• Date: 13/12/2017
  • Cemetery: Fawkner Memorial Park

A group of enthusiastic volunteers from the Victorian branch of the Australian Jewish Genealogical Society (AJGS) recently visited Fawkner Memorial Park to explore and document the resting places of some of Melbourne’s Jewish community.

 The group’s mission is to photograph Jewish graves at Fawkner Memorial Park so they can be added to databases – including that of the Jewish burial organisation Melbourne Chevra Kadisha, and GMCT’s own cemetery records and mapping system.

GMCT supported the project by providing maps, records and data on almost 5000 deceased persons. On the day of their visit, the group from AJGS(Vic.) photographed more than 1400 headstones.

Above: Volunteers from AJGS (Vic.) in action. 

AJGS (Vic.) is a not for profit organisation for all community members – both Jewish and non-Jewish – with a common interest in exploring Jewish ancestry.

The cemetery projects of Jewish genealogy groups like AJGS (Vic.) have played a pivotal role in reuniting many families, says Max Wald, cemetery project committee leader. 

“We receive congratulatory letters from all around the world…stories of cousins being put in touch with cousins, or people who didn’t know they had a relative,” he says.

“We’re obviously researching on a Jewish basis, but you would be surprised how many non-Jewish people in Melbourne contact us to help them find their Jewish heritage. We also receive enquiries from people who have learnt that their ancestors were Jewish.

 “I think with the introduction of family history TV shows like Who do you think you are, people around the world are more interested in their roots and the story about their ancestry.”

Max says technology has changed genealogy research for the better.  The database project, for example, will help families around the world easily locate their Jewish ancestors online.

“When I began my genealogical research in 2004, there were few people using emails. When I had to fax Poland for records, nobody understood my requests, because they spoke Polish, and I spoke English.”

“Now in 2017, we have emails, internet, social media, and other platforms that have advanced at such an amazing speed. Research has become much easier and more accurate and people no longer have to rely on the postal system.”

 AJGS (Vic)’s project at Fawkner is just getting started, Max says.

 “There are three more sections to do. Now that we’ve done the process once, we now know what’s required. We’ll put out a call for more volunteers.”

Explore your local cemetery

GMCT encourages community groups like AJGS(Vic.) to engage with, explore and learn from our cemeteries. Some GMCT cemeteries more than 150 years old, with records offering a trove of historical information.

One of the locations of particular interest for AJGS(Vic) was the Jewish Pioneers area – which contains the earliest Jewish graves of those interred at Fawkner. Deep in our archives, GMCT was able to unearth the original burial orders for these graves, which document the re-interment at Fawkner of Jewish deceased who were originally laid to rest at the Old Melbourne Cemetery, which once stood on the site of Victoria Market in the Melbourne CBD.

Find out more about how you can get involved or contact us

  • Click here to read about our cemetery friends groups
  • Click here to read about the history and heritage of GMCT cemeteries
  • Click here to visit the AJGS(Vic.) website