ShtetLinks Update

Posted by Susana Leistner Bloch 

We are pleased to welcome the following webpages to JewishGen ShtetLinks.

We thank the owners and webmasters of these shtetlpages for creating fitting memorials to the Jewish Communities that once lived in those shtetlach and for providing a valuable resource for future generations of their descendants.

Baligrod, Poland
Created by Maurice I. Kessler
Webmaster:  Arie Schwartz.
Debrecen, Hungary
Compiled by Eugene Katz
Created / Webpage Design by Marshall J. Katz
Iasi, Romania
Created by Robert Zavos
Ilza (Drildz), Poland
Created by Barbara Sontz
Tiszafured , Hungary
Compiled by Dr. Agnes (nee Szego) Orbanne Created / Webpage Design by Marshall J. Katz
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ShtetLinks webpages recently updated:

Lackenbach (Lakompak), Austria
Hodmezovasarhely (Hungary)

If you wish to follow their example and create a ShtetLinks webpage for your ancestral shtetl or adopt an exiting "orphaned" shtetlpage please contact us by clicking here.
~~~~~ ~~~~~

GOOD NEWS!! As a result for our appeal for HTML volunteers we now have a team of dedicated people who will help you create a webpage for your ancestral home. Please contact us if you would like help in creating a ShtetLinks webpage.
~~~~~ ~~~~~

Wishing you a Zissen and Joyous Pessach,

Susana Leistner Bloch, VP, ShtetLinks, JewishGen, Inc.
Barbara Ellman, ShtetLinks Technical Coordinator

Updated IAJGS Legislative Alert: Maine and Massachusetts; NY NARA Office Relocation

An updated IAJGS Legislative Alert was posted to the IAJGS website
on March 24, 2010.

Unfortunately, legislators continue to erroneously believe access
to vital records (birth, marriage and death records) are the cause
of identity fraud and as result some egregious bills have been
introduced in both the states of Maine and Massachusetts-which
are currently open access states. Especially, if you are a resident
of either state, please see the information regarding these bills
which are included in the updated IAJGS Legislative Alert—scroll
down the document to get to the specific state:
Go to and click either on the left hand button
for legislation and then latest alert, or in the middle of the
screen next to Public Records Access where the newsboy is and click
on latest alerts.

Maine LD 1781 would require a 100-year wait from the time of birth,
marriage, divorce or death to obtain a copy of the record if you
are not a person with a direct or legitimate interest. The
genealogical community, including IAJGS have been trying to educate
the legislators, including trying to get genealogists included in
the definition of direct and legitimate interest. The Joint Select
Committee on Health and Human Services amended the bill- but made
it worse requiring genealogists to obtain a researcher identification
card annually for $50 plus the cost of the documents. Please read
the IAJGS letters sent to the Joint Select Health and Human Services
Committee and the Joint Select Judiciary Committee--the
later which has yet to decide if they will hear the bill on the
sole issue of access. (IAJGS believes the bill is in direct
opposition to Maine's existing Freedom of Access Act).
The Legislative Alert also includes the proposed amendments
by the Maine genealogists who will be trying to get the bill
amended on the floors of the Maine House and Senate.

Massachusetts S 840 which would close all vital records after
1841(not a typo).

Massachusetts H2064 would permit the state registrar to verify
information by entering into agreements with state and federal
agencies for information as an alternative for issuing certified
copies of birth, marriage or death records. The bill also has
other problematic provisions--read the Legislative Alert.
The Massachusetts Genealogical Council is working on
both bills.

New York NARA Move : Additional information on the move for
the NYC NARA office in 18-24 months.

The IAJGS Public Records Access Monitoring Committee works
as a group to address issues of access of vital records:
birth, marriage, death and census records. If you are aware
of any governmental action that would reduce access please
let us know by contacting me.

Other updates on previously reported issues are also
included in the Legislative Alert.

Jan Meisels Allen
IAJGS, Director-at-large and
Chairperson, IAJGS Public Records Access Monitoring Committee

Catskill Institute (NY-USA) Updates Website

Many of us either grew up going to the Catskill Mountains in New
York State or have family that lived there. The Catskill Institute
website has been updated and currently covers Sullivan and
Ulster Counties. Thousands of items from the Catskills Institute
Archives have been scanned in at high resolution, and accompanying
metadata provides useful background information. You can search
for all sort of materials by hotel or bungalow colony name, by
type of object (e.g. menu, postcard, stationery), or by thumbnail.
A new feature is the postcard artistry of Alfred Landis.
The bulletin board has an automatic posting mechanism for
your queries. Enjoy this new archive/website that preserves
the glorious legacy of the Jewish Catskills.

Phil Brown, president of the Catskill Institute advises that much of
this is due to Brown University and its support through the Scholarly
Technology Group and the Center for Digital Scholarship.

Jan Meisels Allen
Agoura Hills, CA

Library of Canada Preservation of Documentary Heritage

The information network explosion has challenged "memory
institutions" i.e. archives to adapt to new forms of digital
information. As a result the Library of Canada (LAC)posted
both the Documentary Heritage Management Framework and
Acquisition Orientation Instrument on November 13, 2009.
This is based on the three pillars of modernization:acquisition,
preservation and resource discovery.

LAC is now ready to post the Preservation Orientation Instrument, an
internal tool designed to "harmonize the principles underpinning the
preservation of documentary heritage" across Canada. LAC is also
posting LAC Canada's National Role in Preservation, a paper that
outlines how they plan to perform within the broad national
context as the lead federal institution for the preservation of
Canada's documentary heritage. Both preservation documents will
be posted on the LAC website, to provide information and to
encourage feedback from internal and external clients.

The LAC invites comments on any of the modernization documents
posted on the collections Canada site. On the left hand side of the
there is a box that says "comments". Click on that url to submit
your comments/suggestions.

Thank you to Paul Silverstone, IAJGS Treasurer and IAJGS Public
Records Access Monitoring Committee for alerting us to this new
posting on how the LAC is addressing the new forms of digital information.

Jan Meisels Allen
IAJGS Director-at-large and
Chairperson, IAJGS Public Records Access Monitoring Committee

Announcement: JGS of Palm Beach

The next meeting of the Jewish Genealogical Society of Palm Beach County will take place on Wednesday, April 14, 2010.

The cost is free for members and $5.00 for non-members (this fee may be applied to membership dues).

Topic:Genealogy Beyond the Internet with special speakers: Mark Jacobson, Jerry Naditch, Dennis Rice

: South County Civic Center, 16700 Jog Road, Delray Beach, FL

Schedule:12:30 pm – 3 pm
Brick Wall 12:30 pm- 12:55 PM
Brief business meeting and program 1 PM

Special Interest Groups Schedule: 11:30 am to 12:15 pm
  • Hungary Special Interest Group (SIG) in Room 1 with SIG Leader Natalie Hamburg
  • Ukraine Special Interest Group (SIG) in Room 2 with SIG Leader Mona Morris
About the meeting
At the April 14 meeting of the Jewish Genealogical Society of Palm Beach County Inc., JGSPBCI past President Dennis Rice and board members Mark Jacobson, and Jerry Naditch will discuss genealogy resources that are not generally available on the internet.

Researchers tend to forget that genealogists discovered useful sources of information well before the internet existed! The presentation, “Genealogy Beyond the Internet”, will focus on several “hard copy” resources such as: vital records, grave markers, published obituaries, city directories, and Social Security applications.

The speakers will show examples of source material and disclose how and where to obtain the material. They will also review the resources of the Family History Centers (FHC), sponsored by the Mormon Church. Many valuable genealogical documents are only available on microfilm. These can often be obtained, ordered, and read at the FHC on Camino Real in Boca Raton, and at several other Palm Beach County locations.

For further information about the Brick Wall program, or to submit questions in advance, e-mail Program Chairperson Helene Seaman by clicking here. For special Interest Groups, contact Marvin Lopatin, click here.

New Auschwitz documents found near death camp site

Food coupons for some of the notorious Nazi doctors at the Auschwitz death camp - including perhaps the sadistic Dr. Joseph Mengele - have been found in the attic of a nearby house, where they had lain unseen for decades.

Also found in the attic were other documents relating to the lives of Nazi officials, including death certificates and a map.

Some sugar coupons bear the names of Horst Fischer and Fritz Klein, doctors who were executed for their crimes after the war, Adam Cyra, a historian at the Auschwitz memorial museum who is looking through the documents, said Monday.

"The sensational value of this discovery is in the fact that these original documents, bearing the names of main murderers from Auschwitz, were found so many years after the war," Cyra said.

Cyra said he believes a June 1943 coupon for a small amount of sugar probably was assigned to Dr. Joseph Mengele, who was infamous for his sadistic experiments, but the writing is unclear.

A February 1944 coupon for 0.28 kilograms of butter is made out for a Dr. Mergerle. There was no SS doctor by that name at camp, so Cyra believes a
clerk misspelled Mengele's name.

Doctors and pharmacists at the camp conducted pseudo-medical experiments on the inmates and helped select Jews arriving at the camp for either labor or death. Mengele escaped after World War II and evaded capture for the rest of his life.

The documents - almost 300 in total - were found in the attic of a house being renovated in the town of Oswiecim, where the Nazis built the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp.

Click here to read the entire article from Haaretz.

Nazi hit man convicted over WWII murders

A German court on Tuesday convicted an 88-year-old of murdering three Dutch civilians as part of a Nazi hit squad during World War II, capping six decades of efforts to bring the former Waffen SS man to justice.

Heinrich Boere, number six on the Simon Wiesenthal Center's list of most-wanted Nazis, was given the maximum sentence of life in prison for the 1944 killings.

For Dolf Bicknese, it was the first time he had seen in person the man who killed his father in 1944 — but he said he felt little emotion staring Boere in the face.

"The person hardly interests me any more," the 73-year-old told The Associated Press. "My interest is justice."

Click here to read the entire article from the AP.

British Military Database - Finding Chelsea Pensioners

Posted By Ann Rabinowitz

Jewish 38th Royal Fusiliers Marching Through LondonDaily Mail, February 5, 1918
(Courtesy Martin Sugarman, Archivist of the AJEX Jewish Military Museum)

The subscription database has announced one of its most significant database additions since the 1911 British Census. This is the Chelsea Pensioners database composed of all British Army attestation and discharge papers for the period of 1760-1913, both for those who served and those who were pensioned out of service. This pensioning out was accomplished at the Royal Hospital at Chelsea, although those pensioned out were not necessarily inmates at the hospital.

Approximately 270,334 of the total of 901,000 records have been put on-line to date which cover the years 1883-1900. They come from the series of records at the National Archives which are designated WO97 (War Office 97). The schedule for putting the records on-line is provided by as follows:

The Chelsea Pensioners were mainly those who pensioned out after service as early as twelve years or those who had been injured. Many were pensioned out after twenty-one years of service with some having an enlistment at the age of fourteen which meant they got on with their life at the age of thirty-five.

Some of the many things which can be learned from these records are the following:
  • Name
  • Age
  • Enlistment/Discharge – place, dates
  • Medical History – Injuries, Illnesses, Treatments
  • Family/Address – parents, siblings, wife
  • Service History – countries of service, dates, awards, conduct
Major theaters of conflict that are covered by these records are some of the following which were provided by
  • 1775 – American War of Independence
  • 1793-1802 – British involvement in French Revolution
  • 1795 – British capture of Ceylon
  • 1798 – Irish Rebellion
  • 1803-1815 – Napoleonic Wars, including the Battle of Waterloo in 1815 which concluded 22 years of war with France
  • 1854-1856 – The Crimean War
  • 1857-1859 – Indian Mutiny
  • 1880-1881 – The First Anglo-Boer War (also known as the "Transvaal War")
  • 1899-1902 – The Second Anglo-Boer War
A search of the records can be very fascinating, especially utilizing the name of COHEN which is one of my favorite last names due to the difficulty in researching it. The following are some of the Cohen recruits and what they accomplished during their service. It is possible that some of these may not be Jewish or have not retained their Jewish observance. Sometimes the records specify the religion or ethnicity of the recruit and sometimes not.

DANIEL COHEN – He was born in 1862, Warren Point, County Down, Ireland, and was a laborer. At the age of nineteen, he enlisted in the Royal Irish Fusiliers on October 6, 1881, at Newry, Ireland. There was no history of his service and no discharge date. His mother was specified as Jane Cohen.

MARCUS COHEN – He was born 1849 and enlisted at the age of fourteen on August 7, 1863 and was assigned as a drummer boy in the 87th Regiment. As he was under age, he was not entitled to accrual of pension benefits until August 7, 1867. He was quite small too at 4’8” tall. He served in the home counties (United Kingdom), and in Malta, Halifax, Bermuda, Egypt, and East India, and was discharged on December 22, 1884. His wife was Catherine Dorbigjer, whom he married on August 8, 1874, in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

MORRIS COHEN – He was born in 1879 in Leeds and was eighteen when he enlisted on September 15, 1897. He served only forty-one days until October 25, 1897. The records do not show why he had such a short service. His father was Jacob Cohen, 31 Adeline Street, Cheetham, Manchester, Lancs., England.

MOSES COHEN – He was born in 1869 in Swansea, Glamorganshire, Wales, and was a dentist. He enlisted at the age of eighteen years and three months in the Medical Staff Corps on October 6, 1887 at Aldershot. He had four accidental injuries and thirty days in hospital and was discharged on February 12, 1889 as unfit for service. His father was Louis Cohen of 4 Castle Street, Macsted, Swansea, Glamorganshire, Wales.

NATHAN PHILIP COHEN – He was born in 1874 in St. Nicholas, Brighton, Sussex, England, where he was a journalist/clerk. At the age of nineteen, he enlisted at Gosport on March 17, 1893, in the Kings Royal Rifle Corps. There was nothing given as to why he was discharged or when. His father was Jacob H. (Herman) Cohen, Compton House, 49 Buckingham Place, Brighton, England.

Further search in the 1891 British Census reveals that Jacob Herman Cohen and his wife Sarah Dinah were headmaster/mistress of a boy’s boarding school in Brighton. Living with them were Jacob’s sister Henrietta Cohen, age 53, a cook, and their children: Herman Joseph Cohen, age 30, a literary man and author; Hannah R. Cohen Samuel, age 29, married to Lewin Lazarus Samuel, age 34, an insurance broker and brother of Herbert Montague Samuel, age 36; Flora Cohen, age 28, Lillah Cohen, age 27, and Samuel Henry Cohen, age 18, a stockbroker’s clerk. Two of the students of the school were David Heller, age 12, and Joseph Heller, age 9, both from South Africa.

WOOLF COHEN – He was born in 1862, Bishop Gate, London, Middlesex, England, where he was a clicker (this is an old occupation which refers to an employee in charge of making lace holes in shoes or actually who cuts out the tops and uppers of the boot or shoe). See list of other old occupations <> which are useful in determining what your ancestor might have made a living at. This is further confirmed in the Census records by the fact that his brothers were also working in the shoe industry as boot clickers. He was listed as a member of the Church of England. He joined at Woolwich on January 5, 1880 in the 5th (Royal Irish) Lancers.

He was discharged on April 25, 1889, with the rank of corporal. His parents were Falk and Mariam Cohen and his siblings were Daniel and Hannah Cohen. His description at time of discharge was given as age 27 years 9 months, height 5’8-1/2”, sallow complexion, brown eyes, brown hair, trade was as a clicker, and intended place of residence upon discharge was 8 Grafton Street, Mile End Road, London E.

It was noted that he had a scar on the back of his right arm close to his elbow. His conduct was good. He was found medically unfit for further service. His medical record was most interesting particularly as he had a variety of illnesses such as influenza, itch, eczema, a contusion, sun stroke, several bouts of gonorrhea, primary syphilis and boils which amounted to sick time of approximately 214 days in hospital. It was not unusual to see the soldiers falling prey to the usual diseases of the day, especially since they lived in such close and possibly unsanitary quarters.
As an interesting addendum to this information, the doctor who discovered the causative agent for gonorrhea was a German Jewish physician Dr. Albert Ludwig Sigesmund Neisser (1855-1916).

Dr. Albert Ludwig Sigesmund Neisser

His research took place about the time that Woolf Cohen was suffering from his bouts of the disease. It was unfortunate that the antibiotic treatment for it was not to become available for many years in the future.

Many of the soldiers were listed on their medical record as having vaccinations which they received in childhood. This remarkable accomplishment came about due to much agitation for childhood vaccination during the period of 1802-1880 and resulted in the 1880 Vaccination Act. This public health agenda probably saved the lives of many individuals in the military.

Due to British Census data and vital records, one can further trace the soldiers in the Chelsea Pensioners’ Database such as the family of Woolf Cohen. His father was Falk Cohen, who was listed as a glazier from Poland in 1861 and by 1871, he had children David, Esther, Hannah, Woolf, Louis, and Morris. By 1883, Falk had passed away. In 1895, Woolf Cohen had married Martha Barnett and by 1901 he had a daughter Ethel, age 4. So, with the information given in his military record as a start, it was possible to trace this Jewish soldier into the 20th Century.

One of the things that I noticed in these records is that a recruit may be listed as circumcised (example Woolf Cohen) and/or Jewish on their medical record. Another example is David Levy, who is listed as circumcised and a Jew on his enlistment papers. This makes it a bit easier to determine which individuals are Jewish or of Jewish origins.

Otherwise, determining Jewish origins may be difficult as a number of the soldiers who have Jewish names are listed as Church of England or Roman Catholic such as in the case of Isaac Goldstein of 25 Fernie Street, Cheetham Hill, Manchester, who is listed as Church of England, and his mother as Annie, from Russia, and sisters Betsey and Leah. Or, Isaac Rosenberg, who is listed as Church of England, whose parents were Myer and Ada and siblings were William, Harry and Fanny, living at 22 Davis’s Avenue Whitechapel. Yet other examples are Alfred Greenberg, listed as Church of England, but whose mother was Esther Greenberg; and Isaac Greenberg, Church of England, whose father was Marcus Greenberg.

The possibilities are that their parents converted, one parent might have been non-Jewish, or, they themselves, decided to assume a Christian identity whilst in the military. Sometimes, as with Woolf Cohen, his parents and siblings have Jewish names. As his parents were from Poland, one can therefore safely assume they were Jewish.

Other interesting entries in the Chelsea Pensioner’s Database are the Irish Jews as they are listed quite early and a number of them are definitely not going by their religious affiliation in the records. One such was Max Goldberg of Dublin whose siblings were Abraham and Lewis.

It can be seen that military service conveniently enabled some young Jews of the time to move into the mainstream and discard their religious affiliation, especially those who were sent to fight in far-flung wars of the Empire or who were stationed in remote areas. Perhaps it was more likely that those who were able to serve in the home counties of the United Kingdom were able to retain their cultural identity as their relatives could visit them and they might be posted in places close to Jewish communities.

Another aspect of the records which is worth mentioning is that a number of the recruits were discharged due to misstatements regarding their age on their enlistment papers. The discharge documents; however, do not state what the actual real age of the recruit was. At the time that these recruits were joining the military, this may have been one of the only means they had of gaining a regular job or a means of escaping the grinding poverty of the slums of the large cities in the United Kingdom. It is easy to see why they might have lied about their age in order to join up.

All in all, these records are a remarkable cache of information on ancestors who served in the British military. As more records are added, this database will become even more valuable, especially for those researching their ancestors who served in the Boer War in South Africa or in other more recent military engagements prior to World War I.

For even further information on Jews in the British military, you can visit the site of the Association of Jewish Ex-Servicemen and Women (AJEX) <>. The organization has a searchable database entitled the Record of Honour which is quite easy to use. In addition, the site Moving Here <> also discusses Jews in the British military. Also, the Imperial War Museum provides information on all those soldiers who fought in 20th Century conflicts.

Who Do You Think You Are?

The next episode of the television series "Who Do You Think You Are?" will feature Emmy Award winning actress Lisa Kudrow, who journeys through the dark past of her family in the Holocaust. She visits her ancestral shtetl of Ilya, now in Belarus, to solve a 60-year-old family mystery.

Full episodes are available online here.

Note from Warren Blatt:
I would like to remind JewishGen users that thanks to JewishGen's agreement with, JewishGen benefits whenever a JewishGen user purchases something from -- whether an Ancestry subscription, book or software. For JewishGen to receive this benefit, you must visit the website via link from JewishGen. Just click on the logo at the top-right of the JewishGen home page.

Once you have watched the episode, please leave a comment here on the blog with your thoughts.

SPOTLIGHT ON GENEALOGISTS - The Ultimate Irish Genealogist

Posted by Ann Rabinowitz
As a means of letting you know about your fellow genealogists, a monthly spotlight will be featured on the JewishGen Blog.  Our first in this series is Stuart Rosenblatt, the ultimate Irish genealogist.  Rather than having to write a feature about him, we are fortunate to have a great article which was featured in the "Irish Independent" newspaper, Sunday, January 31, 2010 edition.  Hope you enjoy it and send us your comments.
Stuart Rosenblatt - The Ultimate Irish Genealogist


The following article appeared in the Irish Independent, Sunday, January 31, 2010 By John Burke

Buried deep in the 16-volume record of Irish Jewish genealogy is a school report card for Dubliner Stuart Rosenblatt. It says that the then adolescent was ‘‘thoroughly spoiled’’ by his parents. His educators could see no future in academia for the boy, who was frequently handed spells of detention. Now Rosenblatt, the author of the world’s most comprehensive record of Jewish lineage, can allow himself a laugh at the prediction made a half century ago.

The 65-year-oldTempleogue man’s achievement is remarkable, and a global first. His opus is a labyrinthine database of more than 42,000 Irish Jews, their family histories and their global connections dating back to 1664.

Copies of his research have been deposited with the National Archives and the national library.

Rosenblatt’s archive is unequalled, in that Ireland is the only country to have codified and collated into one source all the records of one religious community over four centuries. Yet the archivist began only with the aim of researching his own family history.

‘‘I started more than 12 years ago to look at my own family tree,” he says. ‘‘I had no greater plan than that.

I went in to the Jewish Museum.

‘‘From there, I expanded out my search. I went to the Jewish graveyard at Dolphin’s Barn. I examined burial records, and was appalled at the awful state of repair of the old ones. It seemed to me that, if something was not done to document these things soon, the records would be lost forever.”

What began as a passing interest has turned into a 16-volume manuscript and computerised database containing the histories and life stories of 42,501Irish Jews.

The stories have been garnered from several hundred thousand documents, including birth records, notes of immigration officers and policemen in memoranda on non-national aliens, school and college records, as well as household and religious practice records and death and burial records.

Rosenblatt began his family investigations upon the deaths of his father, Dublin businessman Martin Sidney Rosenblatt, and mother, Zena Rosenblatt, in 1991.

‘‘I looked into my family history and found there was a huge wealth of information out there in relation to the entire Irish Jewish community but it was all contained in unconnected streams, many of which weren’t really formally recorded at all,” he says. ‘‘At the beginning, I knew nothing about how to look for what I was looking for. I didn’t realise then what I was getting myself into.”

Rosenblatt was frequently nonplussed by gaps in the data, such as children’s birth dates being different to those officially recorded by the General Registrations Office (GRO). ‘‘This is because, towards the latter part of the 1800s,members of the Jewish community were so poor that they could not take the time off work to register a birth immediately. Because the birth was registered a considerable time after the actual birth, the date was not recorded accurately.”

Rosenblatt’s archive lays bare a community which struggled to grab a foothold in Ireland until the late 19th century. In 1871, the Jewish population of Ireland was a mere 258 people. Ten years later, however, after English and German Jews travelled to the island, it stood at 453.

The benign aspect of Ireland in the 19th century made it an attractive haven for Jews fleeing harsher states. Russian Jews travelled here to escape the pogroms after 1881, primarily in Ukraine, and the introduction by Czar Alexander III of the May Laws of 1882,which denied Jews entry into many higher professions and prevented them living in towns and rural areas of certain sizes and restricted access to commercial opportunities.

The Ireland of that time had a history of religious tolerance towards minority faiths.

However, Irish law was soon changed to reflect a concern in Britain that émigrés might form the bedrock for expatriate terrorism aimed at either the British crown or at Russian aristocratic interests in Britain.

The Aliens Act put in place here would, however, prove to be a catalyst for Rosenblatt’s research. Between 1914 and 1922, for example, all non-nationals in Britain and Ireland were required to register their presence with the police. These records, held in the National Archives, are ‘‘spectacularly helpful’’, according to Rosenblatt. They provide first-hand information on the men and women who entered the country from the Russian empire (mainly Lithuania) over that period.

‘‘They give a compelling account of when the non-Irish citizens arrived; where they lived at the time they registered; the number of children they had and any other information you could want in terms of plotting who they were and tracing where they went afterwards,” Rosenblatt says.

‘‘In fact, if you moved more than eight miles from where you had initially registered, you were obliged to re-register with the local police office in the new place of residence .Unfortunately, it has not been possible to locate any such records for registrations under the Aliens Act outside of the Dublin area.”

Numbers rose rapidly, and communities of Irish Jews sprang up in many cities outside Dublin. By 1901, the number of Jews resident in Ireland was 3,771.Of these, some 2,200 lived in Dublin. A further thousand entered Ireland within the following three years.

‘‘The immigration records show that quite a lot of those who arrived here were peddlers, drapers; essentially industrious small business people. There were tailors, an expert in wire-fencing, even pencil-makers and feather-buyers. The list is extensive,” says Rosenblatt.

Their route to these shores was not direct from Lithuania. Many went elsewhere first but travelled onwards, perhaps finding London or Liverpool to be overcrowded or less accepting of new arrivals.

‘‘Quite a lot of these people would have come to Britain first. They would have heard that there was a small green island just off the coast which had no history of racial intolerance towards the Jews, and where opportunities were plentiful,” says Rosenblatt.

The archive also points to the genesis of what became known as Dublin’s Jewish quarter at the start of the 20th century.

Here, one of the richest veins of information has come from the maternity attendance book of Ada Shillman, a midwife who delivered hundreds of newborns to mothers in the Dublin Jewish community from April 9,1896 up to April 29,1908, around the Portobello district of the South Circular Road.

The earlier Jewish population had lived largely on Dublin’s northside and were scattered without any focal point. Rosenblatt came across pockets of Jewish family homes in Clontarf, Capel Street and Amiens Street in the north of the city. However, after the increase in the numbers of Jewish people coming into Dublin, there was a noticeable shift in location, from the northside over to south of the Liffey. A distinct community had developed on the South Circular Road and its environs by 1900.

‘‘There was a successful social mix something which doesn’t even happen today and Jewish people of different backgrounds and incomes lived side by side, trading and living in what seems to have been a vibrant community,” Rosenblatt says.

Rosenblatt’s work has become of great interest to Jewish people of Irish descent.

According to Yvonne Altman O’Connor, one of a committee of volunteers which oversees the running of the Irish Jewish Museum, he deals with the many family history requests the museum receives. ‘‘He is known in the community for his amazing work. Many people have contributed to his research,” she says.

The museum’s treasures include paintings by famous artist Estella Solomons, including a striking image of Reverend Gudansky, the minister of Ireland’s Hebrew congregation from 1901.Visitors can see the Torah and the synagogue’s Holy Arc, as well as portraits of former curator Raphael Siev, who died this day last year on Holocaust Memorial Day, when Jews around the globe mark the murder of millions of their faith by the forces of Nazi Germany’s Third Reich.

The memorial is marked this year with a private service today in Dublin’s Mansion House.

The Irish Jewish Museum also maintains a separate archive of genealogical records.

Now open on Saturdays only, it provides an essential service to visiting Jews. For some people, both the museum’s and Rosenblatt’s information is invaluable, as it allows them to successfully apply for a European passport on the basis of their antecedents’ link to Ireland. For most, it provides an answer to who their forebears were and where they came from.

Included in Rosenblatt’s archive are the birth records of babies who were never formally recorded as being born here.

‘‘I have found instances of children who were travelling with their parents from Ireland, on ships bound for the Americas or to South Africa, for example, and in which the ship’s manifest lists the child’s name, recorded prior to departure. When I went to check out this family, all the other family members would be recorded in birth records, but not the infant.

‘‘In some cases, the parents existed either on the Alien File or in some other record as having come here, but there is not a record of the infant’s birth. But, by checking the ship’s manifest, I was able to establish that, yes, this family did have another Irish-born child before setting sail for a new country,” he says.

Acts of legislation have had a profound effect on the quality of information available to the archivist. Since 1844, for instance, all non-Catholic marriages were allowed in Ireland under licence, and so from 1845 the records of Jewish marriages are available.

The registrars from the Jewish synagogues had recorded the Jewish element of the wedding and the records from Mary’s Abbey, Camden Street and Adelaide Road synagogues.

Other records were held in Belfast and Cork covering the entire island.

Until 1896, all Jewish people who died in Ireland were transported to the consecrated cemetery in Dublin’s Ballybough, the only one of its type on the island at that time.

On the face of it, this should have made it easier for a genealogist to locate and record the deaths and burials of the Irish Jewish community. In reality, however, the place was poorly maintained, and the weighty tombstones were pilfered by people who used them as hearths for their fireplaces, Rosenblatt says.

Those tombstones held information that was vital to Rosenblatt’s research. The ones still standing, and others in the consecrated cemetery at Dolphin’s Barn (which succeeded Ballybough cemetery), contain a unique Hebrew inscription at the top which denotes the family name and the extended family from which the interred body is derived.

The research has cost Rosenblatt thousands of euro over the years; in the time spent and in the production and copying of records. ‘‘It has nearly cost me my marriage as well,” he quips.

‘‘In 2001, I enrolled on a three-year certificate course at UCD with Sean Murphy at the family history centre. The genealogical research skills I gathered there were excellent if I had done the course at the start, I could have saved myself some of the problems I originally encountered when trying to locate records.”

A software program was created to search extracts from the 16-volume archive at the touch of a button. Requests to access the records are usually granted for free, Rosenblatt says. He simply finds the work too enjoyable to charge, and is always trying to increase the information on the system.

‘‘I have considered setting up a system whereby the retrieval from the software could be done online, maybe using PayPal.

But, at present, I need to speak to someone person-to-person when they want some information.

I need to ask them a range of questions to get it, so I obtain the information which makes the search possible. To be honest, I enjoy that aspect of it too.”

The letters of enquiry received by Rosenblatt in the last couple of days include one from a person adopted by a doctor and his wife in New York. The correspondent believes that his natural family were Irish Jews. One click and Rosenblatt can say, definitively, that the surname is not recorded here among his 42,000-plus entries. The forename is not distinctly Jewish either. ‘‘They are, unfortunately, mistaken,” he says.

Others correspondents are from Canada, Britain, the US and further afield. In some cases, the information they have is scant. In others, Rosenblatt is surprised at the level of data people have distant dates and names which, although seemingly obscure, can offer a kernel of information from which Rosenblatt can reconstruct major gaps in their family tree.

The volumes record the key events in the lives of many famous Irish Jews, among them Chaim Herzog, the sixth president of Israel, who was born at Clifton Park Avenue in Belfast and reared in his parents’ home at 33 Bloomfield Avenue in Dublin’s Portobello.

Herzog’s Polish-born father was Chief Rabbi of Ireland from1919 to 1937, and later became Chief Rabbi of Palestine and Israel. The future president studied at Wesley College, Dublin, and was involved with the Federation of Zionist Youth during his teenage years before joining the British Army. He had a distinguished military career in the Israeli Defence Forces before entering politics and assuming the presidential office in 1983, a position he held for a decade.

There are tantalising pieces of information which Rosenblatt has uncovered along the way. For instance, the records of Mountjoy Prison which are contained in the 1901 and 1911 censuses reveal inmates’ religion, but their names are recorded by initials only.

Otherwise, the digitisation of the census records up to 1911 have been a major boon for Rosenblatt’s research. The online search tools allowed him to search each record under the entry for ‘Jewish’. What he found was a cadre of young Jewish labouring men who lived in non-Jewish lodgings, and who now form part of his own digital record.

He says his family have been remarkably understanding, if sometimes put out, about the long periods he has spent compiling his archive. ‘‘This has been a dreadfully antisocial initiative,” he says.

To illustrate the point, he quotes from a letter which he received in December 2002 from his daughter, Sonia, who was living in Canada at the time. ‘‘It opened with the endearing lines: ‘Can you help me find my daddy; long lost daddy, last seen behind a computer screen. A loving man but spends more time looking for dead people?’ “ In 1999,Rosenblatt formed the Irish Jewish Genealogical Society which was originally a subdivision of the Irish Jewish Museum in Dublin’s Portobello. ‘‘This has been pretty much a solo effort,” he says. ‘‘If one more person joined the Irish Jewish Genealogical Society, then there would be a 100 per cent increase in the membership.”

In hindsight, he says, the task has been massive. ‘‘It really has been too much for one person. But I started and, quite simply, I never stopped, and the 16 volumes of bound records is the result of that.”

Along the way, he has received no funding.

‘‘I didn’t ask because I didn’t like being told no. The most I have done was to ask the GRO [General Register Office] to waive a charge on some 1,500 items of information on Jews living in Ireland for which they invoiced me for €6,000 but they said no, pay up or get lost, and so that was that.”

When asked why he didn’t simply stop, given the personal cost in time and finances, he says that his inspiration was to leave behind a record which would stand the test of time. ‘‘It is a legacy, in a manner of speaking,” he replies.

And what of the Rosenblatts themselves the family and the whole reason for the existence of the archive? A cursory search of the Rosenblatt surname shows that Stuart Rosenblatt is the sole remaining Irish-born Rosenblatt male living in Ireland. He lives with his wife on Dublin’s southside, within walking distance of the family business.

There are separate entries for the couple’s children who live in Canada and Britain. There is a further link to his mother and his father, and his mother’s ten brothers and sisters each have a separate link revealing the path to another of Rosenblatt’s genealogical interests.

The archivist now bids to delve further into the family tree on his mother’s side. For this quest, he will have to bone up on his Slavic. ‘‘The records are in Poland and Lithuania on my grandmother’s side. I am interested in looking into these, but it is not easy; if anyone has records on Zarnow in central Poland, I would be interested to hear from them.” Another aspect of the research shows that a prospering Jewish community in the 1800s declined rapidly in Ireland in the second half of the 20th century. As a genealogist, Rosenblatt is reluctant to offer sociologicalor geopolitical perspectives which might explain why the Irish Jewish community’s numbers went into freefall.

‘‘Why did the numbers decline?” he asks.

‘‘Well, the Jewish people who left Ireland after the 1950s were essentially Irish people they were not distinct because of their religion, for reasons of emigration, and they faced the same dilemma as other people on this island. It would seem that they left for the same reason that scores of Irish people left; to get work, to do something further to their education which, at the time, they could not do in Ireland.”

Despite being larger than ever before, the Irish Jewish community could not withstand the emigration of scores of its young adults. ‘‘They made lives abroad. Coming from their relatively small base and a slightly lower birthrate, the number of Irish Jews was destined to fall dramatically. It was a natural phenomenon,” says Rosenblatt.

‘‘To put it in context, you’re talking about the number of Jewish people rising from, I believe, a few hundred in the late 1800s to just under 5,000 in the 1950s.That,of course, is also in the context of an Irish government policy to disallow the entry of Jewish people in the 1930s and 1940s.”

Rosenblatt believes that contemporary data is inexact on the number of Jews presently in the Irish republic.

‘‘The 2002 census recorded that there was in the region of 1,700 Jews in Ireland at the time. What it did not mention was that this figure included two planeloads of Israelis visiting Ireland on the days over which the census was conducted.”

Anecdotally, Rosenblatt believes that the Jewish community here has been decimated even since the 1990s. ‘‘It is possible that, at the present time, the number of Irish Jews is as few as between 700 and 800.That is a generous estimate, I believe. ‘‘What we are seeing now is a further decline. Many older people are deciding to move to live abroad to be near their children and their grandchildren, in the US, Britain and Canada. It is a significant number of people.”

The community which Rosenblatt has archived has all but disappeared, he admits. Yet he is stoic about the matter, referring to it as ‘‘just something which happened’’.

He even finds room for humour, referring to fellow member of the Dublin Jewish community Alan Shatter, a Fine Gael TD and the party’s spokesman on children:

‘‘Fewer than 1,000 Jews in the country, and we still get one into the Dáil. That’s punching above one’s weight, for sure.”

Stuart Rosenblatt is interested in hearing from anyone with Irish-Jewish connections, and can be contacted at 01-6773808 or masterc@medianet.

London Jewish Museum reopens after major facelift

A museum tracing the history of Britain's 300,000-strong Jewish community is reopening after a 10 million pound ($15 million) expansion.

The Jewish Museum calls itself the only such gallery in London dedicated to a minority group. It includes a large collection of Jewish ceremonial art as well as interactive displays tracing the history of Jews in Britain from the 11th century until the present day.

Click here to read the entire article and here to visit the museum website.

Clevelend Jewish Cemetery Records

A new database has been compiled by the Jewish Community Federation of Cleveland's Commission on Cemetery Preservation. A dozen volunteers, some of them from the Jewish Genealogy Society of Cleveland, spent about six years compiling some 71,000 records of burials in 14 Jewish cemeteries and in Jewish sections at two other cemeteries.

The database represents most of an estimated 85,000 plots, filled or unfilled, at the Jewish cemeteries and section. Volunteers hope to keep expanding and updating it. They're also working with a company expected to put the database on line in a few months.

For now, people seeking information should contact Susan Hyman, a federation information and referral specialist, at 216-344-3511 or

Click here to read the entire article.

Of course, don't forget to visit JewishGen's Online Burial Registry (JOWBR) which currently has over 1.3 million records. Click here to access the database.

Restoration of Paravur, India Synagogue

Paravur (Kerala): The dilapidated Jewish Synagogue in North Paravur, Kerala, one of the oldest in India, is set for restoration.

The Paravur synagogue located on the Jew Street of the town was built in 1615 CE, but traditional accounts hold that it was built on the ruins of an early synagogue constructed in 1165 CE, making it the earliest. The services in the Paravur synagogue continued till 1988.

Click here for the entire article.

Announcement: JGS of NY

The next JGS-NY meeting will take place on Sunday, March 21, 2010 at 2:00 PM.

: Center for Jewish History, 15 West 16 St., NYC.
Topic: “ANNIE’S GHOSTS: A Journey into a Family Secret”
Speaker: Steve Luxenberg

About the speaker
Steve’s mother told everyone she was an only child, sometimes within minutes of meeting them. When Steve heard that his mother had been hiding the existence of a sister, he was bewildered. Through personal letters and photographs, official records and archival documents, as well as dozens of interviews, Steve revisits his mother’s world in the 1930s and 1940s in search of how and why the secret was born. He pieces together the story of his mother’s motivations, his aunt’s unknown life, and the times in which they lived. His search takes him to imperial Russia and Depression-era Detroit, through the Holocaust in Ukraine and the Philippine war zone, and back to the places where his Aunt languished in anonymity.

Steve Luxenberg, an associate editor of The Washington Post, has worked for more than 30 years as a newspaper editor and reporter. Steve’s journalistic career began at The Baltimore Sun, where he worked for 11 years. He joined The Post in 1985 as deputy editor of the newspaper’s investigative/special projects staff, headed by assistant managing editor Bob Woodward. In 1991, he succeeded Woodward as head of the investigative staff. Post reporters working with Steve have won several major reporting awards, including two Pulitzer Prizes for explanatory journalism. From 1996 to 2006, Steve was the editor of The Post’s Sunday Outlook section, which publishes original reporting and provocative commentary on a broad spectrum of political, historical and cultural issues.

In his current role as a Post associate editor focusing on special projects, Steve has directed coverage of in-depth stories on the causes and consequences of the financial crisis that unfolded in the fall of 2008. He grew up in Detroit, where Annie’s Ghosts primarily takes place. He is married and has two grown children. A book-signing will follow the presentation.Free to JGS-NY members, $5 non-members.

The Ackman & Ziff Family Genealogy Institute at CJH will be open 12:30 to 1:45 PM for networking with other researchers and access to research materials and computers.

L’Chaim! Want to live to 100? Check your genes.

Click here to read the article at the Jewish Journal.

Jewish Heritage Tour...To Jamaica?

KINGSTON, Jamaica—This island nation boasts miles of pristine beaches, reggae music and the Western hemisphere's largest butterfly.

Now, it's promoting a new asset to tourists: its Jews.

Click here to read more from the Wall Street Journal.

Success Story

Dear JewishGen,

While conducting personal research, I have utilized JewishGen resources many times over the last several years. Thanks to the information available at your website I have been able to piece together much of the genealogical information for the Friedenberg and Zodiag families of Shreveport, LA.

Your Burial Registry (JOWBR) was especially useful.

I sent in a small donation just to let you know how much I appreciate your services and to, hopefully, help out with your day-to-day operations.

Thanks again for providing such a rich resource of Jewish genealogy information. I wish you all the best and continued success.

With best regards,

Darrell Massie

World's Oldest Man Lives in Israel

He has trouble seeing, but as one who has repeated the prayers for more than a century, he knows them by heart. David Pur, age 115, continues to learn Torah and to pray every day, now in the nursing home to where he moved just three months ago.

Pur will soon be visited by an envoy of the Guinness Book of World Records – an event much anticipated by the rest of his family. Three of his nine children are still alive, as are 18 grandchildren and 56 great-grandchildren, all of whom are waiting with excitement for the envoy to formalize his title.

“I have had plenty of time to memorize the Biblical writings,” he said. He prays every morning while standing next to Moshe, who has just turned 100, and who Pur says sometimes seems lost – but is guided by his older friend.

Born in 1895 in what was then Persia and today is Iran, Pur became an adviser to the Shah, who admired his mastery of languages, including Persian, Hebrew, Arabic, Aramaic and French. He later added Tagalog, a language spoke in the Philippines, while learning to care for Filipinos. He and his family made aliyah to Israel in 1948.

Click here to read the entire article.

DNA Success Story: Finding The Origins Of A Hidden Child

Posted by Ann Rabinowitz

One day in Ottawa, Canada, a former Polish schoolboy got it into his head to investigate what his origins were. In 2001, Cezary Fudali was given a closely guarded secret from one of his family members. It was the kind of secret that sticks in the back of your mind until you figure out a way to resolve it.

He had been told in utmost secrecy by a relative of his family that his mother had been adopted. The relative felt it was time to tell Cezary, especially as he was leaving the country and they were old and did not expect to see him again.

This was shocking news to Cezary and, all the more so, due to the circumstances of the adoption which occurred during World War II. Sometime in July, 1942, according to Cezary’s relative, his mother, who was a baby of about one month old, and her mother had been at the train station in Rozwadow.

The town was located in southeastern Poland and originally the name meant “uncoupling”. It referred to the town’s position as a major rail junction point where the Polish and Russian railroads met. It was known to have a significant Jewish population as did several surrounding shtetls.

On July 21, 1942, the final deportation of the Jewish population was made from the train station. The destination of the Jews was to Debica and then to further killing camps from there. It is a possibility that this was the exact day that Cezary’s grandmother and mother were at the train station.

If it was that horrible day, then Cezary’s grandmother probably knew that this was her last chance to save her child before they were both taken away and killed. She looked around and saw a middle-aged couple standing on the railway platform nearby and went up to them.

She asked if they had some change for milk for her baby who was crying from hunger. After they agreed, she asked them also if they were Polish. After they confirmed this, the grandmother must have sighed in relief as any Rozwadower Jew could not have helped her in her quest to save the baby as they would have been in the process of being deported too and deprived of food and shelter.

The husband went off to get the milk and Cezary’s grandmother asked the wife if they would adopt her child as it was impossible for her to keep her. After an initial hesitation, the couple, who had no children of their own, agreed to the adoption. When quizzed by the couple, the mother refused to tell them anything about herself or the baby in order to preserve the security of the child. Allegedly, she told the couple that it was better for them and the baby that way.

The couple then took the baby back to their farm in a small village called Koziarnia which was nearby to Rudnik nad Sanem, about 20 miles east of Rozwadow, where they raised her as their own. They named the baby Bronislawa (Isa) Schiffer and never told the child that she had been adopted.

They further distanced themselves from the scene of the adoption as they moved away from the village right after World War II was over. What happened to the child’s biological mother was never known either, but she probably met her end in one of the German concentration camps shortly after her departure from the train station.

Given this history, and the timing of it, Cezary felt that his mother might indeed be Jewish and a hidden child as well. He read all he could as he wanted to know more about his mother and her situation. This brought him to DNA testing and all that it might do to help identify family connections.

And so, in 2003, he intrepidly made contact with FamilyTreeDNA. His inquiry focused on whether he could test for the identity of his mother’s father to determine if he were Jewish. Little did he realize that it was his mother’s maternal ancestry that would enable him to be considered halachically Jewish and establish his identity.

The inquiry was an unusual one which grabbed the attention of Bennett Greenspan, the President of FamilyTreeDNA. After discussing the matter with Cezary, he advised him to take the initial mtDNA test (HVR1) which would provide a close first glance at his maternal ancestry. The results proved that he matched with Ashkenazi Jews. When additional people were tested for the HVR1 and were added to the database, a few non-Jews appeared as matches to Cezary.

Later, he did the mtDNAPlus test (HVR2) and the response was again Jews with some non-Jews of English/Irish origins. As the tests got more complex, he came closer to knowing his true maternal origins. He was still keen on knowing, for sure, what his maternal origins were and he took a final test which was available.

This last test was an mtDNA Full Mitrochondrial Sequence test. At that level, he found that he only matched with and clustered with Jews. In particular, he had an identical match with Gerson Kaplan, whose family was originally from Slovakia, now part of Czechoslovakia, which was an area some miles south of Rozwadow, Poland.

Due the fact that Cezary did not know where his grandmother and mother were actually from and their real names, it made it impossible to be certain how Gerson was related to him and how closely. This might remain a mystery until future explorations into DNA technology would bring about more precise answers.

The major thing which Cezary learned was that he was definitely Jewish by his maternal ancestry – the DNA could not lie. This was a real accomplishment for the son of a hidden child, albeit a bittersweet one. He realized as well that things he had heard about hidden children were true, that they “stuck out like a sore thumb”. This too he had heard about his own mother from her relative and now he knew why.

As the mtDNA database grows and others hear his story, Cezary hopes to find more identical matches and perhaps some elusive someone who might know of his family. Someone who might even know who his grandfather might have been and certainly someone who might recognize his mother’s photo and see a resemblance with their family.
This article is part of a special monthly series on DNA success stories. These stories offer family researchers encouragement and greater understanding of DNA testing, which has become a popular part of the genealogical research world since its inception. If you have had success with DNA testing, we would love to publish your story. Please email us by clicking here. To view past DNA Success Stories, please click here.

Ann Rabinowitz Interview

On Sunday, January 31, 2010, our very own Ann Rabinowitz (assistant blog coordinator) was interviewed by Ronnie Mink on ChaiFM radio in Johannesburg, South Africa.  The interview covered a number of various genealogical topics.

The interview was taped by Barry Mann and can be heard by utilizing the following instructions:

1. Save the file Ann.mmm to a folder on your computer from here:
2. Rename the file from Ann.mmm to Ann.mp3
3. Click on the file Ann.mp3 to play.

Enjoy and be sure to leave your questions and comments in the "comments" section below, where Ann will respond to them.

Amsterdam’s Archives Online

The Amsterdam City Archives (Stadsarchief Amsterdam) is the largest municipal archives in the world. It preserves documents pertaining to the history of Amsterdam and provides information about the city and its inhabitants, now and in the past. The Amsterdam City Archives is a pioneer in the field of digitizing archival material. Apart from the Archives Database, the website of the Amsterdam City Archives features an Image Bank, containing more than 260.000 photos, drawings, and prints related to the city. To visit their online collection, click here:

Egypt completes restoration of Maimonides synagogue

The 19th-century synagogue of Maimonides in Cairo's ancient Jewish quarter reopened Sunday after a nearly two-year restoration by Egyptian authorities. Egypt began restoration of its Jewish sites several years ago.

Egypt's Jewish population, which numbered in the tens of thousands and enjoyed complete religious freedom, began a mass exodus after Egypt and several other Arab countries fought a war in 1948 with the new state of Israel.

Only a few dozen Jews still remain in Egypt.

The synagogue of Maimonides, known in Egypt by its Arabic name of Musa bin Maymun, is named after the 12th century Jewish scholar, philosopher and physician.

Maimonides was born in Cordoba, Spain, in 1135 and fled from persecution to Egypt where he died in 1204.

The synagogue is built over the site where he was briefly buried before his remains were moved to Tiberias, in what is now Israel.

Egypt has 11 Jewish houses of worship. Some of them have already been restored, such as the Ben Ezer synagogue in Old Cairo and the Shaar Hashamayim in downtown Cairo.(Yahoo News)

Click here to read the entire article.

A Doll Story

Posted by Ann Rabinowitz

Madame Alexander Wendy Doll

For years, I have collected various automated toys that sing, dance or do other tricks. In particular, I had a white bear that was dressed in 1950’s “Grease” attire, a deep pink poodle skirt, pale pink satin jacket and neck tie, and a flowing pink bow in its elegantly coiffed hair. When you pressed its left hand, it sang a tune from “Grease”, which was amusing and unusual. Why did I love this bear? It reminded me of the times when my family could not afford such toys for us, a time when my only doll was a second-hand one which was bald and whom I named Anna.

Despite those drawbacks, I loved that doll for many years. She was the best-dressed doll in our neighborhood as I sewed her tiny garments by hand based on my imagination as well as what I saw about me and the cloth remnants which were available at Woolworth’s Five and Dime Store for ninety-nine cents.

Finally, I even got Anna a makeover with a wig from the local toy hobby store in Miami Shores. I remember visiting the store each week to make sure the wig was still there. And sure enough, it remained on the shelf amongst other doll wigs of various shapes, sizes and colors, pristine in its cellophane box. It took months and months of saving my weekly allowance to finally get it at the cost of $4.98 and to glue it steadfastly to Anna’s head. This was shortly before her eventual demise at the hands of my younger sister Diane who, one day, dismantled her in a fit of childish rage.

In 1955, my mother took my sisters and me on a trip to visit her family in England. She scrimped and saved to purchase all the essentials for the trip on layaway. Every week we would trek by bus to downtown Miami to the Richard’s Department Store and make a payment for the items held on layaway. These included three giant 36” dolls, one for each of us, intended to show her family that she wasn’t doing that badly, despite real evidence to the contrary.

My youngest sister, Jennifer, even had a black doll which became the rage when we arrived in England. No one, in what amounted to post-war England, had seen such giant beauties of that size, arrayed in fantastic evening attire and especially one of color. At the request of a relative, we left the dolls in Manchester, to provide entertainment for the locals. In return, our uncles purchased new Raleigh bicycles which we took home with us.

Later, I had a number of second-hand dolls which were either given to me or traded by me with other neighborhood children. One was a Madame Alexander doll which I could never have afforded otherwise. Her owner, Barbie, the doted upon daughter of Herman and Ida Rosenbaum, had tired of her as she had many other Madame Alexander dolls. She kindly let me adopt her oldest doll as she was scheduled to get a brand new one for her birthday.

So, lucky me, I got Wendy, for that was her name. She was 8” tall, had a beautiful pale face with pink cheeks, long-lashed eyes that blinked and lovely curled dark hair along with exquisite clothes which covered the full range of life’s activities. In the trade for the doll; however, I only got the bare doll and thereafter had to make her outfits myself. This I did with great relish and managed to make outfits for the other children’s dolls as well. However, Wendy was never as beloved as my demolished bald-headed Anna. One’s first doll, like one’s first love, is special and remains in one’s memory forever.

My Wendy doll was the creation of Bertha “Beatrice” Alexander who was born on March 9, 1895 in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn, NY, and who died on October 3, 1990. She was the talented and entrepreneurial daughter of Hannah Pepper and the step-daughter of Maurice Alexander. He was a Russian immigrant from Odessa, who in 1895 opened the first doll hospital in New York City, M. Alexander, which was located on Grand Street. The family lived above the doll hospital and due to its proximity, Beatrice and her younger sisters Rose, Florence and Jean, all adored dolls.

Madame Alexander and Her Dolls

Later, Beatrice and her husband, Philip Behrman, began creating the Madame Alexander dolls in 1923 and one was even modeled after their own daughter Mildred Alexander Birnbaum. The Alexander Company, where the dolls were manufactured, has been located at 615 West 131st Street, New York City, since 1956, and one can still visit there, although the company is now under new management.

As new dolls were created, they each had their own name and, I remember, all the girls in the neighborhood chattered constantly about what doll they were missing and which one they especially needed to complete their collection. The one who had the most Madame Alexander dolls was considered the queen of the block and she managed to lord it quite blatantly over the others.

Considered the ultimate doll purchase, the gorgeously attired Madame Alexander bride dolls were quite popular and often could be purchased with accompanying bridesmaids. What little girl could be without this treasure? Very often, the dolls were kept in their boxes to maintain them in prime mint
Madame Alexander Cosmopolitan Bride

In today’s world, where toys are so numerous and the choices for one’s dolls such as Barbie Dolls or other playthings are infinitesimal, Madame Alexander dolls are still cherished by legions of little girls and their mothers. In fact, my Wendy was passed down to my younger sisters when I had outgrown her and thereafter to someone else in the neighborhood.

And so, this doll story ends with the thought that dolls of whatever make, whether well-known like Madame Alexander, or little known or even homemade, were the initial life building blocks for little girls. They fired the imagination and helped to develop skills sometimes with limited resources. Many times, children managed with one special toy, one doll perhaps, that remained firmly rooted in their memory for a lifetime as Anna did with me.

DNA study: Dozens of living Austrians are related to Hitler

A DNA test on a farmer running for political office living in a remote area of Austria has revealed that the 46-year-old man is one of the last living relatives of Adolf Hitler, the Austrian magazine News reported last week.

The man, thought to be a cousin of the German dictator, was horrified to learn the blood of the man he called the "greatest criminal" is in his veins.

Belgian journalist Jean-Paul Mulders persuaded the man to take a mouth swab test, Britain's Daily Mail reported Saturday. Mulders said there are as many as 39 other individuals living in the rural Waldviertel region of Austria, home to Hitler's grandmother, Maria Anna Schicklgruber, his father Alois and mother Klara.

After World War II, the name Hitler largely disappeared as those who bore it had their names changed, though some individuals in the Waldviertel area still bear similar names like Hiedler and Huettler. Going through these names in the phone book, Mulders came upon the man now believed related to the dictator, and the journalist convinced him to produce a saliva sample.

Mulders had previously garnered some of Hitler's DNA by discreetly taking a napkin dropped by one of three known Hitler descendants who live on Long Island, New York, the Daily Mail reported.

Click here to read the entire article.

Dont Let The Fish Rain On Your Parade!

Yes, this does not really have anything to do with Jewish genealogy, but...residents of a small outback Australian town have been left speechless after fish began falling from the sky.

Click here to read the rest of this fishy sounding story.

Jewish History and Culture in Eastern Europe

(hat tip Saul Issroff)

Click here to view a fascinating online exhibition from the Center for Advanced Judaic Studies 2002-2003 Fellows at the University of Pennsylvania.

Passover Begins March 29

Now is the time to think about incorporating new traditions and new recipes into your Passover Seder. Our museum bookstore carries more than three dozen different Haggadahs ranging from the traditional to the innovative. Whether this is your first Seder or your fortieth, our knowledgeable staff will help you find just the right resource to make your holiday memorable for guests of all ages.

Just in is a beautiful assortment of silk matzoh and afikomen covers sure to add color and texture to your Seder table.

And this season we are featuring cookbooks from Joan Nathan, Doris Schechter, and Arthur Schwartz. With any purchase, receive a gift of three scrumptious Passover recipes selected by these renowned chefs.

Free shipping via UPS ground for orders over $50 (applies to US and Canada only) until March 26.

The website shows just a portion of all the treasures in our shop. If you don't see what you're looking for, give us call at 646.437.4213 or drop us an e-mail. And be sure to stop in and say hello when you visit the Museum.

IAJGS Conference News

Posted by Pamela Weisberger

The IAJGS International Conference on Jewish Genealogy, taking place at the JW Marriott at L.A. Live in Los Angeles, from 11-16 July 2010, is proud to announce that the keynote speaker will be Daniel Mendelsohn, author of "The Lost: A Search for Six of Six Million", the international best-seller about the world-wide search for information about the fates of six relatives who perished in the Holocaust.

Winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award, Mendelsohn's book was acclaimed by Nobel Laureate Elie Wiesel as a "vast, highly colored tapestry...a remarkable personal narrative, rigorous in its search for truth, at once tender and exacting."

Anyone who has ever heard him speak has been mesmerized by his words and insights into the world of family history research, memoir writing, and the quest to know the unknowable. If you've never heard him before, you are truly in for a treat. Mendelsohn is also a founder of the Bolechow Jewish Heritage Society, which will be meeting at the conference. The keynote address will take place on Sunday evening, July 11 at 7:30PM - the opening day of the conference.

Registration is now open and there are a range of options: the early-bird full week registration is $265, spouse/domestic partner $165, and there are daily, student, child, film festival-only and evening-only choices. The early-bird rate is available until April 30, so we encourage you to sign up soon. The website home page has all the information: or you can click here to go to conference registration or click here to see all the various pricing levels.

Both the seasoned pro and the absolute beginner will have a full slate of innovative lectures, films and performances from which to choose. From breaking bread with experts, to computer classes, workshops and tours, the conference will offer myriad ways to learn and share. Full registration includes all programs, lectures, presentations, film festival and evening performances.

The only extra fee-added items will be computer classes, tours, SIG breakfasts and lunches and the gala IAJGS awards banquet with musical entertainment. Classes, tours and some meals are not yet available to be added, but will be soon. The schedule will be posted in late March.

For conference inquiries, please email us by clicking here.

And remember to sign up for the JewishGen Los Angeles 2010 discussion group where you can ask questions and keep abreast of all the breaking conference news: Click here to get there. (You must be registered with JewishGen first.) You can also sign up for "Announcements Newsletter" on our home page.

We would love to hear from you and hope to see many of you in July!

Pamela Weisberger
IAJGS 2010 Conference Co-Chair

ShtetLinks Request

Posted by Susana Leistner Bloch
Some of our ShtetLinks webpages were created by people who are no longer able to maintain them. We thank them for their past efforts and wish them luck on their future endeavors.

These webpages have considerable material and only maintenance and addition of new material (when available) is necessary. The following ShtetLinks webpages are available for "adoption":
If you would like to adopt one of the ShtetLinks webpages above please click here.

Susana Leistner Bloch, VP, ShtetLinks, JewishGen, Inc.
Barbara Ellman, ShtetLinks Technical Coordinator