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03 May 2016

Holocaust Remembrance Day (Yom Hashoah)

Thursday, May 5th is the date set aside as Holocaust Remembrance Day or Yom Hashoah. It is the day that we remember the over 6,000,000 who were murdered during the Holocaust. It is a time that we can bring our families together in hopes that the memories will never be lost.

                                                                   Elie Wiesel
 While the murders did indeed take place in Europe, there may not have been any place on earth that
Marriage of Meyer/Wittkowski
was not influenced by the Holocaust. This year I will remember some of my own family members, people such as Philip Myer and his wife Mabel Wittkowski.
Philip and Mabel were married on  7 Dec 1889 in Berlin, Germany (doc at left). Philip was born in Fordon, Poland the son of Gumpel Meyer and his wife Rosa Auerbach. At the time of this wedding both of his parents were living in Salt Lake City, where the family was involved with the Auerbach Department Stores. Mabel was born in Ballaart, Australia, the daughter of the late Isidor and his wife Lina Kronfeld.
Philip had spent time back in Utah prior to his wedding, he was the architect of one of the first synagogues in Utah, however he lived with his bride in Berlin. During the war, Philip and Mabel were taken to the Theresienstadt Concentration Camp, were their murders were recorded in Oct of 1943.

This year I will also remember those who lost their lives as they fought to free people from the hands of evil. Many of the soldiers who died had never been to Europe before but volunteered because they knew what was happening was not right, and that everyone should have the right to worship as they wanted. I will remember Deyon Frantz Knowles, a Naval Seaman 2nd Class, who died when his ship went down in the Atlantic Ocean in Nov 1943
Seaman Deyon Frantz Knowles was my uncle and because of his bravery and service I was never able to meet him, and I refuse to forget him.  His memory is recorded in the Manila American Cemetery and Memorial, which is located within the grounds of the former Fort William McKinley, in Manila, Philippines.

We may not be able to reverse what happened during the Holocaust, but we can help our families remember those who were murdered and those who died trying to help. By doing so we may be able to keep their memories alive, that it may never happen again.


22 April 2016

08 April 2016

Knowles Collection Updated.

The Knowles Collection is a collection of 6 databases that contain genealogical records of the Jewish people. The collection has continued to experience tremendous growth, both from new record sources being added as well as the donation of private family records. Because of the growth, the databases have been updated on the FamilySearch website. The collection now contains the records of over 1.3 million people.

The databases and the total number of people included is listed below.
Jews of the British Isles     224,008
Jews of North America     573,891
Jews of Europe     441.007
Jews of Africa, Orient and Middle East    40,457
Jews of South America and Caribbean     21,829
Jews of South Pacific     21,528

The Knowles Collection is available to search for free at About a year ago I posted in this blog the easiest way to access the collection. That post can be found by following this link.

 I am very greatful to all those who have played a part in the continued growth of the collection.

11 March 2016

Jewish Cemeteries of Glasgow, Scotland

The history of the Jewish people in Scotland may date back to  the late 1600's when there were records of Jews applying to take up residence in the country. However the first Jewish community in Scotland, located in Edinburgh, was officially established in 1816. There were Jews in Edinburgh before 1816,  but this was the date on which the community was established.
The time frame from the mid 1700's to the beginning of the following century was  a time of great growth within Scotland. This growth had a great impact upon the Jews of Scotland. In Glasgow,  the population went up over 400% during those fifty years, which led to the arrival of a large amount of Jews, who
Garnet Hill Synagogue
began to arrive in about 1820.
The Jewish community in Glasgow continue to grow and by 1870 included over 1000 people.  This growth led the community to decide in 1875 to build a  synagogue. This would be the first permanent synagogue built in Scotland. At a special meeting in 1875 it was decided that the new synagogue would be built at the corner of Garnet Street and Hill Street and was called the Garnet Hill Synagogue. The foundation stone was laid by Benjamin Simon two years later. The new synagogue was consecrated  on the 9th of September in 1879 by Rabbi Hermann Adler. The Garnet Hill Synagogue was opened just as the Jews from Eastern Europe fleeing from poverty and constant persecution began to arrive.
As a result of the growth of the community, it became necessary to establish cemeteries for the burial of those who passed. The majority of the Jews were buried in one of three cemeteries. These cemeteries, Glenduffhill Jewish Cemetery, Riddrie Cemetery and Sandymount Cemetery, are the final resting place for some 10,000 members of the community. Over time the cemeteries have fallen into a state that now requires restoration. Under the direction of the Glasgow Hebrew Burial Society, restoration work has now begun. A wonderful article on the project can be found on the Jewish Heritage Europe website.
The Burial Society in Glasgow has always been very helpful to those looking for their families. The records they hold are now included in Glasgow Hebrew Burial Society Database, which is available through the JCR-UK website. As helpful as they have been it is now time for others to help them. Please take a moment and read the article and see how you can be of service to the Burial Society. A few years ago I visited Glasgow and enjoyed the beauty of the city, now hopefully we can help return the cemeteries to that same beauty.

04 March 2016

Romaniote Jews of Janina (Ioannina), Greece

In a past article in this blog, I have written about the Jewish community of  Kastoria in Greece. These people were famous for the work as furriers. In the last few months I have been researching some Jewish families of Greek heritage who settled in the Lower East Side of Manhattan, New York in the first part of the 20th century. 

As I began to research these families something became very apparent to me. This group had a very strong connection one to another. This was much more than the connection we would have today with our neighbors, to them it seemed as if everyone was family. These were the Romaniote Jews of Ioannina, Greece, which is located in the Northwest part of Greece.
 Romaniote Jews had lived in Greece and neighboring countries for over 2,000 years. Local tradition states that the first Jews into Ioannina arrived shortly after the destruction of the Second Temple in  70CE. These Jews were neither Ashkenazim or Sephardic but had their own traditions.
As I began the search, I quickly discovered that most of the families who left Ioannina, did so because they were looking for a new life in America. A large amount of the families had someone who left between 1904 and 1920 headed for New York City.
This people didn't just come one at a time, they came in groups, maybe to have the security of having friends and families around them. The passenger list below is just one example of that bond. This is page 1 of the manifest fro the S.S. Argentina which sailed out of Patras, Greece in November of 1912.

Of the families listed on this manifest, almost 2/3 identify themselves as being Greek Jews, and on the far right of the page most list the relative being left in the old country as being some on in Janina, Greece. Page 2 of this manifest continues to show how the community was staying together.

In the fourth column the passenger list the name and address of the person they will be living with upon arrival. As with many of the people on this page, thousands of the Jews form Greece and Turkey listed the final destination as the area around Allen Street, Manhattan. During the time frame of 1904-1920 there are thousands who list Allen Street, Broome Street, or Eldridge Street as their future home. One page from the 1920 United States Census for Allen Street reinforces this. On the page below, more than half of the families list themselves as either being from Greece or Turkey.

The page above is just the end of house number 94 and the first part of house number 96. There were many apartments in this area and because of that the residents of Allen Street alone fill hundreds of pages.
Upon arrival and after becoming established in their new neighborhood, many settled down and started families with those they know so well, people from Janina. The document below is the Naturalization Record of Esther Solomon.

Esther, who was born in Janina on 6 Mar 1908 arrived in New York on 30 Aug 1913 under the name of Esther Napthali. On 11 Dec 1929 she was married to Joseph Solomon who was born 10 May 1901, also in Janina. They then established a household at 278 Broome Street.

 By 1926, the community had grown enough that construction was begun on a new synagogue. Completed in 1927, Kehila Kedosha Janina Synagogue was built at 280 Broome Street just steps from the home of Joseph and Esther Solomon, who are shown in the document above. This is the only Romaniote Synagogue in the Western Hemisphere. 
The fact that they were separate from other Jews, with their own traditions probably had a lot to do with the strength of their commitment to each other. Another group of these Jews also existed in Seattle, Washington, where they also maintained a tight bond.

10 February 2016

New marriage records at FamilySearch

Today there has been a very nice collection of marriage records added to the FamilySearch web site. The records are of six states of the United States as well as the records from Durham, England. Included are the records of a few states with large Jewish communities, New York,  Louisiana and Missouri. Not all of the states have records that are name search able as of today, however, almost 5.8 million records are search able. The chart below shows those locations and numbers of records. In addition, last week over 3.5 million marriage records were added from Indiana.

The range of years included is different for each collection and because of that some records give better information than others. For example the top record below is a record form the New York collection for a marriage from 1914. These records were gathered from the various counties who had started to require these records.

The record below is from the collection for Louisiana from 1870. The original  records are in the possession of the Louisiana State Archives.

Most of the records from the United States are from the time frame that will also include the majority of census records, which makes these records vital to verifying family connections. The collections are not complete and will continue to be added to as more records are made available. 
Even with being incomplete, these are a wonderful resource for family historians and as with all other FamilySearch collections they are available for no charge at

23 January 2016

The Early Jews of Rhode Island

The Jewish history of Rhode Island is perhaps the earliest in all of North America. In Newport, the first members of the Jewish community started to arrive in the mid 1650's, over 100 years before the American Revolution. The first synagogue, known as Touro Synagogue was completed in 1763, and is still in use today, making it the oldest existing synagogue in North America.   The Hebrew Cemetery was open about a dozen years later in the mid 1670's. That makes it the oldest existing Jewish cemetery in America.
These early Jews were Sephardic, whose journey to Newport started in places such as Spain and Portugal, and like many of the early Jews in America, included stops in the Islands of the Caribbean. These earliest families in Newport, who had names such as Lopez, Rivera, Levy, Seixas and Touro, would one day be known as people who were very influential in the forming of early colonial history.
A few of these early leaders, included:
  • Rev. Isaac Touro, was the spiritual leader of the community. His family, originally from Spain, came to Newport after stops in Amsterdam and the West Indies, The synagogue was called the Touro synagogue in honor of all he contributed to the community.
  • Rev. Touro's brother in law, Moses Michael Hays, was a very successful  merchant. He introduced the order of the Scottish Rite Masonic Order to America. He was the first Grand Master of the Lodge in Massachusetts with Paul Revere and a good friend of Thomas Paine. He is also credited with being a founder of the Bank of Boston.
  • In 1763, Jacob Rodriquez Rivera, met with a group of locals and made the first plans to establish a college in Rhode Island. The school would eventually become known as Brown University.
Today, the community has over 350 years of history behind it and continues to be a strong Jewish community. The Jewish population of Rhode Island today is almost 20,000 people. FamilySearch has quite a few databases that include the records of the Jews of Rhode Island.

As with all FamilySearch databases, these records can be viewed free of charge at anytime.