Marian Smith United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) Speaker at May 5 JGS Conejo Valley and Ventura County Meeting

Posted by: Jan Meisels Allen

The Jewish Genealogical Society of the Conejo Valley and Ventura County (JGSCV) will hold a general meeting, co-sponsored with and located at Temple Adat Elohim, on Sunday, May 5, 2013 1:30-3:30 Temple Adat Elohim
2420 E. Hillcrest Drive, Thousand Oaks, CA

The Program: Obscure Records of Citizenship and Immigration

Not all naturalization and citizenship documents can be found at the National Archives.  This presentation will focus on lesser-known federal records of derived citizenship, repatriation, and correspondence covering a variety of citizenship-related problems and topics.  While the records discussed were created after 1906 some involve events that occurred years or decades before.  In addition to case studies and examples, the presentation will provide guidance for researching the records at either USCIS or the National Archives.

Speaker: Marian Smith is Chief of the Historical Research Branch within the USCIS in Washington. D.C. She is an Historian who first joined that organization in 1988 when it was the INS.  For many years she was a regular speaker at national genealogy conferences and the author of genealogical journal articles about immigration and naturalization history and records.  She now directs the agency’s History, Library, and fee-for-service Genealogy programs. 

On March 1, 2003, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) assumed responsibility for the immigration service functions of the federal government. The Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) was dismantled as a result of the Homeland Security Act of 2002 (Pub. L. No. 107–296, 116 Stat. 2135) which separated the agency into three components within the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).  The USCIS Genealogy Program is a fee-for-service program that provides researchers with timely access to historical immigration and naturalization records of deceased immigrants.

Our schmoozing corner starts 20 minutes before the program (1:10 p.m.) facilitated by Hal Bookbinder, founding member of JGSCV and past president of the IAJGS and current member of the JewishGen Board of Governors. The schmoozing corner is to talk with a senior member about suggestions for breaking down your brick walls or obtaining suggestions on where to research for your family history.

We will have Categories A & B of our traveling library available beginning at 1:00 PM to shortly after the meeting. The list of books which are in the JGSCV library is located on our website  under library-traveling.

There is no charge to attend the meeting and all are welcome to attend.  Membership forms are available at the meeting, on the  website. Annual dues are $25 for an individual and $30 for a family. Dues paid are good through December 2013.

The Jewish Genealogical Society of the Conejo Valley and Ventura County is dedicated to sharing genealogical information, techniques and research tools with anyone interested in Jewish genealogy and family history.

For more information, including directions please see the JGSCV website:

Jan Meisels Allen
President, JGSCV

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Announcement: JGS of Cleveland


The Jewish Genealogy Society of Cleveland's next meeting will be

Wednesday, May 1st, 2013 at 7:30 p.m.

in the Miller Board Room
27100 Cedat Road, 2nd Floor
Beachwood, Ohio 44122 

Our Featured Speaker will be

Cynthia Turk presenting Forensic Genealogy & Finding Your 21st Century Relatives

Family History Books

By Ann Rabinowitz

One of the interesting additions to the Mormon Family Search site is the family history books which have been scanned.  Going to the site,, one can plug in the search parameter of “Jew”.  Approximately fifty-one items pop up and each one of these will give a description and then one can view the scanned item.  However, despite being digitized, there are a few in this group which are limited to access at the Family History Library and a screen will pop up and let you know this.

A look at several of these family history books reveals a wide variety of unique topics and includes well-known works by Jewish genealogists such as Arthur Kurzweil as well as little known family historians and others.

Some of these books that can be found are as follows:

From Belarus to Cape Breton and beyond : my family, my roots by Lawrence Irving Gaum, 1938. 

The book provides information on the Gaum family who came to Canada from Kozhanhorodok, Belarus.  In addition, it discusses the Latucha/Goldstein and Marshal (Meisel) families.

The Hebrews in America, A Series of Historical and Biographical Sketches, by Isaac Markens, 1888.

Here, I found an interesting tidbit about the “demand for a new public place of amusement in the city of New York” which was met by the concomitant banning of the Yiddish Theater in Russia in 1883 causing professional Yiddish Theater troupes to flee to America.  This meant that in 1884, there was formation of the Russian-Hebrew Opera Company featuring Moses Silberman, Manager, and Joseph Lateiner, Composer.  The group, under the leadership of Moses Heine-Chaimovich, leased Turner Hall on E. 4th Street then took Folks Garden Hall on 113 and 113 ½ Street on the Bowery under a ten year lease which they renamed the Oriental Theater after the nearby Oriental Bank.  The theater held seats for up to 1,000 patrons and cost $0.25 to $1.00.  Their first performance was on May 23, 1884.

Members of the Russian-Hebrew Opera Company were such stars as Sonya Borodkin, Moshe Heine-Chaimovich, Abraham Schengold, Mrs. Moses Silberman, and Jacob Spivakovski, who came from such strongholds of the Yiddish Theater as Moscow, Odessa, Romania, and St. Petersburg.

“Township twenty-five : west of 2nd meridian, range 13, section 10” by Clara Schwartz Hoffer (1887-1975).

This tells the story of the 1905 homesteading experiences of, Clara Schwartz, a Jewish girl from Storozynetz, Bucovina (see JewishGen Yizkor Book link , and her husband, Israel Hoffer, from Kossowicz, Galicia.  They both left Europe on the same boat for Lipton, Saskatchewan, Canada, which was mainly in an unsettled remote rural area.  Further information on Lipton and its foundation can be found at:  and also:

“Eight Generations” by D.C. Vickers.

This book which mainly deals with a non-Jewish family tree, has three interesting references to Jewish families as follows:

JANE SUSANNAH LAULHE, (a Portuguese name, to be pronounced 'Loyle-yeh'), a Sephardi Jewish lady, dau. of Jacob Laulhe, by a dau. of Solomon de Castro (or de Castres) (of Dublin and London, d. 1740, s. of David de Castro, who d. at Leghorn on his way back from India c. 1700) by Rachel (m. Bevis Marks Synagogue, London, Sept. 1710), dau. of Abraham Bravo, an Anglo-Jewish poet.  Information about the Bravo and de Castro families will be found in 'The Jews of Ireland' by Louis Hyman (From Earliest Times to the year 1910), published by the Jewish Historical Society of England and Israel Universities Press in 1972 (See p.32).

DANIEL VICARS, of Ballyedmond, Queen's Co., Will dat. 13.4.1781, registered at Registry of Deeds, Dublin, July 1782, s. of Daniel Vicars of Castlegrogan and Ballyedmond (liv. 1753), who was nephew of John Mosse of Adnigall, Queen's Co. There is reason to believe that this Mosse family was of Ashkenazi Jewish Origin

SARAH BARKER, (m. Dec. 1736, d. 14-1-1775), dau. and co-heiress of Capt. George Barker, by Miss Switzer, of an Ashkenazi Jewish family connected with Braunsheim-in-Limburg, Germany.

“Austro-Hungarian Life in Town and Country” by Francis H.E. Palmer, 1903.

This book is one of a series of guides to various places in Europe.  It covers in vivid detail life in the Austro-Hungarian Empire and was written at the turn of the century in a contemporary style which looks upon various ethnic groups in a picturesque manner very often using caricatures that were common at that time. 

If one uses Shift F3 and plugs in “Jew”, all the relevant references to them will pop up.  In addition to this book, one can find a number of other books by the same author including one about Russian life which has chapters on Jews: and others about Dutch, French and Swedish life as well.

“The Jews of Valencia and Tortosa and the Spanish Inquisition” by Betty G. Ventura, 2010.

The book covers the detailed archival research, particularly Inquisition records, conducted over a thirty year period regarding the Ventura family who lived during the 1300-1500 period in Spain and who later fled to Italy.  The book is of interest as Valencia and Tortosa were prominent places of Jewish settlement and livelihood in pre-Inquisition Spain.  

Looking at these examples of family history can give one ideas about how to write one’s own story or one can learn more about a particular family or place or something new altogether.  For instance, I particularly enjoyed learning more about the Sephardic research which was undertaken in the Ventura book above.  There is always so much more to learn apart from one’s own family!

Military Records Of The Austro-Hungarian Empire

By Ann Rabinowitz
Jacob Drimmer in Austro-Hungarian Military Uniform
(born Drohobycz, Ukraine, January 10, 1904)

One of the first things I attempted to do when I was researching my mother’s family was to try and determine if the stories my mother told me about my grandfather were true and not just “bubbe meises”.  My grandfather, Yehuda-Leib Fink, who was born in Drohobycz, Ukraine, arrived in Manchester, England, in 1899, and had served previously, according to my mother, in the Emperor Franz Joseph’s Imperial Army. 
Before our home in Manchester, England, was destroyed by the German Blitz in World War II, there was a large picture of my grandfather in his military uniform astride a horse which hung in the entryway.  My mother remembered it vividly and the fact that her father always hummed while he worked the military song composed by Johann Strauss in 1848, the “Radetzky March” [], was further confirmation that he had been a military conscript. 
In fact, when World War I was declared, he was taken away to an internment camp on the Isle of Man in England because he had served in the Austro-Hungarian military and was therefore considered an enemy alien.  Unfortunately, none of his British records survived the Blitz during World War II.
Just recently, I received a message from a researcher in Israel, Dr. Eli Brauner, who inquired about how to locate his grandfather, Israel Leon Schrenzel’s military records in the Austro-Hungarian Army.  His grandfather below was born in 1884 in Lemberg, Galicia (now Lviv, Ukraine) and lived at Peltewna 13, Lemberg. 
Israel Leon Schrenzel
As I told this researcher, looking for Jewish records of recruits in the Austro-Hungarian Army is very difficult, especially prior to World War I and that it would involve knowing where his relative was inducted and/or when he served in the Army.
When I looked for my grandfather over twenty years ago, I had a military expert do the research for me in the Austrian and Polish military records, but that person has now long ago passed away.  I was told by other official military experts that the records were supposedly returned to the place of origin (Ukraine) after the war, but that was not proven to me. In addition, I did not have access to anyone, at that time, who could locate records in the Ukraine, if indeed, they were there.
One of resources that have become available since the time I first looked for records is those which were microfilmed by the Mormons.  A very handy research tool to use is the following link which discusses these records which the Mormons hold:
Several other helpful links are as follows:
As you can see when you peruse the information in this resource , you really need to know the regiment the recruit served in and the year(s).  In addition, if the individual was not an officer, it is difficult to find a record of them.
Another link of interest is: This link gives peacetime garrisons in 1866 and, Lemberg, for instance, is listed.
The Leo Baeck Institute appears to have a collection regarding a staff physician, Bernhard Bardach, from Lemberg who served in the Army which may be helpful:
Some further links for locating military resources are the following:
One of the visual resources regarding the Jewish soldiers who served in the Austro-Hungarian forces is the following Centropa video and series of photographs: 
As you go through these illustrations, you will get a vivid idea of the differences in the uniforms, persons and situations that the Jews were confronted with in the Empire’s armed forces. 
The map below shows the Empire at the start of World War I.

Further, there are collections of holiday cards which were sent by the Jewish soldiers to their relatives during their service in World War I whilst in the Army which is discussed and portrayed in the following article:,7340,L-4137314,00.html 
There is even an article: which recounts the participation of troops from the Austro-Hungarian Army who served in Palestine during World War I, some of whom were Jews. 
In addition, there were also Jews who fought on the side of the Turkish sultan during the war.

Austro-Hungarian Troops in Palestine During World War I
There were many Jewish soldiers who served during World War I and there were those who also perished.  One of those was Zalman Berger who was killed during the definitive Battle of Lemberg in 1915.  His grave is seen below as found in the YIVO archives:

Grave of Soldier Zalman Berger
(Died 1915, Lemberg, Galicia)

Another Jewish soldier who was killed was Israel Leon Schrenzel, the grandfather of Dr. Eli Brauner, who had contacted me.  It is now going to be his chore to wade through all of the resources available to try and find a listing of his grandfather’s military records and his death. 
After going through all of the available online materials as noted above, researchers should probably post an inquiry on JewishGen, Gesher Galicia or other similar digests which are in the area of what constituted the Austro-Hungarian Empire, so that individuals, who have done the most recent research, can assist you.

Another Auction Extravaganza

By Ann Rabinowitz

Grain Bill Given to Nathan Spanier (1826-27)

As a follow up to my previous piece on the Blog on locating great finds at auction, I have another very helpful and informative find from Sotheby’s.  As a result of a group of very rare documents put out to auction, Sotheby’s prepared a catalog describing the contents of these ninety-five items. 

 It is an amazing documentation of German Jewish economic life entitled:  “Judaica, Court Jews, Bankers, and Scholars, Documents related to Jewish life in Germany and Europe (17th to 20th century)” which can be found at the following link in English: .  In addition, there is also a German version of the document by Dr. Ingo Fleisch that includes illustrations of the items which is quite fascinating:

To read through the catalog is to get a vivid impression of the extensive economic paperwork which must have existed and that was mainly destroyed completely by centuries of persecution and the latter day World Wars I and II.  What interested me particularly was the economic circle around Gluckel of Hameln, the great female entrepreneur who was the first to write an autobiography of her life and times.

In that regard, I found reference to Nathan Moses Spanier (1575-1646), who was a prosperous businessman and the grandfather-in-law of Gluckel and a leader of the Jewish community in Altoona (now Hamburg), Germany.  The Spanier family name was one I had been researching for some time to determine a connection to a possible descendant, Harry Spanier, who had been noted as the first Jew to be killed in the service of the Boers on December 11, 1899 during the Boer War in South Africa.

A sampling of some of the other names found in this auction group was the following:

Mendel Abenheimer
Marcus Nathan Adler
Samuel Friedrich Beer
Goldchen Behrens
Abraham Moses Bindar
Jacob Brandeis
D.N. Cahn
Jonas Cahn
Salomon Michael David
Elissen Brothers
Johann Ludwig Eskeles
Moses Friedlander
Sussman Gans
Wolf Goldsmit-Cassel
Jobst Goldschmidt
Moses Goldschmidt
Alexander Haindorf
Israel Jacob
Johanna Frankel Kley
Marcus Konigswarter
Marcus Levin Lazarus
Juda Esra Leibniczer
Abraham Levi
Simon Levi
Salomon Mandelkern
Marx Brothers (Isak, Anselm and Eduard)
Bonaventura Mayer
Franz Simon Meyer Meyer
Marx Model
Herz Nathan
Joel Beer Neckarsulmer
Joel Levi Neumann
Abraham Phillippson
Amschel Mayer Rothschild
Nathaniel Mayer Rothschild
David Samuel
Jacob Selig
Jonas Selig
Henle Ephraim Ullmann
Leopold Ullstein
Hermann Wessling
Adolph Zimmern
Adelheid Zunz

In addition to these individual names, there were the names of commercial enterprises such as banks and industrial concerns such as Gebruder Arons (Arons Brothers), L. Behrens, Dreyfuss & Kaufmann, M.S. Goldschmidt Sons, Halperin Fils, Jos. Jac. Hannover, Hirschfeld & Wolf, Lawaetz & Koch, Levinsohn & Co., Lindemann & Co., Loser Levin, F. Mart. Magnus, Gebruder Ochs (Ochs Brothers), Rosenstock & Son, Gebruder Veit (Veit Brothers), and Robert Warschauer & Co.  

What gives value to these names and documents are the descriptions which tell of the importance of these individuals and corporations and their links to each other over a period of centuries.  Many of these, the reader will not have heard of before, but will be amazed at the breadth and variety of their commercial dealings from banking, to silk, glass, sugar, tobacco, rice, candy, chocolate, colonial goods, silver and gold braid, jewelry, whalebone, and furs as well as sculptures, paintings and other artistic endeavors.

In addition, there is a little known highlight of a bill of exchange document which gives an American focus as it mentions Benjamin Davidson, a cousin of the Rothschild family and founder of the Rothschild’s bank in San Francisco.


Bill of Exchange, January 19, 1858

Further information on the Rothschild family and their commercial dealings in America can be found in their archives at the following link:

As can be seen once again, looking at things at auction can be quite worthwhile and enlightening.  It very often provides a view of previously unknown resources and types of documentation unknown to family researchers.  There is also the knowledge gained of the origins of resources such as this and where to locate them.

American Joint Distribution Committee Archives Post WWII Accessible Online

Posted by: Jan Meisels Allen

The American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) placed their post-World War II New York 1945-1954 Collection online and its accessible for free.  This collection chronicles the vital rescue, relief, and rehabilitation programs that JDC developed in the immediate aftermath of the Holocaust and World War II.  This collection contains over 2,800 files, including policy memos, telegrams, correspondence generated by JDC’s New York Headquarters, and compelling eyewitness reports from JDC field staff working in Displaced Persons and refugee camps in Germany, Austria and Italy.  To read more about  the archives see: Original url:

To browse some of the collection highlights go to:

Jan Meisels Allen
IAJGS Vice President
Chairperson, IAJGS Public Records Access Monitoring Committee