Two Hundred Years of Scottish Jewry –
a Demographic and Genealogical Profile
As originally conceived, this multi-year research project began as an attempt to construct a “Family Tree” of a national Jewry, something that had never been attempted before. The Jewish community in Scotland, which emerged almost exactly two centuries ago with the opening of a synagogue in Edinburgh in 1816-17, was chosen for this purpose. Very rapidly, it became clear that, before the experiment could proceed, a comprehensive demographic survey of the Jews in Scotland was called for and hence the project was re-cast, expanding to “200 Years of Scottish Jewry – a Genealogical and Demographic Survey”. As work progressed, it became apparent that unforeseen benefits could be derived from the research. Indeed, a broad reconstruction of the Jewish community in Scotland was seen to be in reach, based on the wealth of new data being gathered. That “new knowledge” provided fresh insights into Scottish Jewry, both historical and sociological, and challenged a number of long-standing assumptions about its origins and evolution.
It should be noted that over the last decade and more, the Institute has sought to expand Jewish Genealogy beyond the classic genealogical approach of focussing on the lineage of a single individual and his/her family and has consciously moved into areas of wider scope and relevance. In broadening the horizon, there has been a discernible progression in the Institute’s research beyond the family unit, through the community, and on to a complete segment of society. For a trajectory of the projects sponsored and undertaken by the Institute, click here.
The present study endeavoured to go a significant step further – by researching an entire Jewry at the national level. The Jewish community of Scotland was selected for the experiment for very specific reasons. It could be easily demarcated and defined. Its “age” (200 years old) and size (in the region of 70-80,000 individuals altogether) made the project feasible. Primary sources and records for a study of Scottish Jewry were readily available. The Scottish Jewish Archives Centre in Glasgow housed extensive collections of documents and other materials essential to this study. More pertinent from the perspective of a modern genealogical study was the fact that almost all the necessary vital records (births, marriages and deaths) for the community were accessible online for most the period under review. Furthermore, national censuses of Scotland in modern form were conducted every decade from 1841 on (that is, just 25 years after the inception of the Jewish community in Scotland). Of these, the censuses from 1841 to 1911 were now in the public domain and accessible online.
This project, which began in January 2012, has now come to fruition. The results of the research have been translated into 5 outputs, aimed at different audiences:
- A popular work by Kenneth Collins, entitled The Jewish Experience in Scotland: from Immigration to Integration (Scottish Jewish Archives Centre, Glasgow, 2016).
- A “Teacher’s Guide” for educators at the high-school and ongoing education levels, using the Collins book as the basis for courses on Jews and Jewish life in Scotland over the last two centuries.
- A mobile exhibition, also entitled The Jewish Experience in Scotland: from Immigration to Integration, designed to take the story of Scottish Jewry to wider audiences throughout Scotland and beyond.
- A scholarly volume, entitled Two Hundred Years of Scottish Jewry (due for publication in January 2018), presenting the results of the project’s research, including statistical data, and accompanied by a series of relevant articles.
- A computerized “Family Tree of Scottish Jewry”, available for consultation at the Scottish Jewish Archives Centre in Glasgow.
Click here for an interim report on the project by Michael Tobias, posted in Avotaynu Online (29.4.2015).
Click here for an article, entitled “Two Hundred Years of Scottish Jewry – a Demographic and Genealogical Profile”, by Kenneth Collins, Neville Lamdan and Michael Tobias, in Journal of Multidisciplinary Research (Vol. 8, No. 1, Spring 2016, 63-83).
Click here to purchase Kenneth Collins, The Jewish Experience in Scotland: from Immigration to Integration (2016).
Click here for a 1-page “fact sheet” about the project.
Click here a preliminary report on the project, which was subsequently published in AVOTAYNU, xxviii, 1 (Spring, 2012), pp. 21-23.