Many planters were inflicted, so were the Jewish plantation owners. In 1791 only 46 of the 600 plantations were Jewish, although there were 447 Jews in Suriname. Their number increased to 719 in 1835, then dropped steadily to 607 in 1885 and 558 in 1912. Now, in 1993, I estimate their number at less than 200 and still dropping.
When I started looking for my ancestors in the Jessurun family around 1987, I soon discovered that Jewish registers are arranged alphabetically by first name or birth date and not by last name. This fact produced such a problem that I could choose either to stop my investigation, or type all the registers of the Suriname Jews I could find into a large computer database. What started as a nice hobby developed into a very time consuming activity. Not only that the names were very inconsistent, also dates I expected to be the same, were sometimes different in the various registers. When I thought I was finished with all the available Jewish archives and all the field work (going over all the Jewish cemeteries in Paramaribo and Jodensavanna), other lists came up: ship archives (passengers lists) found in the "Algemeen Rijksarchief" in The Hague, Jewish plantations on old maps, biographical notes in books, minutes of the Mahamad of the Ashkenasic Community, etc. My masterfile grew steadily and reached the astonishing amount of more than 8600 records. Many times I went through the complete file, sometimes sorted on mothers name, sometimes on fathers name or on the name of the spouse, deleting double records as far as possible and correcting typographical errors. Three times I printed more than 1200 pages before I was more or less content with the printout of my collection.
There is still a lot of work to be done...
Author: John H de Bye
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