21 May 2010

JGSLA 2010: Calling all Litvaks!

If your family is from Lithuania, here are some excellent reasons to attend the 30th International Conference on Jewish Genealogy, July 11-16, in Los Angeles.

LitvakSIG is is one of the largest Special Interest Groups (SIGs) and country-specific programs, given by SIG officers and other experts are set for Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday of the conference week. In addition to these programs, conference-goers will be networking to share information and meet other researchers looking for information on common names and geographical locations.

For speakers, bios and all conference details, click JGSLA 2010.
Monday, July 12

8am: Rokiskis-Kupiskis Shtetl Birds-of-a-Feather (BOF).
A gathering for those with relatives from Kupiskis and Rokiskis in Lithuania, or researchers interested in learning more about this area. Also see presentation and panel discussion on organizing and integrating data from multiple sources in the “Beyond ShtetLinks to Interactive Groups” session at 2.15pm Wednesday.
1.50pm: How Helping our Cousins Emigrate from the USSR Uncovered the Colorful 250 Year History of a Litvak Family:

The Rostov-on-Don Cousins group organized 500 descendants of a Lithuanian-Russian family to help newly-discovered cousins emigrate from the USSR, following a reunion in Moscow featured in Billy Crystal’s HBO Emmy winning special “Midnight Train to Moscow.” Representatives of seven branches met monthly, raised funds for the new immigrants, produced a Family Newsletter/History Journal, held reunions, created a 50-foot Photo Family Tree, and in the process, re-created the family’s first immigration experience that began 125 years ago. Research on the 250-year history of the family included Interviews, autobiographies, diaries, Yiddish stories, newspaper articles, archival research in Lithuania and Rostov-on-Don. Dramatic stories include a shipwreck in the English Channel, escaping from Russia during the Revolution, founding organizations in New York and Los Angeles, brothers in top-secret positions on both sides of the Iron Curtain, and more. This research led to forming the Ariogala Shtetl Group, the Grand Duchy of Lithuania Project, and the co-founding of LitvakSIG.
5pm: Litvak Seek - Finding Your One in a Million (Searching the ALD Successfully) (Computer Lab - fee).

A hands-on computer class to learn how to successfully navigate the LitvakSIG website with a focus on the All Lithuania Database (ALD) and other LitvakSIG-created databases to research your Litvak ancestors. Students will learn how to effectively search, analyze search results, acquire copies of the databased records and use the website to enhance knowledge and family histories. Basic understanding of Russian Empire history and geography, naming and spelling conventions, basic personal family history knowledge will prove helpful.

Wednesday, July 14

9.45am: The Development of Zionism in Lithuania (1906-1940):

From its beginning, the Zionist movement in Lithuania was an integral part of the World Zionist movement, but even with its international character, its development was necessarily different than in Poland, Germany or Russia. However the success of Zionism was not guaranteed by its specifically Litvak character. Lithuania never became a place where the Zionist ideas were inspired. Zionist organizations in Lithuania, while keeping the common ideology and political line, attempted to realize the ideals of the movement in their practical work, as well as trying to cover all spheres of Jewish daily life. Zionist leaders tried to provide answers to all questions that arose over time and changes of the geopolitical situation. The main focus of the presentation is on the underlying ideas and practices of Lithuanian Zionism, the means taken by Zionist leaders of the organization to improve Jewish life in Lithuania and repatriation to Palestine.
11:15: Researching Your Litvak Roots Using the LitvakSIG Website: An Overview of the Special Interest Group, Research Projects and Websites and 1 million Record All-Lithuanian-Database.
This presentation will provide a comprehensive tour through the LitvakSIG website and the many ways it serves as "home" to Litvak researchers. This will include the LitvakSIG All Lithuania Database (ALD), with nearly 1 million records, other databases to Litvak research; an overview of the LitvakSIG record translation projects currently underway, and the structure of LitvakSIG -- how researchers can help get the records from their towns translated.
12.45pm: Where is our Home? Lithuanian Forced Migrations Before and After WW I - LitvakSIG luncheon (fee).

The Jewish areas of settlement had been limited to the Pale of Settlement since the final partition of Poland in 1795 and later regulations in the 19th century Russian Empire. In May 1915, at the beginning of WW I, the Russian Army ordered the mass expulsion of Jews from most of Kovno Gubernia. Most Jews were settled in Yekaterinoslav (Southern Russia), Poltava, Mogilev and other provinces in the depths of the Russian empire. The long way back started right after the World War I and it was different from any other: Jews decided to return home of their own will, while their Homeland was divided into several newly independent states (including Vilna and other areas under Polish control). The paper describes the difficulties faced by the Jews who decided to return to the newly independent Lithuania after WWI, including arranging for permission to enter the country, getting permanent documents and once back in Lithuania, proving their rights of citizenship.

2:15pm: Town-Wide Research: Beyond ShtetLinks to Interactive Groups.

Coordinators of Jewish Community (shtetl) groups will discuss how they organized to obtain town-wide records, working with existing landsmanshaften, and focusing on the town and on the relationships between families who lived in the town. The panel will describe the sources they used to obtain many types of records including: archives, museums, national and local libraries, and cemeteries - in Lithuania - and in the countries Litvaks emigrated to (US, South Africa. Israel, Argentina, and others. Records include 18th, 19th, 20th century censuses, memoirs, the Eishishok photograph collection (USHMM), family stories, Yizkor books and the Interwar Community YIVO records; Yad Vashem’s Pages of Testimony, vital records, property, tax, rabbi electors and conscription lists; farmer’s applications, Internal Passports, court records, and stories in the Yiddish press and periodical literature. They will explain how they have cooperated with SIGs, and have stimulated group-interaction, using reunions, Birds-of-a-Feather gatherings at annual conferences, Internet groups. They will explain how they encouraged group interaction and the sharing and preservation of the history and family stories of their towns. These will be presented as models which others interested in focusing on entire ancestral towns, can follow.
3.45pm: Lithuanian research - past, present, and future.
Records that have been acquired, those in the pipeline, and what can be expected in the future. Court records, police records, foreign passport records, Teacher and Student School records, records of Jewish Prisoners in Lithuanian Prisons, etc. What are the possibilities of records that are presently unknown or have we reached the end of the line? Supporting a group effort to obtain records or just concentrating on acquiring records on your own? Using a private researcher or going through the archives? Doing your own research in the Lithuanian Archives. The advantages and disadvantages of each course of action. Archives outside of Lithuania that contain Lithuanian records such as those in Moscow and St. Petersburg: what do they contain and how accessible are they? The latest trends in LitvakSIG’s efforts to educate its members about records.
5.15pm: LitvakSIG Annual Meeting.

Board elections, past year achievements and reports on projects, translations, database search and overview and new content.

Thursday, July 15

7am: Breakfast With the Experts: A Baltic Road Map - Travel & Research in Lithuania and Latvia.
Hit the road with Howard Margol, Bruce Dumes and Aldona Sudeikiene (a teacher residing in Vilnius) to find out the current state of travel to - and research in - Lithuania and Latvia.
Friday, July 16

11.15am: The Dramatic Expulsion of Jews from NW Lithuania in 1915.

The year is 1915, the second year of World War I. Kaiser Wilhelm II decides to turn his troops eastwards to Russia. His English cousin, King George V, is overjoyed by this diversion. But his Russian cousin, Tsar Nicholas II, is dismayed: The Germans would be using the same route as Napoleon - across the NW corner of Lithuania, river Neiman, Kovno Gubernia. The Jews living in this part of the Pale were believed to be hostile to their Russian masters, and perceived as likely to support the advancing Germans, whom many Jews regarded as kith and kin. (There were upwards of 100,000 Jewish soldiers in the German armies, including Generals and Field Marshalls.) Jews were given 24 hours or less to evacuate: pots and pans, grannies, babies, bundled onto carts and headed to railway stations to travel thousands of miles east to new lives in Ukraine and Crimea. Who were they? From which shtetls? What records exist of their names? How many died? How many were born? How did they settle in their new homes? Why did so many of the successful ones return home in 1921-22?

For all conference details, programs, speakers, and registration, click JGSLA 2010.

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