Lunatics and Imbeciles ???

“Thank you to Amy Sell of Findmypast for the following press release.


The ‘infirmities’ column is released online for the first time, detailing people’s health conditions ‘Lunatic’ and ‘imbecile’ popularly used, reflecting a different kind of society Unusual entries: ‘old age’, ‘voteless’, ‘bald’ and ‘short of cash’

The final, missing column of data from the 1911 census, which details individuals’ infirmities is today released for the very first time and,the family history websites which first launched the 1911 census three years ago in 2009in association with The National Archives.

The infirmity column details wide-ranging descriptions of peoples’ health conditions as perceived and hand-written by the head of the household on the night of Sunday 2 April 1911. Under data protection regulations, this sensitive information has remained closed until now.

A less ‘politically correct’ society

‘Lunatic’, ‘imbecile’ and ‘feeble-minded’ are some of the most commonly used entries reflecting an era before such terminology was deemed unacceptable. The census in fact prompts the respondent to record if a person is ‘totally deaf’, ‘deaf and dumb’, ‘totally blind’, ‘lunatic’, ‘imbecile’ or ‘feeble-minded.’

5 most common ‘infirmities’ recorded in 1911:
1.    Lunatic
2     Feeble-minded
3.    Imbecile
4.    Deaf and dumb
5.    Blind

1911 humour
However, not all the entries are negative or insensitive. The 1911 records also reflect the humour and curious family dynamics from a century ago – not too dissimilar to what we know now in 2012. One extraordinary record details a Mr John Underwood from Hastings recording his children as ‘quarrelsome’, ‘stubborn’, ‘greedy’, ‘vain’ and ‘noisy’. He even records himself as ‘bad-tempered’ and his wife as suffering from a ‘long tongue’.

Another unusual entry is from Thomas Wallace Young, who was described as being ‘bald and toothless’, helping us picture exactly what he looked like. William Robert Arnold from Yorkshire commented on his
financial status in 1911 by recording his infirmity as being ‘short of cash’.

Suffragette labels ‘voteless’ as her infirmity

The cause of the suffragettes is also illustrated within the new records, with some women listing their infirmities as not having the vote or not being enfranchised. For example, four women living in the same household recorded their infirmities as ‘voteless, therefore classed with idiots and children’.

Infirmities’ ‘None, thank God’
Some chose to make a note of their good health instead of the health problems the form enquired about, such as ‘well’, ‘healthy’, ‘sane’,'alright’ and even ‘perfect’. Evelyn Baker and her family from Leeds were recorded in the census by their father Addiman Parkin Barker as simply being ‘alive’. Seventy-two entries simply say ‘none, thank

10 unusual infirmities in the records:
Voteless, Greedy, Bald and toothless, Vain, Short of cash, Noisy,
Quarrelsome, Bad tempered, Stubborn and Long tongue

Connections between infirmity and profession
A correlation between infirmity and occupation can also be identified in some cases. The biggest source of employment for blind men and women was basket-weaving. Other trades for blind men were musicians or musical instrument makers. Women who were ‘deaf and dumb’ were often employed within the textile or garment trades, or in domestic service, while men were most likely to be labourers.

Debra Chatfield, family historian at, said:’ The infirmities column is the last piece of the jigsaw completing the 1911 census. This column alone provides a fascinating insight into life a hundred years ago. It not only reflects health conditions, but also a time before society became aware of political-correctness and certain
terminology was deemed acceptable. In the more unusual entries we also get a wonderful sense of post-Edwardian humour, society and family dynamics at this time.

‘Researching your family history is a fascinating way to learn about your ancestors. The 1911 census records include detail about occupations, housing arrangements and social status and you are also able to see a copy of the handwritten record itself.’

Audrey Collins, Family History records specialist at The National Archives, said: ‘The information in the ‘infirmities’ column being released today helps add an extra dimension to the picture of our ancestors’ lives in 1911.We have to remember that the census returns were completed by relatives living in the same house who for the most
part had no specialist medical knowledge. Their descriptions provide us with a clue as to how each individual was viewed by other family members, although many would have been reluctant to admit that their relatives suffered from any defect.’

Please note that neither I nor the JGSGB have any financial interest in Find My Past or the parent company Brightsolid.

Tony Benson – Blog Editor



ITS Bad Arolsen Holocaust Records now in the UK

Yesterday evening I had the great pleasure of being at an event to mark the handing over to the Wiener Library of a digital copy of the International Tracing Service (ITS) Records to the Wiener Library in London.

This is one of the most important developments in the field of Holocaust research in the UK, as it brings to the UK the records of 17 million people directly affected by the Holocaust.  The event took place at the Foreign Office in the Locarno Room, with the Foreign Secretary William Hague giving an address to the audience about the importance of the records and also about the importance of remembering the Holocaust and its long-term effect.  The records will not be available immediately, as they have to be set up on the Wiener Library IT system and also a Researcher has to work on them to develop the search process.   It is expected to take 3-4 months to have them ready. The initial funding for this work has been secured from the Heritage Lottery Fund but more funding is needed for ongoing running of the archive.

For those that are not aware of the ITS records, sometimes called the Bad Arolsen records after the location in Germany where they are kept, they are a collection of 30 million pages of information on the victims of Nazi persecution.  The records are not only about Jewish victims but also Gypsy victims, Forced Labour workers, Displaced People of many different nationalities and religions.  The records were brought together after World War II at the ex-concentration camp in Bad Arolsen by the Allied Forces.  They contain original documents from the Nazis about individuals that were deported to camps and ghettos, killed or put into forced labour.  Also they contain details of how the Nazis organised the processes and ran the camps.  There are also records taken after the war of displaced people and their stories.  As a tracing service, ITS was run to help people find out what had happened to relatives and to try and reconnect families that had been separated by the war.  These included the many children who had no knowledge of their families and who were called the “Unaccompanied Children” in the hope that one day company would be found for them.  For more information see the ITS website at  ITS became fully open to the public in 2007, which is when a committee was set up by Anne Webber of the Looted Art Commission to bring a digital copy of the archive to the UK.  The Stakeholder Committee, comprising many UK Holocaust bodies, the Association of Jewish Refugees, The Wiener Library, Holocaust Education bodies, academics and also JGSGB (represented by Jeanette Rosenberg), worked to ensure that the archive came to the UK.

The handover event included first hand accounts from Holocaust survivors about their experiences and also about how the ITS records had helped them discover the fate of their family.  Eugene Black from Leeds, told of seeing the records of his time in four camps for the first time in 2008 and also the papers about how his two sisters had died while in Forced Labour during an allied bombing raid.  His granddaughter spoke about how ITS was so important to the family to understand what had happened to the family.

The importance of these records for Holocaust Survivors, their children and other descendants cannot be underestimated nor can the significance for academic research of the Holocaust. It is also an enormous educational resource.  As it was said several times during the evening, the very existence of the millions of pages is testimony to the fact that the Holocaust happened.

So, finally the money question.  Are you, the reader of this blog, able to put your hand in your pocket to help sustain the ITS Records in the UK?

If you are, you should contact the Wiener Library directly at 29 Russell Square, London  WC1B 5DP. Tel: +44 (0) 20 7636 7247,  Fax: +44 (0) 20 7436 6428.  E-mail form:

Mark Nicholls

Chairman JGSGB


JCR-UK and Gibraltar Part Two

I live most of the time in Spain only thirty minutes by car from Gibraltar.  I discovered that Gibraltar is a territory of the United Kingdom and has been since the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713.  Gibraltar passports and driving licenses have UK stamped across them and it is strange when one goes across the border to find traditional English policemen (albeit many with Spanish accents) and red buses.

It was with that thought that I decided to approach the Gibraltar Jewish Community to find out if they might be willing to allow their records to go online. An appointment was made with their archivist, Mesod Belilo, and with fear and trepidation I went to meet him expecting to be thrown out on my ear.  Far from it.  Mesod is a wonderful and knowledgeable man who was quite delighted at the idea that more Sephardim would be able to find ancestors amongst the couple of hundred thousand plus records held in the All-UK database ( and personally had great foresight to realise how invaluable the records would be to worldwide genealogists.  First though he had to persuade the Board of the Community.  After quite a number of visits I finally signed the agreement with them last week. 

JCR-UK has a new tab at the top, Gibraltar, to join England, Scotland, Wales, Ireland, the Channel Island and the Isle of Man.  The four synagogues which opened in the 18th and 19th centuries and which are still active are represented on the site with photographs. 

There are photographs of a few graves of the Jewish evacuees who died whilst in Northern Ireland during Word War II.  The non combatant inhabitants of Gibraltar, some 10,000 to 11,000 , were first evacuated to Morocco but were shortly thereafter sent back and then went to England and from there some to Northern Ireland and a few others to Jamaica.

The first tranche of vital records are in the All-UK database and will be joined by many more once they have been transcribed.

I do hope that there are many of you who will look at the Gibraltar web pages and search for records amongst the Gibraltar population of a couple of centuries ago.

Louise Messik

JCR-UK and Gibraltar Part One

I have been extremely busy over the past few weeks doing things to improve the look and feel of our sister site Jewish Communities and Research – United Kingdom (JCR-UK), and negotiating with the Gibraltar Jewish Community for the inclusion of their vital records.

Firstly JCR-UK’s new look. The main site had not been radically redesigned since its inception over ten years ago and was looking old fashioned and terribly bitty without a theme continuing through all pages.  Having designed a main and subsidiary template, with new font and colour, I set about putting all the old pages onto it.  I had not realised what a deep and fascinating website JCR-UK is until I started.  Although I knew the idea was to cover every congregation and community in the United Kingdom (including Southern Ireland, now the Republic of Ireland), the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man, I had not realised how extensive that coverage was.  There are approximately 5,000 pages as part of the site and that doesn’t include vital records which are found at

JCR-UK’s webmaster, David Shulman, has done a wonderful job since he took over some seven or eight years ago.  He has written pages on the Jews of England Pre 1290, updated most of the congregational pages with more information and just yesterday included a list of synagogues that were destroyed or partial destroyed by German bombs in WWII.  He must be congratulated on a superb job well done.

I hope you will be pleased with the new look of the website and will be able to surf around it more easily.

Louise Messik

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