Aimée Horwich roots out genealogist Stuart Rosenblatt
GENEALOGY is something many people begin to explore in their later
years - often when it is too late to discover family history first
And Dubliner Stuart Rosenblatt provides help for countless Irish
Jews with his genealogical database of more than 40,000 people continuing
"One thing people regret is not having asked their parents questions
they want answering now," said Stuart, who has single-handedly codified
16 volumes of Irish Jewish ancestry.
"Most people don't start tracing their family roots until they
are in their 40s or 50s, when they realise life is not just about
themselves and their children and when they may have extra time
on their hands.
"Millions of people try to trace their family history and roots,
especially since the programme Who Do You Think You Are? has stimulated
people to stop and ask themselves who they really are."
In 1991, the father-of-two began tracing his maternal family history
and, what started out as a humble search, turned into a serious
"I wanted to find out about my mother Zena Jackson's family, which
turned out to be a huge search," recalled Stuart, vice president
of the Irish Jewish Genealogical Society.
"It led me to various museums, including the Irish Jewish Museum
and other routes of discovery - including books, which many couldn't
get access to.
"So I started to codify the books into databases."
With the help of a computer programmer, Stuart created 70 different
fields of information for 44,000 people, in a piece of software
specifically designed for his desire to document Irish Jewry.
He explained: "Over the last 13 years I have accumulated tens
of thousands of pieces of information, which have been added to
"These include their birth, death, marriages, addresses, how they
lived, their Hebrew name, alien registration files and burial records.
"I've taken the whole of Ireland including Limerick, Cork, Belfast
and Dublin - everything about those communities has been centralised
into one database."
And Irish Jews certainly owe Stuart a debt of gratitude for his
"Nobody has ever attempted to codify an entire country before,"
"What started off as a family quest turned out to become a national
"I guess being meshugannah (mad) makes me carry on!"
The Peace Commissioner and businessman has prioritised his mission
to collect every single piece of information and it has become an
integral part of his day-to-day life.
Stuart receives around 20 emails a day, from people as far afield
as America and Australia - all trying to obtain or impart information.
"It's certainly not a full-time job, but it takes up all my time,"
"Every time people make contact I'm receiving more and more information,
especially from the families of immigrants who left Ireland to go
to England, America and Australia.
"Now all their details are being recorded and I thoroughly enjoy
"I am happiest when I'm receiving and imparting information."
The 16 volumes cover every aspect of Irish Jewish interest, including
heritage and an A-Z of Irish Jewish DNA.
Information collected also includes births from 1864 to the present
day and all marriages from 1845 - although Jews have been living
in Ireland since the 12th century.
"I update the records every day," said Stuart.
"If a person dies today it goes in the database today - sometimes
even before they are buried."
Through his extensive research Stuart, 66, has learned about why
so many Jews settled in Ireland during the latter part of the 19th
He explained: "A lot of people came to England wanting to get
anywhere outside of Russia and with the hope of getting to America
- that was the ultimate dream.
"Some stories suggest people arrived here and got off the ships
to America because they were sea sick.
"Others ran out of kosher food and some were short-changed by
captains who told them they had reached America, when they had actually
just arrived in Cork."
But the author of the soon-to-be-released Idiots Guide to Irish
Jewish Roots was an unsuspecting volunteer for such a project.
Upon starting his education at Dublin's Wesley College, his preparatory
school principal told the headmaster that Stuart was "lazy" and
that he was by no means one of the school's "best" pupils.
"I left Wesley College when I was 15 and was told I had 'no academic
future'," Stuart recalled.
But he was made a Fellow of the Genealogical Society of Ireland
in 2005 and undertook a three-year diploma in family history at
University College Dublin.
Stuart's university thesis focused on the burial records of the
Jewish cemetery Dophin's Barn, in Dublin, which took him six years
"One of my favourite tracing stories was about Robert Bradlaw
who was in Ireland in the 1880s," said Stuart.
"He managed to get all the small shuls together to unify them
into Ireland's first proper shul on St Kevin's Parade.
"He was the leader of the community and when he died he was named
the 'prince of the immigrants' and the area became known as Dublin's
"When I came across his tombstone in Dophin's Barn it was blackened
with age, as if nobody had visited it, which upset me because he
had been forgotten about.
"But one day in Belfast I was working at Chichester House where
births, deaths and marriages are registered and I overheard a person
was looking for a marriage detail of the name Bradlaw.
"The person turned out to be one of Robert Bradlaw's descendants
- which was fantastic."
Stuart added: "The nicest part of what I do is when I have a record
just sitting on its own and I eventually join it with the rest of
their family. That I find very satisfying."
But despite his tireless efforts, Stuart's work remains somewhat
downplayed by Ireland's remaining Jews.
"I have had no donations, help or encouragement," he said. "It
is all on my head.
"Only two people in the Irish Jewish community have made personal
contact with me to see if they could give me their family details.
"Obviously this makes me feel bad.
"I've filled in a lot of missing pieces, but I need someone to
continue the work when I'm gone."
Stuart explained that apart from his fellowship his genealogical
work has received little recognition and he is now looking to Irish
Jews who have settled in England to help him complete his puzzle.
He continued: "I have a lot of queries and unfinished information
that they could give me.
"If one person can achieve what I have, then so can others."
Although he will not be producing any new volumes, Stuart has
pledged to completely update volume 15 every five years.
He added: "It's in case I don't make the next five years.
"I operate a cheque cashing service in Dublin, but the genealogy
is my life.
"It's like a drug - you get withdrawal symptoms if you don't get
your fix during the day!"
So what drives Stuart to continue his work?
"Generations past have allowed us to live the way we do today,"
"It's a privilege we have our lives today so my work is a gracious
thank you to our ancestors who gave so much."
or phone 00353 16773808. For more information visit www.jewishireland.org/genealogy.html