Shanghai: Polish citizen registration book online

JRI-Poland now features the 918 index entries of Polish Jewish refugees who visited the Polish Consulate in Shanghai from 1934-41.

For more on the database, click here to learn more about the records and Jews in China.

In a 1992 visit to the Polish Consulate in Shanghai, Dr. Jonathan Goldstein, then a research associate at Harvard University’s Fairbank Center for East Asian Research, and three other scholars, were shown a 200-page register listing Polish citizens who passed through Shanghai between January 9, 1934 and December 16, 1941.

This register was the standard one used by Polish diplomatic missions around the world to record their citizens who called on the Consulate, whether they were visiting or residing in the country. Typically, these records enabled the missions to provide consular services, invite its citizens for celebrations of national days, or contact them for other official reasons.

The following information was recorded in the register in Polish:
Registration number
Registration date
Full name of registrant (maiden name, if provided)
His or her profession
Religion (Mojzeszowa for Jewish)
Birth date and place
Marital status
Last known address in Poland (non-existent for most Jews)
Address in the consular region
Documents submitted (usually a passport)
Name and birth date and place of wife and children
Passport expiry date

The register covers two pages; here is a sample page:

The JRI-Poland Index includes the following fields:

Registration Number
Date entered in register
Maiden Name (if provided)
Given Names
Place of Birth as Written
Place of Birth – Current Name (if different)
Current Country of Place of Birth
Date of Birth
Marital Status

In line with the the cooperative arrangement with JewishGen, which hosts JRI-Poland’s database and website, the Polish citizen database will also be included in the All Poland Database and the JewishGen Holocaust Database.

JRI-Poland has created digital images of the register pages and will send electronic copies of the relevant pages to interested researchers. Contact Mark Halpern to obtain a copy of the page for individuals in the database.

JRI-Poland volunteer Peter Nash (of Australia) has documented and shared his knowledge of Jewish research in China. He and his parents were German refugees in Shanghai. JRI-Poland has reprinted Peter’s excellent paper (presented at the New York 2006 international conference on Jewish genealogy), “China – Unusual Resources for Family Research.” Read it here.

Projects like this cannot be accomplished without the input, hard work and cooperation of numerous individuals. Mark Halpern of JRI-Poland specifically thanks Selma Neubauer (Jewish Genealogical Society of Greater Philadelphia) and JGSGP volunteers for creating the database.

Former Sino-Judaic Institute president Dr. Albert Dein provided copies of the Shanghai Consulate register, Peter Nash reviewed the database and the webpages, Michael Tobias for placing the database online, and Hadassah Lipsius and her web team for creating the webpages.

Cairo Geniza: Digitizing project underway

The Cairo Geniza, with some 200,000 documents and fragments, was discovered in the late 19th-century, in Old Cairo’s Ben Ezra Synagogue annex in Fustat.

It is a rich source of genealogical information as well as documents – from the 9th-14th centuries – which include rabbinical court records, leases, deeds, endowment contracts, debt acknowledgments, marriage contracts and private letters.

The collection demonstrates the history of Jews in the region during the Middle Ages as well as information on religious beliefs and practices, economic and cultural life.

Today, technology is making it possible for everyone to access these treasures as the collection is being digitized.

Autograph draft of Mishneh Torah, the legal code compiled by
the rabbinic authority, philosopher and royal physician
Moses ben Maimon (Maimonides, 1137/8-1204)
MS.Heb.d.32, fols.50b-51a

Learn more here.

The project is important because pieces of the Geniza are today in many institutions; even manuscripts were separated by single leaves and located in different places, making it difficult to understand the importance or significance of the whole item.

One major collection of 25,000 items, is at Oxford University’s Bodleian Library, which possesses liturgical manuscripts and rare Talmud fragments among its holdings. These are unusual because 16th-century Europe experienced mass burnings of Talmud manuscripts.

Technology contributes to the study of these fragments and major libraries are, or have completed, digitizing their collections. The goal is to generate a worldwide database of digitized images, thereby enhancing the accessibility of the various collections and bringing them together. Other institutions involved are Cambridge University, Jewish Theological Seminary, John Ryland Library and the University of Pennsylvania.

Digital communications pioneer and philanthropist George Blumenthal of New York ( president, Center for Online Jewish Studies) and donated his organization’s professional services to this project.

The ability to compare fragments in Oxford with those in Philadelphia, New York, Cambridge and Manchester will enable global scholars to access these collections and to identify matching fragments in different collections.