OBE for Scotsman whose genealogy efforts helped Holocaust victims’ families gain compensation

A Scottish man who created a database containing six million names to help Jewish people across the world trace their ancestry was awarded an OBE this January in recognition of his work.

Michael Tobias was named in the New Years Honours List for his services to the Jewish community—the results of which helped the descendants of Holocaust victims obtain millions of pounds worth of compensation.

The Barrhead News reported that Michael had also helped reunite Holocaust survivors and has worked as a consultant on the British and American versions of the hit TV show, Who Do You Think You Are?

Help for David Suchet and Jerry Springer

Beneficiaries of his work include David Suchet, best known for playing the Belgian detective Poirot and the TV presenter, Jerry Springer—both of whom appeared on the TV show.

While working on the show’s American version, he also investigated the family trees of record producer Quincy Jones, Friends actor Lisa Kudrow and the actor Rashida Jones.

The International Commission on Holocaust Era Insurance Claims, which he helped found in 2001, forced German insurance companies to pay $300 million in compensation to those who died in Nazi concentration camps.

Life insurance policies

Michael told the Barrhead News that the victims had all held life insurance policies before the start of World War Two. Their policies lapsed because they weren’t paying the premiums, but the German companies agreed to compensate if the commission could prove the victims had taken out policies with them.

He came up with a computer system that matched claimants all over the world with the original documents and the German companies eventually paid out.

Michael’s mother received a small payment because they were able to prove her relationship with a distant cousin who had held a policy and died in a camp.

Genealogy hobby

The Giffnock man took up genealogy as a hobby in 1994 and is now considered a global expert in Jewish ancestry.

In 1995, he helped set up the Jewish Records Indexing Poland, which contains the names and details of six million people. The aim of the index was to create an online, searchable database with the records of all Jewish births, deaths and marriages from Poland. Many of the records were written in the Cyrillic alphabet, which Michael had to learn.

Info dating back to the 18th century

People can now access the original certificates with all the family details and can go back as far as the 1820s and even the late 1700s.

The paper goes on to add that Michael formed a close friendship with actor and national treasure, Miriam Margoyles who contacted him in 1998 wanting his help in tracing her family origins.

Her parents were from Glasgow, and Michael also helped her trace her Scottish ancestry.

His own family were originally from Poland. His great-grandfather David left the Polish city of Ostroleka in the late 19th century, landing in the port of Leith in Edinburgh.

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