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29 August 2016

The Jews of Albania

Albania is a country that has a Jewish history that may date back as many as 2000 years. There are historians that believe the first Jews in the country arrived as slaves on ships from the Roman empire. The first synagogue was built in the 5th century in the Southern port city of  Sarande.
 The history of this time is not well known, and its almost 1500 years later before we know much about this community.  
By the early 1500's, communities of Sephardic Jews had began to be established. Most of the major cities of Albania had these established communities, including Berat, Elbasan, Vlore and Durres. These Jewish families were the descendants of those Jews who were expelled from Spain and Portugal. In 1520, the city of Vlore had Albania's only Synagogue and over 600 Jewish living in the city. That synagogue was destroyed during World War I. 
Over time the Jewish population of Albania slowly declined, until 1930, at which time the national census only recorded 204 Jews. In 1937, the Jewish community was officially recognized by the government. With the rise of the Nazi's many German and Austrian Jews took refuge in Albania. Even in 1938, the Albanian embassy was perhaps the last European country to issue Visa's to the Jewish people, which caused it to become a safe haven to the Jewish people. The Jews in Albania were protected by the Muslim's who lived there. This protected even continued after the Nazi's occupied the country. Because of becoming known as a safe haven for Jews, the Jewish population had risen to over 2,000 people by the end of World War II.
When Albania became a communist county, all religion was banned from the country, which meant the Jewish community was now isolated from Jews in other countries. This was true of all religions and not just the Jews. With the fall of communism in 1991 the Jews were dealing with tough times. This was not because of anything against them, but more to do with the general economic state of the entire country. This condition led to the majority of the Jewish population emigrating to Israel, leaving only a few dozen Jews within the borders of Albania.
Today, the Jewish population is probably no more than 50, however a new synagogue was opened in Tirana in 2010.

22 August 2016

California, Napa and Butte Counties, Obituaries, 1866-1992

FamilySearch has added some obituaries for 2 counties located in Northern California. The bits are part of the collection of California, Napa and Butte Counties, Obituaries, 1866-1992. The collection as of now has just a little under 50,000 images, however the information provided is very good.
I did a search for someone I knew who should be in this collection. Sadie Cohen was the wife of Nathan Manuel Appel. Not only did I find her listed in the obituary of her husband but the information provided in the basic search  gave me many family connections.


The original clipping of the obituary is also available but I have not added it here. If your family resides in this area this could be a very valuable collection. As with all FamilySearch collections it can be searched free of charge from home.

16 August 2016

Another great conference, looking forward to next year.


Once again the IAJGS International Conference on Jewish Genealogy was a great success. With about 1000 people attending from all over the world, it was a wonderful opportunity to see old friends and to make new ones. The experience provided by researchers from all different
Seattle Pier
backgrounds provided  a wide variety of lectures and presentations. In addition, the local society, The Jewish Genealogical Society of Washington State did a wonderful job of showcasing their beautiful state.
Temple De Hirsch Sinai
As we leave Seattle with thanks to all those who shared their talents and skills with us, we also look forward to next years conference.
From the 23-28 of July in 2017, we will gather together again in Orlando, Florida for the 37th International Conference on Jewish Genealogy. Under the direction of the IAJGS and the local society, The Jewish Genealogical Society of Greater Orlando, once again we will all be rewarded for our attendance. I look forward to seeing you all there.


06 July 2016

IAJGS 2016 - Seattle, One Month to Go


Just over one month till Jewish Genealogists from around the world gather in Seattle for a great week of sharing knowledge of our Jewish ancestors. Its not to late to join us, I look forward to seeing everyone there.

10 June 2016

War of 1812 Pension Records

On 5 Nov 1796, Jacob Cohen, the son of Solomon Cohen was born in Georgetown, South Carolina.  In 1816 in Charleston he married Rachel Lopez, a native of Charleston. Jacob and Rachel had 2 children before Rachel died at the age of 39 in June of 1833.
 Later, Jacob married Sarah Barrett, who was born in 1809 in Charleston. To this marriage were born at least 4 children. Jacob Cohen died  on 13 June 1871 at the age of 75.
Early in his life Jacob enlisted and participated in the War of 1812. In an attempt to find more information about Jacob and his service I was able to search the War of 1812 Pension Application Files that are beginning to be made available from fold3.


In searching the fold3 website I was indeed able to find the War of 1812 Widow's Pension for Jacob Cohen alias John Cohen, who served as a Private in the Georgia Militia under Capt. Bullock.

The file included numerous documents, three of which provided great information as to his life. The first, shown below, is just a quick view of his service, and residence after the war. We now know that he enlisted on 22 Jan 1815 and was discharged on 23 Feb 1815. This record also provides us with the date of marriage to Sarah Barrett, as it shows that date was  22 Oct 1834.

The other 2 documents that provide  the most information are the Widow's Brief and the Summary of Proof. The first is a statement by the widow where she shares the information of why she feels she should be entitled to a pension and the second is the reply where the pension is either accepted or denied. The documents below provide her reasoning and in this case the acceptance of that claim including the record of his receiving 160 acres of land.


These records are being made available through fold3 because of the generosity of many groups. A project, the War of 1812 Pension Digitization Project, is under way to get these documents digitized so that they may all be available for the public to view. More information about how to help may be found at the Preserve the Pensions website. What a great opportunity to help preserve some wonderful records.


25 May 2016

United States Headstone Applications for U.S. Military Veterans, 1925-1949

This upcoming Monday is Memorial Day in the United States, a time when many people will visit the graves of those you have passed. As part of this families will place flags on the graves of those who served the country in the Armed Forces. This event may be the first time that the younger members of families learn about their ancestors and hopefully they will be copying the information as a foundation of their own genealogical journey.
It is very timely that FamilySearch has recently updated a database that will help provide additional information to the headstone itself. That database, United States Headstone Applications for U.S. Military Veterans, 1925-1949, includes the images, which have been indexed, of over 621,000 applications. These applications were received by the Cemetery Division of the Quartermaster General and are now held at the National Archives.
The more recent applications, such as the one below for Maurice Cohen, tend to give a little more information than the earlier ones. However, because of the years involved it is possible to search for the families in the Federal Census records. While relationships are not given, the applicant is usually a family member. That combined with the address of the applicant and the name of the cemetery may help identify them in other records.


Below is the application, dated 14 Aug 1934 for Moses Cohen who died on 19 Feb 1934. This earlier application lacks a couple of pieces of information that are on the later applications. Both give the name, date of death and cemetery where the burial will be, however the earlier application is missing the date of birth and the date of enlistment.


These records can be a great way to find out more about our ancestors who served their country and the headstones provide a nice tribute to their service. May we all take a moment and remember our loved ones and their heroic service.


03 May 2016

Holocaust Remembrance Day (Yom Hashoah)


Thursday, May 5th is the date set aside as Holocaust Remembrance Day or Yom Hashoah. It is the day that we remember the over 6,000,000 who were murdered during the Holocaust. It is a time that we can bring our families together in hopes that the memories will never be lost.

"FORGETTING THEM MEANS LETTING THEM DIE AGAIN"
                                                                   Elie Wiesel
 While the murders did indeed take place in Europe, there may not have been any place on earth that
Marriage of Meyer/Wittkowski
was not influenced by the Holocaust. This year I will remember some of my own family members, people such as Philip Myer and his wife Mabel Wittkowski.
Philip and Mabel were married on  7 Dec 1889 in Berlin, Germany (doc at left). Philip was born in Fordon, Poland the son of Gumpel Meyer and his wife Rosa Auerbach. At the time of this wedding both of his parents were living in Salt Lake City, where the family was involved with the Auerbach Department Stores. Mabel was born in Ballaart, Australia, the daughter of the late Isidor and his wife Lina Kronfeld.
Philip had spent time back in Utah prior to his wedding, he was the architect of one of the first synagogues in Utah, however he lived with his bride in Berlin. During the war, Philip and Mabel were taken to the Theresienstadt Concentration Camp, were their murders were recorded in Oct of 1943.


This year I will also remember those who lost their lives as they fought to free people from the hands of evil. Many of the soldiers who died had never been to Europe before but volunteered because they knew what was happening was not right, and that everyone should have the right to worship as they wanted. I will remember Deyon Frantz Knowles, a Naval Seaman 2nd Class, who died when his ship went down in the Atlantic Ocean in Nov 1943
Seaman Deyon Frantz Knowles was my uncle and because of his bravery and service I was never able to meet him, and I refuse to forget him.  His memory is recorded in the Manila American Cemetery and Memorial, which is located within the grounds of the former Fort William McKinley, in Manila, Philippines.

 
We may not be able to reverse what happened during the Holocaust, but we can help our families remember those who were murdered and those who died trying to help. By doing so we may be able to keep their memories alive, that it may never happen again.



 

22 April 2016