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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.