Intermountain Jewish News

Banner
Sunday,
May 01st
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!

Cast Your Vote

Do you eat kitniyot on Passover?
 

Shabbat Times

JTA News

Italian prosecutors: Suspects planned attacks on Israeli embassy, Vatican

Ron Kampeas ROME (JTA) – Suspects arrested in northern Italy on terrorism charges wanted to strike the Vatican and the Israeli Embassy in Rome, prosecutors said. Police on Thursday arrested four people, all bor... [Link]

ADL to Trump: Come up with something other than ‘America First’

Ron Kampeas WASHINGTON (JTA) — The Anti-Defamation League called on Donald Trump to abjure the term “America First,” noting its unsavory World War II-era association with anti-Semitism. “The undercurr... [Link]

U.S. Holocaust museum: Iranian authorities back Holocaust cartoon event

Ron Kampeas WASHINGTON (JTA) — The U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum challenged a claim by the Iranian foreign minister that Iranian government authorities had nothing to do with a Holocaust cartoon contest. ... [Link]

Levinson son traveled to Iran to find information on his father

Ron Kampeas WASHINGTON (JTA) — Driven to desperation by what he said have been the White House’s failures, Robert Levinson’s son traveled to Iran to seek information on his father’s whereabouts. “I... [Link]

Obama decries rise of anti-Semitism in Jewish heritage month message

Ron Kampeas WASHINGTON (JTA) — President Barack Obama decried the “rise of anti-Semitism” in his annual proclamation of May as Jewish American Heritage Month. “We cannot pay proper respect to the lega... [Link]

Critical profile of Melania Trump unleashes flood of anti-Semitic abuse on reporter

Ron Kampeas WASHINGTON (JTA) — A reporter who wrote a critical profile of Melania Trump has been deluged with anti-Semitic abuse. Julia Ioffe told the Guardian that on April 28, the day her profile of the R... [Link]

Rock legend Phil Lesh gathers musician friends for a Grateful Dead Passover

Andrew Silow-Carroll SAN RAFAEL, Calif. (JTA) – “Why can’t we eat veggie burritos tonight? Will I be miracled? Will they play ‘The Wheel?’ Will Phil sing?” These four additional questions were asked at a Passo... [Link]

Hundreds attend 1st Jewish film festival in Casablanca

Cnaan Liphshiz (JTA) — Nearly 500 people attended the first Jewish film festival of Casablanca, which was organized in the Moroccan city by a Sephardic Jewish woman from Atlanta. The three-day event, which end... [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