UK: 41 generations from Mt. Everest

Tracing the Tribe knows that genealogists are very focused people. We know what we want and try to find it. Some might even say there are a few who have a touch of OCD.

According to the Oxford Times (UK), there are others who pass even that line, such as a British explorer who brought 45 containers – via yak (see below right) – to a Mount Everest base camp so he could continue tracking his 41 generations of ancestors.

Explorer Sir Ranulph Fiennes did just that as he missed a deadline for his new book, “Mad Dogs and Englishmen: An Expedition Round My Family.” He’s well-known for 30 international expeditions such as climbing Mt. Everest, crossing the Arctic and Antarctic ice caps, and was the first to complete a polar circumnavigation of the Earth.

“The papers came boxed up in 45 containers and were transported by yak to the base camp. I was able to complete the book by writing in between acclimatisation exercises on the mountain. The pages were handwritten and a senior BBC producer who was with us kindly allowed a BBC photographer to photograph the pages. They were then emailed to my home on Exmoor to be typed up and sent on to my publisher,” he said.

The resulting book is a remarkable record of the extensive Fiennes family going back 41 generations to the family’s French roots to Charles Martel (715-741), who was grandfather to Charlemagne.

It helps to have a family castle where your people have lived for 20 of those 41 generations and which also contains a huge family archive.

In the article, Fiennes says many documents were found in sections of the Castle. He was somewhat shocked – and never suspected – that the family history would go back to his ancestor, Eustace of Boulogne, in 1066.

If you like nursery rhymes or have recently read them to a younger descendant of yours, you might have read “Ride a Cock Horse to Banbury Cross.” The family received the title Baronet of Banbury after an ancestor rescued the town. A line in the rhyme has come down as “Ride a cock horse to Banbury Cross to see a fine lady upon a white horse,” although Fiennes’ mother told him in the 1940s that it should be “to see a Fiennes lady upon a white horse.”

The Fiennes lady was Celia Fiennes (1662-1741). Her father, Gen. Nathaniel Fiennes, was almost hanged by Cromwell for losing Bristol to the Royalists. The adventurous woman did something women of that day did not do – she explored the countryside, riding sidesaddle to every English county. “The Diaries of Celia Fiennes” was published in 1887.

Read the complete story at the link above.

Ancestry: The UK-Wales death index

Ancestry.co.uk posted a very low key release of an important dataset, according to our good friend Laurence Harris, “our man” in London.

He reported that there’s now a full name searchable death index for all deaths in England and Wales for 1916-2005.

Instead of having to search for a name visually on multiple images of the GRO index pages for each quarter year, readers can now do an easy name search in one-shot for 1915-2005. Another great boon is that wildcards and non-exact (variant) spellings are allowed.

This is sure to be a great tool for everyone searching the death of an ancestor in England.

Laurence easily found entries for the deaths of both of his great-grandparents (KLONOWSKI) in the record time of 20 seconds. He also checked for a grandparent whom he knew as Moische SUPOSKY and found him, although the mangled transcription read McIsche for the given name.

A specialist in UK family history, he also provides private professional research. Using the new database, he also located break-throughs for two private clients in about 30 minutes in the database.

Tracing the Tribe’s UK readers may see Laurence at two upcoming events, so be sure to say hello.

He’ll be presenting “Tracing Ancestors and Relatives” at the UK Limmud Conference 2009, December 27-31, at the University of Warwick. Laurence wears another hat as the MyHeritage.com UK Genealogy Advisor and will also be speaking at London’s Who Do You Think You Are LIVE in February 2010 in London.

Questions on UK research for Laurence? Contact him here.

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!

UK: ‘Finding family’ workshop, Dec. 17

The Jewish Genealogical Society of Great Britain will focus on finding family in England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland, at its meeting on Thursday, December 17.

The meeting runs from 7.30-9.30pm at the JGSGB Library in London.

The session will cover information for beginners as well as those more advanced, and for confident and less-confident computer users.

To register, send an email to reserve a place. Fee: JGSGB members, free; others, £5.00.

For more information and address, click JGS of Great Britain (JGSGB).

UK: East end synagogue restored

The venerable Congregation of Jacob synagogue, founded in 1903 in London’s East End is one of only three still-active area congregations.

An extensive renovation of the 107-year-old building has been completed. The building has been variously called a “valuable and venerable relic of Anglo-Jewish social history” and “one of England’s last intimate folk-art Eastern European Synagogues.”

Founded in 1903 by Morris Koenigsberg and Abraham Schwalbe, its members were first-generation immigrants from Poland, Lithuania and Russia.

According to an article in the East London Advertiser, Orthodox Jews from such shtetlach as Stetziver, Kalisz and Vikaviskis began meeting in the front room of the Koeningsberg house on Commercial Road.

The synagogue has managed to maintain its congregation over five generations and more than 100 years, even as the major Jewish community in the East End moved to other areas of London.

In 2001, it was discovered that major repairs were needed to preserve the structure for the future.

The project was funded by the Veolia Environmental Trust, the World Monuments Fund, Jewish Heritage and Heritage of London. The Rothschild Foundation paid for a building survey, and the small congregation itself raised £30,000.

For more information, see the Congregation of Jacob site.

UK: Limmud 2009, Dec. 27-31

What’s a Jew to do over Christmas?

In New York, the annual tradition is to go for Chinese food on Christmas Day. It may have begun as Chinese restaurants were likely the only places open on the holiday.

In the UK, there’s a new tradition being observed by Jews over the traditional winter break.

Limmud.org is the UK site for the Limmud International, which organizes Jewish cultural and learning experiences in countries around the world. Limmud is Hebrew, “to learn.”

Limmud began in the UK some 25 years go, and now it is replicated in Jewish communities around the world, from Los Angeles to Istanbul, Argentina to the Baltics and in Israel. Currently 26 events are on the international calendar and interactive map here.

Pioneer Sephardic genealogist Jeff Malka recently spoke at Limmud Turkey in November, and UK Jewish genealogist Laurence Harris will speak at the UK’s December event.

This year, the UK version takes place from December 27-31 at the University of Warwick, with some major international and local names in attendance. There are top-ranked Jewish educators who attract ordinary people who want to learn something new and experience the communal learning model.

According to the website:

Every year Limmud Conference is enriched by the cream of the Jewish world. Many of our presenters are leaders in their field – scholars, artists, musicians, writers politicians, activists, teachers, journalists. Many simply love their subject. They all have something engaging to say, insights to offer and Jewish treasures to give you to take home.

Speakers and participants rub shoulders in a very democratic fashion. Everyone stays in university dorms and name tags bear only names, no titles. People eat together in the cafeteria (kosher, of course) and bus their own trays afterward.

During the day, participants listen to academics, rabbis, various experts all talking about Jewish culture and religion and many related topics. It is a family event, including sessions for children as well as parent-child study sessions, along with Jewish music and dancing.

Many participants and speakers are not academics. What they do is exchange ideas and learning. And the observance level runs from cultural Jews to those who are Orthodox.

The Guardian’s article on Limmud 2008, attended by some 2,000, is here.

This year’s line up of speakers includes:

–Hephzibah Anderson – Journalist/author.
–Michael J. Broyde – Emory University (Atlanta, Georgia) law professor, Law and Religion Program director.

Michelle Citrin – Brooklyn-based singer/songwriter and YouTube sensation
–Sergio DellaPergola – Hebrew University demographics professor, Jewish population specialist.
–Hagai Elad – Director, Association of Civil Rights in Israel
–Louise Ellman – Labour MP; Labour Friends of Israel vice chair.
–Konstanty Gebert – Polish journalist; Jewish intellectual, founder/former editor, Midrasz magazine
–Yehuda Henkin – Author, four volumes of responsa
–Richard Joel – Yeshiva University president, Jewish education teacher and expert.
–Jack Kagan – Holocaust survivor who fought with Bielski brothers.
–Judy Klitsner – Pardes Institute for Jewish Studies senior faculty member/author.
–Ofek Meir – Haifa Leo Baeck Center rabbi, elementary school principal.
–Michael Melchior – Social/environmental activist, former minister/Member of Knesset, Chief Rabbi of Norway.
–Kobi Oz – Israeli band Teapacks former lead singer, with new band, Mizmorei Nevuchim.
–Denise Phillips – Chef, cooking teacher; author, four Jewish cookbooks.
–David Saperstein – New York Reform Action Center director, most influential US rabbi (Newsweek).
–Chaim Seidler-Feller – UCLA Hillel director, American Jewish University Talmud/kabbalah lecturer.

There is an additional long list of additional presenters including authors, filmmakers, newspaper editors, Reform/Conservative Movement leaders, hip-hop artists, Sephardic musicians, folklorists, terrorism experts, yeshiva directors, actors, performers, poets, kabbalah experts, Polish experts, rock singers, rabbis, professors, philosophers, magazine editors, college principals, anthropologists, lawyers, Indian/Ethiopian experts, video project directors, Holocaust center directors and many more.

Wherever you live, there’s a Limmud. If there isn’t, why not help start one? And if you’re interested, see what you can do about putting family history research on the program to reach a wider audience.

UK: CemeteryScribes.com

In London, noted Jewish researchers Gaby Laws and Angela Shire have shared information on their new site, SynagogueScribes.com, as well as updates on CemeteryScribes.com, formerly known as GenPals.com

Tracing the Tribe has previously posted about GenPals.com.

CemeteryScribes.com has been around for three years, with more than 10,000 individuals listed along with 3,330 headstone photos. Many more will be added and several new burial grounds will be catalogued.

While work on CemeteryScribes will keep Gaby and Angela Shire busy for several more years, they are now going to launch the new SynagogueScribes.com, billed as a “one-stop gateway to Anglo-Jewish community records.”

Its unique, fully-searchable database of London Ashkenazy synagogue records, focusing on pre-UK civil registration (from July 1, 1837).

The database already contains the names of over 11,500 marriage partners, drawn from the major London communities (The Great, The New, The Hambro and the Western Synagogues); more than 1,500 birth records from the Great and New Synagogue registers: more than 1,800 circumcision records from two mohel registers.

Additionally, there are 600 never-before-published burial records (1774-1810), from one of two registers held at the University of Southampton Library Archives & Manuscripts Department. They are still being transcribed and many more will be added over the coming months.

Gaby reports that they have made several links to burials in Brady Street Cemetery. Many record the deaths of children, stillborn or miscarried births and may help to explain apparent age gaps between children. One example is that of Jewish schoolmaster Hyman Hurwitz of Highgate, who suffered such losses.

Sometimes they have been able to connect a “missing” spouse to their partner:

CemeteryScribes I7647 Samuel b. Zachariah was buried in Brady Street 1799-1800. We have not located a grave for his widow but, from the Burial Register, we now know she died some 9 years later [DPL 0563 Burial 1809 [2 Jul] Widow ZACHARIAH Widow) of Samuel ZACHARIAH Samuel (Samuel b. Zachariah) Gun Street Spitalfields.

An interesting find is the listing of the 1801 death of R. Feivel b. Abraham Goldsticker. The record shows the death date for one of the Great Synagogue’s earliest members and also adds two additional generations to the family of Avigdor ABbrahams with information on their unusual business as gold embroiderers. Not yet on SynagogueScribes, it will be added on the next update.

SynagogueScribes is a transcribed record database not open to change. Although there is no discussion list and the site does not collect family trees or genealogies, Gaby and Angelea would be happy to hear from Tracing the Tribe’s readers who are able to link to any of the new burial records. Go to the “Contact Us” page at the site to provide information.