Academic journal article Journal of Multidisciplinary Research

200 Years of Scottish Jewry: A Demographic and Genealogical Profile

Academic journal article Journal of Multidisciplinary Research

200 Years of Scottish Jewry: A Demographic and Genealogical Profile

Article excerpt

Project Description and Aims

The International Institute for Jewish Genealogy in Jerusalem is sponsoring a major project "200 Years of Scottish Jewry - a Demographic and Genealogical Profile."36 The study's aim is to research a definable ethno-religious group at the national level - in this case, the entire Jewish community in Scotland, from its emergence as a formal entity in 1816/17, with the founding of a synagogue in Edinburgh, to the present day. As far we know, no similar genealogical analyses of any other national Jewries exist and thus we hope that the project will encourage further studies of Jewish communities of similar size and age. It also may stimulate genealogical studies of other ethnic, religious, or other groups at the national level.

The study endeavours to examine, systematically and for the first time, various aspects of Scottish Jewry as an immigrant group. These include the following:

1. Identifying Scotland's Jews and locating their provenance, mainly from Central and Eastern Europe.

2. Ascertaining their numbers over time by analysing birth, marriage and death records.

3. Mapping the dispersal patterns of the Jewish immigrants throughout Scotland and the emergence of organised communities in 7 smaller towns and cities. This aspect includes residential shifts within Glasgow and, to a lesser extent, Edinburgh, reflecting progressive socio-economic changes in the two major concentrations of Scottish Jewry.

4- Producing occupational analyses and identifying various communal, religious, business, cultural élites, as they emerge.

5. Generating a "Family Tree of Scottish Jewry'." The published data will permit users to trace family relationships with Scottish Jews and in many cases with relatives who came from abroad. The creation of such a national Jewish family tree will be totally innovative.

The study also took note of a considerable body of Jews passing through Scotland on their way to the United States and other destinations. These Jews, whom we describe as transmigrants, were far more numerous than those settling in Scotland. The processes of their travel to the country and onward passage that we have revealed have also added to our understanding of Scotland's Jews.

There are very specific reasons for our decision to select the Jewish community of Scotland for this genealogical experiment. Scottish Jewry is easy to demarcate and define. Its age, just 200 years old, and size, totaling around 70,000 individuals over these two centuries, make the project feasible. By way of contrast, it would have been impossible to attempt a similar project for the much larger and older Jewish community of England since its numbers, over four and a half centuries, run into millions. The primary records and sources for the project are readily available and the Scottish Jewish Archives Centre in Glasgow (SJAC) houses extensive collections of documents and other materials essential to this study.

More critical from the perspective of a modern genealogical study, almost all the vital records (births, marriages, and deaths) are accessible online for the period under review. In addition, the first national censuses of Scotland in a modern form date, every ten years (or decile), from 1841 on - that is, just 25 years after the inception of the Jewish community in Scotland. The censuses from 1841 to 1911 are now in the public domain and accessible online. The numbers of Jews in Scotland from 1816 to 1841 were small, running from a few score at the beginning (many of whom are known by name) to 323 enumerated in the 1841 census. As we shall show, one can identify the Jews in Scotland from 1841 and 1911 with some confidence. A greater problem exists with identifying Jews in the century after 1911. Fortunately, there are other reliable sources at hand to fill the larger part of the missing data. This allows a reliable reconstruction of evolution of the community over the last hundred years with only small and acceptable margins of error, again enabling new understandings of the evolution of Scottish Jewry. …

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