27 December 2006

U.K.: Jewish cemetery records

The Jewish Genealogical Society of Great Britain (JGSGB) has announced through its JCR-UK SIG discussion list that it has been negotiating with the U.K. Federation of Synagogues for the release of burial records covering two of London's major cemeteries: Edmonton (opened in 1889) and Rainham (from February 1938), totalling more than 70,000 graves.

The JGSGB has received 27,000 records, although only a small portion currently fall within specific dates covered by the agreement. However, other records will be added when they are transcribed from ledgers into the database.

According to JGSGB council member Louise Messik, the agreement states that access to these records is only for JGSGB members, through the Members' Corner section of its Web site.

If your research requires Jewish cemetery records in London, contact membership@jgsgb.org.uk and ask for information.

Salt Lake City: input wanted for film festival at IAJGS conference

The 27th IAJGS International Conference on Jewish Genealogy will also showcase the second Conference Jewish Film Festival.

The 2006 festival, coordinated by Pamela Weisberger, offered some 30 films and opportunities to meet filmmakers and directors. She is also organizing the 2007 festival, and plans to offer educational, entertaining and enlightening films.

Among them: documentaries with genealogical and historical themes, personal stories, fiction films reflecting historical events or the Jewish experience in a historical or sociological context, television specials focusing on genealogical research, classic, restored films, testimonies, and videos focusing on one particular town or region, including those made in commemoration or dedicating of Holocaust memorials, and films reflecting the Yiddish theatre experience.

Weisberger is asking the international Jewish genealogy community for their input.

"If you have a film to recommend or know of new documentaries recently
completed, please contact me," she says. Contact her at pamela@slc2007.org.

Because this area of genealogy is growing and so many people are working on projects, recommendations are welcomed from researchers who may know of interesting films. Says Weisberger, short trailers (8-10 minutes) may be appropriate if complete films are not ready.

The 27th IAJGS International Conference on Jewish Genealogy will be held from July 15 - July 20, in Salt Lake City. The program will include international experts and archivists, lectures, panels, classes, workshops, the film festival and an opportunity to utilize the extensive resources of the Family History Library.

For all event details, online registration and breaking news, visit the frequently updated conference website.

An inside look at a DNA lab

The University of Arizona's Biological Sciences West Building is home to the lab that does the testing for Family Tree DNA and for the National Geographic Society's Genographic Project.

The lab, part of the UA Arizona Research Laboratories' Human Origins Genotyping Laboratory, has already processed more than 211,000 DNA samples for people who want to know whence they came. It's a gene research factory, a "high-throughput genomics operation," in genetic jargon.

At November's annual Family Tree DNA conference in Houston, Texas, I had the great pleasure to meet Matt Kaplan, project leader for the NGS.
Looked at another way, "It's basically, a dating service for genealogists," says Kaplan. He's quick to point out that genealogy researchers only get access to data from participants who agree to release their information.
But, he says, many people do because it opens them up to getting even more information about their pasts as genealogists often connect their genetic information with others and create a more complete past.
Better yet, the "resolution" - the detail - of DNA-derived histories is increasing all the time as more people put their information into genealogical databases, says Kaplan.
Technological advances also make the information more telling. Kaplan says developments in genomics outstrip nearly every other branch of science.

At the conference, Matt explained that his real focus is lizards and that he never thought he'd be interested in human origins.

"I didn't think I'd care at all," says Kaplan. Not so. Since working on the Genographic Project, Kaplan says he has looked into his own past, finding that he came from Eastern European Jewish roots and routes.

Click here to read the rest of the story.

A Jewish longevity gene?

While searching out interesting items for Tracing the Tribe, I came across this new study by Yeshiva University's Albert Einstein College of Medicine. It was published in the December 26, 2006 issue of Neurology.

Einstein's Institute for Aging Research director Dr. Nir Barzilai examined 158 people of Ashkenazi (Eastern European) Jewish descent; all age 95 or older. Those who possessed a particular gene variant were twice as likely to have good brain function based on a standard test of cognitive function. In short, the gene variant linked to living a long life - 90 and older - helps very old people think clearly and retain memories.

Centenarians were three times more likely to have this gene variant, known as CEPT VV, compared with a control group. According to the article, the gene affects the size of "good" HDL and "bad" LDL cholesterol.

The article goes on to suggest the process of how the gene protects the brain and helps people to resist disease.

However, I do wonder why Sephardic centenarians were not tested. Many such studies include very few or no individuals of Sephardic descent.

While this article seems to say this is an Ashkenazi gene variant, Sephardim were not included. Centenarians in that community likely possess the same variant, and such a study would show that the variant was a Jewish trait in general, not merely an Ashkenazi gene, as identified in this limited study.

Food for thought.

26 December 2006

Center for Jewish History: Online catalog

The online catalog of the Center for Jewish History is now available via a link from the CJH's home page.

Included are the combined library and archives collections of the American Jewish Historical Society, American Sephardi Federation, Leo Baeck Institute, Yeshiva University Museum, YIVO Institute for Jewish Research and the Center for Jewish History Genealogy Institute.

For a basic search, click on "Search the CJH Catalog" at the lower left corner of the home page. From that page's top banner, choose Advanced Search, Browse, Search History; researchers can print, save or e-mail selected items.

From basic search, look through the entire catalog or choose one repository. In Advanced mode, search by language, year, format (such as archives, manuscripts, books, journals).

From the results list, click a left-hand column item number to see the full record. From the same list, click on a repository link, for a screen to place a hold request. Before placing a hold, readers must complete an online library card registration form.

In the collection are links to online finding aids and searchable databases previously available only at the CJH, such as Industrial Removal Office records.

Among extensive digital images are hundreds from the Leo Baeck Institute's Albert Einstein Collection. The bottom of each screen shows a "CJH Resources" link for more resources.

The catalog reflects years of work in the United States and Israel by teams at libraries, archives, museums and information technology experts, funded by a major grant from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC).

Readers are encouraged to provide feedback about the catalog through the Comments link at the bottom of each screen.

Happy hunting!

BBC offers U.K. family history info

If you are in the U.K. or searching ancestors who lived there, the BBC Web site has a 'Family History' section with very useful information.

It is a general site, but it provides much information on U.K. records. There is a video, a 'getting started' section, a message board, timelines, photo information, links to various topics and resources.

Practical Archivist: Great tips from a new blog

Sally Jacobs of Madison, Wisconsin, describes her new blog as "Archiving tips and geeky tidbits for genealogists, history buffs, and keepers of the family photo album. Written by an archivist who never met an antique photograph she didn't like."

Her latest posting offers information on the Cylinder Preservation and Digitization Project at the University of California at Santa Barbara, which includes 6,000 digitized wax-cylinder recordings dating back to 1895. The collection includes Tin Pan Alley music, vaudeville performances and advertisements.

According to UCSB, the goal was to make the collection available to researchers and the public. Access is completely free and you can download a copy for personal use for no charge.

Jacobs includes other information and links to Web sites offering information on obsolete technologies. This may be helpful, since an important piece of your family history may have been recorded in a medium not commonly available today.

She also offers great hints on working with family photographs, video tips on interviewing senior family members looking through photo albums and more.

The Practical Archivist blog should be on all of our must-read lists.

At age 100: Resting is rusting

What will you be doing when you've reached the century mark?

For some inspiration, read this story about Yiddish translator Eva Zeitlin Dobkin, who recently celebrated her 100th birthday.

Among other projects, she began working in 1984 on the English translation of the Yiddish historical novel Burning Earth (Brenendike Erd), written in 1934. She's now editing the final version.

Her accomplishments include translations of several books, many articles, letters and personal items, as well as the 1999 Profiles of a Lost World: Memoirs of East European Jewish Life before World War II by Hirsz Abramowicz.

Her success, she believes, is due to her parents' focus on education and free schooling, and she says her longevity is due to genetics.

"Pick the right parents and grandparents," she advised, wryly. She won't commit to a future translating project but is considering writing a family history.

There are 18 additional centenarians at the Jewish Home for the Aging in Southern California where she lives.

Barcelona: Friction over how Jewish history is treated

A recent JTA story describes the relationship between the city and the contemporary Jewish community in Barcelona, Spain.

A major medieval Jewish community numbering some 4,000 individuals, the city was a focal point of international commerce with its bustling port. The city's Jewish population was one of many across Spain decimated by riots and mass conversions in 1391; Jewish inhabitants fled, converted or were murdered.

Centuries later, the city now wants to restore its Jewish quarter - the
Call. Interestingly, the Jewish population today is similar to what it was prior to 1391; estimates range from 4,000-5,000.

The growing community has several congregations, a Jewish school, a country club and kosher meat, an annual Jewish Film Festival. Its members include Ashkenazi immigrants from Argentina, Sephardim from various countries and returned Conversos.

Similar restorations of former Jewish quarters have been carried out in Girona and other cities. The government plan presents them as tourist attractions. In most of the cities there is no Jewish community to become involved or to object when it feels restoration of the Jewish past is being done inappropriately.

In Barcelona, however, the active Jewish community feels it is being shut out of the process.

“We very much appreciate that City Hall is finally getting involved in restoring its Jewish past,” Tobi Burdman, president of the Israelite Community of Barcelona, told JTA. “What we don’t want to see is a Jewish quarter without Jews, in the style of Gerona. Here there’s a living Jewry, one that should be listened to and consulted with, and not just called up to appear in the photo.”

Over the years, I have visited Barcelona frequently and met twice with the person formerly in charge of this project. Each time I mentioned "where is the Jewish involvement in this project?" her answer was "Why should there be?"
When I spoke of silent stones in Girona and other towns, I compared it to the vibrant Barcelona community of contemporary Judaism, where thousands of Jews live and work.
Told that it’s a sensitive issue for the community given its tragic history, Serra [the City Hall official responsible for the project] responded, “You have to understand, this is not a very major issue for the city.”
Community members say they would like to play at least some role, even something as minor as reviewing texts, brochures or museum signs. But Serra said the city has yet to receive a clear proposal for participation from the community.
Some community members insist they’ve asked repeatedly to meet with city officials to discuss drafting a proposal. But community sources have acknowledged past divisiveness and said the community is just beginning to make its voice heard in a unified fashion.

My good friend, community activitist Dominique Tomasov Blinder, has been involved in this cause since I've known her:

Dominique Tomasov, also an architect and a founding member of the Reform congregation, independently began giving a Jewish voice to guided tours of the neighborhood in the late 1990s.She tells visitors the history of Barcelona Jews while tying it in to the re-emergence of a living community.

Tomasov spoke of fruitless efforts to build some sort of partnership with the city around the renovation project.

“What upsets me most about this is that Judaism is a living culture,” she said. “It has a presence in Barcelona, and we could bring Jewish authenticity to the project.”

Various sources, including those in City Hall, said anti-Israel feeling has affected the city’s attitude on some level.

The story goes on to mention the issue of construction work on Montjuic, once the site of the city's Jewish cemetery, and from which hundreds of ancient tombstones have been recovered; and the restoration of the main medieval synagogue in the Call by Miguel Iaffa.

19 December 2006

The disappearing Mr. Wiesenthal

As Helen Radkey noted in my previous blog posting, Simon Wiesenthal's IGI record would likely be removed as soon as the incident became public.

This is exactly what happened; after that point, readers who clicked the provided link could not view the record. While many did not doubt the report's veracity, others questioned the event. The record can be viewed here.

According to a KUTV.com (Salt Lake City CBS affiliate) statement, the Wiesenthal Center was happy that the record was removed quickly.

Readers can check the International Genealogical Index online, for members of their own families. Several have done so and were shocked to see their relatives listed.

Removing the names, however, doesn't undo the baptism, and perhaps the Church and its members do not truly understand what that word means to the Jewish people.

The mere mention of "baptism" brings back the horrors of many historical forced conversions, from the Spanish Inquisition to the 1858 Mortara Affair in Italy, in which a six-year-old Jewish boy, Edgardo Mortara, was kidnapped from his home by Swiss Vatican guards because a Catholic nursemaid claimed she had secretly baptised him. Despite the pleas of his family and the Jewish world, Pope Pius IX refused to surrender him. For more on this story, click here

Some researchers have likened the removal of a name to the unringing of a bell, which cannot simply be "unrung." Avotaynu's Gary Mokotoff, a professional genealogist and Holocaust researcher, maintains that "no one has the right to involve other people's families in their religion."

Although Simon Wiesenthal was removed this time, it is likely that his name will reappear in the future. This is contrary to the church's own guidelines which informs its members that they should not submit non-relatives to the IGI. Currently, there is no quality control over those who do submit unrelated individuals, although a church spokesman indicates such a program is being developed.

While the cases of high-profile individuals are publicly spotlighted, there are many thousands of other Jewish individuals who were "inappropriately entered" (not related to the submitter) into the database and for whom proxy baptisms have been performed.

In response to my request, a Yad Vashem spokesperson said: "Yad Vashem is, of course, opposed to the posthumous baptism of Holocaust victims, and is well aware of the problem. We are in contact with, and support the efforts of, the Jewish groups involved in this issue."

JewishGen, a major Jewish genealogy presence on the Internet, has an excellent compilation of news and journal articles, opinion pieces and more, addressing all facets of the controversy; click here.

17 December 2006

Anger over 'baptism' of Simon Wiesenthal

I’ve written previously (here and here) about the matter of posthumous baptism of Jews – ordinary individuals as well as Holocaust victims – and the continued violations of the Mormon-Jewish Agreement.

Is there a reader of Tracing the Tribe who does not know about famed Nazi hunter and Jewish Holocaust survivor Simon Wiesenthal? The Simon Wiesenthal Center, headquartered in Los Angeles, is an important human rights organization named in his honor.

Born on December 31, 1908 in Buczacz (then Austria-Hungary or Galicia, now in Lvov Oblast, Ukraine), Wiesenthal died in Vienna, at age 96, on September 20, 2005.

Dedicated researcher Helen Radkey, who may be described as a thorn in the Mormon side on this issue, just discovered that Wiesenthal is now included in the International Genealogical Index (IGI), searchable online at Family Search. This is a database of individuals who have had posthumous church ordinances performed by proxy for them, including baptisms, sealings and other rituals.

"I have been checking the IGI since September, a year since his death, and knew that his name would appear and it did. Mormons are supposed to wait a year before performing ordinances for deceased parties," adds Radkey, who was preparing a long report on the Mormon-Jewish Agreement scandal when Wiesenthal's entry appeared around December 11, 2006.

This is not only a violation of the 1995 agreement between Mormons and Jews, claims Radkey, “because Wiesenthal would not have direct family ties with any Mormon, but it is an appalling indignity towards him, his family; the Simon Wiesenthal Center, Jewish Holocaust survivors and the memory of all Jewish Holocaust victims.”

Wiesenthal was a Nazi death camp survivor, and he and his wife Cyla lost 89 family members. He spent his life fighting anti-Semitism and prejudice, documenting the Holocaust’s crimes and hunting down perpetrators still at large.

To see the Wiesenthal IGI entry, click here.

Radkey adds, “Schelly, please be aware that Simon Wiesenthal's name will probably immediately disappear from the IGI once the Mormons find out his name is in that database. So if you tell readers to look for him under Family Search, this may only be for a very limited time."

“What the LDS Church is doing to Simon Wiesenthal should not be tolerated,” stresses Radkey, “and even if Mormons decide to hastily remove Wiesenthal's name from the part of the IGI database that is visible to the public, they will forever keep private records of any LDS proxy temple rites that he may have already been subjected to.”

Radkey’s report will not appear for at least a month. Included will be reports on her extensive research since 1999, including findings on Jewish Holocaust victims of Rome, Italy, who are also listed in the IGI.

Here's the Weisenthal Center's outraged response, which JTA received an early copy of:


The Simon Wiesenthal Center called on the Mormon Church to immediately remove Simon Wiesenthal from its online International Genealogical Index (IGI), which is the Mormon database of posthumous ordinances.

“We are astounded and dismayed that after assurances and promises by the Mormon Church that Mr. Wiesenthal's life and memory, along with so many other Jews, would be trampled and disregarded,” said Rabbi Marvin Hier, the Wiesenthal Center’s founder and dean.

“Simon Wiesenthal was one of the great Jews in the post-Holocaust period. He proudly lived as a Jew, died as a Jew, demanded justice for the millions of the victims of the Holocaust, and, at his request was buried in the State of Israel. It is sacrilegious for the Mormon faith to desecrate his memory by suggesting that Jews on their own are not worthy enough to receive G-ds’ eternal blessing, “added Rabbi Hier.

“We therefore urge the Church to remove his name and the names of all other Holocaust victims immediately,” Hier concluded.

South Africa's disappearing Jews

Many South African Jewish communities in small towns have withered, while remaining Jews have headed to the large communities in Johannesburg and Cape Town.

The Southern Africa SIG (special interest group) is collecting information on these former centers of Jewish life, many of which exist today in name only.

Among its projects:

South African Jewish Rootsbank, Centre for Jewish Migration & Genealogy Studies.

The project's main goal is to research the estimated 15,000 families who migrated (1850-1950) to southern Africa from England, Germany, Lithuania, Latvia and Belarus. It also plans to map the history of Jewish migration to South Africa and provide data for the Discovery Centre at the South African Jewish Museum, and to integrate genealogical data at the Kaplan Centre at the University of Cape Town.

Many families were fragmented; siblings immigrated separately to the U.S., UK and southern Africa, and sometimes lost contact with each other.

Talking at last - an Iranian survivor

In Los Angeles, Menashe Ezrapour, 88, is the only known Iranian Jewish Holocaust survivor.

After 60 years, he's sharing his story and helping to connect Los Angeles's major Diaspora Iranian community to this black period in history.

His story should have been told at the so-called Teheran Holocaust Conference last week, as should that of Iranian diplomat Abdol Hossein Sardari, who was honored posthumously in April 2004 by the Wiesenthal Center.

Born in Hamadan, Ezrapour was honored earlier this year at the Nessah Cultural Center - one of the major Iranian synagogues in Beverly Hills, which is headed by an old friend, Rabbi David Shofet, the son of the late Chief Rabbi of Iran, Hakham Yedidiah Shofet.

Sardari was the Iranian ambassador to France while it was under German occupation during WWII. He stopped the deportation of 200 Iranian Jews in Paris, and provided several hundred other non-Iranian Jews with Iranian passports.

To read the story, click here

Happy Chanukah - Celebrate your history

As you celebrate this holiday and light the candles each night, consider dedicating one night to honoring your own unique family history.

The child-centered holiday of Chanukah often brings together multiple generations. It offers a special opportunity to bring the younger generations into a discussion of family history, with input from grandparents and other relatives.

As part of your home celebration, talk about your family history and your ancestors' travels from other places to where you now live. Look at old family photos together, discuss the people pictured, where they lived, what happened to them and how they are related.

Never miss an opportunity to strengthen the family links which connect the past to the present to the future.

16 December 2006

"60 Minutes" and the long-secret Bad Arolsen records

With the so-called Holocaust conference in Tehran making the front pages, readers should watch "60 Minutes" (in the US, at 7 p.m. ET/PT on CBS), on Dec. 17, or for more, click here.

The show features the Bad Arolsen Holocaust archive in Germany, which has recently been opened to the public after long being off-limits to researchers, and only grudgingly accessible to the families of victims. This massive archive contains information on more than 17 million Holocaust victims, on 16 miles of shelves holding 50 million pages of documents.

The show describes a visit to the archives by CBS News' Scott Pelley with three Jewish survivors who saw their own records. The show secured a private viewing of the records for Miki Schwartz of San Diego, and New Yorkers Walter Feiden and Jack Rosenthal.

You may want to let your circle of friends and family and discussion lists know about this.

Readers around the world

I continue to find it fascinating to see where people are clicking in from around the world.

Over the past two weeks, readers have clicked in from the U.S., UK, Canada, Africa, most of Western Europe, Eastern Europe and South America, as well as Australia, New Zealand and Israel.

Some recent additions are Finland, Korea, Malaysia, Indonesia, Philippines, China, Togo and Kazakhstan. Maybe Borat's reading?

Finding family on Russian Web pages even if you don't speak the language

Steve Morse's Web site offers a simple transliteration tool for converting from English to Russian.

And he also has a link to Russian Google, which makes it easy to check out possible leads to your families.

On the transliteration tool, type in any name, and see it in Cyrillic. For TALALAY, there are multiple possibilities, and I received a list with minor spelling variations.

I copied the Cyrillic characters, went back to Steve's list, and clicked Russian Google, and pasted in each name, doing a separate search for each. A lengthy display turned up, and most had a message offering to "translate this page."

While I can recognize TALALAY in the handwritten Mogilev, Belarus records, and taught myself to locate it by looking for "meaow meaow" which is what the name looks like, there's no way I could navigate Russian Google by myself, until now.

I spent about an hour clicking on the various search results, and found information about known cousins Dr. Misha (Michael) Talalay in Italy, and his brother, deep-sea ice diving expert Dr. Pavel Talalay in St. Petersburg, percussionist Peter Talalay in Moscow, and numerous others. However, I also found new information on several people whom I only had been aware of by names, including artists and architects, academics in the Urals and others.

The best part was discovering e-mail addresses for some new individuals. I've already written and hope that they will respond.

I even found my early DNA blog posting from the International Conference on Jewish Genealogy on a Russian forum.

Do try your hand at Russian searching - you might be pleasantly surprised.

Poland: Updated database

Researchers looking for information on four towns - Lublin, Radzyn Pdlaski, Zamosc and Gowarczow - have a nice Chanukah gift to enjoy.

The Jewish Records Indexing-Poland (JRI-Poland)
database was recently updated with indexed data from the Latter Day Saints microfilms of Polish Jewish Vital Records.

The four towns above are now complete, with all available LDS data indexed. Also, more data from Warszawa and Sandomierz has been added.

More than 35,000 additional names and 20 microfilms have been added.

"I would like to thank our wonderful team of volunteers who worked tirelessly
to make the project such a success," says Shtetl CO-OP Coordinator Hadassah Lipsius of New York, who thanked coordinators and leaders in the U.S. and Israel.

The many ways that meaning gets lost in translation

Genealogists frequently talk about translation and transliteration problems and how certain languages are particularly problematic.

Many individuals mention the problems of transliterating complicated Polish names of towns into Hebrew, which isn't a problem if you can pronounce the Polish name properly. The problem arises when someone tries to translate names from Hebrew back into proper Polish spelling. This is very difficult due to Polish spelling conventions utilizing Ss, Zs and Cs sounds and combinations thereof.

My friend Ingrid Rockberger of Ra'anana is reading Outwitting History by Aaron Lansky, founder of the National Yiddish Book Center). The book describes his 25-year quest to rescue Yiddish books, and the author discusses the pitfalls of translation in general and Yiddish in particular.

At a lecture given by Isaac Bashevis Singer which Lansky attended, Singer told of his own problems:

"There was a line in one of my books," Singer related, "in which I said that a woman 'hot oysgeshrign azoy vi a froy in kimpet.' In English, this was translated as, 'she cried out like a woman in labor,' meaning like a woman about to give birth. When the book was translated into Hebrew, the Hebrew translator didn't know Yiddish, so he had to work from the English translation. In Hebrew the line became, 'She cried out like a woman in the Histadrut,' - like a woman in the Labor movement."

In a book I read by Dorit Rabinyan about Persian Jews, the translator had no clue about common Farsi expressions, and obviously didn't ask the author or anyone who was a native speaker. Additionally, the translator (from Hebrew to English) translated an English B for the Hebrew V.

As a Farsi speaker, I thought the book was rather funny, even though it wasn't meant to be. My copy is marked throughout with many of the errors.

On every page, the expression, "voy! voy!," an expression used in Farsi to indicate troubles (sort of like the Yiddish "oy vey"), was translated as "bah! bah!" which in Farsi is an expression of joy, of something very good. You can imagine how this could complicate a story line, as the fluent reader laughs at the reversals of meaning.

Those who translate from one language to another need to know how languages are really used. The Hebrew-English translator of the Rabinyan book should have known Farsi, or at least asked someone who did.

Can you top this? Start a family dreidel collection

I still come across those little plastic ones - red, blue and green - in drawers filled with odds and ends. Leftover dreidels from Chanukah Past; not exactly priceless heirlooms like some of the items we've mentioned in this blog, but nevertheless a nice way to remember happy family gatherings.

Dreidels are great collection starters. When friends and family see interesting ones on their travels, they're likely to bring one home for you. And if you know a relative with a dreidel collection ... well ... it's easy to decide on a gift for them.

Each year, new silver styles appear at Israeli silver shops, and there are many more out there.

New York's Jewish Museum has an interesting collection, all available for online shopping.

Some are from Israel, some by artists. Materials include ceramic, glass, stainless steel, anodized aluminum, silver and titanium, silver and onyx, hand-painted enamel and gold or silverplate, wood, cloissone, glass, beaded pewter, fused glass and metal -- even stuffed dreidels. There's a salt-and-pepper dreidel set to grace a holiday table, or one made of Nambe (a beautiful alloy used for expensive tabletop serving pieces).

These items can range from a few dollars to hundreds of dollars.

13 December 2006

Genealogy video clips on YouTube, Google

Dick Eastman's newsletter talks about genealogy videos he has found on Google.

Last week, while searching around for interesting things, I discovered genealogy clips on YouTube.

Among them, worth viewing just for fun, is an animation of "I'm my own Grampaw."

Ayana Sadetzky-Kimran has posted a piece about her 2006 trip "Back to Bricheva in Soroka District" (Bessarabia).

"It's the Bronx" covers the meanderings of the Schornstein/Sloane family.

And the finale is a two-parter of Julie Andrews and Gene Kelly singing "The Family Tree" on Andrews' show of long ago.

There are many more video clips related to genealogy. Some are compelling and others, not so much.

12 December 2006

Judaism in Appalachia

Jewish resources for researchers pop up in some strange places.

There's a blog by Eric Drummond Smith -- Hillbilly Savants By Appalachians, for Everyone -- and he has posted about the Jewish presence in Appalachia, with a nice compilation of interesting resources, and a list of more than 30 synagogues and their Web sites.

For those international readers who aren't exactly sure where Appalachia is, it generally covers the Southern states of Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia, Kentucky, North and South Carolina, Virginia.

Several years ago, I was tracking down a branch of my Galizianer FINK family (originally from Suchastow near Skalat).

I knew that a husband and wife in that branch had lived in West Virginia for a few years in the 1930s, and I was able to speak to the current rabbi. He checked the congregational archives. It turned out that my grandfather's sister was famous for her cooking and had won numerous blue ribbons and other prizes at county fairs.

The American national hobby ... almost!

According to a number of surveys in recent years, genealogy is the second most popular American hobby after gardening, and it is the second most visited category of Web sites, after pornography.

I once had a conversation about the popularity of genealogy research with the editor of a Jewish paper in one of the far Northern states (where it snows from September through April).

He asked, rather insistently, "More popular than golf?"

My reply: "I'm not sure how popular golf is in your neck of woods in the lo-o-o-o-ng winter, but you can easily research your family sitting at home no matter how high the snow drifts!"

He couldn't say that about golf. Imagine trying to find a little white golf ball in six feet of snow!

It's easier to find a passenger's badly transcribed name in the Ellis Island Database, even without Steve Morse's Gold Page.

And you can take a practical course in various genealogical topics online no matter the weather outside.

In any case, here's a story from Fort Wayne, Indiana.
On the first night of Carol Knox Hossfield's first genealogy class, the instructor asked where her family was from.

When Hossfield replied, "New York," the instructor smiled. "Ah, the black hole of genealogy," she said.

Hossfield's hopes sank.

Despite New York's reputation - earned because the state was settled before vital records were recorded and because New York lacked detailed town records such as those found in New England - Hossfield soon found an extraordinary amount of information on the Internet, thanks to census records from the early 1900s.

I'm sure that most Jewish genealogists do not consider New York to be the black hole of genealogy, but it's an interesting read.

Swabbing for DNA in Baltimore

An excellent cover story on DNA and genealogy by Barbara Pash has just appeared in the Baltimore Jewish Times.

Several genealogists are quoted, including the Jewish Genealogical Society of Maryland's current president Elise Friedman and past president Richard Goldman; professional genealogist Gary Mokotoff (of Avotaynu), Dr. Doron Behar, Dr. Karl Skorecki, and Family Tree DNA's founder Bennett Greenspan.

Only one comment to an otherwise very good article. Pash mentions the Genghis Khan link to Miami resident Tom Robinson, but doesn't say that this is simply not true -- there is no such link. Family Tree DNA had tested Robinson several years before, and then retested him after the story broke, and as this blog discussed, they discovered that he was not of the same haplogroup as good old Genghis, which makes him NOT a descendant.

11 December 2006

A new book for Klezmer lovers

Add to your musical Hanukah wish list, "The Absolutely Complete Klezmer Songbook," edited by Yale Strom.

Strom, a renowned ethnomusicologist, documentarian, and klezmer musician, has created an "incredible compilation of nigunim, horas, bulgars."

The book features melody lines and chords for 313 songs, many of which were collected by Strom in Eastern Europe and are being published for the first time. It includes a klezmer history, glossary and archival photos, along with a 36-song CD of songs in the book, recorded by Strom and his Hot P'Stromi band.

The book is $49.95, but amortized over all those songs (and the CD), it becomes a much better buy!

Postcards from the past

Scenes from the past come alive in two articles on Ynetnews describing a family collection of postcards gathered over the course of more than 100 years.

Moshe Ginzburg and Zehava Lavit Ben-Tovim immigrated to Israel at the end of the 19th century, met in Israel, and were married in 1918.

Zehava's father, Isaac Ben-Tovim, was active in the Haredi Yishuv and the couple had the privilege of knowing the Israel of the beginning of the 20th century. Many postcards and letter from throughout Israel, neighboring countries and Europe were sent to their home. Zehava kept the correspondences and left them to her daughter Shifra Lancet, who has presented some of the postcard collection here in memory of her family.

Click here for Part I, and here for Part II.

A journey back to the borderlands of Ukraine

The National Yiddish Book Center in Amherst, Massachusetts does very important work. Since 1980, founder Aaron Lansky has single-handedly saved thousands of Yiddish books.

In addition to books describing the lands and experiences of our Eastern European ancestors, the Center publishes Pakn Treger.

The December issue has a genealogist's dream of a story. Scroll down to the PDF titled "The Landscape of Memory," by Robert Adler Peckerar, Nancy Sherman, and David Shneer

Last August participants in the National Yiddish Book Center’s LiteraTour 2006 traveled to Ukraine to the former Austro-Hungarian provinces of Galicia and Bukovina to explore the birthplace of modern Yiddish literature. We wanted to visit the sites that have inspired writers from Sholem Aleichem to Jonathan Safran Foer. Many of us also sought traces of parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents in the villages and cities of Ukraine, the country whose name translates as “borderlands.” In the three essays that follow, a literary scholar, a historian, and Pakn Treger’s editor report on what the group found, and what remains undiscovered.

The Center is also home to the Steven Spielberg Digital Yiddish Library, which is believed to be the only project ever to digitize an entire modern literature, preserving it permanently for future generations of readers, students, and scholars.

The project began when diminishing supplies of popular Yiddish titles made it increasingly difficult for the Center to fill requests for important books. In addition, our collection of 1.5 million books was physically deteriorating, as pages and bindings yellowed and crumbled.

With the help of state-of-the-art technology, every title in the Center’s collection has now been scanned, page by page, creating permanent computer files that can be readily reprinted, on demand, as high-quality, affordable new books.

To read more about the Spielberg Library, click here.

Asian and Jewish: the future face of Jewish genealogy?

"Deconstructing the Asian Jewish experience" is an interesting article from J, the Jewish News Weekly of Northern California that has relevance for the future look of Jewish genealogy.

And this isn't just happening in San Francisco: Asian faces are becoming more prevalent and less unusual in synagogues in New York, Los Angeles and elsewhere as Jewish parents have adopted children from Asian countries, although the article deals with adult Asian Jewish identities.

A recent forum on Asian Jewish identities emphasized commonalties while shattering stereotypes. But before debunking the prevailing paradigm of the Ashkenazi Jew, the panel had to come to grips with an equally important question: What constitutes “Asian?”

For example, the panel’s moderator, Dafna Wu, was born in Brazil to an Ashkenazi Jewish mother and a Shanghainese father. Panelist Lori Rosenstein was born in Korea and raised in Vermont by her adopted parents - a Vermont-born Jewish father and a non-Jewish mother from Texas.

A native San Franciscan Larry Wong, born to Chinese parents, is in the process of converting to Judaism.

When he was asked about his family's reaction, he said, “Both communities are very concerned with money, education and family,” and mentioned cultural similarities making the process easier.

And in line with the upcoming Hanukah holiday, Wong added, "I love latkes, but I don’t know about adding applesauce and sour cream. I think what latkes really need is some good shrimp sauce.”

E-mail alert problems

If you subscribe to Tracing the Tribe e-mail alerts, you may have noticed some strange things in the past few weeks.

Instead of providing all the new posts, one new one and some old (some very old!) posts may be included.

Rest assured that we are trying to address the technical issues, which are not in our hands, as alerts are handled by an outside source.

Please bear with us while we attempt to correct the problems.

You'll just have to log in more frequently to see all the new messages!

DNA testing concerns may hurt studies

Amy Harmon, who reports on DNA matters for the New York Times, had a recent front-page story, "DNA Gatherers Hit a Snag: The Tribes Don’t Trust Them."

Amy, whom I was very happy to meet at August's 26th IAJGS International Conference on Jewish Genealogy in New York, focuses this time on concerns voiced by Native Americans concerning DNA testing.

At issue is whether scientists who need DNA from aboriginal populations to fashion a window on the past are underselling the risks to present-day donors. Geographic origin stories told by DNA can clash with long-held beliefs, threatening a world view some indigenous leaders see as vital to preserving their culture.

They argue that genetic ancestry information could also jeopardize land rights and other benefits that are based on the notion that their people have lived in a place since the beginning of time.

“What if it turns out you’re really Siberian and then, oops, your health care is gone?” said Dr. David Barrett, a co-chairman of the Alaska Area Institutional Review Board, which is sponsored by the Indian Health Service, a federal agency. “Did anyone explain that to them?”

Population geneticist Dr. Spencer Wells, who directs the National Geographic's Genographic Project, is quoted:

“I don’t think humans at their core are ostriches,” Dr. Wells said. “Everyone has an interest in where they came from, and indigenous people have more of an interest in their ancestry because it is so important to them.”

An interesting take on the ramifications of testing. This topic was also discussed at the Third International Conference on Genetic Genealogy, hosted by Family Tree DNA in Houston.

09 December 2006

Making corrections to Yad Vashem data

If you have checked over various databases and discovered errors, be sure to let the database managers know about the problems. While it may take some time for corrections to appear online, or for comments to be noted, they will get done.

A few days ago, I was delighted to receive a note from Sandrine Rebibo of Yad Vashem's Reference and Information Service. I had submitted corrections to Pages of Testimony some time ago, and her message informed me that the updates will eventually appear.

The note, read in part:

We have accepted the corrections you suggested as follows:

- Record regarding Bookbinder Talalay Luba - we have corrected the victim's first name to Luba instead of Lova.
- Record regarding Talalay Gita - we have corrected the places in the record to Mogilev, Belorussia instead of Mogilev Podolski, Ukraine.
- Record regarding Talalay Leib - we have changed the submitter's status (not a survivor instead of survivor).

Please note that the Internet version of our database is only updated periodically, so it may take some time for your correction to appear online.

We appreciate your assistance in perfecting our system.

I have thanked Sandrine for her assistance.

Jewish genealogy online class - update

More details are now available about GenClass - Online Genealogy Classes.

Both January and February registration are now open. The February Basic Jewish Genealogy class covers the following topics:

1. Introduction to Jewish Genealogy (glossary, Hebrew calendar and dates, handwriting, languages, life cycle, records, sources, etc.)

2. Tools of the Trade (charts, soundex, databases, reference books, software, Internet, interviewing and reading tombstones, etc.).

3. Jewish Geography and Names (maps, name origins - Ashkenazi and Sephardic, etc.).

4. Geography and Archives (border changes, types of documents, access documents, Sephardic, Holocaust, Yad Vashem, etc.).

5. Emigration (reasons for, origins, transportation, travel, Hamburg, Ellis Island, name changes, Ashkenazi and Sephardic, etc.).

6. Immigration (arrival information, creative spelling, naturalization, Western Europe, Africa, Australia/NZ, South/Central America, Israel, contemporary from Russia and Moslem countries, etc.).

7. Searching (major websites, general, Ashkenazi, Sephardi, etc.).

8. Culture of Remembrance (connecting, learning, sharing, privacy issues, publishing, etc.).

The four-week class is an easy, practical way to learn the essentials and begin making major discoveries.

Genealogists can track down criminals

Dick Eastman provides an interesting look at how genealogy can help find criminals in New Zealand.

Christchurch, New Zealand police are targeting the ten families with the most prolific offenders - and have taken the unusual step of preparing family trees to help keep track of all the family members. By knowing who is related to whom, police are able to identify possible suspects much more quickly than by regular investigative means.
It seems that the ten criminal families have cost New Zealand taxpayers $53 million to bring them to justice.

ItalianGen group adds more NY names

Over the past few years, the Italian Genealogy group, headed by John Martino and assisted by many volunteers, has provided online access to indexes for naturalizations and other records concerning New York City and environs.

I wrote about John and his volunteers in an early Tracing the Tribe post.

The newest database they have put online is the Queens County New York Naturalizations list, with some 60,000 names.

Gen guru Steve Morse also offers a NY naturalizations search engine, and I'm sure he'll add this one.

06 December 2006

Teen genealogy fellowships available

Many of us are concerned about how to convey the importance of genealogy to young people. The Center for Jewish History in New York has an excellent summer genealogy program for students in grades 9-12.

The Samberg Family History Program, co-sponsored by the American Jewish Historical Society, is seeking outstanding high school students to receive attendance fellowships, with full scholarships, for this academic summer program to run July 2-27.

No previous genealogical experience is required. Among featured benefits for participants, says program manager Beth Bernstein, is learning while having fun, standing out on college applications, embarking on a personal journey from past to future, visiting the city's historic institutions, creating personal family trees and learning about Jewish history.

For more information, e-mail samberg@cjh.org, or apply online

Talking about Jewish genealogy?

Have a great topic to talk about at this summer's 27th IAJGS International Conference on Jewish Genealogy?

The deadline for the Call for Papers has been extended through December 31, so you've got a little while longer to produce a 125-word biography and a 125-word abstract, and submit it online at the event website.

The program committee will announce their decisions by February 1, 2007.

The conference will be held July 15-20, 2007, in Salt Lake City, Utah, and you can register online at the website (very user-friendly) for the conference and the hotel, and read about all other frequently updated event details.

This year, the conference is looking for topics of wide interest, new and/or unique, in areas not covered by other speakers. Of primary importance is that programs not have been presented at the past three annual events.
Additionally, the preference is for speakers who have performed extensive on-line or in-person research on Eastern Europe, South America and Israel.

Other areas of interest: Emigration/Immigration records, specifically from Hamburg, Bremen, Rotterdam and Liverpool. Methodology and little used/little known resources will also be considered.

For more information, see the website.

03 December 2006

New online genealogy classes

For several years, I taught basic Jewish Genealogy and Jewish Internet Research for MyFamily.com.

It was a great experience, and co-teacher Micha Reisel and I thoroughly enjoyed helping students learn not only the basics, but how to find the information they needed. Our students lived in the U.S., UK, Canada, the Canary Islands, France, Australia, Israel and other countries.

In several classes, students discovered not only research partners of the same geographical areas, but even relatives!

Last year, when MyFamily.com dropped the online classes for various reasons -the classes were called "the best-kept secret in genealogy" - the former instructors joined together to see how we could continue to assist those interested in researching their families around the world.

I'm delighted to report that GenClass - Genealogy Classes Online is now live for January class registration. The February schedule is also up, as is information about each instructor and class outlines.

While Micha and I will be teaching the Jewish genealogy classes, other experienced instructors will offer January 2007 classes in Adoption Investigation, Family Tree Maker 16 (basic), Jump Start Your Genealogy, Lost Friends and Family Investigation, Scottish, Native American and Northeastern U.S. Genealogy.

In February, classes will include basic/intro Jewish Genealogy, Adoption Investigation, Eastern European Genealogy (basic), Organizing Your Family History, Write Your Family History Step-by-Step and Lost Friends and Family Investigation.

Each four-week class has a detailed curriculum, two lessons to be downloaded each week, online class meetings and other features. Each class costs a nominal $29.95. Other classes and instructors may be added later in 2007, including advanced versions of some of the basic classes.

International readers are welcome; the class language is English, as are all printed materials.

02 December 2006

Readers from many countries

A recent look at the countries from which readers are accessing Tracing the Tribe, include Honduras, Venezuela, Netherlands, Mexico, Malta, South Africa, Poland, Portugal, Gibraltar, France, Germany, Romania, Australia, Argentina, Bahamas, New Zealand, Korea, Estonia, Czech Republic, Ireland, Brazil and Hungary, as well as from the U.S., Canada, UK and Israel.

Thanks for your readership!

JewishGen: Yizkor book collections

The JewishGen collection of Yizkor books has again been updated. During October and November, nine books, eight new entries and 19 updates were added. More are expected in December.

New books include:
-Kobryn, Belarus
-Lambrivka, Ukraine
-Pinkas Hakehillot, Netherlands (table of contents online)
-Pinkas HaKehillot, Libya and Tunisia (table of contents online)
-Pinkas HaKehillot, Germany , volumes I, II,and III (tables of
contents online)

New entries for Poland include Bielsk Podlaski, Dukla, Osieciny, Prezeclaw, Ryglice, Zborow, as well as Kosice, Slovakia and Vac, Hungary.

Updates include Brest, Dusetos, Jonava in Lithuania; Borszczow, Kamen Kashirskiy, Lanovtsy, Rozhnyatov in Ukraine; Dabrowa Gornicza, Piotrkow Trybunalski, Ryki, Zyradow in Poland; Slutsk, Kobryn in Belarus, and other places.

JewishGen: Holocaust database additions

JewishGen has made new additions to its Holocaust Database, which now includes 1,141,316 records.

-The Dachau Concentration Camp records have been updated and now have 157,960 records.

-The Lublin Ghetto Listings, April 1942, has 4,587 records.

-The World Jewish Congress collection contains 72,899 records of
Holocaust survivors. To better understand this database, click here.

Memorial meeting for those remembering Czestochowa

The International Landsmannschaft of Czestochowa Jews and Their Descendants will meet at 7 pm on Dec. 7 in Tel Aviv.

As part of the memorial, Lea Roshkowski of Yad Vashem will speak, and selections from the October 2006 film, Roots Journey to Czestochowa, will be screened.

The meeting will be at ZOA House, 1 Daniel Frisch St., Tel Aviv.

Brown University's rare maps

Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island owns more than 1,000 rare maps. Some are so rare that their copies are the only ones known to have survived.

Librarians are now cataloging the maps online and moving them into the digital age. Some are brittle; many date back a century or more. Placing them online will give the public (including genealogists!) access to them. According to staffers, half of the collection was unknown to outsiders; many had never been catalogued before.

The university is planning to digitize the collection.

The history of one of the many fascinating maps was detailed in a Boston Globe article:

As prospectors poured west in the 1840s to find riches during the California gold rush, they turned to a valuable map that depicted the gold fields in yellow and the best routes to get there in blue.

Gifts for genealogists - Update

Chanukah's right around the corner, and the genealogists in your family would be happy to receive these eight presents - or even just one of them. They may not taste as good as latkes, but they are definitely lower in calories than delicious sufganiot (doughnuts).

What does your favorite genealogist really, really want?

Practical ideas include:

1. A digital camera - I've just joined the digital revolution, and don't know why it took so long!

2. A portable scanner. Always useful for those doing onsite research.

3. Paying the annual dues for your family genealogist's favorite Jewish genealogical society, or the registration fee for the upcoming 27th IAJGS International Conference on Jewish Genealogy this summer in Salt Lake City.

4. Take a look at some of the light-hearted gen items listed on fun Web sites for genealogists, such as Fun Stuff for Genealogists or JMK Genealogy.

5. For big spenders, who want to give the gift that keeps on giving, how about a subscription for unlimited access to the Ancestry collection, which can get rather pricey.

6. What about a family gift of a group trip back to someone's roots, whether in Rhodes, Spain, Poland or elsewhere?

7. For your intrepid older researcher, who may not be so mobile in cold winter climates, send along a box of writable CDs or even something as mundane as a carton of printer paper. These things are heavy to shlep ... and in the snow and ice, a real problem.

8. There are an increasing number of Jewish genealogy books out there. Go to Avotaynu and choose one for your favorite researcher.

9. Make the gift of genes with genetic genealogy tests for members of your own tribe at Family Tree DNA.

10. How about gifting an online genealogy class run by a group of experienced online instructors? Basic Jewish Genealogy will be offered in February, followed by Jewish Internet Research. More general classes include organizing your research, writing your family history, finding lost friends and family, adoption investigation and various ethnic specialties (Scottish, Native American, etc.). The four-week classes offer a detailed curriculum, online class meetings and much more, taught by instructors who were all formerly with MyFamily.com.

Readers are invited to chime in with their own wish lists, so please add your comments to this post.

UK immigrant registration cards online

The UK National Archives in Kew have now placed online more than 1,000 registration cards of immigrants who arrived in London and environs from 1914-1991.

The surviving Alien Registration Cards (MEPO 35 record series) contain immigrants' full name, date of birth, date of arrival in the UK, marital status, childrens' details, address, employment history and date of naturalisation, if applicable. Most include a head-and-shoulders photo of the individual.

Immigrants were required to register with the police and pay a registration fee.

This small collection of cards includes some interesting individuals, such as pioneer in Hebrew journalism Nahum Sokolow and architect Ernst Freud. They also demonstrate concentrated periods of immigration from certain countries. There are a large number of cards for Germans and Eastern Europeans as they fled the Nazis in the 1930s, Polish immigrants after WWII, and Hungarians entering following the 1956 uprising.

Search the cards for free by name, birth date or nationality. There is a nominal fee to download a card.

San Francisco: A nice Jewish boy is funny

Comedian Dan Adhoot grew up a nice Jewish boy in Great Neck, N.Y.; his favorite foods are from the marvelous Persian kitchen that reflect his heritage. He goes for gondi instead of matzo balls.

This son of Iranian Jewish immigrants will be a headliner at the 14th annual Kung Pao Kosher Comedy, held during Christmas week at the New Asia Chinese restaurant in San Francisco.

Ahdoot - who grew up in one of the large Persian Jewish communities in America - introduces himself as an Iranian, though he quickly adds: “I was Iranian up until Sept. 11, and now I’m Puerto Rican. It makes life a lot easier.”

There are several Ahdoot families, and one married into our Dardashti family -- if you're wondering why this piece is in a Jewish genealogy blog!

To read the article from J, the Jewish news weekly in San Francisco, click here

Latvia: Rumbula Forest yahrzeits

A few years ago I wrote a story in the Jerusalem Post on Mitch Lieber of Chicago and his creation of Rumbula.org, a Web site dedicated to those who were massacred by the Nazi regime in the Rumbula Forest in Latvia in 1941.

Mitch, his father and grandfather had been looking for relatives for a very long time, but they assumed all of their relatives had died. Mitch had added his family name and town origin to JewishGen's Family Finder but never had a relevant hit, until the day he received a surprising e-mail from a professor at Hebrew University. The rest is, as they say, history.

He worked on the Web site as a way to honor his ancestors who were murdered, and also as a way to commemorate the discovery of surviving relatives in Israel.

The 65th anniversary of the death of the 25,000 who were killed in the forest takes place on two dates, 10th of Kislev (Nov. 30, 1941) this year was on Friday, Dec. 1, and on the 18th of Kislev (Dec. 8, 1941) will be on Saturday, Dec. 9 this year.

"May the memory of each one be for a blessing," adds Mitch. "The names of a majority of those who were killed at Rumbula Forest are not known. Jews may wish to say Kaddish for family members lost at Rumbula, or for one or more of the un-named who may have no one to say Kaddish for them."

Readers may also visit here to see what is new on the Web site.

The moral of this story: Add your family name and towns of origin to JewishGen's Family Finder. Someone out there may be looking for you right now.

Texas: Houston Jewish database updated

The Greater Houston Jewish Genealogical Society and JewishGen have announced an update of the Houston Jewish Herald-Voice lifecycle event database.

The years 1980-1992 have been added to those previously included (1908-1979).

Estonia: interesting genealogy resource

There are some very interesting resources in English on the Estonia Genealogical Society Web site

Readers can see examples (and click to zoom in) of what the records - German, Russian and Estonian - look like.

Other sections include maps of Estonia from the end of the 19th century and 1939; examples of Gothic handwriting in German records, a list of the Parnu branch members and their families (many Jewish names) being researched.

There are many useful links in English and a list of genealogical resources in countries worldwide.

There are also contact details for Estonian family registry offices, holding records from 1926-1940/49, and the Central Family Registry Office which holds documents from the 1830s-1926.

New Lithuanian records online

Recently added to JewishGen's Lithuanian records are 1,200 from Birzai, 1,000 from Linkuva, and 1,100 from Panevezys.

Additionally, LitvakSIG District Research Groups coordinator Olga Zabludoff recently announced an agreement between Litvak SIG and the Central Archives for the History of the Jewish People (CAHJP) in Jerusalem.

The arrangement permits LitvakSIG to acquire copies of the CAHJP's
Lithuanian-Jewish holdings, to translate the records and to post the data in
the All-Lithuania Database (ALD) on JewishGen.

An Israeli researcher-translator has surveyed the extensive CAHJP records for appropriate material for various databases, including court files; letters, 1918-1921, written by Dubnow, Bialik and other Jewish literary figures; and a historical document collection. The lists cover 1816-1903.

Family Tree DNA opens European office

With 120,000 individual entries in its DNA databases, Houston-based Family Tree DNA claims to be the largest DNA databases for genealogical purposes in the world, and it also administers more than 3,700 individual surname projects containing some 58,000 unique surnames.

This week, the company simultaneously opened its first European office and international version of its popular Web site.

With headquarters in Zurich, the new office - operated by iGENEA - will offer customer support and news in Spanish, French, Italian, German and English, while providing local shipping and payment in European currencies.

“Opening this new office is just the latest company expansion designed to improve services to our customers,” says Family Tree DNA President Bennett Greenspan. “It solves the problem of our international clientele preferring to pay for our products in their specific country’s currency or in euros and being able to write an e-mail or pick up the phone to ask a question in their own language.”

Noteworthy new resource on Australia's Jewish history

The Age, a Melbourne paper, had a great article about a new book on Australia's Jews. Melbourne rabbi John Levi's These are the Names was launched Dec. 3.

According to the article, thousands of Australians have Jewish ancestry and don't know it. Levi's new book is a biographical dictionary that documents the first 62 years of European settlement and the 1,500 Jews who arrived during that time.

In the works for some 40 years, the book's title comes from the opening of the Book of Exodus, and covers the time from the 1788 arrival of the First Fleet until just prior to the 1850 Gold Rush era.

Levi compiled names, dates and milestones in shoeboxes and eventually into a database. According to his wife, Robyn, "Probably 'obsession' is not an unreasonable word to use."

According to the story:

One of the book's most interesting subjects is Esther Abrahams, who in one lifetime went from convict to First Lady.
In 1786, aged 15 and pregnant, Abrahams was jailed for stealing some black lace from a London shop. In 1788 she was transported to Australia, bringing her baby, Rosanna, on the First Fleet ship Lady Penrhyn.
On board, Esther took as her lover First Lieutenant George Johnston. They didn't marry until 1814, but had seven children together.
Lieutenant Johnston grew wealthy through his farm Annandale (now a suburb of the same name) in Sydney, and led the 1808 rum rebellion that overthrew William Bligh as the colony's governor, making Esther de facto First Lady. When Johnston died in 1823, Esther inherited 995 hectares.

A dash of Dardashti news

The entire Dardashti clan -- there are a lot of us on the tree -- is proud of Galeet Dardashti and her performing group, Divahn.

As the family genealogist, I've decided to "kvell" (a Yiddish term meaning to rejoice delightedly) following the story on Galeet in the recent Jerusalem Report.

Galeet's grandfather, Yona Dardashti, was one of the most famous classical singers in Iran, and was known as "the nightingale." He performed publicly in Iran and after making aliya to Israel. I will always cherish those occasions when I heard him sing in person.

Today, when any Iranian of any backgrounds hears the name Dardashti, they automatically ask, "Are you related to ..." and the answer is yes.

Galeet's father Farid was the first hazzan in America of Iranian origin, and was already a performer of note in Tehran where he appeared on television as a teenager before moving to America for cantorial studies. He is the hazzan of Beth El in New Rochelle, NY. Two of his brothers are also hazzans.

If you have the chance to hear Divahn in your area, do go. It is a special group with a great sound. In the New York area, they will do a Chanukah performance on Monday, December 18, at the 2nd Sephardic Music Festival. For event and ticket details, click here.