Intermountain Jewish News

Banner
Friday,
Oct 24th
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

Two Israelis killed in Nepal bus accident

Julie Wiener Two Israelis were killed and at least three wounded in a tourist bus accident Friday in Nepal. ... [Link]

From the Archive: The funeral (and TV movie) of Klinghoffer

Raffi Wineburg Decades before thousands would show up to protest “The Death of Klinghoffer,” over 1,000 came to honor the death of Klinghoffer. ... [Link]

Rabbi Dr. Judith Abrams, pioneering online Talmud teacher, dies at 56

Raffi Wineburg Rabbi Dr. Judith Abrams, founder and director of online Talmud study program MAQOM and author of numerous books, has died. ... [Link]

Nominations open for NBN Bonei Zion Prize for outstanding immigrants

Marcy Oster Nominations have opened for the Nefesh B’Nefesh Bonei Zion Prize recognizing outstanding English-speaking immigrants to Israel. ... [Link]

Lawyers for Palestinian-American woman want to bar terrorism from trial

Marcy Oster Lawyers for an American of Palestinian descent accused of concealing her conviction on terrorist bombings in Israel are seeking to bar references to terrorism at her trial. ... [Link]

Israeli envoy: Jordan king blasting Israel to appease his Arab allies

Cnaan Liphshiz Israel’s ambassador to Jordan suggested that King Abdullah’s recent claim that Israel kills Arab children en masse stems from pressure by Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Egypt. ... [Link]

Danish health director: No reason to ban circumcision

Cnaan Liphshiz Denmark’s national health authority does not think non-medical circumcision is risky enough to justify a ban on it, the body’s director said. ... [Link]

European rabbis seek laws singling out anti-Semitic hate speech

Cnaan Liphshiz European rabbis called on governments throughout the continent to pass laws targeting hate speech against Jews. ... [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