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  • Appendix: MethodologyHeimat and Home: Mobility Among Jews in Quincy, Illinois
  • Cynthia Francis Gensheimer (bio) and Anton Hieke (bio)

Compiling the Census

Cynthia Francis Gensheimer relied on many sources to compile a census of Jews who lived in Quincy, Illinois, during the nineteenth century.1 Quincy’s records provide an unusually complete portrait of its Jews, including those who struggled. Gensheimer found names in the minute book of a Hebrew ladies’ benevolent society; an early roster of B’nai B’rith members; the diary of Rabbi Elias Eppstein, who served Quincy from 1890 to 1906; and congregational records and correspondence. Jewish and city newspapers described the community and family relationships. Descendants of Quincy’s Jews shared letters, scrapbooks, family lore, and genealogies. Gensheimer traveled to the German hometowns of some of Quincy’s Jewish families and also received data from local German archives.2

Census enumerations, credit reports, and city directories yielded names of people likely to be Jewish, but many with Jewish-sounding surnames were found not to be Jewish. In some cases religious identification required difficult subjective decisions. Gensheimer classified people as Jewish if they were married by a rabbi, buried in a Jewish cemetery, lived with Jewish relatives, or affiliated with a Jewish organization. A few Jewish women married outside the faith, but all but one remained clearly Jewish. Even the convert was included as Jewish because she converted after leaving Quincy.3 Similarly, a few of those born Jewish became Christian Scientists. They are included in the census because they were members of Quincy’s Jewish community while they lived there. A [End Page 279] couple of men who married Christians were included. One is buried in Quincy’s Jewish cemetery, and the other was president of a Quincy B’nai B’rith chapter and had an ecumenical funeral. Gensheimer excluded another man who married a Christian woman and left no trace of ever affiliating with Judaism.

Gensheimer included in the census only those buried in Quincy’s Valley of Peace Jewish Cemetery who had lived in Quincy. She excluded some of those buried in the cemetery because they had simply been passing through town when they died or had lived elsewhere but wanted to be buried in a Jewish cemetery or with relatives. Two couples buried in the cemetery who were active members of B’nai Sholom were included, however, even though they never lived in Quincy.4

After identifying those who qualified for the census, Gensheimer carefully investigated their origins and movements to trace each person from birth to death and in between. It was easiest to follow the movements of families, because they have more positive points of identification than single individuals. Not only were there hundreds of unrelated people who shared the same names, such as Henry Cohn, but many first cousins also shared names. Someone named Heinrich Cohn in Germany may have been known also by his Hebrew or Yiddish name Chaim. Later, he may have taken the American name Henry and changed his surname also, perhaps to Cain or Kern.5

Determining Tenure in Quincy

Gensheimer deduced an individual’s tenure in Quincy from a variety of sources, including census data, city directories, passport applications, military and vital records. During a woman’s childbearing years, her location could often be determined by the places where she gave birth or buried children.6 Quincy’s newspapers reported locations of relatives and former residents. Biographical sketches in books, Jewish and local newspapers, and trade journals provided additional clues. Obituaries not only pinpointed place of death and confirmed identity, but also yielded [End Page 280] biographical details and names of relatives. Precise tenures of those who arrived or left Quincy between census years and those who lived in Quincy for more than one stint were hardest to ascertain. Even in those cases, however, Gensheimer was able to determine that the tenure fell within a range of ten years.

1–2 3–9 Fewer than 10 (Precise tenure indeterminate) 10–19 20–29 30 and More Total
Number 51 126 62 73 59 59 430
Percent 11.9 29.3 14.4 17.0 13.7 13.7 100.0

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-3141
Print ISSN
0164-0178
Pages
pp. 279-282
Launched on MUSE
2018-05-10
Open Access
No
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