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Friday, 31 December 2010

The Guardian exhorts us all to become "Guardians" of our heritage

It is rare to find a general newspaper article on cemeteries, let alone one that so exactly reflects the philosophy of our project at, but this piece in the Guardian of 30 Dec 2010 hit the nail square on the head.
The article, based on a visit made by BBC Radio 4's Today programme's James Naughtie, and the 93 year old writer Diane Athill, to the historic Highate Cemetery, widened out into a thoughtful piece on the value of old cemeteries in modern society.
"....There are many places like this across Britain where visitors come, sometimes to honour their own particular dead, sometimes to ponder the deaths and the lives of people they never knew.  The most resonant kind of cemetery can evoke the history and spirit of a community as eloquently as any written account....."
Those of us who have been lucky enough to visit Historic Jewish Cemeteries such as London's Alderney Road and Brady Street, or the Deane Road Cemetery in Liverpool, currently being restored by the local community, will recognise the truth of that last sentence.
The article then goes on to speak of:
"..another matchless attraction of Cemeteries: the words engraved on the headstones, not just of those who once commanded applause but also........ those whose graves may be marked by "uncouth rhymes and shapeless sculpture"......
You don't find a great deal of shapeless sculpture in the old Jewish burial grounds, and the inscriptions tend to be factual rather than flowery but, where these inscriptions have survived the depredations of time, they can be invaluable in not only giving us the name of the deceased's father through the Hebrew Patronymic, but sometimes an occupation or a place of origin.

The final paragraph is one that speaks particularly directly to those in the Jewish Community concerned about the sad decline, and often disappearance, of our old Burial Grounds and who are eager to do their bit to stop the rot.
"....Ms Athill and Mr. Naughtie were guided round Highate by a volunteer, herself in her 80s, one of those who in graveyards great and small across the land have redeemed past neglect and made these rewarding places in which to wander, to meditate, and to be serious."

Sunday, 26 December 2010

Start your family tree week - your Jewish Family Tree!

We at CemeteryScribes and SynagogueScribes fully support the idea of the UK Family Tree week which starts tomorrow 26th Dec 2010.
With the holiday season giving us all time to get together with family we all have the ideal opportunity to make some notes on family relations and find new ones.
Websites taking part in Start Your Family Tree Week are:
Findmypast, Genes Reunited, ScotlandsPeople and Eneclann.
Supporting Start Your Family Tree Week are:
The Society of Genealogists, The Federation of Family History Societies, Pen and Sword Books, BBC Who Do You Think You Are? Magazine, Your Family Tree magazine, My History, Family Tree Magazine, Who Do You Think You Are? LIVE, Pandigital, from you to me and Francis Frith.
To start finding your Jewish family tree, go to and use the basic search at the top left hand corner. Enter your family name and see what you find.
We have included mini family trees to help you identify your ancestors and you will also find details of their burial place and transcriptions of tombstone inscriptions.
The top 20 family names found on CemeteryScribes are:
1. Levy
2. Cohen
3. Jacobs
4. Davis
5. Isaacs
6. Harris
7. Hart
8. Solomon
9. Nathan
10. Phillips
11. Samuel
12. Moses
13. Marks
14. Joseph
15. Abrahams
16. Lazarus
17. Benjamin
18. Emanuel
19. Myers
20. Alexander
Then to do some further research go to and search through the thousands of Synagogue records we have transcribed with the emphasis being on pre-civil registration records. As civil registration of births, marriages and deaths began on 1st Jul 1837 these are a must to get you back further.
You can also take a look at our getting started pages found here
Happy hunting and a very Happy New Year.

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

Ketuba Mystery - Solved!

When it comes to requests for help with family trees, we at are a pretty hard-hearted bunch.   We have to be: if we weren’t, we’d finish up spending all our time on other people’s genealogies,  leaving none for our core work of finding, transcribing and publishing Jewish community records and, with our other hats on, recording cemeteries for our sister site, So, mostly,  we refer  such queries to organisations and individuals more dedicated to this kind of work. However, we couldn’t resist  a cri-de-coeur from a researcher concerning an unidentified Ketuba, passed to him by his grandmother.

A Ketuba (marriage Contract) is handed to the Bride during the Marriage Ceremony and would remain in her possession throughout her lifetime and be passed to her children on her decease and, thus, remain rather private documents
The Ketuba in question was quite plain and, fortunately, the personal details were easy to decipher.  As was to be expected, there were no English Family names on the document and the Hebrew patronymics, Moshe b. Meir and Hannah bat Uri (Aryeh), meant nothing to our correspondent.   That is until he looked at the dates on some civil marriage certificates that had, quite fortuitously, arrived by post that very day and, suddenly, the light dawned; the Ketuba belonged to his Great Great Grandmother’s sister, Hannah Emanuel, who married Morris Myers on 17 February 1864.

The matter might have rested there but, in writing to thank us, our correspondent gave us some details of  the parents of the Hannah Myers (nee Emanuel), whose Ketuba we had translated, and her sister Sarah, his own Great Great grandmother. They were Philip Emanuel and Abigail Simmons: two names which chimed with some records we had recently been studying.
The couple had married at the Great Synagogue on 1st September 1841
Abigail’s antecedents, Levy Simmon(d)s and Sarah Cohen had been relatively easy to trace. Philip, however, had proved impossibly elusive.   And elusive he remains. But something our correspondent spotted concerning the father’s name on Philip’s civil marriage certificate, sent us scurrying back to our SynagogueScribes database [] and over the next week or two we will see if this new line of enquiry leads us out of this genealogical maze, or if we continue to go round in circles, following one false trail after another.

ALS 6 September 2010

Sunday, 11 April 2010

Gloucester Old Jewish Burial Ground

The old Jewish Cemetery in Organ’s Passage Gloucester was finally cleared in 1938 when the land was transferred to Gloucester Council for use as a children’s recreation ground, and the remains transferred to the separate section in the new Gloucester Corporation Cemetery at Colney Hill

The first burial in the Organ’s Passage ground took place in 1784  and the last, some 100 years later in 1886

In the early part of this period, Gloucester was still a busy port, but the difficulties of navigating the shallow tidal stretch of the River Severn approaching the city appears to have acted as a deterrent to foreign-going vessels, which possibly explains why the Gloucester Community, which drew its members from quite a wide area and included the long established Levy family of Ross on Wye
and the Myer family of Hereford, never grew to match those in other ports around the country, such as Portsmouth, Plymouth, and Southampton. 

However, although small, the community was surprisingly well documented; see
And, if you can get hold of a copy, Father Brian Torode’s comprehensive study “The Hebrew Community of Cheltenham, Gloucester and Stroud. © 1989 © 1999 Revised. offers a wealth of useful information. As does Marcus Roberts Jtrails

Our comprehensive list of burials, drawn from several sources includes a further 5, not listed in Roth’s “Rise of Provincial Jewry”

It is not our normal practice to list burials without accompanying photographs but, since this is a “lost Cemetery” we felt it right to include these records and we hope, where possible, to provide photographs at some future date.

Tuesday, 30 March 2010

An Englishman in New York - a success story

The SynagogueScribes and CemeteryScribes websites were born out of our personal interest in Anglo-Jewish genealogy.   We put our work out there on the Web in the hope that others will find it useful.  But forget about altruism: we do it because we love it!  And, of course, we are always delighted when we hear of success stories from researchers who have used the sites or, as in a recent case, when we were able to help a recent poster to one of the specialised forums, who did not know of our work,and had hit a seemingly inpenetrable brick wall.

The poster’s 3rd great-grandfather, Aaron Samuel, had evidently left London with his family for the United States around 1857 and, from there, she had successfully traced them until their deaths. On the UK side, she had located him, with wife, children and a named brother-in-law, Elisha Gottheil, in the 1851 Census, and with his father and sibs in the 1841 census.  And that was it.  No civil marriage had been found, and of course, Aaron’s birth in circa 1823 would have pre-dated the advent of mandatory civil registration in the UK.

Like her, we were unable to locate a civil marriage.   Nor did we find one on the SynagogueScribes website

Basic Search

Family Name = SAMUEL (or SAMUELS)

First Name = Aaron

Result = 0

But basic search identified an almost certain marriage for Aaron Samuel’s father, Lazarus.

Family Name = SAMUEL

First Name  =  Lazarus

Result = 2, of which one was for 1837 so much too late for him to be a father of Aaron born c 1824

Shows that Lazarus SAMUEL (Eliezer Lezer b. Moshe Jacob Aph\Akl\Aachen) married

Saratse NATHAN  (Sarah bat Meir Fishman) at the Great Synagogue London on 28 June 1815.

Assuming this is the correct marriage – and it seems safe to do so – we now have a name for Aaron Samuel’s grand father (Moshe Jacob) and the full name for his mother Saratse NATHAN

To see if we could find out more about Saratse’s family, we went to Advanced Search\Keyword and entered the word “Fishman”.  This produced 16 results, of which 3 had the family name of NATHAN.   We immediately ruled out the 1812 burial record for Elizabeth as she was a daughter of Solomon Fishman, whereas we were looking for a Meir Fishman.  That left Saratse’s marriage and one for an evident brother Simon Finding a sib, particularly a male sib, is always helpful as their records, both Community and Civil my contain additional information.

The lack of a civil or community marriage record for Aaron continues to create questions over the true identity of his wife, but this should be overcome if the poster orders civil birth certificates for one or more of their children.

In the meantime, we thought it might be helpful to find out more about the 1851  Elisha GOTTSEL Brother In Law Married M 30 1821 Shoemaker  b. Germany  so we conducted a further search in the SynagogueScribes database as follows.

Because of the uncertainty of the exact spelling of both his Family and First Name

We entered three letters only in each field

Family Name  = GOT

First Name = ELI

This produced one result which can be found at

From this we learn his wife’s family name and patronymic and, more importantly Elisha’s father’s Hebrew Name: Issachar Berel.  If Elisha is Phoebe Samuel’s brother, then that would indicate that she was nee GOTTSEL\GOTTSHEIL\variant spellings and that she, too, would have been bat Issachar Berel.

Another serious possibility arises, however that must be considered.

It may have been that Elisha GOTTSEL’s wife, Anne nee LEVY, was a sister of Phoebe SAMUEL.  Phoebe is shown on her tombstone as having been born in London and again on the 1851 census as being born in Whitechapel, whereas Elisha GOTTSEL who is only two years older than her, was born in Germany, so the jury is still out on this one and the Poster still has much work to do.

Harold Lewin ( Birth Records of the Great & Hambro Synagogues London, Second Edition. Harold & Miriam Lewin 2009. ISBN 978-965-91261-0-1) records the birth of their daughter Rose GOTTHEIL (Rahel bat Elia) on 18 July 1850.

The Poster might wish to obtain  the will of Elias Gottheil, died 1899 to see what, if any mention is made of additional family members and also his Naturalisation Papers  which can be ordered and downloaded online

We do not normally conduct research enquires but, since the Poster did not live in the UK and was, apparently, unaware of our websites, we were more than happy to introduce her to them and show her how she might use them to help with her research.  Our work in this respect was far from exhaustive and by some judicious use of the Advanced Search and Keyword options, she may find more of her ancestors therein.   She kindly provided us with a photograph of Aaron Samuel’s tombstone in Washington cemetery in New York and this can be found here.


Our records are regularly updated:  further BANCROFT ROAD\MAIDEN LANE burials are in the pipe line on

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Hildesheimer & Co

The German born Hildesheimer brothers along with the Tuck family  [] were at the forefront of the fast expanding trade in Greetings Cards in Victorian England.

Siegmund Hildesheimer was born in 1832 in Hallberstadt Germany and settled in Manchester in the mid 1870’s.  The 1881 census lists his occupation as Picture Importer, although, according to trade directories, he sold gilt mouldings, published oleographs, chromos and Christmas cards. He went on to trade from London, initially producing advertising cards and then postcards on a variety of subjects, but was best known for Christmas cards. Siegmund specialised in silvered, frosted and embossed cards which were printed in France or Germany, as well as more localised printers.

The London Gazette shows the various changes to the company that took place over the years as well as those of Siegmund’s brother Albert’s partnership with William Faulkner

Much off the subject matter in these cards is, perhaps, rather “sugary” and sentimental for today’s tastes, but the standard of artistry and reproduction is remarkably high and they can be an interesting barometer of  the times: Siegmund Hildesheimer, for example, is said to have been among the first to depict black personages, presumably for the American market.

Saturday, 20 February 2010

Great Synagogue Burials added to !

We have just added over 3,500 Great Synagogue burial records (BSGSBUR)  to our sister site .  These have been compiled from transcripts left by the late Rabbi Dr. Bernard Susser, with additional material by the SynagogueScribes team and cover burials from 1791 to 1823 & 1832

Partial text versions of Dr. Susser’s originals can be seen on Frank Gent's website and we are indebted to Frank for allowing us to use this material and for the many hours of additional work he did in  editing and updating these very incomplete transcripts. [Please support Frank's latest fund raiser for Cavernoma Alliance UK]

As with many of these early registers, a large percentage of the entries contains no English family or first names. Where possible, we have made positive identifications or suggested lines for further research but we appreciate the difficulties some of you may have with these records and, over the coming weeks, we hope to offer you some step-by-step guides to help you use the two “Scribes” databases more effectively.

How  to Search SynagogueScribes - using Basic Search

Searching - Basic Search

First in the series of our step-by-step guides to searching SynagogueScribes and getting the best results.

Example 1: Finding a Burial Record for Sarah Nathan CemeteryScribes ref I970

In SynagogueScribes, using basic search which is the search present on every page of the site. The results will cover all the sources, births, circumcisions, marriages, burials.

Enter Family Name =  NATHAN           First Name = Sarah

Produces 15 results, of which the last BSGSBUR32 102 is a match.

Note the very slight discrepancy between the dates, probably due to variations on whether these refer to the date of death or the date of burial, and occasional imperfections in the calculations between the Hebrew and the English date.

Example 2.

Looking for a Synagogue marriage for Simon Magnus [1851  6, New Street, Saint  Botolph Without Bishopsgate RG number: HO107 Piece:1524 Folio:  670  Page: 7] with wife Julia and Father Nathan.

In SynagogueScribes Using basic search

Enter Family Name = MAGNUS                 First Name =  Simon

Produces one result GSM 222/15.   But this cannot be the correct marriage.  Why? Because, apart from the fact that this groom’s bride is Sarah, the father in this record is Eliezer.

But don’t give up yet.  Why not try an alternative spelling for either Family or first name.

In SynagogueScribes ( Using basic search:

Enter Family Name = MAGNUS           First NameSimeon

Produces one result, GSM 299/60, where the bride’s name is Julia and, most importantly, the groom’s father is Nathan

Over the coming weeks, we will look at more complex searches.   Meanwhile, we hope you enjoy using both our databases and that they help advance your family history.

Sunday, 7 February 2010

Willesden Cemetery; Art, Music and Literature

Willesden Cemetery , consecrated in 1873, acts as a bridge between the intimacy of the old, historic London Ashkenazi Burial Grounds – Aldernery RoadBrady Street and Lauriston Road – enclosed within high brick walls, their modest, fading stones haphazardly set in grassy plots under shady trees, and the vast modern and largely treeless, grounds, such as Bushey, with their handsome marble and granite memorials, stretching in regimented lines as far as the eye can see.  Willesden, with its marked paths and copious vegetation, takes the best of both: a place for solemn, spiritual contemplation , of course, but also as a tangible record of the part played by our forebears in every aspect of English life in the late 19th and early 20th century .

We have only just skimmed the surface of Todd Knowles generous contribution of photographs, but we have already recorded half a dozen founders of major national institutions; banks, commercial enterprises, etc.    Numerous young men, from both old Jewish families and new immigrants, who laid down their lives for their country in two world wars.  And a cross section of those who achieved fame, both at home and abroad, in all fields of literature and the arts.  Notable among these are:

The artist Solomon J SOLOMON R.A. P.R.B.A

The singer Henry Morris IMANO

Henry Imano’s mother-in-law, Eliza Davis, who corresponded with Charles Dickens, taking him to task for his characterisation of Jews as represented by villainous Fagin in Oliver Twist

Ellen Zangwill, mother of the writer and Israel Zangwill whose book “Children of the Ghetto” remains the outstanding chronicle of the Jewish East End is still in print today.

Sunday, 31 January 2010

Wolverhampton Old Jewish Burial Ground (Cockshutts Lane)

We were recently contacted by Alan Isaacs who asked whether we would like copies of some photos taken at Wolverhampton Jewish Cemetery. Our readers will know that the answer was a resounding "Yes please!"

Alan, whose interests lie in electronics, has a virtual Radio Museum and also provides genealogy research services to some of his customers, kindly sent us the photos which we have now been able to add to CemeteryScribes.

According to an article originally published in the local Wolverhampton paper and repeated in the Jewish Chronicle, the first Jewish person to settle in Wolverhampton was a Mr Harris, who arrived there in 1833, and the first to die was a Mr Aaron. As a result of Mr Aaron's death the Duke of Cleveland presented the Jewish Community with a piece of ground in Green Lanes in 1851.

So far we have been unable to conclusively establish the identity of Mr Aaron, but it is likely that he was a member of this family 

In 1860 the papers reported on the trial of a couple of grave robbers. Apparently, they had disturbed the grave of Rhoda Wolf, who died on 19 Aug 1858 and was buried 4 days later. There is no record in the death registers of a Rhoda Wolf dying in Wolverhampton but there is, however, a Rose Wolfe who we think was very probably the same individual.

The Wolverhampton entries can be found here.

Sunday, 24 January 2010

33 Jewish Charities in London - 1850

According to "The charities of London. Comprehending the benevolent, educational, and religious institutions. Their origin and design, progress, and present position (1850)", there were 33 specifically Jewish charities in London at the time of its publication.

Each charity is listed with the address, date of establishment and their presidents, treasurers and other officers.

For example this entry for the Jews’ Hospital in Mile End.

JEWS' HOSPITAL. Mile End. Founded 1807.

Affords both an asylum for age; and a place of refuge for youth where they are taught the modes of procuring a regular maintenance by the acquirement of trades, in order to become good and useful members of society. The present number of inmates comprise 12 aged persons, 55 boys and 20 girls; the total number who have been received in the house, 463.

Founded by the exertions of the late Messrs. Abraham and Benjamin Goldsmid, who, about 1799, commenced collecting donations from their friends for the purpose, of which not one was above £400, and but one under £50; and, upon February 17, 1806, having accumulated to £20,000, it was applied to the foundation. The hospital was purchased for £3,300, and has subsequently been considerably enlarged ; the amount of present funded property, is £48,143.

President, F. H. Goldsmid, Esq.

Treasurers: Aaron Joseph, Esq.; Lawrence Myers, Esq.

Physician, Dr. Southwood Smith.

Surgeon, Thos. Blizard Curling, Esq.

Apothecary, Mr. Joseph Kisch.

Solicitor, Mr. Sampson Samuel.

Superintendent and Sub-Secretary, Mr. Samuel Howe.

House-Steward and Matron, Mr. and Mrs. Myers.

Governess, Miss Hanbury.

Bankers, London and Westminster Bank.

Secretary, Mr. Samuel Solomon, 5, Hounsditch.

Others listed are;

HAND-IN-HAND CHARITABLE INSTITUTION Asylum, St. James's-place, Aldgate. Established 1840.

WESTERN JEWISH PHILANTHROPIC and Pension Society, 4, Manor-street, Chelsea. Established 1827.

JEWISH LADIES' BENEVOLENT LOAN AND Visiting Society, 31, Nottingham-place, Whitechapel-road. Established 1844.

INSTITUTION FOR THE RELIEF OF THE INDIGENT BLIND, of the Jewish Persuasion, Bevis-marks. Established 1819.

PHILANTHROPIC SOCIETY, for Relieving Distressed Widows and Families of the Jewish Persuasion, 5, Hounsditch. Established 1825.

Jews’ Orphan Asylum, 69 Leman Street Goodman’s Fields. Established 1831.

Gates of Hope and other Charity Schools, 11 Bevis Marks,

The National school, founded 1664 called Sheare Ticksa in Hebrew, or Gates of Hope, situate on the synagogue premises in Heneage Lane Bevis Marks, An upper

National and Infant School or Path of Trust, situate also on these premises, which admits children from the age of 2 years, both boys and girls.

Secretary: Mrs S. Almonsino

The Orphan School, situate on the synagogue premises, founded in 1703.

Jews Free School Bell-lane, Spitalfields. Instituted 1817.

WESTERN JEWISH GIRLS' FREE SCHOOL, 20, Dean-street, Soho. Instituted 1846.

WESTERN JEWISH FREE SCHOOL for Boys, 59A, Greek-street, Soho,

WEST METROPOLITAN JEWISH SCHOOL. Boys' school, 256, High Holborn ; opened 1845 ;

Society for Helping the Fallen ;

For Relieving the Poor in Confined Mourning ;

Of Independent Friends ;

For Distributing Bread and Coals ;.

For Distributing Bread, Meat, and Coals, during the Winter ;.

For Distributing Five Shillings per Week during the Winter;

For Relieving Distressed Persons (Holborn);.

For Clothing Poor Jewish Boys ;

For Clothing and Apprenticing Boys ;

Asylum for Aged and Infirm Widows ;

Widows Pension Society ;

Widows' Friendly Society ;

Ladies' Charity, Burton-crescent ;

Ladies' Benevolent Association for Clothing Female Children ;

Society for Cheering the Needy at Festivals;

For Allowing Weekly Stipend to the Needy;

Lying-in Charity for Indigent Women;

Society for Relieving the Indigent Poor in the Holy Land ;

Saturday, 16 January 2010

The Knowles Collection

Most people researching Jewish families in the UK will have heard of the Knowles Collection: if you haven't, we recommend you visit the familysearch website without further delay. The collection is based on the pioneering work of the late Isobel Mordy, lodged at the Society of Genealogists in London, and Todd Knowles' additional research.

Todd, the great great grandson of Morris David Rosenbaum, explains his interest in British Jewry in his recently launched Blog, 'The Knowles Collection', which includes some detailed research on individual families. One recent blog tells the story of Todd's research into the Glucksteins and J. Lyons and Co. Another introduces a new way to search the 60,000 individuals in his collection: see Family Search Community Trees here; and for more information on all the current collections to be found on the Community Trees click Here They include:

•    British Isles: Peerage, Gentry and Colonial American Connections
•    England: Residence of London extracted from Boyd's "Citizen's of London"
•    England: Norfolk Visitations, 1563
•    Scotland: Fasti Ecclesiae Scoticanae
•    Wales: Medieval Records Primarily of Nobility and Gentry
•    And many more collections from across the globe

And, if all that is not exciting enough, Todd contacted us a while ago and kindly offered to send us numerous photos of Wilesden Cemetery. Soon CemeteryScribes will have its own mini Knowles (Photo) Collection!

Bath Jewish Burial Ground - Restoration

A recent article in the Jewish Chronicle reports that the first stage of the £50,000 restoration work at the old Jewish Burial Ground at Combe Down had been completed. For more information go to the Jewish Chronicle article here

CemeteryScribes has 26 tombstone photos taken at the Bath cemetery along with inscriptions for each of these individuals there are also mini family trees. Family names include: Jacobs, Jacobson, Keseff, Leon, Rees, Sigmond, Simmons, Sloman and Somers.

Click here to see further information.

Saturday, 9 January 2010

Balls Pond Road Jewish Cemetery now complete!

We have added over 500 photos to taken at this cemetery. Each entry includes the tombstone photo, inscriptions and in most cases the immediate families of those buried there.

Balls Pond was opened in the early 1840's and is owned by West London Synagogue. It was described by Mrs Basil Holmes in ‘London Burial Grounds’ 1896, Fisher-Unwin as being neatly kept and full of very large tombstones

Of course not all the tombstones are still there or if they are they are not all legible. In many cases the names of the individuals have gone leaving only the marks made by the lettering, something of a 'dot-to-dot' puzzle to be able to read them. If you do not find the details of individuals you are looking for we recommend which includes information taken from burial records.

You can browse through each entry here or use the search on the home page here