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03 November 2014

Veterans Day - Remembering Those Who Served

On the 11th day of November every year much of the world pauses to remember those who served their countries in the military. In the United States we call it Veterans Day. In other parts of the world it is known by names such as Remembrance Day or Armistice Day. Some countries take this opportunity to remember those who died in World War 1, while in the United States it has been extended to all who have served in the military.

It seems only right to honor those who have given so much for so many. These men and woman have bravely left so much behind, including family and home, to fight to in far away lands to preserve freedom for all.
Whatever their service was, we honor them in different ways. For those who died serving the commonwealth,  the beautiful monument at left in London honors them.
While Arlington Cemetery, which is just across the Potomac River from Washington D.C. (picture at top of page) honors row after row of American veterans.
One of the greatest joys a family historian can have is to help remember those who served and to document their lives. We are blessed to have so many great resources to help us do this.
The headstone below is from Arlington Cemetery. It honors 1st Lt. Dennet S. Gurman who was killed in action along with nine others at Celebes Island on the 4th of July 1945.

By searching through the various databases we find that in addition to this marker, he is also remembered with a marker in the family burial plot at Mount Hebron Cemetery in Flushing, New York (Find a Grave). That marker gives his full name as Dennet Sidney Gurman. In addition, he is remembered by a memorial at the Manila American Cemetery, Fort William Mc Kinley, Manila, The Philippines. 
Other great resources include an index to the over 5,500 Jewish burials at Arlington National Cemetery, which is maintained by the Jewish Genealogical Society of Greater Washington.

That index, which is search able for free, gives great information for researchers. In addition to a photo, the information from the headstone has been transcribed (at right). We now know 1st Lt. Gurman's, who is shown as being from New York, was born on 31 Aug 1924.

With the information from the various sites above it becomes much easier to find the family of  1st Lt. Gurman. Thanks to we are able to find him in both the 1930 and 1940 United States censuses. Those records (below) show him with his parents and siblings. I am sure that at the time of the 1940 census they had no idea that only 5 years later he would give his life for his country at the age of 21.

As we all take a moment next week to remember those who served, let us all also take a moment and try to find those they left behind, and to all veterans... Thank You.

30 October 2014

California, County Birth and Death Records, 1800-1994

Over 2.1 million images of birth and death records of various counties in California have recently been added to These records which have been obtained from county courthouses cover the years 1800-1994. Not all the records are name search able as of today and a few counties are not included. However, the collection is a great place to search for your California ancestors.
The image below is the search results for Ben Cohen, who died on the 23rd of July, 1945.

Even though the search gives us great information, such as the names of his parents and spouse, it is not until we look at the original that more detailed facts are added. The original (below) provides the additional information that Ben Cohen was a Rabbi and that he and his parents were all born in Lithuania.

This should be another great resource for all those with family in California. As with all other records at FamilySearch, the collection is free and search able at home.

13 October 2014

Pennsylvania Obituaries, 1977-2010

In recent months, FamilySearch has been contributing a great deal of time and effort toward the indexing of obituaries. These will be a great tool for researchers in located their families. A great example of these records is the new database that FamilySearch has just published, Pennsylvania Obituaries, 1977 - 2010.  This collection, which as of today has over 96,000 images, is the collection of the Old Buncombe County, North Carolina Genealogical Society.
This collection is easily searched and as with all other FamilySearch collections can be searched for free at any time. In the standard search box (shown below), I did a search for all obituaries of the surname Cohen. 

The search results showed 277 different obituaries featuring the surname Cohen. The first few entries are shown below.

At this point, clicking on the name of the deceased will provide some more excellent information. In the example below I clicked on Ruth M Cohen. In addition to many great family relationships, I now also know the name of the newspaper where this obituary appeared, The Reading Eagle/Reading Times.

At this point, we are then able to go one step further and see the original obituary.

What a great source for the family researcher.

25 September 2014

How did he end up in Price, Utah? The burial of Rickie Layne Cohen

The city of Price is located on the eastern side of the State of Utah. A town known mostly for the mining industry that is located there. The winters in Price are cold and the summers are are very moderate. The 8,500 or so residents are almost evenly split between the Catholic, Greek Orthodox and Mormon populations. The one thing that Price does not have, and really never had is a Jewish population. In fact, the closest Jewish community world be in Salt Lake City, which is about 120 miles away.
Because of this lack of a Jewish tradition in Price, most people would just drive by, no need to delay the journey to their own destination. However, if they did pass by, they would miss the final resting place of someone known worldwide, who is buried in the Price City Cemetery.
Rickie Israel Cohen, was born in 1924, the son of Russian immigrants. He was the son of a mother, Sonya Ludwig, who was a popular comic in the vaudeville days, known as Gypsy Sonya. Rickie, himself began entertaining others at an early age and by his teens was touring as a ventriloquist.
Rickie, got his big break when in 1955 he was discovered as he was performing his show in a nightclub on the Sunset Strip. 
It was at Ciro's nightclub that his show was seen by Nat "King" Cole, who came to see his own wife sing. Cole liked the show so much that he encouraged Ed Sullivan to have him on his show, which he did on January 1, 1956. This first show led to many more and he became very much in demand. For, most of the next half century, he performed in nightclubs all over the country. In 2002 he was given the lifetime achievement award from the International Ventriloquist Association.
So with all of this fame, having performed all over the world, having been born in New York and dying in California, how did he end up in Price, Utah? Its actually very simple, I believe its because the most important thing in his life was not the fame, but the family.
His wife, LaRue Olsen Layne, who he met in California, was actually a small town girl from Price, Utah. After being married for 56 years before her death in 2002, it seems only natural he would follow her home.
In fact not only are they still together side by side, but also at rest next to them is his mother, Gypsy Sonya. I wonder if in those early years as Russian immigrants and hard working vaudeville entertainers, they could have ever imagined their final resting spot being in a small Utah mining town.

24 September 2014

Happy New Year


Wishing you a

Happy and Blessed

New Year

Texas, Naturalization Records, 1906-1989

Another new collection that will be very helpful for those looking for their Jewish ancestors has now
been added to the collections at FamilySearch. That collection, the Texas, Naturalization Records, 1906-1989, features naturalization records held by the National Archives- Southwest Region. The majority of the collection is comprised of indexes and declarations of Intent.
This collection, which as of today has over 85,000 images will continue to grow over time as more images become available and the records are indexed.
The image below, is the Declaration of Intent for Max Cohen, who was born in Russia in 1875, and declared his intent in 1917.

This is a great source for all those whose family ended up in Texas.

15 September 2014

The Jews of Guatemala

The Jewish history within Guatemala is shorter and much smaller than most of its Central American neighbors. While there were certainly Jews in the country who came during the Inquisition, the present day community's roots begin in mid 1800's. Those first group of German immigrants were small in number and for the most part isolated from other Jews in the region, and because of this the did not have much influence with other Jews in other countries.
The second wave of Jewish immigrants, those whose impact is still visible in Guatemala started arriving in the early 1900's. The first arrived from Germany and various Middle Eastern countries, and were followed in the 1920's by Jews from Eastern Europe. Many of this latter group did not plan on staying long. They arrived in Guatemala from Cuba and were hoping to have visas from the United States so they could continue on their journey.
Being Jewish in Guatemala has not  
always been favorable. The country has at times acted to limit the arrival of new Jewish immigrants. In the early 1930's, the government ordered the expulsion of all peddlers from the country. This was meant to hurt the Jews as the majority of peddlers were Jewish. The order was not carried out, however laws were passed to ban peddling. This ban forced many Jews to emigrate elsewhere as they could no longer support their families.
In 1936, under pressure from the German community, laws were passed that would limit the number of immigrants of "Asian origin" which included people from Poland, the majority of who were Jewish. Due to these restrictions, the Jewish population was less than 1000 people in 1939. The majority of them lived in Guatemala City, Quezaltenengo and San Marcos.
Guatemala, even with their history of trying to restrict Jewish immigration, was the first country in Latin America to recognize Israel and it was also the first country to open its own embassy in Jerusalem. Today the majority of the 900 Jews still live in Guatemala City still struggle to maintain numbers as many of the Jews still seek ti immigrate for a better future.
Over the last few years more genealogical records of the people of Guatemala have become more accessible to researchers. As of today, FamilySearch has six databases of records from Guatemala, including Civil Registration from 1877-2008. The record shown below is the birth record of Augusta Stahl Cohen, daughter of Adolo Stahl and his wife Rosa Cohen. She was born on 28 Jun 1888 in Guatemala City.

The Stahl family were part of that first group of Jews who immigrated into Guatemala from Germany int the mid 1800's.