30 January 2008

Plan ahead: 2011 Jewish genealogy conference set

For people who like to plan ahead - really ahead - here's something to put on your calendars.

The 31st IAJGS International Conference on Jewish Genealogy will be held in Washington, DC during summer 2011. Dates and venue are not yet set, but the event will be in July or August.

The 2011 event will be hosted by the Jewish Genealogical Society of Greater Washington (JGSGW), which has hosted four very successful previous conferences (1984, 1988, 1995 and 2003). I can attest to the talents of this society in planning and programming based on my attendance at the 2003 event.

The society's members come from Maryland, Virginia and Washington, DC, and include many recognized experts with wide experience in numerous topics. The society puts together a program of the best speakers on subjects of great interest to the international Jewish genealogical community and combines that with access to rich area resources and respositories.

For more information on the Jewish Genealogical Society of Greater Washington, click here.

Other future venues are Philadelphia (August 2-7, 2009), Paris (2012) and Jerusalem (2014).

Maryland: Jewish Museum and genealogy

The growth of Baltimore's historic Jewish community was spurred on by a bustling port, the second largest port of immigration in the United States.

Researchers should remember to check Baltimore passenger arrivals for elusive ancestors. Not everyone came through Ellis Island in New York, and the ports of Boston, Philadelphia and Baltimore should also be searched using online databases.

That said, The Robert L. Weinberg Family History Center at the Jewish Museum of Maryland offers a wide range of primary source materials:

--Records of Greater Baltimore Jewish cemeteries (with online burial listings for Rosedale, Southern Avenue and four others)

--Baltimore Jewish Times obituaries, 1919-to-present

--Jack Lewis Funeral Home records, 1924-1939, 1956-1965

--Published and unpublished genealogies, Maryland Jewish families

--Baltimore City directories, microfiche/film, 1752-1930 (some years missing)

--US manuscript census, Baltimore and other parts of Maryland, 1900, 1910, 1920, 1930
--Passenger index for arriving ships, Port of Baltimore, 1820-1952

--Passenger manifests of arriving ships Port of Baltimore, 1840-1920

--Memoirs of Jewish Life, Maryland and Europe

--Records of Jewish cemeteries, Greater Baltimore area

--Circumcision (1836-1870, 1940-1967), midwife (1892-1919), and marriage (1850-1944) records of individual Baltimore-area mohels, midwives and rabbis

--HIAS arrival records (1911-1914, 1938-1953)

--Historical Database, Baltimore Religious Personnel

--Yizkor (Memorial) books, East European towns

--Hebrew Orphan Asylum records, 1873-1917

--Registries of Maryland military personnel, World Wars I and II

Additional resources include several area synagogue archives; records of local Jewish institutions and businesses; personal papers; locally published books; and files of biographical, institutional and subject topics related to Baltimore and Maryland Jewry; and oral histories of Maryland Jews.

Periodicals: Baltimore Jewish Times (1919-to-present), Jewish Comment (1895-1918), Jewish Chronicle (1875), Jewish Exponent (1887-1888), Sinai (1856-1860), Generations (1978 to present) and American Jewish Year Book (1899-1985).

Photographs: A collection related to immigration, Maryland Jewish life and Baltimore Jewry's many institutions.

Library: Jewish genealogy books and journals, and a collection of publications and newsletters from genealogical societies.

I tried a database search, but there appears to be a glitch, with the search page marked "a work in progress."

I plan to check back soon as I'm interested in finding what information may be available for my great-uncle, Dr. Louis Tollin (Leib Talalay), who lived in the Sparrow Point area for decades.

A curious note: For a center focusing on genealogy, why is it spelled "geneOlogy" in the URL?

GenealogyBank: Historic papers and more

Historic newspapers are the researcher's friend. We may find articles detailing our families and individuals on our family trees. And, even if our ancestors are not specifically mentioned, we can still learn about the times and places in which they lived.

GenealogyBank bills itself as the fastest growing newspaper archive for family history research. It offers more than 3,300 US newspapers in all 50 states, from the 1600s through today, for some 106 million newspaper articles and 26 million obituaries.

Latest additions features big city dailies and regional weeklies including: San Jose (CA) Mercury, 1886-1922; Baltimore (MD) Sun, 1837-1901; Kansas City Star (MO), 1815-1922; NY Herald, 1844-1863; Philadelphia (PA) Evening Post, 1804-1912; Philadelphia (PA) Inquirer, 1860-1922; and more. In February, Hispanic American Newspapers, 1808-1980, will be added.

The site is celebrating with a 30-day trial offer for only $9.95. This is a great way to see what you can find in this growing database. I've found some interesting items which I'll detail in a later posting.

The site's genealogy director is Tom Kemp, who also writes the site's blog, detailing new resources and developments.

"We are excited about the rapid growth of our newspaper collection and the vast breadth of family history information we now have available” says Genealogy Director for NewsBank, inc., Tom Kemp. “GenealogyBank provides exclusive access to more than four centuries of important genealogical information such as obituaries, marriage and birth announcements as well as interesting and often surprising facts about our ancestors.”

How can you go wrong with this search-til-you drop 30-day deal?

Nevada: Jewish history of the Silver State

Northern Nevada's Jewish history covers ranchers, silver miners, Eastern Europeans, Syrians, merchants, politicians, gamblers, lawyers, mobsters and more. Today, the state is home to a Jewish community of more than 100,000 Jews, according to an article about John Marschall's book "Jews in Nevada: A History."

Iranian Jews are highlighted as well, as Marschall relates how David Farahi and his family became successful in the casino industry, remain observant Jews and help to build Northern Nevada's Jewish community.

Some interesting facts:

--Albert Michelson, the son of a Virginia City merchant, was the first American to receive the Nobel Prize in physics (1907).

--Copper-riveted jeans were invented by Jacob Davis, a Jewish tailor on Reno's Virginia Street.

--The first native female attorney was Felice Cohn from Carson City.

--The state's first permanent synagogue was Reno's Temple Emanu-El in 1921.

--Reno's Hotel El Cortez was built by Abe Zetooney (from Damascus, Syria) and taken over by the Bulasky brothers (from Russia).

--Before synagogues were organized, Northern California rabbis traveled to Nevada for weddings and High Holiday services.

When John Marschall walked through Reno Hebrew Cemetery almost 30 years ago and looked at the names on the headstones, he saw a rich Jewish history that needed to be told.

Marschall, a professor emeritus of history at the University of Nevada, Reno, told that history in "Jews in Nevada: A History," a book recently released by the University of Nevada Press.

Jews were among the immigrants who swarmed what was then part of Utah territory around 1860 with the discovery of silver on the Comstock. The book traces Jews settling in towns along the paths of the Central Pacific and Union Pacific railroads and ends highlighting the burgeoning population and development, especially in Las Vegas.

Three Jewish men served in the first (1864) state legislature: Reform Rabbi Herman Bien, Storey County; Pony Express rider, rancher and musician, Henry Epstein, Carson Valley; and Austin merchant Meyer Rosenblatt.

A former Roman Catholic priest, Marschall says that writing the book became a mitzvah (good deed). Thirty years ago, when he was doing a bibliographical study, he saw nothing had been written about Nevada's Jews.

There's more here.

A million dollars for your research?

What would you do if an eccentric rich old uncle offered you a million dollars to do your family’s genealogy research? That's the question posed by Robert Ragan at Treasure Maps Genealogy.

Your uncle further specifies that "YOU have to do the research without hiring someone to do it for you. And, you have to keep it quiet so that other family members or friends don’t have any motive to help you any more excitedly than they normally would."

So you can't make it easy on yourself and hire someone. What steps would you take? Where do you go from here?

Use your imagination and be honest with yourself… It would be a safe bet to say that you would become known as "Mr./Mrs./Ms. Genealogy" very quickly. You would probably be motivated enough to develop a bounty hunter’s attitude towards your research.

Robert asks, seriously, what would you do differently than now? Would your approach to research change? Would you actually get going on your "to-do" list and get over your procrastination?

Do read the complete post and his suggestions here.

What would I do first?

Well, I'll assume I could use some of the million to pay household bills (and a gourmet home chef for my husband) while I'm travelling the world for research. I'd take those trips I've been putting off for years to Belarus, Lithuania, Ukraine to visit my ancestral shtetls and visit archives I haven't accessed yet. I'd backtrack a bit and get either digital photos or photocopies of several rounds of research in these archives. I have the extensive reports but couldn't afford the photocopies then. These are the easy ones. There would be a trip to Poland to visit the Talalai still there and research archival records to attempt to find the connection between the Jewish and the Catholic branch.

I'd like to include Iran on this jaunt, but I'm not so sure at this time whether it's such a good idea, although many people do go back and forth easily. My husband says he hopes I have a back-up plan, as he's not going back to get me if there's trouble.

There are records to be copied in the Chief Rabbi's Office in Teheran, and I'd visit the Jewish cemeteries in Teheran (most of Beheshtieh has been photographed and is online now) and Isfahan. While I'm in Isfahan - my last trip was in 1976 - I would certainly photograph as many of the headstones in the Pir Bakran Jewish cemetery as possible for posterity.

I'd fund extensive Y-DNA and mt-DNA testing at Family Tree DNA for all my families of interest, as there are many individuals who either can't or don't want to pay for testing. I'd like to just give them the kit and get the results.

All of this is just a drop in the proverbial bucket, however.

What are your top three ideas?

Dachau database available

Steve Morse and Peter Landé have created a One-Step search application for the 160,000 people at Dachau Concentration Camp. JewishGen volunteers initially developed the database, and Landé edited and revised it.

Volunteers cited often poor legibility of records, and efforts have been made to correct some errors. Periodically, the database will continue to be revised and supplemented.

While many of Steve's wide array of helpful tools handle searching on other sites, this database is on his own site, in the Holocaust and Eastern Europe section.

When available, information may include: Family name, given name, date of birth, place of birth, last place of residence, street or provincial location, prisoner number, category of prisoner, date of arrival in Dachau, ultimate fate of prisoner in Dachau.

"The extent of records for concentration camps varies widely, with the most extensive files available for camps located in Germany (Buchenwald, Dachau, Flossenbürg, Neuengamme, Ravensbrück and Sachsenhausen), France (Natzweiler), the Czech Republic (Theresienstadt) and Austria (Mauthausen), with partial records for such Polish camps as Stutthof, Auschwitz, Gross Rosen and Majdanek. Some of these records are available on the web thanks to the efforts of Jewishgen, but access to most remains restricted to major museums or memorial sites at camp locations. As noted above, there are virtually no records for the death camps such as Sobibor and Chelmno and extermination sites in Lithuania and the former Soviet Union.

The purpose of making this Dachau collection available was to illustrate the vast diversity of persons who became victims of the Nazi system. Dachau was the oldest concentration camp (see below) but it was chosen less for its historical interest than because its records are available without restriction, having been located at the United States National Archives and Records Administration and the United States Holocaust Museum."

Dachau was the first camp established (March 1933) by the Nazis. Some 200,000 prisoners from 30 countries (most from Poland) were in the main camp or sub-camps. Some 35,000 prisoners died in Dachau, tens of thousands were released at various times between 1933-1945. In April 1945, thousands of others were liberated by American troops. Many prisoners were transferred from Dachau to other camps; this database does not include their fate. While tens of thousands of the prisoners were Jews, the overwhelming majority were imprisoned for other reasons.

Thanks to Joy Rich of New York for the pointer to this addition to Steve's site.

For more information, see the introduction to the database.

29 January 2008

Maine: Jewish database project

The Maine Jewish History Project, has data on more than 20,000 Jews. It began in 2004, as researchers began to improve Mount Sinai Cemetery's records. They then added data on Jews in and around Portland since the 1800s, and it expanded to a statewide database.

Information has currently been entered for 250 Maine cities and towns - the largest being Portland, Bangor and Lewiston - and information on at least 120 Jewish organizations. There are 1,400 photographs of headstones; although the first known Jewish burial was in 1860, most deaths in the database are in the 20th century.

Future plans include collecting oral histories from elderly community members.

Organizers say the project's growth illustrates the power of the Internet in compiling genealogical information and history. For security reasons (information on living persons), full access is available only on request, However, the full burial index is available publicly, searchable by person's name, organization or cemetery (there are seven in Maine).

The project is mainly fueled by volunteers, although it hopes to raise $20,000 by the end of 2008, triggering a $40,000 grant from the Sam Cohen Foundation.

Read more here.

27 January 2008

Jerusalem Post: Sephardi genealogy comes of age

If you have the Jerusalem Post's weekend edition of Friday, January 25 and get the Metro section, you've seen the cover story, "The lesser-known tree: New sources of information are shedding light on the history of Sephardi Jews."

Pages 14-17 carry my story of "Sephardi genealogy comes of age."

As Tracing the Tribe's readers know, I am dedicated to Sephardic genealogy because of my general interest and our Talalay family background.

The story focuses on the growth of the Internet providing an ever-increasing source of information for genealogists.

The story mentions Dr. Yitzchak Kerem, Mathilde Tagger, Dr. Jeffrey Malka, Dr. Stanley Hordes, Prof. Daniel Kazez, Alain Farhi, Shelomo Alfassa, Harry Stein, Pere Bonnin and Bennett Greenspan.

Click here to read the complete story. You can also go to www.jpost.com and click on Jewish World from the top section bar, then scroll down to the story. The link will only be up for about a week.

26 January 2008

Chicago 2008: Registration now live

If you've been wondering when you could finally register for the 28th IAJGS International Conference on Jewish Genealogy - the answer is NOW. Get ready to network with international experts, archivists and researchers of all skill levels.

The dates are Sunday-Friday, August 17-22. Conference and hotel registration can be accessed at the event site here. Prices are posted for various component costs, such as early bird registration, special luncheons/breakfasts and more.

Be prepared to arrive early - as activities, according to the organizers, will begin on the morning of the first day (Sunday, August 17) at the conference venue, the Chicago Marriott Downtown Magnificent Mile.

Early arrivals will find a Friday Shabbat dinner (August 15) and a Saturday welcome dinner (August 16); price and details at the website.

Visiting the vendor room has always been difficult with so many programs to attend from early morning to late afternoon. This year, the room will be open one evening.

Tracing the Tribe will provide more details as they are announced.

I'll be blogging again from the conference, and looking forward to meeting many readers at the main annual event for global Jewish genealogists.

For details announced earlier by the organizers, click here.

24 January 2008

Germany: Preserving Jewish history

This year's eighth Obermayer German Jewish History Awards, funded by Boston philanthropist Arthur Obermayer, honored six Germans for their work:

-- Gerhard Buck, 71, began a Jewish genealogical database and restored a Jewish cemetery in the central village of Idstein-Walsdorf;

-- Charlotte Mayenberger, 51, documented and researched the former Bad Buchau Jewish community;

-- Helmut Urbschat, 75, and Manfred Kluge, 68, researched and recorded the Jewish history of Vlotho in western Germany;

-- Johanna Rau, 43, bought and renovated a crumbling synagogue in Heubach in central Germany which is now used as a community center to teach about Jewish customs and history and is a memorial to dozens of local Jews who perished in the Holocaust. "It is the only village synagogue in the region — which makes it unique — and it allows us to clearly show basic elements of Judaism and Jewish life," she said.

-- Fritz Reuter, 78, established Rashi House the first post-war Jewish museum in Worms, home to a famous medieval Jewish community, and founded a society that teaches young Germans about the important role Jews played in prewar society. "That is our way of fighting against the far-right, using words and the spirit," he said.

Obermayer award recipients receive an undisclosed sum intended to help continue their work.

Read more here.

Library of Congress: Jewish cookbooks

Did you know that the Library of Congress has a collection of several hundred Jewish cookbooks? This includes the very first Jewish cookbook known to have been published (1871) in the United States:

Mrs. Esther Levy's Jewish Cookery Book, on Principles of Economy, Adapted for Jewish Housekeepers, with the Addition of Many Useful Medicinal Recipes, and Other Valuable Information, Relative to Housekeeping and Domestic Management (Garden Grove, Calif.: Pholiota Press, 1982, TX724.L4 GenColl; Philadelphia: W.S. Turner, 1871; RBSC).

The stories of our families are tied to our ancestors' kitchens and family recipes, and provide a window into the Jewish household of days gone by. Levy's book included a Jewish calendar and special instructions for preparing for Passover.

In 1901, the first Yiddish cookbook was published in the US: Hinde Amchanitzki's Lehrbukh vi azoy tsu kokhen un baken (Textbook on how to cook and bake)((New York: S. Druckerman, 1901; TX724.A47 Hebr); click here.

Most of the Jewish cookbooks provide kosher recipes, lists of what foods may be used or not, how to set up and keep a kosher kitchen. There were also food columns in the Anglo-Jewish, Yiddish and Hebrew press that provided more information, recipes and carried advertisements. In 1935, 48,000 Jewish homes received the first copy of the Organized Kashruth Company's Kosher Food Guide (New York, n.d.; BM710.K67 GenColl).

And, with the advent of modern technology, famed writer Joan Nathan made 39 half-hour PBS programs based on her book Jewish Cooking in America (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1998; TX724.N368 1998 GenColl).

Just walk into any major bookstore - my favorite is Barnes & Noble on New York's Upper West Side - and visit the cookbook section. In addition to the many international guides, the Jewish section seems to grow with each visit. My visits there are usually expensive, even when I try to convince myself that I'm just looking!

Library of Congress: 'My Friend Flickr'

Here's a new online photo resource for researchers around the world.

According to a recent Library of Congress Blog posting, the LOC has taken a big step and has entered the world of Web 2.0, writes Matt Raymond, the Library’s director of communications since 2006.

Millions of people around the globe are actively creating, sharing or benefiting from user-generated content. Raymond wants to expand the reach of the LOC and and access to its collections as far as possible. The best way to do this is through the Internet.

That’s why it is so exciting to let people know about the launch of a brand-new pilot project the Library of Congress is undertaking with Flickr, the enormously popular photo-sharing site that has been a Web 2.0 innovator. If all goes according to plan, the project will help address at least two major challenges: how to ensure better and better access to our collections, and how to ensure that we have the best possible information about those collections for the benefit of researchers and posterity. In many senses, we are looking to enhance our metadata (one of those Web 2.0 buzzwords that 90 percent of our readers could probably explain better than me).

From some 14 million bits of visual materials (prints, photos, etc.), some 3,000 photos from two very popular collections are now on the LOC's Flickr page. These are images for which no copyright is known to exist.

The online digitized high-resolution images include 1,600 color images from the Farm Security Administration/Office of War Information and some 1,500 images from the George Grantham Bain News Service.

The LOC wants people to tag, comment and make notes on the images, just like other photos at the website. Many images are missing essential caption details, such as where it was taken, or who's pictured. If Flickr members can provide such details, the resource is certainly enhanced.

Flickr has created a new publication model for publicly held photographic collections called “The Commons.” Flickr hopes—as do we—that the project will eventually capture the imagination and involvement of other public institutions, as well.

Writes Raymond, "this pilot project is a statement about the power of the Web and user communities to help people better acquire information, knowledge ... [and] to learn as much as we can about that power simply through making constructive use of it."

To view the photos, click here. It is free and you don't need an account to view the images. To add comments or tags, however, you will need to sign up for a free account.

Florida: Austro-Hungarian resources, Jan. 30

If you have Austro-Hungarian ancestors, there are many resources to help you. To learn what's available, the Jewish Genealogical Society of Broward County will host Henry Wellisch of Toronto, at 7pm, Wednesday, January 30, at Plantation's Soref JCC.

Born in Vienna in 1922, Wellish and his parents boarded an illegal transport to Palestine in 1940 that was intercepted by the British. Its passengers were deported to and detained in Mauritius for the war's duration. In 1944, he volunteered for the Jewish Brigade, serving in Western Europe and he served with the Israeli army during the 1948 War of Independence after the refugees were allowed to enter Palestine.

A civil engineer, he has lived in Canada since 1951 and He began to research his ancestry some 18 years ago, tracing his family to the mid-18th century and
establishing contact with long-lost relatives in many countries.

He's been a member of the JGS of Canada since 1989, edited its newsletter and served as president 1993-1998. He lectures to various groups as well as to the annual IAJGS conferences., has published numerous articles and contributed to websites.

For more, see

Chicago: Plan a family reunion, Jan. 27

Are you thinking of finally getting your family together in one spot? Can you do this in a backyard, or will you need a stadium for the crowds?

No matter how many people are expected, you'll need help.

If you're near the Chicago area, The Jewish Genealogical Society of Illinois is presenting "How to Plan the Perfect Family Reunion" with JGSI member Sally Mann who will provide ways to help you plan and organize your next clan reunion.

The main program begins at 2pm, Sunday, January 27, at Temple Beth Israel in Skokie, a Chicago suburb.

For directions and more information, click here.

Florida: Tech guru Steve Morse, Feb. 10-13-17

One of genealogy's most innovative gurus doesn't often appear in Florida, but Dr. Stephen P. Morse will highlight some of the more than 100 web-based tools on his One-Step site, during three South Florida appearances.

Check these websites for details, directions and more:

10am, Sunday, February 10
Jewish Genealogical Society of Greater Miami
Greater Miami Jewish Federation, Miami.

1pm, Wednesday, February 13
Jewish Genealogical Society of Palm Beach County
South County Civic Center, Delray Beach.

1pm, Sunday, February 17
Co-sponsored by the Jewish Genealogical Society of Broward County, the Genealogical Society of Broward County and Nova Southeastern University
Knight Auditorium, Nova Southeastern University, Davie

These are must-see events for everyone interested in learning about techniques and tools to make the quest for roots much easier.

The San Francisco resident will present “One-Step Webpages: A Potpourri of Genealogical Search Tools," describe the range of available tools and provide highlights of each.

Morse attracted worldwide attention with his One-Step method for searching the Ellis Island Database and the 1930 United States census. Shortly after the Ellis Island Foundation website opened - and his own frustration with its search engine - he created an alternative way to more efficiently extract Ellis Island records.

He's also developed various One-Step methods for Searching for Ships in the Morton Allan Directory, Searching the Social Security Death Index (SSDI), Obtaining Birthdays in One Step, Jewish Calendar Conversion Program, Generating Daitch-Mokotoff Soundex Codes, and Generating American Soundex Codes. The complete list of more than 100 tools in 13 categories, with instructions, can be found here.

Morse is a computer professional best known as the architect of the Intel 8086 microprocessor (grandfather of today’s Pentium processor) which sparked the PC revolution 20 years ago. He has a PhD in electrical engineering.

He's been interested in genealogy from a very young age and researching his Russian-Jewish origins has led him to develop these remarkable programs beneficial to all genealogists.

Germany: Delivering the Jewish names

I was delighted to see The Jerusalem Report feature a story on Lars Menk, author of the award-winning book, "Dictionary of German-Jewish Surnames," published by Avotaynu

A non-Jewish postman from Berlin, Menk's life is names. During the day, he delivers the mail; by night he collects the names of German Jews through the end of the 19th century.

A mailman by profession and a genealogist by passion, 46-year-old Menk doesn't know how many letters he has delivered to Berlin residents over the years. But he can tell you the exact number of family names he has uncovered: 13,093 are listed in his award-winning tome ...

It took Menk, who has no formal training in history or genealogy, nine years or around 10,000 hours to compile the 800-page reference work, which won the prestigious Obermayer German Jewish History Award in 2007, and an honorable mention in the National Jewish Book Award.

The dictionary contains the etymology and occurrences of each name, covering names through the 1899 for the most part - some through 1925. The territory is today's unified Germany, and former Prussian territory that is now Poland, Russia and Lithuania. Some 14th century names - such as Astruck - has its first known use in Montpellier, France in the 14th century.

In the story, Menk says the geographic area was an important source of Jewish emigration to America. He says he often receives inquiries from American Jews asking about possible distant relatives in Germany.

The top two most common surnames are Meyer and Levy, and there are tables of numbers of Jews in German provinces, an 85-page list of geographic locations with a Jewish population, list of abbreviations of types of names and locations, as well as a guide as to how to use the book, and a bibliograph of some 300 sources and references.

Baptized as a baby and raised a Protestant, he grew up near Bremen with no Jewish contact.

"It was a labor of love," says Menk, a tall, slim, bespectacled man, who smiles often. "It is a wonderful experience to bring back to life what seems to be dead in the past," he says, sitting at a small desk in the living room of his Berlin apartment, where he does his research and writing.

At 22, an identity crisis spurred his ancestral research and, to his surprise, "I found a groom with a Jewish surname on the marriage certificate of an ancestor."

His West German Rhineland herdsmen ancestors had contact with Jewish cattle dealers, and he learned he also had a Jewish great-grandmother Gudula Cahn (Julie Juelich, 1832-1898), and that this part of his father's ancestry was hidden from future generations.

The last halakhically Jewish family member - his grandfather - was not aware, says Menk, of his roots when he joined the Nazi stormtroopers in 1930.

His discovery set him on a spiritual journey: "When I found out about this heritage, it was like retrieving something lost."

Read more here. To purchase the book, go to Avotaynu Publishers.

The name Astruck, found by Menk, is a common enough Sephardic name (Astruch, today Astruga and other variations) in Catalunya, Spain, found in the records of Girona and Barcelona and listed frequently in many Sephardic research books as both a given and family name. Following the 1391 anti-Jewish riots across Spain - and earlier times of persecution - many Sephardic Jews went north into France and Germany, and later into other countries, including Eastern Europe, so finding Astruck (by any spelling) is reasonable.

23 January 2008

Virginia: Breaking brick walls, Feb. 3

Newcomers and experienced researchers can both hit brick walls - those situations that researchers just can't seem to break through in the quest for family history.

You know you need help from someone with specialized knowledge, but where do you go? Who can help?

If you live near Washington, DC, there's a program with four major experts who may be able to assist, so bring your "brick wall" questions for them. They'll be wearing their thinking caps, ready to help you.

The Jewish Genealogical Society of Greater Washington will meet at 1pm Sunday, February 3, at Beth El Congregation in Alexandria, Virginia. Admission is $5 for non-members.

This "Breaking through brick walls" session will feature experts Jonina Duker, Boris Feldbylum, Arline Sachs and Barry Shay.

Duker earned a Yale honors BA, attended the New School for Social Research, Wharton and the Burke Institute; holds a Hebrew University Certificate of Advanced Jewish Studies; has written JewishGen infofiles; founded JewishGen's Yiddish Theater and Vaudeville Research Group; coordinated the JewishGen translation of the Minsk yizkor book. An expert on Holocaust education, Duker has spoken at CAJE and IAJGS conferences.

Feldblyum, an architectural photographer, is co-founder and president of FAST Genealogy Service. His working knowledge of Russian, Ukrainian, Lithuanian and Polish, along with a thorough understanding of post-Soviet culture and mentality, and his ability to motivate archival officials are the main factors in the ongoing success of FAST, which was created in response to the demand of American researchers for access to records in FSU archives.

Shay is Latvia Special Interest Group president and Latvia SIG webpage editor.

Sachs, a retired computer information systems professor and author, has held many positions in JGSGW, including president, as well as former IAJGS secretary. She headed the International Cemetery Project, which has evolved into JewishGen's JOWBR project. She also co-hosts "Tracing Your Family Roots" a twice-monthly public access television show since 1997. Some three dozen episodes can be viewed online covering many topics with experts in their fields.

For more information and directions, click here.

Genealogist's Parade: The Talalay Float

Bill West at West in New England has challenged us to join the Genealogist's Parade and design a family float.

Here's a chance for me to describe, but on a much bigger scale, what our Talalay family has always maintained would be the table centerpieces at our reunion: Large green foam rubber heads of broccoli.

Our Talalay cousins were involved in the production of latex foam rubber. Google "Talalay Process," and you'll see what I mean. You can't sell a mattress or pillow in Europe without those words somewhere on the item.

Another cousin, Johns Hopkins Medical School biochemist Dr. Paul Talalay, discovered anti-cancer enzymes in broccoli sprouts. He was on all the morning talk shows about 10 years ago, and is still very involved in the field. His father and brothers were the latex foam rubber people.

The green foam rubber float with large broccoli-head shapes, at front and rear, would also feature a made-for-the-event Talalay family coat of arms. As the use of a flutaphone (read Bill's posting) seems mandatory, a dozen or so golden flutaphones would be affixed around the float's perimeter - the horns filled with broccoli sprouts. No music, but very healthy!

For our coat of arms, let's start with a few green broccoli heads rampant on a field of gold in one quadrant.

As we believe our family originated in Spain and is Sephardi, I'll take a cue from the historic coats of arms of Jewish families or those descended from formerly Jewish families and add several six-pointed gold stars on a field of green in the second quadrant.

In the third quadrant, there'll be two golden lions on a field of blue, representing our famous ancestor Rabbi Leib, son of Rabbi Mikhael. One for the Rabbi, whose name means "lion," and another for the many descendants named for him through the generations - Yehuda Leib, Aryeh Leib, Leo, Leo, Leon, Louis and others.

In the fourth quadrant, a stylized view of the Ten Commandments tablets, in silver on a field of blue, as Rabbi Leib was a Talmudic scholar.

The green also represents the fields of Vorotinschtina, an agricultural colony near Mogilev, Belarus, that was organized in 1832 by some 30 families, including our Talalay.

I'm still working on adding the other family elements of music and artistic talent. For those interested in more Jewish heraldry (coats of arms and such), click here.

Unfortunately, the Talalay are also known for a genetic tendency toward procrastination, which might mean that our entry won't be ready for the actual parade!

22 January 2008

Medieval Helpdesk: From scroll to book

Everyone reading this has learned enough about computers to get here, but remember when we were trying to learn how to use the new technological innovation - the computer? Remember the questions we asked of those patient people who helped us through it all?

Well, here's a video (English subtitles) on the Medieval Helpdesk, when civilization went from writing on scrolls (that only had to be rolled up) and transitioned to the new technology of books.

Here's a slightly different version (ending has changed in editing), also subtitled for the linguistically-challenged.

In case you're wondering, the monks are speaking Norwegian.


21 January 2008

Poland: Post-war atrocities

Princeton University Professor Jan Gross wrote Neighbors (2001) which focused on the 1941 events in the small Polish town of Jedwabne, where Polish Jews were massacred or burned alive by their Polish neighbors.

Gross moved to the United States after an anti-Semitic campaign was launched by Poland's communist party in 1968.

The book prompted then-Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski to apologize to Jews worldwide for Jedwabne.

His 2006 book, Fear, has just been released in Polish, and deals with the Kielce Pogrom on July 4, 1946, a year after the end of Nazi occupation. Forty Holocaust survivors were massacred following rumors that Jews had killed a Polish boy.

In the immediate post-war period, between 600 and 3,000 of the 300,000 surviving Jews were killed in pogroms or murdered individually, according to Poland’s Institute for National Remembrance (IPN), which is charged with investigating Nazi and communist-era crimes.

Gross points out that thousands of Poles had risked their lives to save their Jewish neighbors.

Poland’s communist regime, he says, took over where the Nazis left off in the annihilation of 3 million of the pre-war 3.5 million Jews who lived in Poland.

The Jews who reappeared after having been hidden or who returned from the Soviet Union, were rejected by the Poles, he says, because of "the Poles’ desire to keep abandoned Jewish properties and guilt over having profited from the riches left by Holocaust victims."

A just released AP story says this Polish edition of Fear has forced Poland to confront history. sparking a debate about anti-Semitism, the book has been criticized in newspapers. Historians also accuse Gross of inflammatory language and the unfairanti-Semitic labeling of post-war Polish society.

According to the story, Gross was at debates in Kielce and Warsaw, recorded bythe media at standing-room-only events. The Kielce debate was televised live.

"I would like for my book to show people what an incredibly strong toxic poison anti-Semitism is in the general psychology of Poles, because it made us incapable of withstanding temptation," Gross told a crowd of some 250 people who crammed into a cultural center in Kielce, a town of 200,000 inhabitants, some 110 miles south of Warsaw."

Although few in Poland argue with the facts, many criticize his interpretation, including some Polish Jews who lived through the events. The last living leader of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising, Marek Edelman, says the murdering of Jews was "banditry," not anti-Semitism, in an interview with a daily paper.

The accusations in "Fear" are tough for Poland, where the Nazi occupation also killed some three million Polish citizens in addition to the 3 million Jews. And there is also criticism in that the deaths of the non-Jews and the efforts of other non-Jews to save the Jews has received little attention.

Thousands of Poles risked their own lives and those of their families to save Jews. More than 6,000 Poles — the most in any country — have been named "Righteous Among the Nations," a title granted to non-Jews who helped Jews escape Nazi persecution.

But violent incidents of anti-Semitism did tarnish Poland's postwar history.

While some at the Kielce meeting shouted "Lies, lies," others commended Gross for forcing the country to confront the post-war killing.

Read the complete story here.

Vatican: Jewish street sellers expelled

There have been Jewish street sellers in Rome since Paul IV (1555-1559). Although the Pope confined the Jews to the Rome ghetto, he allowed them to conduct minor street trades.

This all changed in December 2007, when Vatican city governor Cardinal Giovanni Lajolo banned all traders from the area, and upset the Jewish sellers who claim to have been licensed by a Pope centuries before.

According to this European Jewish Press story, there are 113 licenses for souvenir selling in Rome; 112 belong to Jewish vendors.

The vendors, called urtisti ("those who bump into tourists"), sell small plaster statues, crucifixes, rosaries and pictures of saints and Popes.

Urtisti association chair Lello Zarfatti says, "I have been selling my souvenirs in St. Peter’s Square in the last 50 years thanks to an oral permission then granted by a Vatican prefect."

The souvenir sellers have appealed the decision and three vendors picketed the entrance to St Peter’s Square.

Rome Jewish community spokesman Riccardo Pacifici says, "Of the 9,000 Jewish families living in Rome, at least 400 hundred engage in street selling activities.”

The Vatican prefect pledged to meet with his Rome colleague in order to tackle the vendors’ requests.

When Italy unified in 1870 at the expenses of the Pope’s temporal power on Rome, Jews turned into souvenir sellers after obtaining ad hoc licenses from the Italian civil authorities, while some were granted such right directly from the Vatican authorities.

Rome's Chief Rabbi Riccardo Di Segni is reportedly backing the vendors.

Read the article here.

20 January 2008

Canada: Lion meets dragon, January 23

Readers in and around Hamilton, Ontario are in for a treat, as Rabbi Jordan D. Cohen speaks on "the Lion Meets the Dragon - Jewish Life in China, Past & Present," on January 23.

Former rabbi of Hong Kong's United Jewish Congregation, Rabbi Cohen also served as rabbinic advisor to congregations throughout Asia over three years. Drawing on his experiences, he will offer a picture of how Jewish and Asian cultures and values have found common ground, and why China has provided a safe haven for Jews during periods of persecutions.

The meeting begins at 7.30pm at Temple Anshe Sholom, Hamilton.

For more information, click here.

UK: Indexing Jewish marriages

Looking for Jewish marriages to track your ancestors in the United Kingdom? Available resources include United Synagogue marriage authorizations which can offer clues to genealogical research.

What is an authorization? The document is obtained by bride and groom from the Office of the Chief Rabbi before a religious marriage can take place. Documents proving the Jewish ethnicity of the couple must be produced, including the ketubah (Jewish marriage contract) or the religious marriage certificate for the parents of both. If either of the couple is a convert, the certificate of conversion must be presented.

A new resource will be coming online to include all United Synagogue marriages up to and including 1907, thanks to Louise Messik, a council member of the Jewish Genealogical Society of Great Britain (JGSGB).

During 2007 and after many years of discussion, writes Messik, the JGSGB and the United Synagogue (US) reached an agreement whereby she would index the documents for those dates. It would show the names of bride and groom, with date and place of marriage. The indexes would then be placed on a joint website under US auspices.

Although this work will take many months to complete, Messik is hopeful that the first 3,000 or so records she has prepared may be available online in the near future and be updated as more are ready. Tracing the Tribe will let you know when this happens, so stay tuned for more.

Adds Messik, the authorizations carry many genealogical clues if researchers know where and how to look. Rabbi Jeremy Rosen and Messik have produced an aid to deciphering the forms; it is here.

The page includes three examples of text from an 1884 form, a page on terminology and an original handwritten form.

Although forms have changed over the years, the basic data required includes application date, impending marriage date, Hebrew and English names for both bride and groom, their places of residence, birthplaces, certificates presented to confirm information and who presented the certificates, whether the groom was married before or is related to the bride, names of the groom's brothers in Hebrew and where they live, any previous surnames the bride might have used, synagogue where wedding will take place and the time, reception place, officiant's name, special comments and the groom's signature.

The data also includes terms (in cursive Hebrew and transliteration) used if the groom or bride is a convert to Judaism. The names of the groom's brothers are listed in the event the husband dies before the couple has children (with the obligation of the eldest unmarried brother to marry the widow). Although banned in Ashkenazi communities for 1,000 years, according to a footnote on the page, this was practiced in Sephardic communities until 1948 and their immigration to Israel. Next to each brother's name is the Hebrew terminology for his status (whether he were unavailable - already married, for example - or likely to refuse).

The bride's name also has a prefix describing her status, which could be virgin, widow, divorcee, important person or convert. Other terminology indicates if the bride's father is alive or not at the time of application.

This index should be a boon to researchers with a UK connection who have struggled, says Messik, with the form's cursive Hebrew and Aramaic and were frustrated in deciphering clues and information.

Messik promised to let me know when the first group of names is published and, of course, I'll let readers know.

Yad Vashem: Arabic website to launch

Yad Vashem has announced that its Arabic Website will be launched January 24, in advance of International Holocaust Remembrance Day. Its Farsi website was launched in 2007.

During 2007, some 7 million people from more than 200 countries visited Yad Vashem, some 56,000 from Muslim countries, including 32,500 from Arab countries.

The event will begin at 11 a.m. with a panel discussion, "The Holocaust and the Arab World," with academics, journalists and others. It will be in Hebrew with simultaneous translation into English and Arabic.

The site:

will include the historical narrative of the Holocaust, concepts from the Holocaust, academic articles, artifacts, maps, photos, archival documents and an online video testimony resource center all translated into Arabic, as well as a special multimedia presentation of the Auschwitz Album, with Arabic narration, stories of Righteous Among the Nations- including Muslims from Turkey and Albania- and the movie We Were There, which documents a joint visit of Arabs and Jews to Auschwitz. The site also contains information on the study of Arabic in Theresienstadt, and the Yad Vashem exhibit, "BESA: A Code of Honor: Muslim Albanians who Rescued Jews during the Holocaust."

Yad Vashem chairman Avner Shalev said

“The Arabic speaking public is substantial, and providing an easily accessible and comprehensive website about the Holocaust in Arabic is crucial. In light of the Holocaust denial and antisemitism that we are witness to in Arabic countries, we want to offer an alternative source of information to moderates in these countries, to provide them with reliable information about the Shoah.”

Yad Vashem: Names Recovery Project update

In advance of International Holocaust Remembrance Day (January 27), Yad Vashem has sent out an update on The Shoah Victims' Names Recovery Project.
In addition to thanking worldwide volunteers for their ongoing efforts, outreach manager Cynthia Wroclawski's message includes pointers to some new online resources and some new events.

--A new Pages of Testimony Tutorial Video is available. The 10-minute video demonstrates how to help survivors and others to fill out Pages of Testimony and memorialize Jews they know of who perished. It depicts a volunteer visiting two women in their homes to assist them in adding the names of victims. It would be helpful for screening at volunteer training sessions to provide an introduction to those wishing to undertake a project.

--"Unto Every Person There is a Name Presentation" is another short video which may assist in planning Yom HaShoah commemoration activities. It is a dramatic recitation of the names of Shoah victims and text with brief biographical information about the victims. You might also consider a names recitation ceremony with the names your community collected during the Names Recovery campaign.

--A new Photo Gallery features pictures of Names Recovery events from around the world. You can also submit photos of your events to be included in this section.

--A Volunteer Forum has been set up for global volunteers, as a venue for networking, idea exchange, experiences and tips for successful names collections.

--The first International Youth Congress will be held on January 27 at Yad Vashem, and will gather international youth leaders to to meet and make their generation's voice heard on the subject of Holocaust remembrance and future significance, during the three-day event.

For more information, click here.

California: Virtual Surname Wall database

There are myriad ways to get your family quest out there so people searching your names can find you.

In addition to those we know about and use frequently, such as the very popular JewishGen Family Finder, the Southern California Genealogical Society has announced the roll-out of its searchable Virtual Surname Wall database.

According to the SCGS's Paula Hinkel, entries from more than 1,000 genealogists around the world are now searchable by family name, by geographic region and by each participant's Submitter ID. Participation is voluntary.

Privacy is a major concern among some researchers and I was happy to see that those submitting data can choose from three privacy options. Additionally, only your unique Submitter ID will be shown online.

If an inquiry is received about a possible family connection, you can authorize SCGS to release all contact details, only an email address, or ask SCGS to be the contact intermediary.

Members of the Tribe are located around the globe, so it isn't a bad idea to let people know what names you are searching. In the case of Jewish genealogy, you might find those people who haven't heard of JewishGen (it is possible!), but listed their names elsewhere.

If you'd like to search your surnames, click here. Under "Breaking News," scroll down to Virtual Surname Wall and click to either search the database or add new names.

The database can be searched by surname, location, or Submitter ID or any combination of the three. It is a "begins with" search, which means a search for Tal will currently bring up only Talbott/Talbot, Taliaferro and Talley/Tally. I just added some Talalay variations, so the hits will increase as the database is updated and more people list their names of interest.

You can also search within a field by adding % to the term. Writing &penn will bring back references with Pennsylvania.

It's easy to add names. Enter surname information (including variations), the geographic area in which the family lived, the migration path and time frame. See the page for more detailed information.

Each entry screen has room for up to 10 names, but you can enter multiple screens. Note that entries are not limited to California.

As entries are added, the Virtual Surname Wall will become more valuable.

19 January 2008

WorldVitalRecords now FamilyLink.com

Mergers, name changes, new web sites - the pursuit of family ancestry is certainly keeping the gen business hopping. I wonder what's next?

World Vital Records, Inc. has changed its name to FamilyLink.com, Inc. which, according to the January 14 press release, "better reflects the company's mission of connecting families to one another through innovative online tools."

"We marvel at the opportunity that the Internet provides to build web sites and social networking applications that can literally reach millions of users. FamilyLink.com will be our umbrella brand for a whole portfolio of web sites, widgets, and applications that all help families get connected to each other and to the past," said Paul Allen, CEO, FamilyLink.com.

FamilyLink.com will continue to operate the WorldVitalRecords web site, with its 5,000 databases, nearly 1 billion records, and nearly 24,000 paying subscribers.

"We will continue to add new US and international records to the site every business day," said Allen. "Our strong emphasis on aggregating vital records and other family history materials from around the world will continue, as will our use of the World Vital Records brand on our genealogical products. However, the company's official name will now be FamilyLink.com, Inc."

The company said it will also continue to grow its FamilyLink.com social network that has attracted more than 47,000 customers and has doubled its site traffic already this year. It will also continue to operate the We're Related Facebook application, the #1 social application for families out of nearly 14,000 Facebook.com applications. We're Related has more than 2 million users and is
growing at a rate of 6,000 users a day. More Facebook applications are in the works.

"The FamilyLink.com name is more reflective of the broad mission of our company, which is to provide innovative tools to help families connect," said David Lifferth, President, FamilyLink.com.

"WorldVitalRecords.com will continue to provide hundreds of millions of vital records that family historians love, but as a company we are also creating tools and content for family members of all ages and interests."

"Our enthusiastic team of genealogists and IT professionals is excited to keep up the tradition we have had of delivering extremely high quality resources and tools to our users at a very low cost," said Lifferth.

findmypast.com & Scotland Online merge

Today's gen business clip is that Findmypast.com has been acquired by Scotland Online.

"The company said it had acquired the business Title Research Group as part of its plans to establish a world-class online network of family history resources, but it did not disclose the sale price.

The merger will see Scotland Online's current online genealogy service, ScotlandsPeople, amalgamating with findmypast.com to create an enlarged resource to serve millions of family history enthusiasts worldwide."

Scotland Online said it would enable a wider audience to access the most complete suite of family history records available online in the UK." It also won the tender for the 1911 England and Wales census records, to be available in 2009.

Findmypast.com is a destination website for family history researchers and was the first company to place online the complete birth, marriage and death indexes for England and Wales, and later added census and passenger-list records.

Read more here.

USHMM: Museum begins responding to requests

The US Holocaust Memorial Museum announced on January 17 that it is ready to begin responding to survivor requests for information from Holocaust survivors and their families from the International Tracing Service Archives in Bad Arolsen, Germany.

At the Washington, DC meeting, museum representatives and the ITS director provided an overview on the archive, its history, holdings and processes to find specific documents.

The ITS archive contains more than 100 million digital images of material relating to the fates of approximately 17.5 million people — both Jews and non-Jews — who perished in the Holocaust or otherwise fell victim to the Nazi regime.

In August 2007, the first installment of digital copies arrived in Washington, including 18 million digital images of camp, transport, ghetto and arrest records.

In November, it received a copy of the Central Name Index with more than 50 million digital images. The balance - relating to slave labor and displaced persons camps - will be transferred in installments between 2008-2010.

Spain: Holocaust Day, January 27

Carta de Sefarad has published a special edition of Spanish events scheduled around the International Day of Holocaust Remembrance.

Events are planned for Barcelona (7 events), Madrid (7), Oviedo (3) and Toledo (1).

The schedule includes remembrance ceremonies by both community and government organizations, lectures, round table discussions, conferences, film screenings, concerts and book presentations.

To see the complete schedule (in Spanish), click here.

18 January 2008

The Genealogue is back!

The resident wit of gen-blogging is Chris Dunham, whose Genealogue gems never fail to provoke everything from smiles to giggles to falling-off-your-chair-laughing episodes.

I was delighted to see him back at work after a too-long absence.

His first post was a top 10 list on how not to begin a family history.

Which is your favorite?

Hmmm. Could we turn this into an annual competition or a Carnival of Genealogy?


Book: Moscow photos, 1900-1917

A picture is worth 1,000 words, they say, and here's a new book that will provide insight into Russia's history, 1900-1917, when many of our ancestors still lived there. This story appeared in The Moscow Times.

"20th Century Russia in Photographs: 1900 to 1917" (Rossiya XX Vek v Fotografiyakh 1900-1917) is published by the Moscow House of Photography. The photographs are also available to view here; some 100,000 photos are now accessible, dating from 1840.

The site, of course, is entirely in Russian. What I have determined, with my basic Cyrillic is that images are organized according to decade. Visitors may set the view from 10-100 images per screen for each decade. There is a detailed multi-level geographical index, followed by a theme index and two different name indexes at the bottom.

This sounds like a good project for One-Page guru Steve Morse's talents.

Even if researchers don't find family photographs, the range certainly gives us an idea of the environment, social activities and a feeling for the times our ancestors lived. The photos are also valuable in dating images we do have and especially for forensic genealogists who specialize in decoding images, such as Maureen Taylor.

Additionally, in February, the web site will begin accepting photos uploaded by Russians themselves, so there should be an exponential increase in what is available, and add to our knowledge. We may even find eventually copies of the photos we have already, as long lost cousins begin to upload their own images. I'd like to include some of the Moscow images of our Talalay branches, and see if any of them are recognized.

In any case, back to the story, which is fascinating.

In a picture from 1907, an eager crowd gathers on a cobbled street of Petersburg to see Russia's first car show, a small boy in knickerbockers racing across in a blur of excitement. In others, bonneted women admire the first electric lighting in a shopping arcade and pilots wheel out a Bleriot monoplane to take part in a 1910 air show.

But despite these signs of technological progress, abject poverty is never far from the camera's lens. Headscarfed women wait in an endless line at a pawnbroker's and bums fight outside a night shelter, whose Dickensian walls are painted with the slogans: "No drinking vodka, no singing songs, behave yourselves quietly."

There are hundreds of full-page archival images of politics, documentary images and family portraits.

The state-owned gallery - Moscow House of Photography - is in an ongoing project to collect and catalogue historically interesting images of the past 100 years. Another four books are planned: pre-war, World War II, Kruschchev and Brezhnev eras, and perestroika to 2000.

The Tsar's family and revolutionary leaders are not in the book, replaced by

"memorable images instead show strange scenes from a forgotten past: swollen-faced residents of a leper colony pose in peaked caps; opera singer Anastasia Vyaltseva lazes in her private train car, the equal of the one now used by pop star Alla Pugachyova; and prize fighters at a Petersburg circus - three of whom are black - flex their muscles and handle-bar moustaches."

More than 50 archives were involved, from internationally known museums, such as St. Petersburg's Ethnography Museum, to museums in provincial cities (Ryazan, Yeletsk and Murom), as well as many private collections.

Most of the 50,000-copy run are being given to schools and libraries. A few copies are available at $245 each. This first book took eight years to compile; the story addresses some of the problems encountered.

If you can't obtain a copy, the published photos and many more are on at Inphoto.ru, created by the gallery. The Moscow House of Photography has publication rights from the archives, but not the images themselves. Many had only negatives and the gallery made prints; each image is given a full page in the book.

Although many photographers' names are lost, the book includes images by "well-known pioneers of Russian photography, such as Maxim Dmitriyev, who chronicled Nizhny Novgorod markets and lowlifes."

It is, according to the story "a history of Russia in photographs, which is a little different from a history of Russian photography." Some images have technical defects, but the subject matter was more important than the artistic value. Many are intimate, family images.

Also interesting are the comments by gallery director Olga Sviblova on family history and photographs:

Citing her own family history, she said that most families didn't hold onto their photographs in the Soviet era. "If you live in a communal apartment, you think mostly where you will put a bed for your child, not where you will put books with your archive," she said. "Family history during Soviet times was completely destroyed, like all history."

Sviblova's own grandparents avoided talking of their past -- much less displaying photographs -- since her grandfather, an engineer who headed the Volga-Don canal construction, spent time in a prison camp and his wife came from a family of priests. She found one album after her grandmother's death with a few photos of her grandfather in the early 1930s and of her great-grandmother doing Red Cross work during World War I and "nothing more," she said. "It's a strange feeling when you live without history."

About the future books, she says there is incredible material in the 1920s-30s, when Soviet photography came to the forefront, but complains that publications and archives often failed to credit the photographer or caption the subjects.

An interactive component will be added in February to the Inphoto.ru site, and Russians are invited to send in their own family photos for online display. submissions will be sorted according to chronology and themes, and there are already more than 100,000 photographs.

Additionally, the gallery is also taking history into contemporary times, and commissioning photographers to visit various Russian cities and offering an annual Silver Camera competition for the best Moscow photographs. In February, the gallery's new competition for the best photographs of Russia will be launched, with entries submitted on the website. Each year's best entries will be published annually.

Read more here.

California: Gen Jamboree, June 27-29 - Update

Here's an update on the Southern California Genealogy Jamboree:

Co-chairs Paula Hinkel and Leo Myers have announced that the website has been launched and registrations being taken for the June 27-29 event, at the Burbank Airport Marriott Hotel.

Tracing the Tribe's readers should also note the new-this-year Sunday track for Jewish research.

Another exciting innovation this year is the first Gen Blogger's Summit:

"We are very excited about the first-ever Blogger Summit, featuring many of the top genealogical industry bloggers today. Dick Eastman, Stephen Danko, Schelly Talalay Dardashti, Leland Meitzler, George G. Morgan, Megan Smolenyak Smolenyak, and maybe others, will put their collective heads together to discuss the pros and cons of nearly instantaneous information flow through genealogy blogs."

I'm really looking forward to meeting my colleagues in an episode of "dueling bloggers."

Bad Arolsen's archives are on the program with Peter W. Lande, who will speak about this as a resource for all genealogists:

The archive in Bad Arolsen, Germany, recently opened to the public after long being off-limits to researchers. It contains 16 miles of shelves holding 50 million pages of documents. Most of the attention on Bad Arolsen has focused on Jewish records, but in fact, probably over two thirds of the 50 million records relate to non-Jews who were swept into the Holocaust and events in WWII for many reasons.

The conference has already launched its Jamboree Blog to let everyone know about what will happen at the event; subscribe here

The Jamboree website offers many details: schedule, lecture topics, speakers, exhibitors, registration and hotel.

There have been additions (made after my initial posting) to the record number of programs by nationally and internationally recognized presenters; check here for the complete list.

17 January 2008

Australia: "These are the names"

Members of international Jewish genealogical societies can offer amazing local resources and help on the ground. It always pays to contact JGSs in the places your ancestors lived or immigrated from. Members of these groups know all the ins-and-outs of research in specialized archives and are truly expert in local matters.

Les Oberman of Melbourne is president of the Australian Jewish Genealogical Society (Vic), which publishes the quarterly journal Jewish Genealogy Downunder. He's always been a great source of help. On a personal note, he located and contacted Talalay relatives who moved there from Bobruisk, Belarus nearly 20 years ago.

I've just received my copy of the Melbourne journal and also receive The Kosher Koala, the newsletter of the Sydney society.

Your local Jewish genealogical society likely receives the newsletters and journals of societies around the world, and it always worth a visit to your society's library. Find a list of all member societies of the International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies here. While these publications carry general announcements of interest to all genealogists worldwide, they also carry informative articles focusing on local interests, history and resources.

The first article in Downunder focuses on Rabbi John Levi's new book These are the Names: Jewish Lives in Australia 1788-1850, an 873-page book published last year; it sold out soon after its release.

His previous book (1976) was The Forefathers: A Dictionary of Biography of the Jews of Australia 1788-1830. The new book includes all information in Forefathers and extends the research range another 20 years, providing information on some 1,500 Jews who had arrived up until 1850.

The article is an account of the problems Levi faced in researching these individuals and how some research was easier now because of Internet accessible resources, such as the UK's Old Bailey Court records which hold transport information on Jewish convicts.

Another interesting article is on the Jewish community of Penang (Malaysia) by Margot Bailey, president of the Jewish Genealogical and History Society of South Australia (Adelaide).

On a 1995 visit, she received a book, Streets of George Town Penang, a guide to the city's streets and historic buildings. She found the following interesting entry:

Yahudi Road, Jewish Cemetery Penang had a small community of Jews whom the locals called orang Yahudi. Like the Armenians they came from India along the trade route. The Jewish Cemetery, which has over 100 graves from the 19th and early 20th centuries is well maintained.

Bailey follows up with an account of her later visit with her husband in 1998, and contact with the lone Jew in Penang, David Mordechai. She relates that Mordechai said the first burial was in 1835 and a photo of the stone appears to be that of a person with the family name Sassoon-Levi, dated July 9, 1835. The 1971 Encyclopedia Judaica, according to Bailey, records that "A few Jews settled in Penang, of whom the first was Ezekiel Menassah of Baghdad in 1895.

Most society journals and newsletters also print family inquiries asking about possible relatives, and Jewish Genealogy Downunder prints eight in this issue.

The society also has a discussion group where you may receive even more assistance; for information, click here.

16 January 2008

Las Vegas: Jewish Film Festival

The 8th Las Vegas Jewish Film Festival runs through January 27.

Among the films is the genealogically relevent production of Pedro Banchik, a Buenos Aires chemical engineer, whose family-reunion video project, "De Bassarabia a Entre Rios" (From Bessarabia to Entre Rios) is an international success.

There's a local connection to the film. Banchik's cousin Carlos Banchik is vice president of Midbar Kodesh Temple in the Green Valley Ranch area of Henderson, adjacent to Las Vegas.

Carlos attended the family reunion in Argentina which marked the centennial anniversary of the family's flight from persecution in Eastern European (Bessarabia; today Moldova) to a new life in South America.

Pedro intended to make a five-minute video, but instead produced a full-length documentary.

"I didn't have any idea how to make the film," Banchik acknowledges in a telephone interview from his Buenos Aires home. "But when I started to do it, it was like an addiction."

The project - his gift to the family - drew such a strong response that he received emails and phone calls from around the world, including Tel Aviv's Beth Hatefutsoth (Museum of the Jewish Diaspora), which requested a copy for its visual archives.

It was nice to see Midbar Kodesh mentioned, as it was our synagogue when we lived there, and the very first permanent synagogue in Henderson. The Conservative congregation, which celebrates its 13th year in March, began with six families meeting in a public school, graduating to rented space and then constructing a beautiful facility in Green Valley Ranch.

I've suggested the film's inclusion in the third Jewish Genealogy Film Festival, to be held during the 28th IAJGS International Conference on Jewish Genealogy, August 17-22 in Chicago.

Other films at the Vegas festival:

Naked Among Wolves (1963, East Germany) - Based on a true story, Buchenwald concentration camp prisoners risk their lives to hide a small Jewish boy from their Nazi captors. German, English subtitles.

My Father My Lord (2007, Israel) - An ultra-Orthodox rabbi (Assi Dayan) confronts irreconcilable demands of faith and family in a contemporary version of the biblical story of Isaac inspired by director David Volach's upbringing. Winner, 2007 Tribeca Film Festival's top prize. Hebrew, English subtitles.

Nina's Home (2005, France) - As World War II ends, the director (Anges Jaoui) of a children's shelter in France helps young concentration camp survivors. French, English subtitles.

Yippee: A Journey to Jewish Joy (2006, USA) - Award-winning writer/director/actor Paul Mazursky ("Down and Out in Beverly Hills," "An Unmarried Woman") chronicles his whirlwind journey to a small Ukrainian town where thousands of Hasidic Jews gather annually to sing, dance and pray at a revered rabbi's grave site.

Aviva My Love (2006, Israel) - When a famous novelist takes a hard-working mother with a secret talent for writing under his wing, brutal ambition and family obligations complicate her pursuit of a dream. Winner, six Israeli Academy Awards, including best picture. Hebrew, English subtitles.

Sweet Mud (2006, Israel) - A 12-year-old boy, caught between an emotionally unstable mother and the rigid equality values of their 1970s kibbutz, inspires a coming-of-age tale. Awards, Sundance and Berlin film festivals; six Israeli Academy Awards, including best picture. Hebrew, English subtitles.

Yiddish Theater: A Love Story (2006, USA) - An 80-something actress and Holocaust survivor struggles to maintain a 1,000-year-old culture through Folksbiene, America's longest-running Yiddish theater. English and Yiddish, English subtitles.

De Bassarabia A Entre Ríos (2006, Argentina) - This documentary focuses on Jewish families from the eastern European region of Bessarabia (today Moldova) who settled in early 20th-century Argentina. Spanish, English subtitles.

Rape of Europa (2006, USA) - Short-listed for an Academy Award, this documentary explores how the Nazis plundered Europe's art treasures from galleries, museums and the residences of condemned Jews - and how art patrons and ordinary citizens tried to save prized artworks.

Read more here

San Francisco: Jewish American history, Jan. 27

Jewish history and American history meet in San Francisco, when a Bay Area author and historian presents "A Whirlwind Tour of Jewish American History," on Sunday, January 27, at Congregation Beth Israel-Judea. The program runs from 10am-noon.

Ken Blady will present little known facts about Jewish immigration to America, and traces the Jewish immigrant experience from 1492 to the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, the Gold Rush and the major immigration waves of the early 20th century.

Blady's own immigration story begins in Paris with his Yiddish-speaking Hassidic family which settled in Brooklyn, NY, where he grew up. Although he attended yeshiva and a rabbinical seminary, he became a writer, educator and Yiddish translator. His books include "The Jewish Boxers' Hall of Fame," "Jewish Communities in Exotic Places," and translation of "The Journeys of David Toback."

The event is co-presented by the Judah L. Magnes Museum - Western Jewish History Center of Berkeley and the San Francisco Bay Area Jewish Genealogical Society. Members of these groups will be available for Q&A during the after-program reception.

For directions and more information, click here.

Read more here.

14 January 2008

Florida: Italian Americans, Jewish Roots

Jewish family history is filled with tragic historical periods that impacted Jewish continuity and identity.

In some places, there is renewed interest among those not Jewish today who feel their roots might be Jewish. Clues might be certain family customs, vocabulary, names and the most advanced tool so far, DNA testing.

The Italian Jewish Cultural Center of Calabria (IJCCC) will hold a two-day Italian Jewish Roots conference, "I'm Italian. Could I be Jewish?" from 11am-6pm, Monday and Tuesday, February 25-26, in Sarasota, Florida. the focus is for Italian-Americans to connect with their Jewish roots.

The event features Rabbi Barbara Aiello, an Italian-American who currently lives and works in Calabria, as the first woman and first Progressive (Reform, US) rabbi in Italy and director of the IjCCC.

“Deep down in the ‘toe of the boot, there is a rich but nearly forgotten Jewish history,” says Aiello. In fact, modern historians now believe that prior to the Spanish Inquisition that reached into Sicily and Calabria, nearly 50 per cent of the population of the entire region was Jewish.”

Rabbi Aiello will share the discovery of her own Jewish roots, experiences and help conference participants being their search for Jewish documentation. Other speakers include Jewish genealogist Kim Sheintal (president, Jewish Genealogical Society of Southwest Florida) and Rabbi Frank Tamburello (a former prist who discovered his Jewish roots, converted to Judaism and was ordained a rabbi).

Participants will also hear from Southern Italian history experts and those who have experienced specialized Italian-Jewish study that has led to full participation in Jewish cultural and synagogue life.

Rabbi Aiello understands how difficult it can be within a family when one or two open the door to the family's Jewish past.

According to the press release:

Rabbi Aiello explains, “I have family members whose ancestry dates back to the time of the marranos, when Jews were forced to accept Christian conversion. As a result many of my cousins are practicing Catholics, so I know what it’s like to have a mix of Jews and Christians in the same family!”

“For Italian Americans who have heard family stories and have felt the subtle tug to explore Jewish tradition, the IjCCC conference will bring them into contact with others who have had similar experiences. The IjCCC, located as it is in southern Italy, has uncovered dozens of towns, villages and surnames, all of which are steeped in Jewish heritage dating back not only to Inquisition times but to the time of the Maccabees as well.

Her website includes a partial list of Italian Jewish surnames, and there are many additional sources on the Internet:

Anania, Garo, Ventura, Viterbo, Barone, Campagna, Costantino, Amato, Balsamo, Marino, Mazza, Romano, Staiti, Bonfiglio, Bruno, Brigandi, Bonanno, Capua, Carafa, Filomarino, Caracciolo, D'Aquino, Monforte, Mele, Gesualdo, Palermo, Milano, Napoli, Pistoia, Montalto, Amantea, Salerno, Speranza, Spagnolo, Cimino, Cristiano, Buono, Giardino, Perna, Licastro, Renda, De Rose, Pugliese, Siciliano, Jenco, Russo, De Masi, Romano, Brancato, Pane, Margiotta, Panaro, Pisciotta, Mozello, Rotoli, Catalano, De Pasquale, Mondella, Chiarelli, De Mayo, Ferraiolo, Foderaro, Orefice, Ferraro, Pignataro, Speziale, Tranquillo, Leone, Dattilo, Simone, Ricca, Stella, Fiore, Gentile, Gioia, Greco, Luzzatto, Del Vecchio, Del Giudice, De Sarro, Diamante, Vitale, Di Giacomo, Di Giovanni, Di Matteo, D’Alessandro, De Pascali, Di Nola, Di Napoli, Di Lentini, Di Rende. (Compiled by Professor Vincenzo Villella)

For location, more information and registration, click on Aiello's website here. All lectures, workshops and proceedings will be in English with translators for Italian speakers. There is a discount for registrations received by February 1. Cost includes materials, on-site lunch both days and dinner on the first day.

Want to know more about the Jews of Italy? Tracing the Tribe has had several postings on this topic, including Calabria, Sicily and much more; some include lists of names. to read these postings, click here, here, here, here and here.

Helene Berr: France's Anne Frank

Holocaust experiences impact Jewish family history around the world. The diaries and journals of those who lived through that tragedy - or more often, perished - are essential to our understanding of how those experiences ultimately impacted European Jewish life and, indeed, all Jewish life.

We all read The Diary of Anne Frank in school. In 2006, an account of Irene Nemirovsky's experience sold hundreds of thousands of copies. The newest entry, The Journal of Helene Berr, was published January 3 in Paris, and is already an instant best-seller.

Berr is described as France's Anne Frank; indeed, the two young women died of typhus a month apart in 1945 in Bergen-Belsen. Their diaries are different. Frank describes a hidden life in Amsterdam, while Berr, in Nazi-occupied Paris, deals with everyday life.

She began keeping the journal for her fiancée Jean Morawiecki, who had escaped (and survived). The family cook kept her writing and gave it to him after the war.

It begins April 8, 1942, as Berr, 22, describes her life at the Sorbonne as an English literature student and her fiancée. It ends Feb. 15, 1944 with Berr's conversation with a deportee describing how Jews are deported in cattle cars. The final words are an English quote from Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad: "Horror! Horror! Horror!"

Helene and her family were among 70,000 Jews deported from France. They died in Belsen a few days before it was liberated by the British Army, and her journal was undiscovered for 50 years in France's Holocaust Museum.

The personal account is already an instant bestseller in France, according to a Der Spiegel Online story. It will be published in English and at least a dozen other languages, says the book's French publisher (Tallandier) in an Associated Press story.

Says reviewer Jason Burke in the UK's Observer:

Cultivated, steeped in Russian and English literature, from a wealthy old French family and a keen violinist who attended the Sorbonne University, Berr starts her diary with an account of picking up a signed copy of the works of poet Paul Valery from his home.

The early pages of the diary are full of descriptions of the countryside around Paris - "I went to gather fruit in the upper orchard ... the blue sky and the sun made the dew drops sparkle and joy flooded through me like a spell", she writes.

Editor Antoine Sabbagh says she is hardly aware of a Jewish identity, the war has barely touched her and she is unaware of what is happening in Europe, but things then begin to change.

"We are living hour by hour, not even week by week," she writes. Instead of fleeing she works as a volunteer at a holding camp for children whose parents have already been deported. "They play in the yard ... repugnant, covered in sores and lice. Poor little kids," Berr confides to her diary, recounting how her co-workers beseech her to flee France while there is still time.

The nightmare gets closer and she realises that her life might end "somewhere in Upper Silesia" and in "just a few weeks." "People are speaking about suffocating gas that they use on the convoys which arrive at the Polish frontier. They are rumours but there must be some truth in them," she writes.

Her fiancé escaped France to fight with the Free French from England and survived.

"I know why I am keeping this journal,' she writes. 'I know that I want it to be given to Jean if I am not here when he comes back. I don't want to disappear without him knowing everything I have been thinking about while he has been away - or at least a part of it."

According to the review, Berr talks about experiences wearing the yellow star, of being chased from a park and of arrested relatives.

After the war, her fiancé received the manuscript as Berr had wanted, and her niece decided to publish the journal.

Read more here.

The AP story appeared following a January 7 interview with Berr's niece in Paris. Excerpts from the book are here.

13 January 2008

Australia: Ancestors down under

The wildly successful BBC series Who Do You Think You Are? is spawning international copycats. There's a Canadian version which explores their celebrities' pasts, and now there's an Australian version.

We get the BBC re-runs in Israel, and it's only by accident that I find it scheduled. Series 3 is now being shown on Yes cable on channel 29. It is a show that grabs genealogists and non-genealogists alike. My husband is about as non-genealogist as is possible, but he watches with interest.

I love the ins and outs of each person's story, especially if they're flying off to other countries to track an ancestor. Of course, I marvel how the celebrity always finds a parking space right in front of whatever archive he or she is visiting and how there are never any lines of people waiting to pick up copies or ask for assistance.

Now the popular show also has an Australian version on SBS.

Genealogy has always seemed like an occupation for retirees with too much time on their hands and a looming sense of their mortality. Who can be bothered? It stands to reason that for most of us, most of our ancestors didn't do much at all. They were teachers and doctors and labourers and housemaids who met, married, bred, and died in an unremarkable fashion. Like that hypnosis therapy where you revisit past lives, few of us were ever going to be Cleopatra or Napoleon.

Yet the BBC series Who Do You Think You Are?, where British celebs traced their family trees, was a huge, huge hit in Britain and much-watched here when it screened on SBS recently. And now SBS has produced its own version, tracing the lineage of six well-known Australians: Jack Thompson, Kate Ceberano, Geoffrey Robertson, Cathy Freeman, Dennis Cometti and Ita Buttrose.

The shows, in whatever national version is being broadcast, provide more than an individual's family history. The series takes a look at family history within social history which impacts where and why families moved to different places and how larger events impacted their lives.

Australia, to me, is always fascinating. I've read about the Jewish First Fleeters, which is a fascinating part of the nation's history. I don't know if any of the people set to be interviewed on this series have roots in this group or later Jewish arrivals, but if you'd like to read more, see here and here.

As the series progresses, it becomes more and more apparent that there are an awful lot of people out there - both the subjects of each episode, and the legion of researchers, who are engaged in a prolonged, relentless search for identity and belonging. And that, perhaps, lies at the heart of both the success of these programs and the widespread interest in genealogy.

They tap into one of the most profound metaphysical questions human beings ask of themselves. As Thompson says at the beginning of his journey: "I am, in some way, a product of my ancestry - and I have no idea what that ancestry is."

Read the complete story here.

UPDATE: Here's the official segment information on Ita Buttrose's Jewish ancestry. Click here

Media personality and publisher Ita Buttrose discovers determination and drive may be hereditary as she puts her journalistic skills to the test to trace her global family. She knows of a relation named William Butters who sailed from Scotland to Adelaide but not how the family name changed from Butters to Buttrose.

Following her maternal side, Ita discovers she has a strong Jewish connection, including a chief rabbi, in her family. She traces her Jewish ancestors to the once impoverished Jewish ghetto where they had lived in New York and Hungary and learns that poverty and hardship drove them to seek a better life in Australia.

Along the way she finds the Buttrose will to ‘fight the system’is flowing through her veins.

12 January 2008

New York: Research and Art Restitution, Jan. 20

Art restitution articles seem to be everywhere these days, as new claims are filed and families struggle to reclaim stolen art. Learn from expert Karen Franklin what is involved in this research and sometimes successful restitution of stolen art and other objects.

The upcoming Jewish Genealogical Society of New York program will include a screening of short clips from Stealing Klimt (2007), which re­counts the struggle of Maria Altmann, 90, to recover five Gustav Klimt paintings stolen from her family by the Nazis in Vienna.

Speaker Karen Franklin in "State of the Art: Researching and Restitution" will show how Jewish genealogical research has been utilized to help solve looted art cases in New York, the Netherlands, Israel and Ukraine. Her il­lustrated presentation will highlight cases for the Leo Baeck Institute and research for the Origins Unknown Agen­cy.

Cases vary from a potentially multi-million dollar restitution settle­ment for the Larsen family, to the return of a doll and furniture to a family who fled Ger­many to Palestine in the 1930s. Each offers specific re­search tech­niques and general legal and ethical issues regarding looted art.

She'll explain how the Council of Ameri­can Jewish Museums’ (CAJM) Resolution on Nazi-Era Looted Art, which she co-authored, affects the Jewish community and claims for Jewish objects.

Franklin is a co-chair of the JewishGen Board of Governors and past presi­dent of IAJGS and CAJM; serves on numerous boards, including the In­terna­tional Council of Museums (ICOM) and its Memorial Museums Committee, as well as the Commis­sion for Looted Art in Europe. She completed research for The Plaut Family: Tracing the Legacy by Eliza­beth S. Plaut, just published by Avo­taynu.

The meeting begins at 2pm, Sunday, January 20, at the Center for Jewish History, 15 W. 16th Street, New York City. For more information, click here.

Attendees who arrive early will have access, from 12.30-1.45pm, to the Ackman & Ziff Family Genealogy Institute for net­work­ing with other researchers and access to research materials and computers. It also has a growing microfilm collection of Jewish materials from Austria, Germany, Poland and Hungary. Click here to see what is available.

Philadelphia: New Jewish Museum

The new National Museum of American Jewish history will open on July 4, 2010, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Designed by James S. Polshek and under construction at some $170 million, it will trace American Jewish history since the first Jews arrived from Brazil to New Amsterdam in 1654, how they influenced and how they were influenced by the experience of centuries.

The goal, said the museum’s executive director, Gwen Goodman, is to distill the experience of all ethnic groups making a new life in America by tracing the history of Jews in this country.

“Our museum tells the story of what happens when an ethnic minority arrives in America, and how they can feel welcome,” Ms. Goodman said. “This is a museum about the meaning of America itself, seen through the eyes of one community.”

Polshek said the five-story glass facade "implies that one should not take for granted the freedoms supplied by a democracy."

Three exhibition floors will overlook Independence Mall, which contains Independence Hall, where the Declaration of Independence was signed; the Liberty Bell, rung on July 8, 1776, and the National Constitution Center, with a permanent Constitution exhibit.

“They will never be able to forget that they are in the birthplace of this country,” Mr. Polshek said.

At the top of the facade, a replica of a flame will represent both the torch of the Statue of Liberty and the eternal flame that traditionally burns in a synagogue.

Major donors include movie producer Sidney Kimmel and Jones Apparel Group founder; Philadelphia Flyers hockey team owner Ed Snider; and the Dell Foundation. By the end of 2007, $107 million had been raised.

A collection of some 24,000 objects, includes silver, books, drawings, prints and photographs from colonial times to the present - even a Yiddish typewriter. It includes about 10,000 objects (late-19th to mid-20th centuries) donated by Rabbi Peter H. Schweitzer of New York City.

The exhibit will also examine assimilation, a result of freedom in America.

Goodman said she hoped the museum would attract both assimilated, non-affiliated Jews as well as those who lead active Jewish lives.

Museum historian Josh Perelman said exhibits would examine contemporary Jewish issues, such as intermarriage. “There were a lot of Jews in the colonies, but sometimes there were not enough young people to find your mate here,” he said.

Goodman was asked why the museum is not in New York or Washington; the story of American immigrant experience should be told, she said, in the country's birthplace, "where it all began."

Read more here.

And - mark your calendars now - the 29th IAJGS Conference on International Jewish Genealogy will be held August 2-7, 2009, in Philadelphia, co-hosted by the Jewish Genealogical Society of Greater Philadelphia.