28 February 2010

Maryland: Ashkenazi genetics, March 7

Gary Frohlich will present "Whatever you wanted to know about Ashkenazi Jewish diseases," at the next meeting of the Jewish Genealogical Society of Greater Washington, on Sunday, March 7.

The program is at B'nai Israel Congregation, in Rockville, Maryland. It begins at 1pm with networking, registration and a business meeting. Frohlich's talk begins at 2pm.

A certified genetics counselor, he is senior medical affairs liaison for Genzyme Therapeutics.

The goals are to discuss the "founder effect" among Ashkenazim and learn about 11 common genetic conditions. According to Frohlich:

“During the Crusades, many Ashkenazi Jewish communities were driven from England, France and Germany and migrated to eastern Europe, settling primarily in modern-day Poland, Lithuania and Russia, Ashkenazi Jews tended to select marriage partners from within their own community, which played a role in limiting genetic diversity.”
Many European Jews did not have surnames until various countries required them, in some cases as late as the early 1800s.

Frohlich will provide up-to-date information on genetic conditions which occur more frequently in Jews of Ashkenazi descent. Each can be devastating to the individuals and their families.

The program will explore the diagnosis, management and treatment of these conditions with a focus on the most common, Gaucher disease. Approximately one in 850 people may have Gaucher, and the carrier rate is approximately 1 in 16. Gaucher disease is two and a half times more common than Tay-Sachs.

A genetics counselor for more than 35 years, Frohlich has advised more than 26,000 couples and authored scientific articles and pamphlets on Ashkenazi genetic conditions.

He holds a BA in Biology (New York University), and a MS in Human Genetics and Genetics Counseling (Rutgers University).

Those who plan to attend the program can submit their surname (original name in Europe or elsewhere) and Frohlich will check its connection to the Founders Effect. Only submit the surname, no personal information. He will use submitted names to illustrate his presentation. Send surnames prior to the meeting.

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

For more details, including directions, click here.

Sources for additional genetic information:

Jewish Genetic Disease Consortium: jgdc.org
Gene Tests: genetests.org
National Society of Genetic Counselors: nsgc.org
Gaucher Disease: ngf.org

27 February 2010

RootsTelevision: Disappearing act :-(

Although Tracing the Tribe has heard about these plans for some time, it is never official until the "letter" is sent out. Here's Megan Smolyanek Smolyanek's official announcement:

Dear RootsTelevision.com Viewer,

It's with mixed feelings that I'm sharing the news that I will be closing RootsTelevision.com (RTV) as of March 10th. Back in 2006, RTV was launched to fill a void. As I wrote at the time:

"We've been perplexed for a long time. These days, there's a horse channel, a wine channel, a sailing channel, a poker channel, a guitar channel, and even a shipwreck channel. So why, we wondered, isn't there a channel servicing the millions of people interested in genealogy and family history?"

The good news is that this yawning gap is now being filled.

Genealogy is finally going mainstream. Some of you are probably already watching Faces of America on PBS and The Generations Project on BYU. And many, I'm sure, have heard of the imminent launch on NBC of Who Do You Think You Are? (a series I'm proud to be affiliated with, and for which, I wrote the companion book).

The non-genealogical world is finally waking up to the long overlooked potential of what we roots-sleuths do on a daily basis, as you can read in this article:
Roots TV Becomes New Branch of Reality TV

I'm honored to have had the opportunity to fill this void for more than three years.

I hope that you have enjoyed the hundreds of high quality videos that RootsTelevision.com has produced or selected. From the viewing numbers and kind comments, I know that many of you have. It's been a privilege to give the genealogical community this resource, but this seems the appropriate time to move on.

We'll be featuring some of RTV's most popular videos during our final days, so please come on over and enjoy them. Thank you for your viewership and friendship. Og and I will miss you!

Megan Smolenyak2


P.S. If any genealogical entities would be interested in "adopting" RootsTelevision.com, I would be open to that possibility, but would need to hear from you immediately. (
Contact Megan)

Tracing the Tribe has enjoyed viewing the offerings and has even been featured in some. It offered a new way of looking at, and learning about, genealogy and family history.

Marcy Brown and Megan were fixtures at some conferences, interviewing speakers and attendees. We'll miss the RTV booth!

I'm looking forward to seeing Megan at Jamboree 2010 in June.

Jamboree 2010: Program now online

Talk about jet-setting.

Tracing the Tribe is in Hong Kong - and loving every minute - on the way to Australia for the 2nd Australian Jewish Genealogy Conference. In just a few months, I'll be in California for the Southern California Genealogical Society's Jamboree 2010 (June 11-13) and JGSLA 2010 (July 11-16).

Jamboree 2010's program is now online, ready to download.

Read the list of sponsors and exhibitors, as well as:

-- Class schedules and descriptions.
-- Speaker bios.
-- Details on Friday morning JamboFREE events.
-- Hotel and restaurant information.-- Special Jamboree meals (breakfasts, banquets) and tours.

-- Registration form and other details

-- Info on the hands-on computer labs and mini-courses

-- AND George C. Morgan's free webinar (Saturday, March 27) on "How to Get theMost Out of Jamboree."

Watch the Jamboree blog for webinar announcements.

Tracing the Tribe will participate in a blogger panel and present a DNA talk.

-- Saturday, June 12, 11:30am-12:30pm:
Blogger Summit Part 2: Now that You’re a Genealogy Blogger. (Cooke, Dardashti, Doyle, MacEntee, Manson).
So you have a blog? Now what? Learn how to make blogging fun with tips from our panel of expert genealogy bloggers. You’ll learn about keeping posts fresh, making blogging beneficial to your genealogy research and possibly profitable as well, with tips on marketing your blog.

-- Saturday, June 12, 2-3pm:
The Iberian Ashkenaz DNA Project: The Administrator's Viewpoint.
Learn how to develop and build a DNA project. This session covers the nuts and bolts from initial concept, project goal, criteria, encouraging participation, results and what they mean.

See you in Burbank!

26 February 2010

Ancestry Sweepstakes: Ultimate family history journey!

If you are the grand prize winner in Ancestry.com's new sweepstakes, you may win a very nice deal.

Have you always wanted to visit your ancestral village? Research in archives? Here's your chance. No purchase is necessary.

You can register once a day - and if you register up to five friends, you have the opportunity to register more than once a day. Read the rules carefully.

The contest runs through April 30, and you could win the following:

  • $20,000 in travel money

  • Eight-hour consultation with an expert genealogist

  • Five experts in fields relevant to your personal family history to help you learn even more

  • Annual World Deluxe Subscription for you and five family members
    • In addition, 20 First Prize winners will receive an Ancestry World Deluxe Edition subscription.

      The Grand Prize drawing will be held on or around May 3. Go to Ancestry.com, complete the form and see links to other relevant sections, such as the FAQ and Official Rules.

      How to sign up for the sweepstakes: Provide your email address and contact information. You don't have to buy anything to enter. By registering (you will receive a follow-up email with a username and password to log in to a free account, but not to the subscription databases), you can start a family tree.

      To enter, go directly to Ancestry.com. Register once each day using the username and password sent to you.

      Good luck!

      JGSLA 2010: 'Priest's Grotto,' July 12

      Many special interest groups hold luncheons during the annual conference, set for July 11-16, in Los Angeles.

      Announcements are beginning to come through, such as Gesher Galicia's program for this event, which will take place Monday, July 12.

      Christos Nicola will speak on "The Secret of Priest's Grotto: A Holocaust Survival Story."

      In 1942, as the Nazis intensified their hold on Eastern Europe several Galician Jewish families disappeared into the vast underground labyrinths of western Ukraine. The group ranged from grandmothers to toddlers and for the next 18 months, they lived, worked, ate and slept in caves under the feet of the Nazis.

      One of history's most remarkable survival epics, it was almost forgotten until an American caver found the remnants of the underground hideout and set out to find the survivors of Priest's Grotto.

      Hear the story from caver Christos Nicola as he presents the story, which combines natural history, family history and genealogical research come together.

      In 2003, while exploring a remote cluster of caves near Korolowka, a team of experienced cavers and adventurers, including Nicola, unexpectedly uncovered artifacts indicating that the caves had once been inhabited.

      Following the clues, they discovered an astonishing and poignant story of Jews who endured a perilous life and survived to tell the story.

      Nicola located six survivors, most from the extended Stermer family. It turned out to be an more extensive story, covering two cave sites and nearly two years underground.

      "There may not be another story like this," explains Michlean Amir, USHMM reference archivist. "Such a large group of people avoided digging their own graves or being shipped off to concentration camps by successfully utilizing a natural phenomenon."

      Nicola has devoted more than 30 years to the study and exploration of caves in the FSU, Caribbean, Europe, and the Americas. He is founder of the Ukrainian American Youth Caver Exchange Foundation - a student exchange program dedicated to fostering the exchange of information between young cavers in America and Ukraine.

      In addition to the luncheon presentation, Nicola will also be speaking during the conference about the July 2009 reunion trip of Korolowka survivors and his work with the Borschev (Borszczow), Ukraine Museum, along with a book sale and signing.

      The luncheon requires an added fee. Only conference attendees may attend and you must be registered to add on this luncheon. Click here to add the event if you have already registered. Click here if you have not yet registered.

      For all conference details, click here.

      The complete conference program will be posted at the end of March or early April.

      25 February 2010

      Hong Kong: Workshop report

      Following the cruise, it was back to the hotel to get ready for the workshop and go to the JCC for dinner.

      After a few technical glitches - I definitely need a course in hooking up computer projectors - we got everything squared away and everyone was connected to the JCC wireless system.

      There were about 20 people, all with laptops, and others looking on. I went through a short PowerPoint which discussed some generalities and also showed examples of documents from my own family research and then we began some actual accessing of sites.

      One woman, with roots in Rhodes, had a very unusual name. When we went to Jeff Malka's SephardicGen.com not only did the name pop up in several book indexes, but there were a number of burials in the Rhodes Jewish cemetery along with photos of the gravestones.

      We accessed some Polish and UK records and resources, as well as features of JewishGen, SephardicGen, JRI-Poland, Ancestry and other sites.

      As most readers know, even in a two-hour workshop, one barely gets into the amazing resources of so many sites. But participants received a list of major websites to look around (links to more links!), and were advised to register on JewishGen and add their information to the Family Finder.

      I will be back in Hong Kong on March 21 and we'll have at least one more session. It was an enthusiastic group, and we even had a member of the younger generation attending - I was very happy to see that.

      There are so many resources out there, and we barely touched them. The time flew by and everyone understood how easy it is to spend hours on finding clues to our families.

      I think there may be a JGS of Hong Kong soon. Where do we sign up for the T-shirts?

      Tomorrow (Friday), I'm planning to visit the Jewish cemetery and meet with the Jewish Historical Society.

      Hong Kong: Victoria Harbour

      Finally made it down to Victoria Harbour today. I had wanted to take the ferry across to Kowloon and visit the markets, but time was limited, so I settled for an hour-long cruise.

      I love lake and harbor cruises. When I travel through Zurich and change planes there, I always build in a half-day so I can take the train into town, and tram or walk down to the lake and enjoy a relaxing boat trip. All the stress seems to melt away. I highly recommend it if you have a chance.

      It wasn't a bad day for the ride today. The sun kept trying to break through the cloud cover and I did get some nice shots. See below.

      Star ferries leave from Central Pier:

      The terminal and adjacent building offer some food outlets, like Subway, a deli, a Burger Box, and Haagen Daz, where a featured flavor is green tea (a favorite). I had green tea and Belgian Chocolate in a waffle cone.

      Views of the Harbour before leaving the pier:

      There were some smalll fishing boats:

      Colorful waterfront:

      Here comes the sun - or tries to:

      All too soon we were back at Central Pier, and I returned to the hotel to get ready for the hands-on getting started in Jewish genealogy.

      24 February 2010

      Boston: Dokshitsy shtetl reunion, August 20-22

      Are your roots in Dokshitsy, Belarus? Aaron Ginsburg is planning a shtetl reunion weekend in the Boston area, August 20-22. More than 50 people have already indicated they will attend.

      He writes:
      The reunion will give us a chance to meet in person with our extended families - both the families we know, and the families with whom we are interrelated. It will give us a chance to share family stories, to learn about recent and not-so-recent trips to Dokshitsy and work recently performed at the cemetery and Holocaust sites. It will give us a chance to learn about the lives our Dokshitsy families built in the safer, greener pastures they found after they left. And it will give us a chance to connect in person with the friends we have made since this project began.
      To plan properly for the Dokshitsy Reunion Weekend, Aaron needs to know who will be attending. He also needs volunteers to help with all reunion aspects, such as programming, organizing and communicating with other individuals in the Dokshitsy Diaspora.

      Aaron stresses that you don't have to attend to volunteer to help. For more information, send an email. Indicate your name and contact details, who will accompany you to the reunion, ages of children who may attend and whether you would like to help plan the event

      For more information on Dokshitsy, click here.

      Hong Kong: DNA Project and blast from the past

      Tonight I presented the IberianAshkenaz DNA Project at the Jewish Community Center of Hong Kong (JCC logo at left), and also experienced a blast from the past.

      I reconnected with someone I haven't seen since 2002.

      Joining us (Mira, her husband, me) for the Wednesday night buffet at the JCC coffee shop was Gary Stein of Toronto. Longtime Jewish genealogists will remember Gary, particularly if they attended the IAJGS conference there in 2002, when some 1,200 people attended that week-long event. Gary has been been living in Hong Kong for a year and loves it.

      The good turnout included people of many different backgrounds: Ashkenazi, Sephardi, spouses who were one or the other. They represented Israel, Australia, the UK, the US, France, North Africa, Iran and elsewhere - a great mix of people.

      I'm also doing a hands-on Intro to Jewish Genealogy tomorrow night, and many people will be attending that as well.

      It was great to see Gary, and we will be going to Shabbat services and dinner at the United Jewish Congregation of Hong Kong (the Liberal congregation). I'm also looking forward to their Saturday night Purim Shpiel, billed as "The Little Theater of West South Northampton presents Mordechai Python's Flying Purim."

      Nothing really scheduled yet for tomorrow (Thursday) yet, and if it all works out, I'm hoping to take the Kowloon ferry tomorrow and visit the Jewish cemetery on Friday morning.

      Hong Kong: A desire for dimsum

      Dimsum have been on my mind since I arrived.

      Traveling means enjoying good food with great people. Hong Kong has provided several opportunities this week to do just that. And we did it again today!

      Today, vegetarian versions were on the menu at Pure Veggie House in Coda Plaza. The same building also holds other restaurants serving hotpots, regular dimsum and more.

      Here's their card:

      Here's the regular menu (the dimsum menu is a printed list, something like a sushi order sheet, where you check off the items and how many of each dish):

      We arrived at around 12.30, only one other table was occupied. By 1.15pm, every table in the place was filled; 1pm is lunchtime in HK.

      We sat at a large round table with a revolving glass center.

      Every dish looked delicious, but this group has gone there often and knew exactly what to order.

      We started off with what turned out to be fried bean curd skins. They tasted a bit like vegetarian bacon bits - chewy, crisp, interesting.

      The other dishes began arriving in bamboo steamers, small platters and bowls: transparent wild mushroom dumplings with black truffle sauce, steamed vegetarian BBQ buns (these were fantastic), turnip puffs (a yellow fried shell surrounding soft melting turnip), pure veggie siu mai, noodles in soup with sesame sauce and peanuts (very delicious), and wonton in red chili soup. Of course, green tea and jasmine tea were on the table. For our group of five, we ordered two of most items and stuffed ourselves silly. The bill? About US$10 per person.

      We could also have had other deep-fried pastries - such as wild fungus spring roll, vegetarian cake, pan-friend pumpkin cake or vegetable turnover - or other steamed offerings - fried rice in lotus leaf, steamed eggplant with bean paste, bamboo fungus bundle or steamed rice flour pancakes with vegetables or mushrooms, or another 15 rice or noodle dishes.

      Frequent diners get a 10% off card, which one of our group had today.

      I learned that there are two types of vegetarian restaurants. One serves dishes that look, smell and taste like various meat products but aren't - such as platters of roast "pork." The other type doesn't try to imitate meat products, like Pure Veggie House.

      How did I enjoy it? A simple one-word answer: YUM!

      There were some interesting dishes on other tables and asked about them. One was a delicious looking spiced bean curd. Next time.

      We didn't have dessert, but if we had room, we could have had sesame pudding, red dates and snow lotus seeds, red date pudding, or sweet rice dumplings.

      Back to the hotel to prepare for tonight's talk. More later.

      Hong Kong: A walk through the market

      Even genealogists need a break occasionally.

      This morning, Erica Lyons and I walked through the lanes of a market. Here are some shots.

      Dried snacks and candies:

      A vegetable stand:

      Here are the fishies:

      Lots of nuts:

      And this was before lunch!

      Hong Kong: Markets, magazines and more

      Erica Lyons - who has been here for some seven years with her family - and I went to an old temple - I love the smell of incense - and a walk through the market.

      We later met some of our dining companions from the other night for a fabulous vegetarian dim sum lunch.

      Erica, a lawyer by training, is editor-in-chief and publisher of the new Asian Jewish Life: A Journal of Spirit, Society and Culture.

      The now-quarterly free publication - hopefully to become more frequent - focuses on the Jewish experience in Asia. It is handed out on El Al flights from Asia in business and first. It is also online.

      She gave me a copy of the 40-page premier issue which features an excellent group of articles by some very interesting writers, covering artists, book reviews, personal stories and much more. Read it online at the link above.

      Erica (photo right) is also on the board of the Hong Kong Jewish Historical Society, and shared some information about the century-old Jewish cemetery, which I hope to visit Friday morning.

      I have discussed the possibility of forming a Jewish genealogical society here under the auspices of the historical society. I hope to meet more of the historical society members when I return through HK from Australia towards the end of March.

      San Francisco: "Annie's Ghost,' March 4

      Steve Luxenberg, author of the award-winning "Annie's Ghosts: A Journey Into a Family Secret," will speak at the San Francisco Bay Area Jewish Genealogical Society on Thursday, March 4.

      The program begins at 7.30pm at the Jewish Community Library, 1835 Ellis Street (free parking).

      Don't miss meeting Steve and hearing about how he uncovered the family secrets. As a good investigative journalist - he's been a reporter and editor for more than 30 years - Steve's quest utilizes the same skills that all genealogists should be using.

      Tracing the Tribe couldn't put the book down and read it at one sitting. It's a must-read for everyone who knows there are secrets in his or her family.
      Part memoir, part detective story, part history, Annie's Ghosts untangles one family's long-protected silence. Steve Luxenberg employed his skills as a journalist while struggling to maintain his empathy as a son to piece together the story of his aunt's unknown life, his mother's motivations, and the times in which they lived.

      An investigation that began with a lifelong family secret turns into a journey through imperial Russia and Depression-era Detroit, the Holocaust in Ukraine and the Philippine war zone, and back to the hospitals where Annie and many others languished in anonymity.
      Steve is an associate editor at The Washington Post and has worked for more than 30 years as a newspaper editor and reporter.

      From 1996-2006, he was the editor of The Washington Post's Sunday Outlook section, and he currently focuses on special projects and in-depth reporting including the causes and consequences of the financial crisis.

      For directions and more information on the SFBAJGS, click here.

      23 February 2010

      Hong Kong: Day Three

      The Hong Kong Jewish Community Center events committee produced this card about my two talks on Wednesday and Thursday:

      It should be very interesting as so many people are saying they will attend.

      I forgot to add an interesting conversation I had last night with Amy Mines Tadelis on the way to dinner. She told me about her husband, whose family is Polish, although their Sephardic name TADELIS - about as rare as TALALAY - is possibly related to the famous Benjamin of Tudela (Spain), who wrote a book about his journeys.

      Never made it to the Kowloon ferry today, as I attended a Jewish Women's Archive (JWA) luncheon meeting at the JCC. The JWA holds meetings and events here, and I was interested because Tracing the Tribe often blogs on JWA events and activities in the US, but didn't know there was a branch here in Hong Kong.

      Speaker Professor Atara Sivan of Hong Kong Baptist University has been here for some 20 years, when the community was very different. She and her husband came from Israel for six months a long time ago, and stayed; their sons were born and raised here.

      Atara's talk was "Lost in Translation: The Emotional Journey of Women" and centered on women who follow their husbands to different countries for work, discussing problems of adjustment as well as that of their children, whom she refers to as "children of the world."

      The core point was identity, who are we, what do the children consider themselves, issues of passport and "real" home, as well as the personal identity issues for the parents who may have been away from their home countries for many years.

      It was a follow-up to the identity conversation I had yesterday with Mira Hasofer. It was also very personal for me. I remembered all too well my long-ago arrival in Teheran, back to the US and then to Israel. "Fish out of water" came to mind in my own memories. I wish a seminar like this had been available all those decades ago.

      After lunch, we sat and talked, with several other long time residents of HK, for about an hour after the event ended. Atara described her work with some at-risk schools in the area who do not enjoy anything remotely like the resources of the Carmel School, housed at the JCC.

      In fact, I'm sitting right now in the beautiful two-level JCC Judaica Library (below is one wall of the room). I haven't found any Jewish genealogy books on the shelves; I'm going to suggest a list for them to acquire, including Jeff Malka's "Sephardic Genealogy."

      Following the theme of preserving identity and memories, I just saw now - right at my elbow - "In Memory's Kitchen: A Legacy from the Women of Terezin," (Jason Aaronson, 1996) edited by Cara De Silva and translated by Terezin survivor Bianca Steiner Brown. If you haven't read this slim volume, do look for it. In Michael Berenbaum's forward, he writes:
      "For some, the way to deal with this hunger was to repress the past, to live only in the present, to think only of today, neither of yesterday nor of tomorrow. Not so the women who compiled this cookbook. They talked of the past; they dared to think of food, to dwell on what they were missing - pots and pans, a kitchen, home, family, guests, meals, entertainment. Therefore, this cookbook compiled by women in Theresienstadt, by starving women in Theresienstadt, must be seen as yet another manifestation of defiance, of a spiritual revolt against the harshness of given conditions. It is a flight of the imagination back to an earlier time when food was available, when women had homes and kitchens and could provide a meal for their children. The fantasy must have been painful for the authors. Recalling recipes was an act of discipline that required them to suppress their current hunger and to think of the ordinary world before the camps - and perhaps to dare to dream of a world after the camps."
      In the introduction, Cara de Silva explains how the hand-sewn crumbling cookbook arrived at the home of Anny Stern, 25 years on the way from Terezin to New York's East Side. Sent by her mother Mina Pachter, it included a photo of Mina and Anny's son (then Peter, now David) and a fragile, crumbling book with pages on which were written some 80 recipes in different hands.

      She writes:
      "Food is who we are in the deepest sense, and not because it is transformed into blood and bone. Our personal gastronomic traditions 0 what we eat, the foods and foodways we associate with the rituals of childhood, marriage and parenthood, moments around the table, celebrations - are critical components of our identities."

      In the camp, Mina and her friends faithfully recorded their favorite recipes: Heu und Stroh, fried noodles with raisins, cinnamon and vanilla cream; Kletzenbrot, a rich fruit bread; Erdapfel Dalken, potato doughnuts; Badener Caramell Bonbons, caramels from Baden Baden; and more.

      Some of the people I met today included a woman whose mother and mother-in-law were living in Shanghai and also had connections to Harbin, people originally from Los Angeles and New York, some who have been here for a long time and speak Mandarin and Cantonese, to those who have just arrived, such as a Persian man and his wife who have been here only one year from New York. It is certainly an interesting community.

      Tonight we (Mira, Armelle and me) had dinner at the JCC's Sabra Coffee Shop - a low-key quiet night and we all left early to catch up on work.

      22 February 2010

      Hong Kong: Day Two

      Today, JCC program director Mira Hasofer and I discussed identity, heritage and how it impacts "third country" children.

      I had also talked about something similar with French native Armelle Sibony over lunch.

      Many in the Hong Kong community are expats. Parents come from one country or maybe two, their children have lived in one or more countries from an early age.

      The major question is who they feel they are. What are they? Who are they? Where is home? How does where they live impact how they see themselves?

      It was an interesting way of thinking about things, and demonstrates how genealogy and family history projects can help Jewish (and indeed all) families focus on what is within them and what that represents and not what is outside the home and where they are living at that particular point in time.

      As an expat myself, I understood what Mira and Armelle were saying all too well.

      How does one maintain one's identity for the adults, and more importantly for the children. In the case of Jewish expats, being involved in the community is very important for adults and children to strengthen their heritage and identity.

      At our dinner tonight, all the women had grown up elsewhere, mostly in the US. Their children were growing up here. All are very involved in the community.

      This morning, it was drizzling, but it stopped a few hours later. Here's what it looked like, in the mist, at about noon.

      After a nice buffet breakfast, with all the regular items plus some Chinese items and to-order eggs, I went down to the business center to blog - the Internet connection is faster down there.

      My schedule was to include the Escalator from Mid-Levels down to Central, lunch, a visit to The Lanes, and a Chinese dinner with community members tonight.

      A French native, Armelle Sibony has been in Hong Kong for three years with her engineer husband. She was my wonderful hostess this afternoon. Her family and her husband's are originally from North Africa.

      Although we were supposed to take the Escalator down to Central, we took a cab. We went to a wonderful Thai restaurant called Cafe Siam, 40-42 Lyndhurst Terrace. The vegetarian springrolls were delicious - I knew there was a way of making a tasty vegetarian version, and these get a gold star. Armelle had a noodle and vegetable dish with a great sauce, and I had rice with vegetables and coconut served in a coconut. I had it with chicken, but it would have been just as delicious vegetarian.

      Armelle's family is from Algeria; her family name - Gueta - is very unusual.

      After lunch - we could have sat there chatting for several more hours - we went to The Lanes, a rabbit-warren of two narrow alleys, lined with shops on both sides as well as booths down the middle of it - kind of a bazaar atmosphere and good for chatchkeles and souvenirs. However I did find nearby an interesting shop that sold silk jackets and tops.

      What does Central look like? Like any busy downtown in any major city. Lots of people, tiny shops on sidestreets with major stores lining the main road. Wherever you go, there are Starbucks, 7-11s, and every major upscale international brand.

      At 6.30pm, I went to Mira's home where I met her two boys and the baby. She wanted me to see a Hong Kong apartment. She and her family will be visiting her parents in Israel for Passover and we hope to get together then.

      Their apartment is on Conduit Road; the building has an unbelievably steep, curving driveway as do many buildings on this side of the road. If you think San Francisco has hills, you haven't seen anything yet! Not only is HK filled with even steeper hills than the famous Lombard Street, but also even more twisty roads. Their apartment has very large rooms, huge bedrooms, high ceilings, a balcony, very large kitchen, a utility room as big as an Israeli living room! At about 2,500 sq. ft. it's about the size of a nice-sized house in the US.

      From here, I went to dinner - sharing a taxi with Amy Mines Tadelis who lives in the next building to Mira - with Tara Diestel, a liason between the community trustees and the JCC events committee, and five other women at the Peking Garden in Alexandra House.

      Each dish was more delicious than the last. Our menu included scallion buns, a kind of fried seaweed with fresh bamboo and candied walnuts, tangerine beef stuffed into little sesame pockets, superb Peking duck with pancakes and hoisin sauce, a definitely seasonal dish of fresh pea sprouts, a delicious white-fleshed fish in orange sauce, noodles and a variety of mushrooms.

      At a center table, a noodle chef demonstrated his technique and received applause.

      I'm sure I forgot something, but it was all delicious. My dinner companions said they go there often, and it is a community favorite - they seem to have memorized the very extensive menu. Another table was also filled with their mutual friends.<

      As expats everywhere, we spent time discussing our favorite items and whether they were available here or not. I felt like I was back in Iran decades ago. Back then, if you were served good tuna salad with Hellman's mayonnaise, you knew you were on the "A" list, as those treasures - among others - were hard to come by.

      Tomorrow there's a luncheon at the JCC, and then I'm taking the ferry to Kowloon and back for another dinner invitation.

      After a day climbing up and down hills (only the tamer ones!), I'm exhausted and planning to turn in early tonight.

      Goodnight from Hong Kong!

      Best 40 Blogs: Tracing the Tribe is honored!

      Family Tree Magazine has just announced the list of 40 best genealogy blogs in the May 2010 issue. Winners just received an email from editor Diane Haddad.

      Tracing the Tribe is honored to be among the five blogs in the Heritage category.

      In the magazine's "Fab 40" on-line article, Maureen Taylor writes:
      Tracing the Tribe: The Jewish Genealogy Blog

      Schelly Talalay Dardashti's passion for Jewish genealogy comes through every post. Since August 2006, she's written on genealogy news and resources, research strategies, Jewish history, museums, and her experiences tracing her own Jewish ancestors through Belarus, Russia, Lithuania and Spain.
      Read below for Diane's email and the list of all 40 winners.

      Writes Diane:
      That’s not to say, of course, that there aren’t many more stellar blogs among the hundreds family historians use to chronicle their successes and brick walls, share history, offer genealogy guidance and more.

      All their legions of posts add up to an extraordinary store of collective knowledge about how to discover, preserve and celebrate your family history.

      We’re hoping this look at the genealogy blogosphere inspires you to go exploring for more blogs to add to your reader.

      See our online article for the complete "FT40" list, as well as tools to find more genealogy blogs. Congratulations to the following Family Tree 40 bloggers (listed in alphabetical order by category). We admire their writing, research and photography skills, and applaud their work to promote the pursuit of family history. I hope their blogs will proudly wear the Family Tree 40 logo!
      Creative Gene by Jasia Smasha
      footnoteMaven by footnoteMaven
      GeneaBloggers by Thomas MacEntee
      Genea-Musings by Randy Seaver

      The Association of Graveyard Rabbits by several authors
      Granite in My Blood by Midge Frazel

      Ancestry.com Blog by various authors

      Genetic Genealogy
      The Genetic Genealogist by Blaine Bettinger

      George Geder by George Geder
      Scottish Genealogy News and Events by Chris Paton
      Small Leaved Shamrock by Lisa
      Steve’s Genealogy Blog by Stephen Danko
      Tracing the Tribe: The Jewish Genealogy Blog by Schelly Talalay Dardashti

      Family Matters by Denise Barrett Olson
      Genealogy Guys by George G. Morgan and Drew Smith
      Genealogy Tip of the Day by Michael John Neill
      The ProGenealogists Blog by various authors

      Local & Regional
      California Genealogical Society and Library Blog by Kathryn Doyle
      Sandusky History by the staff of the Sandusky (Ohio) Library Archives Research Center
      Midwestern Microhistory by Harold Henderson

      News & Resources
      The Ancestry Insider by theAncestry Insider
      DearMyrtle by Pat Richley-Erickson
      Eastman’s Online Genealogy Newsletter by Dick Eastman
      GenealogyBlog by Leland Meitzler

      Photos & Heirlooms
      The Family Curator by Denise Levenick
      Shades of the Departed by footnoteMaven

      Personal & Family
      Ancestories: The Stories of My Ancestors by Miriam Midkiff
      Apple’s Tree by anonymous
      BeNotForgot by Vickie Everhart
      Educated Genealogist by Sheri Fenley
      Greta’s Genealogy Blog by Greta Koehl
      Heritage Happens by Cheryl Fleming Palmer
      Herstoryan by Herstoryan
      Janet the Researcher by Janet Iles
      Kinexxions by Becky Wiseman
      Little Bytes of Life by Elizabeth
      Our Georgia Roots by Luckie Daniels
      WeTree by Amy Coffin
      West in New England by Bill West
      What’s Past is Prologue by Donna Pointkouski

      Read the online article by Maureen Taylor at the link above.

      Congratulations to all our geneablogger colleagues on this honor!

      21 February 2010

      Toronto: ShalomLife article, Part 2, online

      The second installment of an interview with Tracing the Tribe is now online at ShalomLife in Toronto.

      See some old family photos and read Dan Verbin's story here.
      Questions answered include:
      • How I caught the gen bug (for which there is no known antidote),
      • How far I've tracked back on my two main research lines,
      • What's different about Jewish records vs general records,
      • Is it harder for Jewish genealogists than others to trace their families,
      • The differences among Ashkenazi, Sephardic and Mizrahi research;
      • Crypto-Jews/conversos/bnai anousim, and
      • What I'm doing now (including Hong Kong and Australia).
      Back to getting some blogging done in Hong Kong.

      Hong Kong: Day One

      Following a relatively comfortable - although 10 hours long - flight from Tel Aviv, Hong Kong International Airport is an eye-opener.

      Having grown up with JFK and LAX airports, "busy" was not an unknown quantity, but this airport is something else. An immense physical space filled with crowds of people.

      Despite some long walking stretches, escalators up and down and a train to another terminal, everything was very efficient. The car service driver was waiting for me when I emerged from baggage claim.

      I had been expecting cold, wet weather, but it was a warm 20C following yesterday's cold 8C, the driver told me. The 40km drive from the airport to the hotel in Mid-Levels was fast, no traffic at all, until we hit HK proper. It was a bit misty - think Los Angeles morning mist - but the hills were spectacular, as well as the views from the bridges.

      This large bustling city is filled with very tall, slender buildings. When you don't have much land, the only way to go is up.

      Mira Hasofer, the Hong Kong Jewish Community Center's program director, called to make sure everything was fine and to confirm our arrangement to meet at the JCC's traditional Sunday night BBQ dinner.

      It was a short walk up (emphasis on the "up" as in "up hill") from the Bishop Lei hotel as I had to stop at a few places along the way looking for nail polish remover. My brand-new manicure had completely distintegrated. Three shops, not one had any remover at all, not even one bottle. Tomorrow I may just go for a new manicure.

      There is major security at the JCC: a guard out front who checks passports and other papers and asks many serious questions in a friendly manner, and two more in a glass-windowed office watching everything. There is a metal detector and a check of bags. It reminded me of attending services at the Guadalajara (Mexico) synagogue

      Downstairs, I met Mira, her attorney husband Menachem and her father Moshe. Originally from Sydney, Mira and Menachem, have been in HK about eight years and have three young children, the youngest only 3 months.

      Mira introduced me to a number of community members who were also enjoying this Sunday night tradition, including Rabbi Stanton M. Zamek and Rabbi Martha Bergadine of the United Jewish Congregation and their two children. Rabbi Zamek is the Purim Spiel person. I'm looking forward to attending that production!

      I especially enjoyed meeting Mira's father, Moshe. His family originally left Bushehr (southern Iran) in 1904 for Palestine, then to Bombay. Regular readers of Tracing the Tribe may remember that the ancestors of Samy Yecutieli (Caracas, Venezuela) were also from Bushehr. I wouldn't be surprised to learn that the two families knew each other back then.

      Moshe's family went to Bombay and back to Israel again. We kept wandering in and out of Farsi mixed with Hebrew and English. Moshe knew our cousin Sassoon z"l Menashy's father, Menashe, in Bombay. Menashe - son of Moshe ben Israel Dardashti - was a wedding singer and sang at most of the community's events. Moshe's father was also a singer and participated in those events.

      Visiting HK and looking for a kosher BBQ buffet dinner? Visit the Jewish Community Center on Sunday nights, from 6-10pm. It's also a good place to meet the friendly local community.

      The chefs barbecue on the patio outside, and treats include meat, chicken, turkey, fish, a chicken wok dish (as well as baked potatoes, french fries and other treats). There's also pasta, various salads and platters of delicious fresh salmon sushi and sashimi as well as baked salmon.

      Don't miss the desserts, there's a fudgy brownie cake that is a MUST, along with other sweet treats and fruit.

      The buffet, in the Garden Room, has a view of the 150-year-old Ohel Leah historic synagogue (see photo above left). Mira's husband Menachem explained that there are few buildings of that age left in HK. In the absence of zoning restrictions, they've most all been torn down to put up new towering buildings.

      Ohel Leah was named for the mother, Leah Gubbay, of of David Sassoon's three grandsons. The land where the synagogue stands was purchased when the site was far above the city, and given to the Jewish community. The foundation stone was laid May 1901; it was dedicated April 1902.

      In 1905, the Kadoorie family funded the Jewish Recreation Club on part of the synagogue grounds. Its facilities included a large hall, restaurant, bar, library and billiards room, a tennis court and a wide lawn with Victoria Harbour views.

      Originally a Sephardic community, Ashenazim from Eastern Europe arrived during the 1880s, 1890s, and 1930s. In 1937, property below the club was given to the community by J.E. Joseph. Named Beit Simcha - in memory of his mother - the property was purchased to preserve the harbour view, to house the rabbi, along with a ground floor mikvah.

      During World War II, HK was occupied by the Japanese, community members were placed in POW camps; the synagogue was requisitioned by the Japanese. The Torah scrolls were smuggled out and hidden during the war. The synagogue did not have serious damage but the Club was destroyed. In 1949, the Kadoorie famiy funded a new club on the same site.

      Menahem said that when the Sassoons first bought the land, the area was not desirable and no one wanted to live there. Today, however, the neighborhood is a prime district filled with beautiful tall apartment buildings.

      There's more to the saga. The Club included a large field gradually surrounded by these tall blocks. The once-undesirable plot of land was now worth a pile of money. The community's Trustees of the community decided to develop the land. In partnership with a local developer, two residential towers were built, with a percentage of the apartments in the two 40-story towers belonging to the Trust.

      Also part of the agreement with the developer was that a Jewish Community Center be built. Today, the facility has some six floors, including a Jewish day school, library, kosher supermarket, meat and dairy restaurants, an indoor swimming pool, function rooms and offices. It is also completely wireless!

      There was some controversy over whether the historic synagogue should be preserved or destroyed. Luckily, it was preserved, and completely renovated while retaining the original feel. In 1997 work began and the building was rededicated on October 18, 1998.

      In 2000, UNESCO Asia-Pacific Heritage Awards recognized the conservation and restoration project with an Outstanding Project Award for Cultural Heritage Conservation.

      The JCC also has the Sabra Coffee Shop - a glatt kosher meat restaurant that also offers a Wednesday evening buffet, the Waterside Restaurant (informal dairy) and the Coffee Bar. The facilities also include a Kosher Mart retail shop.

      There are seven synagogues in Hong Kong today. Ohel Leah, three Chabad branches, and a Progressive/Reform congregation.

      The community even has a glossy magazine, Jewish Times Asia, the first - and only - regional community publication, distributed in nine countries.

      Tomorrow, I'm doing the Escalator Walk with a community member and we'll visit The Lanes - lots of shops. Mira assures me that on the way back there are some excellent manicure places, so I may do that.

      There is a Hong Kong Jewish Historical Society, and more on that later in the week.

      20 February 2010

      Judaica Europeana: Online access to 10 collections

      A two-year project has been launched to digitize, for online access, Jewish culture collections at 10 European institutions.

      The European Commission provided $2 million for Judaica Europeana's $4.13 million project, which will digitize 10,500 photos, 1,500 postcards and 7,150 recordings, along with several million pages from books, newspapers, archives and press clippings, from the project's partner libraries, archives and museums. It is part of a larger EC project to digitize general cultural resources.

      The project will be headed by the European Association for Jewish Culture and the Judaica Collection of Frankfurt's Goethe University Library. Other partners are:

      = European Association for Jewish Culture Judaica Collection, Johann Wolfgang Goethe University Library, Frankfurt am Main
      = Alliance Israélite Universelle, Paris
      = The Jewish Museum of Greece, Athens
      = Hungarian Jewish Archives, Budapest
      = Ministero per i Beni e le Attività Culturali – Ministry for Cultural Heritage and Activities, Rome
      = Amitié, Bologna
      = The Emanuel Ringelblum Jewish Historical Institute, Warsaw
      = Jewish Museum London
      = The British Library, London
      = MAKASH Advancing CMC Applications in Education, Culture and Science
      = The Central Zionist Archives at the World Zionist Organization
      = Paris Yiddish Centre – Medem Library

      Judaica Europeana (JE) will also work on other digital collections for comprehensive coverage of Jewish life in European cities.

      An aim of the project is to demonstrate how the addition of Judaica content leads to improved use in discovery, delivery, and cultural heritage resource integration for multilingual multicultural use by scholars, cultural heritage professionals, educators and students, cultural tourists and the general public.

      Upcoming Judaica Europeana (JE) Events:
      15 March 2010, Berlin:
      Digital Access to Jewish Heritage Collections: JE and MICHAEL

      14 April 2010, Jerusalem:
      JE Seminar, Israel Association of Judaica Librarians
      21-23 April 2010, Florence:

      JE: Applying Semantic Web Technologies to access European Jewish

      3 May 2010, Tel Aviv:
      The European Digital Library: Europeana and JE
      25-29 July 2010, Ravenna:

      Judaica Partners presentations on urban Jewish studies and Judaica

      30 July 2010, University of Bologna, Ravenna Campus:
      The JE Digital Humanities Workshop
      For more information, see the website above.

      19 February 2010

      On the road again: Hong Kong, Australia

      Tracing the Tribe's first-ever trip to Hong Kong and Australia begins tomorrow and I'll be blogging every day.

      In Hong Kong, my schedule includes:
      • Wednesday, February 24, 8pm, at the Jewish Community Center: "The IberianAshkenaz DNA Project: So You Think You're Ashkenazi?"

      • Thursday, February 25, 8pm, at the Jewish Community Center: "Introduction to Jewish Genealogy," for the community.

      • During the week, I'll also present "Intro to Jewish Genealogy" for students at Carmel College.
      I'll do some sightseeing (weather permitting), enjoy the cuisine, meet interesting people and spend Purim in Hong Kong. Of course, I'll be blogging, so stay tuned.

      On March 1, I fly to Melbourne, Australia, for the Second Australian National Jewish Genealogy Conference (March 7-9). I'm honored to have been invited for this event and look forward to seeing the Australian Jewish genealogy community.

      My presentations include the IberianAshkenaz DNA Project as well as social media for today's genealogists.

      Friends and family are part of the Australian schedule, including cousins who come from Bobruisk, Belarus and from America (in Sydney). I'll be visiting the Sydney cousins for the second part of my trip, and may do some additional talks there.

      On the return flight, I will speak on MyHeritage.com, presenting an overview of its tools and features and encouraging people to participate in the new Beit Hatfutsot-MyHeritage.com partnership.

      Family trees created with a special version of the free MyHeritage software will be periodically transferred to Beit Hatfutsot for digital archiving for ever.

      This should be a very exciting trip, new sights, fascinating people and much much more.

      Blogging will be on the menu in Australia as well.

      Readers who either live in these destinations or who have been there before, are invited to suggest their favorite experiences - things to see, places to eat, etc.

      Next week in Hong Kong!

      Tel Aviv: Iranian film forum, Feb. 23-May 25

      The Center for Iranian Studies at Tel Aviv University will present an Iranian Film Forum on Tuesdays, from February 23-May 25.

      Screenings, followed by Q&A, will run from 6-8.30pm (Room 281, Gillman Building).

      Attendees will have the opportunity to become acquainted with diverse aspects of the Iranian experience, within the country and abroad

      Professor Mahmood Karimi-Hakak, an Iranian filmmaker and creative arts profession at Siena College of New York, will lead the discussions. He is a visiting Fulbright scholar at the Center for Iranian Studies at Tel Aviv University.

      -- February 23: Introduction to Iranian Cinema
      Dream Interrupted (2004); Mahmood Karimi-Hakak
      A documentary film based on "Exiled to Freedom: A Memoir of Censorship"

      -- March 16: Women in Iran
      The Day I Became a Woman (2000); Marzieh Meshkini

      -- April 13: Iranian Youth
      The Girl in the Sneakers (1999); Rasul Sadrameli

      -- May 4: Minorities in Iran
      The Blackboard (1999); Samirah Makhmalbaf

      -- May 25: Iranian Diaspora
      To be announced

      The program is tentative and subject to change

      San Francisco: 'Jews in China' series during March

      Jews in Modern China is a series of programs touching on the Jewish experience, sponsored by the American Jewish Committee San Francisco.

      The exhibit of photographs, documents and memorabilia portrays a little known chapter in Chinese and Jewish history. It follows three ethnic streams of Jewish communities that lived in harmony with their Chinese neighbors in Shanghai and other Chinese cities, 1840-1949:

      -- Sephardic merchants, originally from Iraq, who played a significant role in the commercial and real estate development of Shanghai. Settling mainly in the British sector of the city, they built synagogues and established Jewish social service agencies, schools and other institutions that laid a foundation for Jewish communal life.

      -- Russian Jews escaping czarist pogroms from the 1880s to World War I and after World War I, the Russian Revolution. This community brought Zionist organizations, Yiddish publications and other cultural activity to Shanghai’s French Concession, as well as to Harbin, further north.

      -- European Jews escaping the coming Holocaust. Shanghai was an open city that did not require visas or passports to enter. Despite the Japanese occupation of Shanghai when they arrived, Jews lived in relative comfort, thanks to the previously settled Jewish community. However, in 1942 the Japanese, bowing to the wishes of their German allies, confined Jews who had come from Europe since 1937 to a squalid ghetto area until the end of the war.

      The program is part of the Shanghai Celebration, a year-long program for the San Francisco Bay area, with exhibitions, films, performances, lectures. and other events. It also includes the Asian Art Museum's major Shanghai exhibit (February 12-September 5).

      "Jews in Modern China" series includes:

      Tuesday, March 2, 5:30pm - Officers Club, the Presidio, San Francisco

      Exhibit viewing and a conversation between Professor Pan Guang, dean of Center for Jewish Studies, Shanghai; and Professor Thomas Gold, UC-Berkeley. Sponsors: American Jewish Committee San Francisco Office, Asia Society of
      Northern California.
      "Shanghai Jews: Art, Architecture and Survival"
      Thursday, March 4, 7pm - Contemporary Jewish Museum

      From the mid-19th-mid-20th centuries, Shanghai was transformed into a multi-cultural, international city. Presented by Nancy Berliner, Chinese art curator, Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, Massachusetts. Sponsors: Asian Art Museum, Holocaust Center of Northern California, American Jewish Committee San Francisco Office.
      "Remembering Rena"
      Sunday, March 7, 2pm - Officers Club, Presidio, San Francisco

      A program honoring the late Rena Krasno, a Shanghai native whose books, lectures, and archival projects crafted a legacy of connection to the Jewish experience in China. Speakers will include colleagues, friends and family. Sponsors: The Sino-Judaic Institute, Pacific View Press.
      "A Young Man in Shanghai: Troubles and Triumphs"
      Wednesday, March 10, 7pm - Officers Club, Presidio, San Francisco
      Author and educator Audrey Friedman Marcus, who will discuss the Shanghai experiences of her late husband, Fred Marcus, who fled Germany at age 15. His recently published diary depicts the challenges and struggles that he and some 20,000 fellow Jewish refugees encountered. Sponsors: American Jewish Committee San Francisco Office, Bureau of Jewish Education of San Francisco.
      "Founders of the Shanghai Jewish Community: The Sephardic Story"
      Sunday, March 14, 2pm - Officers Club, Presidio, San Francisco
      Presented by Shanghai-born Leah Jacob Garrick - the fourth generation of her family to live there. She will discuss the history and legacy of Sephardic families who laid the foundation of the Shanghai Jewish community while playing a significant role in the business and architectural development of the city itself. Sponsors: China International Cultural Exchange Center, American Jewish Committee's San Francisco office.
      Lehrhaus Judaica will also sponsor the related "Jews in Modern China" lecture series, at 4pm, March 21, at Netivot Shalom, Berkeley, and at 7pm April 29, at the Officers Club, Presidio. The series features Bay area residents who represent the Sephardic, Russian and Holocaust-refugee communities of China (1840-1949). Speakers include Rabbi Theodore Alexander, Leah Jacob Garrick and Inna Mink. Moderator: Linda Frank.

      For more information, visit the AJC San Francisco.

      Florida: John Martino, ItalianGen, March 7

      You don't have to be Italian to be in the Italian Genealogy Group's database!

      John Martino, a founder of the Italian Genealogy Group (IGG), will speak on just that topic at the next meeting of the Jewish Genealogical Society of Palm Beach County (JGSPBC) on Sunday, March 7.

      The JGSPBC's annual "Lunch and Learn" is set for 11.30-3pm, at the Crown Plaza Hotel, West Palm Beach.

      Now IGG vice president and Special Project Coordinator, John has received an award from the Jewish Genealogical Society of New York (JSNY), and ItalianGen also received the Malcolm Stern Award from the IAJGS for its work in developing research databases.

      Tracing the Tribe remembers the excellent talk John gave at the IAJGS annual conference (New York 2006), where his society received the Stern Award.

      John will discuss how his 1,200 worldwide volunteers - of all ethnicities and religions - have created a variety of databases in New York and New Jersey, and how the same can be done in Boston, Detroit , Philadelphia Chicago and elsewhere.

      He'll address the many naturalization records, and county, federal, and NYC vital records now in the IGG databases that have helped many genealogists in the US and around the world, how to use these databases and how they were created. The information contained includes data for Jewish genealogists not found elsewhere.

      Tracing the Tribe has found many items of value for her New York-based families in IGG's resources.

      IGG was organized in 1990 and John was one of its founders. He has visited Italy twice and has traced his family back to 1572. Since he retired in 2000, he hs devoted most of his time to organizing volunteers to create databases.

      He first helped the JGSNY with Kings County naturalizations, followed by Suffolk, Nassau and Bronx counties. The federal records came next, including the Southern District Naturalization and now he's working on the Eastern District.

      Brian Anderson, Department of Records and Information Services commissioner, asked John to computerize the Municipal Archives' vital records. John and the IGG team have computerized New York City's death records (1891-1929) and the Groom Index (1895-1936).

      Fee: members, $25; others, $30. Free valet parking. Reservations required by February 27. See the Jewish Genealogical Society of Palm Beach County website for information and reservations.

      18 February 2010

      Vatican: Secret WWII documents to go online

      The World Jewish Congress reported that the Vatican will place online some previously secret WWII-era documents.

      According to Zenit, the Catholic news agency, the Vatican will post online some documents from its archives.
      The move came at the initiative of Pave the Way Foundation, a US -based group that promotes inter-religious dialogue and strives to defend wartime Pope Pius XII from allegations that he ignored Jewish suffering during the Holocaust.

      Pave the Way offered to digitize some 5,125 descriptions and copies of documents from the closed section of the Vatican archives, ranging from the period of March 1939 to May 1945, ‘Zenit’ reported. These would then be posted on the websites of both the Vatican and Pave the Way.
      The group's president Gary Krupp told Zenit that the documents had been "previously published and mostly ignored,” adding that their online publication was "not meant to be a substitute for the full access" to the Vatican archives, but would “show the unique efforts of Pope Pius XII and the dangers he was forced to operate under a direct threat from the Nazi regime."

      Media reports, according to the WJC, said the documents would not include material directly related to Pius XII.

      WDYTYA: Changing the world of genealogy!

      Are you - or your genealogy society - ready to ride the wave generated by the US-version of Who Do You Think You Are?

      The show - we hope - will create as much buzz for genealogy in the US as it did in the UK.

      The British version created - with a captivated audience of millions of viewers - an entire popular genealogy industry.

      Tracing the Tribe said, early on, that once the US version hit the airwaves, the same thing would likely happen here. Many of us remember what happened following the airing of the television series "Roots." WDYTYA may well create the Roots 2 phenomenon.

      As genealogists, we (and our societies) need to be ready to ride the wave.

      In addition to genealogical societies, historical societies, libraries, archives, our friends and neighbors - if not already "into" family history - will be looking for answers to their questions.

      The show - and the other family history shows now being screened - offers the genealogy community an opportunity to grow societies, increase membership, bring in younger audiences (the next "Generation Gen") as we help educate our communities and the general public on how to find information on their own unique family histories.

      Writes Susanne, "this show presents the community with the opportunity to revolutionize, reshape and redefine family history as a whole."

      Here are 10 ways in which genealogy societies can spotlight themselves and their resources, and inform members, friends, families and communities:

      -- Post flyers, wallpaper, and more. Ancestry.com just launched a Spread the Word webpage with downloadable flyers, computer wallpaper and other ideas for everyone to tell let everyone know about the show.

      -- Host a Who Do You Think You Are? premiere party. Invite members of your society and local community to watch the show’s premiere together on Friday, March 5 at 8/7c. Thomas MacEntee of GeneaBloggers provides some great tips on hosting a viewing party. View those tips here.

      -- Hold a society open house or workshop for beginners. Newcomers who catch the bug from the show want to know how to find their own histories.

      -- Invite local media to your society’s premiere party, open house, or workshop. Local papers usually print news of community events.

      -- Send an email to your society members. Spread the Word has a simple pass-along email with a video that includes the trailer and Lisa Kudrow speaking about what prompted her to produce the series.

      -- Encourage society members to invite their friends. Who better to promote your event, the TV show, and your society than your society members - already passionate about family history -with networks of friends and family?

      -- Prepare getting started materials for beginners. Print a one-page “Getting Started in Family History” guide that beginners can pick up at your event. Post the same information on your society’s website, blog or Facebook page. See below for beginners' tips.

      -- Share the Who Do You Think You Are? trailer. Post a link to one of the Who Do You Think You Are? trailers on your society’s Facebook page, Twitter account, website or blog.

      -- We all know the benefits of society membership. We just need to explain them to others!Programs, workshops, and community events - with enthusiastic audiences – will help understand why joining a society is a good thing. Consider membership discounts for those considering joining while the series is airing or for a specific time period following the series.

      -- Brainstorm more ideas with your society members.

      Beginner Tips

      Tracing the Tribe remembers what it was like as a complete newbie trying to get a handle on the resources and putting together the pieces of the puzzle. It can be overwhelming when you don't really know where - or how - to begin. We can make it easier for newcomers with some “getting started” tips.

      Start with what you know

      The best place to start your family history journey is with information you already have. Create an online family tree (Tracing the Tribe recommends MyHeritage.com for many reasons, including privacy and safety, advanced features and more) and enter names, places and dates of birth for yourself, parents and grandparents. This is just the beginning - you can fill in the blanks as you go along.

      Search historical records

      We have so many online resources today, including Ancestry.com, JewishGen, SephardicGen, Footnote, NewspaperArchive, Genealogy Bank and hundreds of other sites. Help members and newcomers find family in historical censuses, military and immigration records, newspaper articles and other sources.

      Ask family for more

      Family history provides an opportunity for you to really talk to your parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins. Ask for stories, photos and other information. If you have senior relatives, run - do not walk - to interview them!

      Add context to family story

      Add and share photos, stories and important documents to your online family tree. Create timelines. Record interviews with relatives by phone, video them if in person, and save them wherever you have placed your family tree online.

      Share family history

      Share your history and heritage by inviting family members to visit your online family site. Give charts and reports as gifts for lifecycle events (baby, marriage, anniversary, etc.). You could also create a family history book, calendar, poster or other items.

      Tracing the Tribe's personal tip

      FamilyTreeDNA.com for genetic genealogy. Submitting samples of Y-DNA and mtDNA to the largest database in the industry means more opportunities for you and others to find matches.

      There is a reason that nine out of 10 Jewish genealogists utilize FamilyTreeDNA.com. Within that largest sample database is also the largest Jewish database, essential for genealogists researching their Ashkenazi and Sephardic ancestors.

      The more samples in the database, the more opportunities to find matches and family separated by history and geography. The company's just-announced Family Finder will provide even more possibilities.

      Until time machines become common household appliances, genetic genealogy is the best thing we have that to answer some questions about our ancestors.

      Boston: Hands-On Problem Solving, Feb. 21

      The Jewish Genealogical Society of Greater Boston will host “Problem Solving with Experts – A Research Session” on Sunday, February 21.

      It begins at 1:30 pm at Temple Emanuel, 385 Ward St., Newton Centre.

      Beginners as well as more experienced attendees will be able to consult with experts for help with family research.

      Roundtables will feature the following topics:

      -- Getting started with Jewish genealogy
      -- Using immigration, naturalization, and vital records
      -- Eastern European country-specific research
      -- Translation of foreign-language documents (Yiddish, Hebrew, Polish, Russian, German)
      -- Holocaust research
      Admission: members, free; others, $5. Refreshments will be served. For directions, click here.

      For more information, visit JGSGB.

      17 February 2010

      Long Island: Suddenly Jewish, Feb. 21

      Roma Baran will present "Suddenly Jewish" at the next meeting of the Jewish Genealogical Society of Long Island on Sunday, February 21.

      The program begins at 2pm, at the Mid-Island Y-JCC, 45 Manetto Hill Road, Plainview, NY.

      In August 2008, at the age of 61, Roma Baran received a stunning email from a Jewish genealogist looking for heirs to a small estate of a Holocaust survivor -- her father's cousin – and learned that her casually Christian parents, and the whole rest of her family were not Polish Catholics, but Jews, including a rabbi and a Warsaw ghetto leader, and that her parents had survived the Holocaust under assumed names.

      She learned that not only were her family's names and identities false, but that she had actually lived in Israel, 1949-1951.

      Baran will describe -- with photos, documents and maps -- how she systematically reconstructed her past over the last year. She will focus on the Galizianer side of her family, and will include her new research on her father's Warsaw family.

      She will trace her parents' war-time escape from the Przemysl ghetto to Tarnawa, Krakow, and other towns, and their post-war journeys to Israel and Canada. She will also examine the emotional consequences of uncovering family secrets of staggering proportions.

      Baran - a producer, engineer, musician and attorney - grew up in Montreal, and has lived in New York City since 1976.

      Jamboree 2010: Chris Haley is keynote speaker

      In the 1970s, television revolutionized genealogy as a pursuit we can all follow.

      With the publishing of Alex Haley's book - "Roots" - and the television production that followed, people around the world were inspired to begin wondering about their own roots.

      The Southern California Genealogical Society's Jamboree 2010 (June 11-13) will feature a special guest, when the Friday night banquet keynote speaker will be Chris Haley, nephew of author Alex Haley.

      An actor, musician and genealogist, Christ will speak about how genealogy has both changed and remained the same over the years.

      "My Genealogy: Now and Then” will include family photos, documents, music and thoughts on his dual African and Scottish heritage. The story of his genetic discovery and reunion with relatives from the British Isles was covered in the media and is featured on Ancestry.com’s introductory DNA page.

      Do you need even more incentive to attend the dinner?

      How about this? One lucky banquet attendee will win an autographed, first edition copy of "Roots."

      This presentation is sure to entertain, educate and engage.

      Register for Jamboree, including the banquet and other special events, at the SCGS website.

      16 February 2010

      DNA: FamilyTreeDNA launches Family Finder

      Are you ready for the next revolution in genetic genealogy?

      FamilyTreeDNA.com has announced its new Family Finder. The test will be available in mid-March.

      “This is the most exciting genetic genealogy breakthrough since the company launched its Y-DNA test, which uncovered relatives in the direct paternal line,” says Bennett Greenspan, FamilyTreeDNA founder and president, in an email to company project administrators today.

      The science is simple: linked blocks of DNA across the 22 autosomal chromosomes are matched between two people. The degree of matching yields evidence for the relationship.

      A limited number of the company's current customers are being offered the Family Finder Test during the pre-launch. The company anticipates a general release of the test in mid-March for $249.

      For more information, click here.

      Here are some features:

      While the Y-DNA matches men with a specific paternal line, and the mtDNA finds potential relatives only along the maternal line, Family Finder can look for close relationships along all ancestral lines.

      You may now match to male and female cousins from any of your family lines within five generations. The science behind it uses linked blocks of DNA across the 22 autosomal chromosomes and matches them between two people. Based on this concept, our bioinformatics team has worked extensively to develop the calculations that would tell you the closeness of the relationship.
      The possibilities include: Aunts and uncles, parent and grandparents, half-siblings and first, second, third and fourth cousins. Possibly even fifth cousins and beyond

      When you take the Family Finder test, your results are compared against our Family Finder database. You will be able to: sort your matches by degree of relationship, view their names and e-mail address for immediate communication and download your raw data.

      -- Match with five generations of family

      With the new Family Finder test, discover connections to descendants of all 16 of your great-great-grandparents! As it opens avenues for traditional research, discover hidden connections that could explain a family's migrations.

      -- Adoptees discover their heritage

      With the power of an autosomal DNA test, confidently match to male and female cousins from any of your family lines, which can provide clues to learn more about your biological parents' families. Every adopted person, or those who know that one of their parents or grandparents was adopted, will want to order a Family Finder test to help identify close and distant relatives.

      -- Introducing Family Finder Projects

      A new way of looking for cousins means a new type of FamilyTreeDNA.com project:

      Family Finder Projects allow for analysis and comparisons between you and all members of a project. Compare all at once with the Family Finder “Viewer” and other genetic analytical tools.

      The new test and project tools integrate with an existing Family Tree DNA project to take it to the “next level.”

      Surname projects can use Family Finder to better define branches in a family tree. By using Family Finder testing, close Y-chromosome matches without traditional records may be assigned to a pedigree with greater confidence. Even more exciting, surname projects may now bring female cousins into the project as additional evidence.

      Regional projects can discover real relationships. Explore lost family connections hidden behind migrations. New clues open avenues for more traditional paper trail research. Those with close or perfect Y-chromosome matches between different surnames can now untangle their relationships.

      View a short presentation by FamilyTreeDNA.com founder and president Bennett Greenspan as he explains how the Family Finder test may open doors to the discovery of your close and distant relatives. WATCH NOW.

      CAVEAT: For the company's current customers, the new Family Finder test requires an untouched vial of DNA. If your kit does not have an extra vial on file, FamilyTreeDNA will mail a collection kit for a new FREE DNA extraction. After ordering the test, current customers will be notified by email if a stored vial can be used or a new vial is required.