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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.

08 January 2016

The Jews of Azerbaijan

The Jewish history of Azerbaijan is one that is old and very interesting. Located on the Caspian Sea, the country is surrounded by Armenia, Georgia, Iran and Russia.  The first Jews came to the area over 1500 years ago when the Mountain Jews arrived.
The Mountain Jews, who are also known as the Persian Jews first arrived sometime before the 5th century. The Mountain Jews have a history well over 2000 years old.
According to their own tradition, the Mountain Jews believe they are descended from the Lost Tribes who left what is now Israel after the destruction of the First Temple. After leaving Israel they made their way through Syria and Babylon before arriving in Persia. Finally their ancestors came to live in southern Azerbaijan, which is now the northern part of Iran
While living in southern Azerbaijan the Jews adopted Tat, which was the language of the native Muslim people. They adopted the language but remained Jewish. Their language over time has evolved into a very distinct dialect, Juhuri, which incorporates many parts of the ancient Hebrew language.
The first Ashkenazic Jews started arriving in Azerbaijan in the 1800's. It was at this time that the Czar of Russia first sent Ashkenazic Jews into the area. Another wave of Ashkenazim came during World War II in an attempt to escape the Nazis.
Today, most of the more than 15,000 Jews of Azerbaijan live in cities such as Baku, which is home to the majority of the community, and Quba and Grozny.
The overall population of the Jewish community has shrunk from where it was as recently as the 1990's. At that time there were more than 75,000 Jews. The decline in population can probably be blamed on economic conditions, and not anti-semitism which has for the most part not been a problem to the Jews. Yes, while the Soviet Union was in control they did seize many buildings and property, however the leaders today have returned many of those buildings, including the synagogues back to the people.
The fact that many of the Jews have no immigrated to Russia, Israel and the United States is because they are seeking employment or because the young people are looking for a place to get a better education.

03 January 2016

IAJGS 2016 - Seattle, Registration is Now Open

It's official, registration for the 2016 International Conference on Jewish Genealogy is now open. Even though the conference is still seven months off, time will fly as the conference approaches. For more information on Early Registration discounts visit the website. I look forward to seeing everyone in Seattle.

14 December 2015

Netherlands, Zuid-Holland Province, Civil Registration, 1679-1942

There is a long history of the Jews in the Netherlands, going well back into the 1400's. The communities were large and for the most part prosperous, made up of both Sephardic and Ashkenazic Jews.
FamilySearch has now added the Civil Registration records from 1679-1942 for the Province of Zuid-Holland to its Historical Records Collections. As of today only a small portion of the 5.4 million images have been name search able but as more records are indexed that number will increase as well.
The collection includes civil registration of births, marriages, and deaths. Indexes, marriage intentions, marriage proclamations, marriage supplements, and divorces are also included. For a list of records by localities and dates currently published in this collection, select the Browse link from the collection landing page.The records themselves give some good information, depending on the year of the record.
The record below is for the birth of Louiza Cohen, who was born on the 8th day of January in 1892 in Rotterdam, Zuid-Holland, Netherlands.

The record also tells us that her birth was registered on the next day, the 9th, also in Rotterdam. We now know that her parents were Jacob Cohen and his wife Eva. The record also tells us that her father was 33 when she was born, which would give us a year of birth as 1859. That same information for the mother was not provided. For those with ancestry in the Netherlands this collection could be of great help in finding your ancestors.

04 December 2015

Happy Hanukkah 2015

 At this time of year may we all DEDICATE ourselves to remembering who we are and where we came from. 

 May we all have the JOY of teaching someone new the joy that comes with researching our ancestry. 

  May we strengthen the bonds of friendship with those we know, while also finding new friends in the JOURNEY.

To All.

19 November 2015

So Much To Be Thankful For

Here in the United States we are one week away from the Thanksgiving holiday. It is a time for all of us to pause and remember all the things we have to be thankful for. The holiday was first proclaimed a national holiday in 1863 by President Abraham Lincoln. This was during the U.S. Civil War, a time when brother fought against brother, and one of Americas darkest times. I feel that the establishing of the Thanksgiving holiday at that time was not an accident, it showed that if we came together we can heal almost anything. With all that is going on in the world today, I feel the need to put in writing some of those things that I am thankful for as someone searching for his own ancestors.

Morris David Rosenbaum

 I am thankful for all my family that I never knew in life. Many lived in a different time, in places far away from me, yet the legacy they left behind has touched me in many ways. As I have read their stories, I have laughed with some and cried with others but I have been blessed by them all. I truly believe that in order to know ourselves we must know those who came before.

Trinidad, Colorado

  I am thankful for a supportive family that occasionally joins me on this journey.  They have grown familiar with stopping when we travel to see the home of an ancestor and they only mildly complain when they hear a story for the tenth time. Even a grandchild who enjoys searching through cemeteries (this obviously skipped a generation).

Willesden Cemetery, London

I am thankful for all those who preserve the history and memories of our ancestors.  For the archivists who preserve records, historians who document the past, and those societies and individuals who give of their time to clean and protect the burial grounds of our ancestors. We may never see them doing it, but because we can view those treasures, we know they were there.

Family History Library, Salt Lake City

 I am thankful for all those people who make the records of our people available to us. Genealogy websites that allow us to research in our homes, bloggers who keep us updated on new happenings, and speakers and teachers who travel the world guiding through the process, it could not be done without you.

Paris, France

I am also very thankful for the incredible people who no matter what happens in the world, they are always willing to put aside their own needs and help one another. It truly is a blessing to know that even as we try to link our families together, we are all truly brothers and sisters. I am very proud and thankful to have such a  wonderful genealogy family.

Happy Thanksgiving to all, may you and your families have a very blessed holiday.

16 November 2015

Delaware Vital Records, 1650-1974

The amount of basic vital records located on sites such as FamilySearch, Ancestry and My Heritage continues to grow. These records are some of the best sources for birth, death and marriage records available to people searching for more complete information on their ancestors. FamilySearch has now added the collection, Delaware Vital Records, 1650-1974 to its free Historical Collections. This collection, which also includes bible and cemetery records, contains over 3.1 million images.
The records are typewritten and give some very good information for researchers. Below, you will see that the information provided on the birth, marriage and death records can be very helpful in identifying family connections. 

 The images above, come from the FamilySearch wiki page for this collection. In addition to these examples, there is also a good amount of information on this collection. It is always a great idea to read the wiki pages as they can be a great source of information.