JMM Insights – October 2013

Posted on October 11th, 2013 by

With our newest exhibition, Passages through the Fire: Jews and the Civil War opening this weekend, we have heard from many Marylanders who have family connections to the Civil War. Through extensive research, some have assembled detailed family trees and fascinating documents that highlight their ancestors’ roles during the war. This week’s issue of JMM Insights focuses on genealogy and the variety of resources available at the JMM to assist individuals as they embark on family history research.

Research Requests

Each month the JMM receives dozens of requests by phone and email from individuals looking for all kinds of information about their families. The most common requests come from individuals from all over the country seeking the location of a relative’s (who lived in Baltimore) gravesite or date of birth or death. Sometimes people have detailed information about the relative in question but need just one final piece of information to complete their family tree. Other requests involve more extensive research when they have limited information but hope that we can help steer them in the right path towards learning more about their family’s history. Genealogical research is very much like trying to solve a mystery and it is often fascinating following the trail of clues from one source to another. Unfortunately we are not always able to find the specific information that the researcher is seeking but more often than not, we are able to provide them some assistance or to refer them somewhere else where they might be able to find what they are looking for.

Resources

Family History Resource Page

Family History Resource Page

Thanks to the assistance of many JMM staff and volunteers who have worked for years compiling valuable databases that are essential for genealogy, the JMM has a variety of resources available for researchers. Many of these are available on our website (jewishmuseummd.org/collections-research/genealogy/). For example, indexed databases for cemeteries located throughout the state include the names of individuals buried at that site, along with the date of death of the individual in question, and the section in the cemetery in which the person is buried. This information is essential for people looking to find specific gravesites as so many cemeteries are large and encompass multiple congregational plots.  Other records that are used frequently to assist individuals looking for information about dates of death and location of burial are the Jack Lewis Funeral Home records (1924-1939 and 1956-1965)and the Baltimore Jewish Times obituaries.

People who want to conduct more extensive genealogical research can make an appointment to visit our library to look through our resources which also include bound editions of the Baltimore Jewish Times, census records, city directories and passenger manifest lists of ships from Europe that brought immigrants to the Port of Baltimore. We also serve as a repository for people who have compiled family trees and these are available for researchers, as well. Further resources include a database of Baltimore’s religious personnel, Yizkhor (Memorial) books of East European towns, and circumcision, midwife, and marriage records of individual Baltimore-area mohels, midwives and rabbis.

The JMM also maintains a list of referrals for researchers when we do not have the resources that they need to complete their searches.

Volunteer Assistance

As many of you are aware, several months ago, in order to balance the JMM budget, we made some difficult decisions that resulted in the elimination of two full-time staff positions, both of which provided valuable assistance to researchers. While other members of the JMM staff have stepped up to ensure that we are still able to provide access to our collections for researchers, we have also found two outstanding new volunteers who have taken on the task of working directly with researchers.

Edie speaking to a group from the Jewish Genealogical Society of MD.

Edie speaking to a group from the Jewish Genealogical Society of MD.

Edie Shlian began volunteering in July. Edie has extensive experience conducting research into her own family’s history and in the few months that she has been here, she has provided invaluable assistance handling genealogy-related requests. Edie has become quite familiar with our resources and has had some wonderful successes tracking down vital information for researchers. Genealogy is truly a passion for Edie and we are fortunate to have found someone so dedicated to providing assistance on behalf of the JMM.

John Sondheim is a member of the JMM Collections Committee. A retired librarian from the Enoch Pratt Library John has extensive knowledge about local Jewish history. John is working with senior collections manager Jobi Zink to provide assistance to students, scholars and museum professionals who are interested in conducting research in our collections. Thanks to John’s hard work and dedication, we have been able to keep our library open regularly for research appointments.

We are most appreciative of the work that Edie, John, and the many other volunteers who work in our library perform as they compile genealogical databases, scan photographs, identify people in photographs, organize our vertical files, transcribe oral histories and memoirs, and process archival and photographic collections by creating new folders and boxes for materials. It is through their collective efforts that we are able to make our collections accessible to the public and to perform such a valuable service in connecting people to their past.

How To Make Use of JMM Resources

If you are interested in conducting research at the JMM, the first place to start is with our website. As mentioned above, many of our genealogical databases can be downloaded directly from our website. In addition, our collections database is available online (jmm.pastperfect-online.com/) and is the first place to start if you are looking to see if we have objects, photographs or documents that are of interest to your particular area of research.

Past Perfect Search Screen

Past Perfect Search Screen

Once you have searched through our online resources and determine that you would like to come in to research materials further, it is necessary to make an advanced appointment. Appointments can be made through the following means:

  • For collections research, call (410) 732-6400 x213 / research@jewishmuseummd.org. It is helpful to provide the catalog number of particular items from the database you would like to see and a good description of the project you are working on.
  • For family history research, call (410) 732-6400 x224 / familyhistory@jewishmuseummd.org
  • For photograph reproductions, call (410)732-6400 x219 / photorequest@jewishmuseummd.org. Again, please note the catalog number and description of the photograph you would like reproduced.

Please note that messages left on by phone or email are checked by staff one-time per week and it is not always possible for someone to return your message immediately. Please try to give ample notice when you wish to make an appointment as it can take several weeks before we can accommodate your request.

One of the wonderful benefits of JMM membership is that there is no charge to make an appointment for research. For non-members there is an $8 daily fee.

Jewish Genealogical Society of Maryland

We are pleased to report that the Jewish Genealogical Society of Maryland has recently begun holding regular meetings for its members and that the JMM is proud to partner with this organization to make our genealogical records more accessible. The JGS of Maryland is an association of individuals in our community who are searching for their roots and growing their family trees. The group meets on a regular basis to share information, overcome “brick walls”, and to enhance knowledge and skills. The JGS of Maryland recognizes the importance of web based research and helps members identify and use the most valuable sites for Jewish genealogy.  Members of the society regularly offer lectures and workshops regarding Jewish genealogy to the community and help others interested in discovering their ancestors and their places of origin. For more information, check out their website at www.jewishgen.org/jgs-maryland.

Upcoming Events

Be sure to stop by the JMM this weekend as we open Passages through the Fire: Jews and the Civil War. Our members opening takes place on Saturday, October 12 at 7:30pm followed by our opening to the public on Sunday, October 13. For more details, visit our website, jewishmuseummd.org/calendar-event/upcoming/.

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Elaine, Meet Stanley

Posted on April 3rd, 2013 by

debA blog post by Historian Deb Weiner.

We recently started to create a new genealogy resource: a database of Jewish babies born in Baltimore, as revealed by Jewish Times birth notices. So far, we’ve compiled around 700 names of babies born between 1928 and 1932. We’re also recording the names of the parents and the hospitals where the births occurred.

Sinai Hospital on East Monument Street, 1940. 2010.20.13.

Sinai Hospital on East Monument Street, 1940. 2010.20.13.

So the list can tell us some interesting things. Like, where were Jewish babies born during that time period? If you guess the obvious, Sinai Hospital, you’d be right—half the time. Around 48 percent of the babies listed in the JT were born at Sinai, then located on East Monument Street. In second place was Mercy Hospital, with 15 percent. Some 9 percent were born at the Women’s Hospital in Bolton Hill. (It later merged with another hospital to form GBMC.) In fourth place was Church Home Hospital in East Baltimore, with 8 percent. This hospital, by the way, is where Edgar Allan Poe died in 1849 after he was found, delirious, on Lombard Street between High and Exeter (later, the heart of Jewish East Baltimore). And how many were born at Johns Hopkins Hospital? One! A girl named Helen Udell. Why this particular distribution? I have no clue.

OK now to even more interesting stuff. What do you think was the most popular name for Baltimore’s Jewish baby girls from 1928 to 1932? Hint: look at the headline. Of the 367 girls whose names were listed, there were sixteen Elaines, topping the baby girl pool. In second place was Beverly, with fifteen names. I found that one hard to believe. There were eleven babies named Betty, nine named Phyllis, eight Myras, seven named Frances, Marilyn, Ruth, and Sonia. There were six Aileens, Charlottes, Harriets, Joans, Natalies, Rhodas, and Shirleys.

Around sixteen years later: Teens prepare to go onstage at the JEA. Left to right: Joan Levinson, Judy Brodsky, Betty Levy, Rhoda Wagner, Phyllis Erlich. 95.98.119

Around sixteen years later: Teens prepare to go onstage at the JEA. Left to right: Joan Levinson, Judy Brodsky, Betty Levy, Rhoda Wagner, Phyllis Erlich. 95.98.119

I was surprised there were more babies named Natalie than Barbara (four) or Hannah (three) or Bessie (two) or Susan (zero). And there were three girls named Leatrice, which I found odd, since I’ve never met one person with that name. I wasn’t surprised by the popularity of Phyllis—the name belonged to my mom (b. 1935), my dad’s sister, one of his cousins, and two of their close friends. I actually thought it would score higher.

Baby boys: Stanley led the way with thirteen out of 341 boys. Next was Howard with eleven. There were ten baby boys named Allen (or Allan), Marvin, and Richard. Nine were named David and Harold (or Harry). There were eight Bernards, Jeromes, and Roberts. Seven were named Alvin, Herbert, and Norman while six were named Arnold, Joseph, Leonard, Martin, and Samuel. There were only two Aarons, one Abraham (plus one Abram), two Benjamins, two Jacobs, one Israel, and no Isaacs. I guess the Bible had fallen out of favor during this period. Why name someone Israel or Isaac when you can name him Irving? (There were three of those, plus four Irwins, an Irvin, an Ira, and an Isadore.)

Around sixteen years later: Rambam Chapter of the AZA, northwest Baltimore. Even in this Zionist group, all but two of the identified boys had popular Americanized names. Back row: second from left, Irv Bowers, right end, Marvin Glass. Middle row: second from left, Al Blaker, center, Bernie Raynor. Bottom row: left end, Avrum Miller, right end, Hanan Sibel. 2008.117.1

Around sixteen years later: Rambam Chapter of the AZA, northwest Baltimore. Even in this Zionist group, all but two of the identified boys had popular Americanized names. Back row: second from left, Irv Bowers, right end, Marvin Glass. Middle row: second from left, Al Blaker, center, Bernie Raynor. Bottom row: left end, Avrum Miller, right end, Hanan Sibel. 2008.117.1

Lest you think there were more girls than boys born to Baltimore Jewish families, I should point out that birth notices for around 160 boys did not include names, while only 90 girls were unnamed. All told, there were around 500 boys and around 450 girls listed . . . I don’t know if that means that fewer girls were born, or that parents were more likely to send in birth notices for sons than for daughters.

In fact, this is not what you’d call a scientific poll—because I have no idea what percentage of the Jewish babies born during the period were listed in JT birth notices, or if a “certain kind” of family was more likely to have a birth notice than some “other kind” of family, which could skew the sample. But the results are suggestive nonetheless. By the late 1920s, the Baltimore Jewish population had become mostly Americanized, especially the young parents who were having these babies. They were the adult children of immigrants, American-raised if not born, and I think that tells you something about their choices.

We continue to work on the list—it should be interesting to see how the popular names change over time.  And here’s where I need to recognize the volunteers who are doing such a great job constructing this database. Thanks to Stefan Freed, Martin Buckman, Vera Kestenberg, and Harvey Karch! (And by the way, there were six Martins, two Harveys, one Stephan, and no Veras on the list.)

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MS 55 The Louis E. Shecter Collection

Posted on December 6th, 2012 by

Louis Shecter as a graduate from Baltimore City College, 1918. Courtesy of Louis E. Shecter. 1974.21.4

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Louis E. Shecter (1901-1992)?Collection

n.d., 1921-1985

?MS 55

Jewish Museum of Maryland

?ACCESS AND PROVENANCE

The Louis E. Shecter Collection was found in the collection as MS 55.? Multiple accessions have been identified as materials donated by and related to Louis E. Shecter and probably incorporated into MS 55: 1973.013; 1974.021; 1975.020; 1982.015; 1985.104; and 1985.105.? However, none of the materials in the manuscript collection can be positively identified with these accessions.? Because of this the collection was given the FIC accession number 2012.061. The collection was processed at some unknown date then reprocessed and given a finding aid in June 2012 by Jennifer Vess.

Access to the collection is unrestricted and is available to researchers at the Jewish Museum of Maryland.? Researchers must obtain the written permission of the Jewish Museum of Maryland before publishing quotations from materials in the collection.? Papers may be copied in accordance with the library?s usual procedures.

BIOGRAPHICAL NOTE

Louis Shecter (1901-1992) was born in Baltimore and graduated from Baltimore City College in 1918.? He began work at the Baltimore Sun then left for the Joseph Katz advertising company.? In 1928 he became the advertising director for the Hecht stores until 1931 when he and his brother-in-law, Jack L. Levin, started their own advertising company.? Shecter also began to invest in real-estate and businesses, ultimately owning several theaters (The Rosalyn, The Rex, The Roxy, and The Times ? now known as the Charles Theater).? Other businesses included the Famous Ballroom and two bowling centers.

Rosalyn M. and Louis E. Shecter on their way to London aboard the R.M.S Queen Mary, 1946. Courtesy of Louis E. Shecter. 1982.15.17

In 1939 Shecter married Rosalyn Margareten (d. 2009).? Rosalyn was born inNew York City and attended first Hunter College then later the Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) for sculpture.? Louis and Rosalyn had three children: Alan, Mark and Alyce.? In 1961 Rosalyn was appointed vice chair of the Maryland Board of Motion Picture Censors.? Rosalyn focused on preventing children from being exposed to adult content in films, and she played a minor role in the implementation of the current movie rating system.

Louis Shecter was involved with a number of political figures and also became a collector and promoter of the arts.? Shecter died on November 9, 1992.? Rosalyn died on November 24, 2009.

SCOPE AND CONTENT NOTE

The collection is divided into three series: Series I. Louis E. Shecter, n.d., 1921-1985, Series II. Rosalyn Shecter, n.d. 1931-1984, and Series III. Children and Grandchildren, n.d., 1949-1983.? Series I. is further divided into eight subseries: Subseries A. American Jewish Congress, n.d., 1957-1983, Subseries B. Business, n.d., 1924-1984, Subseries C. Politics, n.d., 1944-1985, Subseries D. Genocide Convention and Civil Right Activities, n.d., 1954-1981, Subseries E. Charitable Contributions, n.d., 1945-1985, Subseries F. Art Collection, Museums and Culture, n.d, 1953-1983, Subseries G. Personal Correspondence, n.d., 1921-1984, and Subseries H. Misc, n.d., 1932-1984

Louis Shecter with Ladybird Johnson, 1962. Courtesy of Louis Shecter. 1975.20.33a

Series I. Louis E. Shecter, n.d., 1921-1985 contains correspondence, programs, clippings, and writings related to Shecter?s business dealings, civil rights activities, charitable contributions, art collecting, and personal life.? The series is divided into eight subseries. Subseries A. American Jewish Congress, n.d., 1957-1983 contains correspondence, press releases, newspaper clippings, meeting minutes and programs related to Shecter?s work with the American Jewish Congress in Baltimore.? Subseries B. Business, n.d., 1924-1984 contains correspondence and clippings related to Shecter?s work with the Joseph Katz advertising firm, the Hecht Company, his own advertising firm, his real-estate ventures, the Advertising club, etc. Subseries C. Politics, n.d., 1944-1985 contains invitations, correspondence, clippings and programs related to Shecter?s interaction with politics and political figures at the local and national level. Subseries D. Genocide Convention and Civil Right Activities, n.d., 1954-1981 contains correspondence, clippings and talks related to Shecter?s work promoting the Genocide Convention and Civil Rights.? Subseries E. Charitable Contributions, n.d., 1945-1985 contains correspondence, clippings, invitations, etc., related to Shecter?s involvement with charitable organization and his own charitable contributions.? Subseries F. Art Collection, Museums and Culture, n.d, 1953-1983, contains correspondence, newspaper clippings, lists, newsletters, magazines and minutes related to Shecter?s art collection activities, his donation of art, and his interactions with museums and other cultural institutions and organizations. Subseries G. Personal Correspondence, n.d., 1921-1984, contains Shecter?s personal correspondence including a collection of letters (photocopies) to and from H.L. Menken.? Subseries H. Misc, n.d., 1932-1984 contains membership materials to the Masonic Lodge and Beth Tfiloh, invitations, play programs, writings, etc.? All of the materials are organized alphabetically within each subseries.

Louis Shecter and Senator Edward Kennedy reviewing a painting of President Kennedy and Governor Tawes at the opening of JFK Highway. Courtesy of Louis E. Shecter. 1975.20.25a

Series II. Rosalyn Shecter, n.d. 1931-1984 contains correspondence, diplomas, booklets, publications, newspaper clippings, scrapbook pages and genealogical material related to Rosalyn?s education, work and family.? A large portion of the collection relates to Rosalyn?s work with the Maryland State Board of Motion Picture Censors.? The folders are organized alphabetically except for the genealogy materials which are placed at the end of the series.

Rosalyn Shecter being sworn in as chairman of the Maryland Board of Motion Picture censors, 1968. 1974.21.18a

Series III. Children and Grandchildren, n.d., 1949-1983 contains correspondence, invitations and writings related to Louis and Rosalyn?s children and grandchildren.? The series is arranged alphabetically.

Rosalyn, Louis, Alan and Mark Shecter, 1950's. Courtesy of Louis E. Shecter. 1974.21.20

RELATED COLLECTIONS

The American Jewish Historical Society and Syracuse University Library both have Louis E. Shecter Manuscript collections.

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Louis Shecter with Israeli athletes at the Olympic Games in Helsinki, Finland, 1952. Courtesy of Louis E. Shecter. 1975.20.1

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