31 January 2010

Israel: Who Do You Think You Are, debuts Feb. 4

Israel now has its own version of the popular BBC hit, Who Do You Think You Are.

Tracing the Tribe's conversation with the Jerusalem office of the Israel Broadcasting Authority indicated that the six 50-minute episodes will appear on Channel 1 at 9.30pm on consecutive Thursdays, from February 4-March 11.

I spoke to the show's producer this morning and have been invited to a special screening Tuesday night of the episode featuring Israeli comedian, actor and musician Tal Friedman.

The first episode features journalist and television personality Gabi Gazit and his journey to find out about his family. Born Gabriel Greenstein in Czechoslovakia, he learns about places and stories he's never heard and about his parents' true history. Along the way, he learns about their experiences, and how that history shaped their lives and his own.

According to the producer, Gazit believes his participation in the show was one of his most rewarding experiences.

The lineup for the remaining episodes include:

February 11: Tal Friedman; comedian, actor and musician.

February 18: Ohad Knoller; actor

February 25: Shifra Horn; author

March 4: Michal Yanai; actress

March 11: Professor Yoram Yovel, psychiatrist and psychoanalyst
The show will soon premiere its US version, and is already seen in the UK, Canada, Australia.

Tracing the Tribe knows where Israeli genealogists and family historians will be on Thursday evenings!

Miami: Steve Morse, Feb. 7

Super Bowl Sunday is even more special when genealogy superstar Steve Morse comes to town. He'll be in Miami, at the Jewish Genealogical Society of Greater Miami, on Sunday, February 7.

Spend the morning with "super" Steve and JGS members, who will also be celebrating the group's 21st anniversary. The morning program starts at 10am at the Greater Miami Jewish Federation, 4200 Biscayne Boulevard, Miami.

Steve is the award-winning creator of the One Step Genealogy Website. He's received many genealogy awards for his innovative contributions and has informed international audiences with his talks.

South Floridians who may have missed him at previous IAJGS conferences or those snowbirds or anyone visiting the area should come along. On this trip, Steve will only appear at the Miami JGS.

He will give two very interesting talks.

-- "Beider-Morse Phonetic Matching: Alternative to the Soundex with Fewer False Hits." This new system was developed by Steve and Alexander Beider.

Searching for names in large databases containing spelling variations has always been a problem. One solution, known as soundex, is to encode each name into a number such that names that sound alike will encode to the same number. The search would then be based on finding matching numbers, which results in finding all names that sound like the target name.

Soundex is based on the surname spelling, with no regard to how the name might be pronounced in a particular language and has been a problem. The phonetic encoding described in Steve's lecture incorporates rules for determining the language based on the spelling of the name, along with pronunciation rules for the common languages. This has the advantage of eliminating matches that might appear to "sound alike" under the pure spelling criteria of soundex but are phonetically quite unrelated.

-- "From DNA to Genetic Genealogy: Everything You Might Want to Know, But Were Afraid to Ask."
The study of genetics that started with Gregor Mendel's pea experiments in 1865 has now entered the genealogy field with Megan Smolenyak's coining of the term "genetealogy" in 2000. To understand the genealogical aspects requires an understanding of some of the basic concepts.This talk introduces genes, chromosomes and DNA, and goes on to show how DNA is inherited. That knowledge of inheritance can be used for finding relatives you didn't know you had, learning about your very distant ancestors, the routes they traveled, and
determining if you are a Kohen (descendant of Jewish high priests).
Tracing the Tribe heard Steve present this one at a past Southern California Genealogical Society Jamboree conference. It explains things very well from a non-scientists' point of view. It's a great introduction to understanding DNA genetic genealogy. Hopefully, it will encourage and inspire more people to get involved with FamilyTreeDNA.com testing and projects!

Come along and celebrate the JGS of Greater Miami's milestone anniversary. There is no fee and special refreshments will be saved.

For directions and more information, such as secure parking, click on the JGSGM website.

30 January 2010

WDYTYA Live: Research guides, workshops, Feb. 26-28

Who do You Think You Are Live - The National History Show in the UK - has published online a series of guides for those researching ancestors.

The show is set for February 26-28, at the Olympia in London.

Click here and see the left menu. click on "What's Your Story?" and see the list of available guides.

In addition, to Jewish Ancestors, the other guides are Getting Started, Army Ancestors, Criminal Ancestors, Divorced Ancestors, Irish Ancestors, Migration, Scottish Ancestors.

Each has additional links and resources within the text. Additional Jewish resources listed in the guide are Jewish Genealogical Society of Great Britain and JewishGen.

The Jewish guide covers immigration; birth, marriage and death certificates; census records and wills.


Several workshops at the show will feature well-known individuals in several fields.

On Sunday, February 28, Laurence Harris and Daniel Horowitz will each present a workshop.

On Friday, Saturday and Sunday, DNA workshop presentations feature Bennett Greenspan, Max Blankfeld and Michael Hammer of the University of Arizona.

All speaker biographies are available here.[Note: Speaker biographies are listed by first name - not surname - which I found strange for a genealogy-focused event. Also, not all biographies are listed.]

-- Sunday details:

Laurence will provide the top 10 tips for tracing Jewish ancestors - which he uses for professional and personal genealogical goals - from 12-15-1pm.

He's a professional genealogist and family historian. He has researched for the Who Do You Think You Are TV series and specialises in tracing Jewish Ancestors and living relatives in the UK and overseas. He is the former chairman and genealogical inquiries officer of the Jewish Genealogical Society of Great Britain.

Daniel's workshop is set for 2.15-3pm, titled "Face Recognition and Photo Tagging for Genealogy Research,"in which he'll cover this state-of-the-art technology available at MyHeritage.com.

Daniel is the genealogy and translation manager at MyHeritage.com, an IAJGS board member, Israel Genealogical society member, a genealogy educator and wears other hats as well.

-- DNA workshop details:

FamilyTreeDNA.com founder Bennett will present "New frontiers for DNA and genealogy" all three days, from 12-12.45pm, and "21st century tools for genealogists" 5-5.45pm Saturday; Max will present "DNA for genealogy - basic concepts" 10-10.45am each day and "National Geographic's DNA project - The Genographic Project," 4-4.45pm Friday and Saturday and 3-3.45pm Sunday.

While our friends will be enjoying this London event, I will be speaking in Hong Kong and Australia - a really exciting journey! Tracing the Tribe hopes to be at the London event in 2011.

London: Romanian synagogue exhibit opens Feb. 3

London's Spiro Ark will open a photo exhibition - The Last Jew of Sighisoara and Transylvanian Synagogues - on Wednesday, February 3.

The exhibit will be of interest to those researching Romania or in the restoration of Eastern European Jewish sites in Eastern Europe. The synagogues in the photographs - where Jews are no more - will become Jewish historical and cultural centres.

The exhibit opening will include a talk by Jessica Douglas-Home on the Mihai Eminescu Trust's restoration work on historic buildings in Romania.

The Trust, chaired by Douglas-Home, was founded in 1987 and works in Saxon Transylvania, where its goals are to conserve and restore the region's historic built heritage, to revive the economic life of its village communes and to train indigenous craftsmen in new or forgotten skills.

Freelance journalist Petru Clej, with a special interest in Jewish Romanian history and the Holocaust, will speak on "Attitudes towards the Holocaust in Romania - from frank admission to ugly denial."

The film "Gruber's Journey," by Radu Gabrea, will be screened.

Doors open at 6.30pm; the program begins at 7pm. Fee: £5 (+£1 online booking fee)

Spiro Ark is a London-based charitable organisation which organises Jewish cultural events and courses in Jewish history, culture and languages. Its tag line is "inspiration through Jewish history and culture."

Learn more about Spiro Ark, which aims to teach Jewish history and culture. It believes both are important as it combines Jewish education, history and culture to maintain Jewish identity in the 21st century.

The Spiro Ark also has a blog which covers events, reviews and history. Co-founder Nitza Spiro authored a post on the upcoming exhibit, raising some interesting questions:

The question whether old and dilapidated synagogues, which are no longer in use should be restored and maintained, is in our view a rhetorical one. For us Jews whose life-line to things Jewish is Jewish history, the answer is obvious. The question however remains whose responsibility it is to bear the cost.

Should it be an individual whose ancestors came from the specific area or used that particular synagogue; should a Western community adopt a restoration as their memorial to those who perished leaving us with the obligation to remember, or should it be the responsibility of the State where the synagogues are found?

She includes more information on the Mihai Eminescu Trust's restoration of the Medias synagogue which will become a national heritage center to teach visitors, including students, about Transylvania's Jewish history.

Thanks to Saul Issrof of London for this tip.

Sephardim: Museum of Family History exhibits

The virtual Museum of Family History also has material for researchers of Sephardim.

-- Holocaust Memorials in Havana and Santa Clara, Cuba

-- Synagogues of Asia: Burma, China, Hong Kong, India, Lebanon, Singapore, Tajikistan, Turkey [Asian side].

--Synagogues of Turkey: (European side of Istanbul)

-- Synagogues of Spain. The photo at left is the El Transito Synagogue in Toledo.

-- Postcards from Home: Turkey

Museum creator Steve Lasky wishes to include more pre-war family photos. Readers with such photos are invited to contact Steve.

Romania, Hungary, Ukraine: New index project

Is your research focused on historic Hungary's Maramaros county? Today it is Maramures county, Romania and sub-Carpathian Ukraine.

This announcement should encourage researchers of these areas to jump for joy!

It also supports that old adage: If you want something done, ask a busy person or a group of busy persons!

Brooke Schreier Ganz is definitely one of those people, as are Sandy Malek, Vivian Kahn and others. Despite their considerable personal and professional responsibilities - not the least those connected to JGSLA 2010 - this is what they and other volunteers are working on right now.

She has asked Tracing the Tribe to inform its readers about this broad project that should assist so many more researchers to find out more about their families.

There's a new project underway to index Jewish vital records for towns that were located in the former Hungarian county of Maramaros. Today, these towns are split between Maramures county in northern Romania and the Zakarpattya (sub-Carpathian) region of southwestern Ukraine, so this project will be valuable for researchers of all three areas.

Brooke has completed a first-ever inventory database of all of the specifically-Jewish vital records (pre-1896) known to be held in the Romanian National Archives branch in Baia Mare, Romania, which is where most of the Maramaros towns' records are stored today. She has put it online on the project's website (see below).

Both modern town names and many former/alternate/Hungarian names are listed, and all are searchable. Using that new inventory database as a guide, and with the help of a great researcher in Romania, the group has started to obtain high quality digital photographs, page by page, of many of the old Jewish register books stored in Baia Mare, encompassing thousands of Jewish records. They hope to acquire more in the future.

Above find a birth register page from Sacel, Romania.

This project will index these records, placing data into spreadsheets, and submitting all the spreadsheets for inclusion into the various free JewishGen databases (All-Hungary,All-Romania, All-Ukraine, etc.), so that they will be available to everybody. These register books have NOT been microfilmed by the Mormons.

Here's a guide to the project:

1) Which towns from Maramaros county are known to have surviving Jewish vital records stored in the Baia Mare archives?

Towns now located in Romania, known to have surviving Jewish vital records in the Baia Mare archives:
Baia Mare (Nagybana), Berbesti (Bardfalva), Birsana (Barczanfalu), Bistra (Petrovabisztra), Bocicoel (Kisbocsko), Bocicoiu Mare (NagyBocsko), Bogdan Voda (Konyha), Borsa, Botiza (Batiza), Breb, Budesti (Budfalu), Calinesti (Felsokalinfalva), Campulung la Tisa (Hosszumezo), Cornesti (Somfalu), Craciunesti (Karacsonfalva), Desesti (Desze), Dragomiresti (Dragomerfalva), Dragos Voda, Feresti (Fejerfalu), Giulesti (Gyulafalu), Glod, Harnicesti (Hernecs), Hotinka (Hoteni), Iapa (Kabola-Patak), Ieud (Jood), Kabalacsarda (Kabola Csarda), Leordina (Lerdene), Lunca la Tisa (Lonka), Mara (Kracsfalva), Moisei (Mojszin), Nanesti (Nanfalu), Ocna Sugatag (Akna-Sugatag), Oncesti (Vancsfalva), Petrova, Poienile de sub Munte (Ruszpolyana), Poienile Izei (Sajo-Polyana), Remeti (Remete), Rona de Jos (Alsorona), Rona de Sus (Felsorona), Rozavlea (Rozalia), Ruscova (Ruszkova), Sacel (Szacsal), Salistea de Sus (Felsoszelistye), Sapinta (Szaploncza), Sarasau (Szarvaszo), Sarbi (Sirbi), Satu Sugatag (Falusugatag), Seini(Szinervaralja), Sieu (Sajo), Sighetu Marmatiei (Szighet), Stramtura(Szurdok), Tirgu Lapus (Magyarlapos), Vadu Izei (Farkasrev), ValeaStejarului (Disznopatak), Valeni (Mikolapatak), Viseu de Jos (Alsovisso), Viseu de Mijloc (Kozepviso), Viseu de Sus (Felsovisso).
- Towns now located in sub-Carpathian Ukraine, known to have surviving Jewish vital records in the Baia Mare archives:
Bedevlya (Bedohaza), Bila Tserkva (Feheregyhaza), Bilovartsi (Kiskirva), Bushtyno (Falu-Bustyahaza), Chumalovo (Csomanfalva), Dobryanskoye (Nyagova), Drahovo (Kovesliget), Dubove (Dombo), Dulovo (Dulfalva), Hanychi (Ganya), Hrushovo (Kortvelyes), Kalyny (Alsokalinfalva), Kolodne (Darva), Komsomol's'k(Nemetmokra), Kosivs'ka Poliana (Kaszopolyana), Krasna (Taraczkraszna), Kryve(Nagykirva), Lopukhiv (Brusztura), Neresnytsia (Nyereshaza), Nizhneye Selishche (Alsoszelistye), Novobarovo (Ujbard), Novoselytsia (Felsoneresznice), Nyzhnya Apsha (Alsoapsa), Okruhla (Kerekhegy), Pidplesha (Pudplesa), Pryborzhavs'ke (Zadnya), Rus'ka Mokra (Oroszmokra), Rus'ke Pole (Urmezo), Shyrokyy Luh (Szeles-Lonka), Solotvyno (Slatina), Sredneye Vodyanoye (Kozepapsa), Tereblya(Talaborfalu), Teresva (Tarackoz), Ternovo (Kokenyes), Tyachiv (Tecso), Uhlia (Uglya), Ust'-Chorna (Kiralymezo), Velykyy Bychkiv (Kisbocsko), Verkhnie Vodiane (Felso-Apsa), Vil'khivtsi (Irhocz), Vodytsia (Apsita), Volovec (Bordfalva), Vonihove (Vajnag), Vynohradiv(Csamato), Yasinya (Korosmezo).
2) What years do the records cover?

Jewish birth, marriage, and death records exist for almost every one of the "Romanian" towns listed above for the period of 1886-1895.

About two thirds of those towns also have birth and death records for the 1870s-1886. A few towns have earlier coverage; one has a tiny number of birth records back to 1772! "Ukrainian" towns' records coverage is more uneven, but for some of the little towns north of Szighet, some record books have survived (with a few gaps) back to 1851. See the website for a full listing of all known record types and years for each town. That database will be continually updated and corrected as we learn more.

3) What are the records like?

They are nearly all in Hungarian (some old ones in German and, for one town, in Hebrew) and are generally very easy to understand, even if researchers don't know Hungarian. Handwriting ranges from decent to excellent. Sample photos of some records are on the website.

What information might a record contain? Birth records, for example, generally offer these fields [NOTE: Not every record contains every field] :

Child: Given name, date of birth, gender.
Father: Surname, given name, hometown, occupation.
Mother: Maiden name, given name, hometown.
Town of birth.
Town of birth registration.

Notes (may include Godfather's name [often a relative, such as a grandfather], other information).
Other surnames mentioned in this record.
Other towns mentioned in this record.

Casting a wider net is important when working with Eastern European records. According to this project, birth records for one town showed that 99% of children born in that town in the 1880s had at least one (and sometimes both) parents born in other nearby towns. This means that your family of interest may be found in more towns than you might know about.

4) How can I help?

Readers and researchers of these areas can help the Maramaros/Maramures indexing project: Volunteer to help transcribe the old records, and/or make a donation (tax-deductible in the US!) to JewishGen to help acquire photographs of more old record books. See additional details on the website.

The project is also looking for people with records indexing experience to help manage all of this! Please e-mail if you might be interested.

5) What's the website address?


Special thanks go to Dan Jurca, Beth Long, Sam Schleiman, Vivian Kahn and Sandy Malek for helping to get this project off the ground.

Readers with questions may email Brooke.

29 January 2010

Seattle: Genetic genealogy, Jan. 30

How can DNA genetic genealogy help you in your research?

Readers in the Seattle area can learn about the basics in a program presented by the Seattle Genealogical Society at the Green Lake Library from 1-3pm on Saturday, January 30. It is free.

"Genetic Genealogy -- How to Use DNA to Solve Genealogical Puzzles and Uncover New Questions You Never Faced Before" with speaker Larry Jones, a Seattle attorney.
Paternal, maternal and autosomal genetic markers yield different results and are of differing values to your ancestral research. Learn how to overcome some kinds of dead-ends in your research and see what kinds of roadblocks are unlikely to be overcome with DNA results.

Jones is researching five Y-lines of paternal genetic ancestry and one X-line of maternal ancestry. He has been researching his family history for 45 years and has published four books of family history on Welsh and English ancestors.

The SGS advises participants to bring the name, location and date of their most ancient ancestor in each of their various male ancestral lines. A lucky person or two may go home with the solution to a genealogical puzzle, especially if you have a wireless laptop along.

Lithuania: View your shtetl from the air

Would you like to see your ancestral shtetl and environs from the air?

A new website now makes it possible to see aerial photographs of many Lithuanian cities and towns. Tracing the Tribe wishes such a website for Belarus existed.

The photos were taken via a video camera installed in a radio-controlled "Magpie" model plane. The site founder is photographer Kestutis Fedirka, who launched it in November 2009. Read more about the technical aspects of the work here.

Jeff Miller, of the Jewish Genealogical Society of Greater Washington, sent along a note which profiled the site. There are two versions of the website, in English and in Lithuanian.

While the site has an elegant graphic design and the videos are quite nice, it is not a good site for the visually impaired with its black background and grey lettering. Tracing the Tribe found it very hard to read even with our computer glasses. Some of the lettering just fades away. A quick fix would be for them to change the grey to white lettering. Even the logo used on this post (upper left) had lettering nearly impossible to read until I adjusted the contrast with a photo editor.

Here is one shot of Trakai Castle:

How to search:

On the homepage top bar, readers will see a line of 10 Lithuanian regions, along with the crest of each. Click on the region and then see a list of towns. Click on the town of interest and you'll see an aerial video. Click on the lower right corner and see it full-screen. The accompanying music makes it seem as if you are floating in a hot-air balloon over the town.

The music is very familiar, but I can't place it. If any reader does know what the piece is, please let me know.

You can even click on 3D (upper left corner of the picture screen) and link to Cooliris, which is another interesting program for photo techies. You'll need to download this plug-in and then you can see other sites using it. It claims to offer the fastest way to search Google and other sites for video and photographs. The demo is impressive and there are several tutorials, as well as a blog. According to the Cooliris site:

It's simply the fastest and most stunning way to browse photos and videos from the Web or your desktop. Effortlessly scroll an infinite "3D Wall" of your content without having to click page to page, whether you'e on Facebook, Google Images, YouTube, Flickr, Picasa, Kodak Gallery, or any supported site. Or channel surf the latest news, TV episodes, movies, and music videos all from within Cooliris.

After looking at the Cooliris site, I realized the Lithuanian site design was the Cooliris site, which uses the same black background and lighter lettering. A dark background is excellent for photos and videos as they seem to stand out much better, but the lighter lettering is somewhat hard to read.

Since I knew that some of our BANK family had lived in Raseinai, according to various archival records, I selected Kaunas and then Raseinai.

If, for example, you are looking for Rokiskis:

1. Select "Panevėžio apskritis" (Lithuanian version) or "Panevėžys region" (English version)

2. Scroll down to Rokiskis.

To see the coastal village of Nida:

1. Select "Klaipėdos apskritis" (Lithuanian) or "Klaipėda region" (English),

2. Scroll down to Nida.

The video clips stream along from different angles, and that soundtrack is great!

For sale on the site is a 100-page album, containing more than 2,000 photos from 62 communities, with descriptions in Lithuanian and English.

Well worth a look for researchers of Lithuania.

Wanted: Tracing criminal records

Ron Arons was surprised to learn that his great-grandfather had done time in Sing Sing Prison.

Maybe there’s more to your own family history than you know! Search the Sing Sing Jewish Inmate Database for what might surprise you.

His first book, "The Jews of Sing Sing," was a resounding success, and his new book, "Wanted! US Criminal Records," should be just as successful.

The 380-page book covers 50 states and the District of Columbia, federal records (state by state), where to find prison records, parole, execution, a short primer on considerations for criminal research. Ron's years of experience have certainly contributed to this new field of genealogy.

While Ron says the price ($49.99) might shock some people, he believes that if he can save anyone even one hour in their search for information, the price is justified. "I think I can save people hours and hours of time," he added, during a phone call when we discussed the new book.

The book should be of interest to professional genealogists, libraries, social sciences, true crime, mystery writers - in short, anyone who wants to research criminals for many reasons.

"Wanted! U.S. Criminal Records Sources & Research Methodology" seems to be a one-step reference for information sources about criminals from America's past.

It lists archives, libraries, courts and online sites containing numerous sets of criminal information, such as prison records, criminal court records, parole records, pardon records, execution information and more. There are also examples of documents in repositories and how to conduct genealogical research on criminals.

The new book is for sale on his website. Go to STORE and scroll down to the book ($49.99, including $5 S&H, but not taxes).

Ron will also be speaking at various venues across the country, such as Jamboree 2010.

In March, he'll appear March 15 at the New England Historic Genealogical Society (NEHGS) in Boston and March 16 at the New York Public Library (NYPL). See his website for his current list of appearances.

28 January 2010

France: Strasbourg Jewish cemetery vandalized

A Jewish cemetery in the eastern French city of Strasbourg was vandalized, according to a story on the World Jewish Congress website.

The attack occurred on the eve of International Holocaust Remembrance Day. Over 30 gravestones at the Cronenbourg cemetery were either spray-painted with swastikas and the Nazi slogan “Juden raus!” [Jews out], or toppled, according to the French Jewish community organization CRIF.

Laurent Schmoll, president of the 1,000-member Jewish community in Strasbourg, told reporters that he believed the cemetery was defiled in connection with International Holocaust Remembrance Day, which was being observed on Wednesday. “These are absolutely inscriptions from the Nazi period… I think there has to be a link.”

French President Nicolas Sarkozy issued a statement in which he "firmly condemns this unbearable act, the expression of odious racism." The mayor of Strasbourg said that the perpetrators were "evil cowards. It is no coincidence that the attack came on the international day when the Holocaust is commemorated."

Lithuania: Joining a SIG is a good idea!

Special interest groups are valuable resources for all researchers of a particular place or topic.

While some are free and require no membership fee, others do have a nominal charge to join. Those fees are generally used to acquire more resources.

SIGs with membership fees generally have free public pages as well as member-only pages. These groups also accept contributions earmarked for specific projects to assist members with their research.

As one example, the entirely volunteer-run LitvakSIG is the primary internet resource for Lithuanian-Jewish genealogy research worldwide.

Tracing the Tribe's maternal great-grandmother, Riva bat Tsalel BANK, was born in a small village outside Kaunas (Kovno) and other branches lived in different Lithuanian towns, so we have a personal link to this SIG.

Although its free site offers many extensive resources, its member-only site ($36 per year) offers additional information such as growing supplemental material including selected archive catalogs, detailed articles, presentation transcriptions, private discussion forums, LitvakSIG board minutes and more.

Among the free pages are links to databases, photographs, maps, books, an online journal and much more.

Just added to its member-only site:

The first version of an Excel file has been prepared and uploaded to the members-only site. It provides hyperlinks to various foreign language resources in Russian, Polish, Yiddish and Hebrew:

-- Links to the Internet Archive - these links are for all uploaded resources in Russian, Polish, Yiddish and Hebrew. There are separate links by language as well as year of publication.

-- Links to electronic resources in the Russian State Library (RGB)

-- Links to the entire Yiddish collection on the Internet Archive from the Steven Spielberg collection housed at the Natl. Yiddish Book Center.

-- Links to electronic resources (Vilnensia specifically) from the Kujawsko-Pomorska library in Poland

-- Links to Russian language resources from GoogleBooks

-- Links to electronic resources found on the Russian website Tsarskoe Selo

-- Links to books on the Russian site Runivers

-- Links to more directories from a Russian website

-- Links to files from the site Bibliotechka genealoga

-- Links to the U. library of Frankfurt AM - Yiddish book collection

This information comes from Joel Ratner of LitvakSIG. He is district research coordinator for Vilnius (Vilna) and vital records coordinator for both Suwalki and Vilnius/Vilna Gubernia.

While he notes that this file is a work in progress, not everything listed deals with the Pale of Settlement or even with Jews. Individual researchers may decide what is of interest to them.

Joel also asks readers to notify him of additional collections which may be of interest. Find his email on the LitvakSIG leadership contact list. He is now working on an update to allow the download of more than 100 Passover Haggadot, all originally printed in Vilna.

For more information on LitvakSIG, click here for the free site or here for the members site.

Holocaust: Wisconsin survivors speak

The Wisconsin Historical Society has posted interviews with Holocaust survivors who settled in that state.

Of some 140,000 survivors who came to the US, more than 1,000 settled in Wisconsin.

Six million European Jews were systematically murdered by the Nazis and their allies during the 1930s and 1940s. As Nazi tyranny spread, millions of other people were also killed by the Third Reich.

Wisconsin Historical Society archivists interviewed 22 Holocaust survivors and two American witnesses between 1974 and 1981. These oral histories are now available digitally and in their entirety for the first time, uncensored and unfiltered.

The collection includes 156 hours of audio and 3,400 transcribed pages. Each interview is on a testimony page with a biography, summary of the interview, audio players for each tape side and download options for the audio, transcript and photographs. Each interview has been transcribed (available as a PDF). Each tape side produced some 10 transcript pages; full transcripts run from 30-190 pages.

As is the case in such projects, transcripts show gaps due to recording conditions and linguistic complexity, along with background noise, strong accents and lapses into native languages.

More than 15 different languages appear on the audiotapes. Footnotes and editorial insertions help identify place names, and translate German, Polish, Yiddish and other foreign expressions.

Each cassette tape was converted to mp3 digital format. Stream or download any tape side from the links in the Audio and Transcript Information section. Most mp3 files are about 15 MB (25 minutes). With a broadband connection, they will download in about 30 seconds at 64 kps.

Survivors donated more than 200 photographs available for viewing; most are post-war.

In these interviews, men and women recall Berlin during the rise of the Third Reich, Kristallnacht and other anti-Semitic violence, the Warsaw and Lodz ghettoes, and conditions at Auschwitz, Dachau, Bergen-Belsen, and other less-famous concentration camps.

They describe the fates of their families, starting life over again in postwar Europe, and emigrating to the U.S. and Israel. They also discuss being new American immigrants and life in Wisconsin's Jewish communities between 1945 and 1980.

The survivors lived across Europe: Poland, Greece, the Netherlands, Ukraine. Their families were middle-class, wealthy and working class; some were devoutly observant while others were secular. The youngest person interviewed was a toddler during this period, the oldest was in his 30s, while most were teens.

One American witness was a US Army captain who liberated concentration camps; the other was a United Nations administrator who helped resettle survivors.

Choose from 24 full testimonies or listen to brief excerpts.

Among the interviews:

-- A teenager's Gentile friends turn against him- Fred Platner
-- A rabbi recalls Kristallnacht in Berlin- Rabbi Manfred Swarsensky
-- Rescued from death's door at Bergen-Belsen- Magda Herzberger
-- A survivor's kindergartener comes home in tears- Cyla Stundel

There are activities and lesson plans for teachers and readers may learn more about the project.

There is an excellent caveat for teachers who may plan to use this material.

We have not censored or suppressed any survivor's recollections. Many interviews contain passages with vivid eyewitness descriptions of horrifying cruelty, which may not be suitable for younger readers and listeners.

Teachers and parents should understand that recollections of life in ghettoes and concentration camps could shock and frighten children who have never before imagined such brutality.

Hearing these anecdotes through the actual voice of the person who survived them can be very distressing, especially when the speaker becomes audibly upset.

If an oral history contains highly sensitive passages, we have noted it in the interview summary. It's possible that oral histories without a notice contain distressing information for some listeners.

Educators of older students may find interviews with sensitive content to be particularly effective teaching tools. Most speakers were teenagers when they lived through these terrible events. Teachers of younger students should personally review audio and transcript passages before introducing them to children.
This digital collection was created through the generous support of the Helen Bader Foundation of Milwaukee and private donors.

Thanks to Sally Jacobs, the Practical Archivist, for the tip to this resource. At her day job, she helped to create this free online digital collection.

27 January 2010

Tablet: Death of the Polish shtetl

Tablet's Adam Kirsch reviewed Israeli historian Yehuda Bauer's "The Death of the Shtetl."

According to the article, the book focuses on "one under-researched aspect of the Holocaust: the experience of the shtetls of eastern Poland between 1939, when they were occupied by the Soviet Union, and 1944, when the Red Army returned to find the shtetls completely destroyed."

While the story covered the book's premise and history on the ground in some detail, Tracing the Tribe was dismayed to see Kirsch's sentence:
We might add that, unlike other immigrant groups, American Jews can have no living link with their ancestors’ world; there are no old homes to visit or distant cousins to meet (or if there are, they are in Israel or the United States by now).

I believe that many Jewish genealogists can refute those claims rather easily, and I added a comment at the page above.

No living link with our ancestors' world?

No old homes to visit?

No distant cousins to meet?

How many have traveled "home" to our ancestral shtetls? Many have found our ancestors' old homes. Quite a few have indeed located distant cousins - a surprise to everyone involved - around the world, and the media covers these stories.

How many synagogue and cemetery restoration and preservation projects in those shtetls have been undertaken by their descendants?

As I wrote in my comment to the article, the sentence quoted is in the same vein as "our name was changed at Ellis Island." A myth to be sure - as we know not one documented case has ever been found. Unfortunately, that myth is repeated time and again by those who perhaps should be more aware of the giggling in the room when genealogists read it.

Read the complete article at the link above, and feel free to comment on it.

Seattle: Deciphering Cyrillic and Hebrew, Feb. 8

Learn to decipher Eastern European Cyrillic and Hebrew archival documents at the next meeting of the Jewish Genealogical Society of Washington State on Monday, February 8.

Doors open at 7pm at the Stroum Jewish Community Center, Mercer Island.

"Reading in Another Hand: Deciphering Cyrillic and Hebrew Archival Documents from Eastern Europe," will be presented by Natan M. Meir.

This lecture-workshop will demonstrate elements of the Russian and Hebrew/Yiddish cursive scripts used in the Russian Empire in the 19th-early 20th centuries. Topics discussed will include the Cyrillic and Hebrew alphabets, their use in archival documents, key words and phrases in documents of interest to genealogists, and the structure of tsarist and Soviet archives.

A number of archival documents will be viewed as attendees work together to decipher words and phrases.

Participants are encouraged to contact the speaker in advance with specific documents or questions they've had problems with, and some will be integrated into the presentation. Email questions.

Born in Jerusalem, Natan Meir was raised in New Jersey and Quebec. He earned a PhD in Jewish History (Columbia University, 2003), and is the Lokey Assistant Professor of Judaic Studies at Portland State University. His scholarly interest is modern Jewish history, focusing on the social and cultural history of East European Jewry in the 19th and 20th centuries.

His first book - "Kiev: Jewish Metropolis, 1859-1914" - is forthcoming from Indiana University Press, and he is now working on a second project tentatively titled "Jewish Marginals in Eastern Europe."

Fee: JGSWS members, free; others, $5.

For directions and additional information, see the JGSWS site.

Cleveland: The Cleveland Jewish News Archive, Feb. 7

The Cleveland Jewish News archival digitization project is the topic at the next meeting of the Jewish Genealogy Society of Cleveland, Ohio, on Sunday, February 7.

The program begins at 1.30pm at Park Synagogue East, 27500 Shaker Boulevard, Pepper Pike, with Cleveland Jewish News publisher and editor Michael E. Bennett and archives project consultant Susan Rzepka,

They will speak on "The CJN Archives Project; Putting 45 Years of Cleveland Jewish History Online."

The search tool for the Jewish Independent Obituary Index has been modified and several hundred entries have been added.

This database is mainly composed of extracts of vital information from obituaries. Pre-1906 information mostly comes from the Jewish Review & Observer, another weekly, which began publication in 1899.

Post-1964 information was extracted from The Cleveland Jewish News. This database covers about 1898-1982. It evolved as it grew - therefore not every single entry coincides with an obituary. Click here to go to the search tool.

For more information and directions, see the JGSC site.

Crete: 4 arrested in arson attacks

The historic 600-year-old Etz Hayyim synagogue in Hania, Greece, on the island of Crete, has suffered two arson attacks.

For updates, see the synagogue site, and read its blog (click on OUR WEBLOG in the menu, upper left corner of the homepage). Information is given on how to help the reconstruction.

Read the account of the second arson here, by director Dr. Nicholas Stavroulakis. His blog posts and homepage right sidebar provide links to many stories about the attacks.

According to various news stories:

On January 5, a staircase was burned and there was major smoke damage, but the second attack on January 16 caused extensive interior damage and destroyed the roof, along with the library with 2,500 rare books, the archive and equipment.

Four men - two British, an American and a Greek - were recently arrested by the Greek police. Their names have not been released. A fifth man, also American, is sought and believed to have left the country.

The Greek was arrested, confessed and provided the other names. They said they committed the crime because they did not like Jews.

The Guardian (UK) newspaper reported that one of the British men apparently was the ring leader.

The Athens News website reported:

One of the two US citizens who were wanted in the recent arson attacks against the Jewish Synagogue in Hania, Crete, was arrested on Monday [January 25].

The 24-year-old US citizen, who has been residing the last months in Chania and was making a living by doing odd jobs, was sent before a local prosecutor on Monday together with two British nationals aged 33 and 23 years old and another local 24-year-old who had been arrested last Thursday.

The two British nationals and the Greek man will testify on Tuesday, while the US citizen was given a 48-hour extension to prepare his testimony.

According to the the case file, the four suspects, together with another US citizen who is wanted and is claimed to have fled the country, are accused, in addition to the arson, with a felony charge of setting up a criminal gang.

An announcement by the Police General Directorate of Crete said that, according to Greek suspect's testimony, all five suspects participated in the Synagogue's first arson attack on January 5, while only two of the Britons and the Greek took part in the arson attack on January 16, which resulted in the most serious damage. The 33-year-old Briton is believed to be the mastermind of the gang.

To contribute to Etz Hayyim's reconstruction, read all the details at the synagogue's site.

26 January 2010

Hungary: A Jewish Budapest food tour

Tablet has a yummy podcast today - all about the food of Hungary, produced by Julie Subrin.

Besides food, the 10-minute podcast offers tiny glimpses of Jewish life in Budapest, of secret circumcisions until rather recent times, the last of the kosher bakeries and coffeehouses - don't miss this section about the ultimate Jewish Hungarian pastry with crushed walnuts and poppy seeds.

Jews have lived in what today is Hungary since the 11th century, and despite the devastation of World War II and discrimination under Communism, Hungary is home to the largest Jewish community between Paris and Moscow.

Today, roughly 80,000 Jews live in Budapest alone. Over the years, Jewish culture has woven itself deeply into Hungarian life, particularly in the kitchen, where many dishes that are typically thought of as Hungarian actually have Jewish origins.

London-based reporter Hugh Levinson took a culinary tour of Budapest with Bob Cohen, an American ethnomusicologist who has lived there for more than 20 years.

Cohen writes a foodie blog, plays fiddle in his band, “Di Naye Kapelye,” and is an expert on the tastes and tales of the local cuisine. Their first stop was Kádár, a tiny, legendary restaurant in the heart of the old Jewish district.
Listen - and taste vicariously - to the podcast here.

Bob's food blog is Dumneazu, subtitled "Ethnomusicological Eating East of Everywhere." His most recent post on Korean food demonstrated Korean sashimi, a thicker-cut version than Japanese. The photos are also delicious! You will love his blog!

Obermayer Awards: The honorees' stories

The 10th annual Obermayer German Jewish History Awards were given in Berlin on January 25, 2010.

The winners and their towns were:

-- Angelika Brosig (Schopfloch)
-- Helmut Gabeli (Haigerloch)
-- Barbara Greve (Gilserberg)
-- Heidemarie Kugler-Weiemann (Lübeck)
-- Walter Ott (Muensingen-Buttenhausen)
To read the complete profiles of the honorees, click here.

This year marks the tenth annual presentation of awards that were created to honor the past and enrich the future. German life was once filled with contributions made by Jewish scholars, writers and artists. Music, science, literature and architecture were often collaborative efforts that brought diverse talents together. The collective history of Germans and Jews was profoundly connected and served to benefit the world. The Nazi regime and its obliteration of the German Jewish community ended a long period of collaboration and mutual trust.

However, many German citizens, ranging from academics to those working in business and professions, did not let go of their interest and commitment to Jewish history and culture. Many worked at great personal cost to preserve and reconstruct aspects of Jewish life, which had contributed to the cultural richness of their lives and the lives of their respectivecommunities. These individuals have researched, reconstructed, written about and rebuilt an appreciation of Jewish culture that will enrich life today and in the future.

Diverse individuals, without thought of reward, have helped raise awareness about a once vibrant community. Their ongoing efforts pay tribute to the importance of Jewish subject matter and its value to German society as a whole.

Many volunteers have devoted years of effort to such projects, but few have been recognized or honored for their efforts. The German Jewish Community History Council and its cosponsors believe it is particularly important for Jews from other parts of the world to be aware of this ongoing work. The annual Obermayer German Jewish History Awards provide an opportunity for the Jewish community worldwide to acknowledge German citizens who have rekindled the spark of Jewish thought that once existed in Germany. The award winners have dedicated themselves to rebuilding destroyed institutions and ideals. Their achievements reflect a personal connection to Jewish history and a willingness to repair a small corner of the world.

-- Angelika Brosig launched a Web site to document her town's Jewish cemetery and to help finance its restoration. Her town is Schopfloch.
“My friend wanted to see the Jewish cemetery,” Brosig recalls, “and when we went and saw the conditions there, she started to cry. She said ‘It’s terrible, the stones aren’t readable, the plants and trees are all overgrown.’ I was surprised because it seemed natural for a cemetery to decay. But she said, ‘No, it’s not good for the descendants,’ and this was my start.” ...
-- Helmut Gabeli

The lawyer Helmut Gabeli moved to the small Swabian town of Haigerloch, on the edge of the Black Forest, when his wife was hired there as a teacher in 1968. Shortly after, the couple discovered that the town market where they bought their food was once a synagogue, and they instantly stopped shopping there.

“My wife and I said ‘No, we will not buy there in the future,’” Gabeli remembers. “I had respect for the Jewish religion. My moral standards told me it was not possible to buy from a building where the Jews once prayed.”

Twenty years later, on the 50th anniversary of Kristallnacht, Gabeli helped form the Gesprächkreis Ehemaliger Synagogue Haigerloch (Discussion Circle for the Former Haigerloch Synagogue). ...
-- Barbara Greve

Ask Barbara Greve what motivates her to unearth the Jewish past around theKreis Ziegenhain region of Hessen, and you get a not-so-German response.

“It may not be the right way to say it, but I think of it as a kind of mitzvah,” she says. “It’s a moral duty. I’m giving people back their history.”

Indeed, for Greve, a primary school teacher who has become a crusader dedicated to rescuing 400 forgotten years of Jewish history in her area, much of her passion stems from the desire for local residents to get their facts straight. ...
-- Heidemarie Kugler-Weiemann

For nearly two decades, Heidemarie Kugler-Weiemann has been wrestling with her city’s Holocaust history through research, teaching, tours, exhibitions, forums, memorials, articles and books. Not only has she made an impact on her community, but she has developed very strong personal relationships with survivors as well.

When she thinks how it all began, her memory returns to her grandmother’s nervous eye. Born in Lübeck in 1951, Kugler-Weiemann recalls that “the war was very present for me as a child” because of the strong memories lingering in her family, and one in particular: the day the Gestapo came and arrested her grandfather for listening to the BBC. Though her grandfather was eventually released, her grandmother’s eye never stopped twitching after that. ...

-- Walter Ott

It was in 1973, when the castle outside Buttenhausen was being renovated, that Walter Ott’s home became a temporary storage place for chests and boxes belonging to the city— some of which, he discovered, contained eye-opening documents like a letter from Baron von Liebenstein, inaugurating the town’s 200-year-old Jewish history.

“I was impressed with that history. It was taboo,” says Ott, who was born in 1928 near Stuttgart and spent most of his life working as a farmer. “The subject wasn’t talked about in Buttenhausen; it was new to me. So I asked people, ‘Why don’t you speak any more about the Jewish community?’ and they answered, ‘Oh, it was so long ago.’ This is a small village and no one wanted to talk, but the truth is that three-fourths of the citizens here were Nazis.”

With the material he found in the boxes, and later in the town archives, Ott sorted and catalogued Buttenhausen’s history into a first-ever Jewish archive—from 1787, when the first 25 Jewish families were granted the right to settle in Buttenhausen, to the residents’ deportations to Theresienstadt, Auschwitz and other concentration camps in the final years of the war. (Located in a remote part of the Swabian Alps, Buttenhausen was used as a collection point for Jews deported from across Germany, before their shipment to the camps).
Read these inspiring full-page stories for each honorees at the link above, and view the links to their projects.

Necrology Database: 12,000 new entries

The JewishGen Yizkor Book Necrology Database has added more than 12,000 new entries from 27 Yizkor Books:
Byten (190 entries)
Lakhva (432)
Naliboki (190)

Skuodas (288)

Marculesti (272)

Baranow Sandomierski (161)
Bielsko-Biala (61)
Brzeziny (868)
Chorzele (248)
Czyzew-Osada (62)
Golub-Dobrzyn (43)
Kutno (510)
Lomazy (979)
Lubartow (75)
Sierpc (747)
Strzegowo (34)
Tyszowce (614)
Wieleczka (327)
Wielun (1,897)

Tasnad (32)

Berestechko (474)
Dobromil (65)
Kamyanets-Podilskyy (57)
Komarno (151)
Ozerna (392)
Tovste (702)]
Vladimirets (1,124)
Search the Necrology Database here. It indexes names of Holocaust martyrs listed in the necrologies in Yizkor books at the Yizkor Book Project. It is only a name index, and directs readers back to the Yizkor book in question, where more details may be found.

The database now has more than 215,000 entries from 241 different Yizkor Books.

Warren Blatt, JewishGen managing director, thanks such dedicated individuals as Michael Tobias, Max Heffler, Lance Ackerfeld as well as donors and translators. Yad Vashem gets special mention for contributing the necrologies to the website. Additional volunteers are sought to continue the project. Contact Warren for more information.

25 January 2010

Southern California: Mad mapper Ron Arons, Feb. 1

Genealogy's mad mapper Ron Arons will present his popular mapping program at the Jewish Genealogical Society of the Conejo Valley (JGSCV), on Monday, February 1.

"Mapping Madness" begins at 7pm, at Temple Adat Elohim, Thousand Oaks. Note that this is a different day of week and time.

Learn how to use Internet-based on-line mapping techniques including maps, tracking and detecting showing how to find anyone, anywhere, anyhow. Technology is the genealogist's friend, and Ron is a great teacher of imparting new ways to utilize important resources.

He'll review the basics of Google and Microsoft's internet-based mapping facilities, maps.google.com, bing.com and maps.live.com, and then introduce more advanced functionality. Ron will also discuss less traditional facilities provided my whitepages.com, Microsoft's MapCruncher, IBM's Many Eyes.

Things change constantly on the Internet and Ron is up-to-the-minute with new resources and will discuss them during his presentation.

Ron wrote a very helpful article on maps for genealogists in Roots-Key (Fall-Winter Vol. 29, Issue 3-4) of the JGS of Los Angeles. It is reprinted in the most recent issue of the JGSVC (February 2010, Vol. 5, Issue 5, pages 4-6).

The Internet has plenty of records to keep even the most advanced researcher busy for many years to come. But the Net offers so much more, including historical maps and a variety of online mapping tools that will enrich a genealogist’s knowledge of his / her ancestors and current relatives. Historical maps allow one to see where a person lived and what the conditions in the neighborhood were like. By simple extrapolation, one can estimate what the physical setting and environment of that other person’s life was like.

Maps can be used to track migration patterns of family members or show where any / all of your relatives live currently or where they had lived anytime in the past. Beyond the maps themselves, mapping tools can be tied to photographs and even combined with them as we’ll see with Microsoft’s MapCruncher facility. Other interesting online mapping tools / sites include IBM’s Many Eyes website, Muckety.com, and a variety of tools from behemoth Google.

[NOTE: Ron's article has many tips and resources for those interested in learning how maps can help researchers. Tracing the Tribe recommends reading it, particularly for those readers who cannot hear Ron in person. To read the complete article, click here and use the bottom links to go to Newsletters. ]

A JGSCV founding member and a nationally known genealogy speaker, Ron began researching his roots some 12 years ago. He wrote a 2008 book, "The Jews of Sing Sing," and appeared on the PBS series, "The Jewish Americans."

Ron holds a BS (Engineering) from Princeton and an MBA from the University of Chicago.

The meeting is free and open to the public. For directions and more information, click here.

Jerusalem: Mount of Olives now online

The world's oldest Jewish cemetery just went online, according to the Jerusalem Post.

More than 20,000 gravestones have already been documented, but there are some 200,000-300,000 in the cemetery. There's a lot still to do.

Mount of Olives burials go back some 3,000 years, to the First and Second Temple periods, and continues today. From 1948-1967, when Jordanians were in charge of the area, there was severe destruction, including broken and destroyed tombstones, with others used to pave floors in Jordanian army camps. During that era, a road was paved south from the top of the mountain. The road to Jericho was widened. All of this took place on top of the graves.

Following the Six Day War, the cemetery was slowly restored. Until now, however, there has been no major effort to map and record graves or to decipher and restore names on the tombstones.

Workers identify the graves and locate them on the map. The website allows global viewers to zoom in on an aerial photo and see a photo of each grave. Each name listed shows available information and a photograph, while users can upload additional data and photos about their loved ones and others who are buried there.

Those planning a visit can also create (and print) a map and route of graves to visit.

Read the story here, about the website, which is available in English, Hebrew and Russian.

Tracing the Tribe's experience with the database:

Search the database with only one letter. I searched for D (Dardashti) and for T (Talalay/Talalai) and J/I (Jassen/Iasin), but none were listed yet, although I know some who are buried there. I'm sure they will be listed eventually. Using the first letter or the first two letters of the surname produces a drop-down list of possibilities. However, if you put in the first three letters of a surname, there is no drop-down list. However, the list appears if you put in the first three letters of a given name.

Doing a search for COHEN, I found COHEN YAZDI. I clicked on the results and found the grave of Lea Cohen Yazdi who died March 27, 1944. On the map I could zoom to the specific grave. Here's a portion of the map that showed (the red dot is the grave):

I clicked on Grave Details and saw this:

This was interesting as the burial society was listed as Spanish, yet the surname of YAZDI indicates a Persian origin.

Here is the actual gravestone photo, after using Snag-It and adjusting brightness and contrast.

According to the news story:

A new project undertaken by the City of David archeological Park, located south of Jerusalem's Old City and at the foot of the Mount of Olives cemetery, has begun the process of identifying and documenting tombstones throughout the entirety of the Mount of Olives and uploading the data to the Web.

Tens of thousands of graves on the mount have already been mapped and incorporated into a database, in the first-ever attempt to restore the graves and record the history of those who were buried there. The project includes the creation of a Web site (www.mountofolives.co.il ) that aims to raise awareness of the City of David and to honor the memory of those buried in the cemetery, as well as to inform about the tours and activities available.

Additionally, the Web site tells stories of the people buried in the cemetery and, through a simple search window, one can locate the documented graves by name.

The project's public relations director Udi Ragones hopes the web site will give people around the world an opportunity to clear the dust from generations of their loved ones' graves. The project is fascinating from both personal and historical perspectives.

Read the complete story here.

Poland: Lodz ghetto Cemetery list online

Steve Lasky of the Museum of Family History has added two lists, including 1,400 names of Jewish residents who perished in the Lodz Ghetto and buried in its cemetery.

Later this year, he will announce a large online exhibit on the Jewish ghettos of Europe.

View the Lodz Ghetto cemetery list here; all names are on a single web page.

For each person buried, the fields are: the grave number, name and surname, death date and age, along with the Polish and Hebrew forms of father's given name (as well as the surname and given name variant transliterations and spellings). Section one has only the English date of death, while the second section has both English and Hebrew dates; there are other differences between the first and second lists.

For example: Goldsztajn Gawryl Arja, son of Mojsze is also noted as Goldstein Gavriel Arye, son of Moshe in the first list. This should help researchers who know the contemporary surnames but not the original Polish name forms. In turn, this will assist them to check other online resources using the original spellings.

These lists are by no means complete, as there were no doubt many more of our ancestors who died in the Ghetto and were buried there. However, these lists might just help some of you who had family in the Ghetto during World War II with your Lódz family research. The lists give the names of the deceased, and often the father's name, the date of death and age at death.

The lists come to you courtesy of the Lódz Jewish community through the agency of Yad LeZehava (YZI) in Kedumim Israel and with the dedicated cooperation of the officers and men in the IDF 'Witnesses in Uniform' Program.
Visit the Museum of Family History.

Read Steve's blog for frequent updates on the Museum. Questions? Ask Steve.

Australia: New convict records free for 7 days

Britain transported more than 160,000 convicts to Australia. New records for more than 55,000 sent "down under" in the 18th and 19th centuries are now online for the first time.

Ancestry.com.au is making these records accessible for free for seven days from today (January 24-31) in the Australian Convicts Collection of 15 registers. Data includes personal information, place of conviction, name of ship and departure date.

Click here to get started.

The new records are the convict registers of conditional and absolute pardons (1791-1846), and New South Wales certificates of freedom (1827-1867).

The history of Jewish convicts sent to Australia has been detailed in other Tracing the Tribe posts (use the search box in the right sidebar to find them).

In the late 18th century, Australia became a penal colony to empty crowding in British jails. The first group of 780 convicts arrived in 1788, and the last group arrived in 1868.

The journey took eight months, most of the convicts were men, but there were women as well - some 20%. The youngest convict transported was only 9 years old, the oldest 82. Crimes included petty incidents such as stealing bread, although some had committed major crimes.

Ancestry estimates more than 2 million Britons have ancestors among these convicts.

The launch coincides with Australia Day, on Tuesday, January 25.

Among the thousands of convicts detailed in the collection are a number of infamous criminals including Israel Chapman (1794-1868), a Jewish highwayman who later became one of New South Wales's first police detectives. He is buried in the Jewish section of the cemetery at Haslem's Creek (Rookwood).

See that link for much more about this criminal turned policeman in the Australian Dictionary of Biography (ADB).

There are other Jewish transported convicts listed in this online resource. Search for "Jewish convicts" to see several listings, such as that for Edward Davis (1816-1841). who is buried in the Jewish section of the Devonshire Street cemetery.

Who knows what you will find?

Washington, DC: 'Following False Trails,' Feb. 7

Have you pursued any wild goose chases or false trails in your own research?

Sallyann Amdur Sack, PhD, will address "Following False Trails," at the next meeting
of the Jewish Genealogy Society of Greater Washington on Sunday, February 7.

It begins at 2pm, at Adas Israel, in Washington, DC.

Attendees are also requested to email similar experiences in advance of the meeting and Sallyann will address those as well.

Dr. Sack is the only genealogist listed in "Jewish Women in America."

She has chaired or co-chaired six annual international conferences on Jewish genealogy, authored or co-authored seven books for genealogists and has consulted on numerous projects.

She has founded or co-founded the International Institute for Jewish Genealogy and Paul Jacobi Center (IIJG), the Jewish Genealogy Society of Greater Washington, the International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies (IAJGS), Avotaynu, Inc., publisher of works on Jewish genealogy, is president of the Avotaynu Foundation, and is editor of AVOTAYNU: the International Journal of Jewish Genealogy.

Sack holds a Harvard University/Radcliffe College AB magna cum laude, and a George Washington University, PhD in Clinical Psychology. She has had a clinical psychology private practice since 1972.

24 January 2010

JGSLA 2010: How much will it cost?

What will it cost to attend JGSLA 2010 this year?

The 30th IAJGS International Conference on Jewish Genealogy takes place at the new JW Marriott in downtown Los Angeles, from July 11-16.

Along with adult registrations, there are also special prices for full-time students aged 19 and older, and for those aged 18 and younger.

This is a great move on the part of conference organizers who understand that the future of genealogy truly rests with its younger fans.

We never know where the next stars of Jewish genealogy will come from - but this excellent pricing will really help to bring in the younger generations. See below for more information.

Many of today's genealogy leaders began their family history interests as elementary or junior high students. Steve Morse and Bennett Greenspan are just two of them. We need to do as much as possible to encourage our youth.

Here are the details for conference registration. See more information and updates at JGSLA 2010. For hotel information, see below.


Full registration (for the six-day program) includes evening entertainment, a tote bag, and both the print and CD syllabus formats.

Daily registration includes the day planner and CD syllabus, but not the tote bag or print syllabus.

Add-on events and activities include Breakfast-with-the-Experts, Midnight with the Mavens, computer labs, workshops, evening guest tickets and tours. Watch for more information.

Full Registration

-- Early bird (through April 30): $265 ($165, spouse/domestic partner
-- Regular (May 1-June 30): $310 ($210, spouse/domestic partner)
-- Walk-in registration: $340 ($230, spouse/domestic partner)
-- Full-time student (age 19+): $95 (student status proof required)
-- Ages 18 and under: $50 (under-16s must be accompanied by an adult)

Daily Registration:

-- Sunday, July 11 (Keynote + opening reception): $105
-- Monday, July 12-Thursday, July 15: $85 per day
-- Friday, July 16, half-day: $45


(Kosher, Vegan and Vegetarian options available at all meals, except those listed as all-kosher). When registering, check options for each meal. Signing up for meals by July 1). [NOTE: Many popular SIG lunches fill to capacity very quickly; register as soon as possible.]

-- Breakfasts with Experts, July 11-15: $28 each
-- SIG lunches, July 11-15: $39 each
(JRI-Poland - July 11, Sephardic/Mizrahi - July 15, are all-kosher)
-- Shabbat dinner, July 9 (all kosher): $78
-- Saturday welcome dinner, July 10, with Arthur Kurzweil: $80
-- Awards Banquet/entertainment, July 15: $86

(only for those who wish to attend the festival; doesn't include the conference program)

-- Week Pass: $95
-- Day Pass: $35


-- Event tote bag/syllabus package: $35
(package includes: program guide book, day planner, handouts and CD)
-- Syllabus CD only: $10
-- Conference T-shirt: $20


Remember to register for the hotel. JW Marriott reservations are open here. The conference room rate is $199 (whether for single or up to four sharing). The conference will help attendees find roommates to share costs once they have registered.

Stay tuned for more details. Sign up for the conference newsletter and the blog at JGSLA2010.com and for the Conference List at JewishGen.

South Florida: Jewish genetic disease free screening, Feb. 21

The South Florida Jewish Genetic Diseases Education Fair, with free carrier screening is set for Sunday, February 21.

It will run from 10am-2pm, at Temple Beth El, in Boca Raton.

The screening test is free for the first 100 participants who must pre-register. The test is normally $1,500.

It requires a simple blood test administered by West Boca Medical Center’s professional staff. Pre-registration is required for the 100 free limited spaces.

Click here to start the registration process. No cancellations within 48 hours or a $50 fee will be charged. For test questions, call Debbie Wasserman, (786) 897-9587.

Students, engaged couples, and newlyweds of Ashkenazi Jewish ancestry, ages 18-44, are invited for an educational program on children's genetic conditions sponsored by the Victor Center for Jewish Genetic Diseases and the Mathew Forbes Romer Foundation.

In the Ashkenazi Jewish population (those of Eastern European descent), one in five individuals has been found to be a carrier of one of the several genetic conditions including Tay-Sachs, Bloom Syndrome, Canavan, Cystic Fibrosis, Familial Dysautonomia, Fanconi Anemia, Gaucher, Mucolipidosis IV and Neimann-Pick.

Carriers are healthy individuals but are at risk of having children with these diseases and passing the risk on to future generations.

For more information, click the Romer Foundation link above.

The event is sponsored by the Mathew Forbes Romer Foundation and the Victor Center for Jewish Genetic Diseases at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine. Additional sponsors include Judy Levis Markhoff, Adolph & Rose Levis Foundation, West Boca Medical Center, Palm Beach Board of Rabbis, and Temple Beth El of Boca Raton.

New York: Children's history museum planned

An interactive children's history museum will open at the New York Historical Society in November 2011.

Genealogists will be happy that the museum's planned interactive features will include a place where children can videotape their own histories. There will be a place to use maps and documents to solve historical mysteries.

Perhaps genealogical societies - Jewish and general - could suggest that family history classes be offered for youngsters?

Children 12 and under will receive free admission to the society and free admission to the new museum.

Read the New York Times story here, which details the 4,000-square-foot "museum within a museum," focusing on young New Yorkers, as part of the major renovation ($60 million) of the historical society building. It will be called the DiMenna Children’s History Museum.

According to the story, the new museum will focus on children, such as Alexander Hamilton who came to New York to attend college and the young newspaper sellers of a century ago.

Museum president/CEO Louise Mirrer said:
“In schools, history tends to be about figures once they have matured and become important,” Ms. Mirrer said. “But if we want history to become alive for children, what better way to teach them than showing them children from other periods? We want to be on the permanent agenda of children and families in New York.”
A past president of the society, Columbia University history professor Kenneth T. Jackson said:
“It’s an unusual effort to make a serious attempt to engage young people with the past. Generally, children’s museums are not about history, and history museums are not about children.”
Exhibits will come from the society's collections and will be aimed at about a fourth-grade level.

Information about the “orphan trains” that took thousands of destitute children from New York to families in rural and farm communities across the country will be accompanied by a huge archive from the Children’s Aid Society: journal entries from social workers, children’s artwork, photographs and letters. Children will also be able to sit next to a cutout of a composite orphan on a three-dimensional train, listen to train noises and see a map of places along the routes.

In 2007, there were 243 children's museums in the US, with 78 being planned. The new project will be one of the few history museums specifically for children.

Read the complete story at the link above.

UK: Portuguese Inquisition lists published

A two-volume work published in the UK will be valuable in the quest for family history information by those with Sephardic, Converso and Bnai Anousim heritage.

It is available through the Jewish Historical Society of England, which was established in 1893.

Tracing the Tribe reader Barbara Barnett sent this information as a comment to Tracing the Tribe's post, DNA: Portuguese conversos' genetic identity, but it is too important to leave as only a comment.

The 2008 volume is Lists of the Portuguese Inquisition, transcribed and indexed by Joy L. Oakley

-- Volume I Lisbon 1540-1778
-- Volume II Evora 1542–1763, and Goa 1650–1653
From Delices de L’Espagne et du Portugal (1707) by Don Juan Alvares de Colmenar.

The Register of Inquisition lists were assembled in 1784 and entitled "A Collecção das Noticias." It was in the Library of the Dukes of Palmela and is now in the Jewish Theological Seminary Library in New York, which has kindly agreed to its publication.

The great majority of persons sentenced by the Inquisition were New Christians - descendants of the Jews of Portugal baptized in 1497, by order of Manoel I.

The book gives an unrivalled picture of the entire range of the Inquisition’s activities and is a primary source of the first importance for Jewish, Portuguese and Brazilian history and genealogy.

The lists of 16th century Autos da Fé give the numbers of persons sentenced by the Inquisition and the proportion of males and female, but only give the names of those who were burnt at the stake.

However, for the much larger number of cases in the 17th and 18th century, the name of each person is given, together with their nickname, parentage, occupation, place of origin alleged offence and sentence.

There are indices of names, nicknames, occupations and places to guide the reader.

The books - totaling 810 pages in soft-back format- include the register's original Portuguese text together with an introduction and foreword in English.

The price for both A4 size volumes is £55 or US $110, including postage.
The JHSE site contains much information for readers interested in the Jews of England throughout history, as well as information on Sephardim. Their newsletters may be downloaded (no charge) and contain information about personalities, new publications and more. For additional information on its publications, click here.

The JHSE also sponsors events in London and at other regional branches.

In London, Dr Hilary Pomeroy (Visiting Lecturer, University College London) will speak on "Sephardi History through Sephardi Ballads: Spain, Portugal, Morocco," on February 18. In London, meetings are held at St John's Wood Synagogue.

See the Events calendar for more; remember to also click on "External Events" for the activities of other historical and genealogical societies and institutions.

Some material is available to members only; annual membership is £40.00. If you'd like to take a look around, do a search for your specific interests and see if that online material is of use to you, sign-up for a 24-hour pass for £7. Click here to register.

23 January 2010

Tablet: A fine young criminal

Tablet magazine is presenting a series of articles based on historic newspaper accounts.

The introduction to the series reads:

One of the convenient aspects of studying Jewish history is its 3,000-year-old paper trail—the texts and records of the rabbinical and intellectual elite allow us to examine contours of Jewish law and history. But we tend to know less about the lives of average Jews, who didn’t receive much attention in the writings of the intellectuals. That began to change in the late 19th century, when the Yiddish press hit the streets, for the first time recounting the lives of the unwashed masses of Jews in the public record. Tablet Magazine offers some of their stories, reconstructed from century-old newspaper accounts.

Tablet previously carried the Benjamin Nathan case, and today's piece is the story of Yitzhok Farbarovitsh, a yeshiva boy who became a gang member and then wrote about it in plays which "portrayed the street life of Jewish pimps, prostitutes, and criminals in its own raw reality, complete with nasty language and foul behavior."

Read Eddy Portnoy's story about Farbarovitsh, later known as Urke Nahalnik (Yiddish, brazen master criminal).

Yitzhok Farbarovitsh was known as a good kid in the shtetl of Vizne, a small town in Russian-ruled Poland, in the years just before World War I. He excelled in cheder, Jewish elementary school, and, when he reached his tweens, was sent to another town in the Pale of Settlement to attend a yeshiva. Yitzhok was on track to fulfill his mother’s dream that he become a rabbi. But not long after his bar mitzvah, his mother died, sending the Farbarovitsh household into a depression, and throwing Yitzhok’s life onto a different track.

The detailed story contains blockbuster elements: sex, crime, religion, jail, bad boy makes good, theater, spicy Yiddish slang and mentions YIVO along the way.

About one of his plays, the story relates:

Warsaw’s Jewish underworld was not the only group dissatisfied with the play. The socialist Bund’s arts magazine fulminated angrily against what they called theatrical “trash.” On the front page, an editorial griped that “when the prostitutes are on stage, talking their dirty talk, and the thieves are doing business in their pubs and hideouts, it’s ugly, it’s disgusting…. For three hours, the audience and the theater is dragged through the mud.”
The critics didn't like it, but the people did and it was a minor hit.

Farbarovitsh was also involved in some of the first attacks on the Nazis, according to the article, and demanded funding from Jewish underground leaders to organize attacks against the Nazis. Although they refused, he returned to his town of Otwock, outside Warsaw, where he sabotaged rail lines to Treblinka and helped Jews escape the trains and hide in the forest.

He was caught by the Germans in 1942. As he was being led to his execution in Otwock, he attacked his guard and nearby soldiers fatally shot him.

Read the complete story at the link above. Tracing the Tribe is waiting for the next article in the series.