31 August 2007

Russia: Genetic genealogy

Thanks to Katherine Borges, president of the International Society of Genetic Genealogy (ISOGG), I learned that Denis Grigoriev of Moscow, Russia, has organized the Russian Genetic Genealogy Society (RGGS) to promote genetic genealogy.

The site is MolGen (Molecular Genetics) and it profiles individuals and organizations in the genetic genealogy community.

For an interview with Bennett Greenspan of Family Tree DNA, who spoke at the Southern California Genealogy Society Jamboree in June, you can see the Russian site here, and for the linguistically-challenged, the English translation is here.

Finding Heirs: Genealogists, art organizations collaborate

Genealogists and art organizations are collaborating to locate heirs of Nazi-era art looted, confiscated or sold by force.

New Yorker Karen Franklin will speak on the "State of the Art" at 7.30 p.m. Tuesday, September 4, at the Jewish Family Research Association branch in Ra'anana, Israel.

Involved in tracing heirs and art object provenance for several organizations, Franklin stresses that collaboration among genealogists, local historians, archivists and museums helps to return looted Nazi-era artifacts - whether valuable art or more mundane items - to their original families.

She will present an overview of looted art issues in US and European Jewish museums and demonstrate how the international Jewish genealogical community is helping to solve ongoing European cases.

Doors open at 7 pm at the Jewish Family Research Association at Beit Fisher, 5 Rehov Klausner, Ra'anana. The program is open to the public. E-mail reservations are recommended, via Ingrid Rockberger, ingjoyrock@yahoo.com. JFRA members, NIS 5; others, NIS 20.

My story on Franklin's work appeared in today's (Friday, August 31) Jerusalem Post:

Karen Franklin of New York remembers the stormy night she stood in the pouring rain in the heart of the Venice Ghetto and solved an art restitution case by locating heirs in record time.

Franklin was at a museum conference when she received a frantic e-mail from the Netherlands' Origins Unknown Agency, asking for urgent help to find descendants of the Larsen family before a statute of limitations deadline ran out.

Click here to read the story.

30 August 2007

Genealogy startups share Jewish roots

Many tech sites have been writing about genealogy start-ups and their common denominator - Jewish roots.

Israelplug presents news on Israeli innovation, and a recent posting by Rebecca Markowitz is here, mentioning the intense competition between MyHeritage, Famillion and Geni.

MyHeritage (headed by Gilad Japhet) is in Bnei Atarot - a 100-year-old pastoral village - near Tel Aviv. Famillion (headed by Dan Rolls) is in a shiny new tower in Ramat Gan, adjacent to Tel Aviv, while David Sacks heads Los Angeles-based Geni.

Writes Markowitz:

What’s funny about these startups competing against each other is that if all the CEOs filled in their family trees they would most likely see that they are related!

It should not come as a surprise that all these Jews have created these startups, because, as we know, Jews have a slight obsession with a little game we fondly refer to as Jewish Geography.

29 August 2007

Cache and Charge: The Ancestry dilemma

When I first learned about the caching of free genealogical material in a for-fee Ancestry database from Janice of Cow Hampshire, I searched the new Internet Biographical Collection.

Included were many JewishGen pages and InfoFiles, special interest groups hosted by JewishGen, family associations, Yizkor (memorial) book translations, photographs and more. The pages were clearly marked Copyright, All Rights Reserved, No Commercial Use Permitted and variants of notifications. One cached page even referred to the more than 100 other pages on that site, each with its own copyrights and permissions. Family site guestbooks were cached, with messages including rather personal information, including addresses, phone numbers and other data that people would not have posted if they knew it would be available this way.

As genea-bloggers posted comments, Ancestry made changes to the collection - it was available, not available, changed to a free database and then removed completely.

This is an ethical dilemma on Ancestry's part. I'm not commenting on the legalities or the technical side, better addressed by others (see links below).

Ancestry obviously did not anticipate the uproar concerning its initial decision to place free copyrighted online material on a for-fee subscription site.

Why not?

Did this plan - from conception to posting - make its way through multiple corporate levels without a single person in the chain of command commenting, "Wait a minute, this is copyrighted free online material and now we're going to do what with it?" or suggesting "Perhaps we should contact the copyright holders of these pages for permission to use their material in this way?"

Although the database has been removed - for the time being - Ancestry needs to ask itself: "Just because we can do something, should we do it?"

I believe we would not have been as upset if only the URL and a limited description of the link were included. We're certainly used to seeing links on Google or Yahoo, and we're delighted when the public finds our sites.

The problem was the caching of free pages and their clearly copyrighted contents on a for-fee subscription database - with no indication of whether Ancestry had asked for and received permission from the copyright holders for this commercial use.

Suzanne Russo Adams, Ancestry Professional Desk head, referred me to Internet Biographical Collection Removed from Ancestry at Ancestry's 24/7 Family History Circle Blog, which reads in part:

...Many people have expressed concerns about the collection and the search engine we created on Ancestry.com. We recognize the significant time and resources members of the genealogical community invest to make their family history research available online.

Over the past few days we have reevaluated this collection’s goals, caching and crawling ability, and user experience. We have decided to remove this collection and search engine from Ancestry.com for the time being. We are still dedicated to providing family historians the online tools and aggregated records that make it easier to trace their family tree and will work to develop a solution that meets those needs in a way that will be most beneficial to our customers and the community.

Should the qualifier used - "for the time being" - make us nervous? Today the issue is moot, but what about tomorrow? The genealogy blogging community's far-ranging discussion is enlightening:

Cow Hampshire - Janice's initial post is here; her follow-up post is here. Leland Meitzler's Genealogy Blog - The Generations Network Continues to Tarnish Their Image - seems to have the most complete list of blogger comments including CreativeGene, EOGN, Dear Myrtle, Genealogy.about.com, The Genealogue, Genea-Musings, GeneaBlogie, and Family Oral History Using Digital Tools.

28 August 2007

Los Angeles: Archives event in September

L.A. as Subject is a research collective hosted by the University of Southern California Libraries. It will present the second annual Los Angeles Archives Bazaar from 10.30 a.m.-4 p.m., Saturday, September 29, at the Huntington Library in San Marino.

The organization is an alliance of research archives, libraries and collections dedicated to preserving Los Angeles regional history, while working to increase visibility of local archives and improve access for students, researchers, educators, historians and others.

It publishes an online directory of 288 local archives - organized by topic - guiding students, researchers and the public to resources. When I searched keyword "Jewish," 45 sources were listed.

The bazaar - at which 41 archives will exhibit - will provide students, teachers, genealogists, family historians and local history enthusiasts with resources related to the Los Angeles area. It will spotlight archives and collections throughout Los Angeles County. The Southern California Genealogical Society will offer free digital resource lookups.

Attendees will be able to browse collections, plan research visits and consult with experts. Presentations by area experts and archivists will include:

"What is LA As Subject?"
"DNA - The Archive of Your Ancestry"
"Get Involved-National History Day"
"You Can't Take it With You: What to do With Your Collection When Your Kids Don't Want It"
"There's No Time Like the Present to Explore Your Family's Past"
"Going Digital - Research Collections in the Electronic Age"
"Everybody's a Star: Preserving Your Home Movies"
"Researching in Your Jammies: An Introduction to Accessing Archives from Home"
"Preservation 101-- Basic tips for the 'Household Archivist'"

To learn more, click here. Admission, parking and lunch are free.

27 August 2007

Jamaica: History and a few hurricanes

Planning a family reunion?

A JTA story indicates that choosing the Caribbean during hurricane season might not be the best location. Hurricane Dean hit the Alberga family (from the UK, Canada and Cameroon) as they gathered in Jamaica for their annual visit to their ancestor's birthplace.

There's also information on the history of Jews in Jamaica and the current 200 members of the tribe who live there.

In 2006, Tony Alberga, who now lives in Toronto, co-authored "The Island Of One People," a history of the Jews of Jamaica, with his sister, Marilyn Delevante. She is among the last 200 Jamaican Jews, the dying embers of a community that was founded by Jews fleeing the Spanish Inquisition in the 16th century.

At its height in the 1880s, the community numbered more than 2,500 and there were at least eight synagogues. Only Shaare Shalom in Kingston remains active, but the last rabbi left the island in 1978.

In 1849, eight of House of Assembly's 47 members, including the speaker, were Jewish. Parliament meetings were cancelled on Yom Kippur that year.

In 1882, Kingston's great fire destroyed both Ashkenazi and Sephardi synagogues. Some were rebuilt and again destroyed in the 1907 earthquake, while the Montego Bay synagogue was destroyed in the 1912 hurricane.

In 1988, when Hurricane Gilbert battered Shaare Shalom on erev Rosh Hashanah, congregants gathered in the synagogue with the sand floor, welcoming the new year under umbrellas. A traditional feature of Spanish-Portuguese synagogues, sand-covered floors date to the Inquisition, when worshippers footsteps were muffled by the sand. Shaare Shalom was built by Alberga's grandfather and his brothers.

Read more here.

In January, Tracing the Tribe reported on sources for searching Jewish records in Jamaica, including name lists and photographs. Read more here.

25 August 2007

Sicily: Some Jewish history

A posting on Harry Stein's Sephardim.com referenced an interesting page on the Jews of Sicily.

The article mentions some interesting facts:

--Sicily's Jews were a distinct ethnic group in the Middle Ages. Their vernacular Semitic language in medieval Sicily was more like Arabic than Yiddish is to German.

--The Spanish edict of 1492 brought to an end Jewish influence in Sicily. It outlawed the practice of Judaism. Some Jews left Sicily but the majority converted to Catholicism and stayed. By the 1520s, baptism and marriage records in Sicilian churches near former Jewish communities listed families with such surnames as de Simone (son of Simon), Siino (Sion) and Mosé (Moses), Nero or Porpura (for the colours of fabrics they dyed), and such baptismal names as Isacco, Beniamino, Abramo, Iasué and Davide, formerly rare among Sicilian Christians.

--The first Jews in Sicily were probably Syracuse traders in the final centuries of the Greek era. The Romans brought some Jews to Sicily as slaves or poorly-paid servants, though the author says only a minority arrived under such conditions. By the time the Arabs arrived there were flourishing Jewish communities in Messina, Panormos (Palermo), Syracuse, Mazara and elsewhere.

--Christianised Jews were allegedly the focus of a 1516 Palermo riot. Even if the story is untrue, it proves, says the author, that Sicilians descended from Jews were still identified as such a generation after the infamous edict.

--Much of our knowledge of Mediterranean Jews, including Sicily, in the 12th century comes from Benjamin of Tudela, a Spaniard. He visited Sicily, described many Gentile groups, and mentioned China. He estimated some 200 Jewish families in Messina in the 1170s. Frederick II employed court Jews to translate Greek and Arabic works which reflects a high level of literacy among Jewish Sicilians.

--In the early 1060s Sicily's Jews often fought together with Arabs against the Normans (Battle of Messina and other compaigns in the Nebrodi Mountains). There were occasional expulsions for political reasons, but Jewish communities survived until 1493.

--Estimates vary widely, but in the early 1490s there may have been as many as 25,000 Jews in Sicily. Of the Jews who then departed for Rome, Ancona, Venice, Malta or elsewhere, some adopted such surnames as Palermo or Messina in reference to their cities of birth --though this is not to imply that all Italians bearing such surnames are descended patrilineally from Jewish forebears.

--Few traces of Sicily's Jewish heritage remain beyond a handful of inscriptions and small structures scattered around the island --things like a piece of Hebrew graffiti carved in the cloister courtyard of Palermo's Magione monastery-- though there is much documentary evidence.It is believed, however, that certain localised Catholic religious traditions may be based on Jewish ones.

--Sicily's medieval Jewish cuisine was similar to Arab cuisine, and the lack of pork recipes may reflect proscriptions by Muslims and Jews. There is a popular - unproven - theory that pizza was invented by Jews in Sicily or Naples. The traditional Sicilian pizza is sfincione, topped with tomatoes, onions and anchovies, although tomatoes only appeared after the discovery of the New World.

Michael Maddi has created a Family Tree DNA geographic group for people with Sicilian roots; some individuals have tested as having the J2 haplogroup, which indicates Jewish ancestry.

The project was established to study Sicily's genetic heritage - a crossroads of civilization for at least 3,000 years of recorded history. DNA testing for both maternal and paternal lines can provide a picture of the deep and recent ethnic background of Sicilians and their descendants. This includes Greek, Italian, Arab, Sephardic Jewish, Norman and Spanish backgrounds, among others. An extensive list of surnames represented in this project is provided.

For more information, or to join this DNA group which currently has 230 members, visit The Sicily Project.

Family Tree DNA also hosts the Sephardic Heritage Study. Its data will be utilized by Dr Doron Behar in his Sephardim Migration Study. The project is sponsored by the International Institute of Jewish Genealogy

For more information and to contact group co-administrator Alain Farhi, click here. The project is sponsored by the International Institute of Jewish Genealogy.


UK: Natasha Kaplinsky's family secrets

The hit BBC show "Who Do You Think You Are?" will be back on the air in the UK at 9 p.m., September 6, with British newscaster Natasha Kaplinsky as the subject and focusing on her father's family. The show takes her to Slonim, Belarus, where she learns about the family's fate, and to South Africa, where she discovers information about her ropemaker grandfather.

It was, says Natasha, like an agonising game of Pass the Parcel, unwrapping more of the truth every day, afraid of her family's response. "Of course I talked to my father about going over to Belarus and finding out what happened. It wasn't that he didn't want to know. But the generation above him didn't want to speak about it. There's a level of trauma across the entire family which is a familiar story among families caught up in genocide."

As you'll have gathered, the Kaplinsky saga doesn't end happily. Natasha, in her pristine white polo-neck and matching fur hood, discovers the village of Slonim, once in Poland, now in Belarus, from where her father's father, Morris, emigrated to South Africa in 1929 with his sister and brother. Family members who stayed behind fell foul of the Nazis, who invaded in 1941 and bundled the Jewish population into ghettos. Abraham, her great-uncle, killed himself in 1942 after his children, aged nine and two, were strangled. Great-Uncle Isaac, a Paris-trained doctor, escaped a massacre of 2,500 Jews and joined the partisans in the woods. The family patriarch and matriarch probably died when their family synagogue was torched.

In the article, Kaplinsky says the producers took her on a "mystery tour up the branches of her family tree." They told her to pack clothing appropriate for South Africa and for Belarus, and was taken to airport not knowing where she was going. She kept asking, "What have you found? Please tell me."

Last year, the show was also seen in Israel and elsewhere, so check your TV listings.

To learn more, read the article here.

Roots Travel: Honoring family, history

The Northern New Jersey Jewish News writes about Ira and Libby Lulinski of Cranford.

The trip earlier this month to Miory in Belarus was Ira Lulinski's fifth return to the town where he was born and where, in June 1942, Nazi soldiers shot almost all of the town's 1,000 Jews, including his mother, his two brothers, and his sister.

Ira, then six, managed to escape with his father, fleeing into the forest as bullets whizzed past them. They joined other survivors and Russian soldiers who had also escaped from Nazi capture and fought together in a partisan unit for the next two years.

Together with two of those partisans - boys who were also from Miory and who both now live in Israel - Ira has returned again and again since the breakup of the Soviet Union to monitor the preservation of the memorial in the field where all those townspeople died. He had a wrought iron fence erected 10 years ago, and he has paid a local woman to tend the ground.

Read the rest here.

Roots Travel: Back to Mosovce

The Jerusalem Post has the story of Yaniv Salama-Scheer's roots trip, where he met the woman whose parents had saved his family.

Ever since I was a small boy, I had always wanted to go to Czechoslovakia, this exotic and faraway place where my grandfather was born and raised. Even at a young age, I was aware that the former Czechoslovakia was home to the great cities of Prague and Bratislava, that it was a place of rolling hills, lofty mountains, castles, forts and history, pretty much all that is necessary to enchant a young mind. But none of it appealed to me. I had only one motive, a fixation almost, to see where my grandfather, a man for whom I have infinite admiration, had come from.

His grandfather came from the small hamlet of Mosovce, "in the Turiec region of northern Slovakia, nestled up against the Carpathian Mountains." Says the author, the closest population center with a recognizable name is on the other side of the Slovak-Polish border: Oswiecem, or Auschwitz.

In 1938, his grandfather left Mosovce, fled to Italy and then to the Dominican Republic.

Going to a place like Mosovce is an inimitable experience. Those of us who have survivors in our families have heard the stories. But that is the problem, they are just stories to us. What does the Warsaw Ghetto really mean to someone living in New York? Lvov, Vodzh and Lublin are just names with a stories attached to them. But to go there, to see, to experience and to honor what the survivors among us have been through is an experience that will stay with you forever. This is what I have learned here, and these are the lessons I leave here with.

Read the story here.

Texas: The Galveston Experience

The Jerusalem Post has a detailed story on the 100th anniversary of the Galveston Movement, an organized attempt to bring Jews to places other than crowded New York City or other East Coast ports.

On July 1, 1907, 87 Russian Jews landed in Galveston, Texas. Some 10,000 would land there through 1914. While the number may not seem high - compared to the two million Jews who arrived at Ellis Island between 1881-1923 and stayed or moved to large East Coast cities - Texas was the gateway to other communities in Texas, the Southwest and the Midwest.

Dr. Bernard Marinbach (Jerusalem) wrote "Galveston: Ellis Island of the West" (SUNY Press, 1982) and is quoted, "The immigration to New York was not organized in any way, while the Galveston Movement was based on an ideology to disperse Jews in the United States."

The detailed story provides information on conflicts between the earlier German Jewish immigrants and the later Russian Jews, restrictionist immigration policies, concerned leaders, early plans for a Jewish homeland, and how the Galveston Plan came about.

Also mentioned is the University of Haifa's Dr. Gur Alroey of the Land of Israel Studies Department. I've heard him speak at a few conferences on his Mass Jewish Migration Database which locates Jews who immigrated through the Jewish Colonization Association (ICA), the Jewish Territorial Organization (ITO), and the Galveston plan.

The port was chosen because the Southwest and Midwest were easily reachable to disperse immigrants who came through the port of Bremen, Germany, where ITO operated. In Galveston, the Jewish Immigrants' Information Bureau (JIIB)found them jobs in various states, provided railroad tickets, supper and food for their continuing journeys.

London-born Rabbi Henry Cohen of Galveston was community head. He had served in Jamaica and Mississippi, and was rabbi of the Galveston Bnai Israel Reform congregation for some six decades. His grandson, Rabbi Henry Cohen II, wrote his grandfather's biography, "Kindler of Souls" (University of Texas Press).

"My grandmother, Sarah Bernstein of Russia, remembered vividly arriving in the Galveston harbor for Kol Nidre. She remembered Rabbi Cohen coming aboard the ship to conduct services for the new arrivals," relates David Hoffman of Evant, Texas. "They spent the night on the ship before disembarking the next day [after Yom Kippur]. She went to a large building where they were processed. Rabbi Cohen handed her a letter from her father [in Texas from 1912] with $10 that she needed to legitimately enter the country."

The same month Ephraim Zalman Hoffman of Hrubieszow, Poland, arrived in Galveston aboard the SS Wittekind which sailed from Bremen. Remaining in Galveston very briefly, his final destination was Fort Worth. The kitchen staff in the restaurant that employed him had trouble pronouncing Ephraim and called him Charlie, which he formalized to Charles.

Born after his grandfather died, David Hoffman heard of his life experiences from his grandmother. He is an architect specializing in restoration because of his interest in history and preservation. "I'm on the board of the Texas Jewish Historical Society due to those interests as well as my personal family history being entwined with the Texas Jewish experience." His brother and grandfather's namesake, the late Charles Hoffman, was a Jerusalem Post reporter from 1980 to 1990.

The story describes life in small towns, where immigrants might have been the only Jews, the 1908-09 economic depression, difficult travel to Galveston and more stringent health restrictions on immigrants.

In February 1909, "Forgotten Gateway: Coming to American Through Galveston Island," will open at the Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum in Austin, to tell the story of the port (1845-1924).

More than 300 Jewish Galveston descendants were contacted; more than 100 shared and recorded family histories at oral history and photo-scanning sessions. The museum worked with Jewish community centers, historical societies, synagogues, local newspapers, collecting oral histories in Texas, Kansas, Minnesota, Illinois, Colorado, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Missouri, Idaho and Nebraska.

Read the complete story here.

24 August 2007

Seattle: Family history, Jewish festival

Seattle, for the first time since 2001, held its Jewish community festival attended by more than 3,000 people - despite the very soggy weather. In the Northwest, this is likely to happen, so the entire outdoor festival was held under tents!

The program included a full program of activities for many interests. Some highlights were the Yiddish spelling bee, klezmer music, Israeli music star David Broza. The event also offered adjacent booths for Family Tree DNA, the Washington State Jewish Historical Society and the Jewish Genealogical Society of Washington State - which will soon celebrate its 10th anniversary.

Seattle's JT News has a story link here.

JGSWS president Lyn Blyden reported that their booth was on "high" ground and they had fun dressing it, although their plans for computers with access to Ancestry, World Vital Records and JewishGen had to be scrapped because of the downpour and possible water damage - "We didn't want to lose volunteers or computers," she said.

(Note: Ancestry, World Vital Records and other subscription genealogy sites are happy to work with societies who wish to provide computer access at similar events.)

In spite of atmospheric conditions beyond human control, Lyn reported that booth volunteers provided visitors with ideas of where to research. The historical society offered a jeopardy game and JGSWS displayed laminated maps. By asking people "where do you come from?," many people entered the tent to trace their heritage.

Manning the Family Tree DNA booth was JGSWS first vice president and program chair Nancy Adelson, who said "There was a constant flow of interested people from 11 a.m. until 5:30 p.m. when I finally left (we tried to close the booth at 4:30 p.m.).

"There were many times where it was three people deep in front of our booth asking questions and learning about Family Tree DNA and DNA for genealogical purposes. The questions ranged all over the place but I can say most visitors were very interested in the topic.

"Remember that our booth had no food and no gimmicks to attract visitors. Just our sign and smiling faces.

"An interesting thing that happened was that the genetic cousins of booth volunteer Yvonne Stewart visited her - they were discovered through Family Tree DNA testing."

"Many of the people I met were just beginning to think about researching their families," said volunteer Ellin Block. "They were interested to learn about the ways that JGSWS could help support them with resource materials, advice from experienced researchers and monthly speakers."

Congratulations to the JGSWS leadership for this great idea. It can certainly be duplicated by other societies. It is a method to present genealogy to many people at one event and inspire newcomers to explore family history possibilities. Outreach is always win-win!

On another point, teaming up with the local Jewish historical society was excellent. The three organizations provided multiple interesting places for attendees to visit and learn.

For more information, the Washington State Jewish Archives (WWSJA) has more than 350 photograph collections with more than 4,000 photographs dating from the mid-1800s through today. Subjects cover families, life-cycle events, education, merchants; community, religious and business leaders; congregations and organizations; immigration and emigration; Sephardic culture; World War II and the Holocaust; activism and Pacific Northwest history.

Bloggers chime in on the IGG/GGG issue

DearMYRTLE and Jasia at Creative Gene have both posted entries providing information on Internet site providers and related issues. I'm sure there will be more.

For those interested in learning about Website management, bandwidth and use costs for individuals and small societies, read DearMYRTLE's post here.

She covers website costs that online researchers may not be aware of (although we should), adds more information on accessing the Italian and German databases through Steve Morse's One-Step website, Internet radio streaming and podcasting, genealogy website management revisted, efficient search engines, bandwidth costs and more.

Importantly, she wrote that the Italian Genealogical Group's ISP would have been more overwhelmed if researchers had not gone through Steve's more efficient search engine. More efficient search engines mean visitors spend fewer frustrating hours on a specific website.

I think most of us remember that there was some contentious friction way back when between Steve and EllisIslandRecords.org when his efficient search engine was used by so many of us. Today that site even states that Steve's is a better search engine.

DearMYRTLE described her own switch to a different ISP and how it was fairly painless, and why she chose to do podcast technology over expensive internet radio streaming.

Jasia referred to the the word that we are uncomfortable speaking about - money - and the larger issue of website management for various organizations.

Read both for more information on these issues. Thank you, colleagues, for these posts.

Learning from photographs and more

Family Tree Magazine has information-filled blogs for genealogists investigating their family history.

Photo expert and author Maureen Taylor writes the Photo Detective Blog for the magazine, in which she provides expert information on the clues in old photos. Readers may submit photos for free analysis, and the topic index is here.

The Now What? blog is written by Diane Haddad. Items cover many topics: Viewing online photos, immigrants who didn't arrive at Ellis Island, questions and tips for kids interviewing grandparents, converting PC files to Mac files, real estate records, ancestors in state hospital records, newspaper research and more. The topic index is here.

'Wiring' Jewish teachers for technology

Carolyn Slutsky of New York's Jewish Week wrote an interesting story on Rewiring the Jewish Teacher, describing sessions at the annual conference of Jewish educators sponsored by the Coalition for the Advancement of Jewish Education (CAJE).

Although not about genealogy, the story points up online information and how Jewish teachers are struggling to relate to their very Web-savvy students.

One teacher, "a self-described 'tech evangelist'" said "Technology is a tool, not an end product. It's just a way for you to do things."

Now in its 32nd year and under new leadership, CAJE decided to address the issue of technology and education with this year’s theme, “Engaging 21st Century Jewish Learners.” Amid the myriad workshops available every hour, teachers could choose to follow a technology track throughout the conference or simply drop in on more than a dozen sessions devoted to exploring the intersection of technology and Jewish life, covering everything from what a blog or a wiki is (online sites for posting and sharing information, photographs and videos) and how to use them in the classroom, to what are the ramifications the Jewish community faces in an increasingly digital world.

Lasday said there's still technology hesitancy in older age groups. Although some attendees carried their laptops and experimented with new technology, others were wary of communication and learning possibilities, "ambivalent to approach the border to the new land of technology, and uncertain what to do once they cross it."

According to the story, people learning technology later in life have been called "digital immigrants" in comparison with early-20-something "digital natives" who have always had email, 24/7 Internet access and instant communication.

One presenter stressed that “Digital immigrants [must] try to learn the new culture. Those who don’t try are going to be pushed out.”

An Israeli attendee said there's resistance because Jews are people of the book who have always wrestled with text, while "Technology still scares a lot of people," said fellow JTA blogger/writer Esther Kustanowitz.

Personally, I "immigrated digitally" in 1995 to a computer and the Internet, and as genealogical research became more technology-oriented (software, websites, search engines and more), I followed along. In 2006, I immigrated yet again to blog world, with a different learning curve and more skills to learn.
I still speak technology with an accent, but I'm learning!

Update on Steve Morse and IGG

June C. DeLalio, CG, a founding member of the Italian Genealogical Group (IGG) and the German Genealogical Group (GGG), has provided more information to the Association of Professional Genealogists discussion group on the blocking of Steve Morse's One-Step utilities.

"As a founding member of the Italian Genealogical Group, I would like to clarify an email that was sent regarding problems with the use of Steve Morse's One-Step website to access databases on the Italian Genealogical Group's website.

"Neither IGG nor GGG blocked people from accessing our databases through Steve Morse's site. The problem occurred because of the systematic methods used by Steve Morse to obtain information from our website. He has allowed many many people to use the site in such a way that it overwhelmed it. Our ISP provider crashed which affected not only our two organizations but all of his other clients. He therefore banned Morse's access.

"We have now had to get a larger provider at a greater cost. It is important to understand, however, that by using Steve Morse's site people can obtain their data without going through the previous IGG pages.

"These pages explain the work we do in assembling these databases which have millions of records from the New York area. They pass by the requests for donations which is needed to keep adding the databases online and for volunteers without whom these records could not be assembled.

"If you have ever visited our website _www.italiangen.org_ you readily understand that this is a big undertaking for two small genealogical societies. We cannot do this without help.

"Therefore, while we would like to accommodate everyone's use of Steve Morse's site, it does come at a cost to us. If the donations and volunteers dry up, we may have to remove or restrict the databases.

We are not the bad guys and wanted to explain the situation to all.

Thanks to June for explaining the problems associated with the blocking. Readers should also note her call for donations and volunteers for a very worthy project that has provided many researchers with excellent data.

22 August 2007

San Diego: Researching Vilna

The San Diego (California) Jewish Genealogical Society will meet at 1 p.m., October 14, at the Lawrence family Jewish Community Center.

The speaker is Michael Bart, author of a forthcoming book about Abba Kovner's Partisans of Vilna, who will talk about the 10 years he spent researching his parents' related stories.

Instrumental in their stories was their involvement with the partisans, and he will share the mixing of personal stories in the face of important historical facts and how he dealt with establishing a perspective to create a cohesive book.

The book will be published by St. Martin's Press in spring 2008.

For more information, click here.

Steve Morse honored at FGS

At the Federation of Genealogical Societies's Conference in Fort Wayne, Indiana, Jewish genealogy's own guru, Steve Morse, received the APGQ Excellence Award for his exceptional articles in last year's APG Quarterly, published by the Association of Professional Genealogists.

His "One-Step" search tools have assisted genealogists greatly by making it easier to find their ancestors within existing large genealogical databases.

Steve was also honored with the 2006 IAJGS Lifetime Achievement award for his One-Step site and its many resources. It all began with his frustration at not finding relatives in the Ellis Island Database.

A computer professional who holds an electrical engineering doctoral degree, he is best known as the architect of the Intel 8086 which sparked the PC revolution 25 years ago.

Congratulations, Steve!

Let's recognize young genealogists

I was happy to see the Association of Professional Genealogists release on its decision to establish a scholarship designed to encourage and support young newcomers. While this will target young professional researchers, there are many permutations that the Jewish genealogical community could consider adopting.

The noted scholarship is for the annual Professional Management Conference, and includes Federation of Genealogical Societies' conference registration and $500 toward travel and accommodations. The first recipient will be selected next spring and will attend the September 2008 FGS conference in Philadelphia.

"As an organization it is important for APG to encourage and inspire young people to choose this as a career rather than a hobby," said APG President Sharon Tate Moody in making the announcement at the PMC in Fort Wayne this week. "We could think of no better way to do this by recognizing academic achievement in preparation for a career in genealogy."

Applicants must be aged 18-25 as of May 1, 2008, be a current high school senior, undergraduate, post graduate or recent graduate of an accredited university or college, with a minimum 3.0 (on a 4.0 scale or the equivalent).

Applicants must include a list of extracurricular activities, organizations and volunteer activities; a letter of recommendation from a dean, principal or faculty advisor indicating the applicant's current/graduating GPA; and a letter of recommendation from an individual who has witnessed the applicant's interest in genealogy. Also required are 500-750 word answers to two questions relative to genealogical records and the applicants' anticipated career.

When will the Jewish genealogy community begin a similar outreach to encourage, support and recognize our own younger researchers?

Currently, there are individuals who are changing the demographics of Jewish genealogy with their passion and achievements: Logan Kleinwaks' work on various websites and OCR issues, Elise Friedman's interests in DNA matters and others.

In a recent conversation with Logan, he asked me why societies don't offer student rates for membership or conferences. While the discount does not have to be a hefty one, the mere fact that there is a special student rate means the society is encouraging younger individuals.

Several of today's major players have been interested in genealogy from very young ages, such as Steve Morse (One Step) and Bennett Greenspan (Family Tree DNA). Perhaps an early recognition program will encourage more young people to get involved in a meaningful way.

I'd like to see Jewish genealogical societies offer scholarship awards to 11th-12th grade high school students, with the process beginning in the junior year and honors awarded in the senior year. This could be any combination of family research, essay or other achievements by a student, and a full or partial scholarship to attend the IAJGS International Conference on Jewish Genealogy.

While such a scholarship might carry a modest financial award, it would likely take on a life of its own very quickly as college-bound students look for something unique to spotlight their achievements and universities look for a creative spark, in addition to academic qualifications.

The International Institute of Jewish Genealogy has its goal to have genealogy recognized as an academic discipline. An award for younger genealogists might spur interest at universities as they see incoming students preparing for and receiving such honors.

The summer Samberg genealogy program for high school students at the Center for Jewish History in New York might be another program for societies to consider.

For more information, click here.

What do you think about such a program to encourage young people to explore their family histories?

21 August 2007

Podcasting with fellow bloggers

This week, DearMYRTLE invited Jasia of Creative Gene and myself to a podcast interview in which we discuss the terms genealogist and family historian.

Jasia called our segment the "Jasia and Schelly Show" in her blog post.

DearMYRTLE’s Family History Hour 21 Aug 2007 genealogy podcast is available at her website. Click here and scroll down to "download." You can listen via computer or download to an mp3 device or via iTunes.

If you're not sure how to listen to or download the podcast, click here for detailed instructions.

The one-hour podcast begins with Geoff Rasmussen of LegacyFamilyTree.com, followed at 26:30 by Pierre Cloutier of ProgenySoftware.com discussing GeneLines - our segment is at 37.22.

Geoff mentions that the new version of Legacy now sends reminders of family events such as anniversaries and birthdays. (Note: Where's the software to address, stamp and mail the card envelope?)

Pierre provides interesting information about graphically demonstrating time lines in family history, the overlap of generations, as well as related historical events.

Yad Vashem receives first Arolsen records

Last night, Yad Vashem received the first transfer of Arolsen material, as ITS IT system administrator Michael Hoffman handed over millions of pages of documentation to Yad Vashem CIO Michael Lieber.

Here is the press release:

First transfer of material from ITS/Arolsen Archive arrives at Yad Vashem

Some 12 million documents to be absorbed in Yad Vashem Archives

(August 21, 2007 - Jerusalem) Last night (Monday) the first transfer of material from the International Tracing Service archives at Bad Arolsen, Germany arrived at Yad Vashem. The transfer took place following a decision by the ITS International Commission to permit the transfer, on embargo, of material to archives in the member states, to allow them to prepare the groundwork for making the material available to the public. The embargo will be lifted only when all 11-member states have completed the ratification process. The material - 12 million documents, comprising 1.4 terra bytes - were handed over by Michael Hoffmann, IT System Administrator of the ITS, to Michael Lieber, CIO of Yad Vashem (see attached photo).

The 12 million scanned documents received last night primarily include material describing concentration camp prisoners: personal records of various prisoners in the Nazi camps, as well as lists prepared within the camps themselves, including transfer records, personal prisoner accounts, and details of the sick and the dead. In total, the ITS archives contain information on some 17.5 million individuals. Copies of some 20 million pages of documentation from Bad Arolsen have been contained in Yad Vashem’s Archives since the 1950's.

"Over the years, Yad Vashem has amassed a great deal of experience and knowledge in digitizing archival information and making it user friendly," said Avner Shalev, Chairman of Yad Vashem. "However, the material received last night, is complex and vast, taken from a number of camps, which is organized in complicated and varying ways. We expect it will take a lot of resources to sift through the material and catalogue it. We are, as a first step, checking whether the material we have just received contains new documentation or whether it compliments the material Yad Vashem brought from Bad Arolsen in the 1950s."

Digital copies of more material from Bad Arolsen are expected to arrive at Yad Vashem towards the end of this year, as well as in 2008 and 2009.

20 August 2007

Ohio: Ancestry adds 19,000 Jewish marriage records

Ancestry has just added 19,000 Jewish marriage records extracted from the Cuyahoga County, Ohio Marriage Application and Return volumes in the county archives. The majority of records (1837-1930) are from Cleveland, an early important Jewish community.

Data includes the bride's and groom's names, ages, birthplaces, occupations, parents' names, marriage date, bride's residence, any previous marriages, book and page of register record and name of celebrant.

The records were identified as Jewish if the officiator was identified as a rabbi or if the surname of one or both of the parties was identified as a common local Jewish surname.

In this database, I located many of my TAYLOR (this branch changed the name from Talalay to Taylor) family with Mogilev, Belarus origins.

Click here for more information on the database.

On May 5, 1839, 19 emigrants left Unsleben, Bavaria, Germany for Cleveland, led by Moses Alsbacher, to join a fellow Unslebener, fur trader Simson Thorman, who had settled earlier in the village on Lake Erie. They brought a Torah scroll and, by 1850, there were two congregations, Anshe Chesed formed in 1846 (Fairmount Temple) and Tifereth Israel (The Temple) opened in 1856; both adopted the Reform format. The first rabbi was Isadore Kalisch.

Many settlers were peddlers, others cigar rollers, while still others were in dry goods, or butchers and bakers, and clothing manufacturing, wholesaling and retailing were also popular occupations.

B'nai B'rith converted (1868) a health sanitarium to care for the Civil War's Jewish orphans. The Hebrew Relief Society (1875) followed and became the Montefiore Home for Aged and Infirm Israelites in 1882. The Young Women's Hospital Society (1892) began to raise funds for a Jewish hospital (Mt. Sinai), which opened in 1903.

By 1880, the community numbered some 3,500 mostly of German origin. Eastern European Jewish immigration followed, and more social services were established by the Cleveland Section of National Council of Jewish Women and the Council Educational Alliance. The Federation of Jewish Charities was established in 1903, uniting eight agencies.

By the 1920s, the city's Jewish population was about 90,000 in several neighborhoods, and cultural life included a Jewish center, famous Jewish leaders; Orthodox, Conservative and Reform synagogues; a Yiddish theater, Workmen's Circle, Socialist Farband Center, schools and yeshivas as well as an excellent public high school.

Jewish leaders included The Temple's Rabbi Abba Hillel Silver, who took the pulpit in 1917; Rabbi Barnett R. Brickner of Euclid Avenue Temple served from 1925-58; Rabbi Solomon Goldman of B'nai Jeshurun and Anshe Emeth; and educator Abraham H. Friedland headed the Talmud Torah and the Bureau of Jewish Education.

Today, more than 81,500 Jews live in Cleveland.

For more Cleveland Jewish history and some historic photographs, click here.

This story is also on the JTA site here.

DNA: 100 facts

My favorite DNA blog is Eye on DNA.

Dr. Hsien-Hsien Lei's latest posting is "100 Facts About DNA."

While it may be more than you need right now, it provides information that you might have wanted to look for, but didn't know where or how.

In addition to scientific information about DNA - provided in short, easy snippets - it offers other interesting factoids:

Did you know that if you unwrap all the DNA you have in all your cells, you could reach the moon 6,000 times?

It would take a person typing 60 words per minute, eight hours a day, around 50 years to type the human genome.

If all three billion letters in the human genome were stacked one millimeter apart, they would reach a height 7,000 times the height of the Empire State Building.

Read the other 97 facts here.

Steve Morse and the IGG

From reader Joy Rich, editor of New York's Jewish Genealogy Society journal, Dorot:

In early July, the IGG (Italian Genealogy Group) and, shortly afterward, the GGG (German Genealogy Group) website began blocking requests that were coming from Steve Morse's One-Step website.

Users could no longer take advantage of the added value that Steve's One-Step site gave to those websites' data, such as easily finding the bride's record that corresponds to a groom's record.

Steve learned that, as of yesterday, the IGG website has stopped blocking him. The GGG website is still doing so, but he expects that they will remove the blockage shortly.

The IGG offers many useful databases for those searching Jewish ancestry, such as New York bride/groom indexes and naturalization records. The GGG carries the same databases.

Thank you, Joy.

19 August 2007

New blog: ThinkGenealogy.com

I've just seen this new (to me) blog - Think Genealogy, subtitled "genealogy, software, ideas, and innovation."

It is definitely geared to techies, but there are some interesting items for the rest of us.

The blogger is Mark Tucker, a professional software architect, who spends his spare time as a family historian, thinking about genealogy and genealogy software. He's even a counselor for the Boy Scout Merit Badge in Genealogy.

Ukraine: What really happened in Ispas?

An AP story just out tells the story of the Ukrainian village of Ispas and what happened there.

An undated photo shows the deportation of Romanian Jews to Transnistria over the Dneister River during World War II. More than 150,000 Jews were deported to Romanian occupied Ukraine (July 1941-June 1942. Some survived, many were killed or died of starvation and disease. (See below for slide show link of Ispas photos)

ISPAS, Ukraine -- It is a story of courage and kindness during the first tragic days of the Holocaust in Ukraine - the tale of how a village rose up against an anti-Semitic gang of killers to save its Jewish neighbors.

A researcher stumbled on the inspiring story this year. Now some of Ukraine's Jewish leaders plan to raise a monument, host a delegation of students from Israel and stage a ceremony Wednesday honoring this small farming community in western Ukraine.

But 66 years later there are conflicting accounts of what happened in Ispas during that terrible summer of 1941, when the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union triggered an outbreak of anti-Semitic violence.

Residents and one survivor say the 2,000 villagers risked their lives for the sake of about 100 Jews, an account supported by some leaders of Ukraine's Jewish community and the scholar who uncovered the tale.

Survivors and experts do not agree what happened in Ispas. Although more than 2,000 Ukrainians have been honored by Yad Vashem for rescuing Jews, most were individual personal acts. If the Ispas story could be confired it would be unique - a community helping its Jews.

There is a drive to honor Ispas, spearheaded by a leader of the Ukranian Jewish community. One former resident, now living in Tel Aviv, said that although neighbors stopped a gang from killing the Jews, the villagers then robbed them and forced them from their homes. She adds that the village doesn't deserve a prize.

Some of today's current Ispas villagers were children and remember the events:

Nadiya Vinnytska's father, Volodymyr, was the village priest. He ran from his house to confront the attackers barefoot, Vinnytska said, because he didn't have time to put on his shoes.

"Calm down. I will not allow you to kill Jews," the priest said, according to Vinnytska, now 83. "They are the same people as us."

The Israeli researcher - who uncovered the story and believes it - is Alexei Shtrai, who says "we just have to prove it."

Yad Vashem spokeswoman Estee Yaari says the story needs to be investigated further.

Read the Washington Post article here. Yahoo also carried the USHMM photo as part of an Ispas slide show here, while the Yahoo story is here.

The story also includes links to the US Holocaust Museum, Yad Vashem and the Yad Vashem victims' names database

30th Carnival of Genealogy posted

The latest edition of the Carnival of Genealogy has been posted by Jasia of Creative Gene., with a total of 11 entries, including Tracing the Tribe's entry.
The topic this time was genealogical conferences/seminars.

Some very funny, such as Janice Brown's (Genealogy Seminars I'd Like to See) and others with interesting views.


17 August 2007

Amsterdam: Anne Frank's real family tree

It is a family tree of sorts, as the giant (about 27 tons) horse chestnut tree grows in a garden outside the house where Frank and her family hid in the attic. She wrote about it in her famous diary.

The tree is about 150-170 years old and privately owned, in a garden surrounded by buildings.

Today, it is so diseased and unsafe that an order was given in November 2006 to cut it down, but public outcry has delayed the deed.

Reuters tells the story about the tree which has, according to a city council spokesman, "somewhat mythical status."

It's defenders claim it should be allowed to live as a symbol of hope and life, even though it will replaced with a sapling from grafts of the towering tree.

Public reactions ranged from "you should be ashamed to cut it down," or "it's a shame to cut it, but can we have a piece of wood from it?"

Read more about the political logjam here

Insider info on the Arolsen records

Yad Vashem's chief archivist (since 1993) Yaacov Lozowick's blog has a recent posting about insider news and personal views on ITS/Arolsen issues.

He writes that what may be the most significant data is what was created in the early post-war years, when "tens - or hundreds - of thousands of survivors filled out forms detailing the names of those they had lost." These are important, he writes, because they've never been open and few know they exist. Unfortunately, this segment will not be scanned for perhaps a year or two, he adds.

Other information:

--It may be the most important archive for tracing individuals persecuted by the Nazis, and for tracing individuals in the early post-war years.

--Most Jews murdered in the Holocaust will not appear, since they were not recorded at the time. This is not what most people think, but is a fact.

--Pressure brought by USHMM's Dr. Paul Shapiro and colleagues resulted in the 2006 Bonn Agreement, which sets how the data will be digitally duplicated and made accessible in various countries.

--The Bonn Agreement allows only one digital copy per member country, and forbids putting it on the Internet.

--Large portions of the ITS collections have been open to the public for many years at Yad Vashem. Some people wanting access to ITS data could have had the information from Yad Vashem - many have done just that.

--Creating simple access when the collections are opened will be difficult for technical reasons.

--The best the institutions are currently aiming for is creating a modified system at their sites, given "time constraints, technical challenges and costs."

--In the future, it should be possible to migrate data into a system permitting individual researchers to type a name into a computer and receive results from across the collections.

--Data accessible in 2008 in Washington, Jerusalem, Paris and eleswhere will not include the complete collections, as scanning will take more years and longer for processing.

Click here to read the entire piece.

16 August 2007

Canada: More Ancestors in the Attic!

Rick Roberts of The Global Gazette reported on new episodes of the hit family history TV program, "Ancestors in the Attic," hosted by Jeff Douglas. They'll be released during August and September, exclusive to the Canadian version of The History Channel.

The new season's first four episodes:

Birth Mother: A woman goes in search of her birth mother
6.30 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 18 and 8 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 22

Japanese Ancestors: A woman's quest to find her Japanese Ancestors
6.30 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 25 and 8 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 29.

The Napoleonic Wars and a Gangster Grandfather
6.30 p.m. Saturday Sept. 1 and 8 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 5

A House Special: Ghost House/Bishop House
6.30 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 8 and 8 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 12.

Do you have a family tree secret, skeleton in the closet, family legend, research roadblock or mystery you'd like solved by the show's experts? Submit your idea here; you might be featured on a future episode.

Just for fun: Guarding our "stuff"

Genealogist Richard Pence's piece, "If I Throw It Away, I'll Need It," about his attempts to protect his genealogically-important items from his wife's cleaning spurts.

"Over the years I have developed some pretty good defenses to counter these annual spring-cleaning rites. One method has been the 'high-shelf shuffle.' Way up high, beyond her reach, is where I put all the stuff that is beyond verbal justification."

Read it here.

I think we can all relate to his tribulations!

My non-genealogist husband holds an advanced certificate in keeping his own papers nicely organized in folders and boxes - it's really quite impressive. Whenever I travel, however, he "helps" by cleaning up the papers around my computer, stacks of books ... . It takes me days to locate important items when I get back.

Isn't there a quote somewhere about what a clean, neat desk means?

Amsterdam: Important Sephardic records

Sally Bruckheimer of Princeton, NJ, got into genealogy "because everywhere we went - when I was a kid - I bumped into cousins."

"My mother never bothered to remember how they were related to us, but we had a lot of cousins in town (Buffalo, NY) as my great grandfather, several sisters and brothers and a cousin all came there."

One day, Sally finally convinced her mother to sit down and think, obtaining the rudiments of a Ruslander tree, although with many errors. "We had a reunion and straightened a lot of it out," she adds.

She does have an advantage, as she worked in basic medical research for many years, and knows how research is done.

Her Sephardic ancestors (CAPADOCE, LOPES DE LEAO LAGUNA, PALACHE and others) lived in Western Europe. She notes that much of the information on this side of Jewish genealogy points to the Ottoman Empire and Eastern Europe.

A check of Amsterdam's Sephardic records is essential as many Western European Sephardim married there. Many who lived in Hamburg, Bordeaux, Bayonne, Cleves, Pesaro, Curacao, Bracil and other places married there, as well as Converso families leaving Spain and Portugal.

The records date to 1600, and include civil marriages, deaths and synagogue records. Languages include Dutch, Spanish and Portuguese. There are tombstones, mohel (circumcision) records and ketubot (marriage records).

The LDS have filmed these records (all LDS film numbers are searchable at FamilySearch.com). The marriage records and index: Ketuboth (1792-1803) Ketuboth (bijzondere) (1710-1819) Ketuboth index (1673-1920) are on film 899929. The Vaz Dias Collectie films are 899933 and 899934.

Sally's great-grandfather arrived in the US from London in the 1860s, but she didn't expect to find him there. The Bevis Marks (Spanish Portuguese Congregation) records note two daughters of Moses (deceased) Lopes de Leao Laguna who married in the 1860s; one married a Vaz Nunes da Costa. Eventually she got Moses' death certificate and one for Rachel, but nothing else.

However, when she learned about the Amsterdam marriage index and checked the film, she found that Moses married Rachel in 5599 (Hebrew year), and the records listed the fathers' names: Moses de Jacob marrying Rachel de Isaac. Sally checked back two or three decades, and found their parents ... and their parents ... and their parents.

Because of naming patterns (children named after grandparents, generally living), she ordered records from Amsterdam and they are all connected today.

Sally notes that siblings changed their surnames to distinguish themselves as three sons of Moses would each name their first son Moses, and there might be several Moses Lopes de Leao Lagunas. However, each, according to Iberian custom, also adds the wife's name to the children's names. Thus the son of a Vaz Nunes da Costa marries a de la Penha, but their son is named Moses Vaz Nunes da Costa de la Penha.

Another complication, adds Sally, is that as an international trade center, the Jews did business with Spain, Portugal and the colonies. With the Inquisition still active, the Jewish traders (previously Catholic) used aliases.

But never fear: the alias were registered in the Amsterdam notarial records and Jewish-related entries are in the Vaz Dias Collection (filmed by the LDS). Sally gives the example of Joseph da Costa AKA Joao Peres da Cunha, who came from Brazil to New Amsterdam (now New York City) in 1655. He's in the Amsterdam records.

If you have Sephardic ancestors born in Western Europe in the 17th-19th centuries, check for the names in the Amsterdam records.

Family Tree Maker 2008 released

Ancestry has announced the release of Family Tree Maker 2008. Although I started with FTM in DOS format back in 1990 and have upgraded along the way, I haven't yet explored the new release.

For more information now, see the Reviewers Guide, including screen shots of new features, here (loading may be slow). Dick Eastman's readers have contributed many beta reviewer comments here, and blogger Randy Seaver has a posting on more reviewer comments here.

The press release:

PROVO, Utah, Aug. 14 -- Ancestry.com, the world's largest online resource for family history, today announced the release of Family Tree Maker 2008, a completely redesigned and ground-breaking version of the world's No. 1 selling family history software. Family Tree Maker 2008 boasts an intuitive new interface and dozens of new features built on an entirely revamped, modern platform - the result of a two-year, back-to-the-drawing-board development process.

In one software bundle, Family Tree Maker 2008 provides users tools to quickly build their family trees, record their memories and organize their family photos, stories, video and audio clips. Users can quickly find and import facts and historical documents about their family from the Internet and print custom-designed family trees and books. With dynamic satellite maps and customizable timelines, Family Tree Maker 2008 truly broadens the capabilities that every family history program should include.

"Family Tree Maker 2008 redefines family tree building software, providing users with powerful, unrivaled tools and resources to discover and share their family stories," said Tim Sullivan, CEO of The Generations Network, Inc., parent company of Ancestry.com. "The software's seamless integration with the Ancestry.com Web site further solidifies Ancestry.com as the family history authority both on and offline."

Family Tree Maker users can tap into Ancestry.com's unrivaled collection of family history records and powerful search features - without leaving Family Tree Maker. When connected to the Internet, Family Tree Maker 2008 automatically searches Ancestry.com for historical documents about the individuals in the user's family tree. With a few mouse clicks, users with an Ancestry.com subscription can view and import these historical records into their family tree.

"Family Tree Maker 2008 offers every user an intuitive out-of the-box experience," said Megan Smolenyak, Chief Family Historian for Ancestry.com. "Ancestry.com developers worked closely with industry professionals as well as family history beginners to create a program that uniquely spans the range of user ability with an easy-to-use interface that also offers advanced, robust features."

The following new and updated features expand Family Tree Maker's capabilities:

-- Interactive Street and Satellite Maps - Use Microsoft® Virtual Earth™* to access dynamic street and satellite maps that pinpoint important locations in ancestors' lives from within Family Tree Maker. A place-name database and hint engine helps users correctly enter localities in a consistent format.

-- Web Integration -View and search any Web site from within Family Tree Maker*. Once users locate information about their ancestors, they can easily import appropriate images, text and even a cached version of the Web page in to their family tree.

-- Individual Biographies - Create biographical sketches for each ancestor, adding life facts, historical documents, photos and other digital media. In addition, timelines highlight important personal, family and world events that occurred during ancestors' lifetimes.

-- Media Organization -Upload and manage image, audio, video and other media files. Users can attach these files directly to specific people in a family tree to better illustrate their family story.

-- Publish Family History Books - Create customized, illustrated family history books. Ancestry Press allows users to bring their family history to life with professionally designed charts, timelines, reports and pedigree charts, as well as photos, historical records and more. The books can then be professionally printed and bound (or printed on home printers).

For more, click here

Georgia: Atlanta museum preserves Jewish history

From the Atlanta Journal Constitution comes this story on Georgia's Jewish history.

Atlanta's William Breman Jewish Heritage Museum is looking across the state for evidence of early Jewish life for the State of Georgia Project.

The Bremen received, in 1999, a $15,000 grant from the Georgia Historical Records Advisory Board to identify and survey Georgia's Jewish communities. Ruth Einstein joined the museum as special projects coordinator; the archivist is Sandra Berman.

"Albany, Bainbridge, Cleveland: Families in those towns and others have added to the Breman's collection of life in Georgia. Berman estimates that the museum has 'several thousand' photos and more than 50 taped histories.

"Dalton, Eatonton, Franklin: They were merchants, farmers, peddlers, Civil War veterans, rabbis. Georgians.

"Berman and Einstein have driven up interstates and down narrow country roads tracking family histories. They have crawled under synagogues and crept to the top of department stores, looking for treasures in the dust. "Sometimes," said Berman, "you are absolutely amazed at what you find."

Time is not their friend as the state's smaller Jewish communities are "drying up." Einstein has a state map, studded with push pins indicating the places she's visited for information.

Among the finds, which include birth certificates, death notices, love letters and photos, are about two wheelbarrows' records from Macon's Temple Beth Israel, founded 1859.

Berman wants to expand the search to Alabama, while the Institute of Southern Jewish Life (Jackson, Mississippi) is also cataloging southern Jewish congregations.

Read more here.

15 August 2007

DNA: Could it happen to you?

For a light-hearted spoof of DNA, Dr. Spencer Wells, head of the National Geographic Society/IBM's Genographic Project, appeared on The Colbert Report. Watch the video here.

"DNA: Could it happen to you?" aired August 14. Stephen Colbert tested his mtDNA (maternal line) for the show, and Wells reported he is haplogroup K and related to Otsi the Ice Man. Three of the four K haplogroups are among the founding lineages of Ashkenazi Jews.

Back in February, Colbert also interviewed Dr. Craig Ventner of Celera Genomics on mapping the human genome and using DNA to produce synethetic fuels. here.

Some websites have noted that Colbert has now done two DNA segments, pointing up the topics current significance.

Podcasting Polish research

Dear Myrtle has provided, since 1995, practical, down-to-earth information for family historians, and she's now doing podcasts with her Family History Hour. On August 14, her guest was author/editor Cecil Wendt Jensen who focuses on dispelling the myths that Polish records were destroyed during the wars and that the language barrier makes research too difficult.

After a three-decade education career, Jensen switched to professional genealogy in 1998, is a Certified Genealogist, maintains the Michigan Polonia website, and is completing a "how to" Polish genealogy book, titled Sto Lat, highlighting techniques utilized to find her grandparents' ancestral villages in Prussia, Russian Poland and Galicia.

Jensen also presented at the recent 27th IAJGS International Conference on Jewish Genealogy in Salt Lake City.

Listen or download the podcast here.

Among links mentioned, such as the Polish Genealogical Society of America, available here are two books by William F. Hoffman: Polish Surnames: Origins and Meanings, Second Edition (with some 30,000 names), and his new book, with George W. Helon, First Names of the Polish Commonwealth: Origins and Meanings includes a 300-page list of names including those of Hebrew, Yiddish, Czech, German, Greek, Hungarian, Latin, Lithuanian, Polish, Russian and Ukrainian, and a list of Cyrillic forms of common Jewish names).

India: Jewish history

From an unlikely publication for Jewish genealogy, comes this Forbes piece by Gary Weiss.

Beginning with a discussion of secularism, the Indian Jewish community comes into play quickly, and the writer even quotes from Avotaynu.

In the U.S., diversity is a politically correct slogan. In India it is a historical fact. Much as we in the West may resent it, India has a lot to teach us when it comes to religious tolerance.

To my mind, the best example of that can be found in the remarkable story of a tiny minority--India's Jewish community. India may be the only country in the world that has been free of anti-Semitic prejudice throughout its history. As the Jewish genealogical journal Avotaynu recently observed in an article on one Indian Jewish group, "The Bene Israel flourished for 2,400 years in a tolerant land that has never known anti-Semitism, and were successful in all aspects of the socio-economic and cultural life of the people of the region."

Weiss, comparing India with the U.S. and other countries, writes "But in 'backward' India, from the beginning, the Jewish communities have not only been free of discrimination but have dominated the commercial life of every place where they have settled - something that has fed traditional European anti-Semitism."

He discusses why India has remained free of anti-semitism, highlights discusses the town of Cochin, its four 439-year-old buildings (the Paradesi Synagogue) and the community's history.

The article mentions the other Indian Jewish communities: Bene Israel in Bombay (now Mumbai) and Baghdadi (from Iraq and Iran), who first settled in Calcutta (now Kolkata).

Prominent community members include Lt. Gen. J.F.R. Jacob, Bollywood's silent movie queen Sulochana and others.

Read the article here.

I've previously posted about the Jews of India. For Jewish marriage records in Bengal and Calcutta, click here. For a posting on Bene Israel writer Sophie Judah's stories chronicling her own little-known community, click here.

Carnival of Genealogy: Gathering the clans

This month, Jasia of Creative Gene asks gen bloggers about fantasy and favorite genealogy conferences for the 30th Carnival of Genealogy.

My top fantasy conference wish is for time machine access. How much would you pay to ask your G-G-G-Grandmother the names of her siblings, their spouses, her parents and grandparents, where they were born and more? I'm hoping for an included automatic translator, but - just in case - we should start studying Russian, Polish, Yiddish and a host of other languages. What could be worse than traveling back and being unable to ask questions or understand the answers?

Increasing numbers of Sephardic genealogy researchers have origins in Spain and Portugal, North Africa, the Mediterranean, the Caribbean, Central/South America, the Middle East, Asia and the Far East, as well as those with Converso roots around the world. Archivists from Spain, Netherlands, Turkey could present pertinent information and personal consultations on research possibilities.

Event syllabi should be in looseleaf format so daily session handouts can be removed, leaving the heavy book back in one's room. Although younger genealogists are increasingly present, many more are still in a certain demographic and bound syllabi are heavy.

Offer a fully-searchable syllabus CD. In this technology age, it shouldn't be difficult to provide this at-your-fingertips information with additional space (maps, photos, etc.) for speakers. Those who live far from the event site find it easier to pocket a CD, than to ship or squeeze a heavy book into an already-overstuffed suitcase.

One wish has been granted with the genealogy film festivals at the 2006 and 2007 Jewish genealogy conferences. Offerings include full-length award-winning features to short amateur clips of ancestral village roots trips. Producers and directors should be invited to discuss their work. Perhaps some premiere screenings and/or an award for the best?

And, finally, when one annual event offers an excellent syllabus or daily planner, why re-invent the wheel the next time and switch to a hard-to-read format? Hint on conference bags: Top-zip bags are more useful than unwieldy fold-over messenger styles (especially for laptop-toters!).


For genealogists and family history researchers delving into Jewish roots, there is one comprehensive event, the annual IAJGS international conference on Jewish genealogy. International researchers organize their summers around the event. This is where researchers meet genealogical household "names" in person, hear about new resources and network, network, network.

I've attended many over the years, but New York 2006, hosted by the Jewish Genealogical Society (New York), raised the bar of excellence. Some 1,400 people attended a frankly amazing program - exhibiting vision and wide-ranging creativity - covering 23 categories, including geography, technology and even music.

The only downside - a perennial problem - was attempting to choose one session in each slot - one memorable hour required a choice from among nine fascinating sessions. Evening programs included concerts and films, while days also included trips to repositories and cemeteries.

In 2008, the 28th event will be in Chicago (August 17-22). Many international researchers have links to the Midwest's largest Jewish community and environs, while mini-themes may include Canada, Midwest/Upper Midwest and Latin America, in addition to the regular line-up. Sephardic researchers are hoping for a substantial program as well.


The Catskills Institute promotes research and education on the Catskill Mountains and the American Jewish experience, with resources detailing so much about the region. New Yorkers hungry for mountain air, good food and the American way of leisure came to the mountains to escape the hot city. By the 1950s, more than a million people inhabited the "summer world" of bungalow colonies, summer camps, small hotels and famous resorts. Conference highlights include historians, authors, current/past residents and tours. For information on this year's event (August 24-26) click here.

The Society for Crypto-Jewish Studies conference is high on my wish list, but my schedule hasn't allowed me to attend. Next year in New Mexico … maybe! In particular, see University of New Mexico author/researcher Dr. Stanley M. Hordes' presentation: "Problems in Studying Hidden People: Historical Challenges."

More than 20 million Hispanics, according to experts in the field, have Jewish roots. Some know, some suspect, some maintain distinctive customs, while some have no knowledge of roots among the Conversos - those forced to convert to Catholicism in the face of Spanish persecution in 1391 and 1492.

My thanks to Jasia for asking challenging questions. Tracing the Tribe readers are invited to comment on their own wishes for a fantasy conference. I'm looking forward to reading your ideas.

Creating a new family heirloom

Recently, I told readers about a new blog called JudaicaJournal. A new posting focuses on tzedekah boxes, the artists who create them and their philosophies of tradition and art. These women also produce other Judaica items that could become your family's next heirloom or a treasured gift for an important life cycle event.

It is fair to say that most of us grew up with blue-and-white tzedekah boxes for Keren Kayemet, and with other collection containers for numerous institutions. These new creations are not your parents' or your grandparents' tin boxes.

At a time when 90 percent of donations are made by the solitary act of writing out a check, tzedakah boxes are enjoying an unexpected renaissance. The simple box that embodies one of Judaism's foundational tenets—the commandment to help those in need—has blossomed in the hands of contemporary Judaica artists. This modest denizen of bubbe's kitchen is now wrought in a multitude of shapes, sizes, media, and methods and has become an object as beautiful as the mitzvah that inspires it.

The strong link between tzedakah and the home is the inspiration for Leona Fein's unique stained-glass tzedakah boxes. "Giving tzedakah is part of my family's heritage," she says. "My uncle gave to an old-age home for rabbis—The House of Sages on Manhattan's East Side. That is still my charity, and when I began to design tzedakah boxes, I wanted them to have the shape of a house because tzedakah should start at home."

Other artists mentioned: fused glass artist Sara Beames, cloisonné enamelist Marian Slepian and Bonnie Cohen's ceramics,

The article, by Debra B. Darvick, originally came from Jewish Woman magazine.

14 August 2007

Touro Synagogue celebrates Washington Letter

The Touro Synagogue Foundation, in Newport, Rhode Island, will celebrate the 60th annual reading of George Washignton's historic letter, "To the Hebrew Congregation at Newport," on Saturday, August 18 and Sunday, August 19.

Activities celebrate and commemorate George Washington’s famous letter, written a year before the Bill of Rights was ratified, providing an unequivocal guarantee that the new country would be a safe haven for religious minorities.

Shabbat morning services begin at 8.45 a.m. Saturday, followed by a 2 p.m. lecture, “Viewing Colonial Newport Through the Prism of Jewish History,” presented by Stephen Kaplan, followed by a choice of three guided walking tours. A gala reception will take place that evening.

The letter reading will take place at 1 p.m. Sunday at the Touro Synagogue, with the keynote address by Brown University president Ruth Simmons.

For details, including reservations and fees, click here.

Are we family historians or genealogists? UPDATE

Genealogy writer James M. Beidler for Pennsylvania's Lebanon Daily News stirred up controversy with a recent column on whether we should call ourselves genealogists or family historians.

It’s often difficult for a columnist to predict which columns will hit home with readers, and that’s definitely been the case with the column published two weeks ago that asked the philosophical question about whether we should call ourselves genealogists or family historians.

The print and Internet readership is still sending me responses, so I now realize that this column hit some nerves.

One reader wrote “I have been working on the genealogy of my family and others for many years but call myself a family historian. There is so much more to what I do than just recording birth, marriages and deaths. To really get to know our ancestors we need to find out their history.”

Several adoptees indicated their frustration concerning lack of access to their birth records, taking away the chance to learn about bloodline genealogies.

Among comments he received:

"I deserve a family genealogy (not history) as much as the next person, no matter what the law and the narrow-minded legislators across this country dictate."

"I am not interested in researching a family to whom I am not related by blood — it’s not my ancestry. I find it interesting hearing stories of my adoptive parents’ relatives and ancestors, but it’s really the same as listening to my neighbors or co-workers talk about their families’ past."

Read the entire column here

One reply by an international adoptee to Beidler is here and provides additional insight into Beidler's original question. The writer addresses other categories of alternative families, which can include step children, blended families, foster children and guardianship. Today's technology also includes such categories as women carrying babies for their daughters or sisters, surrogate mothers and donor-conceived babies.

An earlier Tracing the Tribe post concerns the changing face of Judaism, and directly covers the issue of international adoption.

I'd like to ask Tracing the Tribe's readers the same question:
Are we genealogists or family historians?
How do you or how would you address this in your own research?
I'm looking forward to your comments.

13 August 2007

Montreal: Journal back issues online

Readers with connections to Montreal, Quebec, Canada, will be happy to know that the Jewish Genealogical Society of Montreal has now placed all past issues of their quarterly journal, Montreal Forum, online.

Click here, and then click the Montreal Forum logo.

Each issue's table of contents is listed. One interesting feature in most issues is "Montreal - In Days Gone By." The December 2006 (Vol. 2, Issue 2) column focused on Jewish Montreal in the 1760s.

Following General Jeffrey Amherst's bloodless takeover of Montreal and New France in September 1760,it became possible for Jews to settle legally in the area. Previously, only Roman Catholics were permitted to live there.

In 1742, Aaron Hart left England for Jamaica and New York, went north with Amherst's army of 2,000 men and rode into Montreal with him. It is likely his co-religionists Levy Solomons, Ezekiel Solomon, Chapman Abraham, Benjamin Lyon and Gershom Levy were also in that group.

The article details the early Jewish life of Montreal. The first Jewish baby born was David David (October 13, 1764), while the first to die and be buried there was Lazarus David (October 22, 1776).

But perhaps the most significant Jewish “birth” was the founding in Montreal of the Corporation of Portuguese Jews, Shearith Israel, by about a dozen families on 30 December 1768. This founding of what might be called a home base, cemented a most important element in their lives. As pioneers, they naturally had the obligation to be sufficiently successful in business so that they could establish homes and all the other necessities for raising families, but they never forgot their commitment to their Jewish lifestyle.


Library of Congress: Photo Collection

Reader Ann Rabinowitz supplies great research tips. Her latest is the free, searchable online Library of Congress Photo Collection (1840-2000), which includes some 340,000 prints, useful for tracing immigrant ancestors to America.

Search it here. Search categories include names, towns, occupations and more.

Using the term "news-boys," Ann found an April 17, 1912 photo from Washington, DC, of a group of boys who sold extras into the late hours of the night and early morning. Some were Jewish, identified as Israel Spril, 9, 314 I Street, NW; Harry Shapiro, 11, 95 L Street, NW; and Eugene Butler, 310 (rear) 13 Street, NW.

There were 117 more photos in the same category. Others mentioned include Abraham Jachnes (1908), Newsboys Lodging House, 14 Chambers St., NY; Harry Ahrenpreiss, 30 Willet St., Brooklyn; Abe Gramus, 37 Division St.; Alice Goldman, Besie Goldman and Bessie Brownstein, Hartford, CT (1909).

Readers might be shocked at the young ages represented, she says, adding that the youngest she saw was only 4 years old. Special lodgings were sometimes provided and there were protective associations. Although primarily a male domain, girls also worked in the trade.

Thank you, Ann, for this interesting source.

California: Three conference reviews

If you couldn't make it to the 27th IAJGS International Conference on Jewish Genealogy in Salt Lake City, want to learn the highlights and live in California, you're in luck! Several Jewish genealogical societies are offering reviews:

**The San Francisco Bay Area JGS has scheduled two reviews with different panelists at 12.30 p.m. Sunday, August 19, at the JCC East Bay, Berkeley, and at 7 p.m. Monday, August 20, at Congregation Beth Am, Los Altos Hills. Both meetings are free. For details, click here.

**JGS Sacramento has set their review at 7 p.m. Monday, August 20. Panelists include Lester Smith, on new library acquisitions; Mark Heckman, new microfilms at the Family History Library and the Film Festival; Bob Wascou,what's new on JewishGen and Family Tree Maker 2008; and Art Yates, other interesting programs. For details, click here.

**The JGS of Los Angeles' event is noon-3.45 p.m. Sunday, August 19, in West Los Angeles.

At noon, met for bagels, coffee and cake, socialize, see the group's traveling library and materials acquired at the conference, followed by SIG (Special Interest Group) updates: Belarus, Gesher Galicia, Hungary, JRI-Poland, Latvia, Litvak, UK and Ukraine.

At 1:30 p.m., view a conference film: Schmatte Mazel (Australia), about the lure of Jews to the shmatte (rag) trade, focusing on the Melbourne, Australia Jewish rag trade.

At 1.45 p.m., highlights of the event's best programs and speakers.

At 3.15 p.m., two conference films:

Buboolah Bagela (Australia). Filmmaker Lesley Sharon Rosenthal, a self-confessed bagel addict, traces her family's bagel ritual. In a series of interviews with bagel lovers, she investigates the Jewish tradition of the Sunday bagel brunch and asks if bagels are the mainstay of Jewish family life?

West Bank Story (Israel). A musical comedy take-off on West Side Story about the hope for peace, and 2007 Academy Award winner (best live action short film). Israeli soldier David and Palestinian fast food cashier Fatima are an unlikely couple who fall in love amidst the animosity of their families' dueling West Bank falafel stands.

For details, click here

NOTE: Remember to mark your calendars for the 28th IAJGS International Conference on Jewish Genealogy, August 17-22, 2008, in Chicago, Illinois. Tracing the Tribe will provide all details concerning the Call for Papers and other details as they are announced.

11 August 2007

Just for Fun: How did I miss this one?

Regular readers of Tracing the Tribe know that I frequently point to Chris Dunham's The Genealogue. His postings generally provoke everything from giggles to full-out hysterics.

Don't know how I missed this one but Chris has drawn up a genealogy flowchart demonstrating how genealogists use the Web. It will appear in his not-for-real forthcoming book, Internet Genealogy for Complete and Utter Morons.

Directions: Click here to view. Print out. Hang on wall adjacent to computer. Review when things get too serious!

Thanks, Chris.

Tel Aviv: Pictures of a family

Family history research can take many forms as illustrated by Vardi Kahana. She has spent some 15 years traveling and photographing her extended family, now on exhibit at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art (TAMA).

Cousin Hannan and his wife Zipora, uncle Moshe, aunt Sara and uncle Yehezkel, Gil and Roni, Rivka, cousin Eta's daughter, the Greenwald cousins, aunt Yafa and uncle Baruch... and so on and so on through a pictorial genealogy that envelops four generations and scores of family members in Vardi Kahana's fascinating, and poignant, photographic documentary appropriately entitled One Family.

Kahana begins her exhibition with a triple portrait of her mother Rivka and her sisters Leah and Esther. This black-and-white bromide could have been an ordinary family portrait if it were not for the consecutive numbers tattooed on their arms - A-7760, A-7761, A-7762 - seared eternally into skin as they disembarked from the cattle cars in Auschwitz in 1944.

The numbers tell the story of survivors, their memories of the Holocaust and their suffering, but the photographic image elevates the viewer onto a higher level as it transmits perceptions of pride, new beginnings, determination and, by the compactness of the composition and by the gestural placing of their arms as an act of both cohesion and tenderness, an unending promise of unity.

Click here to read more.

California: San Francisco-area gen mavens

J. the Jewish News Weekly of Northern California devoted much of its "Faces" (August 10) column to Jewish genealogy in the Bay area.

Karen Roekard writes that Jewish genealogists abound in the Bay Area. Indeed, two recently won awards for their work. Stephen Morse, of San Francisco, whose calendar of speaking engagements includes Germany, Copenhagen and England (along with more mundane locales such as Livermore, Sacramento and Chicago) won the 2007 Award of Merit from the National Genealogy Society.

Roekard herself won a first-place award in the International Society of Family History Writers and Editors “Excellence in Writing” contest in the category “Want-to-be-Writer/Columnist” (“The only one open to me,” she joked). Her winning piece is being published in Avotaynu: The International Review of Jewish Genealogy. Roekard has translated the Yizkor book from the town of Belz, Ukraine, which includes a list of 7,500 people from the town who died in the Holocaust.

Also mentioned:
Rosanne Leeson (South Bay) - Alsace Lorraine and Romania.
Robin Magid (Kensington) - Lublin, Poland.
Vivian Kahn (East Bay) - Hungary.
Henry and Marcia Kaplan (South Bay) - Galicia.
Judy Baston (San Francisco) - Lithuania.
Ron Arons (East Bay) - Jewish criminals.
Jeremy Frankel (Berkeley) - president of the San Francisco Bay Jewish Genealogical Society (SFBJGS), with three branches.

Thank you, J., for spotlighting these individuals who contribute so much to our field!