Posted on April 14th, 2014 by Rachel
Part 1 of a 3 part series on using the JMM On-line Database!
Q: What is the first step in conducting research on Jewish history in Maryland?
A: Checking out our free, searchable on-line database, of course! With 74,753 collections records on-line, you can get a good sense of what we have in our collection. Members and non-members currently have access to the database at jmm.pastperfect-online.com or from the collections-research page on our website.
We have just shy of 11,000 three-dimensional objects in the database, ranging from archaeological sherds in the Lloyd Street Synagogue mikveh, to stained glass windows, track trophies, National Bohemian advertising ephemera, beautiful dresses and military uniforms. I am delighted that nearly 89% of the objects in our collection have been photographed!
One of two stained glass skylights from the Komar Building, Baltimore. The skylights were removed from the balcony of the old theater and from the main stairwell of the building. The design of each skylight contains a central medallion featuring a Star of David. The lights are made of opalescent and cathedral glass. The theater skylight has a cartouche and fan motif surrounding the central medallion, the other skylight medallion is flanked by stylized floral emblems set in a geometric field; both lights c. 1915. 1993.038.002
In just one year we have added 11,851 photograph records to our database, bringing us to 60,692 cataloged photographs! With images attached to 73% of these photographs it’s like going through a gigantic photo album. Hopefully, you will find the images you are looking for. I would like to thank volunteers Marvin Spector and Dana Willan who have scanned and cataloged the lion’s share of those new photos.
Volunteer Marvin Spector scans photos faster than we can attach them!
Our 20,459 archival records, however, pose a little bit more of a challenge to researchers looking for immediate (and complete visual) results. That is because our archival records are not digitized. Further, a single catalog record might describe one piece of paper or an entire manuscript collection filled with hundreds of folders filled with information. Don’t despair! Our finding aids can help you narrow down your archival search. Once you’ve identified which records you are interested in looking at in person, you can contact email@example.com or call 410-732-6402 ext.213 and set up a research appointment. Researching at the JMM is free for members and $8/visit for non-members.
Some of our collections are rather extensive! Become a member of the JMM and your research fees are waived.
Q: What if the first step of your research project hasn’t yielded the results you were hoping for?
A: This doesn’t necessarily mean that we don’t have what you are looking for, especially if you are searching for specialized biographical information. While they aren’t in our collections database, we do have birth and death records, cemetery records, ship manifests, genealogies (family trees) and vertical files for many Jewish Marylanders who are not listed in our database.
A researcher works in our library.
The family history resource page of the JMM website has many sources that can help you out. We’ve just updated the links to the spreadsheets, so the information is current. You can also contact our volunteer genealogist at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 410-732-6402 ext.224. Please have patience as it may take up to two weeks for someone to respond to your inquiry (remember, they are volunteers)!
Q: Still having trouble finding what you are looking for?
A: Think about the specific question you are looking to answer. Write it down and read it to yourself. If the question doesn’t make sense when you read it aloud, try to refine the question. Once you’ve formulated your question – or maybe broken down your question into several components—give it a try. You can always send the question to email@example.com or call 410-732-6402 ext.213, but it may take us a while to get back to you.
A blog post by Senior Collections Manager Jobi Zink. To read more posts from Jobi, click here.
Posted on October 11th, 2013 by Rachel
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.
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.
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.
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 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
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 / firstname.lastname@example.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 / email@example.com
- For photograph reproductions, call (410)732-6400 x219 / firstname.lastname@example.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.
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/.
Posted on June 26th, 2012 by Rachel
Hi everyone! My name is Ariella Esterson and I am one of the new Education interns here at the Jewish Museum of Maryland. I am currently finishing my undergraduate degree in History and Secondary Education at Queens College in New York. Since starting my internship a few weeks ago, I have been lucky enough to shadow some tours and help rewrite the docent tour script. While reading through the script and participating in a tour, I have recently noticed the Hebrew inscription that is located on the outside of B’nai Israel.
Looking at this plaque, I was left with many questions. When was it put up and more importantly what did it say? Being able to read and understand Hebrew, I was able to figure out that the first line read “Sh’ar Shel Beit El” with means in English “Gate of the House of God.” This is written to symbolize that this building is a synagogue or Jewish house of worship. After consulting with a book on Hebrew acronyms, I can safely assume that the second line, the “Kuf Kuf” stands for “Kehilla Kedosha” or “Holy Congregation.” The third line was when I started having some issues translating. It seemed to be like a bunch of gibberish, with letters strewn all over the place. It was hard to determine what each letter was, and I realized I needed to do some research. The fourth line I assumed was a date, but until I solved the mystery of the third line, I assumed the fourth line would make no sense.
While scanning the Past Perfect database, I finally stumbled on a picture of this plaque that was accessioned to the museum in 1987 (1987.173.071)
As one can clearly see from this picture, besides for the peeling paint and old feeling to the plaque, the third line is clearly visible. The letters spell out the name of the synagogue “B’nai Israel.” Now that I knew what line 2 said, I played detective and matched up those letters to the plaque that is up now. Taking a pen and outlining the letters that made the words “B’nai Israel,” I found that the leftover letters spelled “Chizuk Amuno,” the old synagogue that used to reside there! What a find!
Although I was able to decipher what the third line said, I was still left with a burning question. Which synagogue name was listed on the plaque first? I hoped that the fourth line would help shed some light on this question. I hoped that this would result in a date of when the plaque went up, which would reveal which synagogue was listed first. Using Gematria, which is assigning a numerical value to Hebrew letters, I was able to see that “Taf” equals 400, “Reish” equals 200, “Lamed” equals 30, and “Vav” equals 6, to make a grand total of 636. To my disappointment, this was not a year that I could use. My eyes then saw the last three letters on the plaque which are “Lamed” “Pey” and “Kuf.” Consulting once again my acronym dictionary, I got the words, “L’Prat Katan,” which in English means “Small details.” What this means is that back in the day when years were written they would leave out a letter (Hey, which in this case would be 5,000) from the beginning of the year, but they would put this acronym at the end to remind the reader to add the original 5,000. When that is added, there is now a grand total of 5,636. When this year is converted to the English year, you are left with 1876, the year Chizuk Amuno was established!
Based on this information, one can safely assume that “Chizuk Amuno” was etched in first on the plaque. When the building was bought by “B’nai Israel,” they covered up the original letters and re-etched the name of their synagogue. During the restoration period in the 1980’s, workers uncovered both synagogue names and decided to keep them both there for all visitors to see the transformation. I can now say mystery solved!