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Montefiore Censuses

This section of the website is dedicated to the memory of Ahda Stein a"h.
Sir Moses Montefiore commissioned five censuses of Eretz Israel Jewish population. The first census (1839) is probably the first head count of the Jewish population in Eretz Israel since biblical time.[1] The censuses were conducted in 1839, 1849, 1855, 1866 and 1875. An additional census was conducted in Alexandria in Egypt in 1840. A standardized form was sent by Sir Moses Montefiore for the collection of the information, but was not used by all the scribes; therefore the amount of information available for every household can differ from town to town and community to community.
The original manuscripts are part of the core collection of the Montefiore Endowment in London, and are bound in several volumes. The project of transcription, transliteration, translation and digitization was undertaken by the Israel Genealogical Society upon agreement with the Montefiore Endowment . The databases will be bilingual (Hebrew and English). The project is primarily based upon the microfiches of the original census, which are available through the Montefiore Endowment . In those instances where the microfiches are illegible, new digital photographs were prepared by the Montefiore Endowment. No relevant information was left out of the database and if after all efforts something is still illegible, the term "illegible" appears in the database. The set of microfiches includes material not found on the microfilms mentioned in Dr. Neil Rosenstein's article.[2] There arethree additionalbooklets that were not included in the microfiches[3] that will be digitalized by the Montefiore Endowment and included in the project.
Every adult and child mentioned in the census, even if listed without a name, is listed individually in the database. In the case of children, the names of the parents, when available, were added to the child's listing. The term orphan is used when the father has passed away but not necessarily the mother. In most instances orphans were listed separately, which can be somewhat misleading as it does not always allow a connection to be found between the orphan and the mother who is listed in a separate list of widows.
The widows are usually listed separately unless she lived with one of her children and is listed as "the mother of". In this situation additional information may be inferred from the children, such as country of origin. There are a few instances where widows are listed as the head of the family unit. In contrast to the widows, the widowers are listed as the head of the family unit and "available" rather than "married". The term "widower" is therefore inferred in the database. In some instances, widower is noted in the census.
Another instance from which information has been interpreted by the builders of the database is the lists of sages and leaders given at the beginning of various kollels [learning communities]. It was strange to find that the sages and leaders were listed at the top of each Kollel in the 1839 census, all males, are listed without any reference to their families andnot anypiece of information was givenabout their families, not even their marital status. In this situation a wife has been added to each sage as they all would have to be above the age of thirty to have this status in the community.
A number of decisions have been made due to the inconsistency of the scribes in filling out the forms. In 1839, they were sent the format of the form and then reproduced it. In later years, they were sent printed forms but in some cases scribes made their own forms.
1. Census pages without specific town mentioned in the upper heading When these pages are bound together with a town or community, we assumed that they deal with same year and same community
2. Pages without specific year mentioned in the heading - When the pages are bound in the same volume we assumed that the year is the same as the rest of the pages in that volume, unless stated otherwise. Only when all the indexes are completed will it be possible to verify if those pages are not doubles or if they belong to a different year.
3. Double dates: 74 pages have two years marked on their title heading. Here we have taken into consideration the comments of Dr. Michal Ben Yaakov[4] where she states that the unused 1866 blank forms were sent out for 1875. The pages with double dates were therefore considered to be part of the 1875 census.
In a comparison of those listed in the Sephardic communities to those listed in the Ashkenazi communities,most of the Sephardim have a surname whileAshkenszaim rarely have one.Depending upon the roots being researched, it may make the search either easier or harder. For this reason, additional fields were added to the IGS database for father's name, mother's name and husband's name instead of including the information in the field of comments. This adaptation of the information will enable the use of a search engine.
There are a number of abbreviations that when listed after the first name, are considered to be family names for the Ashkenazim. For example: Beck ", Katz ", Shatz ". When an abbreviation such as " appears after the first name, it is understood that at one point in his life, the man was a "shochet u'bodek" (Kosher slaughter), and this may not be the family name. In the listings of and for Sephardim it is a family name or part of a family name and the letter heh was dropped, whereas with the Ashkenazim it was considered a title. As the project progresses, lists of acronyms and terms encountered and their translation will be posted on the website.
Some other examples of interpreting the names in the census are:
Various abbreviations were used for names ending with the letters used in the spelling the name of G_d in Hebrew. To facilitate those unfamiliar with this style of spelling in Hebrew, the names were written in full.
A mixture of ways of spelling exists within this census. In addition to the above mentioned abbreviations, there is a mixture of languages and accents, with the possibility of someone from a different ethnic group writing down the information, thereby making additional mistakes. For example the name Yehuda is spelled at least three different ways , , . The Hebrew spelling of personal and family names (except for Sephardic Cohen and Levy as noted above) was kept as the scribe wrote it.

The original form includes the following fields: age, year of Aliyah to the Holy Land, place of birth, kollel, occupation, financial situation, observations.
Age and Year of Aliyah
There was no consistent method used for recording information dealing with number and dates. In some cases the year of arrival was given, and in others the number of years in the Holy Land was listed. In the database, everything was transcribed into the numerical Hebrew year.
Places of Birth
The places of birth specified in the censuses are localities or countries. In the case of a locality, the country has been added, and in the case of a country it has been left as such. While the names of the birth places of the Sephardim have changed very little over the years, those of the Ashkenazim changed many times according to historical events - changes of State affiliation.
Observations and Notes
Observations were added by the scribes in the censuses for several reasons. They usually dealt with the financial status of the family head or with his occupation. When possible the contents of these observations have been moved to the occupations or financial status columns. In some cases, long titles of sages mentioned in the census have been moved from the title column to the observations column.
Notes have been added by the indexer. They usually point out an anomaly such as: a person born in Eretz Israel and is mentioned as having made his Aliya five years earlier.
In addition to the form for the listing of the residents of Eretz Israel, starting with the 1855 census there were separate forms for the listing of synagogues, batei midrash [colleges], schools, charitable institutions and agricultural activities in the vicinity. The format of these additional forms is different from the form for the residents; therefore the information on these forms was not included in this database. The information on these pages will be made available at a later stage.
1839 Montefiore Census Database (completed - see some statistics)
1840 Montefiore Census of Alexandria, Egypt (completed - see some statistics)
1849 Montefiore Census Database (completed)
1855 Montefiore Census Database (completed)
1866 Montefiore Census Database (project started Oct. 2010)
1875 Montefiore Census Database (not yet undertaken)
Project Coordinators: Mathilde A. Tagger, Rose A. Feldman, Billie Stein
Oct. 2010

[1] Hollingsworth, T. H. (1969). Historical Demography.
[2] Rosenstein, N., "The 19th Century Montefiore Censuses," Avotaynu VIII/2 Summer 1992.
[4](article in Peamim no.107, 2006)

A Census of the Jews of Eretz Israel (1839): (MS. MONTEFIORE 528), Jerusalem, The Dinur Center, The Hebrew University (Hebrew).
Ben Yaakov, N. (2003). Maghrebi Jews in Safed in the 19th Century. Ariel, 157-158. pp. 226-234. (Hebrew)
Ben Yaakov, M. (2002). The Immigration from North Africa to Eretz Israel in the 19th Century.
, ., (") -19: , , , ' 289-317.
Ben Yaakov, M. (2006). The Montefiore Censuses and the Research on Jews in the Middle East. Peamim, 107: 117-149.
Fedida, Y. (2004), The 1840 Montefiore Census of the Jews of Alexandria, Egypt. Avotanyu,. XX: 4
Feldman, R.A., (2008). A New Look at the 1839 Montefiore Census of Eretz Israel. Shemot, 16, 2: 13-16.
Hollingsworth, T. H. (1969). Historical Demography. London.
Rosenstein, N., The 19th Century Montefiore Censuses. Avotanyu, VIII, 2: 25-28.

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