Sunday, May 17, 2009

Another Online Florida Resource

Posted By Ann Rabinowitz

Very much on point is a newly accessible group of death records for the state of Florida covering the years 1877-1939.  The records are brought to researchers gratis courtesy of the Mormons familysearch.com and join the equally helpful Florida State Census records for 1885, 1935 and 1945.

In order to access these records, the researcher should go to the www.familysearch.com site, click on Search Records and then Record Search pilot.  A map will appear and click on Canada, USA and Mexico. A listing of record groups will then appear and click on Florida Deaths, 1877-1939.
The Pilot Site provides record groups which are very often added to as sections of the data are transcribed.  These particular death records were created from a name index located within the Florida Department of Health and Vital Statistics in Jacksonville, Florida.  The originals are available at the Family History Library and Centers throughout the world.  The exact locale for the records is located here.
Types of information that are often, but not always contained in the records are:
  • Name of the deceased 
  • Birth date of the deceased
  • Sex of deceased
  • Age and race of the deceased
  • Country or state and sometimes the town and county of birth for the deceased
  • Marital status of the deceased such as single, married, widowed, or divorced at the time of death
  • Names and birthplaces of the parents of the deceased
  • Dates of death and burial
  • City, County and State of death
  • Residence or address of the deceased, often including length of residence at the place or in the US, if foreign-born
  • Residence and occupation of the deceased
  • Name of attending physician or attending medical professional
  • Name and location of the cemetery where buried
  • Name and address of funeral home used
  • Name of the informant, who is often a child or other family member
The search engine allows searching by First or middle name(s), Father or Mother, Last or family names(s), Spouse, Life event, Year range and Exact & close match.
An example of what one can find is a search for one of my favorite names:  COHAN/COHEN.  This name brings up nineteen pages of records.  I did something unusual this time and looked for the name COHAN as a first name.  What did I find, but someone named Levi Cohan Middlebrook.  Whatever possessed his non-Jewish parents to give their son such a lovely “Jewish” first and middle name?
Now, onto the “real” Cohan/Cohen individuals, who numbered sixteen pages worth of names.  One of these was Julius COHEN, the son of Isaac and Anna Cohen, husband of Gussie, who was born in Lithuania on May 10, 1882 and died in Miami, FL, on October 14, 1939. 
Given this information, a researcher could then check the 1935 Florida State Census and confirm the decedent’s address and other family members at that specific address.  Or, you could check the Ancestry.com database for places of prior residence and/or other family members such as children.  There were three Julius Cohen’s with wives named Gussie in the New York area.  One was born in approximately 1880 and may be the match for the Florida Julius Cohen.
Other COHEN records include such unusual ones as Jane COHEN, a resident of the Florida Hospital for the Insane, who was “colored”, along with a number of other “colored” and Caucasian non-Jewish Cohens.
Searching for a female death record produced one for Yetta NATHANSON, from Minneapolis, MN, the wife of Benjamin Nathanson, born Taurage, Lithuania, November 15, 1852, daughter of Hirsh Lippman and his wife whose last name was Goldberg.  This record then is chock full of information which might be quite helpful as there are very little in the way of actual Taurage vital records to be had in Lithuania.
Another aspect of this search for Yetta is that it provides an enormous amount of information on a female ancestor which is usually difficult to come by.  Other female death records in this group are equally as informative.
The records also provide interesting information on occupations of the deceased such as the one for Louis SINGER which revealed that he was the son of Jacob and Rachel and the husband of Tillie.  He was then listed as a cemetery owner in Brooklyn, New York.
Another name I always like to research is RABINOWITZ.  Usually a name which is found in profusion in many towns, it was not well-known or distributed in Florida during this time period.  In this case, I found Hanon Rabinowitz, a rabbi, born in Russia, the husband of Julia, and the son of Jacob Rabinowitz and Libby Schurick.  There were very few others in the database with this last name.
Coincidently, in my various searches in the database, I happened upon several individuals whose had the same birthplace.  An example was the small shtetl of Zaslav, Belarus.  Unfortunately, the database does not allow search by birth location which would be a remarkably easy way to find others from the same shtetl.  I have quizzed Family Seach to determine if this capability will be added at some later date and am awaiting a definitive answer.
This record group also reflects the wide distribution of people who came to Florida during this time period from various countries such as Egypt, Germany, Gibraltar, Morocco, Poland, Romania, Russia and Syria.  They came from small towns in America such as Salon Springs, WI, or Bristol, PA, and large ones such as Chicago, IL.  They went to live in small places in Florida such as Arcadia and Groveland, and larger towns such as Jacksonville and Miami.  
Indeed, it is a wonderful tapestry of Jewish life that unfolds in these records.  Suddenly, one can envision that Florida was not only populated by New Yorkers as has been stressed in many books and articles over the years, but by so many others from every state in the union as well as many foreign countries.
So, if you don’t have a clue as to whether you have any relatives in Florida, do take the opportunity to search this database and you may be pleasantly surprised to find a lost or forgotten relative there.

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