17 April 2009

Baltimore: Tracing Jewish genealogy

Our genealogical journeys may begin with a passion to connect with ancient ancestors and longlost relatives around the world. Along the way, we hope to discover our place as a link in our family's chain and a bridge from the past to the future.

Tracing family history was the focus of this Baltimore Jewish Times article.

The story mentioned Ancestry.com, MyHeritage.com, Geni.com, JewishGen.org, some family sites, scrapbooks, professionals, Rabbi Malcolm Stern's “First Americans Jewish Families: 600 Genealogies, 1654-1988" now online, as well as The Jewish Museum of Maryland's Weinberg Family History Center with three generations of family genealogical records and Jewish cemetery records in Maryland.

Two major drawbacks: The story never mentioned genealogy blogs or Sephardim.

The author interviewed four Baltimore-area residents on their personal journeys down discovery road: Randi Hertzberg of Owings Mills; Adam Meister of Reservoir Hill; Edith Brotman; and Laya Bitman of Mount Washington.
Sometimes the search for one’s roots begins with a sepia-toned photograph of unfamiliar faces and nearly indecipherable handwriting and ends up with a trip to Uruguay to visit long-lost cousins.

Sometimes it begins with a scrapbook on a closet shelf which falls to the floor, revealing memories of family and events of years past, and ends up leading to a career.

Sometimes it begins serendipitously in a Dor Tikvah “how-to” class on researching genealogy and ends up with the discovery of relatives who were among the founders of Tel Aviv.

Perhaps, most often, the genealogical journey begins with a deep desire to connect with relatives, past and present, and ends up with a greater understanding about oneself and about one’s family.
The story offered good tips for beginning a search:

- Work backwards; narrow the search to one branch.
- Keep a source page. Back up every fact you find and every person you find, because family members may dispute what you find.
- Keep researching and delving into the research until you reach a point where you know you can’t go any further.
- Talk to living relatives and find out as much as they know about family.
And what to do with those family documents and photos:

- Keep photographs and family documents in acid-free scrapbooks or boxes to prevent aging and ruin.
- Remove photos placed in photo albums with magnetic strip pages and place in plastic sleeves. Put larger items in polyethylene bags.
- Do not store in an attic or basement due to extreme changes in temperatures or potential flooding. If they must be stored in the basement, place in plastic, sealed boxes or bins.
- Copy newspapers with family history or events, as newsprint eventually disintegrates.
- Transfer audio tapes to a digital recording, as it become inaudible after approximately 10 years.
Research areas covered by those interviewed include pre-state Israel, Romania, Latvia, Uruguay, Lithuania.

Read the complete story at the link above.

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