BOOK: Researching Latvia and Estonia

The Jewish Genealogical Society of Great Britain has a new addition to its series of guides: A Guide to Jewish Genealogy in Latvia and Estonia by Arlene Beare.

The compact, all-you-need-to-begin, 144-page guide has been updated and expanded from the original 2001 work, with new sections, databases and Web links. Readers will be prepared to tackle follow-up research.

The history section, with maps, offers a focus on where to look, while “Starting Your Research” provides the nitty-gritty on where and how to begin, archives, surnames, patrynomics and international and online resources, associations of former Latvians and Estonians, a good section on Latvian resources, and archives (including those from Lithuania and Belarus, which hold records of interest).

Latvian archives hold vital records — military registers, census records, family lists, passport and registration books and more. The guide explains the holdings.

In addition to a list of 1891 Jewish firms in Riga (company name, type of business, owner’s name and address), both the Holocaust and Cemeteries sections hold a good overview of available data. Museums and libraries in Riga offer more relevant holdings, while the “Latvia and the Internet” section includes many Web links.

Special interest groups (SIGs) and links provide additional help, and a travel section lists recommended guides. Lists of communities and previous names, archival terms and translations are followed by a FAQ and bibliography. The Estonia section is smaller, but also holds the essentials.

Other guides in the reasonably-priced series (about $11) include genealogical resesource guides to Germany and Austria, the U.K., Lithuania, organizing your family history records, reading Hebrew inscriptions and documents and genealogical resources within the Jewish home and family.

To order, email publications@jgsgb.org.uk

BOOK: Researching Latvia and Estonia

The Jewish Genealogical Society of Great Britain has a new addition to its series of guides: A Guide to Jewish Genealogy in Latvia and Estonia by Arlene Beare.

The compact, all-you-need-to-begin, 144-page guide has been updated and expanded from the original 2001 work, with new sections, databases and Web links. Readers will be prepared to tackle follow-up research.

The history section, with maps, offers a focus on where to look, while “Starting Your Research” provides the nitty-gritty on where and how to begin, archives, surnames, patrynomics and international and online resources, associations of former Latvians and Estonians, a good section on Latvian resources, and archives (including those from Lithuania and Belarus, which hold records of interest).

Latvian archives hold vital records — military registers, census records, family lists, passport and registration books and more. The guide explains the holdings.

In addition to a list of 1891 Jewish firms in Riga (company name, type of business, owner’s name and address), both the Holocaust and Cemeteries sections hold a good overview of available data. Museums and libraries in Riga offer more relevant holdings, while the “Latvia and the Internet” section includes many Web links.

Special interest groups (SIGs) and links provide additional help, and a travel section lists recommended guides. Lists of communities and previous names, archival terms and translations are followed by a FAQ and bibliography. The Estonia section is smaller, but also holds the essentials.

Other guides in the reasonably-priced series (about $11) include genealogical resesource guides to Germany and Austria, the U.K., Lithuania, organizing your family history records, reading Hebrew inscriptions and documents and genealogical resources within the Jewish home and family.

To order, email publications@jgsgb.org.uk

BOOK: The Jewish Victorian

Looking for your family’s English branches and mysterious American and Down Under clues?

The Jewish Victorian: Genealogical Information from the Jewish Newspapers 1861-1870 by Doreen Berger, contains all birth, marriage and death records published in the London Jewish Chronicle and Jewish Record, including obituaries, wills, unusual deaths, murders, university degrees and other news items from the Ashkenazi and Sephardi communities.

In the pages of this book, a community lives through kidnapping, conversion, blackmail, libel and slander actions, suicides and tragic accidents, epidemics, and achievements of Jewish students at major universities, marriage grants to young couples, education, concerts, fundraisers, hiring of communal leaders and rabbis, and announcements of dancing classes for children and adults.

While intimate details of ordinary families fill its pages, there are also lengthy entries on well-known clans like Adler, Montefiore, Sassoon Rothschild and De Sola.

Berger’s first volume covered 1871-1880 and a third will cover 1881-1890.

“It is hoped that genealogists will be able to make connections to many other families,” she says. For any researcher whose families connect to the UK during these years, these volumes are invaluable.

The book also includes announcements from the Jewish Emigration Society, which assisted individuals and families moving to America and Australia.

Berger, a consummate researcher, has been unable to track down the original records from the society. She has researched the group for a book she’s writing – a biography about the Rothschild ladies from Georgian England through the eve of WWII.

Among the announcements:

* To Australia, 1867-8: domestic servant Miriam Abrahams, 19; cigarmaker Lewis Abrahams, 17; and tailoress Ellen Abrahams, 15; Samuel Alexander; insurance broker F.E. Jacobs, wife; and Lewis Lyons.
* To America, 1867-8: Reuben Abrahams, wife, son; Hannah Jacobs, three children; Henry Lee; carver-gilder Isaac Martin; stickmaker Michael Massurus; cigarmaker Judah Miller, wife, two children; dealer Yael Goldsmid, 17; and Benjamin Goodman, wife, two children; cigarmaker David Jacobson, 30, wife, three children; Amelia Mendelsohn, married, four children; tailoress Julia Phillips, 24; and widow Eliza Poznaski, 30, one child, New Orleans.

* Lewis or Louis Alexander of Fleet Street was appointed the first Jewish postmaster in 1868.

* From America, Hon. J.P. Benjamin, former senator of the United States, was appointed Secretary of War in the cabinet of President Jefferson Davis of the Confederate States of America in 1861, his escape to the West Indies and the UK in 1865. He studied law in England, was admitted to the Bar, appointed Queens Counsel in Lancaster in 1869.

Ordering information: Robert Boyd Publications, 260 Colwell Drive, Witney, Oxfordshire OX28 5LW, UK. Email: boydpubs@ntlworld.com
“The Jewish Victorian: Genealogical Information from the Jewish Newspapers 1861-70;” 400 pgs; £29.95, airmail P&H £11.
“The Jewish Victorian: Genealogical Information from the Jewish Newspapers 1871-80;” 600 pages; £34.95, airmail P&H £15.

An even better tool for finding Sephardic roots

I’ve been waiting for a special book for some time.

Yesterday, I received the updated fourth edition of Sangre Judia: Espanoles de ascendencia hebrea y antisemitismo cristiano (Jewish Blood: Spaniards of Hebrew Ancestry and Christian Anti-Semitism), Flor del Viento Ediciones, Barcelona, May 2006.

For genealogists, especially those who know they have Sephardic roots and also for those who suspect Jewish roots, the new edition now offers nearly 6,000 Jewish family names found in pre-Expulsion and Inquisition records, identified by community and year. The previous edition listed about 3,000 without identifiers.

Although the book is in Spanish, it is not difficult to read if you’ve had some of the language in school. And, of course, the lists of names and places do not require linguistic abilities.

Well-known in Spain as an author and journalist, Pere Bonnin caused a minor revolution with his three sold-out editions of the book often known simply as Sangre Judia.

The new edition, longer by about 70 pages, also offers an appendix of 159 Jewish doctors (11-15th centuries) living in Catalan-speaking towns, prepared by deceased author Lluis Marco i Dachs, who wrote extensively on the Catalan Jews (Los Judios en Catalunya, Ediciones Destino, Barcelona, 1985), and an expanded bibliography.

Additionally, for readers who are not Jewish today, the book includes a well-written primer in its introduction to Judaism, detailed coverage of Spanish Jewish history, a history of anti-Semitism and the new anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism in Europe.

I see Pere and his wife on visits to Barcelona, and he’s provided me with copies of out-of-print books and name lists, which are now among my treasured possessions. Whether we’re sitting in the sun at an outdoor café drinking thick hot chocolate or attending a concert, his gentle demeanor and devotion to his history and the Jewish people cuts through our multi-lingual conversations.

Pere is a Chueta of Mallorca – Jews forcibly converted 100 years before the Expulsion, never accepted by the Old Christians and discriminated against since.

He’s always asked why he wrote Sangre Judia, and he told me, “The book was painful in that it stirred up the feeling of being discriminated against for something that you did not do, but because of whom you are.”

But, he continued, it also brings great satisfaction. One reward is observing how today’s young Chuetas, unlike his, are not ashamed of their roots.

He’s received thousands of letters, e-mails and phone calls since the first edition. Readers ask how they can find more information about their names and history or how they may return to Judaism, and others are inspired to visit Israel.

Many are “touched” when they find their names or suspect they would be found there, and want to know more. Others, upset to see their names, deny any Jewish connections and, says Pere, “are angry, filled with hate, because they feel trapped by an identity they would prefer to erase.”

Pere’s goal is to have the book translated into English and distributed in the U.S. to reach Hispanic Americans whose ancestors were Spanish Jews.

Restoring Polish Jewish cemeteries

At this time of year we remember our ancestors and visit the cemeteries where they rest. Those whose families perished in the Holocaust often have none to visit, and many of our ancestral shtetl cemeteries are neglected or worse.

Dr. Norman L. Weinberg, executive coordinator of the Poland Jewish Cemeteries Restoration Project (PJCRP), has organized an online petition appeal to the German government to restore the Jewish cemeteries of Poland.

Weinberg recalls the invasion of Poland by Germany in 1939 and the murder of 3 million Polish Jews, and the desecration of Jewish cemeteries. Today, some 1,400 “devastated and desecrated” cemeteries exist there, along with unmarked mass graves, some in cemeteries and forests. Only a few have been restored, generally using funds from survivors and descendants of the towns.

Examples of desecration include Losice, the site of a Gestapo headquarters with a German bunker that is walled and paved with some 1,500 headstones. In Ilza’s cemetery, only fragments of headstones exist, but hundreds lie under a nearby roadway.

The cost for restoring the cemeteries including funds for perpetual care, protecting and memorializing the mass graves, is estimated at more than $200 million.

Why restore the cemeteries?

Says Weinberg, “We do this because Jews are buried in these sacred sites and we do this in memory of the six million Jews murdered in the Holocaust, including 3 million Polish Jews who had no proper burial.

“We remember them in our prayers, in Holocaust museums, memorials, books, the arts and educational programs. This is as it should be. But for the Holocaust, they and their descendants would have been caring for their cemeteries.

“Now the obligation falls to us. By saving and restoring the cemeteries, we can do for them what they cannot…one of the greatest of mitzvot, good deeds.”

Weinberg’s first cemetery project, in Ozarow in 2001, including contacting descendants, forming a Polish repair team and fund-raising. The cemetery dates back some 400 years, and has nearly 300 recovered grave markers.

During the work, two early 1700s stones were uncovered. Most others date from the 1800s. Dr. Eleanora Bergman of Warsaw’s Jewish Historical Institute suggests that this cemetery, like others in Poland, may have been built in layers as it filled, because of the limited burial space allowed Jews.

The Web site includes photographs of the town and cemetery, as well as its history.

By May of 2006, the PJCRP had been involved in 14 restorations, and has 30 more currently underway.

BOOK: The Jewish Victorian

Looking for your family’s English branches and mysterious American and Down Under clues?

The Jewish Victorian: Genealogical Information from the Jewish Newspapers 1861-1870 by Doreen Berger, contains all birth, marriage and death records published in the London Jewish Chronicle and Jewish Record, including obituaries, wills, unusual deaths, murders, university degrees and other news items from the Ashkenazi and Sephardi communities.

In the pages of this book, a community lives through kidnapping, conversion, blackmail, libel and slander actions, suicides and tragic accidents, epidemics, and achievements of Jewish students at major universities, marriage grants to young couples, education, concerts, fundraisers, hiring of communal leaders and rabbis, and announcements of dancing classes for children and adults.

While intimate details of ordinary families fill its pages, there are also lengthy entries on well-known clans like Adler, Montefiore, Sassoon Rothschild and De Sola.

Berger’s first volume covered 1871-1880 and a third will cover 1881-1890.

“It is hoped that genealogists will be able to make connections to many other families,” she says. For any researcher whose families connect to the UK during these years, these volumes are invaluable.

The book also includes announcements from the Jewish Emigration Society, which assisted individuals and families moving to America and Australia.

Berger, a consummate researcher, has been unable to track down the original records from the society. She has researched the group for a book she’s writing – a biography about the Rothschild ladies from Georgian England through the eve of WWII.

Among the announcements:

* To Australia, 1867-8: domestic servant Miriam Abrahams, 19; cigarmaker Lewis Abrahams, 17; and tailoress Ellen Abrahams, 15; Samuel Alexander; insurance broker F.E. Jacobs, wife; and Lewis Lyons.
* To America, 1867-8: Reuben Abrahams, wife, son; Hannah Jacobs, three children; Henry Lee; carver-gilder Isaac Martin; stickmaker Michael Massurus; cigarmaker Judah Miller, wife, two children; dealer Yael Goldsmid, 17; and Benjamin Goodman, wife, two children; cigarmaker David Jacobson, 30, wife, three children; Amelia Mendelsohn, married, four children; tailoress Julia Phillips, 24; and widow Eliza Poznaski, 30, one child, New Orleans.

* Lewis or Louis Alexander of Fleet Street was appointed the first Jewish postmaster in 1868.

* From America, Hon. J.P. Benjamin, former senator of the United States, was appointed Secretary of War in the cabinet of President Jefferson Davis of the Confederate States of America in 1861, his escape to the West Indies and the UK in 1865. He studied law in England, was admitted to the Bar, appointed Queens Counsel in Lancaster in 1869.

Ordering information: Robert Boyd Publications, 260 Colwell Drive, Witney, Oxfordshire OX28 5LW, UK. Email: boydpubs@ntlworld.com
“The Jewish Victorian: Genealogical Information from the Jewish Newspapers 1861-70;” 400 pgs; £29.95, airmail P&H £11.
“The Jewish Victorian: Genealogical Information from the Jewish Newspapers 1871-80;” 600 pages; £34.95, airmail P&H £15.

An even better tool for finding Sephardic roots

I’ve been waiting for a special book for some time.

Yesterday, I received the updated fourth edition of Sangre Judia: Espanoles de ascendencia hebrea y antisemitismo cristiano (Jewish Blood: Spaniards of Hebrew Ancestry and Christian Anti-Semitism), Flor del Viento Ediciones, Barcelona, May 2006.

For genealogists, especially those who know they have Sephardic roots and also for those who suspect Jewish roots, the new edition now offers nearly 6,000 Jewish family names found in pre-Expulsion and Inquisition records, identified by community and year. The previous edition listed about 3,000 without identifiers.

Although the book is in Spanish, it is not difficult to read if you’ve had some of the language in school. And, of course, the lists of names and places do not require linguistic abilities.

Well-known in Spain as an author and journalist, Pere Bonnin caused a minor revolution with his three sold-out editions of the book often known simply as Sangre Judia.

The new edition, longer by about 70 pages, also offers an appendix of 159 Jewish doctors (11-15th centuries) living in Catalan-speaking towns, prepared by deceased author Lluis Marco i Dachs, who wrote extensively on the Catalan Jews (Los Judios en Catalunya, Ediciones Destino, Barcelona, 1985), and an expanded bibliography.

Additionally, for readers who are not Jewish today, the book includes a well-written primer in its introduction to Judaism, detailed coverage of Spanish Jewish history, a history of anti-Semitism and the new anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism in Europe.

I see Pere and his wife on visits to Barcelona, and he’s provided me with copies of out-of-print books and name lists, which are now among my treasured possessions. Whether we’re sitting in the sun at an outdoor café drinking thick hot chocolate or attending a concert, his gentle demeanor and devotion to his history and the Jewish people cuts through our multi-lingual conversations.

Pere is a Chueta of Mallorca – Jews forcibly converted 100 years before the Expulsion, never accepted by the Old Christians and discriminated against since.

He’s always asked why he wrote Sangre Judia, and he told me, “The book was painful in that it stirred up the feeling of being discriminated against for something that you did not do, but because of whom you are.”

But, he continued, it also brings great satisfaction. One reward is observing how today’s young Chuetas, unlike his, are not ashamed of their roots.

He’s received thousands of letters, e-mails and phone calls since the first edition. Readers ask how they can find more information about their names and history or how they may return to Judaism, and others are inspired to visit Israel.

Many are “touched” when they find their names or suspect they would be found there, and want to know more. Others, upset to see their names, deny any Jewish connections and, says Pere, “are angry, filled with hate, because they feel trapped by an identity they would prefer to erase.”

Pere’s goal is to have the book translated into English and distributed in the U.S. to reach Hispanic Americans whose ancestors were Spanish Jews.