Explore Your Roots: The Robert L. Weinberg Family History Center

Posted on November 26th, 2012 by

A blog post by Deborah Weiner, Family History Coordinator.

In a typical week, the Jewish Museum of Maryland receives ten requests for help from individuals looking for information about their families.

Our Robert L. Weinberg Family History Center, located in the JMM library, assists all kinds of people with all kinds of needs. Some seek a relatively simple yet crucial detail, like “where is my grandmother buried?” Others, compiling family trees or writing family histories, want us to give them “everything we have” on their ancestors. In every case, we draw on a tremendous resource to assist them: our Family History collection.

A very creative family tree. JMM 1997.125.37

Even in the Internet age, with so much genealogical information available on the web, our Family History collection constitutes a unique resource that allows us to provide genealogical services unusually extensive for a regional Jewish museum. Here are some highlights:

  • Our cemetery database includes more than 60,000 names of individuals buried in Maryland Jewish cemeteries. While most of the listings are from cemeteries in the Baltimore area, we also have listings from Annapolis, Cumberland, Frederick, Hagerstown, and Salisbury. 

Rosedale cemetery.

  • Funeral records from the Jack Lewis Funeral Home from the 1920s-1930s, 1950s-1960s. This firm, no longer in existence, rivaled Levinson & Bros. in popularity through most of the 20th century.
  • Indexes of records of several Baltimore midwives and mohels allow access to thousands of births and circumcisions from the late 19th to mid 20th centuries.

Rev. A.N. Abramowitz, Baltimore mohel. His circumcision records are part of the JMM family history collection. JMM 1988.155.3.

  • Obituaries from the Baltimore Jewish Times from the 1920s to today, indexed for some decades.
  •  Genealogies and family trees from more than 400 Maryland Jewish families.

These resources were developed through the efforts of numerous volunteers as well as the cooperation of Maryland’s Jewish cemetery associations and congregations. We are constantly working to expand our resources; for example, two volunteer projects now underway include the creation of an index of engagement, marriage, and birth notices in the Baltimore Jewish Times, and a renewed effort to record as-yet-uncharted sections of the historic—and massive—Rosedale cemetery. (We recently crossed the 10,000 mark of burial listings at Rosedale.)

Over the past several years we have worked to make our collections accessible online. Most notably, we partnered with the Jewish Online Worldwide Burial Registry (JOWBR) to make our burial listings available on JOWBR’s fully searchable online database. We are currently working with JewishGen, JOWBR’s “parent,” to make more of our resources available on the JewishGen website.

JMM 1991.20.30.

There are three ways you can access our Family History collection: online at JOWBR or at our own website (where we’ve posted pdf files of cemetery burials and other indexes), by visiting the museum to do on-site research (by appointment), or by using our research-by-mail service, where we do the research and send you the results (for a fee).

Genealogy is a burgeoning field, as many people have become interested in finding their “roots.” Fortunately anyone with a connection to Jewish Maryland has a great place to start: the Robert L. Weinberg Family History Center of the Jewish Museum of Maryland.

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Historic Graveyard Preservation

Posted on June 22nd, 2012 by

Hello, my name is Stephanie Daugherty and I am the summer collections intern at the Jewish Museum of Maryland.  I am currently finishing my Master’s in Museum Professions at Seton Hall University in South Orange, New Jersey.  In addition to my internship, I am also completing my thesis this summer on historic graveyard preservation, which covers maintaining cemeteries and caring for tombstones in a museum collection.

Raymond Caplan tombstone located in German Hill Road Cemetery.

Although often disregarded as spooky, early American burying grounds are important places of historical information.  Gravestones are notable examples of material culture serving as a physical record of a community’s former inhabitants.  Gravestones can provide insight to the beliefs, customs, and status of the people who erected them. These artifacts look out on us much like they did on the people of the eighteenth, nineteenth, and twentieth centuries.  From forgotten family burying grounds to systematic memorial parks, cemeteries are exceptional repositories of local history.

This tombstone was discovered in the basement of an East Baltimore rowhome.

I was very excited to learn that the Jewish Museum of Maryland houses numerous photographs of Jewish cemeteries and preserves dislodged tombstones in its collection.  In the nineteenth century, a large influx of Jewish immigrants came to the United States and established cemeteries.  Jewish cemeteries display unique characteristics that set them apart from other American graveyards.  For instance, many Jewish cemeteries have gravestones crowded next to each other so there is hardly room to work around each stone.  Marble and granite are the most common materials and often include symbols of the Star of David, the Lion of Judah, menorahs, etc.  Enameled portraits on the tombstone and inscriptions in Hebrew and Yiddish are other distinct features.

Miniature tombstone illustrating the use of portraits on grave markers.

While cemeteries and tombstones provide a wealth of knowledge, many are in deplorable condition.  Acid rain has eroded many markers to such a degree that their inscription is no longer legible.  Some cemeteries are overgrown and forgotten while others suffer from vandalism.  The goal of my thesis is to explore the value of studying cemeteries and describe how we can preserve them for future generations.  I am excited to include what I have learned from the Jewish Museum of Maryland in my thesis.

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In the spirit of the day…

Posted on October 31st, 2011 by

A blog post by Genealogist and Family Historian Deb Weiner.

When I signed up to do an October 31 blog post, I wasn’t thinking “Halloween,” I was thinking “push this task off to the very last day of the month.” But here it is, Halloween, and the irrelevance of the holiday to the Jewish tradition has not stopped me from feeling obligated to offer a Halloween-inspired blog post. Fortunately, I have a backlog ofBaltimoreJewish cemetery photos taken on my research trips for family history clients, so I have something suitably morbid to share.

 

Thought I’d start out with the most appropriate image (actually this photo is courtesy of Kevin Grace).

A spooky day at Rosedale cemetery.

 

 

A war story.

 

 

A love story.

 

Some names you might find familiar.

 

 

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