31 May 2007

'Japanese Schindler' honored in Lithuania

The Independent(UK) reports on the honoring of Chiune Sugihara in Lithuania by Japan's Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko.

For years, few Japanese knew the incredible story of how the man dubbed "Japan's Schindler" saved about 6,000 Jews from the Nazis during the Second World War despite working for an ally of Germany. Unlike Oscar Schindler, the German industrialist who turned against the Nazis and rescued almost 1,100 Jews from the Holocaust, Sugihara had to wait until just seven years ago for his bravery to be officially recognised.

Sugihara was the acting consul in Lithuania's temporary wartime capital when he was ordered to abandon his post as the Germans advanced in 1940. A fourth of the city's population was Jewish, mostly prosperous and well integrated, and few were ready to believe the horror stories from nearby Poland until it was too late to flee. By an accident of history the mild-mannered diplomat - one of just two left in the city - became their last hope for survival.

In July 1940, desperate refugees asked him for visas to the Soviet Union. Sugihara asked his superiors in Japan for permission, which was never granted. However, the diplomat, with the help of his wife, went ahead and signed as many as possible.

By the time they boarded a Berlin-bound train on 1 September 1940, still scribbling out the last visa, they had saved about 6,000 people, including hundreds of children. Sugihara's final act in the besieged city was to hand his consular stamp to a refugee, who went on issuing passes.

Dismissed in disgrace from the Foreign Ministry, he worked as a part-time translator and died in 1986. In 1985, Yad Vashem honored Sugihara for rescuing Lithuanian Jews. His family finally received a formal Japanese government apology 14 years later.

Why did he help? The story mentions how moved Sugihara was by an eleven-year-old refugee he met, Zalke Jenkins. "The diplomat spoke afterward at how moved he was by the strength of family bonds in Jewish life, which reminded him of home."

For Sugihara's family, the Emperor's approval is the highest honor Japan can give.

Death camps may charge admission

According to a YNet story, some of the Nazi death camps - now museums - could soon charge admission to help fund education projects.

The Times(UK) reported that the Central Board of Jews in Germany spokesmen said "These are graveyards; you do not pay to mourn the dead."

Dachau is among those considering the fee, and the president of the International Dachau Committee sys that without the fees, it cannot educate the young about the Holocaust. Some 800,000 people visit Dachau annually, but the museum has only one full-time education assistant.

At Buchenwald and Ravensbruck, officials are also warning of funding shortages.

Many museum directors are arguing that there is no point in preserving Holocaust sites if there is no staff to explain the site's relevance.

The supervisor of Sachsenhausen, Ravensbruck and Brandenburg says that 30-50 percent of requests for tours and education programs are turned down.

Although the former camps are funded by federal and regional governments in Germany, the funds, say directors, barely cover operating costs, with none left over for exhibits, seminars or more than minimal publications.

While Auschwitz, in Poland, receives subsidies and funds from philanthropists, the German sites do not attract private sponsorship.

Said one commenter on YNetNews.com in response to the article, "At least this time they won't take all your possessions when you go there - only a small fee."

Jerusalem: The wandering Jewish archive

The Central Archives of the History of the Jewish people is the subject of a Haaretz article:

The archive belongs to the Jewish People, but in practice it belongs to no one, and that is precisely the problem," says archive director Hadassah Assouline. Says the chairman, Professor Ya'akov Barnai: "The archive's status is unstable and no official body is actually responsible for us."

The budget comes from several sources: the Israeli government, private donations and grants. While money is received for earmarked projects, day-to-day expenses are not funded.

Because it belongs to everyone, but to no one, the wandering Jewish archive's status is "ambiguous" and it has moved six times in six decades. The last move was a few months ago from a Rehavia monastery to two old dorms at Hebrew University.

Budget problems mean that the archive can't bid on valuable documents, which wind up in private hands, says the director, although it has managed to preserve those documents it does hold. However, some are deteriorating and there are no funds to conserve them.

A former board member adds, "The archive was entrusted with the state, and the state has betrayed that trust."

Leaders are hopeful that the CAHJP will find a home in the new national library in preliminary planning, and that funding will arrive to produce a computerized database of the collection, scan and display documents. Today, researchers paw through files kept in drawers.

JGSLI: Genes for Genealogists, June 10

The Jewish Genealogy Society of Long Island will host genetics counselor Nina Sitron at 2 p.m. Sunday, June 10, at the Mid-island JCC in Plainview, NY.

Sitron will speak on "Genes for Genealogists: Genetics, Inheritance and DNA made simple."

A genetics counselor at Long Island Jewish Medical Center since 1983, Sitron holds an MS (Human Genetics) and an MSc (Biostatistics). A long-time member of JGSLI, she will offer an introduction to genetics tailored for genealogists.

Admission is free. Refreshments will be served.
Resource books will be displayed.

JGSLI experts will be available at 1:30p.m. to answer genealogy questions.

For more information, click here

30 May 2007

Connecting again: Spain and the Jews

From the Los Angeles Times comes this story of Spain's connecting once again with its Jewish past and present.

Datelined Girona, a city I've visited several times, the reporter interviewed several people I know. That was nice to see.

This network is about bringing patrimony to light; it's about rehabilitating the physical space and memory of Spain's Jews," said Assumpció Hosta, the general secretary of Sephardic Routes, from her office in Girona, 60 miles north of Barcelona. The organization began here in 1995, in this medieval Catalan city whose narrow, climbing cobblestone streets of the Call, or Jewish quarter, are considered among the best preserved in Europe.

Unfortunately, Hosta's organization doesn't recognize the fact that today there are Jews in Girona. Tourists who take walking tours through the Nahmanides Center ask if there are still any Jews in Girona. The guides always say no. However, there is a group, and I have met them, including Conversos who have returned to their Jewish roots, Argentine immigrants and others.

For Girona and other small and medium-size cities like it — from Jaén in the south to Oviedo and Tudela in the north — there are also strong financial incentives for marketing the Jewish past. "The hotels are happier. The restaurants are happier. We couldn't do this while Franco was alive, and when the country was still in poverty," Hosta added. "We didn't have Einstein, but we had [12th century rabbi and philosopher] Maimonides. Now there is a lot of curiosity."

In towns where there are no Jews today, the organization has done a remarkable job preserving and restoring remnants of the old Calls.

Sadly, this lack of Jewish presence and sensitivity guidance by Hosta's organization, has resulted in restaurants in some towns using the name of the Call or a famous resident, and advertising ham sandwiches for sale.

Indeed, Sephardic Routes has its critics, especially from those who see a dangerous tendency in focusing on "the archeological Jew" and not paying enough attention to the living Jewish community of today.

"They talk about Jews without [their being] hardly any around," said Nily Schorr Levinsohn, who works in media relations for Catalonia's Jewish community of 6,000, based in Barcelona. Schorr Levinsohn thinks that Spain, burdened by guilt over its history with the Jews, now genuinely wants to reflect and learn about what it lost. But "today's Jews aren't a part of this process."

In Barcelona, it has been difficult for the city to recognize that it has a vibrant Jewish community that wishes to be involved in restoration projects of the Call.
There have been problems with Jewish graves on Montjuic, discovered during construction. Plans for a Jewish studies center were supposed to proceed without Jewish involvement.

When activist community members complained vociferously, the official line was that this was the city's history, not the Jewish community's. Schorr Levinsohn's comment about lack of Jewish involvement in these projects is an understatement, but it is not for lack of trying.

It should be a two-way road to roots, with preservation and education, on one hand, and the contemporary Jewish community's official representation in those places where a community exists.

Read more here

29 May 2007

A sweet family story

Ever wonder about those little pink packets and the Jewish family responsible for them?

From the "New York Times," a review of "Sweet and Low: A Family Story," by Rich Cohen, grandson of the company's founder, Benjamin Eisenstadt.

The reviewer notes some of Cohen's relative descriptions:

"There is Uncle Marvin, "as peppy as a camp counselor," who takes over the company from Cohen's grandfather and insists on being called Uncle Marvelous. A shut-in aunt who stage-manages the family drama from her bed in Flatbush. ("Her tongue is thousands of miles of fiber-optic cable.") A grandmother so determined to shape destiny that she changes her name twice (Pessie to Bessie to Betty), "the kind of woman," as her daughter describes her, "who wanted you to think she never went to the bathroom." And on the other side, Grandma Esther, "the loudmouthed immigrant who suddenly becomes a member of your family," who takes an afternoon to tell a story better told in five minutes, then winds it up by saying, "That's it in a nutshell," who takes her grandchildren to a movie and attempts to get a children's discount — even though they are ages 22 and 30."

I think all genealogists can relate to this passage:
"Still, it takes nerve to play investigative reporter with your own family, and Cohen writes about the addictive thrill: "When you uncover the crucial piece of hidden information, the charge pops in your brain like a whippit and you cannot wipe the stupid smile off your face. . . . The more you find, the more you want to find."

Click here for the complete review

Click here to read the first chapter.

27 May 2007

DNA fun found in a new blog

For those infatuated with DNA, there's a new blog called Eye on DNA by epidemiologist and biotech consultant Dr. Hsien-Hsien Lei. One of her categories is DNA Fun.

Says Lei, "DNA is our past, present, and future. We need to seize it, examine it, and know its power to make it work for us. How will it change your life?

A recent posting detailed five cool things you can do with your own DNA.

1. Extract your own DNA.

2. Save it for future reference in case of missing persons, abduction, or identification in the event of a tragedy.

3. Preserve your DNA in jewelry form.

4. Convert your DNA into a DNA art print.

5. Get your DNA tested.

Bonus idea: Send your DNA into the future by having children.
What other cool stuff have you done with your DNA?

Read the details here.

London: Poor Jews' Temporary Shelter, 1907

Thanks to Ann Rabinowitz for this information from the 1907 report of the Poor Jews Temporary Shelter in London.

The very useful database is here.

The Poor Jews' Temporary Shelter Database is a project of Professor Aubrey Newman and Dr. Graham Smith, both of the Department of History in University of Leicester, in the United Kingdom. Because many of the people that passed through the Shelter between the years of 1895 and 1914 came to South Africa, the project is of considerable potential interest to the South African Jewish community, and has been financially supported by the Kaplan Centre at the University of Cape Town.

For a detailed paper on the shelter, why it was developed and other issues, click here.

For information on the actual registers which were incorporated into the database, click here.

Ann indicates that the report's synopsis was in the Jewish Chronicle on April 12, 1907, but this can only be accessed by JC subscribers.

Some facts and figures:

In 1907, some 925 boats and 38,848 passengers were met; in 1906, there were 871 boats and 47,831 passengers. From 1900-1906, shipping company rate wars and pogroms encouraged immigration.

Of the 1907 arrivals housed at the shelter, 1,199 of 1,662 went to South Africa; 329 to America; 152 to Canada (the largest number at the time to this destination).

Forty five people were returning to their home countries, a larger number than before. Theories: Either home country conditions improved or immigrants were returning to visit family or bring over other relatives.

Many women and children were residents, indicating that husbands and fathers had already immigrated and were now bringing their families.

Ages of shelter residents: 1,178 were under 20; 566 were aged 20-30, 212 were aged 30-40, 135 were aged 40-50, 57 were over 50. Most inmates stayed only two days, and about 41,280 meals were served (110 per day).

An interesting section concerns the impact of the Aliens Act on the immigrants, causing great hardship for those whose cases were being appealed.

"... there was no receiving place for them and no notification to their relatives and friends as to their status. For the most part, they were oftentimes kept in unsanitary and unhealthy conditions. In addition, children were ripped from their parents and vice versa which was painful and heartbreaking to the families."

Of 33,770 passengers arriving in London, 376 were rejected, 220 were released on appeal, 156 were rejected completely, although some rejected passengers may have found other ways to enter the country or continue their journeys.

Ann, thank you for this information.

A forthcoming reference - to be published by the Kaplan Centre of the University of Cape Town - will offer detailed analysis of this and the other annual reports: Jewish Migration to South Africa: The Records of the Poor Jews' Temporary Shelter, 1885-1914; edited by Leicester University (UK) Professor Aubrey Newman and Dr. Nicholas J. Evans, Lecturer in Slavery Studies at Wilberforce Institute for the Study of Slavery and Emancipation (Hull, UK), and Saul W. Issroff.

Details are recorded of more than 24,000 Jews - using previously unused shelter records - who emigrated from Imperial Russia to South Africa (instead of the United States) from 1896-1914.

To order a copy when available, send contact details to kc@humanities.uct.ac.za.

26 May 2007

Searching for Leopold Muller

University of North Carolina law professor Eric Muller's blog now features a roundup of numerous posts about the search for information on his great-uncle Leopold Muller, including photographs and archival research in Germany.

Maybe one of our readers will help him find out more.

Thanks to Reeva Kimble, president of the Jewish Genealogy Society of Willamette Valley (Eugene, Oregon), for sending along this link.

British comic's Jewish identity

The British TV hit, Who Do You Think You Are, which entices celebrities to explore their roots, began airing two months ago in Israel. After reading about the show since its inception, it was good to finally view the series. Among the personalities featured was Jewish comedian David Baddiel.

Baddiel spoke at a big genealogy fair in London a few weeks ago, and he mentioned how valuable tracing his roots had been to him.

"In his programme, Baddiel discovered that his Great Uncle may have died in the Warsaw Ghetto and locates the remains of his German grandfather’s brick factory taken by the Nazis. He also attempts to make contact with the ultra-orthodox side of his family.

Baddiel said: “I don’t really have a religious bone in my body but culturally I feel very linked to Judaism.

“The experience was really valuable in terms of finding out what has happened to Jews in the last century. My whole story was about what it means to be Jewish and surviving, It was really valuable to me.”

Click here for more.

The story, at TotallyJewish.com, also referenced the JGSUK's new database on mid-19th century Britain, culminating 10 years of research and documenting Anglo-Jews in the 1851 census.

90 million military records: Free through June 6

Ancestry.com has just posted some 90 million military records, spanning more than four centuries of American history from the 1600s through Vietnam. Access is free through June 6 if you click here.

The collection includes all major wars and conflicts from American history, including the Revolutionary War, Civil War, World War I, World War II, Korean and Vietnam conflicts, the Spanish-American War and the War of 1812.

While doing a basic search for COHEN, I found an interesting bit in Revolutionary War Bounty and Land Grants: Virginia Captain Jacob Cohen received 4,000 acres on 13 March 1838.

And in a section about Massachusetts soldiers and sailors in the 17-volume War of the Revolution, there's a listing for: Cohen, Nathaniel. Corporal, Col. William R. Lee's regt.; enlisted Sept. 10, 1777; reported deserted May 1, 1778.

Previously in my family research, I located draft registration cards for most of the New Jersey, Massachusetts, Delaware, and Pennsylvania branches of our TALALAY-TOLLIN-TALLIN family for World War I and II.

For a video interview with Ancestry CEO Tim Sullivan and genealogist Craig Scott speaking about the new database collection, click here. Look on the right side of the page for "Web Site Provides Millions of Military Records;" click for the video.

Randy Seaver at Genea-Musings has compiled a list of useful links for new Ancestry databases. Sometimes it can be a bit confusing to find the new databases, so he has listed the following:

The Ancestry.com Card Catalog shows what new databases have been added recently. Search by name, location or key word.

For the specific list of new and updated databases, click here

And for all databases, more than 24,000 at this point, click here. The order is determined by the number of names in each record group, and free (for non-subscribers) databases are so marked.

Happy Hunting!

One school's family history day

When I read this story about a California elementary school's Family History Day, I added the idea to my list of outreach activities for Jewish genealogical societies.

Those concerned with transmitting a love of history, genealogy and culture may want to explore the possibilities with their children's and grandchildren's schools. Society members could offer sessions for teachers, for parents and work up to a school-wide Family History Day.

Be creative!

Your junk e-mail has ancestors too

We all need a giggle or two. Here's one for today from Jasia at Creative Gene, who has a great posting on the historical roots (circa 1900) of some of the spam e-mails hawking strange and alarming products that we receive today.

Her examples include a rather disturbing diet involving a tapeworm and very questionable medical devices - and all from a time when communication was definitely limited.

Read it here.

25 May 2007

DNA and the Holocaust: 'A tiny window'

The May 2007 edition of The Scientist offers a story on Syd Mandelbaum's DNA Shoah project.

In November 2006, Mandelbaum learned that Nazi-era bones were found in a Stuttgart, Germany road project, and that similar mass graves had been uncovered elsewhere in Germany and Poland. The governments didn't know what to do with the remains.

Although the German government contacted Israeli police to see if they could assist in identifying the remains, the answer was negative.

The story was very personal. Mandelbaum's three grandparents perished at Auschwitz, a grandfather was a slave laborer who disappeared in 1943. Some 25 years ago, he developed the first videotape archive of Holocaust survivors and camp liberators. He contacted the Israel Holocaust Authority to ask if they could help identify remains but the answer was that there was no way.

A one-time scientist and entrepreneur who holds a master's degree in general science, Mandelbaum decided to find a way, and contacted University of Arizona geneticist Dr. Michael Hammer.

Hammer agreed to help, James Watson agreed to advise and Gene Code CEO Howard Cash came onboard after Cash's sister forwarded him an article on the project from a survivor's newsletter. Cash's subsidiary, Gene Codes Forensics, had developed a mass fatality identification system to help identify World Trade Center remains, later also used in the 2004 tsunami aftermath.

The DNA Shoah Project was developed to establish a genetic database of survivors and relatives to reunite an estimated 10,000 postwar orphans resettled in the US, UK, Israel and elsewhere, and thousands of the remaining 400,000 survivors. In August 2006, 130 samples were collected from some 80 survivors and their families in California.

Such a database may identify discovered remains so that they may be returned to families for reburial. Mandelbaum feels that forensic science can also teach young people about the Holocaust.

Cash has moderate expectations for the number of identifications that will be possible, given that entire families were wiped out, and survivors are quite elderly and may not be prepared to contribute DNA. "The chances are not high, but wouldn't it be incredible if, 60 years later, we were able to reunite siblings or other relatives who were not aware that they had family who survived?" Cash says. "We have a tiny window of time where some of the victims of the Nazis are still alive and where DNA laboratory and information technology can meet the challenge of DNA analysis and comparison on a massive scale."

Read more here.

Mandelbaum will appear at the special DNA Day, Wednesday, July 18, at the 27th IAJGS International Conference on Jewish Genealogy, July 15-20, in Salt Lake City. For conference and registration information, click here.

Australia: Author of "The Lost" to speak

Daniel Mendelsohn, author of the award-winning book The Lost: A Search for Six of Six Million, will be speaking in Australia during the Sydney Writers' Festival and at the Jewish Holocaust and Research Centre in Melbourne.

At the festival, he'll participate in a panel discussion about "Remembering the Holocaust" on June 1, "Daniel Mendelsohn in Conversation" on June 2 and "The Art of the Essay" on June 3.

For festival information, click here.

In this article from The Australian Jewish News, Mendelsohn provides insights into his 2003 visit to Australia to meet individuals connected to his family.

The journey to his book began in 2001 and spanned 12 countries on four continents as he investigated what happened to his family from Bolechow.Poland (now Bolekhiv, Ukraine).

In March 2003, Mendelsohn visited Sydney to speak to a handful of survivors who knew his family.

“Australia was the only place in which there was a group of survivors from my family’s town. They [the Bolechow survivors] were scattered everywhere else, not in a cluster. So there was a nice feeling of group camaraderie.”

One of the survivors Mendelsohn encountered in Sydney is Central Synagogue member Jack Greene. Greene dated Shmiel’s daughter Ruchele in Bolechow.

Greene, 81, immigrated to Australia in 1951, and is one of the few remaining Bolechow survivors in Australia. Since Mendelsohn's 2003 visit, Boris Goldsmith, Salamon Grossbard and Bob Grunschlag have passed away.
Read the complete story here

24 May 2007

Family Tree DNA: Greenspan video

TO watch a video interview with Family Tree DNA president and CEO Bennett Greenspan, who explains about DNA testing, security safeguards, what can be discovered and much more, go here, scroll down to Bennett's interview and click VIEW NOW.

In the video, Bennett speaks with Avotaynu editor Sallyann Sack and Arline Sachs about the major Jewish DNA database at Family Tree DNA, and the likelihood of finding matches within the system. Says Bennett, "We are all related if you go back far enough, but that's anthropology, not genealogy."

Family Tree DNA receives calls from people around the world who think they are Jewish or believe they have a Jewish ancestor.

In 2004, for example, the company was able to match a Polish Catholic man with three people in their database and with five or six others in another Jewish Ashkenazi database.

The results showed that his mother's story - she was a "hidden" infant given to a Polish couple a few days before the town's Jewish community was liquidated - had a basis in fact. His mother's DNA matched only Eastern European Jews.

India: Genealogy increasingly popular

From The Hindu, billed as India's national newspaper, comes this account of genealogy's rising popularity in Kerala.

The story stresses exactly what I have always believed, "that writing family history cuts across communities."

The Kerala Council for Historical Research is the focus. An autonomous research center of the University of Kerala, it "explores the cultural potential of the discipline and attempts to enrich the historical consciousness of society." Its large library has a significant Kerala history and society collection.

"At present, there is an increasing urge especially among people settled outside the country to search for their ancestral roots," said P.J. Cherian, director, KCHR. "They often request their relatives living in the country to take up the task," he said.

Cherian says that most of the researchers are untrained, but are often extremely dedicated, putting in to 10 years on these projects.

The KCHR encourages the pursuit of family history and already has some 200 histories in its archives, some dating to the early 1940s. Cherian says that the center collects the histories because they illustrate customs and traditions, women's roles, local history and geography.

23 May 2007

Springtime for cemetery visits

No, I'm not writing about a sequel to The Producers. When the weather begins to warm up, researchers begin planning trips to cemeteries. We search out the resting places of ancestors, participate in indexing cemeteries for Web sites such as JewishGen's Jewish Online Worldwide Burial Registry, or take photographs of stones as a mitzva (good deed) for colleagues in far-off lands.

What do cemetery trekkers need to take?

Water is essential (both to drink and to clean a stone), as are a blanket, creepy critter spray and a tool for clearing away brush. Bring a brush for removing surface dirt from the stone, a stick (a popsicle stick or even chopsticks!) to remove dirt from carved letters, an old cloth towel or paper towels, and work gloves. Don't forget to bring handwipes so you can clean up before you drive home.

If you are photographing stones, take a piece of foil-covered cardboard or a car windshield protector to help angle sunlight onto the front of the stone for a better image.

The experts agree: Do not scrub or scrape the stones. Do not use shaving cream or chalk. Do not use bleach or any other chemical. If you must clean a stone, use water only. Bring it in a spray bottle so you can use it exactly where needed. And make sure to take everything home with you, rather than littering the site.

Don't forget your camera and film (if you haven't joined the digital world). If you've gone digital, remember to bring a spare memory card or two, and remember to charge the batteries (bring extras).

Hard-core cemetery seekers find a GPS device useful for recording a grave's exact location.

A hat and sunglasses are a good idea, as is a fully-charged cellphone. A New York researcher friend of mine was visiting a major Queens cemetery, got lost, and couldn't find her way out as it got late in the day. She called the administration office to find out how to get out. Another researcher had car trouble and called the office for assistance - otherwise, he might have had to spend the night!

To look over a pair of books on visiting cemeteries, visit Avotaynu, and read the tables of contents and a sample chapter for Nolan Menachemson's A Practical Guide to Jewish Cemeteries and Rabbi Joshua L. Segal's A Field Guide to Visiting a Jewish Cemetery.

If you are visiting further afield, click here for travel to Ukraine, and still more concerning visits to Eastern Europe.

And for a nifty vest to carry lots of the gadgets recommended above and many more - at a price - Dick Eastman reviewed the Scott eVest some time ago.

Seattle: Discuss new gen library acquisitions, June 11

The Jewish Genealogical Society of Washington State will host Rabbi Doug Slotnick, who will discuss the society's new library acquisitions, June 11.

Slotnick will speak about how to use the new material. The latter part of the evening is open for individual research, and the entire library will be available. Bring your materials and questions.

Slotnick, the JGSWS librarian, is a Seattle-based rabbi, teacher and historian.

He founded Seattle's Free Yiddish Lehrhaus, an adult education program focused on 19th-20th century German and Eastern European Jewish history, philosophy and literature.

Admission: JGSWS members, free; others, $5.
Mercer Island JCC auditorium; photo ID required for entry.

For more information, click here

Genealogy scholarships for students?

What a great idea to encourage genealogy!

I wonder why local Jewish genealogical societies or the International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies aren't doing something similar, either on a local or international basis, for Jewish high school juniors or seniors.

What better way to get the younger generation involved in genealogy?

Criteria, including a certain academic grade level, could require an essay on what family history means to each applicant, a research project, various other perks and benefits including membership to a local JGS.

Such a project would certainly garner local interest and publicity for the society and perhaps inspire others to begin quests. It might prove interesting in university admissions offices when outstanding applicants also show a connection to genealogical research.

Outreach needs to start early and this seems like a good way to begin to change the demographics of Jewish genealogy.

"The York County Genealogical and Historical Society is pleased to announce that it has awarded its $500 scholarship for 2007 to Clover High School senior Victoria Herold. She is the daughter of Billie Carroll of Clover and Joseph Herold of Irving, Texas.

"Victoria Herald plans to attend Anderson University in the fall. She has an outstanding academic record as well as a record of service to her school and community.

"In order to qualify for the scholarship a student must attend one of the public high schools in York County, have a grade-point average of 3.5 or higher and have an interest in genealogy and/or local history."

Ancestry Insider Blog

A few gen bloggers have already posted a link to a new blog, The Ancestry Insider - and everyone's asking who the author might be.

It is billed as:

The unofficial, unauthorized view of the big four genealogy and family history websites: Ancestry.com, RootsWeb.com, FamilySearch.org, and Genealogy.com. Since the parent companies of these sites rarely publicly comment on ANYTHING, there's a big need for an unofficial outlet. I'll be upfront in saying I'm sympathetic to the problems faced by these companies. If you have an inside scoop send it to AncestryInsider@gmail.com. Your identity will remain completely confidential.

Should be interesting.

It's Official: Spiderman is Jewish

Nu? Only in Brooklyn does one read an entire article about Spiderman's possible religious affiliation and the rabbi who draws interesting connections.

“Peter Parker’s a nerd who grew up in Forest Hills, his middle name is Benjamin and he’s motivated by guilt. I see a connection,” jokes Rabbi Simcha Weinstein, author of Up, Up, And Oy Vey! How Jewish History, Culture and Values Shaped the Comic Book Superhero.

I'm wearing my genealogy hat now so I have to ask about Spidey's original name. Were Peter Parker's ancestors really PARKANSKY from Tiraspol? Or did Spiderman originate in SPIDKOVSKIY from Kiev? Anyone check JewishGen's Family Finder or Ancestry's arrival records recently for possible family connections? Hint: Look for an early arrival, possibly Peter's grandfather, named Benjamin Parkansky or Spidkovskiy. Peter, of course, could be Peretz.

The founder of the Jewish Student Foundation of Downtown Brooklyn is rabbi for both Pratt Institute and Long Island College Hospital, Weinstein also draws connections to King David and spiders, loss of family and lack of super powers in Jewish history and culture. He comments on other superheroes such as Superman, Captain America, the Spirit, Batman and the Incredible Hulk.

Read more here

Scotland: Check in for genealogy

Those who travel in rarified circles at luxury hotels avail themselves of many concierge-provided personal services. Now there's a new twist.

Guests at Edinburgh's Sheraton Grand Hotel & Spa now have access to a Genealogy Concierge service with expert Sheila Duffy.

Some 50 million people world-wide have Scottish ancestry and visitors to Edinburgh can now explore their heritage. Guests will receive a pre-check-in questionnaire to complete to give Duffy some idea of where to start.

Sheila will then sit down with guests for a one to one, hour long consultation for a fee of £70 ($139). She will establish what the guest already knows about their Scottish connections, and give practical advice about how to develop their search for their Scottish forebears.

It might be a bit disappointing though for guests who expect to leave with their entire family history (Scottish records date to the mid-1500s) in a beautifully embossed folder: "Rather than giving all the answers, the aim of consultation is to provide the knowledge and skills on how and where to look for information."

Read more here.

UK: Email lives forever!

Want your best emails ever to live forever? Just submit them to the first-ever national email archive not run by a national intelligence agency.

Microsoft has announced a collaboration with the British Library to create the first-ever British email archive.

"Email Britain," running through May, asks Brits to submit "memorable or significant email from their sent mail or inbox, for inclusion in a digital archive that will be stored at the British Library for future generations."

Email has become the most important communication tool for the 21st century with millions of emails containing rich and diverse content sent in the UK every day* – none of which have been captured and archived on this scale before. The Email Britain collection of real-life emails will provide an important snapshot of British life over email – the good, the bad, the ugly and the amusing – to produce a unique social history catalogue of life and culture in Britain today which can be read and enjoyed by Library visitors for centuries to come.

The British Library's British Collections head John Tuck says email has replaced many traditional forms of communications represented in the library. The new project will enable archiving of current communications, valuable to future researchers.

For more information, click here or send them directly to email@emailbritain.co.uk.

Make sure to check off the category of your entries: Blunders, Life Changing Emails, Complaints, Spam, Love and Romance, Humour, Everyday Emails, News, World Around You or Tales from Abroad.

21 May 2007

Seattle: Weaving Women's Words

One of my favorite cities is Seattle, where I have friends and family in the Sephardic and Ashkenazi communities.

The Jewish Women's Archive offers many interesting articles. Their "Weaving Women's Words: Seattle Stories" section includes the stories of 30 remarkable women in that community. An additional 30 stories spotlight the women of Baltimore.

”These are women whose lives - in large and small ways - have touched and influenced thousands of people in and beyond their communities. They created families and businesses; textiles and food-laden tables; literature and music; institutions and homes. They came here from places like Turkey and Rhodes, from Germany and Romania; from Mississippi and New York City and Seattle’s own hills. They converse in English and Yiddish, Ladino (Judeo-Spanish) and German. They have wrestled with fears, and crossed boundaries of faith and cultures and nationalities and professions. They have reflected on lessons handed down to them, and on the lessons of their own well-lived lives."

In addition to the women's stories, there are artifacts and the stories behind them, including a beautiful cross-stitched family tree.

Salt Lake City: New Jewish resources

During the past year, some new Jewish resources have been added to the Family History Library. Attendees at the 27th IAJGS International Conference on Jewish Genealogy will be able to access these records at the nearby FHL:

• Canada: The 1911 Canadian census films have been cataloged and will be available during the conference.

• Boston: Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society card files for Boston (1882-1929) are on nine microfilm reels. At the last conference in Salt Lake City, we accessed the Philadelphia HIAS records. Now Boston is available and should be a valuable resource. NOTE: The Philadelphia records were very useful to me in retrieving information on the FEINSTEIN (formerly TALALAY) families who had immigrated to Philadelphia

• Lviv: In 2006, some major Jewish record groups were filmed in the Lviv archives, including metrical records (birth, marriage, death) for many Galizianer communities. A 33-reel set covers more than 60 places (1820-1939); a 10-reel set covers Lviv records (1801-1889); six reels cover Brody (1815-1871). An archival register has 376 files of Jewish congregational records in Galicia. For more information on these holdings, click here and type in "Lviv Jewish."

• Vienna: The Vienna archive of Jewish metrical books (B,M,D) includes 398 reels (1826-1943). For more information, click here and type in "Matrikel 1826-1943, Judische Gemeinde."

Another resource of interest that is about to become more accessible is the Godfrey Memorial Library, which is announcing a partnership with the Family Search Centers, including the FHL.

The Godfrey Memorial Library is private Connecticut institution that has been digitizing thousands of genealogy books and extensive hand-written materials not available elsewhere. It also produces the American Genealogical-Biographical Index (AGBI) with millions of records. The material will be available free of charge to center visitors. For more information, click here.

Zamosc group to launch Web archive

The Israeli Organization of Zamosc Jewry will launch its archival Web site on May 30, with an event at the Tel Aviv Museum.

The group has more than 1,000 documents, certificates and newspaper clippings and will incorporate this material into the new Web site, whose URL will be announced at the event.

Towns in the vicinity of Zamosc that will be covered in the archive include Izbica, Krasnobrod, Komarow, Szczebrzeszyn, Bilgoraj, Turobin, Grabowiec, Hrubieszow, Krasnystaw, Tyszowiec, Tarnogrod, Skierbieszow, Jozefow, Frampole, Janow, Rajowiec, Wlodawa, Zolkiewka and Siedlce.

Among the data in the archive is information assembled by the Zamosc Judenrat, which in April 1940 began recording information about all Jews living in the city at the start of the occupation. Their list was a fairly accurate and invaluable document, according to the organizers of the Zamosc Web site launch event. The census totaled 10,086 men, women and children, and included name, surname, occupation, date and place of birth for each. The Judenrat was a Jewish group put in place by the Gestapo to help supervise the area's Jewish occupants.

The site will be launched at a multi-generational memorial meeting at 6.30 p.m. on May 30 at the Tel Aviv Museum. For more information, click here.

Bennett Greenspan in Southern California, June 10

The Jewish Jewish Genealogical Society of the Conejo Valley and Ventura County will host Family Tree DNA founder and president Bennett Greenspan on June 10.

He'll speak about "Jewish Genealogy and DNA Testing."

Greenspan will talk about Jewish history, how DNA testing works, and how his life-long genealogy interest was the impetus for Family Tree DNA. He will demonstrate how family relationships can be determined through DNA testing and how Family Tree DNA can assist when the paper trail ends or traditional genealogy runs into brick walls.

An entrepreneur and life-long genealogy enthusiast, Greenspan founded Family Tree DNA in 1999, turning a hobby into a full-time vocation. A pioneer in DNA testing for genealogy, his company is the world leader in the genetic genealogy field and has continued to develop the science that enables genealogists around the world to advance their family research. With more than 80,000 individuals tested, Family Tree DNA has the largest database of its kind in the world.

There is no charge for the event, to be held at 3 p.m. at Temple Adat Elohim in Thousand Oaks. For more information, e-mail publicity@jgscv.org.

Tel Aviv: IIJG's Neville Lamdan, May 29

JFRA Israel will host Dr. Neville Y. Lamdan, director of the International Institute for Jewish Genealogy on May 29. The talk will be in English.

Lamdan will speak about "Who needs an institute for Jewish genealogy?"

A year ago the International Institute for Jewish Genealogy was founded in Jerusalem as a scholarly research center, wholly and exclusively dedicated to Jewish genealogy and family history.

Lamdan will address the Institute's goals and accomplishments, and resources available to genealogists.

JFRA members: no charge; others: NIS 15
8 p.m., Beit Shalom, 2 Shir St., Tel Aviv.

For more information, click here.

Ukraine: Jewish Military Encyclopedia printed

A JTA newsbrief focused on the "The Jewish Military Encyclopedia" with 1,800 biographies and 1,200 photos of Jewish soldiers and officers in the Czarist and Soviet Armies and the armies of some FSU countries. It had a limited publication run of only 1,000 copies.

The editor is Ilya Levitas, long-time president of the Jewish Council of Ukraine, a group that promotes Jewish culture in the former Soviet republic.

The theme of Jewish contribution to the military "is alive today because of some people who want to rewrite history and misrepresent facts about Jewish participation in World War II and its Jewish heroes," Levitas told JTA.

Tracing the Tribe is trying to get information on how to obtain a copy of this work which holds important genealogical information.

20 May 2007

Turkey: Danger to shrine of followers of Sabbetai Tzvi

A great article from The Forward focuses on the little-known doenmeh community in Turkey. The doenmeh are descendants of the followers of Sabbetai Tzvi, a 17th-century false messiah who converted to Islam under threat of death in 1666.

An unknown number of doenmeh descendants -- perhaps thousands -- live in Turkey, and secretly follow their customs and traditions.

Tzvi had seemingly convinced about a third of Europe's Jews that he was the messiah, and his followers began arriving in Turkey at his urging. The sultan was miffed at this invasion and threatened Tzvi, who converted. He lost much of his following at that point, although some adherents adopted Islam for their exterior lives while keeping their faith in Tzvi.

Doenmeh means "turncoat," which is pejorative like "marrano" (pig), a term sometimes used when speaking of Sephardic crypto-Jews. The members of the community, however, call themselves ma'aminim (believers), and in English they are known as Sabbateans. Their commitment to Tzvi didn't die out even after he died in 1676.

There were subsequent messiahs - largely forgotten men like Baruchiah Russo and Jacob Frank - and, as recent scholarship has shown, Sabbateanism greatly influenced the 18th-century emergence of Hasidism. And then there are the doenmeh, who live on until the present day, in secretive communities, at first primarily in Salonika and today almost entirely in present-day Turkey.

Now, however, there is a plan to destroy the building in Izmir (formerly Smyrna) where Tzvi may have lived.

Over the years, most of the doenmeh assimilated into Islam; many more were annihilated during the Holocaust, and still more have, in modern-day Turkey, come to see their background as a curious but largely irrelevant heritage. But even those who did assimilate usually maintained some knowledge of their ancestry, and doenmeh were among the founders of the secular Turkish republic.

The existence of this community is not a well-kept secret in Turkey, but no one speaks about these people who are, according to the article's author, considered traitors by both Muslims and Jews.

The doenmeh who spoke to the Forward about his heritage was unwilling to use his real name.

Is the disintegrating building at 920 Agora Girisi in an old Jewish neighborhood really Tzvi's house? Dr. Cengiz Sisman, an expert on Sabbateanism who received his doctorate from Harvard University, has turned up substantial evidence to that effect.

The article says that Sabbateanism was the first Jewish movement to put women in leadership positions, that Israeli presidents Yitzhak Ben-Zvi and Zalman Shazar were both scholars of Sabbateanism, and that "Theodor Herzl’s opponents labeled him a 'new Sabbetai Tzvi.'"

19 May 2007

Hamilton, Ontario: Stan Diamond to speak May 31

Stanley Diamond, whose topic will be "Medical and Genetic Family History: the Role of the Genealogist," will be the guest speaker for the Ben Meyer Memorial Lecture at 8 p.m. May 31, at the Jewish Community Center in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada.

Diamond is a founder and president of the Jewish Genealogical Society of Montreal and is widely published on genealogical research. His own family experience will illustrate the importance of documenting family medical and genetic history which may be needed in a medical crisis.

Event sponsors are the Schreiber Family Foundation, the Jewish Community Centre of Hamilton, and the Jewish Genealogical Society of Hamilton.

Click here for details about the event.

Carnival of Genealogy's 24th edition

Jasia at Creative Gene has posted the results of the 24th Carnival of Genealogy. This month's entries focused on our mothers.

Many gen bloggers submitted entries, including my postings on my great-grandmother, born in Lithuania, and my husband's eldest aunt in Teheran. Read all the entries here.

The entries cover a variety of origins, religions, ethnicities and history, from photographs to transcribed letters, from lists of maternal ancestors to a calendar of memories of a mother recently lost.

Thanks, Jasia, for this opportunity to recall stories and fond memories.

18 May 2007

Milestones & Improvements - Thank You

Tracing the Tribe has passed the milestones of 31,000 visits and 52,000 page views, with readers clicking in from everywhere since we went live in August 2006.

Thank you to everyone who has made this possible.

In addition to US states and Canadian provinces, Eastern and Western Europe, Israel, and down-under Australia and New Zealand, there have been readers from Iran, China, Japan, Malaysia, Indonesia, Korea and many African countries. Haven't seen anyone from Tibet yet ... maybe next week!

Some readers voiced dissatisfaction with the old email alerts, and we listened.

A new email alert system via FeedBlitz is now in place, which provides a better looking, easier-to-read format. Let me know how you like the new system.

To see what the new alert looks like, go to Tracing the Tribe's home page and click "Preview" under the "Subscribe Me" button.

To stop receiving the old-style alerts, go to one of those in your inbox, scroll to the bottom and hit "unsubscribe."

Then go to Tracing the Tribe's homepage and re-subscribe: Enter your email address in the box and click "Subscribe Me," to receive the new alerts.

Again, thanks for your support.


15 May 2007

WOWW is Wow!

My most frequently used Jewish genealogy reference books are a dog-eared original copy of WOWW, Where Once We Walked (a gazetteer of Central and Eastern Europe) and a heavily annotated-and-highlighted copy of A Dictionary of Jewish Surnames from the Russian Empire.

Avotaynu publishes most essential Jewish genealogy reference books; WOWW was its first venture in 1991 with a revised 2004 edition.

I recall that the original didn't list my family's Belarus or Lithuanian shtetls. I wrote to Gary Mokotoff and asked why not? He asked for information, and I supplied various bits of evidence from other gazetteers and maps. The places were added to the new edition.

Since then, however, more additions and corrections have been received. Gary writes in his latest NU? WHAT'S NEW? newsletter that another edition is unlikely, so Avotaynu has established a web site to identify these changes, and WOWW users are invited to provide information.

This gazetteer is essential: In addition to listing more than 23,500 towns where Jews lived before the Holocaust, it also includes alternative names, longitude, latitude, pre-Holocaust Jewish populations, and other references to sources mentioning the town.

It was the first major use of the then-new Daitch-Mokotoff Soundex system, which helped researchers find the correct spelling of an ancestral towns even if they only knew what it sounded like and couldn't spell it.

A "nearby town" index also helps researchers identify towns near their ancestral shtetl, which may provide clues on where other family branches might have lived.

For more information about WOWW, click here.

Writing on the wall: Mind your Ps and Qs!

Wondering what our ancestors were really like?

Perhaps we could use graphoanalysis for genealogical and other purposes. Is this another tool in our arsenal? But does anyone know a graphologist who deals with Yiddish, Hebrew, Russian, Polish or any of the other languages Jewish genealogists deal with? Judy Bruckner leaps to mind thanks to this interesting article.

Many people find handwriting analysis fascinating because it leads them to sensational topics like letters from Jack the Ripper, but Bruckner became an analyst so she could understand personalities around her, and more specifically, the personalities of family members that have passed away.

"It's a neat twist to genealogy," she said.

So far, she has collected 100 writing samples from her ancestors and is determining the qualities that make each one unique. She hopes to trace a full family tree and publish a book about her findings.

"My great-great-grandmother is strict with a playful side," Bruckner said. "She came out a little harsh and I thought, "Mmm. I hope I'm not that way.'"

14 May 2007

Survivors angry at Bad Arolsen restrictions

I recently posted about the Bad Arolsen archives that will be coming to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, albeit with draconian restrictions that will prevent access to the records by thousands of survivors.

JTA has just offered an update, with comments by Miami-based Holocaust Survivors Foundation president David Schaecter, founding chairman Menachem Rosensaft of International Network of Children of Jewish Holocaust Survivors, Anti-Defamation League National Director Abraham Foxman, Holocaust Survivors Foundation attorney Samuel Dubbin, and Second Generation Los Angeles founding president Klara Firestone, who is also a member of the Generations of the Shoah International coordinating council.

Holocaust survivors are venting their anger at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum over its decision not to allow immediate electronic access to the long-secret records of the International Tracing Service at Bad Arolsen, Germany.

Many survivors and members of the second generation have complained in the past about the museum's fundraising and other issues, but a dispute over prohibiting immediate remote access to the Bad Arolsen documentation — the way other government documents are accessed — brought many in the Holocaust community to express their anger publicly as never before.

The documents are expected to be transferred to the Holocaust museum here under an international treaty. The archives include millions of images relating to concentration-camp prisoner documents.

"Where does the museum get the chutzpah?" asked David Schaecter, president of the Miami-based Holocaust Survivors Foundation. He singled out Paul Shapiro, director of the museum's Center for Advanced Holocaust Studies and the point man for the Bad Arolsen transfer.

Click here for the complete article.

Raising the bar: Nane-jan in Tehran

I wrote about my maternal great-grandmother Riva Bank recently, but I shouldn't stop there. Equal time is due my husband's eldest aunt, Nane-jan.

Nane-jan was born in the 1890s to Yaqub ben Israel Dardashti and Khorshid Penhas-Kashi in the mahalleh (Jewish ghetto) in Tehran. Yaqub, a butcher, and Khorshid had six daughters and then three sons - one was my husband's father. In those days, girls were expected to stay home, help their mothers and wait to get married. Only boys went to school.

Fortunately, the Paris-based Alliance Israélite Universelle opened two schools in the Jewish neighborhood. The boys' school opened first, and then the girls' school in 1902. As soon as the second school opened, the enlightened Yaqub enrolled Nane-jan and then the other girls as they came of age.

Nane-jan was the first Jewish girl to go to school in Tehran, and the community just wasn't ready for this modern idea. "Why," some in the community asked Yaqub, "was he setting such a bad example for the other families?" It was simple, he told them. With many daughters to feed and dowries to provide, the girls needed to be educated.

People stopped buying from her father and she was harassed every day on her way to school. An Armenian friend finally gave her some clothes to wear - it was acceptable for Christian girls to attend school - and she was then able to walk to school unmolested. All her sisters went to school; several became French teachers there. Her brothers attended the boys' school.

Nane-jan sold jewelry to the women in the Shah's harem. Men couldn't enter; women were the go-betweens. There was also a family connection to the harem. The beautiful daughter of Moshe, Yaqub's brother, had been kidnapped into the harem much earlier - a not-uncommon occurrence - and it is likely that Nane-jan knew the woman or her daughters, but we have no proof.

I met Nane-jan in 1970 when we moved to Tehran. This tiny woman, already quite ancient with snow-white hair and blue eyes, was delightful. She would sit and talk to me in French - after all, the only foreigners she knew were French, so it stood to reason that all foreigners spoke French. I learned Farsi faster than French and it confused her that I never spoke French and insisted on speaking Farsi. She knew the family history, the juicy scandals and more.

Nane-jan told me about some family branches that had become Muslim long ago for various reasons (second wives who were Muslim and their children, or those who took advantage of the law allowing Muslims to take possession of their Jewish relatives' assets, and thus they converted for financial reasons).

She recalled childhood holiday celebrations where the Muslim cousins would visit her parents' home. She always exhorted me to find them, to tell them that they had aunts, uncles and cousins who remembered them and loved them.

For some reason, she thought this quest would appeal to me. She knew me better than I knew myself. Decades later, long after her death in Israel at over 100 years of age, I was able to find some of them.

How much of my genealogy interest is due to Nane-jan? I'm not sure, but I credit her with lighting the spark of imagination. I never forgot her stories and, of course, I regret I didn't ask the questions I now have - she knew all the answers.

The legend of Little Grandma

Congratulations to Jasia of Creative Genes, whose Carnival of Genealogy challenges gen bloggers to think and write about what we might not ordinarily cover. This month's challenge is, naturally, mothers.

Little Grandma - my mother's maternal grandmother - was a legend.

She lived in Newark, New Jersey, from 1905 until her 1963 death. She barely learned English, but raised educated children, including that American dream, a doctor.

Riva was a daughter of Tzalel Bank, "the famous one-eyed blacksmith." She was born around 1878 in a village near Kovno (Kaunas), Lithuania; her sisters were Sanke and Mere and her brother was Hatzkel. The family also lived in the big city of Dnieperpetrovsk for some time.

The girls were tutored and received a good education for that era. One became an excellent dressmaker, another a caterer and businesswoman. Little Grandma was always well-dressed, coiffed and lipsticked, and encouraged us to do likewise.

She ran away from home because her father wanted to marry her to an older man, and we have been told she then lived with Gypsies, from whom she learned healing, midwifery and the arts of reading palms and telling fortunes.

We don't know exactly where she met great-grandfather (known as Zayde) Aron Peretz Talalay, but they married and returned to Vorotinschtina, an agricultural colony near Mogilev, Belarus. The colony, established in 1830 by several Jewish families (including our Talalay), was home to only 300 souls at its most populous. It had a synagogue and cemetery shared with Zaverezhye, the adjacent hamlet, which also had a post office and store. In October of 1941, all of the remaining occupants of the colony were murdered by the Nazis.

We can imagine the more sophisticated Riva's dismay when she walked into her rural home in Vorotinschtina. In a bold move, she hammered rows of nails into the wall, hung clothing on them and put up a blanket around the clothes. This was the first, but not the last, village "closet."

When Zayde, a master carpenter who could carve toys with moving parts out of a single block of wood, escaped to America to avoid conscription in 1904 - a time of anti-Jewish pogroms - Riva was heavily pregnant, and had a toddler. We were told that Grandma was born in an area where Russia, Iran and Turkey meet, and Riva crossed the border "to buy eggs on a string," as she used to say. When I lived in Iran, I began to think that she might have meant eggs in a string bag, which was common for shopping in Tehran, but we'll never know. If readers have any ideas about what else she might have meant, please comment.

Times were dangerous. Riva ran from place to place with infant Chaya Feige (Bertha) and toddler Leib (the future Dr. Louis), wearing a cross for safety and hiding in churches with fellow Jewish refugees, always carrying her samovar, Shabbat candlesticks, feather quilts and six silver spoons. The men threatened to smother her children if they cried; if the mob had discovered the refugees, everyone could have been killed.

They eventually reached Hamburg, Germany, and embarked for New York, where Leib was sick for a few days in the Ellis Island hospital. The doctor prescribed bananas, which Riva had never seen. Another mother demonstrated with gestures how to peel the tough yellow fruit.

She was always the family's mover and shaker - literally. Once she decided on something, that was it. Riva decided she needed a house with a basement (so she could make pickles) and a yard to grow vegetables in, and found one.

Zayde didn't exactly agree to this move, so while he was at work (making decorative patterns for black cast-iron stoves), she simply packed up and moved the entire household. She sent a child - by now, they had several more sons - to the empty apartment with a note, "Here's our new address, supper's at 7."

Riva had it all figured out: a basement, a yard, a room or two to rent and a top floor for them, with plenty of light. The only thing she didn't have was an upstairs bathroom and Zayde didn't understand the fuss.

Finally, she took an ax - about as big as she was - and chopped a hole in the floor for the bathtub and another in the wall for a window. She kept the kids from falling into one and out of the other.

That winter evening, Zayde came home, saw the holes and was frightened for the small children. "Nu? [Yiddish: So?] So put in a bathtub," she replied. "And don't forget the window." She got both.

Riva was summoned when mothers suspected an "evil eye" on a child, and was requested as a healer and midwife. She would often tell stories about unusual births she had seen.

Little Grandma often visited her daughter's family in Brooklyn. The family went out one day; she was left alone at their house. They returned to a delicious roast chicken dinner, but were a bit confused as Grandma hadn't been left a chicken to cook. My uncle enjoyed his dinner and then went to the backyard to feed the fowl he had been raising for a Boy Scout project ... You guessed it!

Also, she didn't understand why Grampa's liquor cabinet had so many half-bottles. She helped by filling up the nicest bottles and throwing out the others. I'm not sure if Grampa ever recovered.

I often think of her life: running away from home, living with strangers, escaping from pogroms, saving her children's lives, hanging onto family treasures - and designing closets and bathrooms. Could I have coped as well?

We must continue telling these stories, reminding our daughters to be goal-oriented. Should ax lessons be required? Should we tell the men they marry?

13 May 2007

Not all reunions are warm and fuzzy

Read this AP story about a reunion that is not warm and fuzzy, although the researcher holds out hope.

Retired teacher Sol Factor, 60, of Ohio had been looking for 17 years for his mother, a Holocaust survivor who disappeared after World War II. He finally found her, but it hasn't exactly gone as he had planned.

We regret to inform you that we located the above mentioned person, but she would not like to be contacted by the inquirer," reads the message from Magen David Adom, the Israeli counterpart of the American Red Cross.

Factor, who had found clues to his past with the help of the Red Cross and a vast archive of Nazi records, knows only that his mother, now 83 years old, is living in Israel.

"Of course I'm disappointed because one likes searches like this to end with happy reunions," he said in an interview in his home in this Cleveland suburb.

"There's a sense of actual relief too, because now some of the mystery has been solved," he said.

Born Meier Pollak in Munich, Germany in 1946 to Romanian-born Rosa Pollak, also spelled Polak, Factor located documents showing that Rosa and her newborn son were discharged from a maternity hospital on July 9, 1946, went to a hospital for refugees and became separated soon after. He was adopted by a Massachusetts couple in 1950 and began looking for his biological mother in 1990.

The story touches on the Bad Arolsen archives, Magen David Adom (Israeli Red Cross), and Amcha, an Israeli organization assisting survivors. Factor received the letter through the Holocaust and War Victims Tracing and Information Center of the American Red Cross in Baltimore. Since the end of World War II, it has checked on more than 40,000 missing people and located more than 1,200 alive.

Factor is still holding out hope that his mother might change her mind, and speculates on the reasons why the letter was sent.

Galicia Day program announced

If you are researching Galicia (Austro-Hungary, Poland, Ukraine), then you won't want to miss Gesher Galicia SIG day, July 16, at the 27th IAJGS International Conference on Jewish Genealogy.

Early discounts for the conference end May 15, so register now and remember to add workshops, luncheons and other activities of interest. Register online here.

Pamela Weisberger research coordinator of Gesher Galicia SIG, has announced the program:

For the first time at an IAJGS conference we are honored to have Brian Lenius, founding 1st vice-president of the Federation of East European Family History Societies (FEEFHS) presenting two lectures relating to Galicia on Monday, July 16 - the Gesher Galicia SIG Day:

1. Jewish Registration Districts, ADs, JDs, and More: Using Historical Gazetteers to Understand Political Jurisdictions of Galicia: 2-3:15pm

2. Land Cadastral Records and Property Maps in the Austrian Empire - Focus on Galicia: 5-6:15pm

Lenius’s first talk will prove useful in understanding and analyzing record-keeping. Jewish Registration Districts were hastily brought into effect in 1876 with 18 sets of regulated changes occurring by 1905 with the express purpose of centralizing and standardizing Jewish vital event registration for more than one Jewish community.
He will provide answers to questions like: How does an estate relate to a community? Are communities and villages the same thing? What is meant by the pre-WWI term “Jewish Registration District?”

As Galician researchers accumulate a variety of records that contain house and parcel numbers, their interest in cadastral maps has also grown. As described by Brian: "Three distinct property land surveys were conducted for all of Galicia during the Austrian period of the 18th and 19th centuries.

These consisted of detailed records showing the size of land parcels, type of land, crops grown and more. The Austrian Stable Cadastral Survey of the 1830s-1860s consisted of records and extremely detailed maps showing the smallest parcels of land, individual yards, houses, barns, roads, field plots, synagogues and even large trees. At least three versions of these maps were created at the time including a field sketch, a preliminary drafted version and the Cadastral Map in full color. At least one or more versions of these maps still exist for most villages."

Researchers can track families over time by creating tables of house numbers, gleaned from these vital records, as the house number was noted in most Galician birth and death records, tabula registers, notary and property records, homeowners lists and even religious conversion documents. Several examples of cadastral maps for Galician towns and shtetls will be displayed at Lenius second talk of the day on this topic.

Gesher Galicia’s SIG meeting will feature a short film - House Number 7 - about a researcher's return to Grzymalow to look at the house where he was born in 1946

As early registration for the IAJGS conference will ends May 15, consider attending -even for just our special Galician-focused day on Monday, July 16 - which includes the Gesher Galicia luncheon 12:30-2pm, with Erin Einhorn speaking on her genealogical quest involving a building in Poland and a family debt going back 40 years. The Gesher Galicia SIG meeting is set for 3.30-4.45pm.

A longer article about Brian Lenius's research and Gesher Galicia at the IAJGS conference is in this month's The Galitzianer, Gesher Galicia's journal.

We look forward to seeing all Galitzianers in July in Salt Lake City.

For all conference information, click here

Pamela Weisberger
Research Coordinator, Gesher Galicia

San Diego: Ashkenazi genetics, June 10

The San Diego Jewish Genealogical Society will host Gary S. Frohlich on June 10, at the Lawrence Family Jewish Community Center in La Jolla.

Frohlich is a certified genetic counselor/patient care liaison from Genzyme Therapeutics, with more than 30 years of experience providing genetic counseling to the Ashkenazi Jewish community.

Says the group:

Given the Jewish community's responsibility to educate ourselves about genetic issues that impact our lives and our families this educational program is particularly significant. We are offering a free educational outreach program for our community that focuses on addressing the importance of education, screening, testing, and treatment issues facing persons of Ashkenazi Jewish ancestry.

The group hopes that this program will encourage attendees to discuss these issues with family members, and address screening, testing and intervention option.

Tay-Sachs is not the most common Jewish genetic condition. Gaucher disease (pronounced "go-shay") is the most common Jewish genetic disorder. Among Ashkenazi Jews, 1 person in 15 is a carrier, and 1/450 has Gaucher disease. Other genetic conditions are cystic fibrosis, Canavan disease, Bloom syndrome, and others.

Non-members, $3. Click here for more information.

Amazing what you can find in Florida's archives

I have plenty of trouble finding things in my office among all the genealogy files, books, journals, conference materials and more. At times like that, I'm happy I'm not responsible for a major archive!

Here's a story from Florida about treasures in that state's archives.

When state archives manager Gerard Clark read a news story about a 16th century map recently auctioned off in London for a fortune, he immediately knew he'd seen the same document before.

Tucked away in a secure room a few floors above the secretary of state's office, the same chart was stored away in a box, amazingly preserved and kept amid hundreds of thousands - if not millions - of other records detailing Florida's history.

Most of the documents, such as legislative committee records dating back decades, are kept on row after row of shelves and can be pulled on demand for researchers. Others, such as the St. Augustine map drawn in 1588 and a letter Andrew Jackson wrote to one of Florida's territorial governors, are rarely seen by the public. ...

The archives includes many items useful to those tracing family history. It also has 800,000 photographs, "including an aerial shot of Key West taken in 1849," and film and audio recordings of Florida's history.

Many holdings are online at the state's Florida Memory site; to learn more about the state archives, click here.

Keeping up with Sephardic resources

Researchers looking for new resources about Sephardim might be interested in the Sephardic and Mizrahi Caucus site and list.

In the latest edition, I learned that the University of Murcia in Spain now has a Center of Sephardic Studies, and will offer a course, Introduction to Sephardic Culture. They are organizing the "Sepharad in the Holocaust" project, which will create an archive of Sephardic Holocaust survivors' testimony. The Center will also organize exhibits, conferences and higher-education courses.

The central aim of the Sephardic and Mizrahi Caucus is to promote integration of academic Sephardi and Mizrahi studies into general Jewish studies and other fields outside of Judaic studies.

The bimonthly discussion list is for scholars and students of Sephardi and Mizrahi studies, who may post questions, and announce publications, books, calls for papers, and other related information.

For more information, click here and see extensive online resources and an interesting list of course syllabuses with specialized bibliographies.

In the same vein, the Claims Conference has issued a request for proposals for research and documentation projects on the Sephardic experience during the Holocaust.

It is seeking project proposals concerning "Jews and Jewish life throughout the Mediterranean and in the Levant immediately preceding World War II, during the Holocaust, and in the Shoah's immediate aftermath." Projects concerning the Jews of North Africa are particularly encouraged, although projects on the European Sephardic experience will also be considered.

The organization has a $100,000 fund for this, and expects to award several grants beginning in late 2007. For information, click here

Montreal: Genealogy event, June 15-17

The Quebec Family History Society is gearing up for its Roots 2007 conference, and celebrating 30 years of volunteer activity.

The English-language event is held every five years, and is set for June 15-17 at McGill University.

The QFHS publishes a quarterly journal and has resources on Quebec and other Canadian families as well as the U.S., U.K., Australia and New Zealand. It works closely with the Jewish Genealogical Society of Montreal.

The event will include a book fair, archives tour, two days of workshops and lectures.

For more information, click here.

New York: Suzan Wynne on Galicia, May 20

The Jewish Genealogy Society of Long Island will host researcher/author Suzan Wynne, who will be speaking about research in Galicia at 2 p.m. on May 20.

Wynne been involved with Jewish genealogy since 1977. A founding member of the JGS of Greater Washington, she also founded the Gesher Galicia special interest group and launched its newsletter, is a frequent Avotaynu contributor, and conducts genealogical workshops.

She is the author of "Finding Your Jewish Roots in Galicia: A resource Guide" and the forthcoming "The Galitzianers: The Jews of Galicia, 1772-1918."

The meeting is at the Mid-Island Y JCC in Plainview, New York. From 1.30 p.m. on, the society's experts will take questions and will have resource books on hand.

For directions and more information, click here.

More on Chabon's frozen chosen

Recently I posted a link to the New York Times review of Michael Chabon's book, The Yiddish Policemen's Union, a detective novel set in the imaginary Yiddish-speaking Sitka, Alaska.

Here's an interview from JBooks.

Chabon, who worked on the book for about four years, answers some great questions about his use of Yiddish in this "alternative-history-detective-love-story" about mame-loshn (Yiddish) speaking Jews in Alaska. He wondered "what the world would be like if most of its Jews lived in a place where people just sort of forgot about them and left them alone."

When he began the novel, Chabon says his 75-word core of Yiddish had "to do with sex, bodily functions, the invoking of woe and pain, some bits of ironic praise, and a lot of words useful for telling your baby you think it is cute; but I had the sound of the language deep, deep in my ear."

He grew up hearing spoken Yiddish, "I can hear the lively mysterious business of people speaking this impenetrable language that seems to be built entirely on contention, irony, and bitter-but-genuine laughter."

Chabon read books on the language, studied Uriel Weinreich's dictionary and grammar book, among others. He taught himself to read "very, very slowly and painfully," and read Yiddish literature in English translation, listed to songs and tapes of speakers, and he tried "to write the novel as if it had been written in Yiddish by a Yiddish writer of the present day."

Translating some essential phrases literally, Chabon says, to hold onto their "chewiness," a character says "he's been banging me a teakettle about it all day," and he hopes the reader who doesn’t know the phrase, hock mir a tchainek, will get it. He used some real Yiddish criminal slang, and made up a lot.

The interviewer asks Chabon if he found himself "confronting Israel as one possible model for the Jewish encounter with political sovereignty?"

Says Chabon:
Please, like I don’t have enough tsuris without having to create imaginary antagonists and then write dialogue for them! The closer the world in my novel comes to feeling like a real world, a possible world, the more it will be, like our world, open to interpretation. Anyway, I would argue with you that in fact it’s the utter lack of sovereignty of my Jews that haunts them, teases them, dooms them. I could imagine an ardent Zionist who might read my novel and say, “See what happens when there’s no Israel! See what a mess those Arabs made of Palestine!” I could also imagine him telling me to drop dead. But I won’t, okay?

Read the complete interview for interesting insights.

11 May 2007

Breaking News: Ancestry fix for FHL access

Just received this notice from Ancestry, which should make all researchers very happy.

The company had limited access to the complete Ancestry databases at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City and Family History Centers elsewhere as a result of a licensing issue.

This meant that patrons of FHL or FHC who wished to access their own personal accounts could no longer do so. Understandably, professional and amateur genealogists alike were more than upset.

In the past few minutes, I've received the following from Suzanne Russo Adams, Professional Services Desk Manager:

Dear Colleagues,

We are happy to announce that Ancestry.com has found a solution to enable patrons at the Family History Library and Family History Centers to login to Ancestry using their personal accounts. We have been coordinating this deployment closely with representatives from the Family and Church History Department, the Family History Library, and administrative representatives of the Family History Centers.

What we have done...

We have created a new domain called www.ancestryinstitution.com for the Family History Library and the Family History Centers to use to get access to the collections available to them by contract.

With this new domain name, patrons at the FHL and local FHCs can login to their own personal accounts using www.ancestry.com just like they would from home.

Happy hunting, once again!

10 May 2007

Pickles: Evolution or revolution?

This is about a pickle evolution or, some might say, a revolution.

"A nickle for a pickel" - and you're back on New York's Lower East Side.

Nice olive-y green, delicious full-sour pickles, preferably from a big barrel, but more often today from a glass jar. None of those wimpy half-sours, thank you.

OK, I'm not quite sure why I'm posting this.

It doesn't have much to do with genealogy except gastronomically.

Pickles occupy an honored place in most Jewish ethnic cuisine, such as the classic Ashkenazi deli sour pickle, the Israeli garlic-y pickle, the Persian garlic pickle (actual cloves of garlic pickled, by tradition, for seven years called seer torshi; run, do not walk, to try these!), mixed pickled vegetables and fruits from around the world.

It was also a great way to preserve an abundance of vegetables and fruits for the winter before refrigerators were invented.

I'm not sure whether I am simply horrified or amazed by this particular creation of American ingenuity.

Those pickles were once mere dills. They were once green. Their exteriors remain pebbly, a reminder that long ago they began their lives on a farm, on the ground, as cucumbers.

But they now have an arresting color that combines green and garnet, and a bracing sour-sweet taste that they owe to a long marinade in cherry or tropical fruit or strawberry Kool-Aid.

Kool-Aid pickles violate tradition, maybe even propriety. Depending on your palate and perspective, they are either the worst thing to happen to pickles since plastic brining barrels or a brave new taste sensation to be celebrated.

Take a bite out of this New York Times story.

It's a family thing

From Nova Scotia, an article on getting future genealogists involved.

Some tips:

Simple three-generation pedigree chart using photos, color, stickers, whatever - instead of only hard facts. If they can write, have them add names and birthdates. Hang it where everyone can see it, take to "show and tell" at school.

Make a scrapbook page for each family member. Let the children decorate it (just keep a watch on spelling, dates and places).

A neat extension of this, says the author, is a series My Mother (or Father, Grandmother, Grandfather) and Me - A Memory Scrapbook for Kids (Kids Can Press), where kids enter data on a particular relative, compare lives, complete a three-generation chart and add photos. I haven't see this so can't judge, but I will look out for it.

Take the younger generations on vacations to the places important to you and your ancestors. Take pictures to use in scrapbooks. This brings family history alive.

The most important advice in the article: Keep "lessons" short and simple, so they'll come back for more!

09 May 2007

Brussels: Godfrey the Crusader

Why should Jewish genealogists be interested in Godfrey of Bouillion's adventures during the First Crusade, or his statue in Brussels. It was so long ago.

For starters, the names of those murdered nine centuries ago were only sporadically recorded, and about one-third of European Jewry was lost forever. These were our ancestors, but we don't know their names.

The Crusades previewed tragic future events including expulsions and conversions. Some historians call the Crusades "the first Holocaust."

Michael Freund, in the Jerusalem Post, writes about Godfrey, who went off to the Holy Land at the start of the First Crusade.

Godfrey has long been revered by Europeans as the liberator of Jerusalem, the man who helped free the city from the hands of the Muslim "infidels" more than nine centuries ago. He has been the subject of epic poems and operas, as well as a topic of literary tribute, and was once even selected to appear on a list of the "greatest Belgians."

Pope Urban II's call to arms caught Godfrey's attention in 1096. He is reported to have told his army of thousands, "In this, our Holy War, we shall slay all the children of Israel wherever we shall find them. I shall not rest content until I have exterminated the Jews."

Several communities - such as Cologne and Mainz - paid the then-fortune of 500 silver marks each as protection money. Godfrey took the cash and attacked them.

May is the 911th anniversary of the Crusaders' jaunt across France and Germany, destroying entire communities: Speyer, Worms and Mainz. It is estimated that 25-30 percent, if not more, of European Jewry was lost forever.

It took three years to reach the Holy Land and, in July 1099, the Crusaders broke into Jerusalem, killing Jews and Moslems.

This disaster, writes Freund, led to the Av Harachamim prayer still recited as part of the Shabbat service. A portion: "the pious, the upright and the blameless, the holy communities who laid down their lives for the sanctification of His name."

Is this really the kind of person who should be celebrated in the center of Europe ? Sure, you might be wondering, that may very well be correct. But who really cares? After all, it was a long time ago, so why bother dredging up the distant past?

Click here for the entire piece.

Atlanta: Gen sources in Georgia

The Jewish Genealogical Society of Georgia is contributing to a new book covering Jewish genealogical research in North America.

A working session - at 1.30 p.m. Sunday, May 20 - is planned to create the Georgia section for the future Jewish Resources for Genealogy and Family History in the United States and Canada, by Avotaynu, which publishes most reference works for Jewish genealogy.

Helpful Hint: Check out Avotaynu's Consolidated Name Index (CJSI), which contains nearly 700,000 surnames, mostly Jewish, that appear in 42 databases totalling 7.3 million records. The names are sequenced phonetically, using the Daitch-Mokotoff Soundex System, rather than alphabetically. Name variants that sound the same are grouped together. For example, there are 40 listings for TALALAY, of which 11 are those I have found in my research. It is a very useful tool and can provide new directions and possibilities in which to search.

The meeting is at the Cuba Genealogy Center at the Breman Jewish Heritage Museum in Atlanta.

Fee: JGSG/Breman Members, no charge; others, $5.

Click here or here for more information.

Washington: Holocaust archive coming

Millions of images of Holocaust-era prisoner documents will be transferred to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum under embargo, a situation upsetting to Survivor organizations.

Paul Shapiro, called the "museum's point man on the Bad Arolsen files," is the opening keynote speaker at the 27th IAJGS International Conference on Jewish Genealogy, where he will present an up-to-the-minute review on Sunday, July 15, in Salt Lake City.

In this JTA story, read the latest about the Bad Arolsen archives.

A May 14 meeting of the 11-nation group overseeing the archive is expected to authorize the partial transfer - but only with an embargo - because Greece, Belgium and France must still sign the agreement.

The USHMM has agreed to keep everything secret until the committee authorizes its release.

JTA has learned, however, that the transfer will include 10 million digitized images of documents to be transported in several 500-gigabyte hard drives that plug into any computer via a simple USB connection. Small, lightweight, portable drives obviate the prospect of managing linear miles of archival documents.

The museum plans to assemble the raw images into a database with a search engine that can be accessed from one or more terminals in the museum's archive. The gargantuan collection will instantly double the size of the museum's holdings.

The USHMM has a small staff, few microfilm-reader machines and computer terminals, and is overwhelmed with requests in the summer. In addition to on-site use, "some 8,000 requests come to the museum each year via mail, phone and e-mail." The inquiry backlog at Bad Arolsen was more than 425,000 in 2006.

With documents on more than 19 million individuals, the USHMM says massive linguistic training will be required before it could begin to provide data, which will be only accessible via a few on-site terminals, with outside access strictly prohibited.

Critics wonder why the USHMMM will get the documents and there are arguments about Holocaust corporate involvement information, considered a taboo issue at USHMM, when the archives hold information on slave laborers who worked at those companies.

Survivor groups stress the age and health of their members and that most of them do not live in the DC area, stressing that accessibility is a major issue. They ask why copies won't be in New York (50,000 survivors) or Miami (10,000 survivors) for easier availability.

Paul Shapiro, the museum's point man for Bad Arolsen, told JTA that he has quietly assembled a list of companies he has seen in Bad Arolsen archives, but it remains secret. Museum officials refused to discuss "Shapiro's list."

Nonetheless, museum officials said they will not permit archival access via the open Internet or via terminals at libraries and universities around the country, the way other databases of documents are commonly accessed. Museum officials declined to explain their motives for restricting access.

Author of the JTA article is Edwin Black, The New York Times' best-selling author of the award-winning IBM and the Holocaust, His stories on the subject can be viewed here.

Tunisia: Djerba pilgrimage

Legend has it that the sailors of the tribe of Zevulun in Solomon's fleet sailed to Djerba thousands of years ago. When the Babylonians destroyed the Temple, say other stories, some priests managed to save a door and took it away to safety. They discovered a Zevulunite colony in the southern part of Djerba called Hara Kabira; the newcomers founded the Hara Zerira settlement, built a beautiful synagogue and hid in it the Temple door.

The synagogue, called Al-Jeriba or Al-Ghriba, once had 60 ancient Torah scrolls.

The Djerba community worked in wool, fine metal, vineyards, precious stones and coral.

Genealogically speaking, there are interesting naming patterns. Male twins were always named Peretz and Zorach, female twins named Rebecca and Sarah, while twins of different sexes were called Isaac and Rebecca.

JTA had an interesting story on the Djerba pilgrimage.

Only about 2,000 of Tunisia's 10.8 million people are Jewish - half live in Djerba. Each year, they and many Tunisian Jews and their descendants who now live in other countries gather for the anniversary of the death of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai

According to the article, "a huge candelabrum called the Grande Menara is paraded down the street as women reach out to touch the multicolored silk scarves adorning it," and the right to ride next to it is auctioned off to the highest bidders.

The procession winds through the small village of Hara Sghira, home to oldest North African synagogue, Al-Ghriba, and the article says it recalls the memory of a legendary woman named La Ghriba -- Arabic for "the foreigner" -- who lived centuries ago on the island and hailed as a saint.

There is no direct flight between Israel and Tunisia, so Israelis must fly to a European city to take a flight to Tunis and then drive six hours through the desert. In 2000, some 9,000 pilgrims attended, but in 2002 a fatal terror attack brought the numbers to zero. The number of participants is now growing - 5,000 came - and there is heavy security.

08 May 2007

Nicaragua: 'Who's a Jew' splits community

Nicaragua's 50 Jews - with two Orthodox families - have the same problems as larger communities, reports this JTA story.

At an April 30 assembly to elect a new board of directors, relations between the 50 Jews in the country deteriorated after two people whom some consider non-Jews were elected to the board.

The assembly decided to allow anyone who "feels Jewish in their heart" to be a member of the community, even if they don't have maternal links to Judaism and haven't converted.

The move outraged some in the community, such as outgoing president Rafael Lipshitz, and left them weighing whether to form a splinter community.

In spite of the disagreements, the community is beginning to revitalize for the first time since the country's synagogue burned in 1978. When the Sandinistas took over in 1979, the entire community went into exile, only returning in 1990 after the Sandinistas were voted out.

The group, ranging from Orthodox to secular, organizes seders and Shabbat dinners, even though members are split among three main towns. They also maintain the Jewish section of the cemetery in the capital, Managua.

New York: learn about a 19th-century scandal

The Jewish Genealogical Society (New York) will host Pamela Weisberg, who will be speaking about "When Leopold Met Lena: Marriage, Divorce and Deception in 1892 New York."

The program starts at 2 p.m. Sunday, May 20, at the Center for Jewish History, 15 W. 16th St.,

First came love, then came marriage - but on the heels of the baby in the baby carriage came accusations of adultery and two trials in New York City's Court of Common Pleas.

The unexpected discovery of a divorce decree in the 1890s New York Times "News of the Courts" leads to scandal-ridden court transcripts held at the NYC Municipal Archives and revelations of a family secret.

Beginning in Czestochowa, Poland and Cracow, Austria and continuing to Manhattan's Lower East Side and Little Rock, Arkansas - the tumultuous, romantic and litigious world of our immigrant ancestors is brought to life in court records, graveyard inscriptions, newspaper articles, city directories, census and vital records.

Enjoy the ride as Besser v. Besser is deconstructed and learn how present-day genealogical research can be used to solve 19th-century mysteries.

Weisberger is the program chair for the Jewish Genealogical Society of Los Angeles, research coordinator for Gesher Galicia, and active in the Hungarian and Sub-Carpathian SIGs.

Admission: non-members, $5.

Click here for more information.