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  • Civil Registers and other sources on the Jewish population in the province of Groningen - by Engbert Schut

    INFORMATION ON THE JEWISH POPULATION OF THE PROVINCE OF GRONINGEN IN THE FIRST DECENNIA OF THE 19th CENTURY – BY ENGBERT SCHUT

    Introduction

    The information presented here was collected and used for our research on the Jewish population of the province of Groningen in 1812.
    The results of this research were published between 2016 and 2018 in four research papers (see:
    http://bertschut.nl/boekwinkel).
    Our decision on which sources to add to the Akevoth database and which to leave out was guided by two criteria: the information derived from the sources should be of such a nature that it could be displayed with relative ease in a database; and the sources should preferably date from the first two decennia of the 19th century.

    The second criterium is particularly important for the province of Groningen because with few exceptions the registers that were established in 1812 did not include family names.
    Yet, it is still possible to conclude which family names were used in a certain town by using data from alternative registers such as the Inschrijvingsregisters der Bevolking (Civil Registers), the Militieregisters c.q (Militia registers), registers van Weerbare Mannen (Registers of Able-bodied Men) and the Registres Civiques.

    Census

    In 1850 the local authorities were ordered to keep civil registers (bevolkingsboekhouding).

    Even before that municipalities would keep registers of the local population, usually for census purposes. There is much variety between the different municipalities as to what was kept and where. Sometimes, as in the case of BEERTA ("Civil register of the municipality of Beerta, district Winschoten 1814"), BELLINGWOLDE ("Register of the former municipality of Bellingwolde 1815"), DELFZIJL ("Register of heads of family including house numbers and size and structure of families 1815"), OUDE PEKELA ("Civil register 1815 Oude Pekela, with addition of newly born and newly arrived 1815-1821"), VEENDAM ("General register of the municipality of Veendam district Winschoten 1811") and WINSCHOTEN ("Civil register"), these complete registers were not only drawn up, but have also been preserved.
    The structure of these registers varies. Some registered the date that the person settled in the municipality and where he came from, and others did not.
    All registers contain full names (which for ease of use we have divided into first names, patronymics and family names), birth dates (if known, otherwise birth years) and professions.
    Sometimes districts and house numbers were included as well, though the clerks did not always record them. One has to be aware that the divisions into neighborhoods as well as house numbers have often changed over time.
    In Oude Pekela the number of sons and daughters of the head of family was also included. These children did not necessarily live at that address.

    Registres Civiques

    According to the Code Civil (or Code Napoleon) all male residents of a "marie" (municipality), aged 21 years and older and who were state citizens, were entitled to elect members of the municipality, a kind of local council.

    All residents of a locality were required to register. The Register was then sent to the commissioner of the district or arrondissement, after which the so-called Registres Civiques had to be drawn up per arrondissement.

    These registers always included: the full name (which we have split into first name, patronymic and family name for ease of use), the birth date (if known, otherwise the birth year) and domicile.
    For the province of Groningen only the register of the District APPINGEDAM has been preserved.
    It is however possible that, as in Zuidbroek, more of these registers could still be found in municipal archives.

    National Defence

    After the annexation of the Kingdom of Holland by France in 1810, Emperor Napoleon introduced military conscription, and in many localities "registers of able-bodied men" were established. These were healthy adult men who could be drafted for military service. The excerpts presented here are from the "Register of male residents of the municipality of Groningen, aged between 20 and 60, drawn up in 1812 for the establishment of an armed civil battalion".
    The men had to report their first name and family name, their age or birth date, profession, marital status, number of children and any physical disabilities.

    The Imperial Decree of March 14, 1812 ordered the conscription and creation of 88 cohorts of National Guard. Initially this guard was meant as a local force, ordained to defend the borders of the country and maintain public order. However, the constant losses of the Grande Armée during the Russian campaign caused an increasing call on the National Guard to fill the empty slots. The Imperial Decree of April 5, 1813 therefore introduced a reorganization of the Guard. Under the name Garde Nationale Sédentaire cohorts of grenadiers and light infantry were to be established, comprised of men aged between 20 and 40. Of course this demanded new registers. For the province of Groningen only one such a register, for the district of WINSCHOTEN, was preserved. This register included: first names and family names of the men, their date of birth or year, domicile, marital status, the number of children and profession.

    Passports

    In the War of the First Coalition (1795 – 1797) several European powers, the Netherlands among them, fought the revolutionary French. In the course of this war, in 1795, the French armies conquered the Netherlands. This marked the end of the more than 200 years’ existence of the federated Republic of the United Netherlands, in which the separate provinces had been fairly autonomous. The Batavian Republic was proclaimed in 1795. The government was centrally organised. Laws and regulations were drawn up by different ministries, which had to be implemented by the provincial and municipal administrations. This also put an end to the document overload regarding the issue of passports, which until 1795 had been handed to the municipal and provincial administrations. There was no such thing as a uniform ‘Dutch’ passport. For Jewish travellers in particular such documents were important; also after 1795. In the German patchwork of states and regions, merchants and travellers were checked at each border. Due to the many restrictions in the German states and cities with regard to the settling of Jews and carrying out of their trade, an increasingly large number were forced to try their luck elsewhere. Naturally most of them did not have a passport or letter of recommendation. The purpose of the checks was in fact to separate the wheat from the chaff.

    That the standardisation of documents at central level did not directly lead to results, is apparent from a decision made by Groningen city council on 14 February 1795. As the old passes could no longer be used, it was decided to issue them in name of the Provisional Municipality in accordance with a set form. The Municipality’s decision of 15 August 1795 shows more clearly which rules applied for the issue of passports: 1. City hall should keep a register of all passports issued. 2. Therein should be stated to whom the passport was issued, the document’s date of issue, the destination and length of the journey, the names of the witnesses on whose testimony of the traveller’s good conduct the document could safely be issued (see the pictures below). 3. And to prevent fraud, all passports should be numbered. These decisions were apparently still not satisfactory, for on 23 and 27 October 1795 a more extensive Order and instruction for the provision of passports was issued, published in the Groninger Courant no. 86 of 30 October 1795. It would not be until 3 August 1796 that the National Assembly gave notice of a publication about the issue of passports at central level. This did not however mean that this subject had now definitely been settled. Instead of the document confusion of earlier times, a regulation overload now followed. To mention all later decisions about passport issue would take up too much room here, but it is important to know that from 1802 the departmental (provincial) councils were put in charge of issuing travel documents. As far as the conditions for issue were concerned, the rules already formulated in the Order and instruction for the provision of passports, also applied.

    Unfortunately I have not as yet seen a passport issued according to these rules. The best chance of finding such a document is in the judicial archives, as part of a criminal proceedings dossier against an accused.

    To combat fraud with domestic passports, the ministry of Justice and Police introduced the so-called Cards of Safety. These documents were valid for a maximum of one year and were only issued to those in possession of a declaration of good conduct provided by the authorities of their place of residence.

    The structure of the database is self-explanatory. In the name column I have, where known, taken the liberty of adding information in brackets regarding patronymics and family names used later. In the column residence the entry no residence means that the applicant resided in the city of Groningen but had no fixed address. In the column valid for the entry for the trip means that the passport issued was only meant for being able to leave Groningen and was not valid for return.

    Examples: the testimony of good conduct of Jochem Abrahams Kok and Klara Salomons (click to enlarge):
       

    Declarations of identity

    The information in the declarations of identity (akten van bekendheid) presented here can be traced back to the legislation introduced by Napoleon. The annexation of the Kingdom of the Netherlands into the French Empire on 9 June 1810 brought about great changes in the legal sphere. The Code Napoléon or Code Civil, introduced earlier in France on 21 March 1804, came into force from 1 March 1811 in the former Kingdom’s provinces north of the major rivers. One of the subjects in the Napoleonic Code concerned the registration of births, deaths and marriages (First Book, Second Title, articles 34-87). Its third chapter (articles 63-76) is devoted to marriage certificates. One of the conditions for getting married was the submission of a birth certificate to the registrar or failing that a declaration of identity drawn up by the Justice of the peace (vrederechter) in one’s place of birth or place of residence (article 70). In the declaration of identity (article 71) seven witnesses had to give evidence regarding:

    1.      The first names, family name and residence of the bride or groom.

    2.      If possible the same information about his or her father and mother.

    3.      Where possible the place and time of his or her birth.

    4.      The reasons why a certificate could not be shown.

    5.      In conclusion the declaration of identity had to be signed by the witnesses and the Justice of the peace and mention should be made of witnesses who could not write.

    Next the declaration of identity had to be submitted to the Court of First Instance (Rechtbank van de Eerste Aanleg) in the district (arrondissement) where the marriage took place (article 72). After the investigation by the Imperial Attorney (Procureur des Keizers) into the credibility of the witnesses’ statements the court could approve the declaration of identity (the so-called homologation, i.e. acceptance as legally valid) or decline it.

    The restoration of independence in 1813 with the proclamation of the Sovereign Principality of the United Netherlands on 21 November 1813 and the Kingdom of the Netherlands in 1815 did not greatly affect the registry of births, deaths and marriages. The contents of the Code Civil remained largely in force. However an arrangement was made by the Royal Decree of 9 March 1815 (legal provision for the removal of pecuniary objections when conducting marriages of needy people) for future marriage partners who were too poor to pay for the necessary certificates. If they could produce a ‘certificate of inability to pay’ drawn up by local authorities, witnessed by district heads or by at least two credible male adults, they did not have to pay anything. In the Royal Decree of 26 May 1824 nr. 35 the 1815 regulations remained more or less unchanged.

    After having read the previous paragraphs, the structure of this database will be easier to understand. The name of the applicant is in bold. Information on his/her parents follows next. Place names which could not be identified, are given in quotes. These are followed by the names of and further information on the seven witnesses. I have taken the liberty of noting any family relationships between applicant and witness. In the column literacy, an 'n' means that a witness signed the declaration with Latin letters, an 'h' that a witness signed with Hebrew letters and an 'x' that a witness was not able to write. The names are displayed as they appear on the certificate. That is not necessarily the same as in other registry office certificates, i.e. the name of the above-mentioned Mietje Moses Leeuwarden appears on her marriage certificate as Mietje Moses Lowenstijn.

    As far as the location of the certificates is concerned, it has been decided to omit inventory numbers in the column ‘source’, as these are easily found in the relevant archives using the dates.

    Example - the declaration of identity of Martha Lazarus (click to enlarge):
       
    Source: RHC Groninger Archieven, Burgerlijke Stand Delfzijl, 1811 – 1942 (Toegang 1629) inv. nr. 361.)

    Reliability

    It is hard to establish the reliability of the information derived from the sources presented here. We are inclined to doubt their reliability. Probably not all persons in a locality were registered. This is particularly true for the registers that were established for conscription purposes.

    Most likely only a few registered voluntarily. It cannot have escaped notice that these registers made it easy for the authorities to enforce conscription into Napoleon’s armies.
    For researchers the question whether the information provided by the ones who did register is reliable, is perhaps even more important. Here too the answer is likely to be negative. The information concerning family name, marital status, profession and domicile will usually be correct, though one has to bear in mind that alternative spellings of names may have been used. On the other hand, the information on age cannot automatically be relied upon. Those who registered had a vested interest to report either an older or younger age: to avoid conscription. Besides, people often did not know their exact date of birth or age.
    Therefore it is advisable to check the data presented here against other sources and to try and obtain more exact dates of birth.

    The above remarks apply more or less also to the other sources, since these often constituted the basis for the registers regarding military service.

    In conclusion a few remarks concerning the transcription of the data. With the exception of the Registres Civiques and the registers for military service, the transcriptions were derived from the microfilm of the civil registers that were made some time ago by the Mormons. At times these microfilm slips are hard to decipher and therefore mistakes can occur. As for the registers on national defence – the web site of the Groningen Archives lists the indexes of these registers. In some cases we considered it necessary to supplement the data and these supplements were placed in square brackets.
    Additionally, it was not always possible to determine with certainty that a person belonged to the Jewish community of a given locality and in case of doubt a question mark was added.


    Source (Dutch): Engbert Schut

    Review: Ben Noach

    Translated from Dutch: Yossi Beck

    End editing and translation of the paragraphs "Declarations of identity" and "Passports": Sara Kirby-Nieweg & Anthony (Tony) Kirby

    Declarations of identity - Groningen-Winschoten

    Source: RHC Groninger Archieven, Archief van de Rechtbank van Eerste Aanleg Groningen (Tg. 144) (RvEA GNG), 1811 – 1838 inv. nrs. 231 – 305 en RHC Groninger Archieven, Rechtbank van Eerste Aanleg te Winschoten (Tg. 145) (RvEA WST), 1811 – 1838 inv. nrs. 99 – 107.