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29 October 2010

Congregation Beth Israel (Portland, Oregon)

Congregation Beth Israel of Portland, Oregon was established in 1858, before Oregon was even a state. In 1859 they built their first synagogue. That synagogue was small and modest, and was replaced in 1888 by a much larger building, which itself was destroyed by fire in 1923. Finally that synagogue was replaced by a new structure in 1928.
Through all of this, the records survive. The Family History Library has in it's collection the births and burials from 1876-1908 (FHL film #1013426 item 1). These records have now been added to the Knowles Collection - Jews of the Americas database.

28 October 2010

Database of The Jewish Legion

In the previous blog entry, I discussed the records of the Jewish Legion. This was brought on by the discovery of the biographies (such as the one below) of some of these men at the Judah L. Magnes Museum in California.
It is so important that we do everything to document these men. I would like to keep these men and their stories in a separate database, so that those stories can be told. I would like to invite all you may have information, stories, or photos to add them. I can be contacted at knowlescollection@familysearch.org. Together I feel we can make a great record of them and their service.

27 October 2010

The Jewish Legion


In December of 1914, two men, Vladimir Jabotinsky and Joseph Trumpeldor, began spreading the idea of having a military unit, comprised of Jewish volunteers to fight against the Turkish army in Palestine in World War I. By the end of 1915, over 500 hundred volunteers were in training in Egypt.


Although the British military commanders were opposed to the idea, Jabotinsky pressed forward and in August of 1917, the regiment was officially announced. The unit, the 38th Battalion of the Royal Fusiliers include the British volunteers and a large number of Russian Jews. Then in April of 1918, it was joined by the 39th Battalion of the Royal Fusiliers, of which more than half were volunteers from America. Another regiment, the 40th Battalion of the Royal Fusiliers was added later. This regiment was comprised mostly of Palestinian Jewish refugees. Included in this group were men such as David Ben Gurion, Levi Eshkol and Itzak Ben Zvi.

In June of 1918, the 38th Battalion was sent to Palestine, where they fought for the liberation of Israel from Turkish occupation. Their most famous battle may have been the Battle of Megiddo, perhaps the most decisive victories of the Ottoman front. The photo below (copyright of Philip Walker) shows some of the legion. The Legion's mission, was to cross the Jordan River, and this they did. Finally in late 1919, the Jewish Legion was reduced to one Battalion, known as The First Judeans.

The Men of the Legion


Although much has been written about these great men, at times I am still surprised by the great genealogical records that can be found. In the records of the Judah L. Magnes Museum in Berkeley, California (FHL film #1031329 item #9), some of the biographies of the men of The Jewish Legion can be found. These are the biographies of about 40 of the men, all who returned from war and settled in California.


Men like Issac Eichonon Bloch of the 38th Regiment.


Like the others he left his family as he went to war. Below is the 1911 English Census, with him living in the home of his father, Rabbi Gustav Bloch.
The fact that he is in the 38th Regiment, is no surprise as he is living in England. Those in the 39th Regiment, such as Roman Adolph Freulich (shown below) were in America when they volunteered. Originally from Poland, he immigrated to the United States in 1913. He returned after the war to California and began a very successful career in the movies industry. The 1930 census below, shows him living with his wife in Los Angeles.
These men risked everything, for that which was truly important to them. How nice it is that the records of the Legion continue to be cared for.







25 October 2010

The Jews of Kobe Japan

One of the signs that the Knowles Collection is continuing to grow is the locations where records are coming from. Today, the records of a family who at one time resided in Kobe, Japan arrived on my desk.
It is not at all surprising that Jews would have been in Kobe, as it has been a major port city for about 700 years. Anywhere you have a major port, merchants and traders are sure to be close behind. The first Jews arrived in Japan the 1860's, when Japan was opened to merchants from the west.

The majority of those first Jews lived in Yokohama, then Nagasaki. Nagasaki was a major port for those involved in Russian trade, which caused it to be the largest Jewish community into the 1900's. Kobe became a large Jewish community after 1923 when a major earthquake hit Yokohama.

The Jews of Kobe, was a mixture of groups. There were Sephardic Jews from Baghdad and Syria. The Sassoons were part of this group. The Ashkenazic Jews from Russia and Poland also had their community.

Kobe became a safe haven for those who were fleeing Poland and Lithuania. Those refugees were on their way to Curacao (see earlier post on Curacao). They were allowed to stop in Kobe as long as they needed, and most never left for Curacao, however many settled in Shanghai. the Jewish population of Shanghai, approached 20,000 people during World War II.

These Jews of Kobe will be part of the Jews of Africa and the Orient database as they are added.

Jews of Malta

The early history of Jewish Malta begins in 1800. At that time the French surrendered and at the invitation of the Maltese government, King George III sent troops to Malta and it began to be under British control.
Jewish traders had already established themselves in nearby locations, such as Gibraltar, which was another British colony. eager to establish themselves in Malta, many of these traders and their families soon settled in Malta. Other Jews, mostly Sephardic families from Spain, Portugal and some of the North African countries soon followed, which made Malta a very diverse place. A walk through the Jewish cemeteries of Malta, shows the diversity of the people. Today, the Knowles Collection is adding cemetery records from Malta to the collection.

These records will be in the Jews of Europe database.

Follick family of Cardiff, Wales

Between 1890 and 1908, four children of Coleman Follick were married in Cardiff, Wales. This information comes from the records of marriages in Cardiff Synagogue, which are on CD #3210 at the Family History Library. These marriages, of four daughters of Coleman, do not yield a lot of knowledge of the family. Yes, we find, the names and fathers of the new spouses, but not a great deal more. The four daughters are Hinda, Esther, Lena, and Sybil.

It is when we start combining that information with additional records such as census and civil registration, that the full story begins to come out. The census records, such as the 1881 below begin to put the family together.

In addition to the five children in the 1881 census, Coleman and his bride, Sarah Lazarus welcomed 6 others into the family. All but one, a child Joseph, who was born in late 1881 and died a year later, survived to adulthood. The other children were Henry Graham, Jessel, Sybil, Montefiore and Gladys Priscilla.

In addition from Civil Registration we find that Coleman and Sarah were married in Bristol in 1864. Coleman lived to be 77 years of age, dying in Cardiff in 1914, which would have been the year of his and Sarah's 50th Wedding Anniversary. Sarah lived to the age of 78, dying on 9 Nov 1924. Her will dated 8 Jan 1926, can be found in the Principal Probate Registry.

The records of the family of Colman Follick, show just how much can be gleamed by checking all records that are available.

The records of this family are in the Jews of the British Isles database.

21 October 2010

Jews of Argentina

One of the newest set of records that has come into my hands, is a collection of records for a family that left Western Europe and settled in Argentina. The history of this family is a parallel to the Jewish history of Argentina itself. Like this family, the Jewish history of Argentina goes back to the time of the Spanish Inquisition, when many Jews fleeing the persecution made their way to what we would now call Argentina.

While there were Jews in Argentina earlier, the first organized Jewish community came in to existence after 1810, when Independence was gained from Spain. From this time on the community began to grow and prosper. Some of the important dates in Argentina Jewish history include;
  • In the middle part of the 1800's , Jews from places like France began to settle in places like Buenos Aires.
  • In 1868, the first Jewish wedding was recorded in Buenos Aires.
  • The first synagogue was established in 1875.
  • The late 1800's saw immigration from Russia and Eastern Europe as people fled poverty and persecution.
  • By 1920, over 150,000 Jews from places such as Morocco and the Ottoman Empire had made Argentina their home.
  • The current Jewish population of Argentina is about 250,000 people, which would make it the largest Jewish community in Latin America.

When added the records of the Jews of Argentina will be found in The Jews of America database.


20 October 2010

HaChayim HaYehudim Jewish Photo Library





I recently was very surprised by a website I found totally by accident. I have been entering the burial records of Bridgetown, Barbados into the Knowles Collection. Needing a break and having a few moments of free time, I put the location in my favorite search engine. What came to sight was most incredible. I was viewing some of the actual headstones.


The search had found the website http://www.jewishphotolibrary.com/. This site is the home of the photo collection of Jono David. It contains as of this writing over 36,000 photographs from 81 countries on 6 continents. Included in his collection are photos on everything Jewish, it is truly a remarkable collection. I have found myself browsing the collections quite often, there is so much to take in. As he says on the website, he is truly "Documenting the Jewish World One Photograph at a Time."
All researchers looking for their Jewish ancestors should visit this site, it would be time well spent.

AKEVOTH - Dutch Jewish Genealogical Data Base



The earliest records compiled into the Knowles Collection were the records of the late Isobel Mordy. As I have written before, her work, which was done before the time of home computers and the Internet was, and is a great source for researchers looking for their Jewish families. Her records were mostly from sources within the British Isles. These records however, did include the families that had immigrated in London. One of the largest of these groups were the Cigar Makers who came from Amsterdam.


Now almost 30 years after her death, the availability of records is one of the wonderful things about doing family history work. One of the best examples of these databases is http://www.dutchjewry.org/. This site, is dedicated to The Research of the family origins and heritage of Dutch Jewry.
This site is not only a must for those researching in Holland, but also anyone who had family who left there for places such as London or the Caribbean, as the origins of the family may be found in the data base. It is truly one of the most friendly sites for research, those behind it have done a remarkable job. The menu at the right shows just some of the topics that can be researched. It should be searched by anyone with any interest in these records.

Stix Family of Demmelsdorf, Bavaria



I am very fortunate in my work to have such great access to some incredible genealogical records. Of the many records I have at my fingertips, I am constantly amazed by the information found in the collections of Malcolm Stern.


In the collection of donated records (FHL film #1013431) is included the history of the Stix family. Solomon Stix was born 2 Apr 1788, in Demmelsdorf, Bavaria a town about an hour from Bamberg.. He was the son of Cashman Solomon and his wife Relia, both also of Demmelsdorf. In 1813, as with many Jews he took a surname. He took the name of Stix.



On the second of November, 1815, Solomon married Deborah Cohen in Schneidach, Bavaria, her hometown. To this marriage were born 10 children. One of these, Aaron, became the Rabbi of Demmelsdorf. As times were tough in Germany and with so many mouths to feed, it couldn't have been an easy time to have such a large family, so many of the children started making their way to America in the 1830's. Eventually the parents and remaining children joined them in 1844, most eventually settling in Ohio.

As the history is read, something stands out. Solomon's work ethic must have been an incredible example to his family. The story is told how late in his life the children encouraged him to "desist from his labors and let us help provide for you and mother". His reply was simple and to the point. He said " As long as I have the strength, I shall support my wife and myself".

Truly, a remarkable family, one of many, who established in us, great habits and determination for generations to follow.

The records of this family are now being added to The Jews of Europe and will be available there soon.

18 October 2010

William Klingenstein 1833-1916


Sometimes as we do research for our families, it is the simplest comments that tell us so much. In Willesden Cemetery in London, the headstone of William Klingenstein, has one of those simple tributes.

It states, "His life was happy...it was filled with useful service".


Can there be any finer tribute to anyone, that to have been known for serving others. What makes this even more impressive is what we learn as we study the man. William Klingenstein was born in Miltenberg, Bavaria in 1833, the son of a local master tailor. He eventually moved to London and founded William Klingenstein and Co. Ltd., Havana Cigar Importers. He was successful in this work, becoming president of the Tobacco traders Benevolent Association.

The 1911 Census, from www.findmypast.com shows William living with his sister and nephew.

In 1903 the third synagogue in Miltenberg, cost 44,000 gold marks to build. 12,000 of this was donated by William Klingenstein. Miltenberg made him an honorary citizen in 1911. He died on 17 Feb 1916. On the 21st of April 1916 there appeared in the Jewish Chronicle an account of his charitable bequests. It is of no surprise that a man who found happiness in life through serving others, would continue to serve others after his death. What an incredible legacy that he leaves behind.


I thank Jeanette Rosenberg for bringing this man, and this monument to my attention. It doesn't surprise me either that she is part of this family, as she spends so much time serving others as well.




The records of William Klingenstein can be found in the Jews of the British Isles.

01 October 2010

The Jewish Victorian

As we research our families, there are many things that become quite obvious. First, newspapers are an incredible resource for information, and second, wouldn't it be nice if there was an easy way to access all that information. Well, if the footprints of your family passed through the British isles, you have a great tool for your research.



Doreen Berger has gleamed the Jewish Newspapers of the British Isles for the years 1861-1880. Her books (FHL #942 F2bd 1861-1870, and FHL #942 F2bd 1871-1880) are now available and are indeed a must have for researchers.

These books, published through Robert Boyd Publications, are very easy to use. Thanks to a lot of dedicated work, the records are alphabetical by surname. The records which include not only births, marriages and deaths but other types of records as well, such as obituaries, court records and many more.
In addition, references have been given to locate the records of other family members.

This blog would like to thank Doreen for her incredible work and encourage all researchers to obtain their own copy.

The Jewish community of Gibraltar

The Knowles Collection is constantly receiving more and more submission of records from those with Jewish Ancestry. One of the places that records seem to be coming from at this time is Gibraltar. While there are already records of Jewish people from Gibraltar in the Jews of the British Isles database, these new records are from Gibraltar itself.

The history of Gibraltar, as far as the Jews are concerned, has been for the most part a time of prosperity and peace. The community has been there for almost 700 years. Some of the important dates in the history of the Jews of Gibraltar are;
  • The first record of Jews comes in 1356, when the community seeks help raising money to free people captured by pirates.
  • Jews fleeing Cordoba seek refuge in 1473.
  • In 1713, Gibraltar comes under British rule, as per the Treaty of Utrecht.
  • In 1729, the Sultan of Morocco and the British reach agreement where the Jewish subjects were legally allowed to reside in Gibraltar.
  • 1749, Jews were allowed to become permanent residents. At this time Isaac Nieto, arrived from London, became the first Rabbi and established congregation Sha'ar HaShamayim (also known as the Great Synagogue), the oldest synagogue in Gibraltar.
  • 1753, first census of Gibraltar, shows the Jewish population to be 575. This was almost 1/3 of the almost 1800 total inhabitants.

The records from Gibraltar of the Jewish community will be in the Jews of Europe database.