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Thursday, 26 November 2009

Announcing our new sister site SynagogueScribes!

The Cemeteryscribes website, (previously Cemetery Project) has now been running for three years and, from the number of hits and the regular flow of comments and contributions we continue to receive, we believe you have found it useful.

We now have over 10,000 individuals on the site and some 3,330 headstone photographs, with many more still to be processed and several new burial grounds still to be catalogued: enough to keep us busy for a few more years! But, to keep us on our toes, and to make better use of some hitherto unpublished, Burial records, we decided to launch a new sister site SynagogueScribes

This one-stop gateway to Anglo-Jewish community records will offer a unique and fully searchable database of London Ashkenazi Synagogue records, with the emphasis on pre UK civil registration, which began on 1st July 1837.

The database already contains the names of over 11,500 marriage partners, drawn from the major London communities, The Great, The New, The Hambro and the Western Synagogues: more than 1,500 Birth Records from the registers of the Great and the New Synagogues: and over 1800 Circumcision Records from two Mohel Registers.  And, finally, approx. 600, never previously published, Burial Records dating from 1774 to 1810.  These exciting new records, taken from one of two registers held by the University of Southampton Library Archives & MS dept., [Ref MS 116/107 AJ] are still being transcribed and many more will be added over the coming months.

We have already made several links to burials in Brady Street Cemetery. Many of these record the deaths of children and stillborn or miscarried births and, whilst they may not add materially to your research, they may help to explain apparent age gaps between children. The Jewish schoolmaster, Hyman HURWITZ of Highgate, suffered several such losses.

We have sometimes been able to connect a "missing" spouse to their partner. CemeteryScribes I7647 Samuel b. Zachariah was buried in Brady Street 1799-1800. We have not located a grave for his widow but, from the Burial Register, we now know she died some 9 years later [DPL 0563 Burial 1809 [2 Jul] Widow ZACHARIAH) of Samuel ZACHARIAH Samuel (Samuel b. Zachariah) Gun Street Spitalfields.

Our most positive "find" to date is the listing of the 1801 death of R. Feivel b. Abraham Goldsticker. This record not only fixes the date of death for one of the Great Synagogues earliest members (# 247 in Roth's list published in Vol VI of the Miscellanies of the Jewish Historical Society) but it also adds two further generations to the family of CemeteryScribes ID I2603 Avigdor ABRAHAMS, and perpetuates their highly specialised business as Gold Embroiderers. This record is not yet on SynagogueScribes but will be added when we next update the website.

We ought to point out that Synagogue Scribes is a database of transcribed records which are not open to amendment or expansion. And we regret that we do not offer a Message Board facility, nor can we act as a recipient or publisher of Personal Genealogies, Family Trees, etc. We would, however, be delighted to hear from you if you are able to link any of the new burial records to any of the tombstones recorded in

Sunday, 22 November 2009

The First Jewish Cremation in Britain - 1888

We have many entries on the CemeteryScribes database for individuals who were famous for their charity and good deeds , their professional and financial achievements, or their contributions to the Arts and Sciences, but this is the story of a person who was famed, not for his life, but for his burial.

Camillo Roth, a Viennese member of the London Stock Exchange, was born in 1846. He took British nationality in either 1868 or 1872; there are two entries for the same name on the National Archives website. Despite being a British Subject, we have found no evidence of a permanent domicile. In the 1871 Census he was lodging, alone, at a small hotel in Conduit Street and, thereafter, he seems to have taken up residence at Hatchetts Hotel in Piccadilly. His collection of paintings included works such as 'Charlotte and Sarah Hardy, the Daughters of Colonel Thomas Carteret Hardy' by Thomas Lawrence 1801, now to be found at The Cleveland Museum of Art. But whether these works of art adorned the walls of his rooms in Hatchetts Hotel, to be enjoyed on a daily basis, or whether they were stored unceremoniously in some dusty Bond Street Gallery cellar, remains a mystery. Like much else about this rather elusive man.

Camillo died at Hatchetts Hotel on 9th April 1888. We have found no mention of any family, either in London or on the Continent, so we may assume that it was his considered, personal and, for the times, highly contentious, choice to be cremated.

The cremation, which took place in Woking, Surrey was reported in the Jewish Chronicle in such detail as to make unpleasant reading; the reporter evidently torn between the twin emotions of disbelief and wonderment. The Crematorium at Woking had been built less than ten years earlier, so the practice was not widely known, but it was probably that this was the first ever cremation of a Jewish person in Britain that led to such morbid interest. Surprisingly, The Jewish Chronicle adopts a very moderate and enlightened tone on the general subject of Cremation, suggesting it would not be contrary to Jewish Law. And the 'Daily News', in its account of the cremation of Mr. Roth, reaches a similar conclusion, citing the fact that Mr. Lazarus of the West London Synagogue was present and Professor Marks conducted a service, as proof of its acceptability.

We can only wonder at the discussions that may have taken place prior to the agreement for the subsequent burial of the ashes at Balls Pond Jewish Cemetery, the first discussion of its type in the UK: would cremation be contrary to Jewish Law; remains artificially disintegrated rather than naturally returning to dust, versus the fact that these remains, or ashes, would be returned to earth as required by the Law.

The Jewish Chronicle reports that the Executive were guided by the Ministers regarding the interment when granting the application. The length of time between Mr. Roth's death on the 9th Oct, and the burial of his ashes some 5 days later, suggests the Ministers did not rush into a decision.

Mr. Camillo Roth was buried at Balls Pond. His tombstone holds no clues as to the turmoil that his choice of burial must have caused amongst the community, nor the notoriety that followed it. There is no mention in the inscription and any visitor passing by it would never know.

Tales from ChathamJewish Cemetery

There would appear to have been a couple of unusual burials at Chatham and, in one case, perhaps no burial at all.

In the middle of Jun 1786 Mr Levi Israel a silversmith in Chatham, and lease holder of the Synagogue, received a parcel sent to him from London. The parcel contained a small coffin with the body of a young male child aged between 7 to 10 days. The letter enclosed with the parcel asked that Mr Israel bury the child.

Sadly the Times article of Jun 26 1786 doesn't record the name on the letter and therefore there is no indication as to who the child's parents were, but we can imagine that they were from Chatham and perhaps travelling to London.

The article does however confirm that the baby was buried in Chatham cemetery by Mr Israel in the presence of a Constable.

According to records held by Medway City Ark, Levi Israel died between 1794 and 1808 and therefore would not have been alive at the time of the Abraham Abrahams affair. Had he been, I wonder if the decision would have been the same?"

It is said that, following his execution in August 1819, Abraham Abrahams was buried at Chatham cemetery. In the transcriptions of the legible tombstones at Chatham there was one Abraham Abrahams buried in 1800 aged 60 years, so obviously not the same person.

A search of the Times for 1819 brought up one quite detailed account of the execution of Abraham Abrahams. He, along with others, including Judah and Joseph Solomons were indicted as accessories before the fact in a burglary at Sheerness on 30th Jan. They were all being held at New-Gaol, Maidstone when the sentences for Judah and Joseph were commuted to transportation (transported 8th Oct on the Prince Regent). The sentence was reported as being the result of the evidence of the principal witness, Abraham Buckee, and 'corroborated by a long chain of 'circumstantial evidence'. Buckee, who turned King's evidence, received the Royal Pardon for his part in the burglary.

Joseph Solomons was Abraham Abrahams father-in-law and had brought him up from a child. He was allowed to meet with Abrahams at 6am on the morning of his execution but refusal was given for a minyan to meet and pray with the condemned man the previous night.

When Abraham's body was released it was placed in a coffin, with the intention of it being taken to Chatham for burial the same day. However, a letter was received from Dr Hyam of Chatham, stating that the body should be taken to Sheerness and not to Chatham. The hearse and attendants seem to have ignored this and made their way to Chatham but were refused entry on arrival. The result being that the coffin was eventually conveyed by water to Sheerness and interred there the next day.

The story of the trial and execution of Abraham Abrahams has been extensively covered in the book by Jeremy I. Pfeffer "From one End of the Earth to the other: The London Bet Din 1805-1855 and the Jewish Convicts transported to Australia: Sussex Academic Press.