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Reprinted withpermissionfrom A Guide to Jewish Genealogical Research in Israel - 1994
Montefiore Database Project by the Israel Genealogical Society- description and search engine.
The following article is reprinted here withpermission from A Guide to Jewish Genealogical Research in Israel - 1994
Jews began to return to Palestine in increasing numbers during the 19th century, thus laying the foundations for modern day Israel. Some Jews had lived in Palestine for centuries, but poverty, natural disasters such as earthquakes and disease, and the Turkish oppression of the late 19th and early 20th centuries caused many Jews to reverse the tide and flee Palestine in the same way that Jews were fleeing eastern Europe and czarist Russia. Whether one is seeking information on relatives who went to Palestine during the 19th century or on those who left, the fact is that there is very little usable genealogical information available.
Civil records of this period are virtually inaccessible to anyone except a handful of scholars who can read the Ottoman Turkish script of that period. Perhaps the only practical source of data is the Montefiore censuses. Between 1839 and 1875, five censuses of the Jews of the Land of Israel were taken at the request of Sir Moses Montefiore, perhaps the most famous of all British Jewish philanthropists and scion of an illustrious Sephardic Jewish family. The censuses were conducted in 1839, 1849, 1855, 1866 and 1875. In addition, a census of the Sephardim of Alexandria, Egypt, was taken in 1840.
The censuses were commissioned by Montefiore when he was approached to give philanthropic assistance to the destitute Jewish population. He first visited Palestine in 1827, at which time there were between 500 and 600 poverty stricken Jews living in Jerusalem. The census documents originally were in the possession of Sir Moses, but later they became the property of Jews College, London, where they can be viewed today. The Hebrew University Library in Jerusalem has a microfilm copy of most, but not all, of the records; the condition of some sections is too poor to permit microfilming. The microfilms may be purchased from the Hebrew University for about $120 once permission has been obtained from the custodian of the records at Jews College, Albert Road, London NW4 2SJ, England.
In 1987, the first census of 1839 was published in book form by Hebrew University's Dinur Center. According to this source, 6,408 Jewish men, women and children resided in Palestine at this timefewer than the 9,000 Jews reported by the British consul at the same time.
Beside the Ashkenazic and Sephardic communities in Safed, Tiberias, Shechem (Nablus), Jerusalem, Chevron (Hebron), Jaffa, Haifa, Acco (Acre) and Sidon, later lists also gave the names of the members of various kollels. The term kollel, meaning embracing all in early settlements in Israel, applied to groups of Ashkenazic Jews who all came from the same country or district. Its members received from their home town or area funds collected for their support by shlichim, or emissaries. Most of the Jews of Palestine, at this time, lived in the cities as scholars and spent their days in prayer and study; they depended almost entirely on charity for support.
The census records are in Hebrew; most, although not all, are legible and a pleasure to read. They consist of lists of males' names, ages, places of origin, years of arrival in Palestine, occupations, economic conditions, family status and number (often names and ages) of children. Similar widow and orphan lists, together with listings of the religious institutions (schools, synagogues, study houses, etc.), also were compiled. Records often are grouped by kollel. Information was submitted by the Jewish officials of the various communities. Later, the pages were bound together along with lists of funds distributed to each kollel. Letters of acknowledgement and appreciation often were attached to the lists.
Unfortunately, surnames usually are not included, and there may be a number of male members of a kollel with the same given name; some indicate patronymics (i.e., ben So and So). Occasionally, ancestral references are noted, e.g., the 1875 Safed Kollel Warsaw lists Reb Yonah, grandson of the Gaon from London. This is a reference to the famous Solomon Herschell (17621842) for whose will Sir Moses Montefiore was one of the three executors. The grandson was Jonah Berliner, and, according to the census, he was born in Warsaw in 1831. He came to Palestine with his father, Rabbi David Tebele Berliner, in 1840 according to the census, or in 1838 as noted in published book sources. The Jerusalem Kollel Warsaw of 1875 lists a Menachem Nata, grandson of the Rabbi here. Among the 1875 list of widows of the Jerusalem Kollel Perushim from Rassein (Raseiniai) are listed the widow of Joseph Saul Landau, grandson of the Rabbi and Gaon, Chief Rabbi of London, Solomon of blessed memory, who is the same Solomon Herschell mentioned above; the widow of Rabbi Eliezer, grandson of Our master, the Gaon of Vilna, who had the surname of Landau
Another lesson one can learn is the evolution of a given family surname. New Yorkers may be familiar with the kosher symbol of the triangle K under the supervision of Rabbi J. Howard Ralbag. His great grandfather was Moses Eliezer Dan from Jerusalem, mentioned prominently in the Jerusalem Censuses of 1855 and 1875. Here he is noted as being Ben HaRaLBaG, i.e., son of the man named Ra(=Rabbi) L(=Leib) Ba(=son of) G(=Gabriel). This appellation is corroborated by a letter he signed that was printed in an 1886 edition of the newspaper, HaMagid.
The use of acronyms presents a problem, but if one knows the given name one is looking for, then the puzzle pieces often fall into place. An example is the Salomon family whose most famous member was Joel Moses Salomon (18381912), a founder of the Israeli town of Petah Tikvah and also founder of the first settlement outside the walls of Jerusalem. The 1855 Ashkenazim Perushim Kollel in Jerusalem lists him as 16 years old, the son of Mordecai and his wife, Channah. The father, born in the holy city of Safed 44 years earlier, was outside the country raising funds for the kollel at the time of the census.
Mordecai was the son of HaRASHaZ = HaRav (the Rabbi) Abraham Shlomo Zalman, from whom the surname Salomon derives. Knowing this acronym, we find his name where his wife, Hesia, is listed with the kollel widows of 1855. She had come from Keidaniai in 1812 and was 70 years old. Since the family was already in Palestine by 1812, we can find them listed in the 1839 census for the same kollel. It states that, in 1811, Abraham Solomon Zalman came from Keidaniai, suggesting that he arrived before his wife did. At that time, he was 50 years old, owned 100 adumim of land and had two children, Isaac, age 14, and Miriam, age 9. Thus, by referring to the different censuses, it is possible to construct family trees. Most importantly, the given names of the wives are invariably stated, a fact often missing from encyclopedias and other books.
Since community leaders and rabbis, kollel secretaries and treasurers, etc., often certified the authenticity of the information supplied, an added bonus in the study of these records is the inclusion of signatures and official seals of these personalities. I found the signature of the Chief Rabbi Samuel Heller of Safed, who survived the devastating earthquake of 1837 although he was buried up to his neck in debris in the famed synagogue of the Ari HaKodesh in Safed. Heller lost his wife and children in the quake, and his own wounds were so severe that he was bedridden for six months and lost the use of one arm for the rest of his life. Another signature of interest, together with his seal, dated Jerusalem, 1875, is that of Meir Anikster (i.e., from Anikst), grandfather of Asher Leib Brisk. Brisk is the author of Chelkat Mechokek, a book on the tombstones on the Mount of Olives.
Other interesting bits of history may be gleaned. For example, there is a short reference to a Rabbi Isser Yudel (Yehuda) in the book on the scholars of Brest Litovsk, IR Tehila (City of Praise), by A.L. Feinstein (published in 1886), which states that he went at the end of his days to the Holy Land where he died. The 1875 census in Jerusalem of the Grodno Kollel lists Isser Yudel at the top of the page and provides details of these events. He had come three years earlier and was now 65 years old. He possessed 105 Russian rubles, studied the Torah and was married to Miriam. Oddly enough, however, his published works, which give details on his family, emphatically state that he was married only once and that his wife, who now lies buried next to him on the Mount of Olives, was called Esther Rivke.
The microfilms are reproduced on three reels, numbered chronologically in this article as reels one, two and three. The various documents are recorded by manuscript numbers at Jews College, and these are listed here in bold print.
Starts with letter dated January 3, 1977, addressed to London about the poor condition of manuscripts #414 and 528
414 Long section on Hebrew grammar; letter by Rav Meir Moses HaKohen (Marcus) Sacks of Neulengbach, Austria.
528 1839: A few miscellaneous letters
An Index of pages and contents which is described below:
16 Portuguese Congregation (Sephardic)Safed.
814 German Congregation (Ashkenazim)Safed.
16 Congregation at Djermek.
18 Congregation at Shefaram.
2026 Portuguese CongregationTiberias.
2632 German CongregationTiberias.
34 CongregationNablus (Shekhem).
3652 Portuguese CongregationJerusalem.
5257 German CongregationJerusalem.
5862 Portuguese CongregationHebron.
6264 German CongregationHebron.
6467 CongregationJaffa.
68 German CongregationHaifa.
6972 Portuguese CongregationHaifa.
7479 CongregationAcre.
8086 CongregationZidon.
8790 Lists of Portuguese & German Congregations in Jerusalem and a letter from Mr. Amsley received in London After the distribution of the money took place.
After this index are miscellaneous pages before the actual correct pages are found according to the index. Some pages are repeated.
Lists of receipts from kollelim: Samut (Zamosc), Reussen (Rassein), Minsk, Huradna (Grodno), Warsaw, Subalk (Suwalki), Hungary, Holland Deutschland, Volhyn Chassidim, Warsaw Chassidim, Austria Chassidim and Hungary Chassidim.
Letters from London dated 5634, 1884 and 1874.
Lists of community representatives.
Index and page numbers repeated.

535 1866 Jerusalem Sephardim.
536 1866 Tiberias Sephardim.1875 Tiberias Sephardim.
537 --all 1866
census Jaffa all Jews (cursive script).
Jerusalem Sephardim. Filmed sideways. Letters to Sir Moses Montefiore from Sephardim.
Jerusalem Morocco Congregation (called Ma'aravim) some filmed sideways.
Jerusalem Ashkenazim Perushim synagogues, schools, charitable institutions, congregations.
Jerusalem Suwalki Kollel 2 pages.
Jerusalem Minsk Kollel.
Jerusalem Volhynia (Chasidei Volhyn).
Jerusalem Perushim (separatists) of Vilna, Zamosc, Rasein, Minsk, Grodno, Warsaw and Suwalki orphans and widows only.
Jerusalem Minsk Kollel (people born in Minsk guberniya), listed alphabetically by first name. Towns such as Minsk, Pinsk, Chaslowitz, Rakow, Uzda, Kletsk, Karlin and Slutsk.
Jerusalem Warsaw Kollel. Towns such as Lvov, Neustadt, Mezerich, Sedlice, Przedborz, Hrubieszow, Chelm, Zamosc, Zelekhow, Grabwoitz and Apt (Opatow).
Jerusalem Volhynia Kollel. Towns such as Berdichev, Jassy, Bucharest, Piotrkow, Nopoli, Belz, Kremenchug, Dynowitz, Krisoliv, Chelmnik, Vaslui and Karlin.
Jerusalem Austria Kollel. Towns such as Brody, Zborow, Sadagura, Vishnitsa, Kitev, Sighet, Rohatyn, Krakow, Komarno, Rzsezow, Lvov and Kalish.
Receipts received by Sir Moses Montefiore.
Letters written by Sir Moses (in Hebrew).
Jerusalem Hungarian Kollel. Towns such as Weitzen, Stropkov, Senta, Pressburg, Prague, Komorvitz, Ihel, Nytra, Nikolsburg and Tulczeve.
Jerusalem Chabad Kollel. Towns such as Vitebsk, Kopust, Shklov and Lubavitch.
Jerusalem Grodno Kollel. Towns such as Grodno, Brisk, Vilkovysk, Brainsk and Bialystok.
Jerusalem Rasein Askenazim Perushim (Separatists) Kollel; Towns such as Shklov, Amsislav, Mohilev, Lutzin and Chaslowitz.
Jerusalem Ashkenazim Perushim Kollel (included members of the Rivlin family).
Jerusalem Vilna Zamosc Kurland Kollel. Towns such as Vilna, Slonim, Passvol, Busk, Volozhin, Derechin, Telz, Krakinova, Druia and Zhetil.
Jerusalem Ashkenazim Perushim (Separatists) institutions.
Jerusalem HOD (i.e., Holland & Germany) Kollel.
Hebron Sephardim.
Hebron Chassidei Chabad.
Shechem Sephardim (maybe all Jews).
Tiberias Sephardim.
Haifa Ashkenazim (minimal).
Tiberias Sephardim (continued).
Tiberias Austria Kollel listed alphabetically by first name.
Tiberias Romania. Tiberias Rasein Kollel.
Tiberias - Volhynia Kollel. Towns such as Warsaw, Stary Konstantin, Karlin and Polonye.
Safed Sephardim.
Safed Austria Kollel. Towns such as Brody, Brzezany, Kalisz, Sniatyn, Lyzhensk and Rohatyn.
Safed Volhynia Austria Kollel.
Sidon Sephardim.
538 1875 Haifa scholars sideways 2 pages. 1875 Haifa Sephardim.
539 1875 Jerusalem HOD Kollel Towns such as Amsterdam, Hamburg, Alsace and Breslau.
540 1875 Jerusalem Sephardim scholars. 1866 Jerusalem Sephardim scholars. 1868 Rules of The Society for Colonization of Palestine.
541 1875 Jerusalem Chabad Kollel (mostly surnames). Towns such as Novogrudok, Slonim, Bobruisk, Mohilev, Shklov, Lubavitch and Kremenchug.
542 1875 Jerusalem Rasein Perushim Kollel. 1875 Jerusalem Ashkenazi leaders.
543 1875 Jerusalem Vilna Kollel.
544 1875 Jerualem Zamosc Kurland Kollel.
545 1875 Hebron Ashkenazim including families, e.g., Rivlin, Smerling, etc.
546 1875 Jerusalem Minsk Kollel.
547 1875 Jerusalem Grodno Kollel.
548 1875 Jerusalem Suwalki Kollel.
549 1875 Jerusalem Ashkenazim Perushim institutions and teachers.
550 1875 Jerusalem Karlin Kollel. 1875 Tiberias Karlin Kollel.

551 1875 Safed Ashkenazim Kollel. Volhynia, Moldova, Walachia, Warsaw. Long alphabetical list (Isaac spelled Aizik). Towns such as Odessa, Berdichev, Bender, Mezbuz, Mezrich, Suwalk, Broshitov, Rodwil, Prusskorov, Borislav, Warsaw, Tykocin, Kamenets, Krakow, Mohilev, Khotin. List of widows. 1875 Shir HaKavod (Hymn of Glory) to Sir Moses. List of widows continued. List of orphans. 1875 Safed Kollel Warsaw List of Chief Rabbis and Leaders.
552 1875 Jerusalem Kollel Warsaw. Mostly alphabetized. List of widows.
553 1875 Jerusalem Kollel Chassidei Volhynia (alphabetized). Towns such as Kremenchug, Berdichev, Belz, Dynowitz, Podolia, Jassy, Chmielnik, Bucharest, Pultichan, Botosan, Kishinev, Chernobyl, Bar. List of widows. Synagogues, including famous Tiferet Israel. Chachamim (scholars) and manhigim (leaders) of Kollel Volhyn.
554 1875 Jerusalem Kollel Austria Galicia (alphabetized surnames). Towns such as Krakow, Lemberg, Brody, Deliatyn, Bilkomin, Chodorov, Chelm, Sokol, Podhajce, Vishnitsa, Chernowitz. List of widows. Synagogues, schools, charitable institutions.
555 1875 Gurgistan (Russian Georgia) name list.
556 1840 Alexandria Sephardim.
557 1875 Jaffa Chief Rabbis and Leaders. Name list of Jews. Orphans and widows.
561 Title page of Chamat Damesek by Mordecai Aaron Ginzberg. 522 Songs of praise to Sir Moses Montefiore.
523 Songs of praise to Sir Moses Montefiore.
524 Family Crest of Sir Moses; prayers & hymns to him.
527 Jerusalem Pinkas of the Chevra Linat HaTzedek, includes an alphabetical list of members by first names, including some surnames, e.g., Horowitz, Luria, Zaks, Katz, Jaffe, Blau and Steinhardt. List of female members.
529 1849 Includes a title page: Statistical Accounts of the Holy Land collected by Sir Moses and Lady Montefiore 5609 a.m. One full page index of contents. Towns such as Beyrout, Zafed, Shefae'am, Pakieen, Tabariya, Nablous, Jerusalem, Hebron, Jaffa and Acre (actual spellings).
531 1855 Jaffa and Ramla Portuguese (Sephardim) & German (Ashkenazim) together. 1855 Jerusalem Ashkenazim Perushim (Separatists) 10 pages of members, 3 pages of widows, 3 pages of orphans. 1855 Jerusalem Volhynia Chassidim Kollel. Towns such as Berdichev, Kamenets, Jassy, Bucharest, Zlatchov, Pinsk, Lvov, Brody and Zinkov. 1855 Jerusalem Warsaw Kollel. Towns such as Satanow, Przedborz, Zamosc, Warsaw, Volkovysk, Lomza, Pinczow and Bilgoraj. 1855 Safed & Tiberias Warsaw Kollel. 1855 Jerusalem Ma'aravim e.g., from Marakesh and Susa. 1855 Jerusalem HOD and Deutschland (Holland and Germany) Kollel. 1855 Mixed Jerusalem and Hebron Chabad Kollel. 1855 Hebron Sephardim. 1855 Jews of Acco and Haifa.
532 1855 Tiberias Sephardim. 1855 Tiberias Volhynia Kollel. 1855 Tiberias Rassein Kollel. 1855 Safed Ashkenazim. 1855 Safed Sephardim. 1855 Safed Volhynia/Austria Kollel. 1855 Peki'im Sephardim. 1855 Jews of Shefar'am and Sidon.
533 1866 Hebron Sephardim.
534 1866 Jerusalem Sephardim widows (unsually long list). 1875 Jerusalem Sephardim and Ma'aravim orphan list.

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