage, death), biographies and more.

One new set is more than 200 Jewish marriages from Cardiff, in Wales. Some of the families tie into the work of Rabbi Malcolm Stern's First American Jewish Families which also includes families of English ancestry.

The collection can be downloaded free as a Gedcom, and viewers may add their own records by contacting Todd Knowles.

FamilySearch is a nonprofit organization sponsored by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and manages the largest collection of genealogical records worldwide.

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