Intermountain Jewish News

Banner
Wednesday,
Sep 17th
Home Columns Ancestral Discovery The bureaucracy of death, part 2

The bureaucracy of death, part 2

E-mail Print PDF

Last column, I focused on death certificates, obituaries and Social Security application records. But death leaves many other records behind. And just to be clear, I’m addressing US records (with one exception at the end). Eastern European records will be addressed in other columns.

When a death occurs, there is usually a chronological order to events: if the death was notable (i.e. the person was well known, death was unusual, such as suicide or murder), there might have been news coverage, and you might find a news article in the local paper at the time.

Again, if the death was unusual, a corner’s report might have been filed, and it’s worth inquiring about that.  

A death certificate is issued, which often lists what, if any funeral home, was used. That funeral home may have information not found elsewhere. For example, an ancestor of mine who immigrated from Warsaw to the US left very little behind because he was a virtual pauper, with no family. But funeral home records yielded his parents names, something I wasn’t able to find elsewhere.

Often the death certificate lists where the person was buried, and if you know the cemetery your ancestor lies in, the gravestone may be helpful. Most Jewish headstones have the father’s name on it, if you’re able to read Hebrew. For help on deciphering Hebrew gravestones, go to www.jewishgen.org/InfoFiles/tombstones.html.

You may also request records from that cemetery, which again might have some useful information, in addition to what’s on the headstone may be found. A caution: cemeteries are usually for-profit businesses and have no obligation to share anything — but many do, especially if approached politely.

New York metro area Jewish cemeteries Mt. Zion, Mt. Hebron and Mt. Carmel, have all put indexes of burials online — just type in their names in the format, www.mountzioncemetery.?com.

Hopefully this trend will continue with other cemeteries.

And a great centralized database, The JewishGen Online Worldwide Burial Registry, or JOWBR is certainly worth your time, at www.jewishgen.org/databases/cemetery.

After the burial, comes probate and wills. If your ancestor had any possessions or assets, probate records and a will can be very revealing, if they exist.

Assuming you know where they died, check with the county court to find the best way to access those records (assuming your family doesn’t already have them).

Wills especially help paint a fuller picture of that persons life, such as who they favored, favorite charities, and perhaps some philosophical musings. Wills are also vital for proving relationships, and perhaps telling you where children and grandchildren might reside. Probate records may also provide similar information.

Yizkor books are not US records. They are sometimes called necrologies, and are books written by survivors of shtetls and cities throughout Europe whose Jewish population were murdered or went into exile during the Shoah. These survivors, often in Israel, wrote these books in the 1950s and 1960s (usually in Yiddish or Hebrew) — often with photos of places and people - to remember the residents and history of that place. It can be an invaluable source of information, if your ancestor is there, since usually survivors recount stories about those people, often along with their fate.

Not many of these books were published, let alone translated. Fortunately, the New York Public Library and other libraries have copies of them. And most importantly, a project is underway to translate many of those yizkor books. Find out more by going to http://www.jewishgen.org/Yizkor/.

Last Updated ( Thursday, 29 January 2009 08:38 )  

IJN e-Edition

This is only a taste! Get full access to the IJN via our e-Edition, only $14.04 for IJN Print subscribers.

E-Edition subscribers get access to a complete digital replica of the IJN, which includes all special sections.

Get the IJN's free newsletter!

Shabbat Times

JTA News

Notes removed from Western Wall ahead of Rosh Hashanah

Marcy Oster Workers at the Western Wall emptied the holy site of layers of notes from its cracks and crevices for the New Year. ... [Link]

Hamas arrests cell that fired mortar at Israel despite cease-fire

Marcy Oster Hamas in Gaza reportedly arrested those responsible for launching a mortar at Israel in defiance of the cease-fire. ... [Link]

In Jerusalem, Syrian rebel calls for new gov’t to make peace with Israel

Marcy Oster Syrian rebels should make peace with Israel in return for support in overthrowing the current Syrian government, a prominent Syrian rebel said. ... [Link]

European Jewish groups call for greater security, fight against anti-Semitism

Marcy Oster European authorities must provide greater security for Jewish institutions, a major Jewish organization said in the wake of a suspected arson attack on a Brussels synagogue. ... [Link]

Agudah, Reform laud feds’ Sabbath suit against Dunkin’ Donuts franchisee

Ron Kampeas A federal lawsuit against a Dunkin’ Donuts franchisee for refusing to hire a Sabbath-observant worker drew praise from Agudath Israel of America and the Reform movement. ... [Link]

Italian Jewish groups open anti-Semitism hotline

Marcy Oster A hotline to report anti-Semitic incidents was launched in Italy. ... [Link]

NYC police looking into swastika fliers in Brooklyn’s Williamsburg

Ron Kampeas New York City police are investigating the distribution of fliers marked with swastikas in Williamsburg. ... [Link]

Michael Broyde, rabbi in pseudonym scandal, launching synagogue

Ron Kampeas Michael Broyde, the rabbi at the center of a scandal involving his use of pseudonyms to tout his reputation, is launching a synagogue in Atlanta. ... [Link]

Intermountain Jewish News • 1177 Grant Street • Denver, CO 80203 • 303 861 2234 • FAX 303 832 6942
email@ijn.com • larry@ijn.com • lori@ijn.com