Tracing Jewish ancestors, from London to Amsterdam

14 October, 2012 at 7:28 pm 5 comments

I’ve written previously about how I visited the archives and museums in Poznan and Leszno (Poland) looking for further information about my ancestors (Samuel and Isaac SHUTER, sons of Michael) before they migrated to London in 1848.

A recent episode of the TV show ‘Who do you think you are?’ (about actress June Brown) prompted me to look again at ancestors who came to London from Amsterdam – in particular Joseph MYERS. I’d seen books that included hundreds of years of Dutch Jewish records, but at that time I didn’t know how the Anglicized names I was seeing might have appeared in Dutch records.

Harold Lewin’s book (‘Marriage Records of the Great Synagogue London 1791-1885′) has been of great assistance in identifying the marriages of my ancestors in London. For most of the 18th, 19th and even early 20th century, the Great Synagogue in Duke’s Place London was the main synagogue for Ashkenazi Jews (those who came from German and Eastern Europe, as opposed to the Sephardic Jews who came from Spain and Portugal). Because of the use of patronymic names, Jewish records contain not only details of the bride and groom, but also their fathers, and often addresses and sometimes ages. Because the Great Synagogue was the main place of worship for so long, families can be traced back over several generations, perhaps eventually identifying the original family member who migrated to London.

[For those unable to see Harold Lewin's book, Angela Shire also compiled a book 'Great Synagogue Marriage Registers 1791-1850' which might be more readily available and is also available through Amazon.co.uk. Shire's book has a little less information per entry but additional cross-indexing, when compared to Lewin's book.]

My 4xgreat.grandfather Joseph MYERS married Rebecca COHEN at the Great Synagogue in London in 1819. From the UK census of 1851, I learned that he was born in Amsterdam, probably around 1792. Harold Lewin’s book provided his patronymic name of Yosef Yozpa b. Shmuel Halevi – Joseph Juzpa, son of Samuel the Levite. Joseph’s sister Anna was enumerated with him in the 1851 and 1871 censuses – records show that she had been born about 1795 in Amsterdam. [In Shire's book he is given as Joseph Yozefa s. of Shmuel HaLevi.]

That was as much as I knew for many years, until recently I decided to have another look for Joseph in the Dutch Jewish records – and hopefully online.

I found the wonderful website called Dutch Jewry and within that the Ashkenazi Marriage database and the ‘Ashkenazi in Amsterdam’ database.

The Amsterdam Municipal Archives possess a complete set of registers of intended marriages from 1578 to 1811, the year when the present Civil Registry was started. Between 1598 and 1811, 15238 Jewish couples were entered in these books. (http://www.dutchjewry.org/tim/jewish_marriage_in_Amsterdam.htm)

The compilers of the online Ashkenazi in Amsterdam database have gathered together records of circumcisions, marriages, cemetery records and more, grouped into families – allowing researchers like me easy access to information held in a place I cannot easily visit and written in a language I could not read. I still might not have found my ancestor, except that I sent an email to the owners of the site, giving the information I had and asking for advice. I received a very helpful reply identifying that my Joseph Juzpa MYERS, son of Samuel, was likely to be the same person as Joseph Juzpe Kapper, son of Samuel Meyer Kapper – who previously had the family name of Levie-Drukker (Levie referring to ‘of the Levite tribe’ and ‘Drukker’ meaning ‘printer’). When the family had been naturalized in 1811, they adopted the surname Kapper (meaning ‘barber’).

According to those Dutch records, Joseph Juzpe was born 26 January 1793, of parents Samuel Meyer (Kapper) and Mariana Gans. The Dutch records confirmed that his sister Anna was born in 1795 in Amsterdam, and he also had brothers Joseph (probably deceased young), Simon, Meyer, Mozes and Nathan. So far I have followed the Dutch records back on some lines to my 9xgreat.grandparents. It’s not all just ‘names and dates’ either – there are fascinating detailed glimpses of  family members in other records.

Zeeburg Cemetery

Zeeburg Cemetery, Amsterdam

I haven’t yet finishing following my ancestors through all the available  information, but apparently at least one of the families came originally from Hamburg to Amsterdam and another from Frankfurt, so there are clear directions about where to look next for earlier generations.

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5 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Kerry Farmer  |  14 October, 2012 at 10:26 pm

    In addition to Harold Lewin’s book ‘Marriage Records of the Great Synagogue London’, Angela Shire did a similar book called ‘Great Synagogue Marriage Registers 1791-1850′ and her book is probably more readily available. eg State Library NSW has it, so you could probably get it by inter-library loan. (Society of Australian Genealogists has it too.)

    Jewish Genealogical Society of Australia has Lewin’s Marriages book & also his ‘Birth Records of the Great & Hambro Synagogues London’, in addition to Angela Shire’s book. Australians should check out the book search on http://trove.nla.gov.au when looking for which libraries have particular books.

    Reply
  • 2. geniaus  |  15 October, 2012 at 2:33 am

    Very informative post, thanks Kerry.

    Reply
  • 3. http://tinyurl.com/mariquick26578  |  28 January, 2013 at 2:24 am

    “Tracing Jewish ancestors, from London to Amsterdam Family History Research” was indeed a fantastic post,
    cannot wait to look at more of ur posts. Time
    to spend several time on the internet hehe. Thanks for your time -Liam

    Reply
  • 4. Amy  |  8 May, 2014 at 10:06 am

    Hi, I know this was posted quite a while ago, but I just found it while Googling Amsterdam Jewish history. My 4x great grandfather was born in Amsterdam and emigrated to England around 1800. His name was Hart Levy Cohen and he married Rachel Jacobs in the Great Synagogue in London on January 29, 1812. How do I get a copy of the book by Harold Lewin? I have had no luck trying to find my Dutch ancestors. I do know that Hart’s Hebrew name was Hirts and his father’s Hebrew name was Lieb from the Synagogue Scribe’s site where the data from the marriage record is listed.
    Thanks for any help you can provide. You can email me at amybesscohenATgmailDOTcom

    Reply
  • […] Jews in general, I came across a genealogy blog I’d not seen before written by Kerry Farmer called Family History Research.  Kerry had a post from two years ago about searching for a Dutch Jewish ancestor using […]

    Reply

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