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 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...