While Judith Frazin was sitting shiva for her grandmother, she heard a story from a family member that amazed her. As a young girl in Poland, the grandmother had fallen in love with a man her father didn't approve of and ran away from home to marry him. The girl's father found out and brought his daughter back home. The family member who told Frazin the story, a niece, had been responsible for passing notes between the two until the young lovers managed to reunite, marry and leave for the United States.
These were the grandparents Frazin had known all her life as respectable, hard-working family members.
"My grandmother was a very regal woman. I couldn't picture her in that role of rebellious daughter," she says. "I was so intrigued. I asked this relative over to ask some more questions. That led me to other people from the town my grandparents came from, and it became an evolving thing."
Mike Karsen is a professional genealogy speaker, instructor and researcher who was looking for something to do after early retirement.
"I started poking around, going to some genealogy meetings," he says. "Then my aunt, who had been the family historian, died. It was a big loss. How are we going to find things out? My theory is that when people lose their connections with the past, we feel like we're kind of orphans, so genealogy fills that."
Karsen not only became involved in researching his family's distant past, he also discovered living relatives and has visited them.
He has also taken advantage of one of genealogy's newest tools, DNA testing, locating a distant relative living in Wisconsin who had no clue about his family history.
Frazin talks about getting hooked on genealogy and its addictive qualities, and compared what we do to detective work and puzzle-solving.
Illiana Jewish Genealogical Society president Trudy Barch will be in charge of the resource room - a big draw for attendees interested in Chicago-area research.
The story included some of an email interview I did with Pauline, mentions this blog and its Family Tree Magazine award. The conference
"Here they can focus on the local stuff," she says. "Some you can do online and some you can't. If you want to get a birth, death or marriage certificate (from Chicago) now you might be able to get it right away."
"provides an unparalleled opportunity for researchers, from absolute beginners to professionals, to learn from the field's best experts. It is the place for announcements of major discoveries and projects and innovations in the Jewish genealogy world, and from these annual meetings, the word goes out around the world."Other topics in the story: Putting put flesh on the bones of our ancestors, DNA, family names, Sephardic research, rabbinical research, Internet resources, meeting relatives from around the world, how beginners should start, interviewing relatives before it is too late, reconnecting with one's heritage and identity, Mormon records, opening of Eastern European records, Holocaust research and the fact that our research is fun and never ends!
"Perhaps the most important aspect of each conference is the personal interaction among attendees as they network with those researching the same names and towns, consult with international archivists and learn together.
A great story that covered all the bases. Thanks, Pauline!
For more information: Jewish Genealogical Society of Illinois or the Illiana Jewish Genealogical Society. The JGS of Illinois meets 12:39-2pm on the last Sunday of the month at Temple Beth Israel (Skokie). Meetings are free. For Chicago 2008 information, click here.