Database Background


Once upon a time, before so many records became available on-line, there was a girl…who thought she would make the world a better place for researchers by collating Jewish records she found relating to Leeds, Yorkshire. If a marriage or a burial or a census entry or a newspaper article, between 1840 and 1918, referred to Leeds she would collate it into a massive database. Of course, if she had stopped to think of the work involved, she would never have started. The resulting giant tree would become known as the All Leeds Database (ALD): a series of trees within trees of people who formed part of Leeds Jewry. There was a problem, though. No, not the normal troubles of whether or not this Jacob COHEN is the same as that Jacob COHEN, or how to ensure people know about the countless variant spellings of names like RAISMAN. The problem was that Leeds Jews didn’t conveniently just get born, marry, live and quietly die in Leeds. They mingled and meandered – and, in some cases, fairly galloped - their way around the country. They had the audacity to be born in one place, and die somewhere else, and to have fourteen residences in forty years, without a by your leave to the researcher trying to trace them some hundred years later.
It is true, if we are all descended from Adam and Eve, that we are all related: mispoochah. So, when is a tree a tree and when does it become a hedge? Where do you draw the line about attaching one person to another? In a personal tree, one is free to choose where to stop. Some people, for example, might put in-laws on their tree, but then stop. With something like the ALD there is no stopping. The in-law of the in-law of the Joseph LEVY you input a moment ago is in fact the sister’s fiancé’s cousin’s half-brother from a first marriage. Every in-law brings a whole new family - and problems. You know you have probably gone far enough, when you realise the database includes almost as many families who never saw Leeds as those who lived there. It has got a bit out of hand, perhaps, when you realise that the in-law of the West Country Jew you’re reading about was a Manchester rabbi, and that you’ve seen his name on authorisations where the couple he married have some tenuous link to Leeds. You know you’ve “lost it” when you start to wonder: should this rabbi be in the database and if so, how do you note him?
When you get to 30,000 people and you still haven’t finished the 1901 census, or all the marriages after 1910, and you have hardly touched the burials, you start to wonder. When you find yourself making files of Jews from other areas, “just in case” they might link to Leeds later, you probably need help. When you start to think what a good idea it would be if all the databases ever produced by anyone could all be merged by a computer, then you have to consider your sanity. So, be careful and be afraid, very afraid, when you think we are all mispoochah, that you don’t wake up one day and find, that despite your best efforts, you have turned into….me!


Social interactions make a tree not just names and dates. Vying against each other are the mispoochah or amount of information, and the bare facts in a tree. A tree can groan under the weight of its branches when one counts mispoochah, but it is ever interesting. I had written the first part of this article and knew it needed something else. I was pondering on what that was when a chain of events unfolded which I feel beautifully illustrates what I was trying to say.
Elsewhere on this site, you can read an article by John Raisman, about a Bar Mitzvah (click the RAISMAN family link on the right). John contacted me to say he was submitting this after seeing an article about the RAISMAN family, in B-J News 2, by his cousin Theresa Stewart, and a review of his other cousin Geoffrey’s book, in the same edition. Theresa and I were corresponding about something else entirely, at the time, and I mentioned I had been “talking” to her cousin John. She explained that John is actually her second cousin, once removed, being the great-grandson of Moshy RAISMAN, while Geoffrey is her first cousin, as they are both grandchildren of Hoshy RAISMAN, Moshy’s brother. Here it might have ended, but Conrad’s name cropped up, and I asked Theresa if she was related to him, because I am - very vaguely - related to his wife. Conrad, it turns out, is Theresa’s second cousin. His maternal grandmother was Esther BAKER, and one of Esther’s brothers was Israel BAKER, Theresa’s maternal grandfather. Esther & Israel’s older sister, Leah, married Jacob BARNETT and was the great-grandmother of Mervyn BARNETT, husband of our list member Naomi. Conrad is married to Margaret, whose mother was Renie LEVY. Renie’s oldest sister, Nellie, was married to Julius BERNSTEIN and Julius’s mother, Leah, was the half-sister of my grandfather Dick. By my reckoning John, Theresa, Geoffrey, Mervyn, Conrad and I are all mispoochah. I daren’t even start on how I am related to other list members.


MORE   About the Database.
Background on how it all began and how it turned out.

MANHAM   The Manham Family.
Theresa Stewart shares some of her research stories on this fascinating family.

RAISMAN   The Raisman Family.
John Raisman writes about his family history, plus a book review by Naomi Barnett.

LANDA   The Landa Family.
Sherry Landa has written numerous pieces about her own family history research which was the precursor of the Leeds Database .

IMMIGRATION   To Leeds from Lithuania & Latvia.
Angie Elfassi shares a momentous trip.

MORE   On Engagements, Betrothals & Forthcoming Marriage Announcements.
How many announcements in the press, were actually followed up with a marriage? Not as many as you might think according to this article by Sherry Landa.

JOSEPH   Jewish Genealogy in Leeds-from Abroad.
The story of Jonny Joseph's research journey.


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