31 August 2010

Los Angeles: Jewish genealogy course set

A beginning Jewish genealogy course - Jewish Genealogy 101 - begins in October at the American Jewish University in Los Angeles.

Have you ever wondered where your ancestors lived? What kind of work they did? When they came to the US? How many siblings were in the family? The class will help participants find the answers, and to start creating a family tree.
It is more than a class – it is an adventure. An adventure into your family history. We will explore what types of records exist, what they can tell you about your family members, and where these records can be found. We will discuss doing research using books, an introduction to microfilms, and help you to look for your family on the Internet.

Join us on this exciting adventure and begin the process of creating a family tree for yourself, your children and your grandchildren.
The class - taught by Barbara Algaze - will run on three Tuesdays, October 12-26, from 10am-noon. The cost is $80.

Algaze is a member of (and librarian for) the Jewish Genealogical Society of Los Angeles and serves as librarian for that group. She has also taught beginning genealogy at the Los Angeles Family History Library for more than 10 years.

She has been researching her own German-Jewish and her husband’s Sephardic roots since 1983, when she began interviewing family members on both US coasts. Since then, she has discovered - and visited - relatives in Germany, England, Israel, Australia and Istanbul.

For more information and registration for Jewish Genealogy 101, click here.

30 August 2010

Kids: Disney Channel, genealogy and a song!

Genealogists are always wondering how to get kids involved in family history.

Looks like the Disney Channel will be helping out with our perennial quest with its new show - "My Family Tree" - set to air in November, which spotlights kids with interesting family histories, visiting relevant locations and speaking about their ancestors.

The Disney Fan Magazine offered a glimpse of the new series:
Genealogy and geography are set to come together in a new Disney Channel series to premiere in November. “My Family Tree” will showcase kids from around the country engagingly reporting on their interesting ancestors and roots.
Camera crews were in Marblehead, Massachusetts, with the Gerry family (Florida residents) who trace back to Elbridge Gerry, signer of the Declaration of Independence, Massachusetts governor (1810-1812) and the fifth US vice president (1813-1814).

He was born in Marblehead in 1744 and worked in the shipping business with his father and brothers. Heard the term "gerrymandering"? It was named after Elbridge and refers to redistricting to favor the party in power during elections.
The episode's star is his descendant, Noah Gerry, 12, who reports on various town locations for the show.

A quote from Disney spokesperson Patti McTeague stated that the children featured in the series all “have self-esteem and a gift of storytelling.”

The Marblehead Patch carried a more detailed story on the places filmed.

Among them were the Gerry School, Gerry Playground and the Gerry 5 VFA. They started the day near the Marblehead Lobster Company, with Gerry Island just offshore.
Noah also visited Elbridge Gerry's historic home on Washington Street, which stopped traffic and attracted many curious onlookers. Noah spoke into the camera, "This is our last stop. Elbridge Gerry was born in this house."

This week was Noah's first visit to Marblehead and it's not exactly what he expected.

"Actually, it's way more modern than I imagined," he said. "I had always pictured it with horses and wagons."

The Gerry family said they were surprised, and thrilled, to realize their family name is such a big part of Marblehead.
Noah's mother, Dr. Charlotte Gerry says the family has always known of their connection to Gerry, but "we'll go home now with a better sense of our heritage ... and with even more pride."

Noah caught the acting bug during a Disney show audition in Florida. He's appeared in several commercials and a sitcom pilot, and his sisters have starred in national commercials.

This isn't the first time Disney has ventured into family history. See four press releases here from back in 2000, when "The Tigger Movie" was released.

There's also a great song - "Round My Family Tree" - but I couldn't find the English lyrics on YouTube, so here's the animation with Finnish soundtrack. Still good for the linguistically-challenged. Should we be singing it at genealogy conferences?

Tracing the Tribe says to watch out for merchandise tie-ins, and suggests the following:

-- dolls that "speak" their ancestors' names

-- kid's sized toolboxes: mini microfilm readers, rolls of film, sets of "old" photos.

-- Fanny (or Freddy) the Family Tree - a stuffed warm and fuzzy tree toy

-- Sets of family tree equipment: "Let's Play Genealogy!"

-- Family group charts and pedigree sheets, with bright stickers and more.

There's a world of opportunities out there!

Jewish genealogy books online

ProGenealogists.com blog noted Genealogy Book Links, a site with nearly 20,000 titles and 7,500 for biography and family genealogy.
Books are arranged by topic, surname, locality and type.

A retired librarian, Mollie, began to construct a searchable website for free online books about three years ago. Genealogy Book Links went live in December 2007, and she adds 300-500 new titles each week.

Read the Progenealogists.com blog post for more.

In the Jewish section of Mollie's site, find these helpful resources for early settlement in the US:

-- American Jewish Year Book (American Jewish Committee, JPS) 1907 1908 1916 1922

-- Early history of the Jews in NY, 1654-1664: Oppenheim, Sam. Cor

-- Eminent Jews of America: S. B. Goodkind (American Hebrew Biographical Company, Inc. 1918 Goo

--Hebrew Union College: Kaufmann Kohler (Ark, 1916) OpL

-- Twenty-fifth anniversary of the first graduation: Hebrew Union College, Cincinnati, Ohio, June 27-28, 1908 (May & Kreidler, 1908) OpL

-- The International Jewish Cook Book: 1600 Recipes: Florence Kreisler Greenbaum (NY 1919) MSU

-- Jewish immigration to the United States from 1881 to 1910: Samuel Joseph (Columbia Univ., 1914) OpL

-- Jewish Memories: Lucette Valensi, Nathan Wachtel, trans. Barbara Harshav (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1991) UCP

-- The Jews in America: Madison Clinton Peters (Phila, 1905) Har

-- The Jews of Philadelphia: Their history from the earliest settlements: Henry Samuel Morais (1894) Har

-- Memorial volume: Leo N. Levi (Hamburger Print. Co., 1905) OpL

-- Old Jewish Cemeteries (South Carolina): Barnett Abraham Elzas, 1867-1936 19--?]S.C.? Har

-- Papers, Jewish Women's Congress; Chicago, September 4-7, 1893: (1894) Goo

-- The Russian Jew in the United States: Studies of Social Conditions in New York, Philadelphia, and...: Charles Seligman Bernheimer (1905) Goo

-- The Settlement of the Jews in North America: Charles P. Daly (1893) Har

-- Statement by Henry Ford Regarding Charges Against Jews, Made in His Publications, the Dearborn Independent, and a Series of Pamphlets Entitled "The International Jew," Together With an Explanatory Statement by Louis Marshall, President, American Jewish Committee, and his reply to Mr. Ford: Henry Ford, Louis Marshall (1927) AJC

-- The 250th anniversary of the settlement of the Jews in the US 1655-1905: (NY Co-operative Society 1906) Har

-- Why Am I a Jew? Discourse Delivered Before Sinai Congregation Chicago,1895: Emil Gustav Hirsch (1895) Goo

Check out the other resources at Genealogy Book Links.

WDYTYA: Second season for Ancestry, NBC

Tracing the Tribe had no doubts that Ancestry.com and NBC would team up again for the second season, and everyone else has already blogged it, but we wanted to include it here for future readers!

According to the Ancestry.com press release received last week, the genealogy company has extended its relationship with NBC for the second season of the US-version of "Who Do You Think You Are?"

Ancestry provided family history research for the show, including tracing the roots of the seven celebrities featured, and collaborated with NBC to promote the series, which featured one celebrity's journey down discovery road in each episode.

Quotes from the press release:

Paul Telegdy, Executive Vice President, Alternative Programming & Production, NBC Universal:
"A show of this caliber takes a lot of research and ground work to make the celebrities stories come to life. With the valued collaboration of Ancestry.com, we've been able to tell seven amazing stories in the first season, and look forward to even greater family history discoveries to be uncovered in season two."
Josh Hanna, Executive Vice President, Head of Global Marketing, Ancestry.com:
"The first season of the show has truly elevated awareness around the family history category and we couldn't be more pleased to be an integral part of a television series that brings excitement to the discoveries people can make when researching their ancestral roots."
The show is produced by Wall to Wall Entertainment in collaboration with Lisa Kudrow and Dan Bucatinsky for their production company, Is or Isn't Entertainment. NBC has announced the show will air in the 2010-11 season.

Tracing the Tribe is looking forward to seeing the lineup for season two.

London: Jewish Museum acquires Sephardic treasure

Here's one wedding present that wasn't "re-gifted" after the happy occasion.

Tracing the Tribe wants to know where the bride and groom registered their wish list three centuries ago.

The London Jewish Museum raised £282,000 to acquire the silver hanukkiah, according to the story, although it had been on loan to the museum since the 1930s.

Known as the Lindo Lamp (below), it is a Sephardic treasure of British Portuguese and Spanish Jews. It was commissioned for the marriage of Elias Lindo to Rachel Lopes Ferreira in 1709.

Silversmith John Ruslen fashioned the memento at the request of Isaac Lindo, Elias’s father, who fled the Inquisition in the Canary Isles to settle in London and founded the city’s iconic Bevis Marks Synagogue at the start of the 18th century.
“Hanukah lamps are central to Jewish celebrations and the Lindo Lamp is particularly special as it is the first one known to have been made in England,” said Dame Jenny Abramsky, Chair of the Memorial Fund.“It is witness to the long history of Jewish people in this country, and it’s wonderful that the Fund has played a part in saving it for future generations.”
It will be displayed at the Museum's Judaism: A Living Faith exhibit, which recently reopened following a £10 million redevelopment.

Funds to purchase the piece came from The National Heritage Memorial Fund (£145,000), Art Fund (£75,000) and the MLA/V&A Purchase Fund (£30,000).

29 August 2010

Poland: Nowy Dwor Jewish Cemetery, Memorial Project

Ze'ev Shaked has provided an update for descendants and friends of the Nowy Dwor Mazowiecki Project.

At left, a broken tombstone excavated in 2009.

For more information and photos, click here.

-- Fence and gate construction is ongoing and will be completed next month. Rabbi Michael Schudrich (chief rabbi of Poland) and his assistant are working with the construction company to ensure work is conducted according to Jewish law and tradition. Photos are on the website above. http://www.nowydworjewishmemorial.com/

-- Ze'ev will be in Nowy Dwor in mid-October to view the completed fence and gates and distribute final payment.

-- During his visit, he'll meet with the contractor to discuss the scope and preliminary cost estimate for the memorial, meet with the mayor and the city of Nowy Dwor to discuss the project's second phase; additional tombstones will be excavated before and during his visit; and he will spend a day at the archives to look at more names and certificates. An idea for the memorial's design was received from an Israeli retired architect, and logistics and cost will also be discussed.

-- Beginning in October 2010, organizing committee members in Israel and the US will initiate a major fundraising campaign for the memorial and completion of the entire project.

-- The dedication ceremony in 2011 will be either Tuesday, July 26, or Wednesday, July 27. Ceremony details and other events will be discussed with Nowy Dwor's mayor. The plan is to commemorate the Jewish cemetery's restoration and the memorial, but to celebrate the town's Jewish heritage. Events being considered: Jewish pre-war klezmer music concert, a Sholom Aleichem play or "Fiddler on the Roof" (the play) in Polish/Yiddish performed by local high school students, guided tour to Modlin, boat sailing on the Narew, and other events. By next year, the town will have at least 200 rooms for visitors.

-- The committee plans to invite Polish government dignitaries, the Israeli Ambassador to Poland and possibly dignitaries from Israel, as well Jewish representatives in the US Congress. Some families to include to visit Auschwitz after the events. Ze'ev would like to see the participation of Israeli high school students.

-- The project was recently covered by two Jewish papers in the US; the articles are on the project website. Project members who reside in towns and cities with Jewish publications are asked to work with them to publish a similar article.

-- US Congressman Barney Frank sent a letter of support to Nowy Dwor's mayor.

For more information, to donate, to assist in some way, see surnames associated with the town, see the project website at the link above, and contact information with project leaders. Visit the project on Facebook.

New blogs: Another 18 found by Geneabloggers!

Thomas MacEntee at Geneabloggers always appears to be working overtime - he's found an additional 18 new geneablogs this week.

Here are the names, type and link to the new ones, but read his entire post for much more on each.

Take a look at these if they address your geographical or other interests. This week's new blogs cover such topics as genealogy education, New York, genealogy societies, California, vendors, UK, individual family histories, forensic genealogy, France, Massachusetts, New England, professional genealogist, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, Virginia, West Virginia, Canada, surname history, Colorado, Scotland.

Bella Online Genealogy - Tina Sansone
Genealogy education, genealogy industry

Central New York Genealogical Society
Genealogical society blog, New York genealogy

Contra Costa County Genealogical Society
California genealogy, Genealogical society blog

Currach – Discovering My Ancestry Before The Canvas Frays
Individual family history

d kay s days
Individual family history

Family Tree Folk
Genealogy vendor blog, UK genealogy

French genealogy blog, Individual family history

Highlands Ranch Genealogical Society
Colorado genealogy, Genealogical society blog

Identifinders - forensic expert Colleen Fitzpatrick
Forensic genealogy

MacArthur Genealogy Services
Massachusetts genealogy, New England genealogy, Professional genealogists

Nina’s Genealogy
Georgia genealogy, Individual family history, Kentucky genealogy, Mississippi genealogy, Virginia genealogy, West Virginia genealogy

On Being A Bridge Builder
Individual family history

Pioneer Portraits – Miller/Swain Family History
Genealogy education blog, Individual family history

Schwans and Lohr Family Roots Blog
Individual family blog

The Jones Surname
Surname history blogs

The Passionate Genealogist
Canadian genealogy, Professional genealogists

The Scottish Emigration Blog
Scottish genealogy

Trace My Family Tree
A new blog by established blogger Amir Dekkel
Genealogy education

Click on Thomas' post to read much more about each new blog. Enjoy!

28 August 2010

Ancestry.com: Yearbook collection launched

From Ancestry.com, comes news of the largest searchable online yearbook collection.

The US School Yearbook Collection - 10,000 yearbooks - now includes 60 million records for mere mortals as well as celebs.

The books include high schools, junior highs, academies, colleges and universities - military, public, parochial and private - from nearly every US state from 1875-1988.

Thank your lucky stars that New York's High School of Music & Art isn't included. You really don't want to see that "plastic" flip hairdo that required a full can of hairspray. Really.

While searches for various New York and Massachusetts relatives proved futile, our Seattle JASSEN family showed both my cousin Charlie at his high school and at UWashington and, a few decades later, his son Larry.

Celebrity-seekers, according to Ancestry, will find a goldmine in this collection, Tracing the Tribe doesn't care much about Sandra Bullock's Homecoming Dance photo. However, if you are looking for some interesting names, the Beverly Hills High yearbooks are always good for a treat - there were many familiar Hollywood names in the 1934 book, which also has Lionel Barrymore's signature on a message to a "silent partner."

If you are an Ancestry subscription holder, access is free. Others can get a 14-day free trial.

Search the collection here.

CAVEAT: It seems many large metropolitan cities are thin on the ground in the Ancestry collection, but there are other sources to research:

-- Steve Morse's work for Samuel J. Tilden HS (Brooklyn, NY). This produced photos of my uncle '53, my sister in '70, my mother's year wasn't there). Steve was '57).

-- The JGS of Long Island's collection (1,634 yearbooks from everywhere).

-- Steve Lasky's Thomas Jefferson High School Yearbook Project (Brooklyn, NY).

The Tilden and Jefferson books are excellent resources for Jewish genealogists, as they were both in largely Jewish neighborhoods until the early 1970s.

There's always Classmates.com, but few yearbooks seem to be posted, and to see those that are, you must upgrade ($) to gold membership for access to more features. E-Yearbook.com is another.

Have fun!

Judaica Sound Archives: High Holiday mix online

The Jewish New Year is almost around the corner. Rosh Hashana begins Wednesday night, September 8.

For Jews around the world, regardless of nationality or background, the High Holy Days are the most important days of the year. As we gather with family and friends to continue the traditions of our ancestors, we also express our spiritual connections.

The Judaica Sound Archives at Florida Atlantic University has produced a special High Holyday mix of some wonderful music to listen to online; they call it a New Year gift.

The online album is excerpted from albums available at any time on their website. Selections range from songs for children as well as the voices of legendary cantors - Leib Glantz, Leibele Waldman, Gershon Sirota and Moishe Oysher.

Click here to hear the mix clips.

Click here to hear more from the albums of those in the mix.

UK: Restoring Bankroft Road Cemetery

Activists, community leaders and politicans are supporting restoration efforts at one of Europe's oldest Jewish cemeteries, which was bombed in 1944.

The story includes details of the plans.
Architect and amateur historian Susie Clapham, alongside fellow activists at the Jewish East End Celebration Society, is trying to raise the estimated tens of thousands of pounds required to restore graves at Bankroft Road cemetery, located in Mile End.

She has also submitted plans to the Board of Deputies (BoD) - which has owned the cemetery since its closure in 1928 - for a memorial to some of the UK's first Ashkenazi immigrants.
Among those buried there are 19th century authoress Charlotte Montefiore, the sister of Sir Moses.
Clapham says the campaign has become a quest to put right 80 years of neglect.

Founded in 1811, there are 500 graves on the derelict site. The Board of Deputies has approved funds to build a pavilion on the site for education purposes.
"This will mark Bankroft Road being back in its rightful place as an important part of Jewish history and culture - and a yahrzeit to all 500 souls who lie silently buried in its overgrown grounds."
A fundraising campaign will be necessary, according to others quoted in the story.

Read all the details at the link above.

27 August 2010

California: Pastrami, genealogy in Carmel, Aug. 29

Carmel, California is offering a match made in heaven not usually found in that neck of the woods at this year's Jewish Food Festival, on Sunday, August 29.

From 10.30am-4pm, the cultural festival will offer arts, crafts, live entertainment and educational tours.

What's better than a steaming hot pastrami on fresh rye bread with real sour pickles and cole slaw, along with matzo-ball soup, blintzes, noodle kugel, potato knishes, challah, apple strudel, hamantschen, rugelach and mandelbrot?

There's no Jewish deli on the Monterey Peninsula so these delights are restricted to visits to larger Jewish communities or to talented home cooks who follow the culinary traditions of their ancestors.

Making the food of our ancestors taste even better, Dr. Alan Rosen will man a genealogy table to help people find their roots.

And there's much more, such as a Jewish wedding ceremony enactment, an arts and crafts fair, a tour of the synagogue, and many musical groups throughout the day.

The annual event - this is the 23rd - is run by Congregtion Beth Israel in Carmel.

UK: Cemetery to add 6,500 spaces

One of the largest British Jewish cemeteries - Edgwarebury Lane Cemetery, Edgware - will add 6,500 new burial spaces, after winning an appeal for expansion, which will cost some 1.5 million GBP.

According to TotallyJewish.com, the original request for permission to expand was rejected by Barnet Council and the appeal was granted following a recent four-day inquiry.

Owners of the cemetery are Belsize Square Synagogue, Liberal Judaism, Spanish Portuguese and Reform Judaism. The three-hectare expansion also provides parking for staff and visitors.

The four groups will pay for the extension together and will share the new spaces equally divided among them.

To read more details of the story, click on the link above.

Europe: 2010 Day of Jewish Culture, Sept. 5

Each year, the European Day of Jewish Culture offers activities and events in many countries.

While the official day is September 5, events are scheduled for other days as well and there is a calendar on the home page of JewishHeritage.org, which offers links to this year's participating countries.

Countries scheduling events this year: Belgium, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom.

“Art and Judaism” - this year's theme - explores a wide field of topics:

- Media: paintings, sculptures, decorative arts, literature, music, films, theatre

- People: painters, sculptors, writers, actors, composers and performers, directors

- Period: ancient, medieval, modern, contemporary

- Collectors: patrons of art, collections, museums

- Religious: applied art, artifacts, Judaica, everyday life,

Click here for an interactive map. Click the country of interest and a PDF will come up (in English as well as that country's own language), arranged by city and event, with detailed information.

Azerbaijan: The Mountain Jews

Learn about the Mountain Jews of Azerbaijan in this issue of Tablet magazine.

Sarah Marcus' story provides a good look at this community.

Russia’s great expanse stretches south from the Arctic for many thousands of miles until it comes to a halt at the long spine of the Greater Caucasus Mountains. The republics on the northern side of the Caucasus, including turbulent Dagestan and Chechnya, still belong to Russia. Azerbaijan, Georgia, and Armenia, on the southern side of the mountains, gained their independence when the Soviet Union collapsed in the early 1990s.

The high slopes are home to shepherds and the descendants of clans who have long lived there. Lower down, where sleepy towns look up from valleys to the snowy peaks, bigger communities try to scratch out a living.

The town of Oguz, Azerbaijan is about 4 1/2 hours from Baku, the oil capital on the Caspian Sea, where some 80 Mountain Jews live.

Mountain Jews, who speak Judeo-Tat (a Farsi dialect), live in Azerbaijan and Dagestan. Some 2,500 years ago they were exiled from Israel, passed through Persia and settled in the Caucasus.

Sitting in the dark-stone building that houses Baku’s Mountain Jewish synagogue, Semyon Ikhilov, the Mountain Jews’ national leader, shakes off the idea that his people might be descended from indigenous Caucasian mountain dwellers who converted to Judaism. “We’re real Jews who came out of Israel,” Ikhilov said, explaining that they acquired the moniker “Mountain Jews” because they settled in the peaks. “We were not mountain people.” And according to a recent genetic study led by researchers in Israel and Estonia, Mountain Jews share a common origin in the Levantine region of the Near East with other Diaspora Jewish communities.

At one time, there were 40,000 Jews in Azerbaijan, today, some 8,000-25,000. Although 90% of the population is Muslim, and the Russian influence is also felt strongly there, they are still praticing Jews.

“Last night we lit the Shabbat candles,” says 30-year-old Gunai Iusupova, sitting in the airy dining room of her wooden-balconied Caucasian house. “We said a brucha and ate salted bread. I served up food prepared fresh for Shabbat.” The garden outside was bright with pale pink and deep red summer roses. “And that’s not just us, that’s all the Jews here in Oguz,” she adds, explaining that although they may not observe all the rules of Shabbat precisely, Friday night dinner is sacrosanct.

The Persian influence is also not far away. A description of a breakfast here is the same as what we ate in Teheran: egg, salty cheese (panir), fresh bread, and thick homemade strawberry preserve. However, we preferred sour cherry (albalu) preserves.

Krasnaya Sloboda is a famous more prosperous Mountain Jewish village in the Caucasus, known for its rugs. Some 2,000-5,000 people live there. It was established as a Jewish settlement (mid-18th century) by Hussein, the khan of Guba.

Some of them now live in Israel, others in Moscow, and are successful businessmen. Many former residents return to visit.

Worshippers remove their shoes - a Persian/Mizrahi and Moslem tradition - to enter synagogues with carpet-covered floors

The story details political developments, restrictions on freedoms and religious groups and more, and the fact that the village is often showcased on tours to high-level foreign delegations.

Read the complete story and the comments at the link above.

26 August 2010

Ellis Island: A rose by any other name...

If I had only one penny each time I've heard this story.

Do we need a national day to convince people that their names were not changed at Ellis Island? How can we convince people that the romantic myths in their family are simply that - a myth?

No one's name was "stolen," "changed," "Anglicized," "transliterated" or "translated" by an Ellis Island clerk, as stated in a New York Times story and reader comments (see below). Marion Smith of the CIS has always stressed that not one documented case of such an action has ever been found. It is strange that Smith is quoted in this New York Times story (see below) and did not provide that information - or wasn't asked the right question.

Passenger lists were compiled from immigrants' documents before embarkation. Such documents included ship tickets, passports or other travel papers. At Ellis Island, the clerks merely checked off the names from the list.

Every once in a while, another writer or publication - which should know better - stirs up the issue again providing misinformation. This time it was Sam Roberts and the New York Times.

Also perpetuating the myth is a photo caption in the story: An undated photograph from Ellis Island, where officials sometimes transliterated the surnames of immigrants. No, they didn't. The list was written prior to embarkation, and the Ellis Island staff included many who were immigrants themselves and who spoke nearly every language in the world. Since names were merely checked off the list, there was no opportunity to transliterate names.

However, as most genealogists know, there was nothing to prevent an immigrant from changing a surname the minute they set foot in the city. Some had previous relatives who had already changed the name an the newcomer adopted that name. Some were helped to immigrate by relatives and changed their surname to that of the relative who helped.

In my own family, four TALALAI brothers were brought to Philadelpha in the first decade of the 1900s, by their brother-in-law FEINSTEIN. They were so appreciative that they changed their surname to FEINSTEIN. We cannot find them, so if you know of any FEINSTEIN who were TALALAI, please let me know.

In 1898, when Max (Mendl) TALALAI arrived from Mogilev, Belarus, he had already decided on a new name. On the ship coming over, a fellow passenger who knew some English advised him to change it immediately upon arrival. "No one," he said, "would give a job to a Mr. Tell-a-Lie."

Max, the first relative to arrive, wrote home to Mogilev and Voratinschtina and told all the relatives that their new name was now TOLLIN. Most changed to that name after their arrival, although we do have some TALLIN, TOLL, TALL and TAYLOR.

And, of course, FEINSTEIN. A family joke was that perhaps they wanted a less Jewish name than TALALAI.

Other than perpetuating this myth, the story - "New Life in America No Longer Means a New Name" - is excellent as it addresses name changing by immigrants and the reasons why.
For many 19th- and 20th-century immigrants or their children, it was a rite of passage: Arriving in America, they adopted a new identity.

Charles Steinweg, the German-born piano maker, changed his name to Steinway (in part because English instruments were deemed to be superior). Tom Lee, a Tong leader who would become the unofficial mayor of Chinatown in Manhattan, was originally Wong Ah Ling. Anne Bancroft, who was born in the Bronx, was Anna Maria Louisa Italiano.

The rationale was straightforward: adopting names that sounded more American might help immigrants speed assimilation, avoid detection, deter discrimination or just be better for the businesses they hoped to start in their new homeland.
According to the story, the paper looked at more than 500 applications during June at New York's Civil Court. Only some six intended to Anglicize or shorten original surnames; most did it because of marriage, childbirth or other reasons.
Iyata Ishimabet Maini Valdene Archibald of Brooklyn changed her name to Ishimabet Makini Valdene Bryce. Guo Wi Chan of Forest Hills, Queens, changed his to Ryan Guowei Chan. And after Jing Qiu Wu, the Flushing, Queens, mother of 5-year-old Star Jing Garcia, divorced, she renamed her daughter Star Rain Wu, dropping her husband’s surname.
The US is much more diverse culturally than it was a long time ago, and there's less pressure to fit in. In fact, reminds the author, ethnic identity may be an asset for certain reasons, such as affirmative action programs.

In regards to the "name changed at Ellis Island" myth, Marian Smith, CIS senior historian is quoted, but not on this subject. Perhaps Smith wasn't asked the right question about that myth.

Now for the part of the story that the author and, in fact, the New York Times should have known better:

A century or so ago, some names were simplified by shipping agents as immigrants boarded ships in Europe. Others were transliterated, but rarely changed, by immigration officials at Ellis Island. Many newcomers changed their names legally, from Sapusnick to Phillips (“difficulty in pronouncing name, interferes with their business,” according to a legal notice), Laskowsky to Lake (“former name not American”) and from Katchka to Kalin (Katchka means duck in Yiddish and a particular Mr. Katchka was “subjected to ridicule and annoyance because of this”).
There's also a modicum of humor in the article concerning legal name changes. While most requests were generally granted, one case seems to have been simply bad luck as to the assigned judge:
... as recently as 1967, a Civil Court judge in Brooklyn refused to change Samuel Weinberg’s family name to Lansing “for future business reasons, such that my sons shall not bear any possible stigma.” The judge’s name was Jacob Weinberg.
The story continues and touches on some celebrities, ethnic individuals wishing to retain their names after marriage, easier names or spellings adopted.

Author Sam Roberts’s grandfather arrived as Samuel Rabinowitz, then Rubin and tchanged it to Roberts.

Read the complete story and all the comments.

IAJGS 2010: Photos wanted!

Photographs taken at IAJGS 2010 are wanted!

Did you attend the conference and take photographs? There were hundreds of digital cameras there this year, so many people must have good images.

The event's program committee is asking attendees to share those images, writes program chair Pam Weisberger:

If so, can you please email me any pictures you have of the events, speakers, resource room, Market Square Fair, meals, lectures, hallways, and participants as soon as possible?

I've had requests from several people for photos that they can use in their JGS programs detailing conference activities, and the JGSLA also hope to put up some on our own web site soon.

The conference organizers were too busy running around to snap much of anything, so we're depending on you!
Photos should be JPG and high-resolution (for clarity), which usually means 300dpi. Send photos to Pam here. If you have a number of large-size photos, send them together in a zip file.

Remember your shoebox filled with photos without names or dates?

I'm sure you do - we all have one - so pretty please caption your photos with important details and the names of people in the image.

HINT: Use standard format when captioning, such as "From left: XXX, YYY" or "Standing: XXX, YYY; Sitting: XXX, YYY" or "Front row: XXX, YYY; Back row: XXX, YYY."

If you know of others who took photos, please let them know about this image-gathering effort.

Family Trees: How and why to care for them

How and why should we care for our family trees?

That's the question author Buzzy Jackson answers in her new book, "Shaking the Family Tree." Tracing the Tribe is waiting to receive our copy, but this review in Boulder, Colorado's Daily Camera was too good not to bring to you.

Buzzy is also a member of the Jewish Genealogical Society of Colorado. You can see her book trailer here on RootsTelevision.

"Shaking the Family Tree" is a guide to start a reader into their own journey into their own family tree, all the dos and don'ts, all the ins and outs. At the same time, it's an introspective look by a younger-than-your-usual genealogy lover, an educated history buff to boot. Its reflections make a reader think long-term about their own lives even if they may never have occasion to dust off an old family album to learn much more of their surname.
In the story, Buzzy says:

"The lesson I drew from (a high school reunion) was one I kept drawing on this journey: We're all family. During gatherings like weddings and family reunions, we enter a collective subconscious agreement to emphasize and cultivate those subtle relationships, which make us feel even closer.... So much changes in one's first twenty or thirty years of life. And sometimes, it seems, relatively little changes after that. These new conceptions of time and aging were surely a part of why I'd gotten interested in genealogy in the first place. I was starting to experience the slightly desperate feeling of watching time slip away."
Tracing the Tribe understands exactly what she means, and I'm sure you do too.

The book, according to the article, starts with the question of why people want to trace family trees. And these range from confirming or disproving family stories, controversial rumors or if one is related to a celebrity.

"The ritual of time spurred my own quest: my wedding, the trimesters of my pregnancy, the birth of my son," she writes. "Aging is a powerful genealogical incentive. The further from our birth we get, the closer to our past we want to be."
I think it's a good review. You might want to get a copy - put it on your wish list - or gift a copy to relatives who don't exactly understand what and why you do what you do.

As soon as I receive my copy, I'll add my views as well.

25 August 2010

Los Angeles: Lisa Kudrow and more, Sept. 28

Lisa Kudrow, researchers and producers of NBC's "Who Do You Think You Are?" will speak at the Jewish Genealogical Society of Los Angeles' meeting on Tuesday, September 28.

The program begins at 7.30pm, at the Magnin Auditorium, Skirball Cultural Center, 2701 N. Sepulveda Blvd. Los Angeles. Admission: JGSLA members, free; others, $5. Reservations are required for what should be an extremely popular event; email to reserve with your name and number of guests.

Lisa Kudrow's roots date back to the Holocaust, which means her family connections, like many other Eastern European Jews, have been lost. Her father, Dr. Lee Kudrow, has been trying to solve one of their family's mysteries for almost 60 years.

What happened to their family during World War II in Belarus--and what became of a long-lost cousin who survived it? Lisa was on a mission to find out. Her father grew up impoverished in New York and then worked his way up to become a doctor.

Lisa believed by trying to find out what happened to her great-grandmother and distant cousin she could find the answers her father had been searching for - as well as find some of her own.

The WDYTYA episode focusing on her search will be screened. Following that, Lisa and the production staff will discuss the research and filmmaking process, the impetus for making the series, and the perils and pitfalls of researching celebrity family

Making history come alive through genealogy is one of the hallmarks of WDYTYA, which began on the BBC more than seven years ago.

Bring your questions for a lively, interactive panel discussion following the presentation.

Reservations are required. For more information, visit JGSLA's website.

Colorado: Hispano DNA study results released

Tracing the Tribe readers may remember several posts concerning a cluster of "Ashkenazi" breast cancer among Hispanic women in Colorado's San Luis Valley a few years ago.

Later genealogical research showed the women were descendants of conversos (Jews forced to convert to Christianity during the Inquisition) who had settled in the area centuries ago.

A paper in the San Luis area just carried an article about the results of a February 2009 DNA study on Hispanic residents in the San Luis, Alamosa, Conejos and Pueblo, by Dr. Harry Ostrer of NYU's Human Genetics Program.

Ostrer, well-known to many Jewish genealogists, collected blood samples from residents for his study. He said the project’s purpose was “to shed light on the history and ancestry of Hispanos from northern New Mexico and southern Colorado” and “to compare the DNA of Hispanos with that of other Hispanic and Latino populations in the Americas.” He was looking for a broad picture of the community's genetic heritage, not individual characteristics.

The findings:

Testing the Hispano admixture, he discovered that 50-60% were European; 30-40% Native American; 1-5% West African; and 1-5% non-European (Middle Eastern).

“The first two components of the admixture are not surprising, since the Spanish and Indian heritage of Hispanics is well known,” Dr. Ostrer stated in a letter to participants. “In fact, in May of this year, we published a paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on the DNA of several Hispanic/Latino populations, including Dominicans, Puerto Ricans, Colombians, Ecuadorians, and Mexicans. Our study showed that Hispanics and Latinos represent a highly diverse blend of European and Amerindian stock, with lesser contributions from African and non-European sources.”
He added that the non-European portion probably originated in the Middle East in either Arab or Jewish populations, and then brought to Spain and the Americas.

“The issue of Jewish ancestry in Hispanos remains an intriguing but unsettled question. In the next stage of our analysis we hope to learn more about that part of your heritage,” Ostrer told participants.

Ostrer and others have been involved in researching Jewish groups throughout the world and how they are related, literally. He and other researchers have concluded that “Jewishness” is not just a religious characterization but also a genetic one. “... the studied Jewish populations represent a series of geographical isolates or clusters with genetic threads that weave them together,” wrote Ostrer and others in a recent trade journal article.

“Over the past 3000 years, both the flow of genes and the flow of religious and cultural ideas have contributed to Jewishness.” - Atzmon et al, Abraham’s Children in the Genome Era: Major Jewish Diaspora Populations Comprise Distinct Genetic Clusters with Shared Middle Eastern Ancestry, The American Journal of Human Genetics (2010).
Jews and their genetics moved throughout the world; the DNA of people in the San Luis Valley could be partly traced back to the Middle East.

“Each Diaspora group has distinctive genetic features ‘representative of each group’s genetic history,’ he [Ostrer] says, but each also ‘shares a set of common genetic threads’ dating back to their common origin in the Middle East,” Science Editor Sharon Begley wrote in a June article “The DNA of Abraham’s Children” in Newsweek.
Jews of the Diaspora, according to the Newsweek article, share genetic markers supporting the tradition that Jews around the world share a common ancestry. And Jewish populations have kept their genetic coherence in the same way as cultural and religious traditions despite their migrations from the Middle East to the world over many centuries.

Food: Have teiglach, will travel

Another aspect of family history is to learn about our ancestors' food traditions.

As our families moved from country to country, they brought along their favorite recipes along with their possessions. Sometimes the recipes needed adaptation as the original ingredients could not be found, thus creating a new tradition. The story of Jewish food is the story of Jewish history.

This JTA story, "Exploring Jewish ancestry through food" by Linda Morel, demonstrates one woman's experiences.

Tina Wasserman, a cooking teacher and the food columnist for Reform Judaism magazine, didn’t literally transport clumps of the sticky pastries whose dough is wrapped around nuts and simmered in honey syrup. But among her most cherished possessions, she packed her recipe for the traditional Rosh Hashanah sweet hailing from Lithuania.

“No one had seen it down here,” said Wasserman, the author of "Entree to Judaism: A Culinary Exploration of the Jewish Diaspora (URJ Press, 2010), until she served the dessert to her new friends.

She then introduced the recipe in cooking classes. Before long, teiglach became part of the Jewish culinary scene in Dallas.

Said Wasserman, she wanted to create a link to our ancestry through food as it is the most direct connection to memory in our brain.

For her book, she began collecting recipes based on the question of what makes a specific food Jewish from a historical viewpoint. The laws of Kashrut and Shabbat and holiday observances impacted the foods we have eaten throughout history.

Caponata, an Italian appetizer of eggplants, tomatoes and peppers, is a 500-year-old Shabbt dish from Spain. Following the 1492 Expulsion, thousands of Jews left Spain for Sicily. One year later, they were expelled and 40,000 of them fled to mainland Italy across the Straits of Messina and brought the recipe with them.

Each recipe in the book includes its origins, when and why it was eaten and brought it to a new life in a diffeernt part of the world.

Says Wasserman, some Ashkenazim eat kreplach at Rosh Hashanah, because during the Middle Ages, Central and Eastern European Jews sealed their wishes in little dough pouches and wore them as amulets. So as not to waste the food, they put it into soup. She maintains that most of our food customs date from the Middle Ages.

The article includes much more, and a pointer to Wasserman's website, Cooking and More, which creates a community around food.

The article includes recipes for Dulce de Manzana (Apple Preserves), Syrian Eggplant with Pomegranate Molasses, Ethiopian-style Lubiya (Sephardic Black-Eyed Peas), and Sweet Potato-Pumpkin Caszuela.

Read the complete article, see photos of two of the dishes, and check out Wasserman's website.

New Mexico: A frontier bar mitzvah

Readers who live in large Jewish communities don't always "get" what it's like to live in an isolated community, particularly when it comes to lifecycle events.

One year, during a ski trip to Taos, we met two young girls on the slopes. Their Jewish family lived in Taos, their father was an anesthesiologist, and their mother told us - over pizza at their home - of the shlepping involved getting the girls to Hebrew school in the winter to Santa Fe.

I only had to drive 15 minutes down Ventura Boulevard to Valley Beth Shalom (Encino, California), where snow never fell, and where our biggest problem was parking!

I just discovered this blog post, written by Lauren Reichelt of Espanola, Rio Arriba County, in northern New Mexico, describing the problems and practicalities of getting kids to Hebrew school, and of staying connected as part of a congregational family.

In Lauren's area, one must work hard to maintain Jewish connections. I think her message holds important insights for Jewish family history researchers who may understand more about their ancestors who settled in remote places.

Lauren's post addresses the challenges of Judaism in such a setting, and the stronger links formed because of the effort of dedicated parents to achieve success and maintain these connections.

Here's just some of Lauren's post. Read the complete post at the link above.

I teamed up with two other Espanola area families to help my children reach their B’nai Mitzvah ritual. It was a challenge to drive my children into Santa Fe two times a week on Wednesday and Sunday. Older children have class at six while younger children must be there by four. But my son and daughter attended school in two separate towns, Los Alamos and White Rock, thirty minutes from where I work, and an hour from Santa Fe. The Trujillo family lives in Chimayo, 15 minutes to the East of us, but also sent their children to White Rock and Santa Fe. The Bennett children attended day school in Santa Fe.

Here’s how we did it:

Early every morning my husband met Irvin Trujillo in Espanola and exchanged a child. One van headed to White Rock and the other to Santa Fe. On Wednesdays, Irvin brought one carload of children into Santa Fe at four while his wife, Lisa, dropped off the other at six. Scott Bennet, who worked in Santa Fe, picked up a carload of younger Bennett-Trujillo-Reichelts at six and drove them to his farm in La Puebla. I picked up the older carload of Bennett-Trujillo-Reichelts at 7:30 and drove to Scott’s farm. I dropped off the elder Bennett and picked up the younger Trujillo-Reichelts, dropped off the Trujillos at their weaving studio in Chimayo and drove my own children home. We were lucky if we made it by ten.

On Sundays, we took turns, meeting in a parking lot and loading kids into a van.
As various children aged out of the carpool program (or began driving themselves), moving on to high school or college, the regime became more complex. My son took the Park and Ride to Santa Fe where he was met by a rotating assortment of Temple members and driven to class. Imagine a ten year old boy standing on the sidewalk with a trombone case and a backpack full of books in a downpour waiting for his ride!

Sometimes it snowed or a child ended up on a Park and Ride going in the wrong direction. I once ended up in a ditch in Chimayo in the middle of a blizzard with a carload of cold children!
Getting the kids there wasn't the only issue.

The families of the bnai mitzvah class supported each other throughout the year, preparing and clean up after congregational meals following Friday night and Saturday services and working together to organize the parties.

At many large synagogues in North America, the bima is shared by two or three young people. At Lauren's Santa Fe synagogue, each child acts as the rabbi, leads the entire service, chants four aliyot and the haftorah, and prepares a d'var torah (sermon). Lauren writes that they want to prepare their young people to lead the community in the future.

During the bnai mitzvah year, all class parents, not only the young people, are expected to attend every bnai mitzvah, some 12-20 weekends during the year and a major commitment.

It's an inspiring story of community bonding.

Lauren Reichelt is director of Rio Arriba's (New Mexico) Health and Human Services Department.

Rio Arribo is a rural northern New Mexico county with a population of 41,200 residents in an area equal to Massachusetts and Rhode Island combined (5,858 sq.miles); 75% Hispanic, 14% Native American and 13% Anglo. The largest center, some 9,000 people, is in a 6,000-foot high valley surrounded by peaks of 10,000-12,000 feet, and it takes 3 1/2 hours to drive from one end of the county to the other.

She began getting involved in Jewish community organizing assisting Rabbi Michael J. Schudrich (another name familiar to Jewish genealogists - he is now Chief Rabbi of Poland) when she lived in Tokyo, Japan.

Read the complete post at the link above.

Music: Galeet Dardashti's "The Naming"

Family history takes many forms. An artist may use images of his ancestors or where they lived on canvas, while a musician takes the stories and culture of her family and brings them to life in a different way.

For our talented cousin, singer/composer Galeet Dardashti, the stories of the women in her songs intertwine with her family’s tales of women breaking rules.

When we met for lunch recently in New York, she said her new CD - The Naming - would be launched September 14 in New York City. I wish I could be there or at her other upcoming concerts in Toronto, Philadelphia and La Jolla, California (see below).

Those who connect with Persian and Middle Eastern music will appreciate Galeet's performances. She has truly inherited the talents of her grandfather, Yona - renowned for his classical Persian singing and known simply as Dardashti - whose recordings are still revered by Persians of all religions in today's diaspora, and of her father, Hazzan Farid Dardashti.

Yona rarely sang at family events in Teheran, yet he did so at our housewarming there so very long ago. We were very honored.

For clips from the new CD, click here. Don't miss the one titled "Michal."

Read the Huffington Post review and watch this video.

From Galeet's website:

This is the story of why the brilliant Queen of Sheba shaved her legs, how the stunning Vashti laid down the line for her drunken husband, and how a mysterious witch spoke King Saul’s doom and then served him a nice dinner.

Dardashti's forthcoming solo release and multimedia performance, The Naming, draws on the Persian music deep in her bones to transform the ghostly outlines of Biblical women into full-blown flesh-and-blood personalities, combing emotional Middle Eastern-inflected musical delivery with powerful storytelling.

Dardashti unites the Persian classical music that made her grandfather an icon in Iran with her family's deep connection to Jewish poetry and song, creating electronica-edged Middle Eastern music that springs from where the midrash meets midwifery, where modal melody meets sleek modernity.

For Dardashti, the stories of the women in her songs intertwine with her own Iranian family’s tales of women breaking the rules as well as those of women in the Middle East today fighting to have their voices heard. The stories also echo through Dardashti’s personal story, in her recent transition into motherhood. Concerts feature vivid video art and live dance.
Upcoming appearances:

8-9pm, Sunday, September 5, 2010 - Toronto
Galeet Dardashti & Divahn
Ashkenaz Festival, Harbourfront Centre

7-9pm, Tuesday, September 14, 2010 - New York City
CD Release Party, Le Poisson Rouge, 158 Bleecker Street. Tickets

6-8.30pm, Sunday, October 17, 2010 - Philadelphia
CD Release Party, The Rotunda, 4014 Walnut Street

7pm, Saturday, October 30, 2010 - La Jolla, California
Galeet Dardashti & Divahn
Congregation Beth El, 8660 Gilman Dr., La Jolla, California

The project was supported by a grant from the Six Points Fellowship for Emerging Jewish Artists, a partnership of Avoda Arts, JDub Records, and the Foundation for Jewish Culture, and made possible with major funding from UJA-Federation of New York.

For more information and tickets, click here.

24 August 2010

North Carolina: Shtetls and camps, Aug. 25

The daughter of Holocaust survivors - who has been researching her family history and looking for surviving relatives for more than 50 years - traveled to ancestral villages in Poland, Hungary, Slovakia and Germany.

Deborah Long will speak about her research trip on Wednesday, August 25. The dessert-and-discussion event, from 7.30-9.30pm, will be in a private home and is for the Durham-Chapel Hill Jewish Federation.

Long will recount her shocking 2009 unearthing of family artifacts that compelled her to visit ancestral villages in Slovakia, Poland and Hungary, and also to northern Germany to understand her parents' Holocaust history.

The presentation includes her methodology, her trip through shtetls and concentration camps and joyful discovery upon returning home.

A professional educator, Long has written more than 20 books, including a memoir about growing up as a child of survivors.

Those who donate $118 or more to the Durham-Chapel Hill Jewish Federation will receive a free copy of her book.

For more information, send an email or click here.

23 August 2010

Boston: 24 years leads to three databases!

What a great story about a Boston-area Jewish genealogist who's been researching for 24 years and has created three databases linked to the Jewish Genealogical Society of Greater Boston's website.

The databases include state-wide synagogues, cemeteries and Jewish newspapers.

The news has spurred me to investigate once again our Boston and Springfield branches of TALALAI (TALL, TOLLIN), CONVISER and others.

In fact, I found on the synagogue list the Springfield congregation built by our first TALALAI immigrant to the US. Mendl (Max) TOLLIN from Mogilev/Vorotinschtina, Belarus, arrived in 1898 and was a builder who constructed the first Kadimah synagogue building, its cemetery, the first and second homes for the aging and residential housing.

According to the database, Congregation Kodimoh (sometimes spelled Kadimah), was founded 1916/1919 in Springfield, and closed in 2007 after merging with the Longmeadow Alliance of Orthodox Congregations.

In the database of Jewish newspapers, I found two for Springfield, one running from 1929 and the other from 1952. Accessing those microfilms may well be my first task when attending the 2013 international conference on Jewish genealogy in 2013, to be hosted by the JGSGB. We genealogists plan ahead!

The story, on Boston.com (the Boston Globe's online portal), focuses on Dedham resident Carol Clingan's "hunger" for connection to her Jewish ancestry from Ukraine and Belarus to New England.
Many people tracing Jewish roots find stories with heartbreaking gaps as families were split apart by immigration and the horrors of the Holocaust, and records of birth, marriage, and death are often missing or deliberately destroyed.

Now, three new databases compiled by Clingan, who lives in Dedham, and others with the Jewish Genealogical Society of Greater Boston are about to go public to help Jews all over the world track their Massachusetts roots.

In the lists, every synagogue in the state is inventoried, as well as all Jewish cemeteries and newspapers, rendering the search for family a little more manageable for those starting out.
Clingan’s labor of love, which included searching through dusty archives and tapping the foggy memories of strangers to trace her grandparents’ emigration, two to Chelsea and two to Burlington, Vt., honors basic Jewish principles, she said.
According to Clingan, her labor of love honors basic Jewish principles. At Passover, as we read the Hagadah we are told to remember the exodus from Egypt as if it happened to each of us.

But, as genealogists know, that's not enough. We want to know much more than names, dates and places. We want to reveal the real stories of the people and their lives and the decisions they made to travel so far from their homes.

Clingan's database with 568 listings offers a listing of every congregation in the state, past and present.
It says when and by whom it was founded, the various locations it occupied, as well as when it closed and what happened to its records, and tracks the many mergers among congregations, to the last surviving one.

That list is cross-referenced to a cemetery database compiled by Groton resident Alex Woodle, and a third database prepared by David Rosen of Boston that lists the state’s Jewish newspapers. The plan is eventually to convert all the information into a database format and to make it accessible using a one-step search tool, but that may take time to implement.
Also quoted is JGSGB president Heidi Urich of Cambridge: “So many families were severed, and so many lost or left behind, that each piece you find is precious.’’

Judy Izenberg of Framingham tracks her work on large poster boards, as she investigates her family from Russia (Novograd Volynsk and Olinka), which settled in Chelsea and attended the Orange Street Shul. Two of Clingan's grandparents - her maiden name was Isenberg - settled in the same place and attended the same synagogue. Their mothers were high school classmates.

In another warm fuzzy part of the story, Isenberg is using the databases to find about relatives who went to Argentina 90 years ago. Using leads from the lists and with the help of others, she's found the South American relatives and is, in fact, leaving for Buenos Aires next week to meet them.

According to Woodle, the first Jew in the Boston area was Solomon Franco, - a well-known Sephardic name - in 1649. He returned to Europe because he could survive economically. However, from the mid-19th century, Boston had a Jewish community of German and Russian Jews.

Another Sephardic Jew, dry goods merchant Judas Monas was a Hebrew teacher at the Spanish-Portuguese synagogue in New York, came to Harvard College and taught Hebrew for 40 years. In 1735, the college published the "Grammar of the Hebrew Language." To keep his post, however, he had to convert to Christianity.

Several other genealogists are mentioned in the detailed story. Congratulations to reporter Michele Morgan Bolton, who got all the details right!

Read the complete story at the link above, and see the database links at JGSGB.org.

Colorado: Mentoring session, Aug. 29

The Jewish Genealogical Society of Colorado offers a mentoring workshop on Sunday, August 29.

The program runs from 9-11am, at Congregation Har HaShem, Boulder.

Family history researchers of all skill levels are encouraged to participate in the informal roundtable format.

Bring surnames and towns of interest for feedback on where to find records or documentation about your family history. Experts and other JGSCO members will help get you started or restarted.

For more information about this and future programs, view the JGSCO website.

Chicago: Success session, August 29

Jewish Genealogical Society of Illinois members will report on their family history research successes on Sunday, August 29.

Researchers will also share how they discovered their "finds," and the Ask the Experts panel will also chime in. Attendees are encouraged to bring a success story to share.

The program begins at 2pm at Temple Beth Israel, Skokie, although doors open at 12.30pm for library access, assistance and networking.

For more information, see the JGSI website.

22 August 2010

Cleveland: LA 2010 recap, Sept. 1

Cleveland-area readers who missed the excellent 30th IAJGS International Conference on Jewish Genealogy in Los Angeles will learn what they missed on Wednesday, September 1.

The Jewish Genealogy Society of Cleveland will meet at 7.30pm at Menorah Park's Miller Board Room, Beachwood.

JGS Cleveland member Jerry Kliot, with whom I spoke several times during the Los Angeles conference, will present an overview of the week-long event, subtitled "You shoulda been there!"

For more information, visit the JGS of Cleveland's website, and do check out the group's resources online.

I'm looking forward to seeing Jerry again next summer at the 31st IAJGS International Conference on Jewish Genealogy, August 14-19, in Washington DC.

Geneabloggers: 18 new geneablogs this week

Geneabloggers.com now includes 1,243 geneablogs, with the addition of 18 new ones discovered this week by Thomas MacEntee.

Many focus on individual family history, although the list also includes New Zealand, genealogy education, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas and African-American.

Here is the name, link and type for each. Click here for Thomas' take on each one.

American Pomeroy Historic Genealogical Association
Individual family history, surname

Durham-Orange Genealogical Society
Genealogical society, North Carolina

Familypast Blog
Individual family history

For Your Family Story
Genealogy education (newbie-focused)

Genealogic Abounds
Genealogy education, individual family history

Genealogy Clues By The Ancestry Detector
Genealogy education

Genealogy New Zealand

New Zealand genealogy

Johnston Genes
Individual family history

MyBlood blog
Genealogy vendor

NEK Ramblings
Individual family history

Nodwell Genealogy Project
Individual family history

Quilt Stories by Sherry Ann
African-American genealogy, crafts, individual family history, Texas genealogy

Relating Our Past
Genealogy education, Tennessee genealogy

The Family Griot
African-American genealogy, individual family history

The Misadventures of a Genealogist
Individual family history

The William A. Earp Family of Lincoln Co., Oklahoma
Individual family history, Oklahoma genealogy

New Zealand genealogy

Read Thomas' complete post here.

Belarus: Guess what I found in Gomel?

As Tracing the Tribe often mentions, dedicated researchers around the world cooperate to transliterate, translate and make available little-known records.

While I often receive information and write about new projects, I rarely discover anything for our elusive TALALAY family.

Last week was very different, and thanks go to Paul Zoglin for another piece of family history.

Let's backtrack a bit and I'll provide you with a snapshot of our Mogilev-centered family.

Rabbi Leib ben harav Mikhl TALALAI had numerous children: Bashe, another daughter (name unknown), Movsha, Ber (my direct ancestor), Mikhel, Anshel, Pinkhas Leizer, Chaim Velvel. There may another one or two according to some single records.

This story concerns Anshel ben harav Leib. Anshel's birth was noted in the Mogilev Crown Rabbinate records, written in Rabbi Leib's beautiful Hebrew handwriting. Some birth records say 1834, others 1837; he died 22 August 1884 in Moscow. He was married twice, but we only know his second wife, Perla bat Elkanon Minken Muenster.

Anshel's children were Benzion Mikhl from the first marriage, and Avram, Chaya Sora, Minai, Sonia (MENUHIN), Rosa (BERLIN), Yosef Yoel (Joseph), and three children who died very young (Leib, Leah and a second Leib).

Anshel and his children nearly all were born, lived and died in Moscow, except for Yosef (Joseph) who lived in Moscow, then in Berlin until 1933 and then to England and the US.

We knew Yosef Yoel (Joseph) was married to Sophie Brusterman of Gomel. They were the parents of Naum (who settled in Toronto), Anselm (Cleveland), Leo (New Haven) and Paul (Baltimore). Naum's son Victor was my excellent co-investigator into our family history before his recent death.

We know the birth and death dates for most of Anshel's children and grandchildren and whom they married, but who Avram's wife was a mystery. We knew his children, all born and died in Moscow, were Mina (CHERNIAK), Anselm and Boris.

Now thanks to Paul Zoglin and his team's work in Gomel vital records we know more about Avram.

Paul sent me the surname list for brides and grooms.

Since I knew we had a Gomel connection (Joseph and Sophie), I ran down the names quickly and saw several names of interest, particularly those families who I knew married into our Mogilev TALALAY family, including AZBEL (several marriages), BAEVSKY (a marriage gift of a book to my great-grandparents was signed by the family), BALTER, BERLIN, BRUK, CHERNYAK, DONIN, DYSKIN, ENTIN, GINZBURG, IOFA/E, IOFFA/E, KATSNELSON, KHANIN, KROLL, KRUGLYANSKY, MIKHLIN, PERLIN, PINSKY, RAKHLIN/ROKHLIN, RASKIN, RATNER, RAYKHENSHTEIN, SHUB, SHULMAN, IASIN/YASIN/YASINOV and others.

There is a separate list of bride's surnames as well, and I saw names of interest here as well: ALTSHULER, AZBEL, BOLOTIN, OMDIN/EMDIN, RAKHLIN/ROKHLIN, RASKIN, RATNER and others.

Gomel was one point of a triangle; the others being Mogilev and Bobruisk. People from Mogilev, the largest of the three cities, often married people from Gomel and Bobruisk, opened businesses or branches in those other cities, and thus it seems rather common for people to have relatives in the other two cities. As families got together to celebrate weddings and holidays, it stands to reason that the young people attending weddings met each other, leading to additional marriages.

If you are searching Mogilev, Gomel and/or Bobruisk and surrounding shtetls, make sure to look at records for the other two and you might find interesting connections.

In both the groom and bride lists, many shtetls are listed near the three larger locations.

The kicker, of course, was seeing Avram (Joseph's brother) TALALAY as a groom on line 2137.

I wrote to Paul and asked about this particular record. He provided the following information:
Abram, son of Anshel, TALALAY, 35
married Dveyra, daughter of Abram, KAPLAN, 21
on 10 January 1902 in Gomel
Are you searching Gomel (or Bobruisk or Mogilev)? You might want to contact Paul Zoglin for more information.

Now's a good time to remind researchers that contributions to continue special projects are always welcome, so ask Paul about that as well.

But you must promise to let Tracing the Tribe know if you find records of interest!

Thank you, Paul!

Seattle: Sephardic synagogue celebrates 100 years

When Tracing the Tribe was in Seattle for the Association of Jewish Libraries conference in July, we toured landmarks of the Jewish community. Among them was the Sephardic Congregation Ezra Bessaroth, now celebrating its 100th anniversary.

The group received a personal welcome and tour from former Hazzan Isaac Azose (a close friend of our Seattle family), who had been the congregation's hazzan for some 34 years. He also presented a Seattle Jewish history session at the AJL event and presented a rousing Ladino version of the birkat hamazon at a conference luncheon.

The congregation will celebrate its first-century mark today, as noted in the JT News, which carried the story of the celebration.

The anniversary of Ezzie Bezzie - as it is known to insiders - will be celebrated August 22 at a gala dinner. The event also included two major speakers: Dr. Aron Rodrigue of Stanford University spoke about life in Rhodes on August 12, while Seattle native Rabbi Dr. Marc D. Angel (rabbi emeritus of New York's Shearith Israel, and founder/director, lnstitute of Jewish ldeas and ldeals) spoke on August 19.

A new courtyard will be dedicated with a memorial inscribed in six languages honoring the congregation's founders on the Greek island of Rhodes. It is a replica of the black granite memorial in Rhodes, dedicated to that vibrant Sephardic Jewish community before they were transported to their deaths in Auschwitz-Birkenau.

In July 1944, the Germans moved with relentless precision into Rhodes and nearby Kos, and deported all but 50 of the 2,000 Jews who lived there, a mere three months before they were defeated. Those 50 Jews that held Turkish citizenship were protected by the Turkish consulate. Only 151 Rhodesli Jews survived the Holocaust. Thirty-five Jews live in Rhodes today.
The story stressed that although Ezra Bessaroth is an Orthodox synagogue, most members are not, and it is a diverse community repersenting all levels of observance. However, the congregation continues its responsibility to continue the traditions of the founders, who came from Rhodes.

When the first Jewish immigrants from Rhodes began their new lives in Seattle in 1904, others soon followed. Soon, they would need a “kehilla,” the Sephardic word used for a synagogue. More like a Jewish brotherhood in its first incarnation in 1909, the Koupa Ozer Dalim Anshe Rhodes, the Fund for the Aid of the Poor People of Rhodes, was organized. Its first building was located at 9th and Yesler in Seattle and the monthly membership dues were 25 cents.

Today, a congregation that decades ago held daily services in the Spanish-Hebrew hybrid language of Ladino, now uses nearly all Hebrew and English, with only a few prayers in Ladino.
According to a former board member Joel Benoliel, “Here we are, a hundred years later, with the prayer and the ‘minchag,’ or customs that are exactly the same customs as it was 100 years ago on Rhodes.” He serves on the program committee for the celebration and is master of ceremonies at the events related to the centennial and gala. “We think it’s one of the few synagogues in the world that is faithful to the customs of the Isle of Rhodes,” he added.

The challenge for the future is to grow, and it is bringing in a new rabbi - Rabbi Daniel Hadar - with a strong background in outreach and growth. The congregation is looking for him to help with outreach and strengthen their Sephardic heritage while maintaining ties with non-Sephardic members.

For more about the congregation, click here, and read the complete article at the link above.

21 August 2010

The Galitzianer: Call for articles

Gesher Galicia's journal - The Galitzianer - has issued a call for submissions for the November 2010 issue.

According to managing editor Janice Sellers of San Francisco, submissions may be articles and/or graphics, original or previously published, and relevant to Galician genealogical research.

These may include articles on recent trips to Galicia, reports on your own research, historical and recent pictures relevant to Galicia.

Electronic submissions are preferred, but not required and may be from Gesher Galicia members or others.

Contact Janice for more information. The deadline for the November issue is October 15.

JRI-Poland: New FAQ, online contributions

Jewish Records Indexing-Poland executive director Stanley Diamond of Montreal advises readers that two additions have been made to the site.

There's a completely new FAQ and online credit card contributions will now be accepted.

Friends and supporters can make credit card contributions online and designate the town indexing projector projects to support at the same time.

See the JRI-Poland website, and the direct link to the contributions page.

The new FAQ has been rewritten by JRI-Poland Board Member Susan Stone and includes considerable additional information and detail.

Check JRI-Poland frequently for updated town information.

Miracles do happen: Family history found

Miracles do happen.

Here's the story of a family history discovered in the backseat of a junkyard car.

Now, if someone out there could only find the 300-year-old TALALAY family history that was lost in the 1950s when the man - who brought it to the US from Belarus - died. It disappeared during the clearing out of his Florida apartment.

The Progress-Index.com (Petersburg, Virginia) story was a feel-good, warm-fuzzies recounting of a prayer answered.

The two-century history turned up after owner John Jarratt loaned the book to someone who worked for the city about 2 1/2 years ago. He didn't remember who or what happened to it since then. But this summer it came home. The photo (left above) shows details of one page.

His grandfather, also named John, organized the book, which includes documents related to the family history in Petersburg, including tax receipts, deeds and more from the early 1800s. In 1815, Jarratt paid $2.18 in tax on a piece of land.

The family traces its roots to three brothers - Alexander, Richard and John - who lived and worked on Pocahontas Island as free blacks.
"I'm the fourth John," Jarratt said with a laugh. He went on to say that his ancestors were doing well for the time period. "They were free, they owned a business, and they owned a house." The house they built is the only two-story and only brick structure on Pocahontas Island and it stands there still to this day.

Anna Jarratt said the house was even used as part of the Underground Railroad.

John Jarratt said that the records in the book even indicate that at times, the Jarratts owned slaves themselves.
In July, he was returning from North Carolina and told his sister-in-law he had been praying about the book. By the end of the next week he received a phone call from a Richmond woman who said that she had found something important in a junkyard in Charlottesville. She said he might want to have it back, and he was reunited with the book soon after.

The woman who found it said she knew it was special.

"The first time I saw it in the car, I just thought it was a photo album," Sumner said. But something drew her back to looking at the book. When she took a look inside she realized it was much more important. "I looked inside and realized it was pretty special."
She found the Jarratts and contacted them.

Read the complete story, see the photograph and the video at the link above.

Great story! Have you experienced anything like this? We all need encouragement that our lost histories may be returned in one way or another.

20 August 2010

Israel: Birthright brings 18 from Suriname

The smallest country in South America just sent 18 Jewish young people to participate in the Birthright Israel program.

The participants come from Parimaribo, Suriname.

The Kulanu press release indicated that they hoped it will help the young Jews of Suriname, isolated for generations, to strengthen their Jewish roots and ensure Jewish continuity in their country. The trip, envisioned for many years and finally a reality, is expected to have a profound impact on the lives of the young people and on their community.
Most of the young people are descendants of Jews who traveled to the jungles of Suriname some 380 years ago from Spain and Portugal to escape the Spanish Inquisition. Others are descended from Jewish immigrants from Holland, Germany and Poland who arrived later and joined the community. Family names, such as
Abarbanel, Beuno de Mesquita, Robles de Medina, De Costa, Duym and Fernandes, echo the history of Iberian ancestors and their proud struggle and determination to survive and flourish in a far away land.
Despite a jungle climate, economic and political upheaval over the centuries, the community has survived. It is the oldest continuing Jewish community - with some 150 people today, who speak Dutch - in the Western Hemisphere. Suriname's Jews worship at the Neve Shalom Synagogue in Parimaribo, the capital.

For more than 40 years, they had no permanent rabbi or Jewish educator until California Rabi Haim Beliak spent three months there last winter.

During their visit to Israel, the young people will visit the newly restored Zedek v’Shalom Synagogue, originally located in Suriname, which has been rebuilt in the Israel Museum. The synagogue served the Portuguese Sephardic community in Parimeribo until 1999. Today the Jewish community worships together at the Neve Shalom Synagogue.

The Birthright Israel trip for these young people is being supported through various organizations: Kulanu, Good People Fund, World Union for Progressive Judaism and the Union for Reform Judaism in North America.

In 2008, a Kulanu volunteer spent six weeks in the community, initiating a Hebrew teaching program for children ages 6-12. Since then, Kulanu board member (and Suriname coordinator) Jacob Steinberg has raised funds for diverse projects. These include fencing the historic cemetery, renovating the 150-year old mikvah, renovating the old rabbi’s house, developing a Suriname Jewish community website, and buying mezuzot for homes and community buildings.

In 2010, Kulanu helped pay for matzot and kosher wine sent from New York for the community’s Passover seder.

For more information, see Kulanu's Suriname Page and the Suriname Jewish Community website.