NEHGS Honors Pulitzer Prize-Winning Author Stacy Schiff

The following news release is from NEHGS:

New England Historic Genealogical Society Honors Pulitzer Prize-winning Author Stacy Schiff at Family History Benefit Dinner with Lifetime Achievement Award

A Genealogy of Schiff by NEHGS Tells of Jewish Immigrants from Russia’s Pale of Settlement and Galicia in the Austrian Empire

May 1, 2017 — Boston, Massachusetts — Best-selling author Stacy Schiff was honored by New England Historic Genealogical Society (NEHGS) with its Lifetime Achievement Award in History and Biography at a Family History Benefit Dinner Friday night in Boston. Serving as emcees were noted historian William M. Fowler Jr. and Genealogy Roadshow co-host Mary M. Tedesco. At the same event, President and CEO Brenton Simons announced more than $10 million in new gifts to the organization.

Ms. Tedesco presented Ms. Schiff with an expertly prepared genealogy of her family — a tradition of NEHGS for many years. All of her great-grandparents were immigrants from Eastern Europe who left during the pogroms of the late 1800s and arrived in the U.S. long before WWII. Six had roots in the area of Russia known as the Pale of Settlement and the remaining two came from Galicia in what was the Austrian Empire. All were laborers who came to the U.S. with minimal resources, armed with a keen entrepreneurial spirit, and worked diligently to send their children to college. In this way they succeeded in realizing the American dream.

Born in North Adams, Massachusetts, Ms. Schiff graduated from Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts, and Williams College in Williamstown, Massachusetts. She is the author of five historical non-fiction books. One of the most widely acclaimed historians of her generation, Ms. Schiff has been praised for her ability to provide fresh insight into some of history’s most famous — yet enigmatic — figures. In reference to her latest book, The Witches: Salem, 1692, published in 2015 with much of it researched at NEHGS, historian David McCullough said, “History in the hands of Stacy Schiff is invariably full of life, light, shadow, surprise, clarity of insight, and so it is again and then some in her latest work, The Witches. Few writers combine as she does superb scholarship and an exceptional gift for language with amazing reach and agility of mind.”

Ms. Schiff’s first book, Saint-Exupéry: A Biography was published in 1994 and was a 1995 Pulitzer Prize finalist. Her second, Véra (Mrs. Vladimir Nabokov): Portrait of a Marriage (1999) won the Pulitzer Prize in 2000. A Great Improvisation: Franklin, France, and the Birth of America (2005) won the 2006 George Washington Book Prize, the Ambassador Award in American Studies, and the Gilbert Chinard Prize of the Institut Français d’Amérique. Her 2010 publication of Cleopatra: A Life was a #1 best seller and earned the 2011 PEN/Jacqueline Bograd Weld Award for Biography.

Past recipients of the NEHGS Lifetime Achievement Award have included Boston Mayor Thomas Menino (2009), Harvard Professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. (2010), documentary filmmaker Ken Burns (2011), former Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis and Kitty Dukakis (2012), CNN senior political correspondent David Gergen (2013), author and presidential historian Doris Kearns Goodwin (2014), actor of stage and screen Dame Angela Lansbury (2014), author HRH Princess Michael of Kent (2015), political consultants Mary Matalin and James Carville (2015), author Nathaniel Philbrick (2015), two of America’s legendary television journalists, Bob Schieffer and David Hartmann (2016), and journalist and historian Cokie Roberts (2016).

The dinner’s Platinum Benefactor was Wells Fargo. Other benefactors for the evening were Sit Investment Associates and Welch & Forbes LLC. Honorary Co-Chairs were Lionel and Vivian Spiro and Morrison DeS. and Stacie Webb.

NEHGS, with its national headquarters located in Boston’s Back Bay, is the oldest and largest genealogical society in America. NEHGS was formally constituted in March of 1845 by an act of the legislature of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and now consists of more than 220,000 constituents engaged in family history nationally and around the world. It is home to a world-class research library and archive, and an expert staff. NEHGS offers an award-winning genealogical research website at and maintains a publishing division which produces original genealogical research, scholarship, and educational materials.

Defending the Israelite Ancestry of Ethiopian Jews

The following excerpt is from the March 21, 2017 article posted at

The Ethiopian Jews, who primarily relocated from Ethiopia to Israel through Israeli rescue missions in the 1980s, form a unique minority of today’s Israeli population. Back In Ethiopia, they were known as Falasha, meaning “strangers”, and have referred to themselves as Beta Israel, or “the house of Israel”. Their settlements were scattered in the northwestern area of Ethiopia and the border zone with the Sudan.

The approach and methodology of the conventional theory on the origins of the Ethiopian Jewry, as proposed by James Quirin, rejects the existence of an ancestral connection between the contemporary Ethiopian Jewish community and the ancient Israelite-Jews. Proponents of this theory trace the origins of the group to what they perceive as a local Ethiopian separatist movement within Christianity in the 14th-to-16th century.

Read the full article.

New Historic Records Databases Posted at FamilySearch the Week of Feb 13 2017

The following is from FamilySearch:

Another 15 million indexed historic records have been added to FamilySearch’s vast collections. Included are a wide variety of records from 13 countries (including Argentina, Australia, Denmark, England, and the Netherlands) containing passenger lists, obituaries, school records, marriage records and more. And check out the 7 million Oklahoma school, Illinois church, Louisiana World War I Service, Michigan obituary, and North Carolina county marriage records. Search these free records and more at FamilySearch by clicking on the links in the interactive table below.

Collection – Indexed Records – Digital Images – Comments

Argentina, La Pampa, Catholic Church Records, 1882-1976 – 61,602 – 0 – Added indexed records to an existing collection
Argentina, Mendoza, Catholic Church Records, 1665-1975 – 273,551 – 0 – Added indexed records to an existing collection
Australia, Victoria, Outward Passenger Lists, 1852-1924 – 1,598,094 – 116,274 – New indexed records and images collection
Australia, New South Wales, Deceased Estate Files, 1880-1923 – 211,390 – 0 – New indexed records collection
British Newspaper Archives, Obituaries – 1,795,894 – 237,537 – New indexed records and images collection
Chile Civil Registration, 1885-1903 – 182,479 – 0 – Added indexed records to an existing collection
Chile, Cemetery Records, 1821-2015 – 54,266 – 0 – Added indexed records to an existing collection
Croatia, Delnice Deanery Catholic Church Books, 1725-1926 – 47,665 – 3,485 – Added indexed records and images to an existing collection
Czech Republic, School Registers, 1799-1953 – 0 – 2,011,878 – Added images to an existing collection
Denmark, Copenhagen City, Civil Marriages, 1739-1964, Index 1877-1964 – 33,214 – 0 – Added indexed records to an existing collection
Honduras, Civil Registration, 1841-1968 – 71,620 – 0 – Added indexed records to an existing collection
Hungary, Jewish Vital Records Index, 1800-1945 – 746 – 0 – Added indexed records to an existing collection
Hungary Civil Registration, 1895-1980 – 41,377 – 0 – Added indexed records to an existing collection
Netherlands, Archival Indexes, Miscellaneous Records – 728,435 – 0 – Added indexed records to an existing collection
Philippines Civil Registration (Local), 1888-1986 – 68,551 – 0 – Added indexed records to an existing collection
Sweden, Västernorrland Church Records, 1501-1940; index 1650-1860 – 0 – 1,313 – Added images to an existing collection

California, County Birth and Death Records, 1800-1994 – 3,422 – 0 – Added indexed records to an existing collection
California, County Marriages, 1850-1952 – 27,451 – 0 – Added indexed records to an existing collection
District of Columbia Court and Emancipation Records, 1820-1863 – 0 – 12,462 – New browsable image collection.
Illinois, Chicago, Catholic Church Records, 1833-1925 – 194,888 – 0 – Added indexed records to an existing collection
Louisiana World War I Service Records, 1917-1920 – 74,174 – 0 – Added indexed records to an existing collection
Michigan Obituaries, 1820-2006 – 449,089 – 0 – Added indexed records to an existing collection
New York Book Indexes to Passenger Lists, 1906-1942 – 557,105 – 0 – Added indexed records to an existing collection
New York State Census, 1865 – 0 – 392 – Added images to an existing collection
North Carolina, County Marriages, 1762-1979 – 770,164 – 0 – Added indexed records to an existing collection
Ohio Tax Records, 1800-1850 – 487,520 – 0 – Added indexed records to an existing collection
Oklahoma, School Records, 1895-1936 – 7,397,703 – 0 – Added indexed records to an existing collection
United States Passport Applications, 1795-1925 – 19,345 – 0 – Added indexed records to an existing collection

Searchable historic records are made available on through the help of thousands of volunteers from around the world. These volunteers transcribe (index) information from digital copies of handwritten records to make them easily searchable online. More volunteers are needed (particularly those who can read foreign languages) to keep pace with the large number of digital images being published online at Learn more about volunteering to help provide free access to the world’s historic genealogical records online at

9,686 Nazi SS Commanders & Auschwitz Guards Names & Photos Posted Online

The Polish Institute of National Remembrance (INR) has posted the names of nearly 10,000 Nazi SS commanders and guards who helped in the extermination of more than a million Jews at Auschwitz. It’s been claimed that many of the guards were Poles – and the INR set about disproving this theory.

Upon seeing the notice of the website, I immediately checked to see if any Meitzlers or Damms were listed, and was relieved to find none. Many of my German cousins fought in both the first and second World Wars.

The following teaser is from an article posted January 31, 2017 at the website.

Faces of Nazi guards who helped oversee the death of more than a million Jews at Auschwitz revealed as Poland publishes details of 10,000 of Adolf’s men

Poland’s Institute of National Remembrance has published details of 9,686 guards who worked at Auschwitz

Nearly all of them are German and the INR is seeking to dispel claims that Auschwitz was staffed by Poles

Auschwitz-Birkenau held Polish prisoners from 1940 but 1.1 million Jews died there between 1942 and 1945

The names of almost 10,000 Nazi SS commanders and guards who helped in the extermination of more than a million Jews at Auschwitz have been posted online for the first time. The huge searchable database, which includes hundreds of photographs, has been uploaded by Poland’s Institute of National Remembrance (INR) in an attempt to dispel false claims that many of the guards were Polish. The list of 9,686 names are predominantly German and their pre-war occupations are listed as farmers, butchers, teachers, cobblers and all manner of jobs.

Read the full article.

Go directly to the Polish Institute of National Remembrance’ Auschwitz Guard database & website.

We Were There Too – a Website to Record London’s WWI Jewish History

The following post is from October 31, 2016 at the


The history of Jewish people in wartime London needs recording before it is lost, according to a new online project.

It is estimated 40-50,000 British Jews served in Britain’s armed forces in the First World War, while thousands more were involved in war work and support roles near to the battlefields and on the home front.

We Were There Too is a new website where Jewish families can log their family records, including letters, photographs, medals and more, to contribute to a database on London’s Jewish history from 1914-1918.

Read the full article.

Thanks to ResearchBuzz for the heads-up.

Check out the website.

Little Rock Woman Finds Her Jewish Roots

The following teaser is from a good article posted August 8, 2016 at the timesofisrael website.


Discovering a Jewish past of which she was wholly unaware, Danette Devlin of Little Rock, Arkansas, has also found family.

Devlin was raised without any religious affiliation. As an adult she attended Catholic and Episcopalian churches seeking a spiritual home.

“There were lots of nice people, they were very welcoming, but it just wasn’t right. It wasn’t me,” she said.

In 2013, Devlin went online in an effort to find her father, Edward Couch, with whom she’d been out of touch for more than three decades. Devlin found an obituary for Couch’s brother, Robert, that mentioned her late paternal grandmother, Lillian Schiff.

Devlin obtained Schiff’s application for a Social Security number listing the names of Schiff’s father and mother, Herman and Cyril. Searching cemetery websites, Devlin last year acquired photographs of her great-grandparents’ graves near Chicago. The tombstones had Hebrew lettering, confirming the couple’s Jewishness and revealing Herman as a Kohen, a member of the priestly class.

Discovering her Jewish ancestry has powerfully affected Devlin, 56.

‘I am Jewish, and I finally felt whole’

“I jumped up and down with joy!” she said by telephone from her home. “I am Jewish, and I finally felt whole.”

Read the full article.

Online database of Holocaust victims hits 1 million records

The following teaser is from an article posted on


The Nazis aimed to erase the Jewish people. Now, 70 years later, contributors around the globe are etching victims’ names back into memory through an online memorial that’s just hit 1 million records.

World Memory Project, a collaboration between the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum and genealogy website Ancestry, is a free online database that lists information about millions of victims and survivors of the Holocaust.

Launched in May 2011, the project hit one million records this month, a major milestone made possible through over 3,500 volunteers from 18 different countries. The contributors spend hundreds of hours indexing archived documents from the Holocaust Museum into an online software provided by Ancestry.

Read the full article.
Thanks to ResearchBuzz for the heads-up.

Supreme Court Nominee Merrick Garland’s Jewish Ancestry

The following teaser is from an interesting article by David Margolick about Merrick Garland’s Jewish ancestry. Please check out the full article at


Within minutes of President Obama’s nomination of Judge Merrick Garland’s to the Supreme Court, the Jewish guessing game started.

Was Garland Jewish? Was a fourth Jewish justice about to join the High Court? (In Louis Brandeis’s day, even a single Jew on the Supreme Court was, for some, one too many.) And, mostly, how could there be a Jew named Merrick Garland?

For me, though, Garland’s religious background wasn’t a question. Forty years ago, my law school classmate Alvin Katz (Garland’s best friend in third grade, Katz insists) had touted the guy to me, and I’ve been following him ever since. I’d seen that long before his name perennially appeared with every Supreme Court vacancy, Garland had vindicated Alvin’s praise and predictions of success. I thought I knew a certain amount about him, and always assumed, with the usual ethnic pride, that he was Jewish…

Read the full article.

Belarus Receives Copies of Deportation Orders of Austrian Jews Murdered in the Trostenets Concentration Camp

The following teaser is from the January 18, 2016 edition of

View of the charred remains of Jewish victims burned in a barn by the Germans near the Maly Trostenets concentration camp.
View of the charred remains of Jewish victims burned in a barn by the Germans near the Maly Trostenets concentration camp.

MINSK, 18 January (BelTA) – Austrian historian Hubert Steiner gave Belarus the copies of the deportation orders from the Austrian State Archives containing the names of the Austrian Jews who were killed by the Nazis in the concentration camp Trostenets, BelTA learnt from the Embassy of Belarus in Austria.

Hubert Steiner’s visit to Minsk on 15-20 January has been organized by the Belarusian embassy in Austria. For many years the historian and referent of the Austrian State Archives has studied the deportation of Austrian Jews to the death camp Trostenets during the Second World War.

Read the full article.

From what I’ve read, 201,000 people were murdered at Trostenets – most shot in the back of the neck. And there are those who claim that there was no holocaust… Very disturbing.

Free Cemetery Records Databases at October 30 through November 7, 2015

The following was received from NEHGS:


October 30, 2015 — Boston, Massachusetts — “Your ancestors have been dying for you to uncover them. NEHGS has opened the cemetery gates so you can start digging!”

Just in time for the Halloween celebrations and to add some fun to ancestral research this holiday, and New England Historic Genealogical Society (NEHGS) have made their complete collection of American cemetery databases accessible for FREE to guest users on their data-rich website.

The collection of more than 100 databases comprising more than one million records is accessible FREE from Friday, October 30, through midnight on Saturday, November 7. The collection includes cemetery transcriptions from New England and other states and was compiled from many different sources to create a unique group of cemetery offerings.

Registration at is required as a FREE Guest Member to gain access to these valuable resources. Guest User accounts allow web visitors to use a limited suite of databases on and to access web content such as making purchases from the NEHGS online store. Unlimited access to more than one billion online records on the website and to other benefits is through membership at NEHGS.
Family historians may start digging for their ancestors in these historic American cemeteries at:

The cemetery databases included in this special offering and FREE Access event are:

  • American Jewish Historical Society – New England Archives: Jewish Cemeteries in Massachusetts
  • Boston, MA: Old Cemeteries of Boston
  • Brooklyn, NY: Cemetery Inscriptions, 1686-1882
  • Cemetery Transcriptions from the NEHGS Manuscript Collections
  • Charleston, SC: Inscriptions in Old Jewish Cemeteries, 1762-1903
  • Dedham, MA: Church and Cemetery Records 1638-1845
  • Gloucester, MA: Burials in Gloucester Cemeteries
  • New York: Long Island Cemetery Inscriptions, 1652-1910
  • North Andover, MA: Burials in Ridgewood Cemetery, 1848-1950
  • Northampton, MA: West Farms Cemetery
  • Rhode Island Historical Cemeteries Database Index
  • Sharon, MA: Sharon Memorial Park Cemetery
  • Sterling, MA: Leg Cemetery Records
  • Westbrook, CT: Cemetery Inscriptions
  • Western Massachusetts: Jewish Cemeteries of Western Massachusetts

About American Ancestors and New England Historic Genealogical Society
The founding genealogical society in America, New England Historic Genealogical Society (NEHGS) was established in 1845. Today it has a national collecting scope and serves more than 130,000 constituents through an award-winning website,

NEHGS’s resources, expertise, and service are unmatched in the field, and their leading staff of on-site and online genealogists includes experts in early American, Irish, English, Scottish, Italian, Atlantic and French Canadian, African American, Native American, Chinese, and Jewish research. The NEHGS library and archive, located at 99–101 Newbury Street in downtown Boston, is home to more than 28 million items, including artifacts, documents, records, journals, letters, books, manuscripts, and other items dating back hundreds of years.

The Holocaust Center for Humanity Opens in Seattle


A Holocaust museum has opened in the Pacific Northwest. According to the website, it’s called The Henry and Sandra Friedman Holocaust Center for Humanity, and is located at 2045 2nd Avenue, Seattle, WA 98121. For those familiar with downtown Seattle, that’s the corner of 2nd Avenue and Lenora. I first heard about the center a couple days ago while making a run to the bindery, which is located in Seattle. If you live in the area, I’m sure a visit would be worthwhile.

See their website at:

The following teaser is from an article posted at the KIRO Television website:

SEATTLE — At the Holocaust Center for Humanity are images that are by now familiar to anyone who has studied the Holocaust and World War II: the now tattered shoes, the drab sameness of their uniforms, the haunting faces of those who never made it out alive.

For Peter Metzelaar, they are the images of his childhood.

“The fear—knowing I’m being hunted,” reminisced Metzelaar. “Is that this time they’re going to get me?”

At the museum is a photograph of him in kindergarten—in his native Amsterdam.

The Star of David is sewn into his clothes, an indication that the persecution of Jews had begun.

A horror he survived, he says, by hiding.

“Nobody in my family came back,” said Metzelaar. “Only my mother and I survived.”

Read the full article.

TheGenealogist Releases 99,500 Records of London Synagogue Seat-Holders 1920-1939

The following news release is from TheGenealogist:


TheGenealogist has released online 99,500 records of London synagogue seat-holders spanning the years from 1920 to 1939.

  • Covering the records from 18 Synagogues around London with many connected guilds, societies and charities etc.
  • Additional information found in these records include names of gentlemen eligible for office, life member of the council, women who are seatholders in their own right and seatholders who are not eligible to vote.
  • Fully searchable by name, keyword, synagogue and address, the Jewish Synagogue Seatholders has been extracted from various years of: “Seatholders for Synagogues in London”

Those with Jewish ancestors from London will welcome this fascinating new release from TheGenealogist. Revealing details of positions held by forebears, researchers will be able to track ancestors who became wardens, council members, or served on committees of their synagogue, as well as seatholders in synagogues from around the capital city. These fully indexed records allow family historians to search by name, keyword, synagogue and address and with one click see an image taken from the pages of Seatholders for Synagogues in London.

The records include some synagogues that are no longer in existence; for example the Great Synagogue that once stood at Duke’s Place and which was destroyed in the Blitz.

Nigel Bayley, MD of TheGenealogist said: “These records will allow you to search for Jewish relatives amongst the London synagogue seatholders, it is now easier than ever to discover any official positions that your jewish ancestor held.”

An example follows below…


Lionel Nathan de Rothschild, OBE (25 January 1882 – 28 January 1942) can be found in these records. De Rothschild was an English banker and a Conservative politician who was well known as the creator of Exbury Gardens near the New Forest in Hampshire. He was the eldest of the three sons of Leopold de Rothschild (1845–1917) and Marie née Perugia (1862–1937) and a part of the illustrious Rothschild banking family of England.

On 25 January 1910 he was elected to the House of Commons for the constituency of Aylesbury in Buckinghamshire – his grandfather and namesake had been the first practicing Jew to be able to take up his seat in Parliament.

His father, Leopold, died in early 1917 and Lionel and brother Anthony became the managing partners of N M Rothschild & Sons bank. However, Lionel de Rothschild had developed an interest in horticulture at a very young age and is said to have planted his first garden at the age of five. In 1919, he purchased the Mitford estate at Exbury in Hampshire where he devoted a great deal of time and money to transform it into one of the finest gardens in all of England with more than one million plants building Exbury House around an existing structure in a neo-Georgian style. Although he continued to work at the family bank, he is quoted as describing himself as “a banker by hobby — a gardener by profession”. Lionel Nathan de Rothschild died in London, aged sixty, in 1942 and was buried in the Willesden Jewish Cemetery.


Logging into TheGenealogist and selecting Jewish Synagogue Seatholders from the dropdown menu, we enter Lionel as a forename and De Rothschild as the surname. We can filter the results by date. This returns us several positions that De Rothschild held in three different synagogues in London, including the Warden of the Great Synagogue that once stood in Duke’s Place, north of Aldgate, until it was destroyed in the London Blitz. We can also see that he was the President of the United Synagogue in North Finchley. Selecting that record allows us to view the actual image of the page from the Seatholders for Synagogues in London 1920.

For Richer for Poorer – Historic Jewish Weddings in London’s East End


The following excerpt is from a fascinating article by Anne Joseph, posted in the March 19, 2015 edition of The Jewish Daily Forward:

“No man in Whitechapel drives a busier or a more paying trade than does the shadchan,” observed the writer Louise Jordan Miln in 1900. In fact, a ledger belonging to a shadkhen, or matchmaker, is one of the objects on display for the first time in “For Richer For Poorer: Weddings Unveiled,” the latest exhibition at the Jewish Museum London. Written entirely in Yiddish, the 1940s ledger shows a list of his prospective clients. A stamp depicting two hands shaking next to the names of a couple indicates when a successful match had been made.

“For Richer For Poorer” celebrates the story of the Jewish wedding in Britain’s Jewish community from the late 19th century to the mid-20th, focusing in particular on the immigrant community who settled in London’s East End…

Read the full article.

Portugal Approves Giving Jewish Inquisition Victims’ Descendants Citizenship – #Genealogy

The following teaser is from an article posted in the January 29, 2015 edition of

The Portugese Cabinet on Thursday approved a new law giving dual citizenship to the descendants of the Jews expelled or forcibly converted to Christianity during the Spanish Inquisition, in which thousands of Jews were brutally murdered.

It remains to be seen when the law will come into effect; Spain has a similar law waiting for final approval.

According to Associated Press, descendants who can demonstrate “a traditional connection” through “family names, family language, and direct or collateral ancestry” can request citizenship.

Read the full article.