Tag Archives: American Jewish Historical Society-New England Archives

‘An iron will’

View of a ceiling in the Palazzo Ottolenghi. Courtesy of La Stampa

Immigration case records from the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS) often involve siblings, parents, spouses, children, or other relatives, but in some circumstances people reach out to whomever they can, asking for assistance from anyone they know. Anetta Ottolenghi Cavalieri was from the Piedmonte region of Italy, and had deep family roots there; she had no family or even close friends in the United States. But when Fascism began to make inroads in Italy, she reached out for help to pen pal Bessie Buxton of Peabody, Massachusetts, with whom she had discussed horticulture on and off for several years. Continue reading ‘An iron will’

Effectively stateless

Records of the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society

Josef Izsack’s case in the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS) collection only spans one year, but it highlights an interesting tale spanning a longer period than twelve months. Deported after entering Boston as a stowaway in 1946, Izsack came to the United States again the following year, working as an engineer on  the Norwegian liner S.S. Fernglen. He was denied the ability to come ashore, though, owing to that previous attempt at entering the United States. An old shrapnel wound became infected and Josef Izsack was forced to spend several months at a marine hospital on Ellis Island. Continue reading Effectively stateless

2016: the year in review concluded

At the beginning of 2017, Vita Brevis can boast 1,177,549 page views: while individual readers have surely read multiple articles on a given visit, that million+ reader count is still impressive!

vita_brevis_bannerVita Brevis reached its one-millionth page view on 7 July, some two-and-a-half years after the blog’s launch on 10 January 2014:

“And what do [its contributing authors] write about?

“We write about what interests us, as researchers, as professional genealogists, as editors, as archivists. Sometimes the topic is our own research interests; sometimes we offer tips from our experience as a beginning, an intermediate, or an expert researcher; and sometimes we describe an aspect of our work, here in Boston or elsewhere as part of an NEHGS education program. Continue reading 2016: the year in review concluded

An unexpected discovery

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Children and staff at the Chateau de Mehoncourt near Le Mans (detail).

Recently, the New England Historic Genealogical Society participated in “Free Fun Friday,” a yearly summer event sponsored by the Highland Street Foundation for no-cost admission to cultural venues in Massachusetts.  A couple who attended the event at NEHGS on August 19 sat down at the “Archivist for a Day” table that I was manning with co-workers and asked if they could quickly write some notes before their consultation with Research Services. The husband inquired about my department, the Jewish Heritage Center (JHC) at NEHGS, and mentioned that his family was Jewish and that his uncle had actually been a rabbi. Continue reading An unexpected discovery

ICYMI: Useful databases at AJHS-NEA

[Editor’s note: This post originally appeared in Vita Brevis on 25 April 2014.]

garner-400As the American Jewish Historical Society, New England Archives (AJHS–NEA) has only recently formed a strategic partnership with the New England Historic Genealogical Society (NEHGS), anyone interested in New England Jewish history or genealogy may want to know about several databases and collections that might be specifically useful for genealogical research. They include the following:

The Records of the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, Boston (HIAS). The Boston office of HIAS was chartered in 1904 and operated autonomously from the national office in New York, even after their merger in 1916. Continue reading ICYMI: Useful databases at AJHS-NEA

Crossing Paths: Two Stories of Buchenwald

U.S. Army troops in Germany, 1945. Photograph by Herbert Gorfinkle. From the Papers of Herbert Gorfinkle, P-904 at the American Jewish Historical Society-New England Archives.
U.S. Army troops in Germany, 1945. Photograph by Herbert Gorfinkle. From the Papers of Herbert Gorfinkle, P-904 at the American Jewish Historical Society-New England Archives.

April 11, 2015 is the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Buchenwald concentration camp. In commemoration of this day, the American Jewish Historical Society–New England Archives (AJHS–NEA) is honoring the memory of two men who were present at Buchenwald for the liberation, and whose papers are in our archives.[1]

As an archive with a very specific mission (to collect and preserve the records of the Jewish communities of Greater Boston and New England), AJHS–NEA has many collections that are connected by family relationships. Continue reading Crossing Paths: Two Stories of Buchenwald

The year in review concluded

Newbury Street TodayIn yesterday’s post, I covered some of the more than 250 blog posts published in Vita Brevis during the first half of 2014. The series concludes with a post from each of the last six months of the year.

At the end of July, Katrina Fahy solved a genealogical puzzle using family letters, since the family in question lived in a region with few available nineteenth century vital records: Continue reading The year in review concluded

The year in review

1928 Newbury Street Artist Rendering
99-101 Newbury Street, the New England Historic Genealogical Society’s home since December 1964

As I write this, a few days before the New Year begins, Vita Brevis is nearly a year old; it has had more than 300,000 page views since its first post on 2 January 2014. (This is a statistic I like to trumpet, although of course a single reader on a given day might well look at more than one entry: so I cannot claim 300,000 unique readers over the course of the first year, much as I would like to!) That first post, Generatio longa, vita brevis, hinted at the blog’s purpose: “Vita Brevis will include short posts on research methods – applicable to a variety of genealogical subjects – as well as posts on results. Like a mosaic, these posts will, in time, form a new collection for the genealogical researcher to explore.” Continue reading The year in review

Two hundred posts on Vita Brevis

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An illustration used with Andrew Krea’s transcription of Martha Anne Kuhn’s diary, June-July 2014. R. Stanton Avery Special Collections

This post marks the two-hundredth entry on Vita Brevis since its début on January 10. After ten months and more than 250,000 page views, and with contributions from 52 bloggers (and counting), the blog has established itself as a place to stop in and see how other genealogists work. Not every post is germane to every reader’s interests, but in the main the spirit of inquiry animates each entry, offering guidance about what approaches and resources help us in our research. Continue reading Two hundred posts on Vita Brevis

Hidden treasures in Immigrant Aid Society records

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Click on images to enlarge them. First two images courtesy of NARA; third image courtesy of AJHS-NEA.

While visiting the Massachusetts Historical Society in Boston recently, I took the opportunity to look at their collection titled Charitable Irish Society Records. The Charitable Irish Society was founded in Boston, Massachusetts, in 1737, with the goal of assisting Irish immigrants in need of financial assistance or employment. It is the oldest Irish society in the United States, and is still active today. A number of the projects I work on at NEHGS involve Irish research, so I wanted to take a closer look at these records to learn more about the contents of this collection. Continue reading Hidden treasures in Immigrant Aid Society records