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Jews in Hasenpoth / Aizpute 1834

Developed and Donated by the Courland Research Group

This database contains over 1,000 names of Jews lawfully entitled to reside in Hasenpoth (now Aizpute, Latvia) taken from the material microfilmed in the Riga Archives in 1941.

Background and Statistics

This database consists of over 1,000 Jewish males living in Hasenpoth in 1834 (now Aizpute, in Latvia).  Jewish males of all ages are listed, including a four-day old infant not yet given his name.  The names of women or female children were not recorded.  A house number is given, making it possible to see how many people lived together in a household and to make reasonable inferences about family relationships.  This is the earliest list in the JewishGen Latvia Database, and it represents the first fruits of the Courland Research Group's Herder/LDS microfilm project.

The History of the Microfilms

In 1940/41, the Baltic Germans began a programme of microfilming parts of the Riga archives, prior to the repatriation of the German ruling caste to Germany.  In addition, they took some original archive material with them as they withdrew.  These microfilms eventually came to be lodged at the Herder Institute in Marburg, Germany, where they remain today.

In 1986, the Church of the Latter-day Saints, the Mormons, successfully negotiated with the Herder Institute to make a copy of these microfilms.  Consequently the microfilms are available on order through the global network of LDS Family History Centres.  To date, Latvia has refused access to the LDS for microfilming, with the effect that the Herder/LDS microfilms are the only available microfilm source for those seeking to carry out research from primary sources.

The Formation of the Courland Research Group

In early 1999, three active members of JewishGen: Dr. Paul Berkay [USA], Dr. Martha Levinson Lev-Zion [Israel] and Dr. Abraham Lenhoff [USA] became convinced that these microfilms were more important to the study of Courland Jewry than had previously been appreciated.  Together they formed the nucleus of the Courland Research Group, with a view to raising the to buy a set of the Herder microfilms.  The goal was to create a database of Courland Jewish records using the Herder microfilms.

It was known that seven of the 127 Herder microfilm rolls had material of Jewish interest.  To see an Inventory of these rolls click here.  The difficulty was justifying the purchase of the whole set with a view to seeing whether there was additional material, previously unidentified, relevant to the study of Jewish family history.  Following considerable debate as to the value of the exercise, the Courland Research Group Steering Committee raised the funds and following a year of negotiation, a set of microfilms from the Herder Institute was delivered to Dr. Berkay in California.

On receipt, he set to work on an the initial inventory of all 127 rolls, carrying out an image by image search to identify all pages of Jewish interest.  What has emerged is a genealogical treasure chest, full of puzzles and conundrums but containing extensive original records relating to early Jewish families living in Courland and surrounding areas.

To date, the Courland Group has completed an inventory of approximately 50 of the 127 films.  Over 1,000 previously unrecorded pages of Jewish material have been identified.  In addition, the Courland Group has made a commitment to the LDS to create a usable name index to the Jewish families recorded in these documents.

What makes the microfilms difficult?

The microfilms are beautiful but difficult.  The microfilming exercise was clearly carried by the Baltic Germans in considerable haste.  The pages are microfilmed out of order, and as often as not upside down or backwards.  Frequently left-hand pages are filmed but not the right hand pages, or the left and right hand side of the pages are located on different rolls of film.  It is rare for there to be a full run of pages relating to a single list.  Having said this, once the ordering is understood, there are many lists where the handwriting is reasonably clear and readable and where it should be possible, with the help of volunteers, to create the index of names and the database of family entries.

The task that the Courland Group has set itself is:

  • To create a complete and comprehensive inventory of the whole of the Herder/LDS films relating to Courland;
  • To reconstruct the documents by grouping the various lists together and reuniting the parts with a view to making complete lists available where possible;
  • To establish whether it is possible to track down some of the missing material either from the archives in Riga or from the many other archive repositories where material previously held in the Riga archives was dispersed during the course of the war and the Soviet occupation;
  • To create a Jewish name and image index in respect of all films so that the films will be more easily accessible to ordinary researchers;
  • To promote and take part in ongoing research projects relating to the history of the Jewish Communities of Courland.

The Hasenpoth List - What kind of List is it?

The Baltic Germans labeled this list as an Oklad or tax list, and this name has been adopted by the LDS in its inventory.  Further research suggests that the list is not, in fact, a true Oklad or tax list for the following reasons:

  • The 1834 Hasenpoth list is broadly alphabetical.  Tax or Oklad lists were drawn up by family number and were not alphabetical.
  • The 1834 Hasenpoth list is not cross-referenced to any other list such as Oklad or Revision Lists.  Oklad lists almost always contain cross-referencing to the most recent Revision List or the last Oklad list number assigned to the family.
  • The list is unique in that it is one of the very few lists that contains house numbers.  Oklad lists do not contain house numbers.

In genealogy it is important to differentiate between what we actually know and what we assume to be the case.  Adopting fixed positions too early on can block research that eventually leads to a more complex and richer knowledge of the Jewish communities of the past.

We do know that in time the ability to prove that a family's roots in Courland predated 1835 became important.  By an Ukase [law], Jews who were enumerated in the census of that year or earlier were granted full rights of residence in the Province of Courland.  Those who came after that date remained on sufferance and from time to time there were calls for expulsion.  Being able to produce evidence of the legal right to reside was important and it is one of the many reasons why Jews were unwilling to give up their registrations in towns or areas of origin.

Using the list of Hasenpoth Jews: The Entry Fields explained

Courland had become part of the Russian Empire in 1795, but the list is in handwritten German fraktur script rather than Cyrillic.  This is because the language of culture and administration remained German as it had been for some 500 years since the conquest of the area by the German Teutonic knights.

  • Surname -
    The spelling used in the original list is retained even if this means the spelling of the surname is not always consistent.

  • Given Name(s) -
    This entry sets out the given name/s recorded in the list.

  • Father's name -
    This list is drawn up as a German document but it is also a document that co-exists in a Russian world. Russian lists contain the patronymic of the individual which can be identified because of its characteristic grammatical marker, either the endings "-ovich" or "-ov". German has no such markers but it is highly likely that the last of the names given is the name of the Father of the individual listed. For example, take the examples for the Palem family from the list where they are entries 761-765:

    761    Palem, Mendel Lewy      Age 58
    762    Palem, Marcus Mendel    Age 21
    763    Palem, Juddel Mendel    Age 19
    764    Palem, Borchard Mendel  Age 15
    765    Palem, David Mendel     Age 7
    

    The reasonable inference to be drawn is that Mendel Palem is the father of Marcus, Juddel, Borchard and David. The use of the name Mendel in respect of the sons functions as a patronymic and would have been understood as such by contemporaries. Similarly, the likely name of Mendel's father is Lewy (Levi).

  • Age in 1834 -
    This gives the age of the entrant in 1834 when the list was originally created. It is a remarkable feature of this list that the ages are given with such precision. Many children's ages are given in fractions such as Abraham Schwartz aged 1, Lieb Behr Schnitte, aged . The age of adult entrants is generally given as a whole number but occasionally fractions are recorded as in the case of Salomon Hirsch Trembe aged 64. In the case of the infant with no name this is because he was only four days old and had not yet had his bris. No bris, no name.

  • House Number -
    There was no convention of using street names in 1834. The buildings in the town were given numbers and these numbers are given in the database. The Courland Group hopes that further research will establish the location of these houses. The number of persons in a given dwelling is high. We anticipate that once the raw data is extracted for family history purposes it will also serve as the basis of research on social, economic and family life of the Jews of Courland.

  • Comments -
    Limited comments are made usually about legibility or alternative spellings.

  • Page and Roll Number -
    This list can be found on LDS microfilm roll 1344282. This roll of microfilm has lists from both Hasenpoth and Bausk. The Hasenpoth list is number 15 and the page numbers are set out. "v" stands for "verso" or the left hand side of the page and "r" stands for "recto" or the right hand side of the page. It can take a little searching to find the correct page number on the roll, although in the case of the Hasenpoth list the fact that the list is alphabetical is of assistance.

    LDS Roll Number 1344282:
    15) Hasenpoth Hebräer Oklad 1833-1834, 320-942v, 927-1395r, 1318-1388v
    41) Bauske Hebräer Oklad 1811-1812, 267-101r
    43) Bauske Hebräer 1834, 192-46v, 192-380v
    15) Hasenpoth Hebräer Oklad 1833-1834, 927-771r, 950-1382v, 310-4v
    41) Bauske Hebräer Oklad 1811-1812, 1-95r, 269-281r, 278-2v
    43) Bauske Hebräer 1834, 157-353r, 1-157r
    42) Bauske Hebräer 1827-1834, 359-573r, 355-113r, 44-4r
    49) Bauske Hebräer 1811-1812, 1-157r
    43) Bauske Hebräer 1834, 382-432v, 431-355r
    42) Bauske Hebräer 1827-1834, 109-1r
    49) Bauske Hebräer 1811-1812, 18-156v

  • Baltic German Number -
    This is the camera reference to the Baltic German microfilm numbering, and can be ignored at this stage.

  • List Type -
    We have retained the classification of Oklad list on the basis that this is the way the roll is described although the reasons why this is unlikely are set out above.

What can this database tell me about my family history?

  • This list begins to take families back to the very earliest period of surnames.

  • There are sometimes 3 generations of a family represented as alive at the same time.

  • As well as direct ancestors, there are also likely to be collateral lines given. You can spot these because the surname is the same but the father's name is different.

  • The list takes families back to the 18th century. In the example of the Palem family set out above, Mendel Lewy Palem is aged 58 at the time that the list was made. This means he would have been born in or about 1775 and it is likely that his father Lewy can be dated some 20-25 years before that. This effectively traces the Palem family back to about 1750.

Helping Jewish Families to find roots

  • It has been possible to test the list of Hasenpoth/Aizpute Jews against the families searching through the JewishGen Family Finder. Twelve Families are listed searching 17 different names. Nine of the families will find there is information relevant to the name they seek or that there i s a close spelling match on the Soundex. That is to say nearly 75% may find help in their search for family roots. Of the 17 Aizpute surnames that are listed 14 [some 82%] have matches in the Aizpute 1834 list and in the database generally. In some cases the information takes the family tree back to 1775 and even earlier.

  • Although Jewish families suffered dislocation for many reasons including large scale emigration another picture also emerges which is the remarkable stability and vitality of Jewish family life and institutions in Courland towns where many families can be traced for over 250 years in the same ancestral town.

Acknowledgements:

The Courland Research Group thanks Dr. Peter Wörster of the Herder Institute, Marburg Germany for his advice and assistance. Dr. Wörster is the author of a number of books and articles on the Herder Films including Die Kurlandischen Seelenlisten 1798-1834, Marburg 1997 [co-authored with the late Arthur Hoheisel]. The extraction and databasing of the Hasenpoth list was undertaken by Martha Lev Zion and Abraham Lenhoff. Paul Berkay continues with the task of inventorying all rolls. Further assistance was given by Stanislav Gorbulev. The Courland Research group expresses its gratitude to Michael Tobias our WebMaster and to Warren Blatt for additional web work.

Sponsorship and Volunteering

Working with the Herder/LDS films is an opportunity to look at the very earliest available documents relating to the Jewish communities of Courland. There are Revision Lists, Census Lists, Oklad/tax lists. Most of these are in German form and a handful are in Hebrew/Yiddish. The core information of Surnames, given names and family relationships is reasonably accessible with a little practice and perseverance. You do not have to speak German and no particular background or experience is necessary. You will be given backup and support. This project is an opportunity to make a lasting contribution to the Jewish history of Latvia. Please contact Constance Whippman, the Database Co-ordinator if you would like to be involved.

In addition to volunteers, the project needs, and we believe deserves, ongoing financial support. To make a donation, whether large or small contact Martha Lev Zion, the treasurer of the Courland Research Group.

Constance Whippman, Database Co-ordinator
Copyright ©2000, Courland Research Steering Committee
Last Updated: July 2, 2000   WSB

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