How to prove a fallen soldier is Jewish

The JGSGB receives many requests for assistance. Some are made directly to the Society and many more are made through JGSGB Discuss which is a members only discussion group.

The JGSGB was recently approached by the Archivist of the AJEX Museum. For those that don’t know, AJEX stands for Association of Jewish Ex Servicemen. He has had a continual struggle on behalf of AJEX trying to persuade the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) to change war grave headstones with crosses, to Stars of David.

Recently he had a blow delivered regarding a number of soldiers, who it is known are Jewish from Jewish Chronicle insertions, but have been refused by the CWGC under the heading of “insufficient evidence” - even though many similar cases have been accepted by them in the past.

So if anyone out there I able to look into these cases to find more evidence such as parents’ marriage certificates, their army records at TNA if they survive, or even if they are related to them and can prove Jewish descent, etc., it would be very much appreciated. If you are able to help, please reply through the blog in the first instance.

1. 13052 Pte H. or Zeph Orman / aka Normand – 4th Middx. – kia 14/10/14 son of Simon Orman, Cross Keys Monmouthshire.

2. 7449 Pte Maxwell or I. Solomon 1st Scots Guards kia 14/9/14, from Upper Accomodation Rd, Leeds – JC 9/10/14 p.15 – former police officer in Bradford

3. 8068 Sgt W V Mackowsty, 2nd Staffs – kia 22/7/18 – JC 18/9/14 listed as Mackowsky, William Charles –  won DCM 1/1/17 – London Gazette 12/2/17

4. 352158 Pte S. Swedloff, 7th London – kia 24/2/17 – from Greenfield St Stepney – son of Abraham from Russia and in Norwood Jewish Orphanage as  Samuel Swedloff 1911 aged 13

5. 9389  Sgt W Mack, 2nd Seaforths kia 30/5/17 – JC 29/6/17 p. 14 – aka KURTZMAN – son of Barnett Morris and Esther nee Sender.

6.  2nd Lt Hubert ‘Bert’  P Solomon  RFC, kia 20/10/17 – family in Australia and mentioned in Australian/NZ Jewish Book of Honour p 88.

7. 38421 Pte Jack ‘Isaac’ Coster   2/8 Worc reg – kia 2/10/18 – JC18/10/18 p 2  has his death as son of Esther and the late Benjamin , 22, Eckstein Rd Clapham.

8. 359486 Pte Abraham Bernstein  2/10 Liverpool Reg – kia 10/5/17 son of Barnett Bernstein, 19 Clarence St, Mount Plessant, Liverpool, 8 – JC 25/5/17

9. 491966 Pte  Emmanuel  Isaacs, 2/13 London – kia 25/5/17 – JC 8/6/17 – buried Salonika -  son of E Isaacs, 91 Lordship Park, London N

10 .  20670  Cpl G Nossek aka Norris , 2nd Royal Scots – kia 23/7/16 – son of Israel and Leah – - JC 25/8/16 p. 2

Tony Benson – Blog Editor


Absence makes the heart grow fonder

Apologies to all our loyal readers. Due to a variety of problems, I have not been able to devote any time to the blog over the past 6 weeks.

It started with my laptop suffering a power loss and then the screen going blank. I am now back on line but have lost everything in Outlook Express including all my contacts and saved emails.

This was followed by my wife having back problems and with the associated treatment, which is still ongoing.

Then two weeks ago we had a family bereavement.

So now I am back and raring to go

Tony Benson – Blog Editor


1851 Anglo Jewish Database Updated

Petra Laidlaw has done an update to her incredible database which is available to read about and search exclusively at  This is a most exciting work which covers Jewish families backwards and forwards through the years with a starting point of the 1851 census.  JGSGB is proud to be the only website which gives details of Petra’s study and the facility to search for names. Regular users of the AJDB will notice that the ability to search by ID has been removed.  This has been done to add extra security to the valuable information.

Thank you Petra for your many years of hard work and research which has been invaluable to so many genealogists worldwide. You are an inspiration.

Whenever a new database is uploaded it invariably creates frustrations and difficulties for me with the technical side of the process. I must pay special tribute to our member Michael Tobias (also JewishGen Vice President). He has come once again to my rescue with his expertise and has also devised a way of adding security to the database. I could not have done it without him and both JGSGB and I pay tribute to his ‘coming to the rescue’ once again.

Louise Messik

JGSGB Annual Conference

Well Conference time is coming up very soon, so don’t forget to book your place.

It’s the 18th Annual JGSGB London Conference and Genealogical Fair which is being held on Sunday 30th October 2011 at 33 Seymour Place, London, W1H 5AU. 

The Conference runs from 10.00am until 4.30pm and includes morning refreshments, lunch and afternoon tea with 5 sessions and time to look round the exhibitors. All this for the very small sum of £30.00.

Sessions at the Conference include:

  • The London Gazette 1665 – 2011
  • The changing face of Genealogical Research in Lithuania
  • The Knowles Collection and other ways to find your ancestors through Family Search
  • Jewish patients in Colney Hatch Asylum and the National Hospital
  • An Jewish East End journey – from the East London Christian Mission to the Hebrews to the Jewish East End Celebration Society 

Once you have booked your place, you will be automatically entered into a draw for a FREE one-year Ancestry Worldwide subscription.

So, if you are going to be in London on 30th October, then there is only one place to be – The JGSGB Conference

Tony Benson – Blog Editor

Free Genealogy Access

Now that Rosh Hashanah and Shabbat are over, I have been going through my in box.

I found the following message from which may be of interest to readers:

“You’re invited to discover more of your story October 1st–15th.*  We’re giving you FREE access to one of our favorite collections each day for 15 days as part of our anniversary celebration.

Come back daily to search the collection of the day and to enter to win the prize of the day in our 15 Days of Discovery Sweepstakes. Plus, each daily entry will enter you to win our Grand Prize—a trip to California to go behind the scenes of NBC’s Who Do You Think You Are? with producer Lisa Kudrow

*Each day starting October 1, 2011 we’ll reveal a collection you can search for free through midnight ET on October 15, 2011. ”

Not sure how useful this “free” offer will be, but it must be worth a look.

Tony Benson – Blog Editor

A Guide to Jewish Genealogy in Lithuania

The Jewish Genealogical Society of Great Britain has recently revised and reprinted its publication “A Guide to Jewish Genealogy in Lithuania” and this is now available for purchase through the JGSGB website.  To order a copy of this up to date guide to researching family in Lithuania simply go to: and add the Guide to your shopping basket.

The author of the Guide is Sam Aaron, a long-standing JGSGB member and a leading light in Lithuanian Jewish Genealogy.  Sam will be speaking about Lithuanian research at the JGSGB London conference on 30 October.

The Lithuanian Guide provides clear information about how records were organised and what levels of government the records were collected at and where they can now be found.  There are details of the way various first and last names worked in Lithuania, which is an invaluable piece of information when trying to reconcile the names that people used in different situations – in Hebrew, in official records, as nicknames and so on.

So if you have Lithuanian ancestors this is a must to have.

Tony Benson – Blog Editor

Benefits of JGSGB Membership – Part 6

Continuing with a look at the of Benefits of Membership, we cannot ignore JGSGB – Discuss.

The objectives of the Discussion Group are to:
* help one another to learn and discover more about Jewish genealogy, research methods and resources.
* share information and resources amongst Members.
* facilitate establishing contact with Members researching the same families or the same geographical areas.
* promote the activities of the JGSGB.

This Group is run for the benefit of the Members of JGSGB.  Only members of JGSGB may join the Group.  There is no separate charge to participate in this Group. The Group is appropriate for both beginner and experienced genealogist alike. The scope of this Discussion Group is global to support the global research interests of our members.

The list is “moderated” by a Moderator whose role is to keep the discussions on track and not let them get cluttered with irrelevant, inappropriate or personal messages of no interest to the general readership.

There is no obligation to post any messages and members are welcome to just read and enjoy the messages. However, by actively participating and posting messages, you may get one of your problems solved or perhaps help a fellow Member to solve one of their problems.

Tony Benson – Blog Editor


The JGSGB at work

I feel the time has come to let everyone know about the unsung work that the JGSGB and its members provide.

I would like to congratulate, member and Past Chairman, Laurence Harris for his
part in the WDYTYA programme on Larry Lamb and his grandmother’s conversion to Judaism.  I should also add some congratulations to another JGSGB member, Miriam Rodrigues-Pereira for her part in the first programme of the current series.  Miriam appeared in the June Brown (Dot from Eastenders) episode in her role as archivist to Bevis Marks synagogue.

Some other praise should also be given to those who helped Wall to Wall Productions in the background.  Not least, JGSGB’s Genealogical Enquiries officer, Rosemary Hoffman, who spent two hours at the end of last year talking to the company’s researchers about the conversion process and other issues featured in the Larry Lamb episode.

JGSGB receives several requests for help with researching television programmes each year and we help them by providing background information, finding out facts or by recommending researchers.

Once again congratulations to everyone involved in these endeavours.

Tony Benson – Editor

Benefits of JGSGB Membership – Part 5

In Part 4 of Benefits of Membership, we dealt with the various Special Interest Groups (SIG). We will now deal with the Regional Groups (RG).  Meetings of these groups are free to members of JGSGB but a charge will be made to non members which will be offset against any future subscription to the Society.

There are seven Regional Groups, which cater for those who are unable to get to our Central London location.

The Chilterns Regional Group, serving the Home counties to the North and West of London, covers members residing in the counties of Herts, Middlesex, Bucks, Beds and Berks. Regular genealogical meetings are held in the Northwood and Pinner Liberal Synagogue, in Oaklands Gate, Northwood, on five weekday evenings and two Sunday afternoons during the year. All areas of Jewish Family Research are covered including a series of 30 minute Tutorials on Jewish Internet Research preceding the main evening programme.The events vary from genealogical workshops, to give attendees the opportunity to discuss their own researches, to PowerPoint Presentations with expert speakers from both within and outside the Society.

The East of London Regional Group is based in Redbridge, Essex and meetings are held on Monday evenings, every three months, at Ilford Synagogue, 22 Beehive Lane, Gants Hill.   We try to cover every aspect of Jewish genealogy and our meetings are not restricted to local research but worldwide.   Each meeting contains items of interest for both new family researchers and the more experienced genealogists.   This is very much a self-help activity and although so much is now available on the internet we enjoy bringing people together and putting them in touch with each other. We try to provide guest speakers who are able to give informed information regarding source material.

The Leeds Regional Group, has around 30 members, some living in Leeds and the rest spread around the rest of Yorkshire. It aims to hold four events a year, a mixture of talks, workshops and visits. The next meeting will be on Monday 5th Sept., at 8pm at the UHC Synagogue, Shadwell Lane, LS17 8DW. This is jointly hosted by the Leeds Branch of the Jewish Historical Society and is a talk by Dr Nicholas Evans on “Jews at Sea – from the Haim to Luxury Cruises”. The final meeting this year will be in the afternoon of Sunday 27th Nov., at Sinai Synagogue, Roman Ave., LS8 2AN.

The Manchester Regional Group has its own library of about 150 books and a large selection of files, information sheets and booklets for research.. We also have information booklets on adoption, Liverpool Jewish archives, Manchester Jewish archives as well as some information on Leeds Jewry. We have several members who are experienced in a wide field of research. In addition to our wealth of resource material, we have a laptop computer and printer, with a good selection of databases on CDs. A few of our committee members bring their own laptops with internet access, so that websites can be viewed and tutorials take place on how to work your way through the maze of information. We hold regular workshops so that researchers can work on a one-to-one basis with our more experienced members.

The Midland Regional Group is a new venture and so far has held only one meeting on Sunday 13th March 2011. They intend holding their next meeting on Sunday 18th September and a mid-week afternoon meeting later in the year.   All meetings at Birmingham Progressive Synagogue, 1 Roseland Way, Birmingham, B15 1HD. Any JGSGB member is welcome, the Midland title was only chosen because Central England or Mercia might have been misunderstood and none will be turned away.

The South East Essex Regional Group is based in Southend on Sea, Essex and meetings are held at Finchley Road Synagogue Westcliff. Whilst it is a new group the membership covers the range of genealogy from novice to many years of experience.
Members aim to help each other by sharing information and offering ideas to help breakdown brickwalls. We will provide regular meetings where members can network and share information as well as providing interesting guest speakers. We have close links with the Essex Family History Society and will share advice and experience with them whenever needed.

The South West London Regional Group was set up in the summer of 1999 when a trawl was done through the membership list, an invitation went out, and about fourteen strangers met in a very small flat in Richmond. Talk was fast and furious, we delved into a box of books on loan from the JGS library, one or two people with more knowledge of computers than the rest gave some helpful advice and offered some local hands-on-training; some people turned out to be experienced genealogists and others absolute beginners; queries, advice and suggestions were traded — and thus was set the pattern for the meetings which have been held regularly ever since, at roughly 3-monthly intervals.

Tony Benson – Blog Editor


Benefits of JGSGB Membership – Part 4

In Part 3 of Benefits of Membership, I mentioned that one of these was Members Corner on our website. Under this, there are two items. The second of these isDetails of the various Special Interest Groups (SIG) Details of the Regional Groups (RG)”.  Meetings of these groups are free to members of JGSGB but a charge will be made to non members which will be offset against any future subscription to the Society.

Starting first with the SIG’s, there are four groups:

Anglo-Jewry SIG – If your interests lie in Anglo-Jewry this Special Interest Group is for you.  Our very enthusiastic members meet three or four times a year, under the chairmanship of Doreen Berger, to discuss their individual researches and to both receive and impart adviAnglo-Jewry SIG ce. The meetings are friendly and informal and it is usual for one of our members to give a short presentation on the progress of their own research.  You will be able to socialise with other members over tea and biscuits and the Library is opened at the end of the meeting.  Beginners are particularly welcome.

German SIG – Are you researching German-speaking ancestors? Would you like to start, but don’t know where to begin or have you reached a ‘brick wall’ or just want to share information? Novices, intermediate and experienced researchers are all welcome at the German Special Interest Group. Our coverage includes other German-speaking areas such as Austria, parts of Switzerland, Alsace, Lorraine, Bohemia and Moravia.
The Group meets quarterly, under the chairmanship of Jeanette Rosenberg, it has over 100 members with a core group of about 20 who attend meetings regularly.

Dutch & Sephardi SIG – Under the Chairmanship of Raymond Montanjes it was decided to combine the Dutch SIG with the Society’s dormant Sephardi group. As there is only a small Dutch Sephardi interest within the JGS – the majority of the Dutch researchers being Dutch Ashkenazim – the Sephardim were not being catered for at all. 3-4 meetings per annum are held. The ever welcome and very helpful ” ’round the table ” session, follow the talks. This is where we offer our researched names, dates and stories – plus any new research tools and general genealogical know how that is of use to all. Attendees provide their names, contact addresses, and general “wants”. A list is produced for each member. Cousins  – some sitting in the same room – have found each other.

Eastern European SIG -  Under the Chairmanship of Raymond Montanjes This has developed in a similar way to the Dutch & Sephardi group. The only difference is that it splits into 3 main groups. Polish, Lithuania/Estonian Litvak – where the South Africans are catered for  – and Romanian. There is always someone from the membership in attendance, to help out with other smaller Eastern European region researches, such as the Ukraine and other Baltic regions.

Tony Benson – Blog Editor

Washington Conference Postscript

The IAJGS Conference has now been over for nearly a week but we are still here in Washington and finding links back to the conference.  We are also, of course, experiencing some ground-breaking events (well more ground-shaking).

Coming to Washington we already knew that we would be meeting relatives who live in the area in social settings.  So, after the conference, we spent the weekend at two different houses with two sets of Jeanette’s relatives from either side of her family.  One set live in Virginia and the other in Maryland.  We were treated really well, as guests at the family homes.  Having the chance to talk to not only the fellow genealogists in the families but their brothers, sisters, nieces, nephews and cousins is one of the great outcomes of genealogy.  We see parts of other countries we would never experience on a holiday and meet and make friends with people we would probably not come across either.  Jewish genealogy almost always means making links with living cousins, no matter how distantly related, and developing long-lasting relationships with them.

Following our weekend socialising we began to finally have a go at seeing more of Washington DC than the vicinity of the hotel.  So we went on a sightseeing trip on an open top bus.  The trip also included a boat trip up and down the Potomac River, which runs through DC.  We saw a lot of the older parts of Washington DC and many of the key historic sights.  But as genealogists, we could not leave the research side of things alone for too long.  So our lunch was at the US Holocaust Memorial Museum, followed by a visit to the Museum’s library.  Once in the library we started to look at the records and books available for a branch of Jeanette’s family.  The Museum’s resources are enormous , so more than an afternoon was needed for the research.  While in the Museum we saw four other people from the Washington conference, two people from Australia who Jeanette had spoken to during the week, one person with a conference bag who we didn’t recognise and finally another conference delegate doing research in the library.  So we were not alone in not being able to leave the research alone.

The following day, Tuesday, Jeanette went to the Holocaust Museum again to do research and I went off to be a tourist and see some of the cultural side of the USA’s capital.  Little did we know how the day was going to go when we went our separate ways.  The morning was uneventful but just before 2 p.m. we experienced our first earthquake.  A 5.9 earthquake on the Richter Scale happened in Virginia and sent shockwaves through Washington DC.  I was in the Museum of American History and experienced a slight movement of the floor and saw displays wobble.  Jeanette was in the Holocaust Museum and exprienced a much longer shaking of the building.  We were evacuated from the buildings, along with the thousands of other visitors and many thousands of Federal staff.  The streets were lined with people as I made my way back to the Holocaust Museum to meet up with Jeanette.  The mobile phone network was severely disrupted and I could not get hold of Jeanette, so I had to try and find her in the crowds.  Eventually, we met up and were able to make our way back to the hotel.  Who says genealogy isn’t full of excitement!

Today was far more normal and Jeanette once again went to the museum to continue her research.  This included looking at the 1938/39 German minority census records on microfilm to find details of relatives recorded in them.  The details of many relatives have been extracted and will be included in the family tree.  It is a great pity that such records have to be used to find out about relatives.

I think we are now both looking forward to getting back to the UK, as it seems an age since we were there.

I do hope that people have enjoyed the blog about the Washington DC IAJGS conference and are inspired enough to continue their research or even start their family tree.

Signing off from Washington DC

Mark Nicholls

Chairman JGSGB

Benefits of JGSGB Membership – Part 3

In Part 2 of Benefits of Membership, one of the items was Members Corner. Under this there are two items. The first of these isDatabases & Browsable Lists”.

These pages are for the exclusive use of members of the Society and are updated on a continuous basis

They contain many searchable databases including

  • West London Synagogue Birth Register 1 (1842-1905)
  • Central Foundation Girls School
  • Congregation of Jacob Synagogue
  • Jews’ Hospital
  • Death & Stone Setting Announcements from the Jewish Chronicle 1993-2004
  • Rabbi Rabinowitz Memorial Publication Fund
  • US Seatholders Lists
  • Boer War – 1899-1902
  • Society of Hebrew Literature 

and browsable lists including

  • 1933 United Synagogue Seatholders List
  • Palace Gardens / Kensington Palace Gardens. Jewish inhabitants from the 1881/1891/1901/1911 Census
  • Fitzjohns Avenue (Hampstead). Jewish inhabitants from the 1881/1891/1901/1911 Census
  • Bevis Marks (St Katherine Cree & All Hallow on the Wall) Middlesex/London E. Jewish Inhabitants from the 1851/1871/1881/1891 Census
  • Black Lion Yard (Whitechapel) London E. Jewish Inhabitants from the 1901 and 1911 Census
  • Albert Square (Ratcliff) London E. Jewish Inhabitants from the 1901 and 1911 Census
  • Jewish Branch of the Children’s Country Holidays Fund (1921)
  • Tottenham Synagogue Marriage Registers
  • List of Early Jewish Clock and Watchmakers
  • Report of the Jewish Lads Brigade 1900-1901
  • The Jewish Regiment Committee Subscriptions
  • Jewish Board of Guardians’ Book of Remembrance
  • Jewish officers in the Navy, Army and Territorial Forces, 1912
  • Brothers Who Died in Service in the British and Commonwealth Forces in the Second World War
  • List of additions to Roll of Honour in the British Jewry Book of Honour
  • 1888 Liverpool Subscription list
  • Jewish Board of Guardians’ Book of Remembrance

Tony Benson – Blog Editor

Benefits of JGSGB Membership – Part 2

Continuing our look at the benefits of membership

  • Members Corner’ on our website (for Members only)
    • Databases & Browsable Lists  (a variety of Members only databases and searchable lists)
    • Details of the various Special Interest Groups (SIG) Details of the Regional Groups (RG)
  • Shemot Our award winning journal published 3/4 times a year. Shemot contains a variety of articles of interest to genealogists, book reviews, abstracts of overseas genealogical articles, practical research tips and useful addresses
  • Newsletter (published quarterly) giving news about the Society, forthcoming events, international genealogical affairs, computer activities, library notes, and members’ letters and queries
  • Members monthly meetings (where we have specialist speakers, demonstrations or members talking about their projects/research)
  • Access to our panel of experts 
  • Participation in our Online Discussion Group called jgsgb-discuss
  • Family History workshops
  • Training courses in genealogy, and using computers and the Internet for genealogical research
  • An annual all day seminar
  • Mentoring/Buddy system 
  • Genealogical Enquiries Officer

Tony Benson – Blog Editor

Benefits of JGSGB Membership – Part 1

Well. if we don’t tell you all about the benefits of being a member of the JGSGB, then who will? So, here we go:

Special Interest Group (SIG) meetings Anglo-Jewish, Sephardi § Dutch, German, Latvia Lithuania Poland/Galicia/Ukraine

Regional Group (RG) Meetings Chilterns Group, South East London, South West London, East of London and Essex, Leeds, Manchester, Midland Group

Use of the Library which contains:

Several hundred reference books:

Computers and a selection of genealogical CD-ROMs and other genealogical databases – IT helpers on hand to assist

Maps and leaflets

Microfilms and microfiches (including copies of many of the major Anglo-Jewish genealogy collections)

Research papers: Journals from other Genealogical Societies around the world

One of the largest collections of Yizkor (Memorial) books in the UK

Family trees – indexed by principal surnames

To be continued

A big thank you

We all owe a big thank you to our Chairman, Mark Nicholls, for finding the time, in his busy schedule at the IAJGS Conference in Washington, to file so many posts on our new Blog. Hopefully when Mark is home he will find time to post a review of his time in Washington.

Also a big thank you to Mark and Jeanette for flying the flag for the JGSGB at the Conference.

Well it is now down to me to make sure that I keep the posts going. So watch this space.

Tony Benson – Blog Editor

Washington Conference Day 6 – The Last Day

Well the conference has now come to an end and everyone has started making their weary ways back to their home towns and cities around the world.  Most will be going back to their home US state, I am sure every state was represented here; others will be going to Canada, Australia, Germany, France, and many other countries.  The UK contingent has also mostly left, just Jeanette and I are still here in the hotel, others have gone to see cousins and family in the States or gone off to the airport.  Goodbyes have been said to friends both old and new and the last physical vestiges of the conferences have evaporated away.  However, the memory of it all will always remain.

There was one more piece of news from last night that happened after the blog had been written.  Michael Tobias, a long-standing JGSGB member and also a Vice-President of JewishGen received the IAJGS Lifetime Achievement Award for all his work in setting up the various JewishGen databases such as the JewishGen Family Finder – that indispensable tool for finding your cousins.  JGSGB had nominated Michael for the award but unfortunately, I did not go to the Gala dinner where he received the award.  However, I did get to see him afterwards and was able to offer him JGSGB’s congratulations.  Michael has also done an incredible amount of work for JGSGB on our databases and records over the years and for that alone I feel he deserves the award.  Well done Michael.

Today’s events were much shorter, as they came to an end at 12.15 with the final two presentations.  I spent the first part of the morning helping one of the conference organisers, Sue Isman, with trying to trace the birth records for her family in Wolverhampton, Staffordshire.  They proved to be most elusive, with no combinations of search terms being able to through out a record.  Only one birth for a child in Birmingham, Warwickshire came up.  Hopefully, Sue will have better luck with them when she has time to take a longer look.  I should say a very big thank you to all of the conference organisers at this stage for having put on a very excellent event.  The complexity of an IAJGS conference cannot be underestimated at all, nor can the capacity of delegates to find fault.  The stress and strain of running the conference is enormous.  So thank you to the three conference co-chairs Marlene Katz Bishow, Vic Cohen and Sue Isman for a wonderful time.

The final session that I attended was on mapping again, as I like looking at maps and atlases and have done since I was a small boy.  The presentation showed the value of old maps in undertaking research, particularly maps such as cadastral maps.  Cadastral maps are detailed plans of towns and villages mostly which show who owned what land and houses or lived in the houses.  The equivalent in the UK would be tithe maps.  Most of these maps were produced in the Austro-Hungarian empire.  The presenter then moved on to the Rumsey maps, which were mentioned in the Google Earth presentation yesterday.  David Rumsey is a map collector – he has 250,000 of them! – and his own map library.  He has put 28,000 of these maps on-line using high-resolution images. They can be seen at as well as on Google Earth.  He was also put the maps into the website called Second Life, where it is possible to move over and through the maps and dip into them.  The effects are incredible and David Rumsey produced a 20-minute lecture on his work in Second Life.  I wasn’t sure how you access the Second Life video but If I find out I will try and remember to let you know too.  The Rumsey maps cover many places all over the world and the software used allows all sorts of ways of viewing them.  Have a look and see how wonderful the maps are.

There were other websites mentioned, such as Hypercities, with its collection of old maps, the Sanborn insurance maps from 1867 to 1970 (available on the pro-quest paid website I understand), the Lviv interactive website, the Federation of Eastern European Family History Societies (FEEFHS for very short) Map Room, and finally the 1900 Collection  There are of course many other collections of maps out there that can be found by searching Google and other search engines.  Gesher Galicia, a JewishGen SIG also has a collection of the cadastral maps that can be searched, so take a look there

I hope that this blog series about the IAJGS conference has whetted the appetite of many of its readers to go to an IAJGS conference.  For the UK-based readers there will be a really great opportunity to do so next year, as it is being held in Paris from 15 to 18 July.  The conference will be bilingual, so no need to be fluent in French, though the ability to say s’il vous plait and merci will be helpful.  Take a look at the conference website at  It looks like a really exciting event, just as this one has been.

So here is to another year and meeting old friends and making yet more new friends.  But most of all, to learning and knowledge.

Goodbye from Washington DC.

Mark N

Chairman JGSGB



Washington Conference Day 5

It is hard to believe that we are now at day 5 of the conference and that all that is left is the Friday morning sessions tomorrow.  We have already started to say goodbye to our old and new friends who are leaving tonight.  The time has flown by and so much has been done in so little time.  We managed to get some photos taken of most of the UK-SIG people together, and we hope to post them and other pictures for people to see somewhere.

Today was a lot less strenuous than the first few days and has been much more relaxed.  My first session today was on Google Earth and using it for genealogy.  Jay Sage gave the talk and showed how Google Earth worked and also how it could be used to improve the presentation of genealogical location information.  Some of the presentation was technical, well most of it was, but not that difficult we shouldn’t all be able to use it to some extent.    The really interesting parts were about being able to overlay old maps onto Google Earth images and then to see how places had changed over time.  This is really useful for finding the true locations of streets that had changed names or had been removed.  It was possible to create and record a journey around the world or a country or a town based on life events.  A person’s birth place, where they lived at different ages, where they married, where they died and where they were buried could be a timeline transformed into a journey.  Images can be associated with different locations, and also text can be added.  The possibilities are enormous with the technology, such as being able to clearly identify cemeteries or being able to work out the exact position where an old photo had been taken.  It was even possible to associate Google Earth images with family tree software.  I really want to have a go at this when we get back.  Maybe, we will even be able to do some things with it on the JGSGB website to add a wow factor!

Our next activity was a meeting with Neville Lamdan of the International Institute fo Jewish Genealogy, who I wrote about earlier in the week.  Jeanette and I had the chance to talk to Neville about the possible involvement of JGSGB and our members in an academic project.  This was the Scottish Jewry project and helping with finding the England-based records needed for it.  Neville will be providing us with the details of the project so that we can decide if we want to get involved.  Jeanette and I think it is a really good project and hope to see JGSGB involved in it.

The next session was on Jewish DNA research and was a very popular session.  When I got there a few minutes after the due starting time there were no seats and I had to sit on the floor.  It was worth it to learn about the use of DNA as a tool to ascertain Jewish lineages.  The first part was about research that had been done into the Cohen lineage.  For those that don’t know, the Kohanim or Cohanim (depending on you spelling preference) are the priestly line descended from Aaron about 3,300 years ago.  The DNA analysis of the Y chromosome of Kohanim published in 1997 showed that there was a definite difference between them and non-Kohanim going back at least 106 generations.  This would take the lineage back between 2,500 and 3,100 years depending on the years per generation.  The difference was seen in both Ashkenazi and Sephardi populations.

The DNA talk also confirmed that the Jews of the Diaspora were descended from middle-eastern populations going back over 2000 years ago.  This was despite there being some non-Jewish DNA entering the lineage through marriage.  Work on the Ashkenazi DNA lineage had shown that around half of the Ashkenazi population in the world were descended from four women who lived about 1000 years ago.  This was a bottleneck in the Jewish population that had lead to a number of genetic diseases coming about.  The talk confirmed some things that I had heard before but also provided new and interesting information.  There had been tests on Ethiopian Jews, which showed that they did not have middle-east lineage, so they had probably adopted Judaism sometime in the past.  The Lemba of southern Africa on the other hand had markers for middle-east descent.

Before I could go to lunch there was another meeting to go to.  This was about a new committee of IAJGS to look at supporting struggling genealogy societies and also to get non-affiliated societies, historical societies and so on to join with IAJGS.  We had a short chance to through around some ideas for supporting societies and also for increasing membership participation.  Tomorrow we will learn if the IAJGS Board will approve the committee.  I really feel that there has to be a support network for fellow societies that means they don’t feel they are on their own.  This will also help us in JGSGB to get ideas for making sure we continue to grow and deliver relevant services to members.  The meeting went on a little longer than expected, so that I arrived at lunch after Jeanette had eaten.  Jeanette’s lunch was also a meeting about planning for the International Jewish Genealogy month in November.

My plans to attend an afternoon session were sidetracked by responding to e-mails, so I spent the rest of the afternoon hanging out with other people.  We had arranged to have the UK people together briefly at 3.30 p.m. for a photo, which we did.

The final thing this afternoon was to help a fellow delegate to find the details of a family in England.  He had some basic details about them up to the late 19th century but needed to find marriages and deaths for them.  So, after a week at a genealogy conference, I finally got to do some.  It felt really great to find the information on FreeBMD (  and findmypast ( and to be able to show how straightforward it could be.

Tonight, most people will be at the Gala Dinner but we had not booked beforehand so won’t be there.  In the past we have avoided these dinners as we haven’t really known that many people who go to them.  Maybe next time we might just go – especially as it will be French cuisine!

So after a rest we will be off out to eat at a local restaurant.  Then one more morning to go.

Mark N

Chairman JGSGB



Washington Conference Day 4

The main part of the UK and German parts of the conference are now over and we can think seriously about getting some time in at other sessions.  The morning started off with a GerSig breakfast Q&A session run by Jeanette and Roger Lustig.  I didn’t stay long at the breakfast for two reasons, one was that I was helping Laurence Harris set up for his talk on UK records 1870-1930, the other as that I forgot I was going to the breakfast part and had breakfast in the restaurant as usual.  The exhausting schedule from yesterday was obviously taking its toll.  Laurence’s talk was very good and he covered all sorts of civil and Jewish records that could be used to trace many of the people who stayed in the UK or transmigrated.  The talk was held in the Independence Ballroom, a massive room so that the 60+ people who turned up were very thinly-spread out.  Laurence’s talk was very well received and there were many questions about individual research needs.  Laurence had covered record sets ranging from the standard ones of birth, marriages and deaths through to Jewish communal records.

At this point I would like to say thank you to all the people who had helped out with UK-SIG events.  Michael Hoffman, Jeanette Rosenberg, Laurence Harris, Todd Knowles, Michael Tobias and Jackye Sullins

I then went on to the talk about Village Jews in the Pale of Settlement.  It was very useful to learn about the differences between the Jews living in towns and villages and how the records could differ about them.  Neville Lamdan explained that between 25 and 33 per cent of Jews in the Pale were living in villages but had been rarely studied to the degree of town Jews.  This is was because the villagers were not in positions where they left extensive paper trails.  The Jews in villages were more likely to interact with the local landowner than were town Jews.  They would often be tax collectors or run different aspects of the landowners lands such as forests.  Village Jews ran small businesses such as inns, flour mills, blacksmith forges and so on.  Initially, when Jews took surnames after 1804, the villagers would often take the name of their village.  Later on they would change to different names to fit in with town Jews.  Many of the Jews in villages did not appear on early censuses to try and avoid being recorded officially.  There were many reasons for this, such as avoiding conscription and taxes.  However, the village Jews were more proportionally likely to appear in tax records than town Jews.  This was because they were more likely to be working and earning enough to qualify for taxation.  Neville explained that all Jews had to register in the place that they were born and had to return there to pay taxes, no matter where they had moved to in the Pale.  Overall, it was a fascinating insight into the different aspects of Jewish existence in the Pale of Settlement.

My next session was one on Germany again, which meant that I got to meet up with Jeanette again.  The talk was another one by Gerhard Buck, this time about his research into the Jewish families in Nassau in Germany – not Nassau in Bermuda or elsewhere.  Gerhard had started his research mainly due to the poor quality of existing histories of Jews in the area where he lived.   One of the projects he had been involved in was to show how long an old synagogue in the town of Camberg had been owned by Jewish people.  This was very important in the process of ensuring the building was preserved and restored.  The research showed that it had been owned by the same family going back to 1773.  Gerhard was able to use many different documents in other research such as a Schutzjuden register of 1665, which had details of the family of Mayer & Guetel and their children Seligman age 6, Perle age 6 months, Bele 12, Hebe 10 and Hegel age 8.  There were other books such as tax records and civil registers.  Unfortunately, I did not get to hear all of Gerhard’s talk as I must confess that I fell asleep a little, as did Jeanette.  Definitely, a case of yesterday’s schedule catching up.

Lunch was definitely in order now to get the energy to face the rest of the day.  We had been invited to lunch in the posher restaurant in the hotel by Allan Hirsch, a long-standing member of GerSig and now a member of JGSGB once I enter his details into the database.  Allan is an amazing person, as he is now 91 years old and still going strong with his family history research.  We had a really nice chat about our research and life in general.  Allan recounted the time the family got its first radio set – way back in 1927 – long before most of the conference delegates were born.

After lunch, Jeanette and I split up again to go to different events.  I went to the IAJGS Annual Meeting to represent JGSGB and the UK.  This was my first IAJGS Annual Meeting, so I wasn’t sure what to expect.  It was a good meeting, with a lot of humour going on throughout, as well as talking about serious issues.  The election of the IAJGS Officers meant that a position had now become vacant for a Director on the IAJGS Board.  The situation with the 2014 conference was explained, which was that the Israel Jewish Genealogical Society had been unable to submit a confirmed contract for a conference hotel by 14 August.  IAJGS wanted other societies to come forward with bids for holding the conference from 2015 onwards.  Various issues around the hosting of conferences were discussed and there were many things that had to be considered by anyone taking on a conference.  There were suggestions that an Eastern European conference might be held in somewhere like Warsaw, which would be very different.  There were concerns about the cost to delegates of attending conferences and ideas were sought for ways of reducing he cost.

Alisa Fishbein a younger member of a JGS put forward a proposal for involving younger people in genealogy and in JGSes.  This included setting up a youth division of IAJGS and inviting young people to training sessions in places such as archives but this would be based in the USA.  So there would be issues for how the UK and other countries could take part.

The winning design for the International Jewish Month poster was announced.  The winning design came from a member of the Long Island Jewish Genealogical Society.  The task now is to promote Jewish Genealogy month in November this year.

The final important issue discussed was the way that budget cuts and legislative changes were affecting access to records.  There were many bills being passed in the USA to restrict access to vital records because of fear over identity theft.  JGSes were encouraged to oppose restrictions, as identity theft did not tend to come out of vital records access.  I spoke about the problems with access being restricted to archives in the UK through budget cuts and that JGSGB would be doing its best to try to ensure there was sufficient access to records.

So, that was the end of business for the day and we have now spent the evening sitting around with friends and having dinner.  It has been a quieter end to the day in terms of activities but not necessarily in terms of laughter.  Tomorrow will be the last full day of the conference and I hope that we will get to go out in the evening with as many of our friends as possible.

Washington Conference Day 3 part 2

I should now explain that I am writing this part of the blog at 11.50 p.m., as we moved from the discussion on involving younger people to a social event being run by JewishGen. More on this later.  Please read the previous post first, as this post will not make that much sense (do any of them I wonder).

So, the UK-SIG meeting continued with information about the revamped JGSGB website and the various new and updated sections on it. Again, I showed two new databases in the members area on the website. These were the Colney Hatch Asylum Records and the The Royal London Hospital (Endowments) databases. The first database is a transcription of the records from an asylum that many Jewish people were sent to due to mental health problems. The records show the name, age and location the patient lived at and also the basic details of the illness. This database will be put on JCR-UK in a few month’s time for public use, as will the Royal London Hospital records.  The full details of any patient’s record will only be available on application to JGSGB, as the information in them can be very distressing.  The other database showed a different side of Jewish communal life, with details of the people who provided financial and active support for a hospital.

The rest of the UK-SIG meeting involved a run through of the many different sorts of records and websites available to do research in the UK.  The website addresses will be sent to people who asked for them, along with any that Laurence Harris will mention in his talk tomorrow morning (now actually this morning).  I think that the audience got some useful information to take away from the SIG meeting, and I hope that some will join JGSGB having seen what we do.

So a very busy morning was over but much more had yet to happen.  First, Jeanette and I went to lunch in the Grand Slam bar in the hotel.  This is a sports bar with a burger and bar food menu.  The quality of the food is quite good and the service is excellent.  We have now eaten there three or so times.  The Manager of the bar is called Eric and is a nice guy.  Today, Eric paid for our lunch, which was really unexpected and very welcomed.  After lunch we went back down to the conference area to get ready for the afternoon’s events.  However, I felt really tired at this point and decided to go back to the room for an hour’s sleep.  This was a good move given the rest of the day that was to follow.

The reason for only having an hour’s sleep was that at 3.45 p.m. it was Jeanette’s really big moment at the conference.  Jeanette was to deliver her first full presentation on German Jewish genealogy at an IAJGS conference.  The topic was about what was changing in German archives and how the changes impacted on genealogy.  I cannot really go into detail about the presentation as it involved a lot of German words and many of them far too long for a inclusion in a blog, even as long as this one.  The room was packed, with some people having to stand up throughout.  Lots of the people there knew Jeanette well, others were experts in their own right.  The whole thing must have been very daunting for Jeanette, given the audience but she did not show it and delivered probably the best talk that I have ever seen her do.  The subject was technical and complicated but she pulled it off brilliantly.  So far everyone I have spoken to has been impressed by what Jeanette did.

No sooner had Jeanette delivered her talk than we were off to do the next thing.  This was a reception for the donors to the GerSig speaker fund.  We had to go and get the food and drink from our room where it was being stored, take it to a suite on the first floor and set up ready to receive the guests who had contributed to bringing Gerhard Buck to the USA.  I was the barman and photographer for this event.  Now I had a chance to relax and have a drink as well – very much needed to keep going.  Jeanette also had a chance to simply socialise with her fellow GerSiggers, including her GerSig “sister” Nancy Adelson, with whom she had been working for months on preparing the SIG’s events at the conference.  So then we finished the reception and cleared up before moving back to the conference floors for the JewishGen presentation – see part 1 of today’s blog.  Sorry if it is confusing time wise – just think how confused we are.

So, now more on the JewishGen social event.  This was a chance for those that contribute to the JewishGen website in many ways to meet and to talk about genealogy issues and also to get to know each other that little bit better.  I was able to talk with some of the JewishGen and IAJGS key people about issues that affect JGSGB and also to find out more about them personally.  So now another 50 minutes has elapsed and it approaching 12.45 a.m. so I have to go to bed.  After all there is yet another early start this morning – a GerSig breakfast and Q&A session – luckily, I can sit back a bit during the Q&A, Jeanette on the other hand has to answer all those questions…….

Here’s to this morning.

And they say that this is just a hobby!

Mark N

Chairman JGSGB

Washington Conference Day 3 part 1

Today I am writing the blog during an evening session on the generational issues in genealogy, which started at 8.00 p.m.  Young genealogists are talking about how they have got involved in family history research ad also suggesting ways in which younger people can be involved.  These include getting children or young adults to help with the technology side of doing research or setting up a Facebook page to draw in the younger generation.

The session before was all about JewishGen developments, which included news about additions to the JewishGen records and also about changes to databases –  The biggest news was that Shtetllinks was being renamed to KehilaLinks.  Kehila is Hebrew for community and the decision was taken to use this rather than shtetl because shtetl had mainly Eastern European connotations, but the dataset included communities in places like the USA, UK, Germany and so on.  The JewishGen education offering was increasing, including a course on navigating the JewishGen website.  Screencast videos about JewishGen were also now available.  The JewishGen databases now included 20 million records.  The JewishGen Family Finder (JGFF) has 90,000 researchers looking at 119,000 different family names.  We were told that JewishGen was doing more to unify the spelling of place names, including changing Vashincktin DeSea to Washington DC.

The JewishGen ShtetlLinks database was being renamed the JewishGen Gazetter, for the same reasons the Shtetlseeker was being renamed.  The number of countries covered would be moving from 45 to 54 and encompass over 1 million places.  The JewishGen resource mapping facility for each community with Jewish people in it had also been improved.  There were many other facts and information provided in the presentation which I haven’t the space to include here.  I will make a more detailed report separately to JGSGB Members.

I have started with the end of the day, rather than the beginning because it has been the longest, busiest and most exhausting day so far.  We started at 7.30 a.m. preparing for the UK-SIG Q&A session that started at 8.00 a.m.  This was a chance for people to ask our UK experts direct questions about their research problems.  We had seven experts who helped about thirty people with resolving problems.  We also had the chance to promote JGSGB publications and events.

Immediately after the Q&A we had to get the room ready for the GerSig meeting that Jeanette was chairing and I was taking the note of.  The GerSig meeting had a very large audience and they heard about many developments in the world of German Jewish genealogy, including the launch of the Name Adoption database, which records the details from name adoption lists where Jews in Germany were required to take last names instead of patronymic names.  There were also other research projects discussed and volunteers were signed up for transcribing and organising the projects.  Taking the note reminded me of my previous occupation as Head of Secretariat taking notes of board meetings – I thought I had left all that behind.

Once the GerSig meeting finished there had to be yet another quick changeover in the meeting room to get ready for the UK-SIG meeting.  Thank you to the conference organisers for putting all the meetings in the same room!  The UK-SIG meeting had fewer attendees than the GerSig meeting but that reflects the different nature of migration from Europe to the USA and the UK.  Few people in the USA, Canada and many other countries have family in the UK and if they did they may have only stopped off here for a few years.  Even so we had a reasonable audience for my presentation on the JCR-UK and JGSGB websites and new developments.  I explained that there were a few new databases on JCR-UK, including the Gorbals Public School database and the Wolverhampton community records.  The Gorbals Public School database is based on the pupil admissions to the school between 1885 and 1905 and has details of most of the Jewish pupils in that period.  The details of the pupils included their names, dates of birth, parent or guardian, address, date of entry to the school, their last school and date of leaving plus the reason for leaving.  I showed how the information could be used to fill in information about migration, birth in another country, reconstruct families and so on.  There are many of these registers in archives around the UK and some others are on-line such as one from Hull on the JCR-UK website.

More in the next posting……

Mark N

Chairman JGSGB