Tuesday, August 03, 2010
Information collected in censuses instigated by the great 19th century philanthropist and traveller, Sir Moses Montefiore, about Jews living in Palestine, Lebanon and Egypt (Alexandria), is being made public for the first time. The data will be of interest to descendants and to historians and geneaologists. Traditionally Jews avoided the Ottoman census, but these are estimated to be 99 percent accurate. (With thanks: bh)
The Montefiore Endowment announces the launching of the online Beta website of the 19th Century Montefiore Censuses of the Jewish Population of Eretz Israel, Alexandria, Beirut and Sidon (Saida).
The details recorded include personal and family particulars, occupations and countries of origin, The censuses are unusually comprehensive as it is estimated that fewer than 1% of the Jewish inhabitants of Eretz Israel refused to participate because of religious scruples. Some others may not be included for personal or political reasons.
The manuscripts belong to the Montefiore Endowment and are held in its library in London, where they can be seen by appointment. They are written in Hebrew, in a variety of scripts. Many of the pages are difficult to read and, lacking any index, the tracing of individuals is time-consuming.
In 1998 the Montefiore Endowment commissioned the Israel Genealogical Society to transcribe the censuses into a modern Hebrew font, transliterate the names, and translate the data into English. This immense labour is being undertaken by teams of dedicated volunteers; and the censuses are now in the process of being published on-line for the first time, together with a search engine in Hebrew and in English to facilitate the finding of individual names and families.
Extended families are linked together, and there is a link to the digitized manuscript page.
In all, there are 5 censuses of Eretz Israel (including Beirut and Sidon), and one of Alexandria. At present, the census of 1839, 1840 (Alexandria)
and 1855 are on line.