16 April 2009

Philly 2009: Philadelphia Resource Guide

Did your immigrant ancestors settle in Philadelphia, South Jersey or Delaware? Do you know where to find more information about them? Do you know where to look and what is available?

If this is your geographical interest, this new resource should be required reading. It may just hold the key to your research questions.

The Jewish Genealogical Society of Greater Philadelphia has created an extensive 142-page essential guide - "The Philadelphia Area Jewish Genealogical Resource Directory" - to the area's Jewish and genealogical resources.

It will also be useful for attendees of the upcoming 29th IAJGS International Conference on Jewish Genealogy, which will run from Sunday-Friday, August 2-7, in Philadelphia. The conference itself will feature programs and tours of relevance to researchers of southern New Jersey, eastern Pennsylvania and Delaware.

The resource guide is available now through the Philly 2009 conference site - under "Research Opportunities - or a direct link here. The conference site provides all details on the event's rich program, conference and hotel registration and more.

Project coordinator Dr. Steve Schecter and a large volunteer committee have demonstrated their insider knowledge of area resources to compile the directory, which begins with a five-page Jewish Encyclopedia (1901-1906) overview of Philadelphia Jewish history from its earliest days.

Each resource entry includes fields for resource name, address, phone number, key staff, website, email, hours, fees, accessibility, public transportation, driving directions, Jewish interest holdings and research advice, as well as tips and advice for those planning to visit the area's Jewish cemeteries. There are extensive details on Jewish collections at various museums and libraries, including publications, periodicals and photographs.

Other major sections include heritage landmarks, Philadelphia area Jewish cemeteries, area non-sectarian cemeteries with few Jewish burials, area inactive Jewish cemeteries, active/inactive Jewish funeral directors, active/inactive synagogues, private sector sites, governmental sites and state historical societies.

For Southern New Jersey, it lists cemeteries, Jewish funeral directors, synagogues, private sector and governmental sites. Delaware sites of relevance are noted, as well as out-of-state Jewish and general archives, historical societies and archives.

Several cemeteries list the names of societies and organizations whose members are buried in those locations. As just one example, the Har Jehuda and Har Nebo cemeteries list some 300 landsmanshaftn (immigrant societies) and other groups.

Are you having trouble locating ancestors' graves? The list of inactive cemeteries provides information on where remains may have been moved and where old records may be held.

Jewish funeral directors have records of family history interest. The guide lists the active area companies as well as inactive companies, including mergers and where records are held.

The extensive list of active synagogues may provide researchers with how to find memorial plaques or synagogue publications. Some congregations have many plaques dating back a century or more.

In addition to separate congregational listings, there is a 48-page table-formatted listing holding even more information, including Black Jewish congregations, and synagogues are cross-referenced by alternative names.

There are also multiple congregations sharing the names Bnai Israel, Ohev Zedek, Temple Sinai, Temple Zion and Tifereth Israel. Reading the details of each may help narrow down a search. The notes also cover permutations of old buildings, new buildings, mergers and moves in one alphabetical listing, along with extensive information and history on the city's historic congregations.

This directory is sure to provide Philadelphia-area researchers and conference attendees with very useful information.

According to conference co-chair David Mink of Philadelphia, the directory is stll a work-in-progress. Readers with more information are invited to submit additional resources and details. See the the directory online (link above) for more information.

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