Wednesday, February 10, 2016

"A Day in the Life....Mid-19th Century Daily Life for the Betts Family"

The Betts House

Note: Two members of HCGS are actively involved in the preservation of the Betts house, located in the West End of Cincinnati. The house is owned and operated by the The National Society of the Colonial Dames of America in the State of Ohio. We thought you might want to plan a visit. The information included below is reprinted from their website.
The Betts House is pleased to present its upcoming exhibit, A Day in the Life…: Mid 19th Century Daily Life for the Betts Family, showcasing the tools, contraptions, and tales of daily life for a Cincinnati family in the mid-1800s. Opening January 16, 2016 from 12:30 til 5 p.m. and on display until May 14, 2016, at 416 Clark Street, Cincinnati, OH 45203. The exhibit is sponsored by the Robert Reakirt Foundation, PNC Bank, Trustee.

The Betts House was built in 1804 by brick maker William Betts as a four-room, two-story brick home in an era of log and wood homes. He and his wife Phebe had moved to Cincinnati with their five children, where he bought 111 acres of land in what is now the West End and parts of Over-the-Rhine.  By 1813, they had seven more children and a fully operational brick making factory William passed away in 1814, leaving Phebe to raise the children and manage the factory with her older children.

When the home was turned over to granddaughter Adeline and her husband in 1863, she began modernizing the home. The exhibit will showcase how Adeline and the women around her lived and worked in their Cincinnati homes during the mid-1800s.

The exhibit will include:

  Cooking in the Past: Chopping, slicing and dicing was accomplished through the use of clever new tools, many of which were invented after the Civil War. Baking with minimal ingredients, storing meats and other food items without refrigeration, brewing home beer and eating a purported healthy meal are all explored in this fun exhibit.
   Lighting & Heating in a Simple Home: Using the latest technologies, the Betts family most likely had better lighting and heating than many others, due to higher financial status from their brickmaking factory. This exhibit will share the devices and processes that the family most likely used.
  Gardening: The world of family management included much home grown foods.  See what an urban garden grew and fruits, vegetables and herbs were used for cooking and for medicinal purposes.
   CleaningA woman’s work is never done especially if she needs to cook for a family of 14, mind children, sew and mend clothing, sweep floors and beat rugs, grow and preserve vegetables and fruits, and perform the never ending cleaning and laundry. See the tools used for laundry including washboards, a hand wash agitator, collar and cuff crimpers, and clothing irons of many sizes.
   Betts Family TreeManaging a brickmaking factory for 50 years, the Betts family helped to establish the West End.  Learn more about one of Cincinnati’s first families!

The exhibit will be on display at 416 Clark Street, Cincinnati OH 45203, from January 16, 2016 through May 14, 2016 during regular museum hours, Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays from 11 a.m. -  2 p.m. and the second and fourth Saturday of each month from 12:30 - 5:00 p.m. Admission is $2 per person.

For more information and special Saturday events and programs, check, call 513-651-0734 or email

Monday, February 8, 2016

Lunch at the Behringer-Crawford Museum in Devou Park

Photo Credit:

From Family Estate to Regional Museum: The History of Behringer-Crawford Museum

We have been invited to a brown-bag luncheon presentation on Friday, February 26th, at 11:30 AM. This special weekday event will take us "over the river and through the woods" to Devou Park. Tiffany Hoppenjans, Behringer-Crawford Museum Curator,will explore the complex and rich history of the museum. She will also discuss a few of their many artifacts and the genealogical connections with the families who once owned them. See below for additional information. Reservations required.

Tiffany Hoppenjans
The museum was originally a family home occupied by the Devous, the house and surrounding property were donated in 1910 to the City of Covington for the purpose of becoming a park and community center.  By 1950, the house became a museum featuring the eclectic collection of local resident William Behringer.  Under the direction of its first curator Ellis Crawford, the museum grew into a cornerstone attraction.  Today, Behringer-Crawford Museum is the area’s largest museum celebrating the unique arts, heritage and culture of Northern Kentucky as part of the Ohio Valley. 

Tiffany Hoppenjans has been the Curator of Collections at Behringer-Crawford Museum since 2012.  She possesses a B.A. is History and Anthropology from Western Kentucky University and a Master of Arts in Public History from Northern Kentucky University. 

Event: The History of the Behringer-Crawford Museum
Date: Friday, February 26th at 11:30 AM
Bring your own lunch
Email Program Director, Kathy Reed, at  and list the name(s) and number of people for whom you are making a reservation. Include your email address. Reservations are limited. There is no cost.
Questions:  Call Kathy Reed, 513-295-1970.
Directions: Take I-71/I-75 South from Cincinnati. Then:

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Over-the-Rhine Then and Now

Anne Delano Steinert
Project Curator
Photo Credit:
At our January Board Meeting, several members reported that they had seen news coverage about a project taking place in the Over-the-Rhine neighborhood,curated by Anne Delano Steinert in the Over-the-Rhine area. Jeff Herbert and I promised to look into it.

Anne, with the support of several other organizations, identified several landmarks in the OTR community, and set out to compare the current with pictures from the past. A website has been developed that explains the project, its goals and its partners. The pictures that are displayed around the neighborhood from now until the end of March are featured in a slideshow. You can click on an interactive map of the locations.

I spoke with Anne to try to understand why the pictures will only be available through March. She explained that they had to apply for permits to post and display the images. She is offering two walking tours in March, with the possibility of additional events.


The website also includes information on how you can create a similar project for your own neighborhood. As we look forward to spring, you may want to save the date for one or both of these events.

Submitted by Kathy Reed

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Jim Dempsey Honored by the Hamilton County Recorder's Office

Board Member-at-Large. Jim Dempsey
If you don't already know Jim, let me introduce you. If you are a regular reader of The Tracer and the Gazette, you are probably aware of the many contributions Jim has made to the digitization of Hamilton County records. He, and his team of volunteers, are responsible for many of the records that are posted on our website and on Over many years, Jim has worked at the Hamilton County Recorder's Office as a volunteer. He was responsible for bringing in a team from LDS who spent an entire year digitizing property records.

One of his talents has been in his ability to uncover formerly "missing" records and restore them before they were destroyed. These were often hidden away in a warehouse. He is now working on a project to catalog all of his finds.

In recognition of his contributions, Jim was recognized by the Hamilton County Recorder's Office as an "Honorary Archivist." I can personally attest to how valuable some of these records have been in my own research.

So if you run into Jim, be sure to thank him. He is one of the people who makes the Hamilton County Genealogical Society one of the best societies in the country.

Submitted by: Kathy Reed

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

First Session Almost Full! Put Your Name on the Wait List Today!!!

Estate Settlement Records: 

Even When There is NO will, There's A Way!

"Hamilton County Courthouse, Fifth and Main Streets," slide, Cincinnati History Slide Collection, Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County; digital image, Greater Cincinnati Memory Project ( : downloaded 14 November 2015). Image used with permission of the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County.
Preregistration for the Estate Settlement Series is open and the first session is full! Put your name on the waiting list or contact Liz Stratton at If there is sufficient interest, a second session will be added at 3 pm.

The 4-session series will provide a detailed look at the estate settlement process and the genealogically rich records created. This hands-on series will lead you step-by-step through the estate settlement process. Work with your own ancestors or with a provided example to find ancestral wills and estate records. Learn research strategies and glean all the genealogical clues from every record.

Parts 1-3 apply regardless of where your ancestor lived. It is best to attend all sessions but it is not necessary. The final session focuses specifically on Hamilton County, Ohio. Work with records that survived the courthouse fires and reconstruct estate files using other sources.

Saturday, January 30, 1 pm, Estate Settlement Records, Part 1: “Even When There’s No Will, There’s a Way!”  Overview of the estate records and how they answer genealogical questions followed by a hands-on session. Learn where to find the records of your ancestors whether they are on Ancestry or not! Preregistration:

Saturday, March 5, 1 pm, Estate Settlement Records, Part 2. Preregistration:

Saturday, April 2, 1 pm, Estate Settlement Records, Part 3. Preregistration:

Saturday, May 7, 1 pm, “Estate Settlements after the Courthouse Burns,” Part 4. Preregistration:

Updated 22 December 2015.

"ernie," digital image 175966 licensed CC0 public domain ( : downloaded 14 November 2015).

Monday, December 7, 2015

So What’s in a Name?

Jewish Interest Group
By Rick D. Cauthen

            Many Jews living or who grew up in Hamilton County (or the Greater Cincinnati region for that matter) share something in common. That being a Jewish surname. Now let’s be honest, a large majority of individuals can hear a last name and immediately believe that the person is Jewish or at least descends from a Jewish line. So even if you’re not Jewish, and during the course of your research you locate a 3rd great grandmother with the name Rabinowitz, chances are, if you hadn’t already known, you would most certainly assume that you may have found Jewish Heritage in your bloodlines. So why might you assume this Jewish heritage? That’s right! It was all from hearing the surname and determining that it sounded Jewish in origin.

            Now to be fair, there are most definitely Jews who have the name Smith or Miller which is not the most definitive clue that their ancestors were Jewish. I would venture to say that in fact, more often than not, those would have not been Jews, but there is always an exception to the rule. Of course, without going through an exhaustive list of surnames, I am certain that even when traipsing through a Jewish Cemetery, you may spot a name or two that you may have never guessed that that name was linked to a Jewish person. A Jewish immigrant who wishes to anglicize their surname may have taken on a name that didn’t have much of a Jewish connection to it. So like many other things we discover in Genealogy, we know there are never any absolutes. Still, there are more Jewish surnames than there are not, that would certainly be recognized as such.

            I suppose I should mention that Jews that migrated to North America would change their names at will. That is often, they changed their Jewish surnames they had already established in the country from whence they came. I know this sounds crazy, but it’s true. They had no national ID like a Social Security number to make it difficult to just take another name. Also, people didn’t carry around picture IDs like a driver’s license that we are so familiar with today. The world back then just didn’t have the kind of structure that made it difficult for someone to change his/her last name. I am certain that is why as the years passed on to more current times, that the laws finally caught up with these individuals and structure and rules were laid down to prevent this kind of frequent name changes. Now one must go through a court of law or get a married with the marriage certificate stating your change of name. Of course I realize that many of you readers may also be thinking, “Geez, with these types of undocumented name changes, isn’t that going to make my research more challenging?” Well in a word, “yes.” However, it is not impossible.

            Ashkenazic Jews were most definitely among the last Europeans to take last names or rather family names. Surnames were taken on as early as 1787 in the Austro-Hungarian Empire and as late as 1844 in Czarist Russia. Jews only took these names once they were compelled to do so by the government. Why were they compelled? Simply answered they could then be taxed, conscripted into the army (more commonly known as “being drafted”), and education. And in that order of importance. Education however was most often an internal Jewish affair.

            Prior to the taking of surnames as forced by the government, the Jewish Community would actually have a change of names each and every generation. Jews would use patronymics or sometimes matronymics. For instance, a gentleman may have been named Joshua ben Benjamin. Meaning simply, Joshua, son of Benjamin. Likewise Benjamin’s grandson Nathan would have been name Nathan ben Joshua. Daughters in a similar way may have been something like Rachel bat Miriam which I am certain you have already realized that that would be Rachel, daughter of Miriam. Matronymics were not used as often, as daughters were still named Rachel, daughter of Samuel. In other words, patronymics were used more often than matronymics. As a genealogist, you should be aware of both conventions in Jewish Genealogical research.

            There were many conventions used to establish Jewish surnames which were registered with governmental authorities: Patronymics, Matronymics, Place Names, Occupations, Personal Traits, Insulting Names, Animal Names, Hebrew Names, Hebrew Acronyms, Yiddish Derived Names, Invented Names. Below we will go through these conventions providing you, the reader, some examples of each:


·         Patronymics – Since it was common to label an individual with a somewhat makeshift surname of “Son of” along with the father’s name, it became simple to take a legal surname from essentially the same principle. Many last names simply sound like first names. For instance, some may have the last name of Isaac, Isaacson, and Isacovitch. In Yiddish, son was denoted by “son” or “sohn.” The name Mendelsohn for instance, derived from the son of. Mendel. In Polish or Russian, it would be “wich” or “witz.” Examples: Markowitz or Avromovitch.

·         Matronymics – Some families created surnames out of women’s first names. Such as Gittleman from Gittel. Rivken from the feminine name of Rivke (Rebecca in English). Goldman from the name Golda.

·         Place Names – Often Jews used the names of the towns or regions from whence they came. Berliner or Berlinsky from Berlin, Germany. Pinsky from Pinsk, Belarus. Litwak from Lithuania. Prager from Prague. Wiener or Weinberg from Vienna. Warshavsky or Warshauer taken from Warsaw, Poland. Berg or Bergman meaning from a hilly place.

·         Occupational Names ­­– Also a very common convention used by more than just the Jewish population. Graber for an engraver. Miller for obviously a miller. Stein, Steiner, Stone, Silverstein all used for a jeweler. Goldstein from an occupation of a Goldsmith. Zucker or Zuckerman related to being a sugar merchant. Presser or Pressman derived from a clothes presser.

·         Personal Traits – The names Alter or Alterman from simply being old. Dreyfus meaning three legged (most likely one that had walked with a cane). Shein, Shoen, or Shoenman meaning pretty or handsome. Gross or Grossman from the trait of being big. Schwartz taken from the trait of having black hair or dark complexion. Roth or Rothman from having red hair.

·         Insulting Names – Unfortunately, some names were foisted on Jews who often got rid of them as soon as possible. However, there are some that still remain today. The name Billig meaning cheap. Gans for a goose. Grob comes from rough or crude. Even Kalb for a cow.

·         Animal Names – Not at all unique to Jews, our ancestors took last names from the inspiration of animals. Adler derived from eagle. Karp from a carp. Loeb or Leib from a Lion. Baer, Berman, Beerman all representing a bear. Einhorn for a unicorn. Hirschhorn coming from deer antlers.

·         Hebrew Names – A number of Jews would simply hold on to or took on traditional Jewish names from the Bible & Talmud. The two major groups of names represent the Kohanim, (descendants of high priests) and Levites (second in line to the Kohanim). Surnames of Cohen, Cohn, Kohn, Kahan, Kahn, and Kaplan have their origins from Jews who were members of the Kohanim. Likewise, surnames of Levi, Levy, Levine, Levinsky, Levitan, Levenson, Levitt, Lewin, Lewinsky, and Lewinson have their origins from Jews who were members of the Levites. Others include Aronson or Aronoff from the Hebrew name Aaron. Jacobs, Jacobson, or Jacoby from the name Jacob. The name Menachem gave rise to the surnames Mann and Mendel.

·         Hebrew Acronyms – Sample of names derived from Hebrew Acronyms include: Baron from Bar Aron (son of Aaron), Getz from Gabbai Tsedek (righteous synagogue official), and Segal derive from Se Gan Levia (second-rank Levite).

·         Yiddish-Derived NamesHirsh means deer or stag in Yiddish. Wolf, the symbol of the tribe of Benjamin, is the root of the names Wolfson, Wouk, and Volkovich. The name Eckstein comes from the Yiddish word for cornerstone.

·         Invented Names – During the time of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, when Jews became required to assume a last name, often they chose the nicest ones they could think of as they may have been charged a registration fee by the authorities. These names often came from nature. Kirschenbaum from cherry tree, Applebaum from apple tree. Tannenbaum for a fir tree. Others names chosen Rosen from a rose, Schoen or Schein meaning pretty, Bloom for a flower, or Feld meaning field.


For more information on this topic consult these in-depth studies. All are available at the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County and Hebrew Union College Klau Library (except those by Tagger, available only at HUC)

Beider, Alexander. A Dictionary of Ashkenazic Given Names: Their Origins, Structure, Pronunciation, and Migrations. Bergenfield, NJ: Avotaynu, 2001.

–––. A Dictionary of Jewish Surnames from Galicia. Bergenfield, NJ: Avotaynu, 2004.

–––. A Dictionary of Jewish Surnames from the Kingdom of Poland. Teaneck, NJ: Avotaynu, 1996.

–––. A Dictionary of Jewish Surnames from the Russian Empire. Rev. ed. Bergenfield, NJ: Avotaynu,    2008.

–––. Jewish Surnames in Prague (15th-18th centuries). Teaneck, NJ: Avotaynu, 1994.

Faiguenboim, Guilherme. Dictionary of Sephardic Surnames. Rio de Janeiro: Fraiha, 2003.

Menk, Lars. A Dictionary of German-Jewish Surnames. Bergenfield, NJ: Avotaynu, 2005.

Tagger, Mathilde A. Dictionary of Bulgarian Jewish Surnames. New Haven, CT: Avotaynu, 2014.

–––. Dictionary of Sephardic Given Names. New Haven, CT: Avotaynu, 2015.
Rick Cauthen, Leader of the Jewish Interest Group, may be reached at: