Just days after genealogy company MyHeritage announced that it published a new collection that includes 1.7 million records covering Israeli immigration details from 1919 onwards, many Atlantans checked to find their own, or other family members’ Aliyah, or immigration, records. Some were not successful. However, Peggy Freedman, president of the Jewish Genealogical Society of Georgia, felt she hit a goldmine.
“My great uncle, Israel Yudelson, is a vivid character in my family’s stories,” she said. “He went back and forth between Atlanta and Israel several times. He married a cousin, but the story I heard was that it was to help her escape Europe. There is a story that he smuggled guns during the Israeli War for Independence, but I have no proof.”
Noting that the MyHeritage immigration lists are searchable in English, even though the data is in Hebrew, Freedman found her Uncle Israel. “He arrived in Palestine with his wife, Leah, on Sept. 7, 1939.” Germany had invaded Poland just six days earlier. Unfortunately, her Uncle Israel –who was related to the Saul family, the Levine family, the Sugarman family and the Glass family — died of a heart attack in a New York airport. “I haven’t had time to tell my cousins what I found. I haven’t had time to follow up on this information. I haven’t checked for other family members. But it is exciting.”
Casey Fishman, director of archives at The Breman Museum, is also enthusiastic about the new records offered free by MyHeritage. “Whenever there is an opportunity for individuals to learn more about their family history, it is a wonderful resource for any community. Here at The Breman, we are committed to telling the stories of the Jewish communities (people, places, and institutions) in Georgia and Alabama.”
Fishman continued, “Our archive tells these stories through our vast collection of documents, artifacts, photographs, and oral histories. In addition to these materials, one of the most important ways that people connect to the past is through delving into their family’s genealogical history. Knowing where we come from connects us to history; it creates a thread that weaves from the past to the present. It creates a context for our daily lives – where did we come from, what were the languages, rituals, experiences of our ancestors? How can their lives inform how we live today? At The Breman, we partner with the Jewish Genealogical Society of Georgia to help people answer these questions. The JGSG offers mentoring sessions, by appointment, at the museum for those in Atlanta who wish to learn more about where their families came from.”
MyHeritage compares the Israeli immigration lists to the database created for Ellis Island documents. My Heritage spent more than a year digitizing and indexing thousands of public domain images made available by the Israel State Archives that include records of those who immigrated to Israel via ships and planes from around the world, starting in 1919.
Among the information these lists provide is not only the name of the immigrant, but the names of relatives who immigrated with them, their country of origin, the name of the ship they arrived on, date of arrival, names of parents, names of relatives who were expecting them in Israel and their city of destination in Israel.
Although the original Israeli immigration lists are in Hebrew, knowledge of the language isn’t required to access the MyHeritage lists. And they are accessible not just for experts, but anyone looking for details by searching by names and dates. People do not have to subscribe to MyHeritage.
Attempts to reach MyHeritage directly were unsuccessful; however, the Times of Israel reported that the genealogy company’s director of public relations, Sarah Vanunu, said offering such records for free is nothing new. “We see it as part of our mission to connect people with their family history through important historical records and amazing collections, and a gift to the community.”
Freedman offers the help of the Jewish Genealogical Society of Georgia to anyone who needs help accessing the lists. For more information about the Jewish Genealogical Society of Georgia, email JewishGenealogy@jgsg.org.