Processing Sherith Israel: Alexander Badt, Secretary and Temple Historian Extraordinaire

Posted by Lara Michels on Tuesday August 23 2011

One item I found in processing the cemetery records of Sherith Israel was an intriguing plot book from the congregation’s old Giboth Olam Cemetery (located at what is now Mission Dolores Park in San Francisco).

Records of Family Graves from Giboth Olam Cemetery

What makes the volume so intriguing is a lengthy note written on its first page:

Alexander Badt's note on the history of the volume, May 31, 1903

The note reads as follows:

_________________________________

San Francisco, May 31, 1903

This Book, found in the archives of the Congregation Sherith Israel, was evidently intended for a Record of Internments in the Giboth Olam Cemetery, located on Mission Block 87, in this City, between 19th, 20th, Dolores and Church Streets and opened for internments about January 1860, but the book was abandoned during its first year of Existence.

After all removals had been completed from this Cemetery in August 1896, frequent inquiries were made in this office about the present resting place of bodies removed and of their satisfactory identification through dates of death, age, and if required, in many instances, days of close investigation to ascertain facts definitely. I therefore undertook to prepare a complete record of all internments that had taken place in Giboth Olam Cemetery and I succeeded in compiling an approximately correct record of easy reference for future use, using for my authorities the Minute Books, Permit Books, Cash Books of the Congregation, but primarily the Municipal Health Office records.

The greatest difficulty I experienced in the identifcation of such deceased who were charges of Jewish Relief Societies, as for such a period a nearly 15 years the Secretaries of this Congregation did not record in the Congregation Books “free” burials.

The date of death given in this record is not exact, as the date is in most cased merely the date of application for permit of burial, either at the Congregation or Health Office.

Of internments in the first Jewish Cemetery, then called the Presidio Cemetery, which was located on Gough Street, between Broadway and Vallejo Streets, no record whatever could be traced and such as are indentified herein, are merely from personal recollection and by removal from the Giboth Olam Cemetery, except in few instances, where the facts were gathered from existing tombstones.

This Record was finished on Erev Shavuot 5663, the 31st day of May 1903, by

Alexander L. Badt

Secretary Congregation Sherith Israel

The names with numbers in red ink were the last and the most difficult to be identified, hence their numbers are not in proper sequence, though the names generally are.

Badt

_________________________________

Now, my admiration for Alexander L. Badt so far was that of an archivist for an exemplary record keeper, but Badt was an historian as well. This volume is extraordinary to me. The reconstruction of the plots of Giboth Olam, whose bodies were removed to Colma in the early to mid 1890s, was a work of great patience and determination. I can just picture Badt diligently digging through the records at the Municipal Health Office. Remember, he did this just a few years before the 1906 earthquake and fire, when most of the municipal health office records were presumably destroyed. His timing was impecable!

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Filed under: Collections andHistory

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