Archive for August, 2010

Jewish Collections at the Society of Genealogists

The Jewish Genealogical Collections

The Society’s Special Collections of family history documents include some remarkable Jewish collections. These are mostly genealogical research notes on Jewish families compiled by genealogical scholars Sir Thomas Colyer Fergusson, Albert Montefiore Hyamson, Isobel Mordy and Ronald James D’Arcy Hart. Examples of some of the notes for the Jewish Pedigrees compiled by Sir Thomas Colyer Fegusson can be seen below. These illustrate the sources he used and compiled such as extracts of wills and translations of Hebrew tombstone inscriptions. Colyer Fergusson 1024x768 Jewish Collections at the Society of GenealogistsHere you can see extracts of wills for the Garcia family including Jacob Lopez Garcia1784, Moses Garcia 1784 and that of Abraham Garcia, 1794, a merchant of St Botolph Aldgate who desires to be buried in the Portuguese Jews Burial Ground. There is a transcription of a memorial inscription for Mordachi Isaac Garcia buried in the Spanish Portuguese Cemetery at Mile End. The picture also shows a translation of the Hebrew monumental inscription for Leah the wife of Angel Gaster MD who died in 1911 and was buried in the Sephardi Grounds of Golders Green Cemetery. Much of Sir Thomas Colyer-Fegusson’s collections deal with Sephardic Jewish Families with roots in Spain or Portugal. Though many of the other collections look at Ashkenazi Jews from Eastern Europe. Most of the Jewish Collection have been microfilmed to conserve them though still some need attention to make them easier to access and use.

A guide to source for Jewish Genealogy at the Society of Genealogists appears below. [MF = SoG microfilm numbers]

Sources for Jewish genealogy in the Society of Genealogists Library

Colyer- Fergusson Collection

*Sir Thomas Colyer- Fergusson. d.April 1951 aged 86. Obituary in Genealogists’ Magazine June 1951.Expert in eighteenth-, nineteenth- and twentieth century Jews in England

Pedigrees and genealogical manuscripts [MF 2594-97]

includes extracts from PCC wills, The Gentleman’s Magazine, Synagogue registers and Gravestone Inscriptions, newspaper cuttings

Newspaper Cuttings: Jewish general: Air–Zionism [MF 2598]

Includes general subjects of Jewish interest as well as articles on individuals. Taken from The Jewish Chronicle, The Jewish World, The Jewish Guardian, The Sphere, The Crown, the Sketch etc

Individuals & families [MF 2599-2600]

Chiefly obituaries and death notices but also appointments, biographical articles and death notices, genealogies, interviews, bequests, legal notices, births, engagements and marriages. Indexed on each reel.

See Hyamson & Colyer Fergusson Collections by Neil Rosenstein, in Avotaynu (The International Review of Jewish Genealogy) Spring 1991 (lists names included)

Hyamson Collection

*Albert Montefiore Hyamson, 1875-1954. Civil Servant & Director of Immigration in Palestine.

Biography in Who’s who in world Jewry: a biographical dictionary of outstanding Jews edited by Harry Schneiderman & Itzhak J Carmin, 1955. Memorial address by Cecil Roth printed in Transactions of the Jewish Historical Society of England vol 18 (Sessions 1953-55)

6 boxes of pedigrees now on microfiche. The main part of the collection is arranged in family bundles preceded by a contents list and surname index. Each of the main bundles, labled A1,A2 etc, relates to a particlular family, On the first frame for the bundle there is a list of the names involved in the pedigree. These names together with those of the main pedigrees have all been indexed but the index are complex to use. We have printed these out to make using the fiche easier. In addition there are miscellaneous bundles Miscellaneous A(a), A(b) etc. These have only been indexed for the main family name not for any other names involved. The manuscript pedigress are not always easy to read and include abbreviations and Hebrew script. There is a small subjet section covering areas such as bankrupts, congregations in Canterbury, Exeter & Falmouth, obituaries etc.

See Hyamson & Colyer Fergusson Collections by Neil Rosenstein, in Avotaynu (The International Review of Jewish Genealogy) Spring 1991 (lists names included)

*= Both the above are indexed by name in Sourcebook for Jewish Genealogies and Family Histories by David S Zubatzky and Irwin M Berent, Avotaynu Inc, 1996 which is on the Jewish shelves in the Upper Library.

Darcy Hart Collection

Ronald James D’Arcy Hart d. March 1985 aged 89. Obituary in Genealogists’ Magazine June 1986. Honary Genealogist to the Jewish Museum 1939-70

7 boxes largely in three sections containing:

356 line pedigrees indexed as Ped A1, Ped A2 etc

236 family bundles indexed as A1, A2 and so on

319 manuscript pages of extracts from synagogue records for certain surnames also indexd A1, A2 preceded by an asterisk (they are mostly from the Great or Hambro Synagogues in London)

Indexed by Isobel Mordy with families given letter and number codes. A name in capitals refers to a family bundle or pedigree for that surname, while a name on lower case refers to a subsidiary surname connected with a main family. Not yet filmed and needs some attention to improve the quality of the papers that are worn or in faint pencil. The index needs editing by volunteers. Access to this collection is by appointment only.

Mordy Collection

Isobel Mordy, d. April 1993 aged 87, Obituary in Genealogists’ Magazine September 1993

See The Mordy Collection of Jewish Genealogy by Isobel Mordy in Search vol 7 no 2, Summer 1987.

A large card index of information on a huge number of Jewish individuals and families. Filmed by LDS in 1984 and the originals deposited at SoG. It is extremely complicated to use and is the basis for the Knowles collection of Jewish notes now online through Familysearch. However any additions made after the collection was filmed and before coming to the SoG will not be online.

Pedigrees [MF 933-939] Indexes [MF 975-978]

LDS film nos 0994068, 1279240-50

Nb. The “pedigrees” are not as one would expect. Rather they are grouped slips of family members with each individual noted in generation order with references linking to the pedigree group.

Collections in 4 sections:

1. Alphabetical series of data cards colour coded according to the source of the information

White data derived from original sources such as census returns, wills, birth marriage and deaths certificates, naturalisations, denizations, changes of name etc

Green information extracted from printed sources such as birth, marriage and death notices published in the Jewish Chronicle 1844-63 and some after that period

Blue data from other collections above

Pink cross references

2. Locality Index to the data cards listing every address and place mentioned. Divided into

a) London street order

b) Rest of British Isles in town order

c) Overseas by country and town

 3. Pedigress in A-Z order of the main surname

4. Index of every name appearing in the the pedigrees giving the one or two letter code for the appropriate pedigree

Any material she added to the collection between the 1984 filming and her death in 1993 when the original material came to the SoG has not been assessed for the quantity or filmed. Hence the original material with any later additions is only available by appointment. Do look at the films or online version first.

The Jewish book shelves in the Upper Library include -

• Transactions of the Jewish Historical Society of England which also published Anglo Jewish Notabilities. Includes Hyamson’s Plan of a Dictionary of Anglo Jewish Biography, Anglo Jewish Coats of Arms; Anglo Jewish Wills and Letters of Adminstrations; Jewish births marriages and deaths from the London Magazine 1732-85

Bevis Marks Records parts 1-6 (records of the Spanish & Portuguese Jews’ Congregation in London)

The Jewish Victorian: Genealogical information from Jewish newspapers 1871-1880 transcribed and edited by Doreen Berger

British Jewry Book of Honour 1914-1918

Where once we walked: a guide to the Jewish communities in the holocaust by Gary Mokatoff and Sallyann Amdur

The Society of Genealogists publishes a research guide My Ancestors were Jewish by Anthony Josephs, available from the Society’s online bookshop

Peerage Claims

The Society of Genealogist has hundreds of old Peerage Claims dating as far back as the 18th century.

A Peerage claim happens when a hereditary peer dies, and his heir wishes to prove his claim to the title, he or she must provide suitable documentary evidence to the Crown Office of the House of Lords to prove that he or she is indeed the heir to the title.

Claims to peerages whose succession is in dispute (as is the below example), are made by Petition to The Crown, presented through the Lord Chancellor. He refers the accompanying documents to the Attorney General in order that he may report upon them to the Sovereign.

Peerage claims are large books or files filled with ‘evidence’. The example we have used below has just under 400 pages. Mr. John Borthwick and his father were trying to prove their claim for over 40 years until it was finally recognised at the Lord Lyon Court in Edinburgh. The discovery of forged papers dating back to the 18th century helped secure the claim.

Front cover of the 1868 case of John Borthwick claiming the title ‘Lord, Honor and Dignity of Lord Borthwick’ (who died in the battle of Flodden in 1513) to the objection of Mr. Archibald Borthwick.

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Irish Rent Books

Family history documents not only help us to imagine what life would have been like for our ancestors but also help us to portray a sign of the times, often highlighting certain injustices of the past.

John Folliott was a wealthy Englishman who owned land in the north of Ireland. His 1779 – 1780 rent book shows that he collected rent every six months from tenants in the counties of Sligo and Donegal. 

Land was confiscated from Gaelic clans all over Ireland throughout the 16th and 17th century and granted by the Crown authority to colonists from Britain. This would almost certainly be how the Folliott family came to own land in Ireland.

By the 1800’s most Irish families were impoverished tenant farmers, generally in debt to their British landlords. The need to survive on small plots of rented land created the perilous situation where vast numbers of people depended on the potato crop for survival.

The failure of the potato harvest from 1845 – 1847 caused by a fungus that struck the potato plants was responsible for the starvation of at least one million Irish people. Another one million emigrated to America. This was known as the ‘Great Irish Famine’.

Mr. John Folliott’s Irish rent book can be found in the Herbert Special Collection.

Dominick Gaffney who was a tenant of Mr. John Folliott in the county of Sligo paid £10 for six months rent in the year 1779.

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Poll Books

Poll books were published from the late 1600s onwards, right through into the late 1800s. The Society of Genealogists poll book collection have been researched and mentioned in many academic publications as one of the most extensive in the world.

Poll books list not only the names, addresses and occupations of our ancestors but also their political inclinations as they list exactly whom they voted for.

Eligibility to vote in Parliamentary elections before the Reform acts was based on land holdings, renting property of sufficient value and payment of local land taxes, and in certain Boroughs, on Freedom rights. Poll books include the person’s ‘qualification’ to vote which usually meant you had to be a freeholder of a property worth at least 40 shillings. Although this was not always the case as shown in the below ‘Town of Bedford’ poll book extract where the tenant’s of the properties are also entitled to vote.

Another way a less than wealthy ancestor may have been able to vote was if he lived in a ‘Potwalloper’ county (see below) where householders were allowed to vote if they had ‘a hearth large enough to boil, or wallop, a cauldron, or pot’.

Of course, if you were a woman the above did not apply as votes for women (providing they were householders, married to a householder or if they held a university degree) were not allowed until 1918.

The Society of Genealogists is currently making digital images of its early poll book collection available for members to search as part of the MySoG pages on the Society’s website


The following is an extract from a rare early electoral roll held at  the Society of Genealogists along with its Poll Book Collection. It comprises a “Register of the Electors to vote after the end of this present Parliament  in the choice of a  Member or Members to servce for the County of Bedford  at any election which may take place after the end of 31 October 1832 and before 1 Nov 1833″


Records of those who paid the land tax were  held at Quarter Session and used as electoral roll showing who may vote. This is a printed register of  eligible voters drawn from those records



1832 Bedford voters lists shows that tenants were entitled to vote.

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The ‘Potwalloping’ Borough of Colchester 1830.

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A 1831 Cambridge poll book showing candidate Viscount Palmerston who later (aged 71) went on to become the oldest Prime Minister of Great Britain in 1859.

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Local Directories

The Society have many printed directories dating back to the 18th century. County directories were expensive to advertise in, so local businesses opted for the smaller local ones. Each local directory is a hive of useful information for family historians who’s ancestors owned small businesses.

The Society is currently working on a ‘British Business Index’ which will gather as much information as possible on British shopkeepers, businessmen and women and their companies.

The primary source for this index will come from a series of books published in the 1890s by the Brighton firm of Robinson, Son and Pike which later became W T Pike. The contents of these particular directories contain more than just business listings and advertisements. They include a history of the area, its attractions, major institutions and its commercial life. There are sometimes details of town councillors, often with vignette-sized photographs and sometimes even a picture of the local football team!

Pike’s books have a minimum of a paragraph about each shop, often showing a photograph of it or the proprietor and there are frequently details of when and from whom the business was acquired (often a named relative). Family members working in the business are usually given and, if a person is prominent in local society, the entry often mentions membership of the corporation and leisure activities including involvement with clubs, charities and other institutions. This kind of information tells a lot about an individual’s character and is extremely difficult to find elsewhere in such a comprehensive form.

The below images are taken from the 1895 Halifax Brighouse & District directory.

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