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18 December 2014

California, Oakland, Alameda County, Obituary Card Files, 1985-2011

The ongoing effort by FamilySearch to add as many death records as possible, today benefits those whose family is in the area of Oakland, California. The newest collection, California, Oakland, Alameda County, Obituary Card Files, 1985-2011, is smaller, only about 69,000 images but the information is incredible.
Doing a basic search of the surname Cohen, 315 results were returned. The image below is the first few entries on that list.

The first person in the results is Sylvia Cohen Zarkin, who died in 2008. The information given shows us the various people mentioned in her obituary, including a spouse, a child and numerous other people. However, if you then click on her name, an expanded record shows the relationship of every person mentioned (shown below).

One more click on the name and you can view the original obituary. The original collection, which has been gathered from various newspapers is housed at the Oakland, California Family History Center. As more obituaries become available, they will be added to the collection. As with all the record collections, it may be viewed from the warmth and comfort of your own home for no charge.

08 December 2014

District of Columbia Deaths, 1874-1959

It seems as though the death records being added to the FamilySearch website just keep coming. Today over 529,000 images, all name search able have been added for the District of Columbia, for the years 1874-1959.
The records are very easy to use. I did a search for Moses Rosenbaum, who I knew died young sometime shortly before 1920. I found the record of Moses Rosenbaum who died on 29 November 1919 at the age of less than one year. From the index (shown below) we find some great information.

We now know that he was the son of Solomen Rosenbaum and Mabel Camilla Healey who lived at 52 Green S. E.  We also know that he was buried on 1 December 1919 at Adas Israel Cemetery. We also have the option of looking at the original document by clicking on the View the Document in the upper right hand corner of the image above. That will take us to the original death certificate (as shown below).

This database can be found by clicking on the following link.  District of Columbia Deaths, 1874-1959.  As with all FamilySearch databases it is free for all.

01 December 2014

The Jews of Zakynthos

Zakynthos, or Zante as it is sometimes known, is located at the southernmost tip of the Ionian Islands, off the western side of Greece. The Jewish history of the area most likely dates at least into the late 15th century. We do know for sure that when visited in 1522, the Island had over 30 Jewish families and its own synagogue.
In the 1560's, visitors to the island found 20 heads of families, most of either Sicilian or Portuguese origin on the island. They were for the most part wealthy merchants who were heavily involved in the maritime trade that was happening between Venice and Constantinople. These Jews appeared to live under some form of restriction, as
they were forced to live in a ghetto and as early as 1518, had to wear a Jewish identification badge.
The first known Rabbi of the community was Joseph Forman who was from Seres, in Macedonia. By 1686 the population of the Jewish community was a little more than 1,000 people.
By 1700, there were 2 synagogues in the city of Zante, the first was the Zante Synagogue and the second, built in 1699 was the Candia Synagogue. Over time, the area was under the control of other groups which led to various restrictions put upon them, such as being forbidden to participate in the politics of the island or not being allowed to join guilds or trade associations. By the early 1890's the Jewish population had dropped to about 150.
Zakynthos would also become a place known for the historic act to protect the Jews.  At the outbreak of World War II, there were about 275 Jews in the community. The Nazi's occupied Greece and requested a list of all the Jews in the community for deportation to the camps. The mayor, Lukas Karrer and Bishop Chrysostomos refused to provide the names. Instead,  they hid the Jews in the rural areas outside the town. Because of their heroic actions, every Jew of Zakynthos survived the war. Statues of these two brave men stand on the site of the that first synagogue, and in 1978, Yad Vashem, honored them with the title of "Righteous among the Nations".

25 November 2014

Michigan Obituaries, 1820-2006

Benjamin V. Cohen was born on 23 September 1894 in Muncie, Indiana. He was the last of five children born to Moses and Sarah Cohen, both of whom were Polish immigrants.
He attended the University of Chicago, where he earned an undergraduate degree as well as his law degree. Upon graduation he moved to Washington D.C., where he began a career which would see him gain credit as one of the authors of some of the laws that became the basis of President Roosevelt's New Deal. He died in Washington D.C. in 1983.
Even though he was born in Muncie, Indiana, educated in Chicago, Illinois and worked and died in Washington D. C., the above information came from an obituary that was published in the Grand Rapids Press on 16 August 1983. That obituary (shown below) is part of one of the new collections available at www.familysearch.org.

That collection, Michigan Obituaries, 1820-2006, currently has over 68,000 images which are name search able. The transcription (shown below), provides the vital information from the obituary, including the names of other who are listed.

For those with family in Michigan or who may have been mentioned in Michigan papers, this is a great collection which can be searched free of charge from the luxury of your home.

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 Ancestry.com 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 www.familysearch.org. 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.