South Africa: Seeking Ochberg Orphan descendants

Genealogists are detectives, so here’s a case many of us might be able to help solve.

David Solly Sandler of Australia is seeking 2,000 South Africans – the descendants of 60 Ukrainian war and pogrom orphans, known as Ochberg’s Orphans.

Writes David: 

In 1921, Isaac Ochberg, representative of the South African Jewish Community, travelled to Poland and the Ukraine and brought back with him to Cape Town 167 “Russian, Ukraine and Polish War and Pogrom Orphans” plus 14 “attendants and nurses,” mainly older siblings.

Half the children were placed in the care of the Cape Jewish Orphanage (later Oranjia) and half went to Johannesburg, under the care of the South African Jewish Orphanage (later Arcadia). Many children were adopted by Jewish community members, who contributed generously to a fund to bring the children to South Africa and care for them.

What’s David’s connection to Arcadia? Born in 1952, David grew up from age 3-17 at Arcadia, the South African Jewish Orphanage in Sandringham, Johannesburg. Now a semi-retired chartered accountant, he lives in Western Australia and has completed two books on Arcadia (see below for more information). For the history of the orphanage – established in 1899 – click here.

David is now in month 18 of the 27 months he’s allocated to record the life stories of the Ochberg Orphans. Of the 181 children, the stories of 90 have been recorded, contact has been made with another 30, but 60 still remain to be contacted.

How did he arrive at this number? David believes – for the so far “missing” 60 – that each child was born around 1910, married and had three children, nine grandchildren and 27 great-grandchildren, thus there should be more than the estimated 2,000 descendants cited above. Of course, no one knows for sure.

However, what is really important in this story is that many descendants might not know their connection to the Ochberg Orphans. The children did not often speak about this and many tried to hide the fact from their children because of the stigma of being an orphan.

One descendant wrote, says David:

Today, as for the general South African Jewish community, half  of the 2,000 descendants likely have left South Africa and now live around the world in Israel, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the UK and the US.

“The general attitude of the community was that it was a mitzvah to have adopted one of those poor orphans, a good deed in a dark world, but you really wouldn’t want one of them to marry into your family, would you? After all, you knew nothing of their parents and extended family, their health history and their genetic background. This is a generalisation that isn’t true of all the adopters but it was certainly true of a fair number, nervous, insecure, only to do nothing that would jeopardise their increasing prosperity and emergent social solidity.”

Here’s the kicker – here are the names of these orphans. If you have someone with this name in your family tree, born c1910, there’s a chance you might be an Ochberg Orphan descendant, so read the list carefully and if you find a name of interest, contact David (email below).

— BARMATCH Sara, BARUCH Leya, BERNFELD Hersh,
— CWENGEL Saul,
— ELMAN Blume, ELMAN Jentl/ Izzy, ELSHTEIN Abo, ENGELMAN Jakob,
— FREMD/FRIEND Max,
— GARBUS /GOLDSTEIN Shmul, GAYER Chawa, GEBENCOL/GOLZ Rochel, GERYNSHTEIN Abram, GINSBURG Mintcha, GUBER/GEIBER/GRUBER Tcharna (Charlotte ODES),
— H/GURWITZ Rosa,
— ISRAELSON Chaim,
— JUDES Rubin,
— KAHAN Channe, KAHAN Golda, KAHAN Morduch/Mordche, KAHAN Shachna, KAILER Rywka, KAUFMAN Cypora, KAUFMAN Soloman/Shlama, KAWERBERG Mayer, KAWERBERG Mees/Moshe, KIGIELMAN Jacob, KNUBOVITZ Zlata, KREINDEL Rejsel, KRUGERr Rejsel, KRUGER Abram, KRUGER Jacob,
— LIPSHIS Moishe, LIPSHYTZ Perel,
— MARGOLIN Sara, MILER Braindel, MORDOCHOWITCH Gutro, MORDOCHOWITCH Estel,
— NUDERMAN Gdalia,
— OCHSTEIN Salomon, ORLIANSKY Abram,
— PERRCHODNIK/PERECHODNIK Ussr, PINSKY/PINSKA Faywel, PINSKY/PINSKA Feyga (Birdie GLASER), PINSKY/PINSKA Maisha, PINSKY/PINSKA Zlata,
— REICHMAN Abram, REICHMAN Chaim, REISENDERRubin, REKLER Leya, RINSLER/RINZLER Chaskiel/Chaykel, ROSENBAUM Leon, ROSENBLIT Gdalia, ROSENBLIT Szamay,
— Y/J/SAGOTKOWSKY Jacob/Jacov, SCHTERN/SHTERN Szlema/Solomon, SCHWARZ Josef, SHTEINER/STEINER Chaskel, SHTEINER/STEINER Hersh, SHTEINER/SZTEINER/STEINER Isaac, SMITH Morduch/Mordche, SHTRASNER Feyga, STILLERMAN Hersh/Harry,
— TREPPEL Jacob
— WEIDMAN Sheindel.

David adds that by the end of 2010, the lifestories of some 130 of the children will have been collected. They will be included in a book to be published and sold internationally with all proceeds going to Arcadia and Oranjia, as are the Arcadian Memory Books.

Readers who recognize names of interest should email David for more information, or if you are a descendant and want your family’s story included.

“100 Years of ARC Memories” (March 2006) celebrates the centenary book of Arcadia, formerly the South African Jewish Orphanage.

“More ARC Memories” (December 2008) is the sequel to the first volume, and includes 17 chapters on the Ochberg Children.

Together, the books total 1,100+ pages and hold the memories of more than 250 children. All proceeds go to the Arcadia Children’s Home that still exists and looks after children in need. By the end of 2009, some Rand 365,000 had been raised and the target is Rand 1 million. The set of two books costs $100 plus $10 shipping (click here for more information).

UK: 160 years of Illustrated London News now online

Researching your ancestors in the UK just became easier, with 160 years of the Illustrated London News now online.

Hosted by Gale, there are some 250,000 pages and about 750,000 photographs and illustrations, from its first issue on May 14, 1842 to the last in 2003. At a time when copper printing was expensive and took time, the ILN developed a fast, cheap woodcut print method for illustrations. Photographs first began to appear in print during the late 19th century.

“It was the multimedia of its day,” said Seth Cayley, publisher of media history at Cengage Learning, which has digitised the ILN archive. “In one sense, people didn’t know before then what the rest of the world really looked like. ILN was the strongest paper of its sort and helped shape the middle class.”

According to the Guardian, highlights include articles by such writers as Charles Dickens, Thomas Hardy, Wilkie Collins and Agatha Chrstie. The first illustrated news publication included all the news of the day, such as wars, disasters, exhibitions and work by famed artists of the day.

While access is currently available only to subscribing institutions, there seems to be hope, as noted in the original Guardian story:

The online archive, which goes up to 2003, will initially be available only to libraries and educational institutions.

The archive presents articles both on an individual page, or to view in the original layout next to adverts and other editorial of the day. Pages are full-colour with both text and tagged images indexed for search, though the archive is not publicly accessible and has not been indexed by Google.

Cayley said the firm had improved the archive experience with each previous project, including its work on Times Online, the Economist, the British Library and the FT.

“The Times archive has been so successful it has almost distorted the way people research, because they assume that is the only newspaper archive. But more archives coming online will mean better representation of different reporting and a clearer perspective on the past,” Cayley added.

He said it would be ideal for all newspaper archives to be cross searchable in the future, and that Cengage is exploring that option.

From a page at Gale, here’s more on access:

Please note: The ILN Historical Archive is only available for institutions to trial and purchase.The archive is not available at this stage for individual subscriptions, although a pay per view site may be considered at some future time. Users of the archive can share images and articles for non commercial purposes only.

If you have access, here’s what you’ll find.

The Illustrated London News Historical Archive gives students and researchers unprecedented online access to the entire run of the ILN from its first publication on 14 May 1842 to its last in 2003. Each page has been digitally reproduced in full colour and every article and caption is full-text searchable with hit-term highlighting and links to corresponding illustrations. Facsimilies of articles and illustrations can be viewed, printed and saved either individually or in the context of the page in which they appear. Wherever possible Special Numbers covering special events such as coronations or royal funerals have been included.

For more from Gale, click here, which notes that the new archive will be of interest to researchers in many fields:

Use this remarkable resource to support scholarly and enthusiast research in social history, fashion, theatre, media, literature, advertising, graphic design and politics, as well as those interested in genealogy.

The Guardian noted:

The archive includes an 1850s illustration of a “sea serpent” seen by sailors from HMS Daedalus on a passage from the West Indies – which they promptly tried to shoot – and a column by feminist Florence Fenwick Miller. She describes using cocaine drops to combat sea sickness. “All chemists keep it, and my readers undertaking a sea-voyage should have no difficulty in procuring a supply.”

Tracing the Tribe hopes for future access for all.

UK: Manchester conference, May 9

The Eighth Northern Conference of the Jewish Genealogical Society of Great Britain is set for Sunday, May 9, in Manchester.

Organized by the JGSGB’s Manchester Regional Group, it will take place at the Greater Manchester Police Training College (Prestwich).

In addition to the excellent roster of expert speakers, there will be a display of some outstanding family history research and family trees produced by group members.

See complete details – including detailed speaker bios and topic abstracts – of this year’s program in the event newsletter here, including registration form, venue directions and more.

Speakers are:

Anthony Joseph
JGSGB President

— “In Search of Jewish Ancestry”

Petra Laidlaw
Architect of the 1851 Anglo-Jewry Database

— “1851 and Manchester”

Elizabeth Wilburn
Greater Manchester Police Museum and Archives

— “Alien Registration Books”

David Lewis
Assisted with reorganisation/cataloguing, Hull Jewish Archives

— “Treasures of the Hull Jewish Archives”

John Cowell
Manchester Regional Group committee member

— “Researching the Preston Jewish Community – surprises and discoveries”

Michael Tobias
JewishGen vice president

— “JewishGen: Overview of main databases, and how lesser sources can lead to major breakthroughs”

Tickets are £20 for the full day, including refreshments and buffet lunch. The registration form is included in the newsletter. Tracing the Tribe readers who live in or near Manchester should enjoy this full-day event.

Melbourne: The conference opens

Although Melbourne suffered from a 100-year rain, with flooded streets, damaged and leaking roofs, hail (from marble-size to much larger!), nothing stopped these intrepid genealogists from arriving at the Beth Weizmann community building in Caulfield South.

Sallyann Amdur Sack-Pikus gave the keynote address and focused on “Jewish Genealogy: Past , Present and Future,” as she detailed the history and growth of Jewish genealogy in the US and worldwide.

After a coffee break, I was up next with our “Iberian Ashkenaz DNA Project: So You Think You’re Ashkenazi.” It generated many questions and people were talking to me all day about their family’s stories. The point was to raise awareness of the possibilities and it certainly seemed to do just that.

I hadn’t known previously, but I was to lead a Sephardic SIG group next, with another group of interested people with even more interesting stories to tell and questions to be answered.

Following lunch (complete with felafel, potato salad and the rest), I then presented “The New Technology Frontier: Social Networks and Blogging,” which also encouraged questions and comments, as I covered Facebook, Twitter, Blogging and genealogy social networking sites. Several people at the session and ater during the day mentioned that their trees had been hijacked at Geni.

There were several concurrent sessions. I attended Jenni Buch’s Belarus session and Peter Nash’s excellent “China: Resources for Family Research,” which offered some rather amazing sources discovered by Peter. Attending Peter’s talk was our new friend Helen Bekhor of Melbourne, whose Sephardic family – originally from Baghdad – was interned by the Japanese in Shanghai. Peter attended the Kadoorie School in Shanghai and it sounded like they knew some of the same people way back then. Rieke Nash’s session on JRI-Poland was next.

What I missed: Krystyna Duszniak’s “Unearthing the Polish Past by Necessity: The Historica Journey to a Poish Passport,” Todd Knowles’ “British Holldings of the Family History Library,” Daniela Torsh’s “Finding Hilda: An Austrian Genealogy Story,” and Prof. Martin Delatycki’s “Genetic Disease Among Jewish People.” There were also SIG groups on researching early Australia, German research, Hungary and the Netherlands.

In the evening, a reception was held at the nearby Glen Eira Town Hall, complete with wine, sushi and more. A moving address was given by the young mayor, Steven Tang, who described his trip back to Poland and search for his mother’s Jewish roots, as well as his father’s Chinese roots. Awards were given to hardworking society members.

The society lost some time ago one of its major movers and shakers – Les Oberman – a good friend of mine. A meeting room was dedicated with a plaque bearing his name.

Ziva Fain and I are now out the door to day two of the conference.

Photos and more will be posted tonight.

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.

UK: ‘Crossing Borders’ manuscript exhibit opens

“Crossing Borders: Hebrew Manuscripts as a Meeting Place of Cultures,” is a major exhibition at Oxford University’s Bodleian Library. It opened in December and will run through May 3..

It is based on the library’s own Hebrew holdings – one of the largest and best Hebrew manuscript collections in the world.

The Bodleian’s Hebraica curator Dr Piet van Boxel is also librarian of the Oxford Centre for Hebrew and Jewish Studies Centre.

The exhibit describes how Jews, Christians and Muslims lived together during the Middle Ages, and illuminates the Jewish experience across Europe and the Middle East in the 300 years between the 13th-15th centuries.

On display are manuscripts written in Hebrew, Latin and Arabic which illustrate how Jews and non-Jews interacted socially and culturally in both the Muslim and Christian worlds.

Similar decorative patterns, writing styles, script types and text genres appear in manuscripts in different languages from the same region, showing how communities in the same localities shared taste and technology. While Hebrew manuscripts from Spain, Italy or Northern Europe look different, they resemble non-Hebrew books from the same places.

Hebrew scribes adopted elements of the surrounding culture, sharing co-existence, cultural affinity and cooperation between Jews and their neighbors.

The illustration above left is a carpet page from the Kennicott Bible, an illustrated Spanish Hebrew manuscript of the 14th and 15th centuries.

According to the exhibit site, interactive digital technology allows visitors to “turn the pages” of the manuscript virtually.

One prayer book – the Michael Mahzor – produced in Germany in 1258, was illuminated by a Christian who didn’t know Hebrew; the first illustration is painted upside down.

The exhibit runs through May 3 in the Bodleian’s exhibition hall. It is open Monday-Friday 9am-5pm, Saturday 9am-4.30pm and Sunday 11am-5pm. No admission fee.

For more information, click here.

UK: 1939 census may hold answers

Looking for ancestors who lived in the UK in 1939? The following new resource may help, according to London researcher Laurence Harris.

While census records are a major source of information for family historians and genealogists, access to recent records is limited in most countries, thus access to this 1939 collection may be useful to researchers.

Laurence writes that there has been a UK census (England and Wales), recording individual names and other relevant details, every 10 years since 1841, with 1911 being the last publicly released census data for individuals:

  • There was a 1921 census (data to be released in 2021).
  • The 1931 census data was destroyed during WWII.
  • There was no 1941 census due to the war.
  • There is a massive gap (1911-1951) in currently available UK census information.
  • In preparation for war, an effective census (1939 National Registration Act) was taken on September 29, 1939, including such details as name, sex, age, occupation, marital status and membership in the armed forces.
  • Data was later used for issuance of ID cards, post-war National Insurance numbers, and other purposes.

In a recent development, individuals may now apply to have a copy of the data in this 1939 register (relating to those then living in England or Wales) by applying to The Information Centre of the NHS (National Health Service).

CAVEAT: Data is only supplied about individuals known by the NHS to be deceased (they know about the deaths of most individuals who died in the UK) or whom the researcher can prove is deceased.

Laurence has personally contacted the NHS department handling applications for 1939 data and shared the following information.

There are two main ways of applying:

  • Supply the full name and (exact) date of birth of an individual – and you will be sent all the details they have about that individual including their 1939 address, OR
  • Supply a 1939 address in the UK and they will supply the details of up to 10 persons living at that address at that time.

The data is not publicly available online, and each application costs a hefty non-refundable £42. CAVEAT: The fee is non-refundable even if no information is found or if it is incomplete or illegible, or if information is located but cannot be released because it relates to a person whose death cannot be proved by the NHS or the researcher.

However, says Laurence, “Despite the high cost of obtaining this data and the restrictions on its availability, this unique source may provide some researchers with breakthrough information about their ancestors at the outbreak of WWII.”

For details about the process (England and Wales only), click here for the application form, payment information and more. For access to the 1939 Scottish data, click here for more information.

Researchers should bear in mind, adds Laurence, that to get details of family members in 1939 – if you don’t know their September 1939 address – might require two separate sequential applications:

  • Step 1: Apply to obtain an address, AND
  • Step 2: Apply to find out who else was living at that address.

No information will be given for individuals who are or could be living.

Those who request an address search will only be provided the names and details of people known to be deceased. If there were other family members who could still be alive, the researcher will not be told.

Readers who would like more information about this data or other sources for tracing people who lived in – or passed through the UK – from 1880-1950, should contact Laurence, who is a specialist in UK Jewish family history research.