31 May 2008

Australia: 8.9 million records, June 4

This week a large database of immigrants to Australia will be accessible online to family history researchers.

Although most free settlers in Australia were British, migrants arrived from all over the world, including the United States, Russia, India and China. Jews were also among the First Fleet and represented in every later wave of immigration.

The immigrant records will go online Wednesday, June 4, at Ancestry.com.au, according to this story on CourierMail.com

Millions of free settlers, who arrived 1826-1922,looked on Australia as a land of opportunity. Now, the names of 8.9 million passengers and crew, arriving in New South Wales, will be accessible to researchers around the world.

This collection follows last year's launch of 160,000 convict records.

An Ancestry spokesman comments in the story that the average Aussie has a one-in-three chance of having a free-settler ancestor and that some 7 million Australians were related to early settlers. Of course, this isn't considering the millions of researchers worldwide who might have had an individual or family leaving for "down under."

Why did they go to Australia? For the same reasons people go everywhere: the chance of a better life or, in the early days of Australia, the Gold Rush! And, as is the case in most nations of immigrants, many prominent Australians descend from early immigrants.

The story ended with Rita Miller, a descendant of Englishman William Carseldine who landed in 1854 on the Monsoon with his wife and four children. They went to Moreton Bay for the Gold Rush. The family has just held its 150-year reunion.

Read more here

New York: Jewish genealogy in the Hamptons!

If you happen to be in the Hamptons this weekend, why are you reading Tracing the Tribe instead of enjoying the great weather?

Of course, it could be raining, in which case you're entitled to be on the computer instead of enjoying outdoor activities.

And if you need a genealogy fix, you'll be happy to know that The Hampton Synagogue (Westhampton Beach), is planning a genealogy workshop tomorrow (1.30pm, Sunday, June 1), presented by the East End Jewish Community Council.


New look for Tracing the Tribe

Yes, you are in the right place! Don't change that station! This is still Tracing the Tribe - with a slightly new look.

I made the somewhat traumatic decision to switch to the newer Layout feature of Blogger from the old Template format. I'd been putting it off as I had visions of losing the entire blog and all postings since August 2006. Fortunately, it wasn't as bad as I thought it would be, and was actually rather simple.

When I made that decision, I decided to tweak things a bit and make it easier to read with a lighter background for the posts. Please let me know how you like it.

Some things still have to be tweaked and added in again, such as the Tag Cloud, but I'm working on it.

Another thing to cross off my to-do list.

30 May 2008

Canada: Quebec City's Jewish history

Quebec City is celebrating the little-known history of its Jewish community with a recently opened exhibit - Same Cloth, Different Thread: The Jews of Québec - as part of the city's 400th anniversary, according to the Canadian Jewish News.

Quebec City’s Jewish population was probably never much more than the 125 families it had at its peak in the 1940s and ’50s. But the community’s history goes back to the 18th century and its impact, especially on the capital’s commerce, was far greater than the numbers would suggest.

The exhibit, open through September 26, is part of Shalom Québec, a series of events and a collaborative research project among historians and academics.

The Shalom Québec website provides much more information about the community, and visitors are are invited to contribute stories or memorabilia.

The bilingual exhibit is in the Gare du Palais railway station, because of its location on a street where many Jewish stores were located. It includes text, photos and more, beginning with a profile of Esther Brandeau of France, considered the first documented Jew to arrive in New France.

In 1738, Brandeau arrived, disguised as a male sailor. When discovered, she was sent to a convent, refused to convert and was sent back to Europe the next year.

Congregation Beth Israel Ohev Shalom is the only synagogue, headed by president Jonathan Hawey, born in Quebec City in 1955, He was raised a Catholic, but his unusual name combined with genealogical research confirmed he was the direct descendant of an 18th century Scottish Jew (who married a Catholic and assimilated). Hawey converted to Judaism and says that his Hebrew is better than his English.

Some of Quebec's early Jews: Samuel Jacobs, 1759; fire chief John Franks, late 18th century; engineer Sigismund Mohr, late 19th century; prominent Jewish businessman Maurice Pollack from Ukraine, early 1900s; Sadie Lazarovitz, one of the first Canadian female law graduates (1928).

Some difficult times are addressed, such as the anti-Semitism of notary Jacques Plamondon, and the synagogue's arson before its inauguration in 1944. World events include France's Dreyfus affair, Russian pogroms, the Nazi era and the State of Israel.

Read more here.

Shalom Quebec offers much more detail on the area's Jewish history, with history, timeline, religion, families, important sites, research and more. The site is in French and English. There is much more information on Brandeau and other early Jews.

California: Berkeley's Jewish pioneers

There are so many sources to consult when detailing the genealogy of a person or a family. Don't forget real estate records, university yearbooks, newspapers and a range of other records, as demonstrated in this story on Berkeley's Jewish history.

The story, focusing on the pioneering Fischel family, by Daniella Thompson, appeared in the Berkeley Daily Planet. She also publishes Berkeley Heritage for the Berkeley Architectural Heritage Association (BAHA).

Among the fortune seekers lured to northern California by the Gold Rush, the Jewish contingent was small but significant. Jewish immigrants would go on to play an important role in the economic and cultural development of the Bay Area, and Berkeley was no exception. Although early accounts rarely discuss Berkeley’s Jewish community, some members figured among the young town’s prominent citizens.

The story centers on a pioneering family - Fischel - which arrived in Berkeley in the late 1870s, and began buying property and building.

Simon Fischel immigrated from Bohemia, then a Crown Land of the Austro-Hungarian empire. Born in 1846 or 1847 (depending on source), he arrived in New York as a teenager in 1865, worked as a butcher for more than 10 years, and became a citizen in 1872. He married Rosa Bauml in 1870 and their first four children were born in New York. Around 1878, they arrived in Berkeley and are listed in the 1879 city directory.

The story thoroughly details the family using such resources as census records, building records, university yearbooks, newspaper advertisements and articles.

On Nov. 6, 1890, the Berkeley Advocate regaled its readers with this anecdote: “A lady called on Fischel & Co. the other evening and made arrangements for that company to supply her family with meat. The team was daily sent to the house, when it was discovered that no such family resided there. It turned out that Mr. Fischel was deceived of a young man who donned the garment of a virgin to fool Fischel.”

Fischel wasn't a kosher butcher, as he sold pork, but he was involved in the First Hebrew Congregation of Oakland, founded by Gold Rush-era settlers.

The story follows their real estate ventures recorded in the Berkeley Advocate and elsewhere. Among his properties was the Fischel Block (1888) on the northwest corner of Shattuck and University.

It was by far the most elegant building on the intersection, adorned with bay windows along the second floor, showy corbels under the eaves, a decorative metal railing along the roofline, and an impressive corner turret crowned by a witch’s cap.

Then whole clan seems to have been living in the area. Simon's brother Isaac and his wife Elsie built his family home next door to Simon, bought other property and built a rental house, but died early; brother-in-law Jacob and Lilly Bauml built a few doors west.

Simon bought more lots and built more houses which survived until 1955. The story details the deaths of Simon and his wife, and newspaper obituaries for both, a well as continuing commercial activities of other family members.

Elsie Fischel's 1890 house was purchased several years ago and restored - the recipient of a 2008 Preservation Award from the Berkeley Architectural Heritage Association (BAHA).

Read the complete story here.

Texas: Family reunion and more

In Dallas, the Texas Jewish Post's "All in the Family" section includes a story on the Rachofsky family reunion that took 2 1/2 years to plan.

The section also includes my own stories, "Milestone events are family history opportunities" (while having family at a celebration, get some genealogy work done) and "10 Steps to Family History."

At the Rachofsky family reunion, 37 Dallasites gathered with relatives from across the country. Ongoing for 30 years, their family tree database includes Rachofsky, Kobeisky, Shwayder, Rittmaster, Vitovsky and extended families, totalling some 7,000 people. Nearly 2,000 are direct Rachofsky descendants (including spouses).

During the recent winter solstice, 61 Rachofsky family members from Texas and eight other states attended the bi-annual family reunion held at the Marriott Quorum. Attending were 37 from Dallas, as well as family from Houston, the Texas Hill Country, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Florida, California, Colorado, Wyoming, Maryland and New Jersey. They ranged in age from 2 years old to our 90-year-old family matriarch, Norma Ray Gremm. The central focus was a genealogical chart stretching almost 90 feet and mounted in double rows across two long walls of the Marriott’s Mesquite Ballroom. This was accompanied by photos of the three Rachofsky brothers who founded the family dynasty in the United States in the mid-1850s, which now encompasses almost 2,000 descendants.

It goes on to recount the years of email communication with family researchers in California, hundreds of emails to family in the US, England and Israel. Their researcher attended his first family reunion in 1922, at age 4.

Read about color-coded name tags indicating descent from which of the three brothers, and the previous generations. Some younger members had tags demonstrating nine generations. The family researcher kept busy updating his records.

Researching their tree includes documenting stories and oral histories, digitally preserving photos and more, locating and photographing graves and organizing reunions. The effort is made possible through donations of time and resources of many cousins.

"Milestone events" offers tips on working genealogy into life-cycle events, and explains why I go to weddings and other celebrations with a manila envelope tucked under my arm.

Poland: Siedlezcka cemetery restored

The Jerusalem Post carried a story about the recent ceremony marking the restoration of Siedliezcka's Jewish cemetery, founded in 1850.

The cemetery served numerous southeastern Poland communities in the Carpathian Mountain foothills, including Kanczuga, Gac, Bialoboki, Markowa, Manasterz, Zagorze, Chmielnik, Jawornik Polski and Zabratówka.

The last burial was in 1940 and only 500 graves remain. Kanczuga's recorded Jewish history dates to 1638; by 1939, there were more than 1,000 Jews, 80% of the population. In 1942, more than 1,000 Jews from the town were rounded up by the Germans, marched to the cemetery, murdered and their bodies tossed into a mass grave.

Among the attendees were Jerusalem Post columnist Michael Freund, who also chairs Shavei Israel, and the town's mayor, Jacek Solek, who agreed that the town would pay for the paving of a new road to the cemetery.

Freund's family is from Kanczuga.

The restoration was financed partly by Freund and his family (through Warsaw's Foundation for the Preservation of Jewish Heritage in Poland and the Siedleczka-Kanczuga Landsmanschaft headed by Howard Nightingale). The project included cleaning the cemetery, restoring grave-sites and rebuilding the surrounding stone wall. The wall was essential as farmers had been attempting to expand their fields into the cemetery.

Freund said he funded the work as he could no longer watch the neglect.

"It was sad for me to see that a number of the gravestones collapsed or were broken and that the cemetery was overgrown by trees and bushes, and essentially looked like a forest. It was also evident that many gravestones were taken from the cemetery over the years to pave local streets, or were looted by local persons," he said.

Read more here.

29 May 2008

New York: Jewish walking tour, June 1

The 92nd Street Y is sponsoring a Jewish Colonial America — Lower Manhattan Walking Tour, from 11am-1.30pm, Sunday, June 1.

Visit the sites of early Jewish settlements in lower Manhattan, including the early Spanish/Portuguese rented synagogues, Mill Street Synagogue, Colonial Revival Houses and the famous Stone Street, home of Asser Levi, the Jewish rights activist and first kosher butcher in New York.

Participants will meet at the corner of Pearl and Broad streets, across from Fraunces Tavern Museum. The charge is $25 per person.

For more information and to register, click here.

California: Share your stories, June 1

Come and share a genealogical success, failure, brick wall or genealogical artifact at the next meeting of the Jewish Genealogical Society of the Conejo Valley and Ventura County (JGSCV).

The "genealogy in the round" program begins at 2pm, Sunday, June 1, at Temple Adat Elohim in Thousand Oaks.

It's a great opportunity to learn from one another, share stories and ask questions. Each participant will have 5-10 minutes, depending on the total number of participants, to share their personal experiences.

All JGSCV members and prospective members are invited to the no-charge meeting. The society is dedicated to sharing genealogical information, techniques and research tools with anyone interested in Jewish genealogy and family history.

For more information, email Jan Meisels Allen, publicity(AT)jgscv(DOT)org

History's Mysteries: Jewish history classes

Jewish genealogy naturally encompasses Jewish and secular history. As we search for our ancestors, we begin to understand the overwhelming impact of history on each of our families.

No matter what time frame we are examining in pursuit of our ancestors, history dictated where they could live, what occupations they could follow, education opportunities, army service and all societal aspects.

Some researchers approach family history because they are first interested in history and how their family fitted into local and world events, while some researchers, never before interested in history - Jewish or otherwise - have found themselves drawn to this subject for the same goal.

During an introductory course in Jewish genealogy to a class of 8th-graders, I asked this question: You have millions of ancestors. What would have happened to you today, if even one of your ancestors had died before marriage? What would have happened if one had been killed in a war, or the ship they were traveling on had sunk in a storm?

When filling in for a teacher in our congregation's Hebrew School, we went around the room discussing each student's Hebrew name, what it meant, and who they were named after. They did rather well on this section. The next question was "And who was that person named after?" For the first time, it seemed, these 4th-grade student realized they were part of a chain of people named after their ancestors who were named after their ancestors, stretching back into time.

In both classes, we utilized a Jewish and secular history timeline. Where were their ancestors at any particular point? What was going on at the time? How were their ancestors impacted by historical events?

History provides context.

In Westchester, New York, there will be Jewish history programs at four locations in the fall, as detailed in this article.

Me'ah is a growing, intensive program on Jewish history founded at Boston's Hebrew College and now expanding throughout the Northeast. Weekly classes over two years bring the region's top Jewish scholars from colleges and seminaries to explain core Jewish texts from four major periods of Jewish history: biblical, rabbinic, medieval and modern.

While these classes won't give provide you with your individual family histories, it will help in putting genealogy in context with world events.

The program will be held at the Mid-Westchester JCC (Scarsdale), Temple Israel Center (White Plains), JCC-on-the-Hudson (Tarrytown) and Bet Torah Synagogue (Mount Kisco).

Try out an introductory class at 7.30pm, June 3 at the Mid-Westchester JCC and at 7pm, June 17 at Temple Shaaray Tefile (Bedford Corners).

The program started with two classes in Boston in 1994, with the goal of offering a rich Jewish history course for those whose religious education may have ended at age 12 or 13. Today, it is offered at 30 sites - Washington and Baltimore to Philadelphia and the New York City region - and has graduated 2,500 people. It is open to people from all Jewish backgrounds.

Weekly classes last almost three hours and add up to about 100 hours over two years. There are reading assignments each week, but no tests. And any classes that are missed can be watched on the Web. The cost is $995 per year plus about $300 for books. Scholarships are available.

Me’ah's more than 40 faculty members from such institutions as Columbia, the Jewish Theological Seminary, NYU, Rutgers, Hebrew Union College, the University of Pennsylvania, the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College, Princeton University and Haverford College. Several faculty have presented programs at the annual international conferences of Jewish genealogy, such as Hasia Diner and Glenn Dynner. Sephardic studies are also represented in the work of some faculty, including:

Benjamin Gampel, author and teacher, specializes in the Jews of the medieval and early modern world. He received his PhD from Columbia University and is the Eli and Dinah Field Professor of Jewish History at the Jewish Theological Seminary. Dr. Gampel edited Crisis and Creativity in the Sephardic World (Columbia University Press; New Ed edition, 1998), which is an account of the international conference held in commemoration of the 500th anniversary of the expulsion of the Jews from the Kingdom of Castile and Aragon. At present, he is writing a book on the pogroms and forced conversions of 1391 in the Iberian Peninsula and the effects of those events on the course of Jewish history.

Read the details here. For information on other locations in New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania, click here.

28 May 2008

Subscription problem: Help is here now!

Dear Tracing the Tribe readers,

While we are not exactly sure what caused the email alert problem with Feedblitz - it is being investigated - I have just posted two methods to subscribe for email alerts via Feedburner.

Scroll down on the right hand side and you will first see the Subscribe by RSS (also Feedburner). Directly below the orange RSS button, you will see two items:

Method 1: A line that says "Subscribe to Tracing the Tribe by Email via Feedburner."

Method 2: Below that single line, is a box for entering your email address. Click "submit."

Use either method to subscribe via Feedburner for email alerts. You will receive a confirmation link in your email; just follow the directions.

If you are not receiving your Feedblitz email alerts - and we don't yet know why - just sign up using Feedburner email alerts method 1 or 2.

As always, let me know if you experience any problems.

UK: Old Bailey Records expanded

In March 2007, I wrote about the Old Bailey Records here.

I've learned that the Old Bailey Proceedings from 1674-1834 have been scanned, retyped, rechecked and placed online. Even better, they are fully searchable and free.

The Old Bailey Records have now been expanded and cover some 197,000 criminal trials from 1674-1913, from just prior to the Great Fire to just before the Great War. The original records are also available.

Th expansion of 19th-early 20th century trials also shows new crimes, reflecting changes in society at that time, including mothers convicted for neglecting their children. Throughout the database, there is evidence of the large Sephardic community in London.

In the March 2007 post, researcher Dick Plotz wrote:

This database is highly relevant to British Jewish genealogy, as its entries start shortly after the readmission of Jews to England by Cromwell and will run through the Victorian period. His search for Cohen yielded 200 hits and, for Levy, 377. I know of at least one Israeli researcher who discovered the name of relative through the database -- a great-great-great-grand-uncle cited in an 1833 record.

I searched for Cohen, it was mentioned 677 times, and 425 for Levi. However, many were from the same cases, so it is not an accurate case count. Additionally, using the search term Jewish, brings up 191 references, ranging from advertisements in the publication, to trials and other related documents.

While some cases are rather short, there are some rather long and complicated cases: Polly Davis (deception/perjury), 26 May 1908; Nathan Klein (bigamy), 8 January 1906; and Louis Gold and Harry Cohen (kidnapping, keeping a brothel, theft, robbery, kidnapping, keeping a brothel, robbery), 22 April 1907. Gold and Cohen were charged with seducing and transporting young women to Buenos Aires, Argentina, where they were sold; both men received sentences of hard labor.

Other cases in the expanded dates were for forgery, breaking and entering, violence, coining offences, bigamy, bankruptcy, murder, larceny, perverting justice, libel, burglary, fraud, extortion, forgery, manslaughter and pickpocketing,

Witnesses sometimes included Jewish community officials. In the case of Philip Morgan, James Roach and Rosa Hartley (larceny, theft, receiving) on 10 June 1850, a synagogue secretary produced a marriage register to prove identity:

ISRAEL LEVI LINDENTHALL. I am secretary to the synagogue in Great St. Helen's, Bishopsgate-street. I produce the register of marriages there; it is the regular place for Jewish marriages—(this contained the register of a marriage on 6th Aug., 1846, between Isaac Adler and Rosa Levy.)

Another interesting case smacking of anti-Jewish sentiments was detailed on 12 May 1730, Abraham Israel (alias Jonas), 22 and born in Presburg, was due for execution for burglary:

Abraham Israel, alias Jonas, of St. Peter's Poor, was indicted for feloniously stealing eight Silver Spoons, five Silver Forks, two Silver Canisters, one Diamond Ring, value 250 l. a pair of Diamond Ear-rings, value 90 l. three Diamond Buckles, and other Goods, in the Dwelling-house of John Mendez de Costa.

The record (text and original image) shows that the prisoner was strongly pressured to convert to Christianity before execution and he resisted. The official in charge of these attempts called him in one place, "an obstinate and irreclaimable Jew," while another paragraph ends with "and died an obstinate Jewish Infidel."

It is a remarkable database offering glimpses of society and real life.

DNA: Bennett Greenspan interview

Blaine Bettinger of the The Genetic Genealogist, will be interviewing many of genetic DNA's top names over the next few weeks.

The list includes Bennett Greenspan, Megan Smolenyak Smolenyak, Terry Barton, Alastair Greenshields, Whit Athey, Ann Turner, Katherine Hope Borges, Max Blankfeld, and Ana Oquendo Pabón.

Now posted, his first interview is with Bennett Greenspan, founder, CEO and president of Family Tree DNA, and Blaine will later interview Bennett's business partner Max Blankfeld.

In it, Bennett addresses numerous topics, including the rationale behind his creation, as founding partner, of DNATraits.

Among the other questions:

--How long have you been actively involved in genetic genealogy, and how did you become interested in the field?

--The founding of FamilyTreeDNA

--Genetic genealogy, unfortunately, has received some bad press lately, largely through the misconceptions of journalists or confusion between genetic genealogy and other types of personal genomic services. What can amateur genetic genealogists do to counteract this bad press?

--What do you think the future holds for genetic genealogy?

Southern Jewish History: More grants

The Southern Jewish Historical Society offers grants for project completion, research and travel, and preservation of archival materials in the area of southern Jewish history and culture.

The application deadline is August 1. For more details, including information to be submitted for each proposal, click here.

For 2008, the SJHS will allocate $9,000 among grant recipients.

The Project Completion Grant is intended to facilitate the completion of projects relevant to Jewish history in the Southern United States. Such projects might include the publication of books or exhibit catalogs or the preparation of exhibit modules. Grants may not be used to fund research or travel; $6000 will be divided among funded applications.

The Kawaler Research/Travel Grant assists individuals with travel and other expenses related to conducting research in Southern Jewish history; $2000 will be divided among funded applications. Applicants must present a plan of research, indicating the libraries and/or archives where they intend to work, and their goal, as well as a budget of expenses and other sources of funding and contact information.

The Lowenstein Archival Grant encourages the preservation of archival materials related to Southern Jewish history; $1000 will be divided among funded applications. Applicants must include a description of the project and a budget and contact information.

The Grant Committe includes Dr. Phyllis K. Leffler (University of Virginia, Charlottesville, Va.), chair; Hollace Weiner (Author, Ft. Worth, TX); Sandra Berman (William Breman Jewish Heritage Museum, Atlanta, GA); and Catherine Kahn (Archivist, Touro Infirmary, New Orleans, LA).

27 May 2008

Nebraska: Jewish cemetery help request

Although JewishGen's Online Worldwide Burial Registry (JOWBR) has now passed the 1 million burial record milestone, there is a major omission, according to Terry Lasky of Colorado, who has taken on this responsibility.

On examination, he has found that no Nebraska Jewish cemetery records are currently represented in JOWBR.

Terry has been trying to coordinate the documentation of cemetery burial records for JOWBR from those states with a limited number of Jewish cemeteries. He has so far completed all the Jewish cemeteries in Colorado, Utah, Wyoming, New Mexico and is working on Oklahoma.

He would like to do the Nebraska cemeteries next.

As he is unable to travel to Nebraska and requires some help to accomplish this goal, Lasky needs individuals or volunteer groups to "adopt" each cemetery and help with two fairly easy tasks:

1) Obtain a list of the burials in the cemetery (Jewish portion only) from either the synagogue or the cemetery, and

2) Take pictures of each gravestone.

He will do any required data entry, reformatting and translating of information on the gravestones. Additionally, JewishGen has volunteers to assist in the translation of Hebrew inscriptions on the matzevot.

The following cemeteries are on his list:

Omaha, Nebraska

Beth El Cemetery
Bnai Abraham & BHH (Fisher Farm) Cemeteries
Golden Hill Cemetery, Bnai Israel Section
Mt. Sinai Cemetery (Adas Jeshurun, Bnai Jacob)
Pleasant Hill Cemetery (Temple Israel, Bnai Jacob, Bnai Shalom)

Hastings, Nebraska

Parkview Cemetery, Mt. Sinai section

Lincoln, Nebraska

Mt. Carmel Cemetery (Bnai Jehuda section)
Wyuka Cemetery (Bnai Jeshurun section)
Mt. Lebanon Cemetery (Jewish section)

Nebraska City, Nebraska

Wyuka Cemetery (Jewish Section)
Tel Shalom Cemetery

Readers can search JOWBR's 1 million burial records here on JewishGen.

Do any of Tracing the Tribe's readers know of any additional Jewish cemeteries or Jewish cemetery sections that he may have overlooked?

Can Tracing the Tribe readers in Nebraska adopt any of the listed cemeteries?

If you can help, please email Terry Lasky at talasky(AT)comcast(DOT)net

26 May 2008

Poland: Krakow Jewish Festival, June 27-July 6

The 18th Jewish Culture Festival will take place in the Kazimierz quarter of Krakow, Poland, from June 27-July 6. Since 1987, the historic Jewish quarter fills with music, art, dance, lectures and exhibits celebrating the 900-year history of Jews in Poland.

World-famous Jewish music personalities appear, among them Michael Alpert, Brave Old World, Theodore Bikel, The Klezmatics, David Krakauer, Frank London, Cantor Ben-Zion Miller, Andy Statman and others. Fans come from Poland, Central and Western Europe, Israel, the United States, and elsewhere to participate in this event.

The Festival Program runs from morning to night with performances (theater, music) and exhibits (art, photographs) all over Kazimierz at such venues as the Popper Synagogue, Stara Synagogue, Tempel Synagogue, Kupa Synagogue, Wysoka Synagogue, Manggha Museum, Muzeum Inzynierii Miejskiej, Muzeum Etnograficzne, Galicia Museum, National Museum of Krakow and various galleries. Some are organized in connection with Israeli organizations.

There are walking tours (Polish and English) of the quarter's synagogues and Ghetto, Remuh and other cemetery visits, tours of former Krakow environs shtetls, poetry sessions, Yiddish and Hebrew workshops, Judaism lectures, children's workshops, Jewish cooking, Hebrew calligraphy, Jewish paper-cutting workshops, lectures and films.

Music includes lunchtime concerts, choirs, klezmer workshops, drumming workshops, free jazz, Jewish dance, Hasidic singing and dance, klezmer and gypsy musicians, Yiddish singing, Jass Klezmer and even a Sephardic music program with Jordi Savall and Hesperion XXI from Spain.

Jewish genealogy will be represented several times during the festival by the well-known Yale Reisner and Anna Przybyszewska at the Galicia Museum.

See the program here.

See the past Festival posters here.

DNA: More than you bargained for

The Boston Globe's story on DNA testing, "Unearthing bones can also unearth family secrets," by Alan Wirzbicki, demonstrates some ethical quandries on what testing might reveal and how to handle those revelations.

WASHINGTON - It started off as a routine DNA test to help two parents from a wealthy Southern family decide whether to have children. But the saga that unfolded as a genetic counselor investigated the family's biological roots became a tale of long-concealed secrets worthy of a Faulkner novel.

The counselor discovered that the husband, who was in his 40s, was not the biological son of the man who had raised him from birth. His real father was the man he had grown up calling uncle. The lab results posed a dilemma, the counselor recalled, forcing her to decide whether to break the news to the unsuspecting husband about the true identity of his biological father. In the end, she decided not to.

"You just can't be prepared for each and every case like this," says counselor Debbie Pencarinha.

The story goes on to discuss new technologies to help identify fallen soldiers, and how it faces the possibility that unearthed bones from far-away places could expose family secrets from World War II, such as false paternity cases.

"You could really do a lot of damage to a family," says Johnie E. Webb Jr., the deputy director of the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command, the military unit responsible for identifying the remains of American soldiers, which has imposed a moratorium on the most powerful tests while drafting ethical guidelines. "We haven't totally come to grips with how we're going to handle it. We're going to make sure we don't do anything that's going to be embarrassing to anyone."

Ethical quandaries are emerging from increasing use of DNA tests. The tests have created dilemmas for physicians, genetics counselors and medical ethicists who are sometimes forced to reveal such cases.

Counselors and medical ethicists say that in the rapidly evolving field there are no firm guidelines for how to handle such inadvertently discovered information. In many cases, physicians simply withhold potentially traumatizing information unless disclosing it is medically necessary.

An American Association of Blood Banks official is quoted as saying that "about 25 percent of the roughly 400,000 familial DNA tests conducted every year result in an "exclusion." An Australian researcher says the number of misattributed fathers is between 1 and 3%.

The story claims that the number is believed to be higher for older generations, before abortion was legalized, and when social stigmas concerning illegitimacy and adultery forced couples to keep these events a secret.

Illegitimacy, according to the story, in the war generation may be higher for several factors. The military would uncover misattributed paternity cases in ID'ing war dead on the basis of DNA samples from their children.

Misattributed parentage is not the only secret that can be accidentally unmasked by testing. Angela Trepanier, president of the National Society for Genetic Counselors, said in one of her cases a World War II veteran who had covered up his Jewish ancestry when he joined the Army had been forced to reveal his background to his family after tests showed that his children carried a genetic disorder found in Jews.

"You sometimes get more than you bargain for," Trepanier said.

Counselors often decide to withhold such findings, but ethicists argue patients have a right to their genetic information. An article in the British medical journal Lancet said that all patients should be informed about their paternity, "no matter how embarrassing or awkward the revelation may be."

The military today has avoided the dilemma because it can't yet use the same kind of nuclear DNA used by forensic labs and genetic counselors. It was too hard to extract samples from long-buried bones and the military has relied on mtDNA (mitochondrial DNA), which is more commonly found and easier to recover. This test is used in 75-80% of missing soldier cases, helping to identify 531 missing military.

Nuclear DNA testing is on hold while the military develops a protocol for collecting samples from family and handling the results.

Read more here.

Hebrew translators needed for Iasi project

If you can read Hebrew fluently, here's a challenge that can help many researchers worldwide.

Bob Wascou (Sacramento, California) of ROM-SIG has informed me about the Iasi, Romania Burial Records Project. ROM-SIG is the special interest group for Romania and it is involved in several interesting projects.

Bob has asked for help from Tracing the Tribe's readers for this important project.

Reuven Singer heads up the Iasi Burial Records Project; he obtained some 3,600 pages of the Iasi Jewish community burial records 1883-2005. The records were photographed at Singer's expense during 2006-2007, following negotiations with the Bucharest Jewish Federation, aided by JewishGen, Inc.

The photographer missed some files on the first go-around, but these have now been obtained and he believes the set for this period is now complete. So far, a substantial amount has been done. However, more remains to be completed.

Records are in various formats. Records were kept only in Hebrew from 1883-1917. A somewhat overlapping set, 1915-1943, was started in Romanian. From 1939-1966, a third set was kept - also in Romanian.

There are also records from 1966-2005, but they'll be ignored for the present, says Bob, who adds, "It will be interesting to evaluate the overlapped records to see if there is material in one set which is duplicated in the other or not, but this has not been completed to date."

For 1939-1966, the men's records are done, the women's records partially completed. Of some 276 pages, 200 have been completed for men from 1915-43; the women's records not yet begun. Records were kept separately for men and women during 1915-1966, but older Hebrew records are not gender-separated.

Here's where Tracing the Tribe's readers can help:

The Hebrew records are the most interesting genealogically because they provide the most information; some 140 pages have been completed. However there are about 1,900 pages overall in the Hebrew section - not even 10% has been completed. The 140 pages completed generally include 1883, 1884, and January-March 1885.

Experts originally recruited by JewishGen claimed the Hebrew script was almost unreadable. Singer, however, has demonstrated - by finding an Israeli genealogist with experience in Hebrew handwriting - that the vast majority of text can be read. With a little experience, he has found it can be read fairly rapidly and fluently with only a few uncertain words present.

Singer is hoping with that more people can be recruited to work on this very interesting Hebrew material - which may provide names, names of parents, dates, causes of death, where an individual died and always the age, Later Romanian files include only names and dates, no ages.

Can you read the old Hebrew records? Would you would like to work on the Romanian records with a minimal amount of Romanian and Hebrew? If you are up to the challenge, contact Bob Wascou at robertw252(AT)aol(DOT)com for more information; he can send sample records to interested readers.

25 May 2008

Michigan: Steve Morse & Ellis Island, June 2

Unless you've been living in a cave without an Internet connection, you've likely heard of Dr. Stephen Morse of San Francisco, and used the useful tools on his One-Step website to further your family history research more efficiently.

Readers in Michigan will have a chance to meet Steve personally on June 2. Learn how it all began with frustration over the Ellis Island Database search engine when it first came online and how his innovations have helped so many researchers find elusive immigrant ancestors.

He'll present "The Ellis Island Database: An Easier Way to Search," at 7pm, Monday, June 2, hosted by the Jewish Genealogical Society of Michigan, at Congregation B'nai Moshe in West Bloomfield. JGSM members, no charge.

A great guy, Steve is the originator of the grandfather of the Pentium Processor that has made all our work possible. He has revolutionized searching the Internet with his One-Step programs. He's an engaging, educational, enlightened and funny speaker, who makes complicated searching seem so easy.

If he's ever appearing in your area, do try to attend. And, if you're attending Chicago 2008, you'll be able to hear him speak on many other useful programs.

For more information, click here.

24 May 2008

California: Join the 2008 Jamboree

This year's Southern California Genealogical Society Jamboree is set for Friday-Sunday, June 27-29, in Burbank, and co-chair Paula Hinkel reminds prospective attendees that advance registration ends June 15.

A special Sunday track offers lectures of particular interest to Jewish genealogists; some will be repeated at other times during the conference. Programs include:

Peter Lande, "Holocaust Records as a Source for All Genealogists," which includes how to obtain records from Bad Arolsen; Steve Morse, "One-Step Webpages;" Stephanie Weiner, "A Plague on All Our Houses" describing the effects of epidemics on archival records, Jewish migration and Jewish communities; Pamela Weisberger, "When Leopold Met Lena: Marriage, Divorce and Deception in 1892 New York;" Schelly Talalay Dardashti, "Creating Hope" and "Gen-blogging."

Many well-known professional genealogists, among them Dick Eastman, Tom Underhill, Arlene Eakle, and Megan Smolenyak Smolenyak, will speak about online and traditional resources, tech applications for genealogy, including several DNA talks, German ancestry, genealogy applications for today, such as family health histories, dealing with family secrets and black sheep, finding living relatives, and more.

Additionally, I must also mention the first-ever Gen-Bloggers Summit with seven leading genealogy bloggers, moderated by Leland Meitzler (Genealogyblog.com), with Dick Eastman (Eastman's Online Genealogy Newsletter), Steve Danko (Steve's Genealogy Blog), George G. Morgan, Megan Smolenyak Smolenyak (Megan's Roots World and RootsTelevision.com), Randy Seaver (Gena-Musings) and, of course, Tracing the Tribe's yours truly. I'm looking forward to meeting some of my colleagues in person for the first time.

There's still time to join in the Jamboree, the largest West Coast genealogy conference. Closing June 15 will be both advance registration and ticket purchases for meals/events. You'll still be able to register at the door, but who wants to wait on long lines to have registrations processed?.

New events on Friday morning: Visit Hollywood Forever Cemetery, a free three-hour introduction to genealogy and a free kid's genealogy camp. Arriving early? Consider the "Slice of the City" Thursday afternoon tour. For all details, click here.

Attend all three days or only one day. Several Jewish-oriented talks will be presented on Sunday; some repeated on other days. Hours: Friday, 1:30-5:30pm; Saturday, 8:30am-5:30pm; and Sunday, 8.30am-4pm. Find full descriptions of speakers, lectures, evening events, and register here. The Jamboree blog is here.

Planning ahead? Jamboree's future dates will be June 12-14, 2009 and June 11-13, 2010, both at the Burbank Airport Marriott Hotel and Convention Center.

Dobra, Poland: Memorial planned

If your family history indicates a connection to Dobra, near Turek, in Poland, there will soon be a Place of Remembrance for its Jewish population.

Roni Seibel Liebowitz of the Lodz Area Research Group - LARG - reported on the project being planned by Leon Weintraub of Sweden.

Weintraub has been instrumental in planning this project. The Jewish cemetery has been fenced in and paid for. He decided not to wait for possible financial support from Jewish organizations and will complete the project himself.

He visited Dobra April 9-18 to discuss details with the town's mayor and to finalize construction arrangements. The main part of the memorial will be ready by the end of May.

Weintraub will again meet the mayor and his deputy in June to discuss details for the opening ceremony, and they have promised to arrange the transfer of the gravestones to the cemetery while he is there. The ceremony may take place on Tuesday, August 19.

He later visited Lodz and arranged for the inscriptions on the memorial

Leibowitz says that photos will be posted, and later supplemented by photos of the ceremony in August. She is the Lodz Archive Coordinator for JRI-Poland, and also handles the Lodz ShtetLinks project on JewishGen.

Problems with email alerts or subscribing?

I hope readers in the US are enjoying this Memorial Day holiday weekend with family and friends.

A few readers have reported some difficulties with email alerts for Tracing the Tribe, and I'm trying to determine if this is a localized glitch or indicative of some other problem.

Are you having problems receiving Feedburner/Feedblitz email alerts or subscriptions?

If so, please let me know as we would like to resolve such problems as quickly as possible.

Chicago 2008: Gesher Galicia events set

if you are searching for your ancestors in Galicia (former Austro-Hungary, present-day Ukraine), Gesher Galicia's Chicago conference program - 3.30-6.30pm Monday, August 18 - will provide much information.

3:30-4pm: Introduction to Gesher Galicia and a "Landowner Records & Cadastral Map Project update," with examples of this untapped resource - a useful complement to fleshing out your ancestors' vital record information.

4-4:45pm: ITS/Bad Arolsen Film & Panel Discussion (Pamela Weisberger, Renee Steinig, Bill Fern). A short film on our May 2008 research trip to this recently opened Holocaust-records archive, followed by a panel discussion/Q & A providing insights gained on the trip, along with information about the ITS's vast resources and researching one's Galician relatives.

4:45-5pm: JRI Poland & Lviv Archive Records Update (Mark Halpern)

5-5:30pm: "Two Tangos: Portrait of Lviv," with Lviv-born Julian Bussgang reporting on his recent visit and introducing the film

5:30-6pm: Gayle Schlissel Riley introduces a film on the Jewish history of
Tarnobrzeg, Poland
, made by the town's high school students.

6-6:30pm: "Rimalev: House Number Seven" a film by Will Kahane, who traveled back to the shtetl of Grzymalow to find the house where he was born in 1946 - the the last Jewish child.

Pamela Weisberger is Gesher Galicia's research coordinator.

Chicago 2008: Film Festival additions

Film Festival coordinator Pamela Weisberger has announced that the film screening schedule at the Chicago conference has been finalized.

The schedule for the film festival at the IAJGS conference has been finalized and we will be showing an exciting, eclectic array of international productions, documentaries, shorts and theatrical features. Some films are strictly genealogical in nature, others historical, and many pure entertainment, and they will screen starting at 8am and into the evening each conference day.

Chicago-area premieres: "Tovarisch: I Am Not Dead," about dashing Galician-born doctor Garri Urban who managed to survive the Holocaust, the Gulag and working for the KGB; and "The World Was Ours," dedicated to the memory of pre-war Vilna.

Nazi-era looted art: The Rape of Europa, an epic journey through seven countries and into the violent whirlwind of ideological fanaticism, greed and warfare which threatened to wipe out Europe's artistic heritage of Europe; and "Stealing Klimt," in which conference keynote speaker Randy Schoenberg appears

Popular films: The Counterfeiters, Everything is Illuminated, and Golden Door will keep you on the edge of your seats, while personal family stories like 51 Birch Street get you thinking:"Do we ever really know our parents? Would we want to if given the opportunity?"

Globe-trot: Mahjong and Chicken Feet, (Harbin, China and Russian-Jewish emigres, and the 1,000 year old community of Kaifeng); Adio Kerida on the Jews of Cuba. Go south with De Bessarabia a Entre Rios about Argentina's Jews, while Disneyland meets Stalin-era deportations in a controversial Lithuanian amusement park, Stalin World.

Hit BBC series: Who Do You Think You Are?, take celebrities on a search for their roots, from the UK, back to Slovakia, Belarus, Prussia, South Africa and the Netherlands. Kinderland, Cinderland joins a middle school reunion, where 12 women in their 70s - children when the Nazis came to power in 1933 - are reunited with Christian German classmates in Germany 60 years later.

Brown University Professor Omer Bartov will speak on "The 'Jew' in Cinema: From The Golem to Don't Touch My Holocaust," at 9.30am Tuesday, August 19; both films will be screened. The restored 1920 print of "The Golem" portrays the ancient Hebrew legend as the precursor to Frankenstein myth.

Classic films: Yiddle with His Fiddle, with Molly Picon. Shot in 1936 Kazimierz and Warsaw, Poland, with shtetl residents as extras.

Music lovers: From Shtetl to Swing, and the musical metamorphosis born in darkest Russia to blaze across the Great White Way. Included is rare, archival footage of Eddie Cantor, Fanny Brice, George Gershwin and Al Jolson among others. Theatre lovers: Yiddish Theatre: A Love Story about Holocaust survivor Zypora Spaisman, who keeps alive the oldest running Yiddish theater in America.

Sports fans: Watermarks, about the Jewish women's Hakoah swimming team, pre-war Vienna; and Jewish Women in American Sports, the history of Jewish female athletes.

Holocaust and World War II: The Attic: The Hiding of Anne Frank, (Paul Scofield, Mary Steenburgen) telling the Frank family story through the Miep Geis, who helped hide; Uprising, (Donald Sutherland, Jon Voight, David Schwimmer) chronicles the Jewish Fighting Organization, youthful Polish guerrillas and freedom fighters; Swimming in Auschwitz offers six stories of the female concentration camp experience; I Have Never Forgotten You, on the life and legacy of Simon Wiesenthal, famed Nazi hunter and humanitarian.

Back by demand: Hollywoodism: Jews, Movies and The American Dream, about the men who founded Hollywood, showing how major American films were influenced by the Eastern European Jewish culture shared by most of the major movie moguls who controlled the studios.

Brooklyn: Pearl Gluck's film A Tour of Chasidic Williamsburg into the heart of Satmarland, including restaurants, shops, shuls and the Rebbe's House - a humorous insider’s glimpse of Williamsburg's Hasidic world.

Last, but not least: Budapest filmmaker Peter Forgacs's Miss Universe 1929: A Queen in Wien, a true story about Lisl Goldarbeiter, a nice Jewish girl growing up in Vienna, crowned Miss Universe and then swept up in the horror of World War II; documented by her Hungarian cousin, Maurice, with a home movie camera.

The complete schedule should be online soon.

Film-only conference registrations are available for friends, spouses, and anyone living in the Chicago area interested in a different kind of Jewish film festival. For all conference details, click here.

UK: Western Synagogue Cemetery

Gaby Laws and Angela Shire in London have announced they have completed photographing and transliterating more than 500 gravestones in the Western Synagogue (Brompton) Cemetery at Queens Elm Fulham, London.

Many of those buried in this ground were prominent persons, both within the Jewish community and in the wider society beyond. Where possible, we have added details of spouses and children, using corroborative sources such as census returns, wills and Jewish Chronicle announcements. We have also been able to make links with family members interred in Brady Street and Edmonton Western.

Genpals.com now includes the following completed cemeteries:

Brady Street, London - 580+ inscriptions
Lauriston Road, London - 160+ inscriptions
Edmonton Western, London - 160+ inscriptions
Happy Valley, Hong Kong - 81 inscriptions.

Earliest burials date from the 1790s. The site includes 1,584 headstone inscription and more than 3,900 individuals.

Search by name, cemetery or a variety of other parameters through "advanced search.

The site is well-done, searching is explained, cemetery histories are included. In the chart of statistics, we see that Solomon Benjamin was the earliest born in the database (1716); the longest lived male (aged 102, 1739-1841)) was Solomon Jacobs (Shelomo b Akiba or Shalom b Jacova, and the longest lived female was Elizabeth Leo (aged 99, 1753-1854. There are 968 families, 605 unique surnames.

There are also a few files showing examples of mason's mistakes and unusual inscriptions. I think I helped out with some mystery inscriptions from the Hong Kong Happy Valley Cemetery. The numbers on the three pictured gravestones were written using the Farsi/Arabic system, which I recognized immediately, and I provided my translations via the Contact Us feature.

Some numbers were somewhat mangled as could be expected by a Chinese mason who didn't know the strange characters. Hong Kong's community included many Sephardim originally from Baghdad, some via India and some from Persia, and the use of such numbers was common.

22 May 2008

Los Angeles: Jewish history TV program

Hillside Memorial Park and Mortuary, founded 1942 in Southern California, has announced its partnership with “The History of Jewish LA,” a television program examining local Jewish life and culture produced by the Blazer Media Group.

Hillside will sponsor 26 episodes on channel 18 at 9am Sundays from February 1, 2009.

The program will spotlight various Los Angeles personalities, and feature segments with historians and profiles of organizations that have shaped the community’s Jewish history. The show will serve as a model to inspire other North American Jewish communities to create similar local programming.

“We’re grateful that Hillside is making it possible for us to share these important stories about our past and how they continue to shape our lives today,” said the program's host Phil Blazer.

The first Los Angeles charity was the Hebrew Benevolent Society (now Jewish Family Services), established in 1854 - more than 150 years old. Blazer said that the Jewish population of Los Angeles is about 10%, but contributes 70% of the region's charitable giving with 90% going to non-Jewish organizations.

For more information, click here or here.

UK: Jewish population on the rise

Jewish genealogists in the UK may have bigger family trees to compile, as that country's Jewish population is on the rise.

According to a BBC story, University of Manchester researchers say the increase is due to the size of ultra-Orthodox families. The UK's Jewish population peaked at 500,000 at the start of World War I, hit a low of 275,000 in 2005, but has increased to 280,000 in 2008, making it the fifth largest Jewish population in the world.

Figures were based on UK census data and monitoring of Jewish births by academics.

According to Dr Yaakov Wise - of Manchester University's Centre for Jewish Studies - half of all Jewish children younger than 5 in Greater Manchester are ultra-Orthodox. Secular Jewish women have an average of only 1.65 children; the UK average is 1.8. In the ultra-Orthodox community, families have an average of nearly seven children and community elders can have hundreds of descendants. Wise says nearly three of every four Jewish babies are born in the Orthodox community.

In London, this segment of the community is 18%, up from less than 10% in the early 1990s.

According to Wise, the ancestors of these families came to Britain since WWII, as the result of such historic events as the 1956 Hungarian uprising and the 1968 Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia.

Read more here.

20 May 2008

UCLA Mediterranean Jewish studies chair endowed

Andrew Viterbi - the father of cellphone technology - has endowed UCLA's Mediterranean Jewish Studies chair.

An Italian Jew who grew up in Boston, Viterbi can trace his paternal roots to 1588 near Rome, and his maternal Sephardic roots from Spain to northern Italy after the Inquisition.

"All the way through high school and college, I would be asked, 'How can you be an Italian and a Jew?'" the father of cell phone technology recalls with a laugh. "Scholars have always known about Italy's Jews, but to the general public, it's a contradiction in terms."

His parents fled Italy after Mussolini's racial laws of 1938 which saw his father, head of the main hospital's opthalmology department, dismissed. He then worked contacts to obtain US visas for his wife and son, then 4. They first lived in New York and later in Boston, where he started a new ophthalmology practice.

Viterbi's wife, Erna Finci, is a descendant of the Bosnian chief rabbi. Living in Sarajevo when the Germans invaded in 1941, her family fled to modern-day Croatia under Italian military control. They were interned in a small Italian village, where all the residents cooperated to hide them, said Viterbi, and eventually landed in Switzerland.

He attended Boston's fameous Boston Latin School, and quotes philosopher George Santayana who said that people who have forgotten their history are doomed to relive it. "I am interested in Jewish history everywhere and throughout the ages for that very reason. I don't want us to have to relive that history."

Viterbi is not alone. Although most American Jews are Ashkenazi, a small group of American Jews have Italian roots, while more have roots in other areas of the Mediterranean.

His family has established a $1.4 million endowment to create the Viterbi Family Program in Mediterranean Jewish studies - to begin next fall - through UCLA's Center for Jewish Studies.

It will bring a distinguished scholar in some aspect of Mediterranean Jewish society, history or culture to campus for one quarter of instruction each year, and will also fund quarterly lectures and seminars on Jewish communities in Italy, France, Spain, the Balkans, North Africa, Egypt or Israel.

"I am not an anomaly," Viterbi said. "Because the Mediterranean region has been at the crossroads of commerce and ideas for thousands of years, it has been the site of one of the richest and most diverse Jewish cultures in history. I want that culture to be explored and recognized."

Read the complete story to understand Viterbi's evolving understanding of his Italian Jewish heritage and the Holocaust. He has a PhD in electrical engineering from USC and joined its faculty in 1963. A few years later he developed an algorithm that helped make cellular phones possible; founded Linkabit (1960s) and Qualcomm (1985). In 2003, he and his wife donated $52 million to USC.

UCLA's Center for Jewish Studies (established 1994) offers some 70 annual courses, as well as about 50 public lectures, seminars and conferences each year in a variety of fields. Programs include a specialized series in Sephardic studies, Holocaust studies and modern Jewish culture.

Read more here.

Bad Arolsen archives: Red Cross role may end

The 60-year role of the Red Cross in running the Bad Arolsen Nazi-era archives may end, according to a just-released AP story.

"Nazi archive in Germany to reconsider role of Red Cross," by AP writer Arthur Max, is on numerous media sites (one link below).

AMSTERDAM, Netherlands (AP) -- The governors of a newly opened archive of Nazi-era documents said Tuesday they will consider ending the 60-year role of the Red Cross in running the historically invaluable storehouse.

At its annual meeting in Brussels, Belgium, the 11-nation commission that oversees the International Tracing Service decided to review the archive's administrative structure. A panel will report its conclusions to the next annual meeting, spokeswoman Kathrin Flor said.

The International Committee of the Red Cross says that with the generation of Holocaust survivors dying out, the archive's humanitarian mission is ending and will shift toward historic research.

The archives finally opened to families and historians last year. Copies of the files are being sent to centers in the US, Israel and Poland, while another 30 percent remain to be copied.

Red Cross deputy director-general Beat Schwiezer told the commission it should consider the "future structure of, and administrative responsibility for, the ITS."

Red Cross vice president Christine Beerli recently said it needed "to think about a new supporting organization for an institute well-anchored, and for one that envisions new scopes."

Read more here.

NARA and Ancestry: Special access through May 31

Ancestry.com will make its entire US Military Collection free to the public from May 20 through May 31. Click here to view more than 100 million names and 700 titles and databases of military records. The majority come from the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) and cover all 50 US states.

This special public access commemorates the NARA-Ancestry.com agreement which features on site Ancestry.com technicians and scanners at the National Archives for digitization of historical content.

WASHINGTON and PROVO, Utah, May 20 -- The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) and The Generations Network, Inc., parent company of Ancestry.com, today announced an agreement that makes millions of historical records more easily available to the American public. The agreement, which will be signed today at the NARA headquarters in Washington, D.C. and celebrated with a military theme in honor of this Memorial Day, allows for the ongoing digitization of a wealth of historical content, including immigration, birth, marriage, death and military records.

The new agreement provides critical access to these important historical records at a faster rate than ever before due to the placement of Ancestry.com technicians and scanning machines at NARA to continually digitize content for online access. The initial NARA collections to be digitized under the new agreement include INS Passenger and Crew Arrival and Departure Lists from 1897-1958 and Death Notices of U.S. Citizens Abroad from 1835-1974, which have not been available to the public outside of NARA research rooms before now.

"The mission of the National Archives and Records Administration is to provide access to the nation's historical records, and we are proud to have The Generations Network among our valued partners," said Professor Allen Weinstein, Archivist of the United States. "With this new agreement, citizens can discover and learn from these records in remote locations faster than ever before."

For more than a decade, Ancestry.com and NARA have collaborated to make important historical records available to the public, demonstrating their dovetailing commitment to preserving America's heritage. Ancestry.com currently has the largest online collection of digitized and indexed NARA content, including the complete U.S. Federal Census Collection, 1790-1930, passenger lists from 1820-1960 and WWI and WWII draft registration cards. Through this new agreement, Ancestry.com and NARA have greatly enhanced their working relationship. More on the agreement and the long-term relationship between Ancestry.com and NARA can be found at http://www.ancestry.com/nara.

For more information on the agreement, click here.

Professional Services Desk Manager Suzanne Russo Adams has informed readers that she was just made aware of an Ancestry.com page that lists all NARA series and films currently in Ancestry databases:

Scroll past the search template to see a table that lists the NARA series #, the NARA Collection Title, the Ancestry Database Title and the number of film reels and/or fiche in that collection.

She adds that this will prove useful for understanding which NARA records are currently on Ancestry. The page will be updated as more NARA titles are added.

Save the date: Warren Blatt, Maryland, June 8

Now the managing director of Jewishgen, Warren Blatt has been at the forefront of Jewish genealogy for more than 25 years.

He will present "An Introduction to Jewish Names" at the JGS of Greater Washington's member-only event at 1.30pm, Sunday, June 8, at the Clara Barton Community Center in Cabin John, Maryland. Mark your calendars now.

Learn why "Mordechai Yehuda" is also "Mortka Leib" is also "Max," as Warren provides an introduction to Jewish given names (first names), focusing on practical issues for genealogical research.

Our ancestors each had many different given names and nicknames, in various languages and alphabets - this can make Jewish genealogical research difficult. Learn the history and patterns of Jewish first names, and how to recognize your ancestors' names in genealogical sources.

Topics included: religious and secular names; origins of given names; variants, nicknames and diminutives; double names (unrelated pairs, kinnui, Hebrew/Yiddish translations); patronymics; name equivalents; Ashkenazic naming traditions (naming of children); statistics on the distribution and popularity of given names in various regions and times; spelling issues; Polish and Russian declensions; interpretation of names in documents; and the Anglicization of immigrant Jewish names: adaptations and transformations.

I've heard Warren give this recommended presentation at the international conferences; even experienced researchers will learn something new. If you haven't yet joined the JGSGW, maybe now's the time?

Blatt is the author of "Resources for Jewish Genealogy in the Boston area" and co-author (with Gary Mokotoff) of "Getting Started in Jewish Genealogy;" editor of the Kielce-Radom Special Interest Group Journal; chair, 15th International Seminar on Jewish Genealogy; IAJGS Lifetime Achievement Award, 2004; author, JewishGen FAQ and many JewishGen Infofiles.

Check the JGSGW website for more event details and directions to the meeting venue.

Jewish Genealogy: From A to Z

Did you know that there are nearly 90 Jewish genealogy online discussion groups, ranging from A to Z - AustriaCzech to Zdunska Wola (Poland)?

These groups are excellent resources for people researching specific Jewish genealogy topics (such as Judeo-Alsatian) or geographical locations (JRI-Poland) as members share knowledge and network.

This list provides subscription information for each. They are variously hosted by JewishGen, Rootsweb, Yahoo, or others. Some are sponsored by Jewish genealogy societies (e.g., JGS Sacramento, JFRA Israel).

Some of the others, in addition to JewishGen, are Austria-Holocaust, Belarus, Bialygen, Ciechanow, Early American, Euro-Jewish, FrenchSIG, GERSIG, JCR-UK, SAAfrica, Scandinavia, several Sephardic groups, Yiddish Theater & Vaudville YTANDV, and more.

See the complete list.

Ancestry: Future databases, recent additions

Ancestry.com is planning the addition of future databases. Read CEO Tim Sullivan's press release in its entirety (link below) but here's just some of what will be coming down the genealogy road on the for-fee subscription site.

The current Ancestry claim is 7 billion names in more than 25,000 databases and titles.

I am particularly interested in the future Canadian Passenger Lists (1865-1935). I finally found my great-grandfather in the Ancestry border crossings database, and hope to find his actual arrival information when that database is made available.

Recently released US databases

Censuses and voter records for California and New Jersey; U.S. Naturalization Records Indexes (1794-1995) and U.S. Passport Applications (1795-1925); US Army, Register of Enlistments (1798-1914), Headstones Provided for Deceased Union Civil War Veterans (1879-1903), and US Navy Cruise Books (1940 onward); vital records for Tennessee, Missouri, North Carolina; U.S. IRS Tax Assessment Lists (1862-1918) and US General Land Office Records (1796-1907).

Future US content

Historical newspapers
Cook County, Illinois Birth, Marriage, and Death Records (1871-1988)
U.S. Yearbook Collection
U.S. City Directories
Florida State Census (update)

International Sites

In addition to Germany, Italy, France and Sweden, Canada, UK, Australia, Ancestry is working on an exclusive agreement with the Shanghai Library to digitize and index its unique collection of Chinese family histories (Jiapu). Both Chinese-and Spanish language Ancestry sites will be introduced.

Recent International Content

Drouin Collection of French-Canadian Vital and Church Records (1621-1967)
Slave Registers of former British Colonial Dependencies (1812-1834)
British Army WWI Medal Rolls Index Cards (1914-1920)
Griffith’s Valuation of Ireland (1848-1864)
German City Directories (1797-1945)
Ontario, Canada Births, Marriages, and Deaths
Swedish Emigration Records (1783-1951)

Future International Content

Chinese Jiapu Collection (2000 BC-1950s)
Bremen Ships Content (1815-1917)
British Army Service Records (1914-1920)
Canadian Passenger Lists (1865-1935)
Paris Vital Records (1798-1902)
Deutsche Telecom (1881-1981)
Australian Free Settlers Collection (1826-1922)
Como Italian Tribunals (1866-1936)
Inbound UK Passenger Lists (1878-1960)

For details on each database, read the full press release here.

CIS: Fee-for-service genealogy program

Jan Meisels Allen is the Public Records Access Monitoring Committee chair and board member of the International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies. She does a great job in keeping us informed.

Her latest notice is on the US Citizenship and Immigration Service's fee-for-service genealogy program, proposed two years ago. On May 15, the final rule was published and will become effective August 13. View it here.

I took a look at the file, which covers five of the seven pages in the link. It is an interesting document as to comments received from individuals and organizations, the history and numbers of genealogical requests and more. I recommend reading it.

Jan writes:

The reason for the rule was to streamline and improve the process for acquiring genealogically relevant historical records of deceased individuals. Due to the demand for documents which created a backlog, requests under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) took months if not years to complete.

As a result of the comments made to the proposed rule the amount per index or record/file request (from a microfilm) will be $20 and $35 for a textual record. The original proposal was a range of $16-$45 for an index search and $16 to $45 for a record/file microfilm request and $26 to $55 for a copy of a textual document.

The reason the USCIS must charge for the documents and any search for the records is due to other regulations by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB rule form 1993) all government offices are required that user fees recover the full cost of services provided. USCIS is also mandated to charge a fee to recover the full costs or providing research and information due to the Immigration and Nationality Act.

Historical records under the new program are:

Naturalization certificate files(C-files), September 27, 1906-April 1, 1956 (from federal, state, municipal courts and more);

Microfilmed alien registration forms, August 1, 1940-March 31,1944;
- Visa files, July 1, 1924-March 31, 1944;
- Registry files, March 2, 1929-March 31, 1944;
- Alien files numbered below 8 million, dated prior to May 1,1951;

The final rule has more details on these records.

A special form must be used to request records under this new program (Form
G-1041 for index or Form G 1041A for records request). The forms are not yet posted to the USCIS website. Jan says that once the program begins, requests may be submitted on the site's electronic forms. Online requests must be paid via credit card.

Other details: Written requests can only be paid for by a cashier's check or money order in the exact amount. Because genealogical request information can only be given for deceased individuals, a person is presumed dead if his or her birth date is more than 100 years ago. For more recent birth dates, a primary or secondary document (death record, published obituary, etc) is required to satisfy the USCIS that the individual in question is really deceased.

Thanks, Jan, for keeping us informed about these important matters.

Avotaynu: Spring 2008 issue

The Spring 2008 issue of "Avotaynu: The International Review of Jewish Genealogy" is packed with 19 interesting articles by experts on many aspects of Jewish genealogy.

It is well worth subscribing. Click here for more information.

This issue includes these and more:
Tombstone Identification through Database Merging

Can DNA Testing Confirm Jewish Ancestors?

WIRTH DNA Research in New Directions

Central Zionist Archives: Jerusalem Israel

A Window into the Galveston Plan Immigration at the Central Zionist Archives

IAJGS Chicago 2007 Program: Gins, Cats and DNA

German Passports Found in Shanghai

Search Bureau for Missing Relatives: Brief History and Current Status of Records

Coming to America through Hamburg and Liverpool Part II: Crossing the Atlantic

A Method of Deducing Unknown Surnames of Female Ancestors

Researching Old U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Correspondence and Case Files
There's more from contributing editors, ask the experts, book reviews and letters. See the complete table of contents here.

UK: Marriage authorizations online, meeting

Tracing the Tribe reported previously (January 2008) that the British Jewish Marriage Authorisation Certificates would be searchable online.

The first batch of records is now available in this long-term collaboration between the Jewish Genealogical Society of Great Britain (JGSGB) and the United Synagogue.

Louise Messik has been single-handedly indexing the records, due to confidentiality agreements with the United Synagogue. She has indexed 3,900 records from February 17, 1880-December 30, 1886; eventually the database will cover 1845-1907.

Search the database here or here. The fee to obtain records is £15 for United Synagogue/JGSGB members; £20 for non-members. Click here for more information.

These records are for marriages under the Office of the Chief Rabbi of England, which provided local rabbis permission to conduct religious ceremonies. The certificate was provided after both bride and groom proved they were Jewish according to Jewish law or had an acceptable conversion certificate.

Other information: Proposed place and date of marriage, Hebrew/English names of the bride and groom, addresses of the couple, country of origin of the couple, Hebrew names of the fathers of bride and groom, Hebrew names of the groom's unmarried brothers (in case of levirate marriage if the groom died without issue) and which would attend the ceremony.

Some researchers asked why there is a confidentiality agreement for such old records and JGSGB chair Laurence Harris provided more information on this issue and about a meeting set to discuss the new database.

When JGSGB enters into agreements to transcribe or index records for other organisations, these organisations often have different sensitivities and requirements concerning their data. It is always necessary for us to be mindful of these requirements, and we need to comply with them in order to gain permission to index/ transcribe and to build up a positive mutual relationship, so that we get offered more databases to transcribe in the future.

With particular reference to the United Synagogue (US) Marriage Authorisations, the US consider the information on the full certificate to be strictly confidential and special arrangements have had to be put in place to ensure that it remains so whilst we are preparing the index.

Without going into too much detail, confidentiality agreements have had to be signed and even I, as Chairman of JGSGB, have no access to the information on the certificates being indexed. I hope this clarifies the confidentiality issue.

The JGSGB will meet at 8pm, Thursday, June 19 to focus on this project, and expert speakers from the London Beth Din, United Synagogue and JGSGB (including Louise Messik) will address

- The certificates and the genealogical clues they hold
- The history and role of the certificates
- How to search the new online index and how to order a certificate
- Audience questions to the panel of speakers

JGSGB member tickets are free; non-members, £5); seating is limited. To obtain a ticket (first come - first served), email Harris at chairman(AT)jgsgb(DOT)org(DOT)uk.

19 May 2008

JRI-Poland: New data added

Genealogists and family historians investigating their Polish roots will find their searches more fruitful on the searchable online JRI-Poland Database, with the addition of 160,000 new searchable record indices, indexed data from LDS microfilms of Polish Jewish vital records, and new Lodz area indices.


JRI-Poland's executive director Stanley Diamond of Montreal has announced the addition of one of the largest batches of new data in the group's history. The database contains nearly 3.4 million searchable records.

"More than 160,000 new entries have been added to the JRI-Poland database from 80 towns. The entries include data from 43 towns in our database for the first time as well as new data for later years from previously indexed towns which have had other data in our database."

Data is from 15 Shtetl CO-OPs, 60 Polish State Archives projects and five CRARG (Czestochowa-Radomsko Area Research Group) projects. There were 8,700 additions to the Warsaw Cemetery database, now totaling 65,000 entries.

There are also hundreds of thousands of records from more than 100 towns that cannot yet be uploaded for numerous reasons. Researchers with an interest in Polish records should subscribe to the JRI-Poland mailing list for the most up-to-date information here.

To learn more about towns, record status and how to access indices before they are available online, click here, or email questions@jri-poland.org.


Hadassah Lipsius, Shtetl CO-OP Coordinator of JRI-Poland, notes that more than 32,000 indices are now available. This includes the newly added towns of Loslau, Nadarzyn, Siedlce, Szczercow, Wolanow and Zory, as well as updated information for Kielce, Konin, Krasnik, Kremenets, Opatow, Opoczno, Ozorkow, Przasnysz and Warszawa.


Lodz (Poland) area researchers were notified, by the town's coordinator Roni Seibel Liebowitz, that new indices for towns with records in the Lodz Archives have been added into the online JRI-Poland database.

JRI-Poland's team of Michael Tobias, Stanley Diamond and the town leaders and contributors have made this possible to all researchers. Records include births, marriages, marriage supplements and deaths for these towns:

Alexandrow Lodzki
Konstantynow Lodzki

See what is now online and what needs to be funded before being made available online for the Lodz area here.


As noted above, more than 100 towns have data that cannot be uploaded because funding is still needed.

JRI-Poland researchers and supporters know that making a qualifying contribution towards indexing of records for their town will make them eligible to receive the Excel file will all entries in the project. The amount of the contribution depends on the number of records and number of known researchers with an interest in that specific town. Donations are tax deductible in the US and Canada.

For more information, click on JRI-Poland, go to the "Your Town" link and contact the town leader or archive coordinator for your town, or email questions@jri-poland.org

General donations are also accepted to enable funding of "orphan towns."

When fundraising is complete and the data is eligible to go online, some delays may occur because of quality control and processing issues. Please be patient! If something isn't there today, check back frequently.

Kentucky: Jewish history

I just discovered this interesting piece by Carol Ely on Kentucky's Jewish history at the Kentucky FolkWeb site.

Blintzes and Grits. Bagels and Bluegrass. "Shalom, Y'all." The jokes come from the obvious contrasts between what we think of as Jewish culture and what we think of as Southern. But the reality is a much more complex blending of cultures and identities, creating a unique kind of Jew — the Kentucky Jew.

Jews were present for the very creation of Kentucky. The Virginia mercantile firm of Cohen and Isaacs hired Daniel Boone to scout out their Kentucky lands; and another merchant family, the Gratz family of Philadelphia, set up trading posts on the Ohio (including the river landing at Gratz, Kentucky) and joined the founders of Lexington.

These early Jews were Sephardic Jews, with roots in the dispersion of Jews from Spain to the rest of Europe and the New World. They followed Sephardic traditions of worship and law and were part of an educated and entrepreneurial transatlantic elite.

By the 1840s Jewish traders and peddlers appeared in greater numbers in Kentucky settlements, emigrating from political unrest, poverty, and restrictive laws in Germany. In most of Europe, Jews were not permitted to own land, so most Jewish immigrants did not expect to become farmers. Instead, small-scale retailing, either through door-to-door, town-to-town peddling, or in a small storefront, was the best opportunity open to them. When enough Jews gathered in one place, it was natural to think of formalizing their community as a congregation.

Among Jewish communities in the 19th-early 20th centuries were Louisville, Owensboro, Lexington, Paducah, Covington, Ashland, Henderson, Hopkinsville and Newport, and mentions the influx of German, Polish and Russian immigrants. Today, Ely states, the organized community includes Louisville, Lexington, Owensboro and Paducah.

Virginia: Early Jewish settlement

Here's a fascinating history of early Jewish settlement in Charlottesville, Virginia. Other sections cover business and commerce, Jefferson and the Jews, community establishment, religious institutions, the Levys at Monticello and other sections.

Thanks to researchers in the South, documentation of Jewish history in this region has increased and covers large port cities to rural towns, reflecting the diversity of Jewish immigrants in America.

Charlottesville's history reflects colonial-era Sephardic Jews and 19th century immigrants from Germany and then from Lithuania and Belarus. According to the website, it's important to note that the town was the home of Thomas Jefferson and that the University of Virgina, which he established, was the first American higher education institute that did not impose or require a particular theology of students or faculty.

"To Seek the Peace of the City" was produced in 1994 to spotlight 19th and early 20th century Jewish life in Charlottesville and the University. It expanded on a 1993 exhibit, "Jewish Life at Mr. Jefferson's University," which was part of the school's commemoration of Jefferson's 250th birthday.

Though few in number, Jews were a part of the European colonization of Virginia. Expelled from Spain in the very year that Columbus encountered America, they tried to re-establish their communities in northern and central Europe, North Africa, Palestine, Turkey and the city-states of Italy. These Spanish and Portuguese Jews, called the Sephardim, were among the first to settle the Americas, hoping to find places where they could maintain their distinctive Jewish traditions. By the 1640s Sephardic Jews had established trade networks connecting New York, Charleston, Newport, Philadephia, the Caribbean, and Brazil. Many quickly became prominent and respected professionals.

Ashkenazic Jews, with a style of worship typical of the Germanies and Russia, also sought the New World as a refuge. During the 16th to 18th centuries in Europe, Jews were living as a barely tolerated minority in Germany, Austria, and Poland, and somewhat less precariously in Holland and Italy. Eager to find a safe foothold in the New World, Jews participated in the exploration and settlement of the Atlantic coast of the Americas. A Jewish metallurgist from Prague, Joachim Gaunse (or Jacob Gans), was in Virginia as early as 1585 as part of the first English attempt to settle North America at Sir Walter Raleigh's Roanoke Colony. Early Sephardic settlers of Virginia included Dr. John de Sequeyra, a specialist in the treatment of the mentally ill, who arrived in Williamsburg in 1745; in his role as a general practitioner, he was the physician of George Washington's stepdaughter Martha Parke Custis. Also prominent were members of the aristocratic Cardozo and Seixas families. 4

On the eve of the American Revolution there were still just a handful of Jews in Virginia, mainly in Richmond. Jacob Cohen (from Oberdorf, Germany) and Isaiah Isaacs (from Frankfort-am-Main, via England) became business partners who sold merchandise and real estate. They helped to finance Daniel Boone's surveys of Kentucky, were ardent patriots, and though they were slaveowners they both freed their slaves in their wills. In addition to their commercial ventures, both were committed to their religion; Isaacs signed all his deeds in Hebrew. He was a founder of Beth Shalome, Richmond's first synagogue, in 1789, and also helped to fund the first Jewish cemetery, on Richmond's Shockoe Hill. He was a man of prominence, elected to Richmond's Common Hall (forerunner of the City Council), just two years after the enactment of the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom made it possible for a Jew to hold elective office. He later moved to Charlottesville and died there in 1806.

Read more of this section here.
Click here to read all the sections.

18 May 2008

Cervantes: Jewish roots?

In April, the European Jewish Press carried a story by Linda Jimenez Glassman - Was Miguel de Cervantes a Converso? - focusing on historian Abraham Haim's belief that the author of "Don Quixote de la Mancha" was from a Converso family.

Converso means a descendant of a family or individual that was forced to convert to another religion, usually Catholicism in the sense of the Spanish usage. The other term used commonly in Hebrew is bnai anousim (children of the forced).

MADRID (EJP)---Historian Abraham Haim believes that Miguel de Cervantes’ classic "Don Quixote de la Mancha" is the product of "the silence experienced by a Jewish soul."

A specialist in Sephardic history and culture, Haim made the comment during a lecture "Traces of Judaism in Don Quixote" organized by Casa Sefarad-Israel in Madrid at the Cervantes Institute.

Among Haim's examples in the book, which was written a century after the 1492 Expulsion from Spain:

-"Don Quixote" (16th century) contains numerous references to the Kabbalah and Jewish traditions. The only possible explanation, says Haim, is that Cervantes was a Converso - Jews forced to convert to Christianity during persecutions in 1391 or other times or those who converted to avoid expulsion in 1492. Many continued secret Jewish practices for decades if not centuries and into contemporary times.

-Cervantes’ birth records were probably forged, claims Haim.

-Cervantes was familiar with Catholic texts, but also included "coded" aspects of Jewish tradition to avoid the Inquisition's notice, but understood by Jews.

-Cervantes says Don Quixote's diet includes "duelos y quebrantos" (literally, suffering and brokenness) on Saturdays. According to the story, this term is used today by Moroccan Jews for eggs and grains (or lentils), but also refers to the sadness of those expelled.

-The "Festival of Tents" is described, in a reference to Succot: families from town build a cabin and young women invite the characters to join them. Haim says the word "huesped" (guest) is related to "ushpizim" (Aramaic, guest).

-Book burnings are mentioned. Asks Haim, "What books did the Inquisition burn? "Those with references to Judaism."

-In Chapter IX, speaking in the first person, Cervantes describes walking through Toledo's old Jewish-Arab section, the Alcana, where he bought some old papers. He thought they were Arabic but a translator said they were written in “a better and older” language. This is a clear reference to Hebrew, believes Haim.

-The most important evidence, says Haim, is the nearly literal translation of an entire page of Talmud. Sancho Panza passes judgment in a dispute between two men over a debt payment; the people call him "a new Solomon" because of his wisdom.

Read more here.

For another article on Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra (1547-1616) addressing similar themes, click here. "Cervantes, Don Quijote, and the Hebrew Scriptures," is by Kevin S. Larsen, Professor of Spanish and Adjunct Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Wyoming. His article, “Conversos,” appeared in the Encyclopedia of Judaism.

Switzerland: Art returns to Jewish family

European Jewish Press website carried the story of a plundered Constable painting returned to its Jewish family 65 years after it was stolen and auctioned.

The 1820 painting is John Constable's oil-on-canvas "Dedham from Langham."

GENEVA (AFP)---A Geneva art gallery will return a 19th century painting by British landscape artist John Constable to relatives of French Jews 65 years after it was stolen and auctioned in wartime occupied France, local official said Friday.

The 1820 John Constable oil-on-canvas "Dedham from Langham" was confiscated from a Jewish family in the French town of Nice on the Mediterranean in 1943 and sold at auction there in 1943.

The museum was "reasonably convinced that this painting was looted," said Geneva city councillor Jean-Pierre Veya.

He said city hall had decided to return the work to the family of southern French art collectors John and Anna Jaffe on moral grounds after a request by Anna Jaffe's great nephew, a Paris-based teacher.

Read more here.

Long Island, NY: Ron Arons, May 25

Genealogist Ron Arons will present "Researching Jewish Criminals, Especially in New York," at the next meeting of the JGS of Long Island.

The author of "Jews of Sing Sing" will speak at 2pm Sunday, May 25 at the Mid-Island Y JCC in Plainview, NY.

Born and raised in New York, Arons has traced his roots to England, Poland, Romania, Ukraine, Belarus and Lithuania.

A computer industry veteran with degrees from Princeton and University of Chicago, he appeared in the January 2008 PBS six-hour documentary "Jews in America."

Arons has presented at five IAJGS conferences, local JGSs and other conferences, and received a 2005 research grant from the New York State Archives to facilitate his Sing Sing research.

Society mavens will be available from 1.30pm to answer genealogy questions. Admission is free.

For more information, click here.

Los Angeles: Sephardic Genealogy, May 21

Descended from a long line of Sephardic rabbis going back to 14th century Kabbalists and authors - as well as Catalan blacksmiths and money lenders - Dr. Jeffrey S. Malka is a pioneer of Sephardic genealogy in the United States, a well-known lecturer/author, and the creator of www.SephardicGen.com.

Malka will present "Discovering Your Sephardic Ancestors and Their World," at 7.30pm, Wednesday, May 21, at Sephardic Temple Tifereth Israel in Westwood.

The program is hosted by the Jewish Genealogical Society of Los Angeles and co-sponsored by the Maurice Amado Foundation of Los Angeles and Sephardic Temple Tifereth Israel

Have you ever wondered if you had Sephardic ancestors lurking in the deep recesses of your family tree? This overview of Sephardic genealogy will show you where and how to look.

Taking us on a journey traversing environments as diverse as the Amazon Basin or the Ottoman Empire, Jeffrey Malka will explain how to trace Sephardic ancestry through archives as ancient as 12th century Spanish notarial records or as recent as today's modern repositories and online databases.

He will cover the origins of Sephardic surnames and clues derived from their meanings, along with their proper use in determining Sephardic ancestry. Also covered will be genealogical resources unique to Sephardim and recent exciting developments in Sephardic genealogy.

Malka, a retired professor of orthopedic surgery who lives in Virginia, is author of the award-winning book "Sephardic Genealogy: Discovering your Sephardic Ancestors and their World." Prior to creating his recently launched SephardicGen.com, he created JewishGen's Sephardic SIG site based on his earlier Sephardic Genealogy Resources website.

The program will include a 7pm dessert reception, followed by Arthur Benveniste's "Spotlight on Sephardim" introduction. The event is free to members, no charge for guests. For directions and more information, click here.