Posts tagged ‘Amsterdam’

Tracing Jewish ancestors, from London to Amsterdam

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.

14 October, 2012 at 7:28 pm 3 comments


Discoveries and musings of a family history researcher and instructor - including tips and hints.

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