Friday, February 26, 2010

DNA Success Story: The Varnovati Family and the Maharal of Prague

Guest Post By Mike Gerver

A few months ago, I got an email from Herb Huebscher, head of the WIRTH family group which is organized through FamilyTreeDNA. The group members have a common ancestor who lived in the 1500s. Some time before, they had gotten the idea, somehow (Herb didn't explain how) that they might be descended from the brother of the Maharal of Prague, Rabbi Sinai ben Betzalel (1508-1607).

They managed to find Zeev Eshkolot who had a pedigree on the patrilineal line going back to this Rabbi Sinai, and he agreed to have his Y-chromosome tested. It was not a match for anyone in the WIRTH group, but it did match several other families in the FamilyTreeDNA database, including a family called Varnovati. If this fellow was really descended from the Maharal's brother (and it would be nice to have another patrilineal descendant of the Maharal's family to confirm that), then the Varnovatis and the Maharal had a common ancestor who probably lived in the 1300s or 1400s.

It is just possible then that the Varnovatis are directly descended from the Maharal or his brother. Herb decided to organize a Maharal group through FamilyTreeDNA to explore these questions, and invited me and members of other matching families to join.

Just who were these Varnovatis? Let me tell you a short tale about them and how I come to be related to them and therefore how I came to experience a DNA success story.

My grandmother's name was Lena Woronoff Gerver. She had one brother, Nachman, who remained in Ukraine, after the rest of her family came to America. Many years ago, I noticed that one of his daughters signed her name, Chaya Varnovataya, in Russian, on the back of a picture she sent to her grandmother in America. I had wondered whether this was her married name, or, whether Varnovati was the original family name.

A couple of years ago, I finally followed up on this when I decided to fill out some Pages of Testimony at Yad Vashem for my great uncle Nachman's family. I wanted to make sure I had their family name right. So, I tried searching for "Varnovati" in the New York passenger arrival records which had recently been put online.

Up to then, I had never been able to find the arrival records of my grandmother’s family listed under Woronoff, but they showed up right away under the name "Warnowate," which is how “Varnovati” would be spelled by officials in the German port that they sailed from. They were listed in the right year and with the right names and ages of everyone in the family. It was definitely my grandmother's family.

Once I knew the family’s original name, I started searching on JewishGen for Varnovatis. In addition to my grandmother's brother Nachman, whose entire family had been killed in the Holocaust, I knew my grandmother had one uncle, her father Israel's brother Shlomo Varnovati. He had remained in Ukraine, but our families hadn't kept in touch after my grandmother's family came to America in 1905. I think the two brothers didn't get along very well. I was happy to find some references to a Shlomo Varnovati of about the right age in some records on JewishGen. In addition, some of his descendents appeared to have survived the war.

My next step was to look in the JewishGen Family Finder (JGFF) and there I found someone named Viktorya Urovish, who was researching the surname of Varnovati. I e-mailed her and she didn't answer. A year later, I e-mailed her again, and this time she did answer. I thought she might be a descendent of Shlomo, but we eventually decided she couldn't be. However, both families had connections to Odessa. Since the name Varnovati had turned out to be so rare, I felt sure we must be related somehow.

Recently, Viktorya had gotten her father, Ilya, to do a Y-chromosome test. Ilya’s last name was Gurevich, not Varnovati, but that was only because his father, Abram Varnavati, had changed his name to Mikhail Gurevich in the 1930s, to stay one step ahead of the KGB. Did I have anyone to test, so we could tell if we were related? As I was descended from a female Varnovati, I could not be tested.

Therefore, I had to locate direct male Varnovati descendants. There were only three living men on my side of the family with the Varnovati Y-chromosome. One was my father's first cousin Israel Woronoff, named after my great-grandfather, who was 82. I hadn't known him growing up, but had been in touch with him years earlier to gather family tree information. Another was his son. The third was a second cousin, whom I had never met or been in touch with, and I didn't know how to get in touch with him. If I ever did find him, I thought it would be quite awkward to ask him to do a DNA test.

Fortunately, I was able to find the e-mail address of Israel Woronoff, and he was amenable to doing the DNA test. He did a 12 marker test to begin with and he was a perfect match to Viktorya's father! Meanwhile, Viktorya got in touch with a cousin of her father, who remembered that his father had cousins who lived in Talnoye, the same town that my grandmother’s uncle Shlomo lived in. We're still not sure exactly how we are related, but it seems most likely that Viktorya and I are fourth cousins, with a common ancestor who was born about 1800.

So, returning to the Varnovatis’ relationship to the Maharal of Prague, Israel Woronoff agreed to have the test upgraded to 67 markers, so that we could get a better idea of how the different members of the Maharal group are related. Apparently, they have a common ancestor, probably an Ashkenazic Jew, born probably between 1000 and 1300. Zeev Eshkolot’s branch probably splits off from the Varnovati branch between 1300 and 1500, though it could possibly be even later, after the Maharal's brother was born.

I guess it's beginner's luck, but it is amazing that, after testing a Y-chromosome of one of my ancestors for the first time, I turn out to be (again, assuming the accuracy of that pedigree) related to the Maharal of Prague! The story doesn't end there. Although this was the first DNA test done on my family, a Y-chromosome test was done at the request of a relative of my wife's many years ago. In fact, that relative was none other than Bennett Greenspan, founder of FamilyTreeDNA, and my wife's second cousin once removed. He was related to my wife on the Nitz side.

About 20 years ago, he had found a Nitz family in Argentina who had also lived in Ekaterinoslav, as my wife's Nitz family did. Bennett found a lab willing to do a Y-chromosome test, and located a known Nitz cousin of his in the United States, and a Nitz from the Argentina family, who were willing to supply samples. They were a perfect match. As a result of that, Bennett got very interested in genealogical genetics, and went on to found FamilyTreeDNA.

Long after that I moved to Israel. One day in shul, I was talking to a friend, Henry Sinai, and discovered that he was also very interested in genealogy. I had mentioned to him that Bennett Greenspan was my wife's cousin, and he told me that he shared the Nitz Y-chromosome that had led Bennett to found FamilyTreeDNA. He had speculated to me about his theory that his family name, Sinai, came from the first name of the Maharal's brother.

Naturally, as soon as I got that first e-mail from Herb Huebscher about the Maharal connection, I excitedly told Henry about it, and he said, "I know Herb!" It turned out that the Nitz family and Henry Sinai were part of the WIRTH group. It was Henry's idle speculation about the origin of his family name that led them to test the Y-chromosome of a known descendent of the Maharal's brother Sinai. So, if it weren't for my friend Henry, I would never have discovered the possible Maharal connection.

As to Viktorya, she and I are in regular e-mail contact, talking about these things. We haven't managed to meet in person yet, but since she lives in New York, and I get there regularly to see my family, I'm sure we will before long.

Pictures:






Wednesday, February 24, 2010

British Library Newspaper Archive

(hat tip: Paul Cheifitz)

Click here to read more.

A Tale of Divorces in Resekne, Latvia

Posted By Ann Rabinowitz

Postcard of Rezekne, Latvia at the end of the 19th Century
(Courtesy of David Howard)

In Baltic Jewish records, there are usually few divorces mentioned and this makes it hard to distinguish any patterns or why they occurred. However, due to the diligence and perseverance of Christine Usdin, of the Latvia SIG, there are now translations of records from various Latvian shtetls. These records include an historic group of sixty divorce records from Resekne, Latvia, which was a substantial town and where Jews made up 54% of the population by the end of the 19th Century. The years which are covered are: 1872, 1876-1880, 1882, 1884-1885, 1887-1888, 1890-1892, and 1895.

These records contain the following data:
  • Date and Place of Divorce
  • Husband’s Name, Age and Father
  • Wife’s Name, Age and Father
  • Official in Divorce, Witnesses, and Causes
  • Places of Origin for Husband and Wife
Of especial interest are the main reasons for granting the divorces which provides us a small window into the marital relations of our ancestors. Given that many of our ancestors were matched with each other and did not marry for love, it is helpful to note why they took the enormously important step to divorce. It would have involved a social and financial cost to the wife, in particular, so was not taken lightly.

What follows are some instances of couples who divorced and their reasons:
  • Attempted murder with divorce pronounced after a trial – On July 11, 1880, Tevel ben Movsha FAINSHTEIN, age 22, from Dunaburg , and Rivka bat Getzel STIKAN, age 22, from Rezekne, were divorced. This was the most interesting divorce record, but unfortunately, the record does not state which spouse attempted the murder of the other.
  • Death of the husband – On August 15, 1888, David-Yankel ben Abram PLINER, age 45, from Rezekne, and an unknown named wife, age 28, from Rezekne, were divorced. It is strange that the wife’s name is not written into the record.
  • Disagreement – This excuse was used in six cases of divorce. An example is that on November 8, 1876, Iser ben Meer TAGER, age 42, from Rezekne, and Reiza bat Mendel GOLDBERG, age 40, from Rezekne, were divorced.
  • Disease of the husband - On April 16, 1878, Hirsh ben Vulf KAPLAN, age 46, from Opatshetzki, and Gita-Zlata bat Shaya (no last name given), age 24, from Vilkomir (Lithuania), were divorced.
  • Disease of the wife – On September 6, 1892, Berka ben Man PASTENAK, age 28, from Dunaburg, and Dveira bat (father’s first name not given) LOTZ, age 24, from Rezekne, were divorced.
  • Impossibility to live together – On February 3, 1876, Leib-Ber ben Mordukh FONAREV, age 45, from Rezekne, a soldier, and Sora-Feiga bat David (no last name given), age 38, from Rezekne, were divorced.
  • Lack of commitment to the marriage – On May 8, 1877, Khaim ben Gershon MANOIM, age 29, from Rezekna, and Nekha-Perka bat Vulf-Falka MANOIM, age 29, from Rezekne, were divorced. This was the major reason given for the divorce in twenty-eight out of the sixty cases in the records.
  • Mutual consent – On May 1, 1884, Sholom ben Abram TRIFMIK, age 56, a farmer, from Ludza, and Ester-Liba bat Mordukh (no last name given), age 45, from Rezekne, were divorced.
  • Mutual misunderstanding – On July 18, 1882, Zalman ben Leib GURVICH, age 41, from Polotz, and Rivka bat Shmuil (no last name given), age 42, from Rezekne, were divorced.
  • Separation of the husband from the wife – On November 15, 1888, Leiba ben Meer-Shevel BARKAN, age 45, from Druya, and Feiga-Tauba bat Izrail (no last name given), age 45, from Rezekne, were divorced.
  • Weak health of the husband – On July 4, 1882, Mordukh ben Esel FONAREV, age 62, from Rezekne, and Liba bat Yosel (last name not given), age 54, from Rezekne, were divorced.
Many of these records tell us that cousins married as the last names are the same. Further, there were, at least, thirty-three wives whose last name was not provided. Also, it appeared that many of the wives were from Rezekne, but that their husbands were from other shtetls, perhaps confirming that men went further a field to find their wives.

In other divorce records, for say, Kupiskis, Lithuania, during the period 1897-1900, the major reason given for the divorce was poverty. So, the time period and place are important in gauging what was happening in the community at the time and how this may have affected the marital relations of our ancestors.


In addition, due to the on-going translations of the marriage records for Rezekne by Christine Usdin, it is also possible to trace the auspicious beginning of these couple’s marital life together. It is a good idea to access the Latvia SIG digest on JewishGen in order to see the translations as they are posted on the digest.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Once Unthinkable, a Jewish Community Thrives in Poland

(hat tip: Ann Rabinowitz)
Click here for this JTA article.

A Surprise Genealogy Gift

Posted By Ann Rabinowitz

I recently received an e-mail message from Mark Jacobson stating that due to my volunteering efforts (along with a number of others), in regard to prior indexing records for Drohobycz, Ukraine, I was being sent the database of the newly translated birth records for 1816-1833. Wow!!! I was terribly pleased and delighted that something I had volunteered for was bringing this unexpected treasure.

As I looked through the records, I found all sorts of connections to my family. I wrote back to Mark and thanked him and asked if any other records had been done for my Schubert family. He responded with several records which blew my mind.

There, in black and white, was a death record for Reisel Schubert, 1768-1842, my great great great grandmother. This was the person who my grandmother Rose had been named after and thereon many of my cousins too had this name. This record also took my family back into the 1700’s in Drohobycz.

That was not all . . . there was a death record for my great great grandmother, Gitel Schubert, 1804-1852, who died of pulmonary consumption (tuberculosis). All of a sudden, the time span between generations was revealed giving me an idea of when my ancestors had actually lived and also what they died of.

A further record, this time a birth, was for Etel Schubert, 1837, who was a daughter of Gitel Schubert. Now, I had a sister for my great grandmother Leah and the person for whom my grandmother’s sister was named. In one fell swoop, I had filled in many of the gaps in my family tree.

The realization that participation in genealogical research as a volunteer had made this all possible was really brought home to me at this point. Many times in the past, I had volunteered for various data input projects with no thought of any reward at all, but because I knew it was important and would help many other people.

I know some researchers say that they cannot afford to participate in obtaining records in any substantial way, but there is no excuse for not volunteering in some manner as that costs nothing, but your time. Perhaps you do not feel you can handle doing data input for a project, then tell the project manager and perhaps there are other chores that need doing that you can help with.

In any event, volunteers are an important and highly valued part of the genealogical research process. Investigate what projects are being worked on in your areas of interest and see how you can help. Sometimes these things can run the gamut of the following:
  • language skills
  • data input skills
  • ability to visit cemeteries and take down info there
  • photographing tombstones
  • contact person skills, i.e., sending out e-mails to participants
  • fundraising skills
  • help with your Jewish Genealogical Society activities
An example of how this can work on a project which is underway is the following. A professor at the University of Pennsylvania, Sol Katz, took photographs of the large cemetery in Rokiskis, Lithuania. As a result, he came to the Rokiskis SIG meeting at the IAJGS Conference in Philadelphia this past summer to network and to determine some means for his photographs to be utilized properly.

At the final banquet of the IAJGS Conference, a fine match was found after I met with two cousins whose ancestors were from Rokiskis where the cemetery was located. After chatting with them, they agree to help with a cemetery project based on Professor Katz’s photographs.

What were they to do? Well, the cousin who lived in New York, Michael Pertain, could take the photographs of the tombstones from Professor Katz and translate the Hebrew into English. The other cousin in Philadelphia, Maxine Blum, would write down what her relative Michael translated and put it into a JOWBR cemetery template on her computer.

So, three separate people, each with their own individual skill, each living in a different place, would be able to work together and do their bit for the project. On their own, they would not have had the complete skill sets needed nor would they have had the time to devote to completing the project either. Perhaps even another person can volunteer to proofread the database before it is submitted to the JOWBR.

And so, another project will get underway and be completed with the goodwill and generosity of volunteer help. As I said before, it was wonderful getting such a wonderful surprise and, I hope, that others can share in such surprises with me all year long by virtue of their volunteering their time and efforts to Jewish genealogy.

Monday, February 22, 2010

2000 Descendants

From the NY Times:

When Yitta Schwartz died last month at 93, she left behind 15 children, more than 200 grandchildren and so many great- and great-great-grandchildren that, by her family’s count, she could claim perhaps 2,000 living descendants.

Click here to read the entire article.

Announcement: JGS of Palm Beach County

SUBJECT:  ANNUAL LUNCH AND LEARN
DATE:  Sunday March 7, 2010  
TIME:  11:30 AM-3:00 PM
PLACE:
  Crown Plaza Hotel, Belvedere Road, West Palm Beach. Fl
FEE: members $25, guests $30 (reservations required by February 27)
PARKING: free valet parking
 
GUEST SPEAKER:  John Martino, VP Special Project Coordinator Italian Genealogy Group
 
TOPIC:  YOU DO NOT HAVE TO BE ITALIAN TO BE IN THE ITALIAN GENEALOGICAL GROUP'S DATABASE

John Martino, VP Special Project Coordinator, Italian Genealogy Group, will be the guest speaker at the Annual Lunch and Learn of the Jewish Genealogical Society of Palm Beach County, Inc. The luncheon is scheduled for Sunday, March 7, 2010 at the Crown Plaza Hotel,West Palm Beach, FL. Registration begins at 11:30 AM with lunch and speaker to follow.

Martino, JGS NY Vice-President Special Projects, Italian Genealogical Group has received an award from Jewish Genealogical Society NY, and his Society is the recipient of the Malcolm Stern Award from the International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies for his exceptional work in developing research data bases.

John, whose topic is You Do Not Have to Be Italian to Be in the Italian Genealogical Group's Database will discuss how his 1200 worldwide volunteers created a variety of databases in New York and New Jersey and how the same can be done in Boston, Detroit, Philadelphia Chicago and elsewhere.

He will talk about the many Naturalization Records, and County, Federal, and NYC Vital Records now available on the IGG data bases that have helped many genealogists from all over the United States and the world. He will explain how to use the databases and how they were created. This information includes data for Jewish Genealogists not found elsewhere.

John Martino is one of the founding members of the Italian Genealogical Group, which was organized in 1990. He has visited Italy twice and has researched his family’s history back to 1572. Since his retirement in 2000, he has devoted most of his time to organizing volunteers to create databases. He first helped the Jewish Genealogy Society of New York with the Kings County Naturalizations. From there he did the Suffolk and Nassau County Naturalization. He then computerized the Bronx County Naturalizations, went on to the Federal records, computerized the Southern District Naturalization, and is currently working on the Eastern District Naturalization. The Commissioner of the Department of Records & Information Services, Brian Andersson, approached John to computerize the vital records at the Municipal Archives. John and his team have computerized the death records for New York City 1891 to 1929 and the Groom Index for 1895 to 1936.

For more information contact
Phyllis Frank, Reservation Chairperson 561-637-9807
or Don Hirschhorn, Chairman 561-883-8566

Steve Luxenberg- "Annie's Ghosts" JGSCV March 7 Program

The Jewish Genealogical Society of the Conejo Valley and Ventura County (JGSCV)-- California, (USA) is meeting on Sunday: March 7, 2010 1:30 PM-3:30 PM

Our Program: "Genealogy From the Inside Out: The Story of Annie's Ghosts"

Annie's Ghosts.is "a great non-fiction read for genealogists". -Jan Alpert, president, National Genealogical Society, in the society's July '09 newsletter

"My mother was an only child. That's what she told everyone, sometimes within minutes of meeting them. When I heard that my mother had been hiding the existence of a sister, I was bewildered. A sister? I was certain that she had no siblings". Part memoir, part detective story, part history, Annie's Ghosts revolves around three main characters the author's mom, her sister and the author, narrator/detective/son), several important secondary ones(including several relatives whom he found in the course of reporting on the book), as well as Eloise, the vast county mental hospital where Steve's secret aunt was confined-despite her initial protestations-all of her adult life. Steve will show how he used genealogical techniques to piece together the story of his mother's secrets, his aunt's unknown life, and the times in which they lived. Steve's research took him to imperial Russia and Depression-era Detroit, through the Holocaust in Ukraine and the Philippine war zone, and back to the hospitals where Annie and many others languished
in anonymity.

Speaker: Steve Luxenberg, an associate editor at The Washington Post, has worked for 35 years as a newspaper editor and reporter. Steve's career began at The Baltimore Sun, where he worked for 11 years before joining The Post in 1985. He has headed The Post's investigative staff, succeeding Bob Woodward, and directed The Post's Sunday commentary section. Reporters working for Steve have won numerous awards, including two Pulitzer Prizes.

There will be an opportunity to purchase the book at the meeting $20.00-checks or cash only.

There will be a schmoozing session starting 15 minutes before the meeting, facilitated by JGSCV Board member Debra Kay Blatt...come and talk on your successes or problems.

Our monthly book report will be given by JGSCV member Judith Cohen on "The Jewish Quarter of Philadelphia" by Harry Boonin

Our rotating traveling library will have Categories A and B. To see which books are listed under which category, please go to our website, www.JGSCV.org and look under traveling library. The books are available starting 30 minutes before the program to 30 minutes after the program.

The meeting is open to all and there is no charge. The meeting is co-sponsored with and held at Temple Adat Elohim, Thousand Oaks, CA

For more information including directions to the meeting, see our website for directions and more information: www.jgscv.org

Jan Meisels Allen
President, JGSCV

NARA (US) Regional Archives in Laguna Niguel California Moving

The US) National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) Regional Archives located in Laguna Niguel (Orange County) California is moving to a new site in Riverside County California. The Laguna Niguel site closed on February 19th and the new site opens on March 1, 2010. The move is being made for cost-savings to the Federal government.

The address for the new regional archive is:
National Archives at Riverside
23123 Cajalco Road
Perris, CA 92570

Jan Meisels Allen
IAJGS, Director-at-large and
Chairperson, Public Records Access Monitoring Committee

NARA- NY- Concerns With Potential Reduction In Research Area

The following is a summary of an unofficial report shared with a nationally prominent professional genealogist which raises concerns about potentially losing the New York National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) office as an important repository for research.

NARA-NYC will move in approximately eighteen months to about 5000 square feet over two floors in the Customs House.

Only about twenty percent of the current collection at 201 Varick Street, textual and microform will go to the new location in the Customs House. All or most textual material will go to a storage facility in northeast Philadelphia and will have to be transported to New York City for researchers, as off-site textual material in Lee Summit, Missouri, is now.

Among the textual material to be retained in the new space will be the federal court naturalization petitions not microfilmed and the federal court records docket books, but it is not clear if the originals of microfilmed naturalizations will be retained.

"Non-regional" microfilm will go to NARA-Pittsfield (Massachusetts).

The following may also be in the future plans when moving NARA's NY office:

Certifications of records on microfilm will have to be requested from Pittsfield.

The new space will be primarily for visitors to see exhibits. There will be a few computers and, apparently, some microfilm readers and reader-printers.

The microfiche indexes of New York State vital records will evidently go to the new space, together with associated printed material and microfiche readers.

Nothing has been mentioned about the fate of NARA-NYC's library, including
published census indexes and so forth.

There may be a "public meeting," it will only be to tell us NARA's plans- [Public meetings are different than public hearings]

The move will include increased display space that NARA will have in the Customs House with the need to reduce the research collection because there will not be adequate space. NARA staff appears to believe there is reduced researchers using the facility which warrants the reduced research capabilities.

If the above plans prove to be true, researchers will truly lose access for certification of records for legal matters, local access to microfilms and original textual records that are still necessary even though there is much online--as occasionally pages are missing from the on-line census records or other pages may not be scanned and they prove to be of value for our research.


Jan Meisels Allen
IAJGS, Director-at-large
and Chairperson, IAJGS Public Records Access Monitoring Committee

Google Earth Mapping Program Uploads WWII Images

Google Earth, a mapping function of the Google organization, has added an historical imagery feature by using the historical Royal Air Force reconnaissance photos taken during World War II of 35 war-torn European cities such as Berlin, Bordeaux, Hamburg, Cologne and Dresden. Images taken in 1943 show the effect of wartime bombing on more than 35 European towns and cities. If one wants to see the most notable difference, check the historic photos of Warsaw from 1935 to the present day. The images show the heavy destruction caused to the Polish capital during the war, along with the city's infamous ghetto - the largest in Nazi-occupied Europe.

To access all the imagery for yourself, and compare to the present day cityscape, click the clock icon in the top-level toolbar to activate a time-line in the Google Earth display. Move back and forth in time by dragging the time slider from left to right or by clicking the back/forwards arrows. To trace an example, users can track the post-war reconstruction of Warsaw's historic center, a UNESCO World Heritage site.

To access Google earth for this function go to:
http://earth.google.com/tour.html#v=3

Google Earth software is downloadable to your computer from the Google site
and can be accessed from the Google url above.

For more information on this new feature and some sample photos go to:
http://google-latlong.blogspot.com/2010/02/wwii-historical-imagery-in-google-earth.html and click on the photos to open and enlarge.
More on this new feature is included in this news article:
http://topnews.net.nz/content/22018-wartime-images-uploaded-google-earth

Please do not ask me any technical questions on how to use the software or about downloading--I am not a techy!


Jan Meisels Allen
IAJGS Director-at-large and
Chairperson, IAJGS Public Records Access Monitoring Committee

Ohio Obituary Index On-Line

The Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Center has published the Ohio Obituary Index from the 1810's to the present day. This may be accessed at:
http://www.rbhayes.org/hayes/index/. There are over 1,500,000 obituaries, death & marriage notices. Originally there were only the deaths noted by the Hayes Presidential Center, however, starting in 2009, 40 libraries are partnering to index the information-it is best to look on the Presidential site at the list of libraries to determine if the area you are interested in has been indexed as yet. Ancestry.com has also published this information (1830's-2009) as a free database site http://tinyurl.com/yh9ey5m. Note the link is free, to obtain the information from the Presidential center, however to view the indexed information on the Ancestry.com site a subscription is required...there is a 14 day free trial available.

This data collection is an index to over 1.5 million obituaries in Ohio newspapers from the 1810s to 2009. It has been compiled from various record sources such as newspapers, obituaries, and local government offices. While it is called the Ohio Obituary Index it also contains a small number of marriage notices. Information extracted from these documents generally includes:

Name of deceased; Death Date; Place of Death (City, State); Age at Death; Birth Date; Parents' Names; Marriage Date; Spouse Name ; Newspaper Source (Title, Date, Page, Column); Newspaper Location; Newspaper Repository Location; Other Source (Title, Data, Location Description); Notes

For more information, go to either of the sites named above. Remember, this is an index, not the actual records. To order the actual obituaries from the Hayes Presidential Center there is a $3.00 per obituary-- not per person-charge. More information on charges are available on the Hayes site listed above. Since other Ohio libraries have some of the microfilms look on the Hayes Presidential site check the list of newspapers under "location" to determine the correct location of the microfilm you are searching.

Thank you to the "Ancestry Insider" blog for alerting me to this new available database.

Jan Meisels Allen
IAJGS Director-at-large and
Chairperson, IAJGS Public Records Access Monitoring Committee

Friday, February 19, 2010

Announcement: JGS of Oregon

On February 21, 2010, Natan Meir will address the JGS of Oregon meeting. His topic will be:

Reading in another Hand - Deciphering Cyrillic and Hebrew Archival Documents from Eastern Europe


Where: Ahavath Achim Synagogue, 3225 SW Barbur Blvd., Portland, OR
When: Sunday, February 21, 2010
Time: Door open at 1:00pm for schmoozing and assistance with your genealogy problems.  Progrram starts at 1:30pm. 

About our Program:
This program will show you how to find information you need from documents of interest to genealogists when the records were kept in Russian and/or Hebrew.  We will discuss the alphabets, their use in archival documents, key words and phrases that frequently appear and are of interest to genealogists and the structure of tsarist and Soviet archives.  We will work together to decipher copies of actual documents.  The program should be of interst not just to those with ancestors from Russia, but those from many other countries once part of the Russian Empire.

About the speaker
Natan Meir is an Assistant Professor of Judaic Studies at PSU.  He received his Ph.D. in Jewish history from Columbia University, taught at the University of Southampton (U.K.) and was a postdoctoral fellow at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.  His scholarly interest is modern JEwish history focusing on the social and cultural history of East european Jewry in the noneteenth and twentieth centuries.  His first book, "Kievaa: Jewish Metropolis, 1861-1914" , is forthcoming from Indiana University Press.

For more information please see the JGSO website www.rootsweb.com/~orjgs or contact Barbara Hershey, President/Program Chair at JGSOregon@gmail.com or 503-249-1976

Nadene Goldfoot
Publicity Chairman
goldfoot1@verizon.net

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

New Exhibit Celebrates Untold Story of Chinese-Jewish Ties

The American Jewish Committee San Francisco Office (AJC) and The Chinese International Cultural Exchange Center have collaborated to bring "Jews in Modern China,” an exhibit of photographs, documents and memorabilia portraying a unique chapter in Chinese and Jewish history, to San Francisco. This program is part of the Shanghai Celebration, a year-long San Francisco Bay Area-wide collaboration of exhibitions, films, performances, lectures and other events. 

“The “Jews in Modern China” exhibit provides a wealth of information that will appeal to the Bay Area’s culturally diverse population,” said Linda Frank, chairman of the exhibit and an AJC board member. “Many people are unaware of the relationship between the Chinese and Jews during an eventful and dynamic period lasting more than a century. Today, with cultural and economic globalization, we view this exhibit not just as a retelling of history but also as an opportunity for the San Francisco Bay Area community to learn about the peaceful co-existence of two of the most ancient civilizations in the world.” 

The exhibit follows Jewish communities that lived in harmony with their Chinese neighbors in Shanghai and other Chinese cities from 1840 -1949. Three distinct Jewish communities are explored: Sephardic merchants from Iraq, Russian Jews escaping czarist pogroms in the late 19th and early 20th centuries and then the Russian Revolution after World War I, and European Jews escaping the Nazi regime in the 1930s. Jews lived in harmony with their Chinese neighbors due to shared cultural values such as strong family ties, an emphasis on the value of education, and, most crucial, religious tolerance.

“As the Nazis tightened their vise in Europe, China stood out as a notable exception to the nations of the world that had closed their doors to Jewish refugees seeking escape from persecution,” noted Frank. “The fortunate Jews who managed to get to China were not only able to land there without visas or passports but were also greeted by the Sephardic and Russian Jews who had established institutions and social services that helped integrate the newcomers into their new home.”

To view the schedule of events and programs related to the exhibit, please visit: http://www.ajcsanfrancisco.org/china (Earth Times)

Friday, February 12, 2010

Hungarian Vital Records

Posted by Sam Schleman

The Austro-Hungarian Empire was a dual monarchy, which included the Kingdom of Hungary. Beginning in the 1850’s the Austro-Hungarian authorities decreed that all religious institutions maintain records of births, marriages and deaths for their congregants. This system remained in place until October, 1895, when it was replaced by a centralized system of civil registrations for all religious denominations.

Some communities began keeping vital records as early as the 1820’s and others kept records only sometime after the 1850’s. The local synagogue created the records and sent a copy to the megye (county) archives.

Today, most of the records which have survived are in the Hungarian National Archives in Budapest, which is where the Mormon’s microfilmed them. No one has systematically determined what records may still exist in the different megye archives. Recently a considerable number of records were discovered which were supposed to have been turned over to the Slovak archives when Hungary was partitioned in 1920.

However, these “unknown” records were kept in Hungary and Slovakia had no knowledge of them, and the local authorities did not wish to acknowledge they had these records. Similar situations may exist elsewhere, but have not been investigated.

A complicating factor is that the Kingdom of Hungary was partitioned in 1920, at the conclusion of World War I, by the Treaty of Trianon. Hungary lost two-thirds of its territory and parts of 19th century Hungary today lie within the borders of Slovakia, Romania, Ukraine, Austria, Croatia, Slovenia, Poland and Serbia. Access to these records varies enormously by country.


The Hungarian Special Interest Group (H-SIG) formally created a vital records project in early 2006. Prior to that, a small number of people undertook to transcribe the vital records from their ancestral homes into an on-line database. As of the creation of the formal project in 2006, about 30,000 records were on-line.

Because no translation is required, volunteers from H-SIG that have no language skills are able to undertake the transcriptions; “Jakab Klein” is pretty much the same in Hungarian, German, and English. Also, it was recognized that the people researching town “A” were pretty much independent of those researching town “B.” This meant that numerous towns and transcribers were able to work simultaneously and independently of one another.

The source from which transcribers are recruited is the JewishGen Family Finder (JGFF), which enables one to determine everyone who is researching a particular town. An individual letter is sent to everyone listed in the JGFF for a town we are about to transcribe. Priority has been given to those towns with the greatest number of researchers. This is not only the “most bang for the buck” but since only about 10% of those listed in the JGFF for a given town usually volunteer to transcribe, it was not feasible to undertake towns with 25 or less researchers. Of course, this means that 90% of those researching a town do not volunteer. They are missing out. The exception is that some transcribers have undertaken ancestral towns single-handed. Volunteers who contribute significantly (in my opinion) get a copy of the spreadsheets for “their” town; which makes researching that town far easier and faster.

The Hungarian vital records project is, we believe, the largest volunteer project under the auspices of JewishGen. Over 250 people from eighteen different countries have helped transcribe records, and at any given time, about 100 volunteers are working simultaneously. Some just work on “their” town and depart, or leave the project due to numerous other reasons. Transcribers range in age from college students to people in their nineties.

To date, about 265,000 vital records are on line and another 100,000 will be added in early spring. When we have the materials available to us, we transcribe about 10,000 records per month. We expect the AHD to go over one million records within the next year. Accomplishments about which we are particularly proud are that transcriptions of Miskolc will soon be complete and we have completed all Budapest births and marriages; deaths are being worked on currently. I’m not sure if any other European capital city has been fully transcribed before.

Other things of note are that we recently placed on-line the first records from Transcarpathian Ukraine, as announced by Warren Blatt at the last IAJGS conference. These are the first records from this area posted to JewishGen. We have also recently arranged for a local person to photograph the vital record registers for Bihar and Maramures counties in present-day Romania. These records have never been filmed by the Mormons and have been inaccessible to researchers from Transylvania until about five years ago, and then only by personal visit or hiring a professional researcher to visit the archives. We have around 5,000 pages from these registers.

As the project manager, one of the most rewarding aspects of the project has been the fantastic people I’ve met, many of whom have become close friends. A Forensic Psychologist in New Mexico, the wife of a retired Supreme Court Justice in Australia, an author of Jewish historical novels from Israel, a survivor of the death marches in Germany at the end of WW2, from Australia, who turns out to be the first cousin of a boyhood friend with whom I had grown up in upstate New York – the list goes on and on.

And how do the transcribers feel about their work? Here are a few unsolicited quotations:

“I do feel a sense of pride and satisfaction at having been a part of the work that has been accomplished, and the work had a special meaning for me; somehow, if even for the seconds I deciphered the script and entered the names, those people were being somehow remembered. “

“I wanted to learn something new and now I have. Had no idea what a spread sheet was all about and now I am quite comfortable with it.”

“I would like to take this opportunity and thank all the volunteers from the H-SIG doing this unbelievable important work of transcribing the records from LDS microfilms. Without you people, most of us would still be tracing in the dark.”
“I am just very, very curious to check those years for my family records, now that my ability to decipher the old German has improved a lot thanks to working on this project.”

“Just a side note.... I've been working with microfilms at the local LDS Family History Center. Thanks to the transcriptions of the Budapest births that I worked on, it was relatively easy to find what I was looking for. The format was very similar for the birth records in XXXX. Had I never worked on the Budapest births, I'd probably have quit in frustration.”

“It's so rewarding to know I'm part of an effort much larger than myself. As the recent upload attests, I'm able to benefit from the work of others, and hopefully others are able to benefit from my work.”

“I'm like a kid in a candy store! And you are the shopkeeper.”

“I already found a relative! I honestly didn't think I'd find them, so this is a big deal for me! Woo Hoo!!! The birthplace of this relative is listed and now I have a whole new line of inquiry!”

“Yesterday when I opened the first image and saw the first entry, I was stunned. There was Bertha XXXX, my grandmother, my father's mother was (nee) Bertha XXXX. Even the date of birth looks correct.”

“Wow! I feel like I have been given the ultimate present. I have been up until 2am pouring over the records back and forth. I have pushed the XXXX’s back further and found children, spouses and dates. I have added new names who have married in. I found last names to great-great grandmas, marriage dates, birth and death dates. I found siblings.”

ShtetLinks Update

We are pleased to welcome the following webpages to JewishGen ShtetLinks. We thank the owners and webmasters of these shtetlpages for creating fitting memorials to the Jewish Communities that once lived in those shtetlach and for providing a valuable resource for future generations of their descendants.

Chumal'ovo (Csmolif), Ukraine
Created by Helen Ganz Kastenbaum

http://www.shtetlinks.jewishgen.org/Chumalovo/
~~~~~
Lackenbach (Lakompak), Austria

Created by Yohanan Loeffler

http://www.shtetlinks.jewishgen.org/Lackenbach/
~~~~~

Lebedevo (Lebiedzieva), Belarus

Created by Eilat Gordin Levitan
Webpage Design by ShtetLinks volunteer Judith Goldsmith http://www.shtetlinks.jewishgen.org/Lebedevo/
~~~~~

Leova, Moldova

Created by Rennie M. Salz

http://www.shtetlinks.jewishgen.org/leova/
~~~~~

Pultusk (Pultosk, Ostenburg), Poland

Created by Stanley Finkelstein
Webpage Design by ShtetLinks volunteer
http://www.shtetlinks.jewishgen.org/Pultusk/
~~~~~
Radom, Poland

Created by Susan Weinberg
http://www.shtetlinks.jewishgen.org/radom/Index.html

~~~~~

Rawa Mazowiecka, Poland
Created by Merav Shub
http://www.shtetlinks.jewishgen.org/rawa_mazowiecka/

~~~~~

Sarvar (Savar), Hungary

Created by Anne-Marie Pollowy Toliver
http://www.shtetlinks.jewishgen.org/sarvar/
~~~~~
Yurovshchina (Labun), Ukraine

Created by Emily Garber
http://www.shtetlinks.jewishgen.org/yurovshchina/index.html


ShtetLinks webpages recently updated:
Bodrogkeresztur, Hungary
http://www.shtetlinks.jewishgen.org/Bodrogkeresztur/Welcome.html
~~~~~


If you wish to follow their example and create a ShtetLinks webpage for your ancestral shtetl or adopt an exiting "orphaned" shtetlpage please contact us
at shtetl-help@jewishgen.org;

GOOD NEWS!! As a result for our appeal for HTML volunteers we now have a team of dedicated people who will help you create a webpage for your ancestral home. Please contact us if you would like help in creating a ShtetLinks webpage.

Susana Leistner Bloch,
VP, ShtetLinks

Barbara Ellman
ShtetLinks Technical Coordinator

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

ViewMate Update

Posted by Sam Eneman
JewishGen is pleased to announce major enhancements that add new social networking features to ViewMate beginning 20 February 2010.

Responding to requests from the ViewMate community, visitors to the ViewMate Image Gallery viewing page will now see the number of responses each item has received.

When visitors view any image, they will see the responses that have been submitted -- just as users see comments posted on blogs and other social media sites. Volunteers will see immediately if they need to add a different translation or another response.

The online response form is available after logging in to JewishGen. Submitters of documents and other images will be able to select which responses to display on a submission's page in both the Image Gallery and the Archive. They will also be able to close a submission to additional responses whenever they choose. These functions will be available in a user's "My ViewMate" after login to JewishGen.

All in all, ViewMate will be a more usable and dynamic site. ViewMate (http://www.jewishgen.org/ViewMate) is the JewishGen service where participants submit letters, documents and photos for translation
and to identify people, clothing, artifacts, etc.

Sam Eneman
ViewMate Administrator

Friday, February 5, 2010

Silvio Berlusconi in tears over hero mother

Italian PM Silvio Berlusconi was reduced to tears when Benjamin Netanyahu paid tribute to the Italian prime minister's mother for saving a Jewish child from arrest and deportation.

Mr Berlusconi, who was visiting Jerusalem appeared to wipe away tears when the Israeli leader recalled how Rosa Berlusconi, who died in 2008 at the age of 97, saw a German policeman trying to arrest a Jewish girl on a train in Milan.

"The Italian woman, who was then eight months pregnant, stood between the policeman and the girl. And without a grain of fear, she confronted the German policeman and said to him: 'You can kill me, but look at the faces of the people on the train, I promise you they won't let you get out alive'," Mr Netanyahu said.

"With this firm statement, the Italian woman saved the Jewish girl and lit, if only for a moment, a ray of humanistic light and bravery in the great darkness that pervaded all of Europe.

"That brave woman was named Rosa, and one of her sons is named Silvio Berlusconi, today the prime minister of Italy."

Mr Berlusconi, 73, was on a visit to Israel's parliament and listened to a translation of the speech, which was in Hebrew.

He wiped his hand across his eye and nodded in appreciation as Mr Netanyahu and Israeli MPs applauded.

"I am moved and thank the prime minister for recalling an episode involving my mother, who in that moment expressed the feelings of all Italian women," he said. (Telegraph)

Click here to read the entire article.

Russian Sobibor survivor remembers Demjanjuk

A Russian survivor of the Sobibor Nazi death camp says he can identify accused guard John Demjanjuk, Czech Radio reported on Wednesday, offering potentially crucial evidence for the former soldier's trial.

Demjanjuk, who fought in the Red Army before being captured and recruited as a Nazi camp guard, is on trial in Munich, accused of participating in the killing of 27,900 Jews at the extermination camp in occupied Poland.


He denies a role in the Holocaust.

Former Sobibor prisoner Aleksei Weizen told Czech public radio in an interview that he remembered Demjanjuk. "I remember him as a guard, I saw him before he took a group of detainees to work in the woods," the 87-year-old Russian told the station. This would be the first time someone could identify the accused directly, the radio station said.

Click here for the entire article.

US lawmakers push insurers on Holocaust claims

US lawmakers unveiled legislation Thursday aimed at helping Holocaust survivors or heirs of Nazi victims sue for insurance claims, estimated to run in the hundreds of billions of dollars, in US courts.

Republican Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen's bill seeks to compel insurance companies, who often have the sole proof of the existence of Holocaust-era policies, to disclose the names of the insured.

"For too long the insurance companies have had the upper hand, denying Holocaust survivors and their families their rights," said Ros-Lehtinen, the top Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

The Nazi regime in Germany did not issue death certificates to prisoners brought to the death camps, and police documents or personal records were often confiscated and destroyed.

The bill would validate state laws on the issue, removing potential federal roadblocks to lawsuits, and subjecting insurers who refuse to whatever punishment individual states decide.

"Insurance companies must disclose the names of policyholders to ensure that just compensation is received. They must not be allowed to hide behind a veil of secrecy any longer," said Ros-Lehtinen.(AFP)

Click here for the entire article.

Virtual memorials on Facebook commemorate Holocaust victims


Henio Zytomirski's Facebook profile picture stands out from most. The grinning 6-year-old is captured in black and white and poses in an old-fashioned buttoned-up shirt and shorts.

The photograph, shot in 1939, is probably the last taken of him before he was murdered in the Holocaust.

A group in the boy's hometown of Lublin is using the social networking site to breathe virtual life into Henio's stolen childhood and give people around the world the chance to get to know him - as well as mourn the millions of others killed by Nazi Germany.
   
With nearly 3,000 friends, Henio's page is one of the most striking examples of a new phenomenon in which people are setting up Facebook memorials for the victims of the past century's greatest tragedies.

Another project in Belgium attempts to create Facebook pages for each of the 27,594 Allied soldiers who were killed in Belgium during WWII, and Anne Frank and the Auschwitz memorial site are also on Facebook.

Facebook and MySpace users have long been creating memorial pages for friends and family, but these new projects aim to rekindle lives of the more distant dead who might otherwise be forgotten.

Click here to read the entire article.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Yiskor Book Project Update

The JewishGen Yizkor Book Project added six new projects, 11 new entries and 12 updates during January.

Click here to access the translations. 

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

New Search Capabilities for 1911 Irish Census

Posted By Ann Rabinowitz

Recently, it was brought to my attention by reader David Lenten, an avid Irish genealogist, that the 1911 Irish Census had been updated with new search capabilities.  This was indeed exciting news and it was followed by a flurry of e-mails from Stuart Rosenblatt, another reader and Irish genealogist, regarding this selfsame topic.  He had found four hundred additional Irish Jews which he could add to his database at the Irish Jewish Genealogical Society & Family History Centre in Dublin, due to the improvements to the search engine.

The ability to search by the following areas of data is what makes the Census much more user friendly:
  • Religion
  • Occupation
  • Relationship to Head of Family
  • Literacy Status
  • County or Country of Origin
  • Irish Language Proficiency
  • Specified Illnesses
  • Child Survival Information
My pet peeve with the Census, up to now, had been that one couldn’t search by religion.  That deficit has now been corrected and if one plugs in the word “JEW”, up pops all the Jewish entries.  In addition, I was advised by David Lenten that all variant terms for Jew (such as Hebrew) were now subsumed under the term Jew.  Given this, there are 4,936 Jews in Ireland in 1911.  The researcher can now check by town or county as to whether there are any Jews who lived there which is quite helpful.  Of the counties enumerated, the following are the number of Jews in each as specified by utilizing this type of search criteria:
  • Antrim , 1,128       
  • Armagh, 75
  • Carlow, 6             
  • Cavan, 9
  • Clare, 0
  • Cork, 401
  • Donegal, 0
  • Down, 54
  • Dublin, 2,899
  • Fermanagh, 0
  • Galway, 3
  • Kerry, 26
  • Kildare, 16
  • Kilkenny, 12
  • King’s Co., 8
  • Leitrim, 1
  • Limerick, 123
  • Londonderry, 26
  • Longford, 1
  • Louth, 30
  • Mayo, 3
  • Meath, 1
  • Monghan, 0
  • Queen’s Co., 8
  • Roscommon, 0
  • Sligo, 6
  • Tipperary, 5
  • Tyrone, 4
  • Waterford, 62
  • Westmeath, 4
  • Wexford, 11
  • Wicklow, 22
A number of the counties can be seen as having no Jews or only one.  In the case of County Leitrim, the only Jew was Joseph Fine, from Russia, an antique dealer, who was married and a boarder in Carrick-on-Shannon.  It is possible, that he was traveling about and landed up in Carrick-on-Shannon on Census day whilst his family is listed elsewhere such as in Dublin.  Another county, County Meath, had a single Jew.  His name was Louis Khan, a pedlar, single, who boarded in the town of Kells.

It is quite possible that there were additional Jews in Ireland, but one has to take into consideration that some individuals might not have entered their religion on the Census form or given the correct one.  An example of this is Arthur and Marie Jaffe in Belfast, County Antrim, who were the only individuals who refused to provide the information on religion as noted on the Census form.  

In other situations, Jews may have married out, converted or their children did.  An example of this is in County Wexford which lists eleven Jews, one of which was the Begleman family.  When one looks at the Census form for the Begleman family, who lived in Ballygarrett, County Wexford, it is actually made up of two small children, Mary, age 8, born in Portsmouth, England, and Molly, age 6, born in Dublin.  They are lodged with their aunt Ada Martin, age 43, born in Russia, who belonged to the Church of Ireland, along with her husband, George Martin, an army pensioner, whom she married in Dublin in 1889, and his brother John Martin.  It appears initially that the children might have been orphans.  Apparently, their aunt, who married out and converted, took them in.  Given the circumstances, it is likely that the two children were brought up in the Church of Ireland. 

Another possibility is that they are the children of Gabriel and Ruth Begleman who lived in Dublin in 1911.  The couple had ten living children, only eight of whom were listed in the 1911 Census.  Perhaps Mary and Molly Begleman were the two children who are not listed in the Census with their parents.  They could have been visiting their aunt or she was caring for them as she had no children of her own and their own mother was overwhelmed with ten children.  The Begleman family had lived in Aldershot, England in 1901, which would fit in with Mary Begleman being born in England around that time.  It would be interesting to determine, what indeed, was the status of the two children and their parents.

Another entry which was of interest, for a different reason, was the family of Rev. Solomon King.  The family lived at 55 Manor Street in Waterford, County Waterford, Ireland.  King’s occupation was given as Reverend of the Jewish Congregation.  There are sixty-two Jews listed in County Waterford in the Census and these are probably part of the Reverend’s flock.

The Reverend and his wife Eva were born in Russia, and their daughter Esther, age 4, was born in Switzerland, the only one in the Census to be noted as such.  The daughter was listed as being dumb and this designation is part of the new capability for searching the census.  One can learn of family physical/mental issues as the Census now allows searches on “Specified Illnesses” which encompass:  Blind, Deaf, Deaf and Dumb, Dumb, Idiot, Imbecile, Lunatic, and Other.  The Other designation usually means that someone put a “No” or a line in that column. 

The Census lists three other Jewish children as being dumb (Sarah Enlander, Esther King and Mary Reubin); five who are listed as deaf and dumb (Henry Abrahams, Emmanuel Percival Goodman, Edward Mirrelson, and two brothers in the same family, David and Max Purcell); one person who was blind (Anna Browdy; and one who was an imbecile (Joseph Rosefield).  It is possible that many individuals were not listed in any of these categories by their families or they were listed in hospitals where the designation was not filled in.

Another aspect of searching for Jews in the Census is that when the first entry in the family contains the word “Jew” and the following family members contain the word “do” or “ditto” these subsequent entries may not have been entered as Jewish in most cases.  An example is that of the Robinson family in Waterford, County Waterford, which was comprised of Maurice S. Robinson, born in England, his wife Mayme, born in Baltimore, Maryland, and son Myer J., who was born in Waterford. 

What I noticed was that Maurice was listed as Hebrew and his wife and child were listed as “do” or “ditto” and therefore only Maurice came up when “Jew” was listed as religion in the search engine.  This type of incident may have skewed the numbers so that there are actually more Jews who existed in the community. 

One can find a number of the listings which are for Jewish soldiers who are stationed in Ireland with the Royal Irish Constabulary.  Such an example is for F. Spickes, a Private, who was stationed in Abbeycartron, County Longford.  He was from Durham, England, and his regular occupation was that of a baker.

There are many interesting occupations listed and one of these is for two brothers who lived in Naas, County Kildare.  They were Fred and Riginald Dehaas, who were photographers and they originated in England.  They are an example of how names may be hard to find when they are misspelled or inaccurately transcribed.  The name, in this case, was transcribed by the Census as De Chas.  When one looks at the Census form itself, it is Dehaas and it may actually have been De Haas.

Another example of problems with names is that there is no Daitch-Mokotoff tool so that the researcher has to try all possible spellings to find a relative.  Another problem is that of Unknown Jews.  These are Jews whose name was not specified on the Census form.  One was the male who boarded at #39 in Mullagh, County Cavan.  He was 30 years of age, a pedlar, from Russia, but his name was not given. 

Other examples of Unknown Jews are those who’s first initial of both their first and last name are the only things given.  In regard to the letter “C”, for instance, there are ten Jews listed.  One of these is a resident of the Richmond Male Asylum in Dublin (now known as St. Brendan’s Hospital).  A further one was at Portrane Demesne in Dublin which was another mental hospital, and two others were patients at Meath Hospital and  Steeven’s Lane Hospital, both in Dublin.  Other such listings are for children who were being treated for infectious diseases in hospitals.

Further, it is now possible to locate individuals by country of origin such as Russia where 1,972 individuals are listed.  However, one cannot search by Lithuania or Poland which were the major places where Irish Jews originated.  It is understood that they were subsumed under the Russia listings.  There were, however, found to be six Jews from Romania listed.

In terms of languages, one can search by Other (as opposed to English or Irish or English and Irish).  There are 39,123 individuals who pop up under Other and spoke another language.  When I tested why there were Irish-sounding names such as Swan who did not speak English or Irish, I found that some mistakes had been made.  The actual Census form had that they spoke both England and Irish not Other.  So, it appears, that when “do” or “ditto” are used, they have been entered as Other.  It is important to check the form in order to determine if the search is correct.

As a final look at the new capabilities of the Census, I am proud to announce that Annie Levin, age 45, wife of Elias Ber Levin, of 18 Colooney Street, Limerick, was the Jewish mother who had the most living children – fourteen!!!  She also had the most children born – seventeen!!!!  The runner-up was Bertha Bremson, age 43, wife of David Bremson, of 1 Monerea Terrace, Cork, with a whopping thirteen children; and the third place was Leah Clein, age 40, wife of Lawrence S. Clein, of 45 Clanbrassil Street, Dublin, with twelve children.  There was also Becca Miller, age 72, wife of Gersum Miller, of 7 Martin Street, Dublin, who had sixteen children of whom only nine survived.  This was a very sad statistic, but not unexpected in those times.

Last, but not least, the Irish Jew who had been married for the most years was widower Louis Shein, age 82, of 10 Walworth Road, Dublin, whose marriage to his late wife lasted for fifty-eight years.  The couple who were married the longest were Ebber Mirrelson, age 69, and his wife Hanna, age 65, who were married for fifty-five years.  Yes, it appears that she was married at the age of 10, if the information was input correctly!!!!

On that note, I will end this discussion of the Irish Census with a thought regarding an event which is eagerly awaited by all researchers of Irish Jews, the imminent arrival of the on-line presence of the 1901 Irish Census.  This is expected to occur sometime in the next few months, so stay tuned to the Blog for the latest on its scheduled appearance.

More on Jewish Pirates


In the 16th and 17th centuries, the vast expanse of the Caribbean Sea was a playground for European empires competing with each other for land, power and gold.

It was a playground for Jewish pirates, too.

This little-known history is the subject of Ed Kritzler's best-seller "Jewish Pirates of the Caribbean: How a Generation of Swashbuckling Jews Carved Out an Empire in the New World in Their Quest for Treasure, Religious Freedom -- and Revenge."

In dramatic prose, Kritzler recounts the tales of Jewish pioneers like the pirate Moses Cohen Henriques, who was the scourge of the Spanish treasure fleet, and his brother Abraham, who searched Jamaica for the hidden treasure of Christopher Columbus.

Kritzler, who is in his late 60s, told JTA that he stumbled upon the tale more than four decades ago in Jamaica when he found an old document written by an English pirate in the 17th century. The document told about a group of Marranos -- secret Jews who emigrated from Portugal and lived on the island -- who promised riches to the pirate if he were to invade Spanish-held Jamaica and liberate the Marranos from the Inquisition.

"It was incredible to find these Jews in the New World because nobody knew they were Jews," Kritzler said.

The more Kritzler learned about the Jewish history of the Caribbean, the more interested he became.

After receiving a grant from Ainsley Henriques, the leader of Jamaica’s Jewish community and a distant relative of the Henriques brothers, Kritzler traveled to Spain and Britain to conduct research for his book. For two decades he rummaged through faded documents in national archives in Seville and London, discovering a world where Jews set sail on the high seas and fought back against their oppressors.

When his book was published finally in October 2008 by Knopf Doubleday, it reached as high as No. 4 on the Los Angeles Times best-seller list. Among experts and reviewers, however, the reception has been mixed.

Washington Post reviewer Ken Ringle called Kritzler’s book “an earnest but rather disjointed retelling of the Spanish Inquisition, the expulsion of Jews from Spain in 1492 and their flight to such refuges as Holland, Brazil and Jamaica, where they played a growing role in trade during the 16th and 17th centuries.”

To be sure, while there were quite a few Jews who crisscrossed the Atlantic in this early era of discovery, very few were bona fide pirates. In his book, Kritzler doesn’t make much of a distinction between pirates, groups of individuals who elected their leaders democratically and lived vicariously off looting and plunder, and privateers, mercenaries hired by monarchs to steal from their enemies on the high seas.

Some scholars have criticized Kritzler’s reading of history as lacking in historical evidence. Kritzler contends that with the exception of a few minor errors, his depiction is accurate.

The author says his interest in Jewish adventurers goes back to his childhood in Roslyn Heights, on New York’s Long Island. Fascinated by tales of cowboys and conquistadors, he longed for his own adventures.

Kritzler made it to Jamaica in 1967, where he discovered the document that eventually would lead to his book. Today the kid from Long Island who dreamed of Spanish gold is basking in his newfound success.

Click here to read the entire article.
A farmer, a social worker, two school teachers and a lawyer who helped rescue German Jewish history were recognized.

The annual Obermayer German Jewish History Awards, which honor five non-Jewish Germans, were presented in ceremonies Monday in the Berlin Senate, kicking off a week of ceremonies and programs marking International Holocaust Remembrance Day in Germany.

Planned events include an address by Israeli President Shimon Peres at the German Parliament on Jan. 27, the 65th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz. Peres also was a guest of the Berlin Jewish community on Jan. 25.
This year's Obermayer awardees, nominated by Jews of German background around the world, are:
  • Walter Ott, a retired farmer from Buttenhausen who had been in the Hitler Youth, reconstructed the history of the local Jewish community and helped establish a Jewish museum. 
  • Angelika Brosig, a social worker from Schopfloch, helped restore a local Jewish cemetery and developed an online archive about the region’s former Jewish community. 
  • Heidemarie Kugle Weiemann, a teacher from Lubeck, reconstructed personal histories of local Jews and developed close relationships with Holocaust victims’ families. 
  • Helmut Gabeli, a lawyer from Haigerloch, discovered that the local town market once housed a synagogue and ultimately established a Jewish museum there.  
  • Barbara Greve, a teacher from Gilserberg, researched local Jewish family trees dating back 400 years and helped uncover the local history of persecution of Jews during the Nazi era.
The award was created by Arthur Obermayer, a Boston-based businessman and philanthropist who was inspired after exploring his own family's roots in Creglingen.

Click here to read the entire article.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Holocaust survivors and family members can reconnect

From the Jerusalem Post

In the immediate aftermath of World War II, Europe was in chaos. Cities had been destroyed. Millions of people had been murdered by the Nazis and their cohorts and millions of soldiers and resistance fighters fell in battle.

Some survivors went back to their hometowns, only to discover that there was no trace of the families from whom they had been separated.

Those who knew of relatives in countries in the free world, and remembered or were able to obtain their addresses, usually headed for wherever they could find the closest family. And just as survivors sought relatives, so individuals and whole families, who lived in countries outside of Europe, began to frantically search for European kin who might have survived.

In an attempt to centralize these efforts, in 1945 the Jewish Agency set up the Search Bureau for Missing Relatives. Not only did the the bureau deal with thousands of letters of inquiry, but it also conducted a program on Israel Radio that was aired almost daily at 1:15 p.m.

Over the course of time, the bureau was reduced to a one-woman operation. For 30 years it was run by Lithuanian-born Batya Unterschatz, who came to Israel from her native Vilnius in 1971, and almost immediately began working in the search bureau.

Unterschatz became a legend in Jewish genealogy worldwide due to her ability to locate people living in Israel, often starting with only the smallest scrap of information. Her success was based to a large extent on her extraordinary knowledge of how surnames change and of the interchangeability of certain letters of the alphabet.

There were many cases in which people thought they were the sole survivors of their families, but thanks to the conscientious efforts of Unterschatz, they discovered relatives.

The radio program, which had had an extraordinarily high rating, was taken off the air in the 1970s, but was restored in 2000 by Yaron Enosh, and is broadcast from Sunday to Thursday at 4:45 p.m.

Enosh revived the program because his daughter was doing a "roots project" at school. His own parents were Polish, but never spoke of the past. He decided that since he had a radio microphone at his disposal, the best way to help his daughter would be to broadcast a request.

Within two days there were 10,000 replies, leaving no doubt in his mind that the search program had to be revived. Now, 10 years later, 30-150 letters still arrive daily. Requests include letters from international lawyers dealing with legacies, trying ascertain if certain people who would be entitled to inherit are still alive.

According to Ben-Gurion University masters student Tehilla Malka, who is researching the buraeu, it is impossible to estimate the huge impact of the program on the Israeli public. The radio alternatives that exist today did not exist then.

When Malka mentions the program to her colleagues, everyone remembers it. In her opinion it has become part of Israel's collective memory, because being connected to the program was not just a matter of tuning into the radio at a particular time and sitting silently around a table to catch familiar names, but it was also advertised on movie screens and mentioned in newspapers.

Encouraged by Holocaust scholar Prof. Hannah Yablonka of BGU's Department of History, Malka embarked on her research to discover how much the program has been part of day-to-day Israeli life over time, and to what extent it has actually helped survivors reunite with relatives in Israel and abroad.

"I'm very interested in people's personal stories," she told The Jerusalem Post. "Not enough is known about them by the Israeli public, and I want to fill that vacuum."

Like many Holocaust researchers, Malka has a strong personal connection to the subject. Her great-grandfather was one of the first people to be murdered in Auschwitz and her grandfather was a doctor in the French Army who helped liberate the camps.

Even though there are numerous search options available on the Internet, most importantly the Yad Vashem archives, Enosh attributes the popularity of the revived program to the fact that despite the advantages of technology, people are in need of human contact.

People want to hear a human voice, he said, and they want the relatives for whom they are searching to hear their voices.

Click here to read the entire article.