Creating a resource for collaborative research
on the history of the Jewish community
in what is today Lyakhovichi, Belarus    


Shtetl Links: Lyakhovichi


Home Contact

Key Pages
Terms of Use
Copyright Info


Contact Us!

Belarus SIG


This site is created as a way to further research and publication of materials on the history of Lyakhovichi.If you have been aided in your research and wish to contribute materials and resources to further our knowledge, contact Gary Palgon and ask how you can help.

This site is hosted at no cost by JewishGen, Inc., the Home of Jewish Genealogy. If you have been aided in your research by this site and wish to further our mission of preserving our history for future generations, your JewishGen-erosity is greatly appreciated.

Death Certificates as Documentation for Lyakhovichi History
and the Tina Levine Volunteer Project for NYC Death Certificates

by Deborah G. Glassman,
copyright 2007, 2008, 2009

This is a page in our Documents section. Click the button labeled "Documents" in the left-hand column to reach all of the other resources of the Document area. It is also a part of the Current Projects listed in the Welcome section, so you may also click that button to read about other current collaborative projects on which we are working.

Death Certificates are such an individual-centered record that a resource for community history, such as this Lyakhovichi website, has to make a case for seeking them out. Why should you look for them for family members other than your direct ancestors? Why should we invest the time and space resources of this website on your findings? Why should we do large-scale searches to add them to the databases created on this site?

I began seeking those answers in the aggregated listing of around 600 burials in Lechovicher plots in New York city. As I created a list of information gathered from the death certificate index created by the hard-working volunteers of the Italian Genealogy group of New York City in partnership with other societies trying to create full access to NYC records, (find the index at New York City Death Index) it rapidly became apparent that this was a tool too long neglected.

The index alone gave a new perspective on the early settlement of Lechovitchers in the New York area. How many of these burials, between the 1880s and the 1920s, were children? I could not tell by looking at names on a cemetery register but now we know the specific ages of all children and the claimed ages of all adults who were buried in Lechovitecher plots (less the few percent that could not be found in the indices). It shows us that before the 1920s the majority of burials were children ranging in age from hours through their tenth year. How fixed were our surnames at this time? Creative investigation allowed us to find a number of those recorded in the burial lists that had their official record of death in NYC under variant spellings, different surnames, and "translated" first names. How religiously observant was the community? Using the single datum in these records that might be relevant, speed of burial after death, we might make judgements from the fact that, almost without exception, burials were on the day of or the day after death from the 1880s through the 1920s. Further investigation would show if the exceptions fell on holidays where burial was not possible. Remember the distortion that is inherent in the fact that all of these people purchased burial plots from a landsmanschaft organization with strong ties to the custom and culture of Lyakhovichi: this is not yet a list of all of those who came from Lyakhovichi to the US.How accurate were the ages reported for adults? There is a strong divergence in the reported ages of adults on their death certificates from the ages given to the cemetery company or reported on tombstones. The age on the official government record is almost invariably younger than that given the private quasi-religious organization. This may reflect that ages that were reduced to gain entry to the United States and fear of legal consequence may have impeded honest communication subsequently. How is an index of death certificates different from a death certificate and is there additional value in seeking out the actual certificate? The index tells us who died, on what date and at what reported age. It tells us the county in which the death certificate was filed and gives the certificate number of the death certificate so that we can examine the original record filed in that county. It gives the spelling of the surname and first name as the informant gave it. The actual death certificate after a certain time period tells us a great deal more. The names of the deceased's parents, the date and place of birth, the cause of death, the name of the informant, address of the deceased, burial place, et al. All of this information, with exception of cause of death given by a physician, will have been provided by an informant whose knowledge ranks up and down the scale. But even allowing for mistakes and missing information, collecting this valuable data on more than a thousand people born in Lyakhovichi, can't help but inform us.

If we learned the parents' first names of every adult who emigrated from Lyakhovichi; if we knew the maiden names of all women who emigrated from Lyakhovichi; if we could uncover the maiden names of the mothers of all those who emigrated from Lyakhovichi - we would have a tool for investigating family relationships in Lyakhovichi like no other.

The Death Certificate Project known as the Tina Levine Death Certificate Volunteer Project

We began this project by ordering chronologically those buried in Lechovitcher plots in NYC. We identified the death certificate numbers for each of them listed in the NYC death index created by Covering the period of 1893 to 1933, we then extracted the record of everyone of the deceased for which a certificate number could be identified. That is the database that you can see at Death Certificate Database. When the chronological list was posted on our site in January 2008, we did not yet have a single death certificate for anyone on the list. Since then, individuals have used that list to acquire the records related to their family members and sent copies to this collaborative effort. Others have utilized other resources and found death certificates of Lechovichers who died in other jurisdictions around the world and we have added those finds to the database as well. Tina Levine of NYC single-handedly undertook to extract the records for every person who was buried in the NYC area Lechovicher plots between 1893 and 1933. The database constructed from that information was a collaboration between myself and Tina but I can't tell you enough how this project resounds to her credit. Still Tina remains a most modest and unassuming person and she would be happy to share the spotlight if you are inspired to seek out an equally valuable collection of Lechovicher data in other jurisdictions. The Death Certificate Project also ties in with our collection efforts for images of matsevas, that is cemetery stones (across twenty pages of our site starting on Cemetery Stones, and of Obituaries Lyakhovichi Emigrants - Obituaries and Remembrances as Documentation for Lyakhovichi History .) So far that provides to us with these main sources of Remembrance Data being collected: Death Certificates, (a formal record of death mandated by a government jurisdiction); Cemetery Records (including both the cemetery stones and the cemetery registers); and Obituaries (including in this category all remembrances reported in publications including death notices, obituaries, yahrtzeit memorials, unveilings, and other periodical-sourced reports). I challenge someone to find us enough Synagogue Memorial Plaques to be worthy of a whole new page on this website. Make it your mission! Make the difference that Tina Levine has made to our shared knowledge.

July, 2009 Tina Levine has continued her amazing efforts. She added for this update all of the death certificates from the New York Lechovicher Society Graves between 1933-1948!
November 2009 We have expanded the marriage fact extraction based on the expansion of the data base from one ending in 1933 to one ending in 1943.

1.    We can create a new resource of names of Lyakhovichi emigrants, their residences at death, their personal vital information, the names of their parents, and the names of a surviving informant.
2.    We can create a collection large enough to provide new insights from the data sampled.
3.    We can learn about relationships among Lyakhovichi families using the data provided on spouse's maiden name, mother's maiden name, parents' first names, informant's name and relationship.
4.    We can learn about the young children of the emigrant generation who died too early to leave many records
5.    We can identify siblings of adult emigrants whose family information can take us down new paths.
6.    By not limiting the death certificates to those who settled in NYC, but including those in Philadelphia, Detroit, Chicago, Cleveland, et al, we can create the beginnings of a very inclusive picture of the emigrant generation and their parents and siblings who never came to the United States.
7.     By not limiting the death certificates to those who settled in the United States, but including those who settled in the United Kingdom, South Africa, Cuba, Canada, et al, we can tie together those families who might be entering their twelfth decade of separation.

1.    Each person who is researching ancestors who lived in Lyakhovichi, goes back through their collected notes and sends us a copy of any death certificate located in the search for a person who emigrated from Lyakhovichi. We want the information for the entire emigrating generation, those born in Lyakhovichi who died somewhere else.
2.    The webmaster will begin extracting the information for entry to a database and where the information is not an infringement on privacy of living people, post older death certificates as deemed appropriate. The webmaster will err on the side of overprotectiveness for the reputation of the deceased and the comfort of their family.
3.    You expand the breadth of your coverage to include searches in your local jurisdictions for the aunts, uncles, cousins, of your Lyakhovichi ancestor, who are also likely to have been from Lyakhovichi. You enrich your own family history with the kinds of documents that create visual and informational substance for your family record and you share your findings with us so that we can network the information more effectively. Your finding of a grandmother's maiden name will undoubtedly produce many more leads for you, but someone else's discovery of their grandfather's sister may generate equally good results. This is the kind of project for which collaborative research was designed.




Important Notes about This Page

All names on this page were included in Surname Index Nov 2009

Find any name on this page by hitting "control F" on your keyboard and typing in the name.

Find any name anywhere on this website by going to the Google search bar and typing the name immediately before this phrase
from the word "site" to the slash after lyakhovichi (just cut and paste it into your browser)

All links on this page were validated June 2010

There are as of November 2009, six Death Certificate pages, newly enhanced, and all now included in our Surname Index

Death Certificate Project You are Here!

Death Certificate Database to Lechovichers who died NYC 1893-1943, w index

Indices of Extracted Parents, Spouses, and Informants from Lechovicher Death Certificates

Lechovicher Marriage Facts extracted from Death Certificates Abroad

Death Certificate Chronological Lists of those buried in Lechovicher plots NYC 1893-1948

Lechovicher Death Certificates in Multiple Jurisdictions

Death Certificate of A. Sam Lifshitz of Lyakhovichi and NYC 1911 NYC
A. Sam Leffshitz, death certificate 1911
Sam Lifschitz was born in Lyakhovichi, and died in NYC. The injuries that caused his death were the result of a traffic accident when he was struck by a bakery truck. We thank Arthur Lowell who followed up on the request of the webmaster, and using the Death Certificate Index to Lechovichers posted on the following page, got his grandfather's death certificate for us to post on our pages!
Click on the title for larger image, expansion icon available on that page (hover your cursor at the lower right corner).

Points to Note in image above:

  • The spelling of the surname was highly variable. The decedant and his wife died a few years apart and the spellings were different.

  • The first initial of this man was A. but many people only knew him as Sam, it takes his matseva cemetery stone, to clarify that his name was Aron Shmuel.

  • It has a column for "how long in the United States, how long in New York!

  • His parents' names are given with English equivalents though they never came to the US. And his father is called Sidney as the suitable translation for Sender but his tombstone will use his father's formal name of Alexander. We cannot tell looking at this source if his mother was Chaya Ruchel, Ita Ruchel, Edel Ruchel, all names commonly swapped for Ida in English in this time period.

  • Though mother's maiden name is requested, the information is not supplied. Even when, as here, the informant is the doctor, that information is usually supplied to him by the family. But the deceased was a widower and his young children may not have had the information or been able to cope with their father's sudden loss.
  • His place of burial is specified. The funeral home is specified. The name of the attending physician is given. Death in a hospital is noted.

  • In this particular case, an inquest is pending

  • There is a wealth of genealogical information in this single form!