Yom HaShoah: 2,000 memorials database, April 12

On April 12, Yom HaShoah – Shoah (Holocaust) Remembrance Day – commemorates Jewish communities that vanished all over Europe. It also marks the results of pogroms following the creation of Israel in Arab countries.

The Israel Genealogical Society has a database of nearly 2,000 memorials and monuments for such communities. They are in cemeteries and towns, synagogues, forests and also live in street names.

IGS invites readers to search the database and see if your ancestral towns have memorials in Israel, see photos of them and note their locations. Here’s the search box:

Search parameters:

— Select the “country” list to see all lands where Sephardim used to live. According to IGS, the project is dedicated to an Algerian Jew who perished in Auschwitz.

— Search by town name, region name, or country; near town, country, or location of the monument in Israel.

— Places may be listed with different spellings depending on pronunciation in native language or in Yiddish.

— Search by “is exactly,” “starts with” (three-letter minimum), “contains”(three-letter minimum).

— Search by Hebrew name of the community.

— If you can’t find a memorial in Israel that you know is there, search by country (today) name of that location.

— Use creative spelling.

Readers aware of memorials in Israel not found in the database are invited to send in photos and documentation so locations may be added.

Doing the happy dance!

We all like to read about genealogy “happy dance” moments!

From my dear friend Rosanne Leeson (Los Altos, California), comes this delightful email. She wants everyone to be as happy as she is now after watching the Matthew Broderick episode of “Who Do You Think You Are?” and following a clue on the show to the solution to a Civil War family mystery.

Her family arrived very early in the USA (pre-Civil War) and she is an experienced and seasoned researcher of her Jewish family.

Wow! I am sitting here with tears in my eyes!

I have just had my first benefit from watching the “Who Do You Think You Are?” show!

Saw the last one with Matthew Broderick, when he finds his great-great’s grave in the Marietta GA National Cemetery. I never even knew that such a cemetery existed, or that they had moved Union dead there from Atlanta.

I had been hoping for ages to find out what ever happened to my great-grandmother’s youngest brother, who she had brought over to the US from Bavaria in the early 1860’s. I had gotten his record from NARA, knew when and where he had died (in a hospital in Atlanta of miliary fever).

Had asked someone in Atlanta to try to find out what had happened to his body. The only answer I got was that they had probably thrown his remains into a common or pauper’s grave. NICE!

He had only been in the US a short time, spoke very little English, but signed up to fight for the Union cause in NY, where my great-grandparents were living. He was 20 years old when he died. I always felt so sad that there was no closure for any of the family descendants.

Then I learned about the Marietta National Cemetery. Got online and found not only history of it, but a list of those buried there. BINGO! Great-Grand-uncle found!

I just called the cemetery and the gentleman was wonderful. They are sending out someone to see if he had a stone and, if so, to photograph it for me, and send in a week. He said that he thought there might be a stone or his name would not have been on the list. If not, I will order one. No fee for a picture! Their duty and pleasure to add closure after nearly 150 years!


Rosanne, a semi-retired librarian, is a consummate genealogist, specializing in Romania (RomSIG) and Alsace (has translated many records and visited over the years). She’s also vice president of the San Francisco Bay Area Jewish Genealogical Society.

What this points up is that even very experienced researchers can learn something every day!

We never know when a ray of sunshine will illuminate that lost record that has eluded us for decades. We never know when a resource may provide a missing link.

I’m sure all Tracing the Tribe readers join me in congratulating Rosanne on her achievement, and congratulating WDYTYA on providing the clue.

Our well-known colleague Megan Smolenyak Smolenyak noted this post in her most recent Huffington Post article. Thanks, Megan.

Florida: Genealogy beyond the Internet, April 14

Genealogy beyond the Internet is the program at the next meeting of the Jewish Genealogical Society of Palm Beach County on Wednesday, April 14.

The meeting runs from 12.30-3pm, with a brick wall session, business meeting and main program, at the South County Civic Center, Delray Beach. Members are free; others, $5. SIG groups for Hungary and Ukraine will meet from 11.30am-12.15pm.

Mark Jacobson, Jerry Naditch and Dennis Rice will present the main program, as they discuss genealogy resources not generally available online.

Researchers tend to forget that genealogists discovered useful sources of information well before the internet existed!

The presentation will focus on several “hard copy” resources such as: vital records, grave markers, published obituaries, city directories and Social Security applications.

The speakers will demonstrate examples of source material; how and where to obtain it. They will review resources of the Family History Centers (FHC), sponsored by the Mormon Church.

Many valuable genealogical documents are available only on microfilm, which can often be ordered and read at the Boca Raton Family History Library and other Palm Beach County sites.

Submit questions in advance for the Brick Wall program.

For more information, visit the JGS of Palm Beach County.

Tales of success: How sweet it is!

Back in June, Kevin Bowman in Ohio wrote to Tracing the Tribe about his Dutch Jewish ancestry, and shared information on the Akevoth database of Ashkenazim in 18th-century Amsterdam.

He used the Akevoth database to find information on his EZEKIEL family. The photo below is Moses Jacob Ezekiel at the Virginia Military Institute (VMI), who fought in the battle at New Market.

Just recently, he found additional success using a new UK database, SynagogueScribes.com, described by Tracing the Tribe.

Here’s more on his two reports of success:

In addition to informing me about the Akevoth database, he described his success over several months.

I find it is the most extraordinary website. With this database, I have taken my family tree back 200 years beyond the tree that Rabbi Stern mapped in “First American Jewish Families.”

He reported on the ancestors of his great-great-great-grandfather Jacob Ezekiel, a prominent American Jew, whose family was mapped by Stern here. His son, Moses Jacob (photo above), became a famous sculptor. Kevin did note that the points mapped by Stern each led to a brick wall on his genealogical quest.

Kevin knew the family adopted the surname in the US, but were known as Schreiber in the Netherlands. As he played with name variants, he discovered the Akevoth database.

Just googling around with alternative names, one day, I ran into the Akevoth database, and found this.

I was stunned to compare what I knew about the Ezekiel family to Jacob Jokeb Ezechiel Posnan(s)ki Schreiber’s family in the database. It matched nearly perfectly. Then, even more amazingly, it mapped out family trees going back another 200 years.

Says Kevin, an Ohio attorney, matching American families to the Dutch database is a difficult process because of changes in spelling, surname and others. He has been successful more than once, and believes that several of Stern’s family trees could be expanded using the Akevoth database.

Occasionally, he’s found people in the notes that should have been in the trees, but were somehow overlooked.

As an example, he writes about Sarah Abraham Waterman (Wasserman), listed as the wife of Michiel Mozes Doesburg Gompert Kleef, but not listed among the children of Abraham Waterman, despite the clear connection. The family moved to England and became Gompertz and their children moved to the US.

He recommends searching the entire website with alternative names to see if there are any missed connections, and also recommends variants with “ben” and “bat” as these constructions appear frequently.

Kevin, who also has Sephardic ancestry (De Castro), says the Ashkenazi database is far better than the Sephardic stuff available. Although materials consistently report that the Ezekiels were Sephardic, as does the family legend, and the fact that they attended a Philadelphia Sephardic synagogue, records reveal a patrilineal Ashkenazi family.

However, he’s never been able to connect any of the individuals listed by Rabbi Stern on the De Castro to any information regarding Sephardic Jews in the Netherlands, except for one marriage entry (possibly!). But he keeps trying!

He further describes the transformation of the Kerkhoven surname into Myers in the US, which could help Myers descendants go back in time.

Aaltje Abraham Waterman, the sister of Kevin’s Step-GGGG-Grandfather, married Emanuel Jacob Kerkhoven, son of Jacob Levie Kerkhoven. See this Akevoth family page. In the US, she became Adeline and he Emanuel Jacob Myers (see this Stern page)

In early December, Kevin had another round of success. Following his reading our post about CemeteryScribes.com and SynagogueScribes.com, his quest revealed the marriage record of his GGGG grandparents.

I always recommend that people using new databases and sites write to them when they find success, and that’s what Kevin did. Gaby Laws of SynagogueScribes.com then forwarded his email to me.

I heard about your site through the Jewish Geneablog “Tracing the Tribe.” They suggested that you may like to hear about any success in using your database. I think I may have found the marriage record of my 4xG Grandparents.

Ref.No. GSM 232/39 shows a marriage record Jabob Elias (Jeker ben Eliahu) who married Eliza Barnett (Libisha bat Jacob Simon) at the Great Synagogue in London on August 3, 1825. The dates and names all seem to fit, although I did not know Eliza’s maiden name.

By 1849, Jacob Elias had died and Eliza remarried, their daughter Kate married John Bowman and the whole family moved to Chicago.This new information may have knocked down a brick wall for me.

We are all inspired by such stories of achievement, and Kevin has done very well in 2009.

When you find success, write in or comment on the relevant Tracing the Tribe post. Also, tell the database or website described that you learned about it here. This makes all of us very happy for you! Success inspires success.

Tracing the Tribe wishes Kevin and all our readers continued genealogical good fortune at this festive time of miracles!

San Francisco Bay: Magnes Museum founder dead

On behalf of the Judah L. Magnes Museum, director and chief curator Alla Efimova informed the Magnes community of the death of Seymour Fromer, 87.

Fromer died in his home in Berkeley, California, on October 25 after a long illness. The internationally known Jewish educator and founder of the Judah L. Magnes Museum was 87.

Born and raised in the Bronx, New York, Fromer graduated from Stuyvesant High School, earned a B.A. from Brooklyn College, and did graduate work at Teachers College Columbia University. He worked in the Jewish communities of Essex County , New Jersey and Los Angeles where, in 1955, in the Hollywood Bowl he presented the opera David, composed by Darius Milhaud who conducted the orchestra. In Los Angeles, Fromer met and married his wife of more than fifty years, the poet and author Rebecca Camhi.

In the late 1950s, Fromer came to Oakland, California, and established the Jewish Education Council (the forerunner of today’s Center for Jewish Life and Learning), remaining in that post for a quarter century.

In 1962, the Fromers founded the Magnes Museum, first in modest quarters over the Parkway movie theater in Oakland and a few years later in the turn-of-the-century Burke mansion at 2911 Russell Street in Berkeley, its headquarters to this day.

Before Fromer’s retirement in 1998, the Magnes grew to become the third largest Jewish museum in North America. It has specialized in ceremonial art and posters and paintings of Jewish interest. Fromer expanded the collection by rescuing artifacts from endangered Jewish communities such as Czechoslovakia, Morocco, Egypt, and India.

In 1967, he established the Western Jewish History Center at the Magnes, the first regional Jewish history center in the U.S. and the most comprehensive. He also created the Commission for the Preservation of Pioneer Jewish Cemeteries and Landmarks, which restored and to this day maintains seven Jewish Gold Rush cemeteries in the California Mother Lode.

Especially in the 1970s and 80s, Fromer nurtured many young Jewish scholars and artists and was a key catalyst in the Jewish cultural renaissance in the Bay Area. He provided the impetus for such organizations as Lehrhaus Judaica, the Jewish Film Festival, and the National Yiddish Book Center.

Seymour Fromer is survived by his wife, Rebecca Camhi Fromer; their daughter, Mira Z. Amiras, Professor of Comparative Religion at San Jose State University; and grandchildren attorney Michael Zussman and Rayna Leonora Savrosa, a graduate student in the Parsons School of Design, both of Brooklyn, New York.

A memorial service open to the public will be held Tuesday, October 27, at 1PM at Congregation Beth El, 1301 Oxford Street, Berkeley.

The family requests that any donations in Seymour Fromer’s memory be sent to the Judah L. Magnes Museum, 2911 Russell Street, Berkeley, CA 94705.

For more information on the Museum, click here.