28 February 2007

Working around higher copy fees

With the genealogy world abuzz over the National Archives' new plan to raise copying fees, Chris Dunham of The Genealogue suggests a possible work-around via a recognized name in Washington document transfers.

Click here for the innovative, albeit farcical, solution.

The first Jewish president?

What a week for DNA links in the news -- The Rev. Al Sharpton, Strom Thurmond, and now Thomas Jefferson!

A New York Times story says researchers studying Jefferson's Y chromosome have discovered that it belongs to a lineage rare in Europe but common in the Middle East. This has raised the possibility that the third U.S. president had a Jewish ancestor. According to the article:

"Jefferson’s Y chromosome belongs to the branch designated K2, which is quite rare. It occurs in a few men in Spain and Portugal and is most common in the Middle East and eastern Africa, being carried by about 10 percent of men in Oman and Somalia, the geneticists report in the current issue of The American Journal of Physical Anthropology."

Providing some interesting information, University of Arizona geneticist Dr. Michael Hammer said that the Jefferson Y chromosome produced four close matches in his database. One was a perfect match with a Moroccan Jew and there were also close matches with another Moroccan Jew, a Kurdish Jew and an Egyptian.

According to Hammer, he would “hazard a guess at Sephardic Jewish ancestry” for the president, albeit tentatively. Descendants of Jews expelled from Spain and Portugal in 1492 are termed Sephardic Jews.

Bennett Greenspan, president of Family Tree DNA, a DNA-testing service, said that among the 90,000 Y chromosome samples contributed to his database, K2 occurred in 2 percent of Ashkenazim, Jews of Central or Northern European origin, and 3 percent of Sephardim.

“Whether the non-Jews with K2 are descendants of Jews or come from an earlier migration into Europe is hard to say,” Mr. Greenspan said, “but my sense is that it’s separate migrations from the Middle East.”."

London: South Africa at the Jewish Museum

If you are a former South African living in Britain, you're invited to meet the curators of the Jewish Museum in London and bring along family history materials on March 11.

The museum is looking for objects, photographs, documents, ephemera, memoirs (unpublished) and reminiscences relating to the lives and family histories of Jewish South Africans now in Britain.

Of particular interest:
• Jewish immigrant journeys to South Africa, especially if via Britain
• Early settlers' lives, including family, work and religion.
• Jewish life in relation to apartheid
• Journeys from South Africa to Britain, migration and rebuilding lives.
• Contemporary community life – South African Jewish community organizations in Britain

A significant Jewish South African community has settled in Britain, mainly in London and, according to the museum, it deserves representation in collections reflecting the diverse roots and history of the Jewish community.

The Jewish Museum is undergoing redevelopment, with funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund - a new flagship museum will open in 2009, with a new gallery that explores the contemporary British Jewish community. Donated materials will be of great value for research and display.

If you are a Jewish South African living in the UK, and are prepared to donate relevant items, they'll be happy to see you. Items should be in good condition with strong personal stories attached to them. If you have old family photographs, the museum will digitally copy them and return the originals.

For more information about the event, click here.

Seattle: Forensic genealogy program

The Jewish Genealogical Society of Washington State is preparing for another great speaker - Colleen Fitzpatrick - at its next meeting on March 19, at 7 p.m.

According to Lyn Blyden, JGSWS president:
"You don't have to be a rocket scientist to get the most from your genealogical materials. Colleen Fitzpatrick will talk about the techniques of forensic genealogy, focusing on how to draw information out of old photos."

Colleen Fitzpatrick is an expert in optical and laser measurement techniques, with many years of experience in developing innovative technologies for NASA, the National Science Foundation, and the Department of Defense. She is also an avid genealogist. Her book Forensic Genealogy has been praised for its innovative application of forensic science investigative techniques to genealogical research, and has been featured on NPR and in genealogical publications. She is also the co-author of DNA & Genealogy.

The evening will begin with a Q&A; attendees are asked to bring questions or share success stories.

For more information, click here.

25 February 2007

New York: A Purim concert on March 1

Looking for a musical way to honor Purim and contribute to a worthwhile endeavor?

ESTHER IN AFRICA: A Middle Eastern-themed benefit concert for Darfur, with performances by Divahn and Pharoah's Daughter is set for 7 p.m., March 1, at New York's Congregration Shaare Zedek, 212 West 93rd St.

For advance tickets, call the congregation, 212-874-7005. And for those who collect such facts, it's the third oldest synagogue in New York, founded in 1827.

Just as Queen Esther raised her voice to save the Jews of Persia, female artists Basya Schechter of Pharaoh's Daughter and Galeet Dardashti of Divahn will sing out against genocide in Darfur, Sudan.

All concert proceeds support the American Jewish World Service's Darfur Action Campaign; the event is co-sponsored by 20 New York congregations and major Jewish educational institutions.

Pharaoh's Daughter presents Hasidic chants, Mizrachi and Sephardi folk-rock, and spiritual stylings with percussion, flute, strings and electronica. Click here to hear some tracks.

Divahn infuses traditional songswith sophisticated harmonies and arrangements through tabla, cello, rabel, doumbek, violin and other acoustic instruments, plus vocals in Hebrew, Judeo-Spanish, Persian, Arabic, Aramaic and Turkish. It is the only all-female ensemble performing Mizrahi-influenced music. Click here to learn more. Listen to Ayni Tzofiah for Galeet's classic Persian technique.

And for even more toe-tapping Jewish melodies, here's a link from Shaare Zedek's Web site to that of Upper West Side havurah, Kehilat Hadar and its Pri Eitz CD.

22 February 2007

Leitz, camera, action

When I saw a JewishGen posting by Howard Orenstein about the Leitz family of Leica camera fame, I clicked on the links and found a fascinating story.

The Leitz family saved many of its Jewish employees and friends by sending them off to America with brand-new Leica cameras around their necks and finding them jobs.

As late as 1967, Gunther Leitz refused to allow anyone to write about the role his father Ernest Leitz II had played.

A recent article in the Financial Times focused on an interview with California-born Rabbi Frank Dabba Smith of the Harrow and Wembley Progressive Synagogue in northwest London, who wrote a book about the Leitz "freedom train." Smith grew up in San Diego and spent his bar mitzvah money on a Leica camera.

On Feb. 9, the Anti-Defamation League honored Ernst II’s granddaughter, Cornelia Kuhn-Leitz, with the Courage to Care Award, in recognition of her grandfather's role in helping at least 41 Jews to flee Germany during the 1930s Nazi persecution. Leitz is also credited with helping an additional 23 people to circumvent Nazi laws aimed at punishing Jews and Germans related to Jews by marriage.

"Smith first heard about Leitz’s role in Jewish emigration from Nazi Germany when he was a student at Berkeley and came across a passing reference to the Leica apprentices in an article about Norman Lipton, the managing editor of Popular Photography magazine."

Lipton witnessed the arrival of scores of German Jewish refugees from the Wetzlar factory, and said the refugees were processed by Leitz's general manager and vice president Alfred Boch.

To read the complete article, click here

To see a trailer of a film being made about this, click here and scroll to "One Camera, One Life."

Louisiana's first female physician

The Jewish Women's Archive has a good feature highlighting prominent women. This week, Elisabeth D. A. Cohen is in the spotlight.

The daughter of Phoebe and Magnus Cohen was born in New York City on February 22, 1820, and married a doctor named Aaron Cohen. One of their sons died very young of measles and she believed that she should become a doctor to help mothers.

Her husband studied surgery in New Orleans in 1853, and Elizabeth moved to Philadelphia to enroll in the nation's first medical school for women, the Philadelphia College of Medicine. She graduated in 1857 and joined her husband in New Orleans to serve patients during a yellow fever outbreak.

At the ages of 93 and 100, two stories were written about her in the New Orleans Times-Picayune.
"It was hard for Cohen to gain recognition as a doctor. The city directory of 1867 listed her as a midwife. In 1869, she was included as a "doctress." Only in 1876 did the directory finally describe her as a physician. When she was admitted to an old age home, she asked the registrar to "insert M.D. after her name."

In 1920, on her 100th birthday interview, she noted ("in anticipation of the ratification of the 19th amendment that year); 'things will be better when women can vote and can protect their own property and their own children. Even if I am a hundred, I'm for votes for women.'"

She died in New Orleans on May 28, 1921.

Elizabeth's entry is from "Jewish Women in America: A Comprehensive Historical Encyclopedia," sponsored by the Jewish Women's Archive and available on CD for $200.
The electronic encyclopedia offers biographies, essays, photos and illustrations.

For more entries, click here, or sign up to receive them via e-mail or RSS.

Hunting stolen art: the Monument Men

Every once in awhile we read about Holocaust survivors and their attempts, sometimes successful, to regain possession of their family's looted art.

Here's the little known story of the Monument Men who hunted these treasures, as they identified and cataloged works of art and cultural artifacts.

"The looting of Europe's public and private collections by the Nazis beginning in the 1930s propelled a small army of art experts under the auspices of U.S. forces to launch a search and rescue of works of art that had been stored in salt mines, caves and castles to protect them from the ravages of war."

The team of 350 individuals from many countries tracked down millions of works of art and their story is now told in Rescuing Da Vinci: Hitler and the Nazis Stole Europe's Great Art, America and her Allies Recovered It, by Robert Edsel of Dallas, which highlights 12 of the group's surviving members.

In 1939, some European institutions swung into action after Germany attacked Poland. The Louvre's curators moved 400,000 works out of Paris in just a few weeks, and kept moving them throughout the war.

American art experts had the support of President Franklin Roosevelt during WWII for their effort to preserve European art. The president established a commission leading to the 1943 creation of a monuments, fine arts and archives branch of the Allied armies.

The book covers the peripetetic travels of the Mona Lisa, of works confiscated for the art museum to be built for Hitler in Linz, Austria, and a stash of some 6,000 works in a salt mine near Salzburg.

Read the story of a German-born Jewish refugee to America, Sgt. Harry Ettlinger, who was valued for his language ability and became one of the Monument Men.

"Among the thousands of artifacts Ettlinger helped rescue was a Rembrandt self-portrait that a museum in nearby Karlsruhe had placed in the mine."

Edsel spent about $2 million of his own funds as he researched archives, churches and museums; and he published the book himself. Since January it has been on Amazon and in bookstores. There is even a movie in the works.

Many of the Monument Men returned to America and became art museum leaders.

Do read the rest of the story here.

21 February 2007

Chinese Torah scroll

The British Library is displaying a Torah from the Kaifeng Jewish community as part of an exhibition of rare world religious manuscripts.

The scroll, used by the Chinese Jews of Kaifeng, is made of sheepskin strips sewn together with silk thread, rather than customary animal sinews.

To read more on the exhibit, click here.

Who is a Jew: Is DNA enough?

Some food for thought in the Wall Street Journal by Moment magazine contributing editor Evan R. Goldstein.

It is the story of John Haedrich who, on a visit to Auschwitz in 2000, had a "serendiptious feeling." Although raised a Christian, he began to suspect he was actually Jewish, took a DNA test (the story doesn't say with which company), and was told that the results showed a "rather populous pedigree of Ashkenazi Polish Jews."

He petitioned the Israeli government under the Right of Return, refuses to convert because he says he is Jewish, and established the Jewish by DNA Research Institute to help others who want to establish their Jewish identity on biological grounds.
"What exactly does it mean to be a "Jew by DNA"? Is it even possible to define Jewishness biologically? And after Nazism perverted similar notions about heredity and race to justify ghastly, mechanized slaughter, is there something indecent about even posing the question?

"There is no biological marker that is unique to Jewish people," Raphael Falk, professor emeritus of genetics at Hebrew University, tells me. "There are no markers that can define an individual, man or woman, as a Jew or as belonging to any other community." A pioneer in the field, Mr. Falk is the author of a fascinating new book, "Zionism and the Biology of the Jews" (currently available only in Israel), in which he explores the science, philosophy and history of various biological theories that have clung to the Jewish people."

To read the entire opinion piece, click here.

Flamenco's Jewish roots

If you've ever listened to the haunting strains of flamenco and heard what you believe are Jewish connections, you aren't wrong.

According to this article, flamenco has deep Jewish roots in addition to Indian, Greek, Roman and Persian influences.

The article begins with the art form's Indian roots, brought by Gypsies who traveled from northwest India to Pakistan and Persia into 14th-15th-century Europe and into Andalucia in southern Spain. Some historians say the music's debut might have been as early as 711 CE, brought by Arab armies coming from North Africa.

Andalucian music is an amalgam of Arabic music with Hindu, Greek, Hebrew, Persian influences with local folk music and dances dating back to Phoenician and Roman times.

Following the Spanish recapture of Granada - and the conversion and expulsion of its Muslims and Jews - flamenco "became a voice of protest of dissenting Christians, outlaws, Muslims, Jews and other social outcasts who did not fit into the new political order. Jews were forced to convert to Christianity or leave Spain and Gypsies were forced to settle down and put an end to their nomadic lifestyle."

Further, after the 1492 Expulsion, a Jewish voice "resurfaced" in flamenco.
The plaintive wailing of religious prayer, now forbidden, became the secular "aaiiee" of the conversos (Jews forced to convert to Christianity), with the notable exception of the Saeta. The Saeta sung today during Holy Week dates back centuries and is generally agreed to have Jewish origins. One can imagine the conversos singing in a very traditional manner for them but changing the words to provide their new faith and Christian devotion: singing, no doubt, with extra verve and passion to dispel any doubts of their sincerity. There are also strong similarities between certain synagogal chants and some early forms of cante flamenco.

One section concerns the Peteneras form of flamenco, which is likely linked to Sephardim who settled in Turkey and other Middle Eastern countries.

The Peteneras, writes the author, was passed down through the generations since the 1492 exile. Another hint as to Peteneras' Jewish origins is that even today, many Gypsies refuse to sing or dance Peteneras and consider it unlucky. The music's status as unlucky may be rooted to the long history of persecution of the Sephardim.

Practical Archivist on the air

Sally Jacobs provides interesting tips on her Practical Archivist blog.

She will do a Practical Archivists Call-In Radio program from 7-8 p.m. (Central/Chicago) on March 5 and will discuss tips on organizing photographs and conquering the clutter and take call-in questions about protecting family treasures. She can also answer questions on rare books, wedding gowns and documents.

Her readership is widespread and calls could come in from around the world.

Sally understands that toll-free calls are not toll-free from outside the United States, and encourages readers to e-mail questions to her at sally@jacobsarchival.com. If she cannot get to them on the air, she will provide answers in her blog.

And you can always listen to the show online via WORT's Live Web Stream. Sally tells me that the shows are also online for at least a month following the broadcast.

And, if you'd like to listen in to WORT, but don't know what time to listen, click the Time Zone Converter.

Inspiring the youngest genealogists?

SpongeBob SquarePants is likely a familiar name if you have little kids or grandkids.

His underwater community is holding its first presidential election
and the race is between SpongeBob's friend Patrick Starfish and not-kosher Larry the Lobster. There were three new cartoons on Presidents Day (which fell on Feb. 19 this year in the U.S.)

One of the three focused on candidate Patrick discovering a royal genealogy document declaring him next in line to receive a kingly title. You know what "they" say - become a candidate for a major office and someone will do your genealogy for you - this apparently even applies to animated undersea creatures.

Will this spark your little ones' interest in family history?
Is this a new trend?
Will Homer Simpson be next in line and set up his town's genealogy society?

17 February 2007

New online classes begin March 1

Just a reminder that registration is open now for GenClass's new March and April classes. Several new courses will be offered, and the line-up includes many useful topics for readers of this blog.

Jewish Genealogy - Researching on the Internet (Part 2): Focus on finding the information you need on the web, search engines, general and Jewish Web sites, building on Part 1's basic skills.

If you plan to attend the 27th IAJGS International Conference on Jewish Genealogy this summer in Salt Lake City, consider this two-part class:

Salt Lake City: the Largest Genealogical Library in the World! (Part 1): Using the Internet, access the largest genealogical library in the world. Perform searches, knowledgeably; and understand what you've found. Part 2 (in April) will take you into sections most people never use.

If you use Family Tree Maker software and want to get more out of it, Family Tree Maker 16 (Advanced) demonstrates advanced features such as books, trees, reports and web sites.

Eastern European Genealogy Research: Part 2 (Intermediate): Continues from the basic class, and focuses on expanding research beyond your own family into a more community-oriented protocol.

Other March classes are Adoption Investigative Class, Lost Friends and Family Investigative Class and Native American Genealogy, while new classes in April are Jump Start your Genealogy, Basic English Research, Canadian Research (Part 1), Genealogical Research in the Great Lakes Statesand Scottish Genealogy (Intro).

Go to GenClass for all details, instructors and registration.

Library of Congress: A new project to scan "brittle" books

A $2 million grant has been given to the Library of Congress by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation to digitize thousands of public-domain works, focusing on at-risk "brittle" books and U.S. history volumes. The project is set to begin in a few months.

The recently announced award will enable the LOC to scan volumes, develop page-turner display technology and the capability to scan and display foldouts. It will also include a pilot program to capture high-level metadata, such as table of contents, chapters/sections and indexes.

Many previous digitization projects have avoided the brittle books because of their condition, the but "Digitizing American Imprints" project is intended to serve as a demonstration of the best practices for handling and scanning at-risk works.

Dr. James H. Billington, Librarian of Congress, said
"It is inspiring to think that one of these books, many of which are in physical jeopardy, might spark the creativity of a future scholar or ordinary citizen who otherwise might not have had access to this wealth of human understanding."

"We are delighted to partner with the Library of Congress, the world’s largest library, in this historic digitization effort," said Doron Weber, Sloan Foundation program director. "A significant number of books from the Library’s great collection will now be available to anyone in the world in an open, non-exclusive and non-profit setting, thus bringing the ideal of a universal digital library closer to reality."

The works to be digitized include at-risk books relevant to U.S. genealogy including many useful county, state and regional histories, in addition to American history, regimental histories and photography.

To read more about this project, the Sloan Foundation or the LOC, click here.

"Roots" - 30 years later

Do you remember what you were watching on television during the last week of January 1977? A few short weeks ago was the 30th anniversary of a great television series, "Roots."

Nearly 100 million viewers, nearly half the U.S. population, watched the final episode. According to the Museum of Broadcast Communications, 85% of all homes with televisions watched all or part of the series. The seven episodes following the opener earned the top seven spots in that week's ratings.

This series was groundbreaking for the African-American community, of course, but it also pulled at the heartstrings of many other ethnic groups, and helped inspire the contemporary Jewish genealogy movement.

Dan Rottenberg's Finding Our Fathers: A Guidebook to Jewish Genealogy, published in May 1977, is often credited as the catalyst for this movement. In the preface to the book's 1995 reprint, Rottenberg tips his hat to "Roots."

"They say timing is everything in life. Finding Our Fathers enjoyed the good fortune to be published at precisely the moment when the entire country was salivating over Roots, Alex Haley's landmark exercise in black genealogy. And my book came out just months after America's Bicentennial celebration, which had fostered widespread interest in personal history."

In that preface, Rottenberg speaks of meeting Arthur Kurzweil, who was thinking of writing his own genealogy book (which would be From Generation to Generation) in those days, and how their "mutual passion for Jewish genealogy transcended the needs of our individual egos or wallets" as rivals for the same book-buying market.

The men realized that the key to searching for their ancestors was in the creation of a "Jewish genealogy community."

Today, that community is established worldwide, and many Jewish genealogical societies are under the umbrella of the International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies. The very first was founded in New York, also in 1977!

Rottenberg will be the banquet speaker at the 27th IAJGS International Conference on Jewish Genealogy, July 15-20, 2007, in Salt Lake City, Utah. He will look back on his book and the movement it launched. In retrospect, he'll review where he was farsighted and where he was clueless, and offer predictions about future developments.

16 February 2007

Hispanic Judaism revealed

A fascinating article about Hispanic Jewish culture, published in the Chicago Sun-Times, touches on movies, film and education.

Judaism is the faith of nearly a million worshippers across Mexico and the rest of Latin America. And more references are cropping up in American pop culture.
Hispanic Jews' stories are being told in movies such as "My Mexican Shiva," a film in Spanish, Yiddish and Hebrew, and in plays such as Steppenwolf Theater's "Sonia Flew," about a Cuban immigrant raising two children with her Jewish husband in Minneapolis.

At DePaul University, a class in Jewish Latin American culture is led by Cuban-born Achy Obejas who has written books on the Cuban-Jewish experience. Her students are tracing Judaic roots in Hispanic culture, beginning with those Spanish Jews (or Conversos) who sailed to the New World with Christopher Columbus. It also covers those who settled in the Caribbean and South America, and Hispanic Jews today.
Of her own experience, Obejas said, "The congregation where I go, there are Guatemalan Jews, Argentinian Jews. They're Latino, but, in the end, they're Jews."

Rabbi Michael Azose of Evanston's Sephardic congregation, where Obejas worships, is quoted as saying there are perhaps 5,000 Hispanic Jews in the Chicago area, "but I believe there is no Hispanic or Latino that doesn't have some Jewish blood in them because [in Spain] so many intermarried with Christians."

Jews on Ice: Oksana Baiul discovers her roots

The New York Jewish Week had an interesting article on Olympic gold medal-winning figure skater Oksana Baiul, who discovered her mother's family was Jewish

Baiul returned to her native Ukraine in 2003 to re-establish contact with her father, whom she had barely known as a child and had last seen at her mother’s funeral when she was 13. While there, her paternal grandmother informed her that her mother’s side was Jewish. Baiul’s response was full acceptance.

“I always knew it in my heart,” she said.

Click here to read the rest.

Does anyone know her mother's family name? It was not revealed in the article. If you know, please post it here.

Miami: Moon over genealogy

Another gen event in South Florida.

The Jewish Genealogical Society of Greater Miami will hold a workshop on March 11, at the Greater Miami Jewish Federation.

Two concurrent sessions will be held: a beginning computer genealogy workshop with Marcia Finkel, and an intermediate-advanced workshop with Barbara Musikar. The latter will focus on the use of newspapers in Jewish genealogical research, Canadian and Viennese Jewish genealogical Web sites and how to use Yad Vashem's Pages of Testimony.

Reservations by March 8. Click here for cost, address and other important information.

The organizers remind attendees that Daylight Savings Time begins at 2 a.m. on March 11. Remember to "spring ahead" by an hour before you go to sleep, or you'll be late to the workshop.

Palm Beach: A Jewish genealogy miniconference

If you are a snowbird wintering in Florida's Palm Beach County, here's a good way to spend a day learning about your favorite subject.

The Jewish Genealogical Society of Palm Beach County will hold its annual miniconference/workshop on Feb. 28 at the Levis Jewish Community Center in Boca Raton.

The cost for members is $40, and non-members pay $45. The fee include The Beginners and Intermediate Genealogical Workbook (7th Edition) and a kosher lunch. Among the door prizes: a free genealogy DNA test and genealogy software. Advance reservations are requested.

Throughout the day, a resource room and the JGS Palm Beach County Library Collection will be open; computers will be available for Internet research.

Lectures will be presented by experts, including the past president of the Florida State Genealogical Society, Pam Cooper (discussing census and ship travel); Michael Mitchell of the Georgia Historical Society, Sons of Confederate Veterans (Jews in the Civil War); past president JGSPBCI Alfred M. Silberfeld (using the workbook); JGSPBCI president Dennis Rice (PowerPoint 101); and members Ann Rabinowitz (relatives in South Africa) and Helene Kenvin (starting family books).

For information, e-mail sisitsky@adelphia.net

Cleveland: Genealogy computer group meeting

Readers in the Cleveland area may be interested in a meeting of the Computer Assisted Genealogy Group on March 17, at the Fairview Park Regional Library.

The program includes sessions on major genealogy software programs and computer fundamentals.

The morning session is "Making Sense of Sources," with a focus on that which "separates genealogy from mythology," according to the presenter. Learn how to document data, including printed materials and data on the Internet.

The afternoon session focuses on "Forms for Genealogy," and forms that your genealogy software can create as well as free forms that you can find online. Use the right forms to keep track of sources and results, and to work with research logs, correspondence, timelines and census transcription forms.

For more information, click here.

Canada: records for immigrants from Tsarist Russia

The Library and Archives Canada has announced the completion of the Likacheff-Ragosine-Mathers (LI-RA-MA) collection database.

The consular offices of the Tsarist Russian Empire in Canada generated these files from from 1898-1922. They include about 11,400 files of Jewish, Ukrainian and Finnish immigrants to Canada from the Russian Empire.

Files include passport applications, identity papers and questionnaires containing general information. Since the database was first released in October 2006, an additional 35,000 digitized images have been added - the total is now 55,000.

To see the collection, click here. Click the left-hand "Search" link to access the database.

LI-RI-MA is only one of several databases in the organization's "Moving Here, Staying Here" project. For the complete list, click here.

Readers who wish more information may email the project panager at webservices@lac-bac.gc.ca.

11 February 2007

New York: A day of learning scheduled for 4/22

Save Sunday, April 22 for the Jewish Genealogical Society of New York's second program sponsored by the Lucille Gudis Memorial Fund to perpetuate her interests and her generous spirit.

The all-day event - “Family History and the Holocaust: A Day of Learning” - will provide the most up-to-date information on researching Shoah events as they relate to family histories.

For all details, click here, or e-mail dayoflearning@jgsny.org.

Five excellent speakers will provide a wide range of related themes.

Nolan Altman is coordinator of JewishGen’s Holocaust Database. He will be talking about “How to Document and Research Your Family History,” a lecture he has also given to university Holocaust history classes and adult education classes. He is technical coordinator for the JewishGen JOWBR (cemetery burial indexing) project and project coordinator for the Deblin Yizkor book online.

Zvi Bernhardt of Yad Vashem is Hall of Names assistant director and Reference and Information unit deputy director, as well as a development team member for the Central Database of Holocaust Victims’ Names user interface. He is credited with administering the name digitization of Shoah victims from Yizkor books - adding 250,000 names to the database. He is liaison to genealogical organizations, has addressed numerous genealogy workshops and seminars, and has worked closely with JewishGen, conferences and groups in Israel.

Jan Tomasz Gross is Tomlinson Professor of War and Society at Princeton University. Warsaw-born, he has held academic appointments at Haifa University, New York University, the University of Vienna, the University of Paris and Yale and Harvard, among others and held many prestigious fellowships, and awards. His books include Neighbors: Destruction of the Jewish Community in Jedwabne, Poland, and Fear: Anti-Semitism in Poland After Auschwitz: An Essay in Historical Interpretation.

Peter Lande was a State Department Foreign Service Officer for many years. For 15 years, he has collected and processed Holocaust victim and survivor lists for the USHMM and JewishGen. He received the 2001 IAJGS Lifetime Achievement Award for Holocaust record work.

Robert Moses Shapiro is assistant professor of East European Jewish Studies, Holocaust Studies and Yiddish in the Department of Judaic Studies at Brooklyn College; a Fellow of the Max Weinreich Center, YIVO Institute for Jewish Research; a Fulbright Fellow and a Yad Ha-Nadiv Fellow at Hebrew University. He has published two edited volumes: Holocaust Chronicles: Individualizing the Holocaust through Diaries and Other Contemporaneous Accounts and Why Didn't the Press Shout? American and International Journalism during the Holocaust. In 2006, his translation of Isaiah Trunk’s classic Lodz Ghetto: A History was published. Currently, he is completing the editing of his translation from Polish of the Warsaw Ghetto Ringelblum Archive's new catalog at the Jewish Historical Institute in Poland; other projects include diary translations from the Lodz ghetto.

Where will you be in July?

Many Jewish genealogists from around the world will be heading to Salt Lake City to attend the 27th IAJGS International Conference on Jewish Genealogy from July 15-20, 2007.

Co-chairs Hal Bookbinder (Los Angeles) and Michael Brenner (Las Vegas) say
the event will offer a wide range of programs to complement outstanding research opportunities at the Family History Library.

The Conference's opening session, on July 15, will feature Paul A. Shapiro, director of the Center for Advanced Holocaust Studies at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum. He will discuss the history of efforts to open the International Tracing Services' Archives at Bad Arolsen to researchers, the Archive's holdings, digitization of its records and the current state of access. These archives contain millions of documents on Holocaust victims which have been generally inaccessible to researchers.

The banquet, on July 19, will feature Dan Rottenberg, speaking on his book, "Finding Our Fathers," on the 30th anniversary of its publication. When "Finding Our Fathers: A Guidebook to Jewish Genealogy" appeared in 1977, following the Roots series on television, a mass of people realized that they could also trace their families and the modern Jewish genealogy movement was launched.

If DNA or genetics fascinate you, then Wednesday, July 18 will be your day!

From morning to evening, a series of genetic-oriented programs will include Syd Mandelbaum's "Helping to Find Those Who Were Lost, The DNA Shoah Project," Bennett Greenspan's "Genetics 2007," Jon Entine's "Abraham's Children: Race, Identity, & the DNA of 'The Chosen People'" and Gary Frohlich's, "Our Heritage & Our Health - Genetic Conditions Among the Ashkenazim". Extensive Q&A sessions and a DNA collection will take place.

Still not enough? There's more on Friday morning with Herbert Huebscher's "DNA and Classic Genealogy Join to Solve Genealogical Puzzle."

These are only a sampling of the 120+ programs to be offered during the conference. Some are favorites, but many programs will be offered for the first time.

To learn more about conference programming, research at the Family History Library, the conference film festival, the photographic exhibit, sights to see in Utah and more, check out the conference Web site, where you can register online and reserve your room.

Sign up for the "Salt Lake City 2007" discussion group to hear about conference plans, share your thoughts, questions and answers.

10 February 2007

Poland: Lublin Yeshiva reopens

Poland's Chief Rabbi Michael Schudrich will officially bring in the Torah scroll to the renovated Lublin, Poland synagogue on February 11. The ceremony will take place in front of 2,000 Polish Jews and Lublin residents.

Prior to WWII, Lublin, Poland was an important center of Jewish life and education. Its Jewish community dates to the early 1300s and increased after 1336, following Casimir the Great's granting of the "privilege of settlement."

In 1930, the city's largest Talmudic school opened; some 20,000 people attended the ceremony. On the eve of the war, there were some 40,000 Jews living in Lublin, representing 40% of the city's population. Most Jewish Lubliners were murdered in Majdanek.

The building, most recently the home of the Lublin Medical Academy, was returned three years ago to the Warsaw Jewish community.

To read more, click here.

IIJG: Research grants now available

In September, I attended the symposium of the International Institute of Jewish Genealogy and made several postings (check out Sept. 10-15 entries here) about the interesting presentations.

Director Neville Lamdan just wrote to me that the IIJG has now posted a list of 20 topic areas in which the institute is seeking serious research proposals. The projects may be for one or two years. IIJG funding of up to $10,000 may be available for those projects selected.

This is, according to Lamdan, a great opportunity for qualified researchers to become involved in the developing field of academic Jewish genealogy.

For details, click here and scroll down to section 2: "Call for Projects". The deadline for submission is April 15, 2007. Proposals will be judged by rigorous scholarly standards for content, originality, importance, sources, methodology, etc.

Categories include historical genealogy, multi-disciplinary study, Rabbinics and onomastics, migration studies and exact sciences. The list of topics ranges widely: among them are the Cairo Geniza; the effects of the plague on the Middle Ages Jewish family; lineages of Conversos/Crypto-Jews in selected areas (Spain, Italy, Portugal, Brazil, New Mexico); Jewish tombstone carving/painting from iconographical and genealogical points of view; given and surnames names of Sephardic and Mizrahi communities, by period, location, type, etynologies; in-depth studies of Jewish names in "neglected" parts of Europe (Romania, Hungary, Czech, Alsace Lorraine); and broadening the the soundex system beyond Eastern European names to cover names from other major linguistic groups.

Using DNA to trace Sephardic roots back to Spain

There is an interesting DNA project at Family Tree DNA designed to trace the Sephardic heritage of descendants of the Spanish Diaspora.

The Y-DNA (male DNA) project has the goal of determining an individual's region of ethnic origin (pre-Expulsion Spain) and links between major Sephardic families of the Ottoman Empire. The group administrator and project director is Alain Farhi, who has done extensive research on his family and also founded Les Fleurs de l'Orient genealogy database.

The project has identified pairs of males who may be descendants of Jews from Spain and collected their DNA. The descendants share a surname and belong to different branches of their surname tree. DNA tests have identified linkage between members of different branches and a probable common ancestor.


The International Institute for Jewish Genealogy is collaborating with Les Fleurs d'Orient in the study tracking movement of Sephardim from the former Ottoman Empire, Italy and Greece and ultimately to trace their origins to pre-Expulsion Spain.

To date, most DNA work among Jews has been done on Ashkenazim, but this new project is engaged in developing a DNA database of Jews of Spanish origin, focused primarily on families from Bulgaria, Greece and Turkey.

The project is also sampling modern-day Spaniards with a view to establishing what percentage possesses the J haplotype, and which may indicate the numbers of Jews who converted in 1492 and were absorbed into the general Spanish population.

For more information, click here.

06 February 2007

New exhibits at the virtual Museum of Family History

Steve Lasky never rests. His Web site is continually updated.

Some new exhibitions in his virtual museum:

"The Life of Nina Finkelstein: Recollections of a Friend" tells the story in photographs and text about Nina Finkelstein, who survived the Kovno Ghetto.

"Holocaust Memorial of Canada" is Steve's third exhibit on Holocaust memorials and includes photographs and inscriptions of Holocaust memorials in the provinces of Quebec, Ontario and British Columbia. It includes English inscriptions and the translated Hebrew inscriptions.

He's added descriptions of the Holocaust Memorial in Miami Beach, Florida and the Holocaust Memorial Park in Brooklyn, New York.

The Web site now includes a page of concentration camp records at the Northeast (New York) branch of the National Archives (NARA). He has found actual registration cards for people he has interviewed. Adds Steve, "For the inmates who tragically perished at Buchenwald, or at other camps they might have been transferred to from Buchenwald, there are often notations on the registration lists as to the location (camp name) and exact date of their death, i.e. whether it took place at Buchenwald or at another location."

He was able to learn the death date of an inmate transferred from Buchenwald to Bergen-Belsen in early 1945 from the microfilmed registration list at NARA. He contacted the people at Bergen-Belsen who told him when the person actually arrived there.

His latest update has added photographs of Holocaust memorials in Poland and Belarus to the Holocaust Memorials of Europe exhibition.

There are also pre-war photos of 14 Polish synagogues, in addition to family photos of the same era.

New Web pages now provide links to parts of the site about certain regions of Eastern Europe: Belarus, the Bialystok region, Gesher Galicia, Lithuania and Ukraine

Steve advises visitors to periodically check the Recent Updates page to see what's new and use the Site Map page as an index or table of contents for the entire site.

Remember that Steve depends on the Jewish genealogical community for photographs, stories of family life before and during World War II, etc. Let him know if you have appropriate materials.

Spam is not our friend

You may have noticed a new comment verification procedure.

We've added this in our attempt to control incoming spam, which has been increasing at an alarming rate.

New shoah drama: Eavesdropping on Dreams

The play Eavesdropping on Dreams tells the story of three generations of women affected by the Holocaust, interweaving dreams and historical material from the Lodz Ghetto.

The new play, by Rivka Bekerman-Greenberg, will have a reading at 7 p.m. on February 20 at the Bronfman Center for Jewish Studies at New York University.

For more information, click here.

Barcelona: Sephardic cooking workshops

Get a head start with your Passover cooking with these neat classes.

I met Janet Amateau in Barcelona last year at the first meeting of the Jewish Genealogical Society of Catalunya -- Dr. Jeff Malka was the speaker. A former New Yorker, she is a Sephardic cooking expert and lives in a small coastal town between Barcelona and Girona.

The dishes she's planning for her annual spring Sephardic cooking workshop are mouth-watering.

Each two-day workshop combines demonstrations and hands-on practice in making some 14 dishes.

Here's the menu, with Ladino spellings and brief descriptions:

Supa de gayina: Chicken stock with spring herbs and vegetables; Avgolemono: Greek chicken soup with egg & lemon; Harosi: A version using dates, apples, toasted nuts and wine; Ouevos haminados: Hard-cooked velvety-textured onion-flavored eggs; Mina: Savory pie of ground beef and spring herbs with matza; Cuazhado de spinaca: Baked casserole of fresh spinach, eggs, aged/fresh cheeses and toasted sesame; Keftes de prasa: Delicate leek pancakes; Gayina: Salt-baked chicken; Andjinaras con avas: Braised artichokes and fava beans with fresh dill & garlic;
Fasuliya: Turkish-style haricots verts stewed in rich tomato sauce; Arros pilaf: Rice pilaf with sauteed onion & toasted pine nuts; Birmuelos de Pesah con arrope: Matza fritters with raisin syrup; Masapan: Hand-rolled almond-paste hazelnut, pistachio, lemon and rosewater varieties; Mustachudos: Toasted hazelnut pyramid cookies with cinnamon, clove and orange; Gateau de tia Rachel: Nut flour, cocoa & orange cake; and Turkish coffee.

For dates and reservations, go to the Sephardic Cooking Web site.

When is my flight?

05 February 2007

The care and feeding of your CDs

Sally Jacob's Practical Archivist blog offers great tips. Her latest posting provides information on CD-ROMs, which are an important storage medium for genealogy data and software.

Don't we all protect the bottoms of our CDs? The tops are actually more important, says Sally:

Just below the thin protective layer on top of your disc is the precious dye layer. The dye layer is where your data is stored. Scratch the top, and you've got a serious problem. If you puncture the data layer you will cause irreversible damage to your disc.

She provides a neat cut-away diagram of a CD to illustrate the problem, and offers six tips for handling these important items.

Do read the complete article and her other postings. Sally also has a newsletter and you can subscribe online (information is at the bottom of her blog page).

04 February 2007

Australia: new list of essential genealogy Web sites

A new Australian genealogy blog is focused on New South Wales research.

The latest posting, "Five essential websites for NSW genealogy," offers information on:

*NSW Registry of Births Deaths and Marriages Historical Index Search, allows searching for 1788-1906 births by name and/or parents’ names; 1788-1976 deaths in the same manner, and 1788-1956 marriages. If an entry is found, you can order the certificate and pay for it online, $AUS$25.00.

*NSW State Records (formerly the Archives Office of NSWA)offers many such indexes as: some censuses; Colonial Secretary Correspondence; Convicts; Court; Police and Prison records; Deceased Estate files; Education and Child Welfare; Immigration and Shipping; Indigenous Australians; Insolvencies; Land records and Naturalization. This is a work in progress, and additional records are added as indexing projects continue.

*Society of Australian Genealogists (Sydney) is an Australian resource (especially for NSW). Online databases include Convicts’ Tickets of Leave, Electoral districts for Sydney Streets, Soldiers and Marines (1787-1830) and NSW Ships Musters (1816-1825).

*State Library of NSW has resources for both Australia and the UK, and it has collections of maps and plans, photos, pictures and newspapers.

*NSW Department of Lands allows limited property searches, and has historical Parish Maps. First find the correct parish using the Geographical Names Board. Towns are included to the street level, and portions have the original owners' names. Map CDs are also available.

Read the complete article for more information, and for another on Australian land records.

Of course, Don't forget about the Australian JGS groups in Sydney and Melbourne. Each society's Web site offers information on local Jewish resources.

The best-dressed genealogist award goes to ...

The award for best-dressed genealogist must go to Dick Eastman, whose recent article on the Scott eVest was enough to make me check it out.

This piece of clothing seems to hold everything any researcher would want or need. A small laptop will even fit into a special pocket. It seemingly cancels the need for a computer bag, a backpack, and the other paraphernalia we seem to lug around. The sleeves even zip off for warmer weather.

One of the best things about the jacket, according to Eastman, is that it can be removed to be x-rayed with all of your high-tech items in one place so you can go through airport security without removing items from pockets and compartments scattered throughout multiple items of clothing, carry-ons, etc.

From the Web site:
Now, it's easy to connect cell phones and music players to PDAs, power sources, and/or listening devices, such as earbuds and headphones. In addition to connectivity, special pockets are designed to accommodate digital cameras, portable keyboards, GPS devices, small laptop computers, two-way radios, bottled water, airplane tickets, magazines, wallets, keys, and much more.

Now you know what to get the genealogist who has everything.

U.K.: JGS Manchester conference in June

Planning to be in England in June?

The Jewish Genealogical Society of Great Britain's all-day Northern Conference is set for Sunday, June 3, 2007, at the King David High School in Manchester.

Speakers will include:

*Sam Aaron, author of A Guide to Jewish Genealogy in Lithuania, one of the JGSGB's series of genealogical guides.

*The Assistant Superintendent of Registrars from the Manchester Register
Office who will discuss applications for vital records (birth, marriage, death) and other information.

*Meyer Rose will present "The Genealogy of Jewish Food, from the archives of Evelyn Rose."

More information will be available, but save the date if you'll be in Manchester then, says Lorna Kay, who is chair of the Manchester Regional Group of the JGSGB.