29 August 2008

Italy: One family's roots in a new film

An excellent article by Susan Zuccotti in The Forward focuses on Hava Volterra's documentary, "The Tree of Life," which investigates her father's Italian Jewish roots.

The film opens September 12 in New York (Pioneer Theater) and on October 24 in Los Angeles (Laemmle’s Music Hall).

After surviving the German occupation of Italy during the Second World War by hiding with his parents and brother and sister in the home of non-Jews, Vittorio Volterra immigrated to Israel in 1952, when he was 20 years old, and never looked back. He met his wife in Israel, and his daughter, Hava, was born there. After what his daughter calls a “near-death experience” with tuberculosis, Volterra enrolled at the Hebrew University to study physics. He went on to become one of the great physicists of his time. In 1998, while still in his prime, he was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor. Thirty days later he died in Israel.

Hava Volterra, an engineer by profession, left Israel to live in the United States when she was 21. She had loved her father deeply, but when he died prematurely, she realized that she had scarcely known him and was left with scores of unanswered questions. Vittorio was, she says, totally, utterly Italian in his mannerisms, language, culture and heritage. But why had he never talked to her about his family’s roots? Why had he never talked about his feelings for Italy? Who were his ancestors, and what had it meant to him to be an Italian Jew? And what might it come to mean to his daughter? To answer these questions, Hava set out to research her father’s family tree and make a documentary. The result is “The Tree of Life,” a remarkable 76-minute film of great beauty and substance.

With a professional genealogist's help, as well as her father's brother, she managed to trace her paternal grandfather’s family back to the early 15th century: a money lender granted the right to live among Christians because his professional services were needed. His descendants included money lenders, merchants and bankers; one was close to Lorenzo de Medici in Florence, Italy.

Her father's mother's family was traced to the 13th century Venice ghetto, to a brilliant Kabbalah scholar known as the Ramhal. The Jews themselves exiled him from the city, fearing his mystical claims would provoke Christians and divide the community. The scholar, his wife and children died of the plague in Israel in 1747.

Other ancestors include Venetian economist Luigi Luzzatti, who became the first Jewish prime minister in the Western world in 1910. A physicist and mathematician Vito Volterra lost everything in 1931 when he was one of only 12 university professors who refused to swear an oath of loyalty to Mussolini.

She interviews her father's wife, sister, a cousin, teachers, students, colleagues and friends, as well as experts in Italian-Jewish history, physics and even Kabbalah. With an aunt, she travels to a mountain village to visit the Catholic family that saved her father's life.
The result is not only a portrait of a man, but also a personal glimpse of the history of Italian Jewry and its complex, delicate, often fraught but equally often intimate relationship with Italian culture. Hava never directly answers the question of why her father did not talk about Italy to her. But the answer is there for us to see. It involves love of country, passion, devotion, commitment and, ultimately, profound disillusionment and betrayal. It involves painful emotions perhaps better conveyed visually than through the written word.

The article's author, Susan Zuccotti, has written “The Italians and the Holocaust: Persecution, Rescue, and Survival” (University of Nebraska Press, 1996) and “Under His Very Windows: The Vatican and the Holocaust in Italy” (Yale University Press, 2000).

Read the complete article at the link above.

28 August 2008

Cuba: The Pedro Pan exodus, replanting roots

Nearly 400 Jewish children, among thousands of Catholic youngsters, were sent secretly to Miami during the Catholic-sponsored Pedro Pan (Peter Pan) 1960s program at the time of the Castro Revolution in Cuba. There are also photos and a video with the The Miami Herald story.

The youngsters left in small groups, flying to Miami to live in Jewish foster homes until their parents could join them.

The story also quotes good friend HIAS historian, Valery Bazarov, who was at the recent Chicago conference with his wife and son.

It was April 1961, Havana, Cuba. Lilian Brinberg, 15-year-old daughter of Eastern European Jewish immigrants, had just been told some stunning news.

She and her younger sister, Silvia, would be leaving their parents, their friends and the only home they had ever known to fly to Miami, unaccompanied, and live with strangers in a foster home.

And so, the Brinberg sisters became part of a little-known chapter of Cuba's history: the Jewish kids of Pedro Pan -- the Catholic Church-sponsored effort to spirit unaccompanied Cuban kids to the United States under the noses of the Castro government.

Because it was run by the archdiocese in Florida and most children were cared for by Catholic social services, it has been assumed that the 14,048 who made the journey through Pedro Pan were Catholic.

In fact, 396 Jewish kids joined the exodus. For many - the children of families decimated and divided by the Holocaust and that thought they had found paradise in pre-Castro Havana -- the journey culminated a double diaspora.

Like immigrants elsewhere, problems included language, family separation and a lower status from their familiar homes. However, as young people usually do, they adapted, their families arrived, the community matured and prospered and built the Cuban Hebrew Congregation of Miami, "The Circle." They even had a band called The Bagels, which played Cuban-oldies.

El Patronato, the main Havana synagogue, noticed missing children at the bar-mitzvah club. The kids met every Sunday followed by the ritual of going to a restaurant and a movie. No one knew why more young people were missing each time.

As families gathered and told their children about the planned exodus, they were naturally upset.

Pedro Pan - a name coined by Miami Herald reporter Gene Miller and inspired by the fairy tale about a boy who could fly - was well under way, having started the day after Christmas, 1960.

The secretive airlift was initiated amid fears that Cuba, under Fidel Castro, would strip parental rights away and send children to work and study under the regime's control. Those fears may have been more acute among Cuban Jews, a community estimated at 15,000 by the late 1950s.

Although a significant number had come from the Middle East, many were Holocaust survivors who traveled alone to the island after seeing their families ripped apart by the Nazis.

To the Jews of Cuba, especially those who had fled the Holocaust, the United States was the ultimate destination -- or at least that's what they hoped. But immigration restrictions kept them out, at least in the short term.

Anthropologist Ruth Behar, who researches the Jews of Cuba, says they found more than a refuge on the island, "they found a paradise."

To those who had been through WWII, the Cuban revolution seemed familiar, according to Valery Bazarov. HIAS monitored the situation and would play an important role, helping the Cuban Jews to travel, providing documents and sometimes paying for transportation.

Why has this exodus been largely unrecognized outside of Jewish circles?

Marcos Kerbel, president of the Cuban Hebrew Congregation and a Pedro Pan Cuban himself, attributes the silence to the low profile the Jewish community in Cuba had traditionally maintained for fear of reprisals.

Documents from the archives of the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society in New York, dusted off as a result of a recent El Nuevo Herald request, tell the story of the Pedro Pan Jews and establish that 396 made the journey.

What's clear is that the experience of the Pedro Pan Jews was a bit different from that of the Catholics who made up the bulk of the group.

While Catholic children without friends or family in the United States were sent to provisional campgrounds, the Jewish children were placed directly with Jewish foster families in South Florida and elsewhere. The resettlement was supervised by Jewish Family and Children's Services, which met them at Miami International Airport.

The children were individually visited monthly by the JFCS; living expenses were reimbursed by the US Department of Health, Education and Welfare.

The article talks about re-establishing the sense of community and how hard it was in the beginning to feel accepted, but they overcame the hardships.

Read the complete article at the link above; view the photos and video.

27 August 2008

Germany: Ancestry.de price drop

Grace at the Genealogy Insider blog has posted here about a great price break for those researching Germany.

German genealogy blog Abenteuer Ahnenforschung pointed out today that the price of Ancestry.de's basic membership has been lowered to 9.95 euros a year—about $14.65.

(For comparison's sake, Ancestry.com's US-only membership package costs $155.40 a year.)

If your family history research focuses on Germany—and you've got a good grasp on the language—this is a total steal.

The records available to Ancestry.de subscribers (as well as Ancestry.com users with a World Deluxe Membership) include German city directories from 1797-1945 containing 32 million names, and soon 100 years of Deutsche Telekom phone books with an estimated 70 million names. Time to brush up on your Deutsch...

Thanks, Grace, for the head's-up!

New York: Museum genealogy project, Sept. 7

The Holocaust Museum and Study Center in Spring Valley (Rockland County) NY will launch a new genealogy center with a program at 1pm, Sunday, September 7, according to the museum's website.

Join us as we embark on our journey to discover our Eastern European roots. We’ll teach you how to find your family in the shtetl, document their travels and find unknown family around the world. We’ll give you the tools, teach you about the resources available and point you in the right direction.

On November 2, an exhibit on hidden children will open, while work continues on a multimedia project featuring recorded testimonies of area Holocaust survivors.

The museum reaches about 10,000 people every year, and takes educational programs to schools in Rockland and Orange counties and Bergen County, N.J., as well as to area churches, colleges, adult groups and private organizations.

This article in the Lower Hudson Journal News provides more detail about the museum's new director Michael Bierman and planned outreach.

Bierman intends to further the museum's mission of teaching the lessons of the Holocaust to the wider community as well as reaching out to various religious and ethnic groups in Rockland to combat discrimination and build "bridges of understanding."

The museum's mission is to provide Holocaust-related educational programs, lectures, exhibits, teacher-training seminars and commemoration ceremonies in the Lower Hudson Valley area.

The Holocaust Museum & Study Center
17 South Madison Avenue
Spring Valley, NY 10977
Phone: 845-356-2700
Hours: noon-4pm Sunday-Thursday, free admission
Closed major national and Jewish holidays.

Gesher Galicia: Cadastral Map Project

Today I had lunch in New York with Gesher Galicia research coordinator Pamela Weisberger, before she flew back to Los Angeles. Our discussion ranged over the Los Angeles conference (set for July 2010) and Gesher Galicia's second phase of the Cadastral Map and Landowner Records Project.

The project began in 2007, and I'm interested in this initiative as my mother's paternal roots are in a town listed below, Sukhostav.

The objective is to create inventories for maps and landowner records for Galician towns held by the Lviv archive and obtain copies of the maps and record books.

Indexing of landowner records will provide an easily searchable snapshot of where Galician ancestors once lived and the type of property they owned, during the years the land surveys were taken.

Nineteenth century maps will show the house and/or parcel numbers, along with the town's synagogue(s) and Jewish cemeteries, in many cases.

Genealogists and researchers will certainly benefit from this information as they match information in land record books to the available maps and then compare maps to house numbers on vital records. We may be able to see exactly in town our ancestors once lived. Other connections will be made to additional relatives, as many houses were handed down through the generations.

In some cases, said Pamela, inventories also show books on German-Jewish schools, a list of poor Christians and Jews in a town, and other information relating to the Jewish community.

The project includes finding the inventory for a town in the Lviv Archive card catalog, photographing/copying the maps, landowner record books and other documentation of interest.

In May 2007, Gesher Galicia obtained inventories of cadastral maps and landowner records for the following towns:

Chervonohrad (Krystynopol), Dobromil, Dora, Hrymaliv (Grzymalow), Halych (Halicz), Kamyanka / Kamyanky (Kamionki), Khodoriv (Chodorow), Konopkivka, Kopychyntsi (Kopyczynce), Kropivnik (Kropiwnik), Kulykiv (Kulikow), Lanchyn, Lisok, Mykolayiv (Mikolajow), Mykulyntsi (Mikulyince), Nyzhniv, Pavshivka, Pidhaisti (Podahajce), Pistyn, Polupanowka, Rozdil (Rozdol), Skala, Sniatyn (Snyatyn), Sukhostav (Suchostaw), Ustechko (Uscieczko)

The cadastral map inventories for these towns is here.

The landowner records for these towns is here.

In 2008, town projects included Kalush, Nadworna, Drohobycz, Boryslaw, Sambor/Stary Sambor, Rohatyn, and Zaleszczyki

For more information, click here or contact Pamela, pweisbergerAThotmailDOTcom (replace AT and DOT with the appropriate symbols).

Litvak SIG: Online Journal

Judi Langer-Surnamer Caplan is editor of the LitvakSIG Online Journal, now featuring a new article.

"My Recent Jewish Heritage Roots Tour to Lithuania and Belarus: Moving and Inspiring - But Also Disturbing" is by Bill Yoffee, who writes about his summer 2008 travels to his ancestral shtetls of Dalhinif (Dolginovo) in Belarus, and Birzai, Kirchel (Kirkilai), Slepzie (Slepsciai), and Pokroi (Pakruojis).

The story touches on the Karaites, and evidence indicating a disturbing resurgence of anti-Semitism.

Other articles:

- "What's in a Name? The Problem of Name Changes in the Search for Family Roots"
- "The Life and Times of Ellen and Jacob Cohen: 1870-1950,"
- "Memorials for Lithuanian Shtetls in Holon, Israel," to some of
- "On the Front Line in Lithuania, 1915: Stories of Jewish Eyewitnesses"
- "Litvaks and Their Calendars: Or How to Navigate Between the Torah Portion and the Hebrew, Gregorian, and Julian Calendars"
- "Visiting The Jewish Cemeteries in Kaisadorys and Zasliai"
- "My Childhood in Trishik"

Canadian Jewish Review: 40 years' online

Searching for Canadian Jewish ancestors?

Try Multicultural Canada which offers four digitized decades of the Canadian Jewish Review (English).

Among the details are many social announcements. I recommend clicking on the advanced options (for page image) as the OCR text translation is less than accurate.

CJN covered all of Canada, so there are headings for Montreal, Toronto and other communities. Here are some Montreal social announcements from the edition of January 1, 1926, page 2:

Mrs. S. Gold was the hostess at a formal supper and dance at her home on Lajoie Avenue, December 24. Supper was served for eighteen. Among those present were Misses Fritzie Climan, Sylvia Latt, Lil Bald, Pinnie Taub, Rae Slatkoff, Bertie Marcus, Helen Lewis, Bec Gershon and Mrs. A. Mendelson; and Jack Spitzer, Louis A. Sendel, Abel F. Feldman, John Reitman, Al Gold, Harold Ross, Eddie Aronson, Jullius Cohen and A. Mendelson.

The out-of-town guests at the Rudner-Goldstein wedding were Mrs. J. Freedman and Michael Freedman, of Ottawa; Mrs. N. Miller and Miss Mollie Miller, Mrs. N. Phillips, of Cornwall, Ont.; and Mrs. D. Mesibov, of Lawrence, L.I.

Page 7 is titled "Engagements, Births and Marriages," and offers a wealth of details, such as the Sopenar-Bloomfield wedding:

The marriage of Mary, daughter of Mrs. S. Bloomfield and of the late S. Bloomfield, to Louie Sopenar, son of Mr. and Mrs. H. Sopenar, took place December 29, at Auditorium Hall. The bride, who was given away by her brother, Sam Bloomfield, wore a gown of white satin-faced Canton, beaded. Her veil of silk net was arranged in Spanish effect with orange blossoms. She carried a shower bouquet of roses, lilies and lilies-of-the-valley ...

It goes on to detail the dressers of the maid of honor, train-bearer, mothers of the bride and groom, that a reception for 450 guests followed; it seems the couple honeymooned in Detroit.

Page 8 offers names and addresses of Montreal delegates - as well as those from across Canada - to the 20th Zionist Convention held January 10.

Newspapers - particularly Jewish papers - offer treasure troves of information for researchers of Jewish ancestors.

Ireland: Searching Jews in Belfast

Looking for Irish Jewish ancestors? Here's an interesting article that may provide some answers.

The first article in Familia: Ulster Genealogical Review is 15 pages, with footnotes, and titled "Researching Belfast Jewish Families, c. 1850-c. 1930" by Pamela McIlveen and William Roulston.

Some mentioned surnames are JAFFE, HERZOG, ATTIAS, BENSELUM, BENGGIO, PARIENTE; family origins include Prague, Mecklenburg and Gibraltar.

The Belfast community's founder - in 1809 - was Daniel Joseph Jaffe, born in Mecklenburg.

The article offers resource suggestions to help find more information.

Thanks to Ann Rabinowitz for this clue - it is a fascinating read, even if you aren't searching Belfast or the Jaffe family.

Israel: Dead Sea Scrolls

The Dead Sea Scrolls are going digital after more than 2,000 years. The process will help to preserve the scrolls and reveal previously hidden text. Read all about it here. There are photographs and a related video.

Over the next two years, the Israel Antiquities Authority will digitally photograph and scan the scrolls' parchment and papyrus - all the crumbling bits and pieces - and eventually post them on the Internet for everyone to see.

JERUSALEM (CNN) -- More than 2,000 years after they were written, the Dead Sea Scrolls are going digital as part of an effort to better preserve the ancient texts and let more people see them than ever before.

A fragment of the Dead Sea Scrolls, left, as seen by a high-resolution single-wavelength infrared imager, right.

The high-tech initiative, announced Wednesday, will also reveal text that was not visible to the naked eye.

The images eventually will be posted on the Internet for anyone to see.

The first set of scrolls was discovered in 1947; eventually some 11 caves produced scrolls, some more than 2,000 years old.

The fragments were photographed once in the 1950s and, according to the article, some of those images have also disintegrated.

Over the years, only a few scholars have been able to examine the scrolls. Now, however, an international team of technical wizards will work on the imaging project, using the latest technologies at the highest resolution.

"Just by applying the latest infrared technologies and shooting at very high detail, lots of resolution, we are already opening up new characters from the scrolls that are either extremely indistinct or you just couldn't see them before," said Simon Tanner, director of King's Digital Consultancy Services.

Tanner, who has worked on previous digital projects involving antiquities, is on a team that also includes Greg Bearman, who recently retired as principal scientist with NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

Bearman pioneered archaeological digital imaging and owns a company, Snapshot Spectra, that makes the imagers.

"To switch over to digital is really the way to go, and people were resistant to it initially, because it was a new way of doing stuff," he said. "They want their light table and their magnifying glass."

But with digital imaging, Bearman said, "You can see where the ink has broken away and you can see the texture of the animal skin, so you can see more detail than you can see with the naked eye."

Read the complete article at the link above.

Bad Arolsen: ITS completes slave labor digitization

The International Tracing Service in Bad Arolsen, Germany has completed the digitization of its documents on forced labor, according to this press release.

Posted on August 25, the release indicated that Yad Vashem (Jerusalem), the US Holocaust Memorial Museum (Washington DC) and the Institute of National Remembrance (Warsaw) had received a copy of the data on that day.

“The documents attest to the monstrous dimension of slave labour during the national socialist reign,” said Udo Jost, head of the archive. “The labour of so-called foreign workers was exploited in nearly every economic sector and region.”

Already scanned and indexed are more than 6.7 million documents (some 13 million images) on the topic.

“The digitalisation serves the protection and conservation of the original documents,” said Jost. “At the same time, it allows for better access to the documents, whether on location at ITS or at one of our partner organisations in Israel, the US or Poland.”

Documents handed over were original files from the Nazi period that concern individual people. Primarily, they are employment records of slave laborers, patients’ files and insurance documents, registry cards from the authorities, health insurance agencies and employers.

ITS also scanned lists compiled in early 1946 by command of the Western Allies. All German municipalities were required to report the residency of foreigners and German Jews during World War II to the allied tracing service bureaus. List details include residence, employers, employment periods, marriages, births and grave sites.

These were used to reunite families and for post-war repatriation, and also used by ITS for verifications for indemnity funds.

Estimates are that more than 12 million people were affected, including some 8.4 million civil workers. Slave laborers were deployed across the economy, including mining, industry, administration, small trade and farming.

The next major ITS scanning and indexing project - already begun - will be documents from post-war DP camps, which follows the digitizing in such categories of forced labor concentration camp imprisonment, and displaced person's index cards. So far, some 70% of the ITS documents have been scanned and indexed.

For more details, click on the above link.

Seattle: Success & Thorny Problems, Sept. 8

A workshop on success stories and thorny problems is set for the Jewish Genealogical Society of Washington State's next meeting at 7pm, Monday, September 8.

JGSWS members Deb Freedman, Susana Leniski and Joseph Voss will share success stories and try to help attendees with thorny genealogy problems.

- Use a rich new source on Ancestry.com, perfect for knocking down that last brick wall. Be astounded by Tacoma researcher Deb Freedman's discoveries.

- Learn how Susana Leniski used a suite of genealogy tools (FOIA, One-Step Webpages by Steve Morse, Salt Lake City archives) to discover the hidden secrets of her husband's Polish ancestry.

- Discover many sources of German vital records data and hear how Joseph Voss has helped people find new relatives using these resources.

The JGSWS library will be available before and after the program. Bring your laptops (WiFI available). Refreshments will be served.

The meeting is at the Stroum JCC on Mercer Island. JGSWS members, free; others $5.

For more information, click here.

26 August 2008

Colorado: Jewish DNA program, Sept. 8

Denver readers will have an opportunity to learn about Jewish genetic genealogy with "What I learned from my Jewish DNA," by area ENT specialist Dr. Alan Lipkin, who will discuss the basics, his own experience with DNA analysis and how it confirmed his family history.

Genetic genealogy - the use of DNA analysis to trace family and ethnic background - has been a great advance to people trying to trace their heritage. Recent discoveries of specific markers associated with Jewish ancestry and the ancient Jewish priesthood have been utilized to correlate personal history, family history and even biblical legends. It is now possible for any person to obtain information about his or her family history and locate lost relatives.
The free program is open to the public and will begin at 6.30pm, Monday, September 8, at Temple Sinai, at the first session of the congregation's Adult Education series.

Montreal: Internet genealogy workshop, Sept. 9

The Jewish Genealogical Society of Montreal will hold a workshop on using the Internet for genealogy.

The event is set for 7-10pm, Tuesday, September 9, at the Cummings Jewish Centre for Seniors, in association with the Centre and the Jewish Public Library.

Participants must have e-mail and web searching experience.
Seating is limited; the fee is $10 per person.

For more information, click here.

Tel Aviv: Bad Arolsen report, Sept. 8

In May, Israel Genealogical Society president Michael Goldstein participated in the first group of professional genealogists to visit the International Tracing Service archives in Bad Arolsen, Germany.

He will report on his experience to the IGS's Tel Aviv branch at 7pm, Monday, September 8. The program, in Hebrew, will include the archives' scope, as well as the pros and cons of a field trip to the site.

After years of international negotiations, and refusal to open their archives to the public, the International Tracing Service (ITS) has finally made this resource available. The archives contain millions of records related to the fate of Nazi victims and survivors, and records of searches made for family members trying to locate and/or determine their relatives' fate.

The branch meets at Beit Hatanach, 16 Rothschild Blvd. Free for IGS members; others, NIS 20. The library is open from 6-7pm.

For more information, click here.

Southern California: Jewish Surnames, Sept. 7

The Jewish Genealogical Society of the Conejo Valley and Ventura County kicks off its program year - and celebrates its third anniversary - at 1.30pm, Sunday, September 7, at Temple Adat Elohim in Thousand Oaks. JewishGen's managing director Warren Blatt will speak on "Jewish Surnames."
The history of Jewish surnames - their origins, types, and etymologies. Learn when they were first used in various countries, how they developed, and their transformation upon immigration.
This presentation will dispel several common myths about Jewish surnames. Discover which Jewish surnames are the most common in the US, Eastern Europe and Israel, as well as sources for learning more about your surnames.
Blatt is author of Resources for Jewish Genealogy in the Boston Area; and co-author of Getting Started in Jewish Genealogy.

According to president Jan Meisels Allen, there will also be Eastern European music performed by the Klutzmer (not klezmer) band. Meetings are free and open to the public. For more information, click here.

Canada: Indexed Passenger List launch, Sept. 16

CanadaGenealogy, or, 'Jane's Your Aunt" posted more information on the Library and Archives Canada (LAC) and The Generations Network (TGN) (parent of Ancestry.com) launch of the Ancestry indexes to Canadian passenger lists (1865-1935).

Diane Rogers found the announcement here at Olive Tree Genealogy, authored by Lorine McGinnis Schulze.

On Tuesday the 16th of September 2008, Ancestry.ca in partnership with the Library and Archives Canada (LAC) will announce the world-first online launch of the complete and fully indexed Canadian Passenger Lists, 1865-1935.

This is a comprehensive collection of passenger lists for all Canadian ports during this key immigration period and includes more than 5.5 million names of those who travelled from around the world to settle in Canada.

You will have the opportunity to interview the descendents of Canadian immigrants who appear in the collection and learn from genealogy experts about tracing your own family's history.

Please join us on September 16 at the Toronto Archives Building at 255 Spadina Road at 10:30 a.m.

This new resource will help many readers of Tracing the Tribe, whose immigrant ancestors crossed over to the US after disembarking at Canadian ports.

I recently found my great-grandfather in the Border Crossing Index; I hope to find more details in the new Passenger List Index.

Tim Agazio of Genealogy Reviews is also hoping to find his grandfather, Antonio, who did the same, but cannot be located in the Border Crossings database:

The Library and Archives of Canada has these documents online, but they are not indexed and I've been going through them name by name during the year I think he arrived. Of course I haven't found him. Hopefully I'll get lucky once this new indexed database is released.

Years ago, I ordered the microfilms of these arrival manifests and tried to check them line by line in my Southern California neighborhood library. I couldn't find anything that even resembled Zayde's name - Aaron Peretz Talalay/i.

The end result of this intensive search was a pair of seriously overstrained eyes and a painful shoulder from reeling and reeling and ... . Here's hoping someone had better eyes than I did at that time.

Just added: Recent Comments box

Readers have been asking for a "Recent Comments" box and here it is - Ta-dah!

Look at the right sidebar to see the box with the five most recent comments. Click on any comment, and all comments for that posting will show. Scroll up to see the original posting, and scroll down to see a box for additional comments.

I hope readers are happy with this improvement.
I'm waiting to read YOUR comments!


UK: Jerry Springer on WDYTYA, Aug. 27

Who Do You Think You Are? will feature Jerry Springer's family search in the segment to air 9pm, Wednesday, August 27, according to this UK Independent interview .

In addition to being the host of the silly show that bears his name, he's also been mayor of an Ohio (US) city, but this segment explores his family during the Holocaust.

He reveals an unexpectedly sensitive side and is reduced to tears as he explores what happened to his family during the Holocaust. His parents had to leave Germany in such haste, they were not able to take their mothers with them. So now he is attempting to find out what became of the grandmothers he never met.
Read about his emotional journey back to England, where he was born in the East Finchley Tube station during a 1944 air raid. His German-Jewish parents fled there on August 1, 1939, a month before the border closed at the outbreak of WWII. In 1949, the family emigrated to Queens in New York City. In the show, he travels to what was Landsberg, Germany (now Gorzow, Poland) where his father had a shoe shop, until things got rough in the 1930s, with increasingly oppressive restrictions placed on the Jews.
In the local archive, Springer reads a newspaper from 1933 ordering people not to visit Jewish businesses, lawyers or doctors. "Bastards!" he says, the anger clear on his face.
He discovered that, in 1942, his maternal grandmother Marie Kallman was sent in a cattle train to the Chelmno camp, where she was among the first to be gassed. He walks around the trains kept as a memorial at a nearby station; he sobs and says a prayer. Springer's paternal grandmother Selma Springer was deported to Theresienstadt, which Nazi propaganda characterized as a model camp. She died there in 1943. Filming the show, he says, gave him an insight into what his parents had gone through.
Everyone talks, quite rightly, about the horror of the Holocaust," he says. "But think of the fear from 1933 onwards, the constant terror of knowing that tonight you might get a knock on the door and the Gestapo might take you away. I can't imagine that was anything other than horrific."
After the war, his parents, Richard and Margot, lived with the aftershock.
One of the reasons I wanted to make Who Do You Think You Are? was to find out what happened to my family, because my parents didn't want to talk about it," he sighs. They'd talk about the War in general terms, and then stop in mid-sentence. It was too painful for them. They wouldn't even watch The Sound of Music because of the Nazi uniforms in that film. You don't want to make your parents uncomfortable, but I wish now that I had sat them down and said, 'Tell me all about it.' But survivors always say, 'Once you open that door, you can never shut it again. If I let you into that room, you'll never leave'."em>
Having made the show, he feels his family is an example for what happened to Jewish people in Europe for hundreds of years.
"You know when you read those historical novels and there's a fictional character placed in the middle of major events? He's a friend of Churchill's or he worked for Stalin. That was my family. Whatever happened to Europe in the past 200 years, my family was in the middle of it.
His great-grandfather Abraham, in 1880s Neustettin was the head of the first European Jewish synagogue to be burned in 700 years. The following generation was sent to the death camps, the next escaped to America.
"It's like my family has been in the middle of a historical novel."
There's more detail: how his experience with the Holocaust impacted his liberal politics; studying political science (Tulane University) and law (Northwestern University); and calls his own show silly. Critics say the show is responsible for the downfall of Western civilization as we know it, but he thinks that the Holocaust was more of a threat. American politics, terrorism and more are touched on in the interview. About the search for his roots:
"Of course," Springer sighs, "I'd have preferred not to have provided the material for this programme. But I hope that people watch it and that it provokes discussion."Above all, I hope people remember that the Holocaust happened in our lifetime and was carried out by people who looked just like us. It's so easy to pass it off as a tribal thing that happened 800 years ago. Wrong! It happened in the most civilised society in Europe, a culture that had great music and literature."
And he believes the story must continue to be told and that the tale of one person's suffering can have more impact than the story of millions being killed. Six million is a number people can't get their heads around, but one person can immediately imagine his or her own grandmother in that situation.
Springer likes to sign off each episode of his talk show with a summary of what we've learnt. So what might we take away from Who Do You Think You Are? He pauses. "I hope the programme makes you think about one thing," he replies. "How can we stop this happening again?"
If you are in the UK or have satellite access to BBC1, this segment is set for 9pm Wednesday. Otherwise, watch for re-runs in your area. To read the complete article, click on the link above.

Florence Elman: We will miss you

Founding president of the Jewish Genealogical Society of Southern Alberta Florence Elman has died.

Flo was a wonderful person and our mostly email relationship was warm; she was supportive of my ideas for promoting Jewish genealogy, including Tracing the Tribe. I will miss her.

Her devotion to Jewish genealogy was evidenced in her service as a board member of the International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies (IAJGS), coordinator of JewishGen's Ukraine SIG and that SIG's discussion group moderator.

Her obituary is in the Calgary Herald:

Florence Elman, beloved wife for forty-six years of Harold Elman of Calgary, passed away on Wednesday, August 20, 2008 at the age of 66 years. She is survived by her adoring children, daughter Shana and husband David Waverman of Guelph, ON; son William and wife Eleanor Surridge of Tianjin, China; and by her son Laurence and wife Karina Szulc of Calgary. Florence will be sadly missed by her five grandchildren, Jordan, Liam, and Elijah Waverman, and Grace and Benjamin Elman. She is also survived by a brother Michael Nerenberg of Quebec. Florence was predeceased by her son David. She was loved dearly by her family and friends and her dedication to genealogy was recognized and appreciated by all. Funeral Services will be held at the Jewish Memorial Chapel (North East corner of Highway 22X and 37 Street S.W.) on Sunday, August 24, 2008 at 12:00 p.m. If friends so desire, memorial tributes may be made directly to the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society of Canada. Arrangements in care of the CHEVRA KADISHA of CALGARY.

Television: Today Show, genealogy this week

This week, NBC's Today Show is featuring family history stories of its staff. This is the new series - about 10 years after the first series was aired.

Monday's show was on Meredith Viera's family from the Azores and resettled in New England. If you missed it, see the video here. Maureen Taylor and Ancestry.com were involved in this one. Everyone has a scandal or two, and view this video for Viera's.

Tuesday's show was a look back for Matt Lauer, whose great-grandfather came from Saveni, Romania in 1898. He visited the town nine years ago for the first series. Today's segment updates the family saga and discusses immigration, the Lower East Side, and the progress of the immigrants - accomplishing the American dream.

24 August 2008

Chicago 2008: Logo controversy

JewishGen unveiled its new logo during this week's conference.

Here is the popular Jewish genealogy site's familiar tree logo. It illustrates the tree of life (etz chaim, in Hebrew) with the branches formed of the continents, illustrating the Jewish world. Over the years, it has appeared on buttons, pins, T-shirts and, of course, every page on Jewishgen:

During Wednesday evening's JewishGen presentation in a crowded ballroom, the audience did not seem impressed with the new green and blue stylized petal design - applauding at least twice in support of commenters displeased with the new logo:

The audience felt, according to comments voiced during the program and conversations following the session, that they - the JewishGenners (volunteers and users) - were the people who have made the site what it is today, providing research, translation and other essential, major contributions to JewishGen's growing resources.

I spoke with many attendees during the week. Without exception, they each consider themselves part of the JewishGen family, having contributed to the site's success since the early days. Most felt they should have been consulted in some way in advance of this major move.

During the week-long event, conference-goers were overheard many times voicing these and additional comments:

-- What is it supposed to be?
-- It has neither Jewish flavor nor genealogical connection.
-- It's graphically boring.
-- We wish we had been offered a choice.
-- The wisdom of disregarding a widely recognized, respected logo

What do you think of the new JewishGen logo?

Today is the last day to vote here . As of this morning (Sunday, August 24), the votes were running 62% for "horrible," against 14% for "great," and 22% for "OK." Unless my math is off - always a possibility - that means in the neighborhood of nearly two to one against the new design. For more insight, do read the growing comments on the topic when you vote.

How do I feel about it? I knew you were going to ask!

Personally, I feel that an occasional update of a venerable logo is not all bad - many major brands do this occasionally (think of Betty Crocker, the Morton Salt girl, the Gerber baby, even Aunt Jemima) as they try to make a more contemporary statement. However, I also believe that it is vital to retain essential recognizable and familiar elements of the original.

Perhaps a different color scheme, lighter background or a slightly more stylized tree might have been considered, instead of such a radically different design that removes all ta'am (flavor, Hebrew/Yiddish) from the well-known logo.

What's your view?

New York: Staten Island photos and Jewish history

Here's a new blog that I've just come across, Staten Island Genealogy. It recently carried a post on how to obtain photos of ancestral homes.

For non-New Yorkers, Staten Island is one of the city's five boroughs (along with Manhattan, The Bronx, Queens and Brooklyn). It is sometimes called the "forgotten borough;" until theVerrazano Bridge opened in 1964, the only access was by ferry to New York and New Jersey. The borough's official name is Richmond County.

The Works Progress Administration (WPA) photographed, during the 1930s-40s, almost every single building in the five boroughs for tax assessment purposes. The city's Archives Department recognized the value of these images and maintained and restored them.

If you have the address where ancestors lived - available from census records - an image print can be ordered online.

For Staten Islanders, according to the blog:

To identify the exact photo you want from the collection, you can view the microfilm of the images available at the St. George, Staten Island, Library, and obtain the block and lot number, to save a few dollars. Or you can simply order the image on line by inputting the address, and let the city identify the block and lot for an additional $5 fee. For those doing Staten Island genealogy long distance, that’s the best option ... Note that the building must have existed at the time the photos were taken in order to be included in the collection–but for the older buildings, it still possible you can get an image of the residence your ancestors lived in, in 1880.
Order Staten Island (and for other boroughs as well) images here.

For other Staten Island resources - my quick web check discovered that the Brooklyn Public Library has a nice page of resources, including newspaper articles from 1881. The New York Public Library also lists resources and a timeline from 1812.

For Tracing the Tribe's Jewish history buffs, there's "The Jewish Community of Staten Island" (2004, Arcadia Publishing), authored by Jenny Tango, active in the revival of the Jewish Historical Society of Staten Island in 2003.

To see some of her book and its historical photographs, click here.

In 1641, Jacob Saloman received a Dutch land grant there - he also owned property in Brooklyn and Long Island. A possibly Sephardic family farmed there during the 1830s-40s. Sarah Levy (previously of Jamaica, British West Indies). Her will, named seven children and left farmland and tenements in Richmond County to two sons. None were in the 1845 census, according to Tango's book.

The first wave of Jews were German, including the self-styled "first Jew on Staten Island," Moses Greenwald (1848), Abraham and Rachel Almstaedt (1850). Askiel and Doris Isaacs (1868) and had five children; daughter Marie married Reuben Mord who had opened a store there (1881). Mord and Isaacs were founding members in 1884 of B'nai Jeshurun, the first synagogue.

Today, there are some seven synagogues, a JCC and other essential Jewish community institutions.

UK: Genealogists angry, project delayed

Researchers in the UK are miffed as a £16m plan to put family history online collapses and it is back to "smudgy" microfilm records once again, according to this Guardian story.

A government website, which had promised direct access to 171 years of family records, has been delayed indefinitely following failure of a Whitehall computer project.

An attempt to scan, index and digitise 250m records of births, marriages and deaths in England and Wales from 1837 to the present day was supposed to result in a new public website that would let people trace their ancestors at the touch of a button next February. Now, three years after the government awarded the £16m contract to German computer giant Siemens, the deal has been terminated with only half the work done.

It had been hoped that the online system would cut costs and make it easier and faster to find roots. The problems mean searchers must keep requesting documents by mail, at a fee of £7 or £10 a time.

Genealogists were already angry that the government had removed access to the paper ledgers (indexes of births, marriages and deaths) at the family records center when the decision was made to start the website.

The agency responsible for the records -The General Register Office (GRO) - said only 130 million records had been scanned, and shelved plans to make the index public. The missing records include birth records 1837-1934 and death records 1837-1957. The GRO is run by The Identity and Passport Service (IPS) which said it had only paid half the fee as a result.

On August 15, according to the story, IPS couldn't say when the project would be completed or how it would pay for the rest.

Quoted were Sue Hills of Ancestral Footsteps, which offers genealogy holidays: "This is a devastating blow. Everyone was incredibly excited because this was going to be a fantastic research tool and one of the big events in the world of ancestry."

Ancestry.co.uk's Simon Harper, managing director of the subscription site (which charges for index access), said the delay was "not good news for the amateur genealogist," and called it "hugely frustrating."

With the popularity of such shows as BBC's Who Do You Think You Are, more people in the UK are searching their roots. The show's consultant, genealogist Nick Barratt, estimates that one in three Britons have done online research on their ancestors.

The National Archives' visitor numbers doubled to 56.8 million in 2007 from 23.2 million in 2006, according to the story, which also includes comments from union officials, touches on the controversial decision to outsource work to India for the project, data security and more.

Read the complete story at the link above.

23 August 2008

India: The Koder family of Cochin

Kochi (formerly Cochin) in southern India's Kerala region has a surprise for tourists, according to this story. Grand mansions built during the colonial period - when Portuguese and Dutch traders ruled Fort Cochin - are being converted ito tourist homes.

The Iraqi Jewish Koder family built Koder House in 1905 [Note: the date is different in some sources], although the family came to India in the early 1800s, during a wave of Baghdadi immigration. Today it is owned by Vicky Raj, who wants locals and the tourists to know about the house's heritage.

The three-story heritage boutique hotel is opposite the beach at Fort Kochi. Until recently, it belonged to the Koders, the most illustrious Cochin Jewish family. Their home had hosted presidents, prime ministers, viceroys, ambassadors and prominent dignitaries, and their Friday night "open house" dinners were legend.

It was built by merchant Samuel Koder, who constructed it across three floors - one for each of his sons. However, business took the sons far away, until only Satu Koder and his wife Gladys remained. Their daughter Queenie still lives in Jews Street and sold the house to the present owners. Her husband, Sammy Hallegua, is the warden of the Jewish Synagogue, as was her father (for 40 years).

According to the story, the Portuguese design home is believed to have been structured and gabled in Europe, then shipped to Cochin. Its windows are said to be made of Belgian-imported glass.
The Koders emigrated to Cochin from Iraq a few centuries ago. Samuel Koder ran the Cochin Electric Company which was eventually sold to the government.
Also, the Koders had a huge chain of department stores across Kerala, which too, were sold. The stores stocked everything from molasses to pins and flourished. The Koders could be relied on to stock luxury goods such as alcoholic beverages from the UK, fine clothes, and chandeliers from Europe. The owners, of course were like mini royalty.

As Samuel Koder was the honorary consul to the Netherlands, the Dutch ambassadors visited the house often. He also began the Freemasons’ organization in Cochin.

In its heyday under the Koders, the house was known for its famous Friday Open houses. This was a big event on the Cochin social calendar. Though informal, anticipation of the event would build up in mid-week itself. It became a focal point of the Raj literati, glitterati and any one who wished to meet the Koders or know about Indian Jewish lifestyle. Visitors could be as many as 45, or just a handful - among them ambassadors, celebrities or heads of state! Conversation and food was the order of the day.

The New York Times travel section carried a story on Kerala and mentioned Koder House here.

In fact, most of Fort Cochin's new hotels have stories. The all-suite Koder House on the waterfront, is the former residence of one of the city's most prominent Jewish families. ...

To explore the other historic district, Mattancheri, take a 10-minute autorickshaw to Jew Town. At the synagogue, built in 1568, leave your shoes at the door, not for religious reasons, but to protect the 200-year-old, handpainted Chinese floor tiles. The youngest of the 13-member congregation, a 34-year-old woman, took the 2-rupee admission and answered questions (“No, we don't have a rabbi”).

Read the complete stories at the links above.

Cuba: Home to Havana

CNN Radio's New York correspondent Steve Kastenbaum details his trip back to Cuba here, with a story, video and slide show.

In the 1940s-50s, more than 15,000 Jews lived there; today, the community is about 1,500.

(CNN) -- Cuba is more than a thousand miles from my home in New York, but it's a place close to my heart.

I went to Cuba to report on a country that appears to be on the cusp of a new era.

His focus was on US-Cuban relations and reforms under leader Raul Castro, but the most important story turned out to be his family history.

My grandmother, the daughter of Russian immigrants, was born in Havana, and my grandfather came to Cuba when he was just 3 years old. His family left Germany in the 1920s. To me, they were as much Cuban as they were Jewish.

My grandparents left Cuba in the late '40s so that their children would be born in the United States. The last members of my family to leave Cuba did so post-revolution, in the 1960s. I was eager to see what had become of the places they left behind.

In the mid-1990s, Castro lifted religious restrictions and the El Patronato synagogue revived; today it is the Jewish community's center, complete with day camp. He visited old Havana, Habana Viejo, where his great-grandparents settled, visiting the sole kosher butcher and walked by the building that had been home to the synagogue where his grandparents married.

The current home of Adath Israel is a few blocks away. At the front door, Salomon Leyderman introduced himself to me as the oldest Jew in Cuba. He's 86. I took out some old family photos, and Salomon immediately recognized my great-grandfather, Salomon Sher. He shouted out in Spanish, "they were tailors!"

I couldn't believe my ears. This 86-year-old man told me how my great-grandfather was highly regarded in the community, how he belonged to many social organizations and how after the revolution, he made it possible for many Cuban Jews to leave the island and join him in Miami, Florida.

As he looked at a family portrait, Salomon began to cry. He recognized Luis Sher, my grandmother's brother. He said Luis gave him as a gift a suit to wear at his bar mitzvah, the Jewish ceremony marking a boy's transition into manhood. It took place more than 70 years ago, but he recalled the details as if it happened yesterday. Tears were flowing down my cheeks, too.

There is more at the link above, and do see the video and slide shows.

1421: Vienna's underground synagogue

Stephen Gabriel Rosenberg's story of Vienna's underground synagogue is here in the Jerusalem Post.

It happened in 1421 in Vienna. It had happened in 1182 in Paris, in 1290 in England and in 1348 in Strasbourg, then part of Germany. The Jews were forcibly converted, killed or expelled and their synagogue destroyed. In some cases they returned within a few years, but in England and Vienna not for hundreds of years. In Vienna the poorer Jews who refused to convert to Christianity were deprived of their meager property and foodstuff and set on rudderless boats on the Danube which floated them into Hungary, where it seems they managed to survive. But Vienna did not see them again for 200 years.

What happened in 1421? In Vienna, all Jews were under the jurisdiction and protection of Duke Albrecht V. Although the pope wanted him to expel the Jews, the Duke didn't want to lose face. However, a concocted libel that Jews had descrated the host took the matter out of his hands. At the request of the church, on May 23, 1420, the Duke ordered the Jews to forcibly convert. Those who had not converted, escaped or sent off in boats were burned on March 12, 1421, and the synagogue destroyed.

Fast forward to 1995, a memorial is planned for the victims of the Holocaust by Vienna in the Judenplatz - the medieval Jewry center. An archaeological team was sent to see if there were any remains. In one word, the find was sensational.

Less than three meters below ground level, the experts came across the stump walls and foundations of the medieval synagogue that had been destroyed in 1421. Its ground plan was clear and the archaeologists could discern that it had stood over a period of 200 years, in three distinct phases. Nearby they went down even further and found that the whole area had been used to build wooden barracks in the second century for the Roman soldiers that had occupied the area, then called Vindobona.

To the credit of the city fathers, their experts were allowed to work for three years to make a meticulous record of the three phases of the synagogue and to preserve its remains within an underground annex to what was to become the Jewish Museum of medieval Vienna. What did this medieval synagogue look like? As usual with archaeological digs, a certain amount of imagination is required, but here there were a large number of clues. The whole history of the terrible events of 1420/1 had been recorded in a Hebrew document called the Gezera of Vienna, which aimed to warn other cities of what the future might hold for them.
The earliest synagogue was a rectangular room, dated to 1236 by an Austrian penny found on the floor. The ark wall faced southeast towards Jerusalem, with an entrance to the north and a women's room on the south with openings into the main room.

The community grew; the synagogue doubled with added columns. A unique feature was a hexagonal bima, hung with oil lamps whose remains were found. In 1350, the hall was again extended, the ark placed further east, side rooms added and the women's annex enlarged.

Also found were:

"... a fine wooden comb (of the kind still used today to check for lice eggs), a large drinking beaker, the remains of a small toy horse and rider and a metal stylus, as used for writing on wax. The handle was in the shape of a young boy, and possibly these finds indicate the use of the rooms for a Hebrew school for youngsters. Another find was a medieval key, perhaps even the key used by the shamash (beadle) to lock up the synagogue."
In 1624, Emperor Ferdinand II allowed the Jews to return and settle in Leopoldstadt; by 1670, there were 137 dwellings and some 500 Jewish families.

In 1825, another synagogue was built in the main town, the first erected after the medieval one. Built behind a residential facade, it escaped the 1938 Kristallnacht, although it was later ransacked. Now restored, it is called the Stadttempel. The underground medieval synagogue is today a museum, displaying historical finds.

There is much more; read the complete story at the link above.

US, Canadian archivists help Israel, Palestinians

US and Canadian archivists have launched a project to help Israel and the Palestinians preserve their archives, according to this JTA newsbrief.

Archivist of the United States Allen Weinstein and his Canadian counterpart, Ian Wilson, met earlier this year with officials of both the Israel State Archives and the Palestine National Archives.

"The purpose of these meetings was to discuss projects that would assist in the digitization of paper records of both Israel and Palestine that would ultimately document the joint heritage of people in the region," said a statement released Thursday.

"They are also working with both institutions to develop archival training programs for their staff, and have received enthusiastic support from" U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice "and the State Department for these projects."

A joint US-Canada exhibit is being launched on the 1783 Treaty of Paris, ending the Revolutionary War and dividing North America into the US and those British colonies which would become Canada.

Chicago 2008: More programs

I'm back in New York now and readying my notes on many different Chicago conference sessions.

Still to be reported on: Sephardic programs, South America, Eastern Europe, the excellent society management program with Adam Shames (a whole-day seminar would be a great idea!), Lisa Lipkin's take on storytelling and genealogy, and a host of other topics.

All in all, it was a very good conference, so stay tuned for more reports.

Some fascinating stories of discoveries by attendees are also on the agenda - such discoveries can only happen at these annual conferences, where networking is key.

In addition to those discoveries, there's the story of my meeting with Russian cousins who live in Chicago. Did you ever meet someone for the first time and think you've known them forever? This was exactly how I felt when I met Zhanna Talalay Burman, her daughter Eugenia and her niece Yelena. It was a great reunion - although we met for the first time.

There was our Shabbat morning visit to Rabbi Capers Funnye's Beth Shalom B'nai Zaken Ethiopian Hebrew Congregation on Chicago's southside. Thank you to Mitch Lieber for making it possible for us to attend.

If you are ever in that city over a weekend, try to attend these spirited services, but don't make additional plans until late in the afternoon. Services start at 10:30am, but may well go on until 2pm or even later as various sermons and great music are part of the rituals, followed by kiddush.

The Torah reading is different from what most of us have ever experienced. A line is read first in Hebrew from the sefer torah, immediately followed by the extemporaneous translation; the complete portion is read.

The sisters and brothers of the congregation were warm and welcoming, and our faces hurt from smiling all day! There's a very talented woman in the congregation who makes the most magnificent tallits for men and for women, in linen, hand-embroidered.

Dinah Levi, who sat in front of us, brought two beautiful ones made of white linen. The shorter was embroidered in white with her Hebrew name. Her background includes Native American heritage, and she brought along another larger tallit. It was embroidered in the corners with feathers and beads, two colorful Southwestern pots on the back and a magnificent atarah (collar) piece in a vibrant tourqoise. One congregant wore a black tallit with the atarah worked in a beautiful red border, while younger women in the congregation wore other very unique pieces.

While men and women (all cover their heads) sit separately (but no divider), women are called for aliyah and also read from the Torah; the ArtScroll siddur is used. First-time worshippers are asked to stand, give their names and where they are from; each is welcomed warmly and personally by the rabbi. He also mentioned the Chicago conference and made us feel at home.

Also attending were three converso men from a Mexico City community. I was only able to speak with them for a few minutes, although I would have liked to spend hours in conversation.

For more information, here's a JTA story on the rabbi and the synagogue, and Tracing the Tribe had a previous post here.

Email subscription problems - Again!

If you are a new reader and have tried to subscribe via Feedburner, you have seen a screen reading "email subscription for this blog not enabled." We have no idea why this is coming up and I am in contact with the powers-that-be to fix this.

This is similar to the problem we experienced awhile back with Feedblitz. Now, Feedblitz is working very well.

Therefore, you will now see a nice "subscribe by email" click-on for Feedblitz in addition to the Feedburner click-on. Both of these handy-dandy forms are in the blog's right sidebar - just scroll down to find them.

Bottom line: If one doesn't work, try the other one. The important thing is to receive email alerts for all new posts, and not miss anything.

Ahh, the wonders of cyberspace ...

21 August 2008

Chicago 2008: IAJGS awards, elections

At the conference banquet on Thursday evening, the following awards were presented:

Howard Margol (Georgia), Lifetime Achievement;

Award for Outstanding Contribution to Jewish Genealogy via the Internet, Print or Electronic Product: Steve Lasky (New York), The Museum of Family History;

Award for Outstanding Programming or Project That Advances the Objectives of Jewish Genealogy: Petra Laidlaw (UK) for the database documenting Anglo-Jewish residents registered in the 1851 UK Census.

Award for Outstanding Publication by a Member Organization: JGS of Great Britain (UK) for its excellent series of handbooks on a variety of topics.

The Malcolm Stern Grant honors Malcolm H. Stern, widely considered to be the dean of American Jewish genealogy, and his efforts to increase the availability of resources for Jewish genealogical research. The Stern Grant provides funding to encourage institutions to pursue projects, activities and acquisitions that provide new or enhanced resources to benefit Jewish genealogists: The $2,500 grant was given to the Italian Genealogical Group (NY), which has indexed thousands of New York records useful for researchers everywhere, through its army of volunteers. The grant will be used to index Brooklyn Brides, 1910-1930.

On Wednesday, presidents and voting representatives of the International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies elected the following individuals to the board: Jan Meisels Allen (California), Daniel Horowitz (Israel), Bill Israel (Florida), Kahlile Mehr (Utah), Paul Silverstone (New York), and Jackye Sullins (California).

Congratulations to all the award recipients and elected board members!

Arlington National Cemetery: Jewish Burials website

The Jewish Genealogy Society of Greater Washington (JGSGW) has launched a new website to index Jewish burials at Arlington National Cemetery.

This new resource resulted from the gift of research conducted by the late Kenneth Poch, the self-appointed historian of Jews buried at the largest national cemetery.

The Arlington Project committee includes project manager Marlene Bishow, webmaster and database coordinator Ernie Fine, consultant Rabbi Marvin Bash and database/scanning Elias Savada.

Readers can assist the project by checking the database and ensuring that Jewish friends or relatives buried at the cemetery are named. Those not listed may be added using forms at the website (see "Contact Us") to send in names or other information, which will be verified at the cemetery.

Future content will include photos of grave markers and additional information about individuals discovered through research or provided by family and friends.

Information may include birth and death dates; rank, branch of service and medals; Hebrew name, spouse and parents; personal information, memories; and personal photos.

While Poch collected data on 2,554 individuals, the database now numbers more than 2,600, with as many more in the research file.

Chicago 2008: A new chapter, Part 1

While whispers of a JewishGen/Ancestry relationship have been flying around the Jewish genealogical world for several months, the formal agreement announcement was made public Tuesday night, August 19, at the Chicago 2008 conference.

Speaking at the meeting were Ancestry CFO David Rinn, David G. Marwell of the Museum of Jewish Heritage, and Ancestry indexing manager Crista Cowan.

Comments focused on features, tools, functionalities and extensive Jewish content being added to Ancestry's seven billion names and 26,000 databases. Both Ancestry and JewishGen will cross-market this new arrangement to their constituencies; Rinn called the arrangement "good for the genealogical eco-system."

Over the years, JewishGen has experienced technical problems with servers and other issues. The data will now be housed on Ancestry's more robust servers providing improved reliability

Marwell said that this "new chapter" in the life of JewishGen, will "build on and extend the organization" founded by former JewishGen director Susan King. The arrangement was concluded, he said, after "a long and complex negotiation."

The bottom line is that JewishGen's data will remain free and freely accessible. Technically, JewishGen will be more stable and able to sustain a growing database.

The arrangement grew out of financial difficulties at JewishGen. Said Marwell, Ancestry makes money, while JewishGen loses money, and needed the means to survive. The financial aspects of the deal will enable JewishGen to extend its reach, while thriving in a stable environment.

According to Marwell's comments to the packed room of conference attendees, Ancestry will provide "pipe and power" - hardware, bandwith, facilities - while JewishGen will remain an independent non-profit entity, with its own management, and free forever. Ancestry will not administer JewishGen and will not have access to registrants' personal data.

Technically, this will result in better user experiences for both sites, with more records online and better navigation capabilities. Rinn called it a win-win situation: While Ancestry gains new content and a new user base, JewishGen gains the benefit of marketing experience and access to more users. The new partnership makes Jewish genealogy resources more accessible.

The Jewish genealogy world has also been hearing about Ancestry's negotiations with seven additional Jewish entities for more content, including digitization projects. At posting time, no further information was available.

Ancestry indexing manager Crista Cowan offered a glimpse of how the new integrated system will operate as she searched Rinn's Jewish family and provided new records in various databases, including Jewish Records Indexing - Poland (http://www.jri-poland.org/) for the RYN family's Lublin records.

JRI-Poland associate director Hadassah Lipsius said JRI-Poland is an independent organization whose database, website and discussion groups are hosted by JewishGen; she released a written statement:
"After thorough discussion by the JRI-Poland board, it was voted to grant permission to JewishGen to sub-license some JRI-Poland data to Ancestry. This will include nearly 1.5 million index listings from Polish-Jewish records microfilmed by the LDS and historical sources. This will not include any data indexed pursuant to JRI-Poland's agreement with the Polish State Archives (PSA)."

Search results on Ancestry will provide a link back to JRI-Poland, and the data will remain free forever on Ancestry agreement.

(Part II follows)

Chicago 2008: A new chapter, Part 2

(Continued from Part 1)

Said Cowan, some 9.3 million people have partial Jewish ancestry, without any religious or cultural connection. They don't know about Jewish resources to help their research. "A novice," she said, "can find Jewish ancestors using their memory, documents and resources like Ancestry and JewishGen."

She illustrated advanced search techniques. Searching for "Jewish" in Ancestry, produced 46,249 records in such groups as census and voter lists, while another 18,000 were in immigration databases. Other terms - such as Hebrew or Yiddish - will also produce many records.

Comparing the two entities: Ancestry has some 8.9 million records in such categories as Jewish names and Jewish databases - mostly American - while JewishGen has some 13 million records in databases and tools - mostly European.

The evening ended with numerous questions from the audience. Attendees were asked to submit written questions for the JewishGen presentation Wednesday evening.

A reception was held for JewishGen leaders, including SIG moderators, coordinators and others, with comments by Marwell and JewishGen managing director Warren Blatt. It was explained that the initial agreement is for five years and renewable. JewishGen has granted a license to Ancestry to use this data, according to Blatt.

According to individuals in attendance, the comment was made that JewishGen data remains the property of JewishGen and will be free on Ancestry. The last comment is important to donors of material as it was understood at the time of donation that the material would always be accessible without charge on JewishGen.

As to material donated by many individuals, JewishGen maintains that current donor agreements are sufficient and will not need to be revisited. What will be transferred - not sold - is most of the collections under the database section of the site.

The agreement does not include transfer to Ancestry of the Family Tree of the Jewish People, JewishGen Family Finder, yizkor (memorial) books or ShtetlLinks - No personal information on any registered user of JewishGen will be transferred or ever accessible, including discussion groups and those archives.

While the Ancestry press release says yizkor book data will be accessible, JewishGen leaders say it will not. Warren Blatt clarified that the bibliographic database and the necrology database are included in the licensing arrangement, but the translation texts of yizkor books will not be included.

To learn what will be included - a full list will be released soon - click here www.jewishgen.org/databases. Not included are the Family Finder, Family Tree of the Jewish People and the discussion group archives.

Some voiced the perception that Ancestry is linked to the LDS church, and that JewishGen data might be used for other purposes. The answer was that there is no danger of the church gaining access to JewishGen data, and that the parent company is a completely independent entity.

It was agreed that it was important to make sure JewishGenners understand the agreement: Ancestry and JewishGen are not merging, nor has Ancestry bought JewishGen, that JewishGen's website will remain "as is," and that JewishGen's data will remain free and accessible on Ancestry.

However, users performing a search may see links to Ancestry databases, and while JewishGen will remain free to users, some links may be to for-fee sections of Ancestry. Searchers of Ancestry will see backlinks to JewishGen for more information.

JewishGen will receive a percentage of any new subscriptions for Ancestry when users join through JewishGen.

Transfer of data to new servers will begin in September with integrated functionality available in October, although Ancestry says material will be there by the end of the year.

19 August 2008

Chicago 2008: JewishGen-Ancestry press release

Tonight's evening program at the conference was the announcement of the agreement between Ancestry.com and JewishGen.org.

There will be another post with more information following this post. For more information, click www.ancestry.com/JewishHeritage

Here is the joint press release:


Partnership Enables Broader Research of Jewish Ancestry Through Powerful Search Tools in One Centralized Location

CHICAGO – Aug. 19, 2008 – The Generations Network, Inc., parent company of Ancestry.com, and JewishGen, a non-profit organization dedicated to researching and promoting Jewish genealogy and an affiliate of the Museum of Jewish Heritage – A Living Memorial to the Holocaust, today announced a partnership designed to provide easier online access to millions of important Jewish historical documents.
JewishGen's collection of databases will be integrated and be made available for free on Ancestry.com, making these historical Jewish records and information ore accessible than ever before. As part of the agreement, the JewishGen site will also be hosted in Ancestry.com's data center.

For the first time ever, those interested in researching Jewish ancestry will be able to search JewishGen's databases on Ancestry.com, taking advantage of Ancestry.com's powerful search technologies, including tree hinting and the ability to search all JewishGen databases through one simple interface.
The agreement will also give researchers the ability to make connections within family trees and to perform broader searches – searching JewishGen's databases in combination with the other 7 billion names and 26,000 databases available on Ancestry.com. In addition, visitors will be able to network with millions of Ancestry.com members to connect with others interested in Jewish genealogy and discover distant relatives.

"We are thrilled to be collaborating with JewishGen, an elite and well-respected resource in the Jewish genealogy community," said Tim Sullivan, president and CEO of The Generations Network. "Both organizations are committed to the preservation of important historical records. We look forward to working with JewishGen and to making these wonderful collections even more accessible for free on Ancestry."

Under the new agreement, some of the important JewishGen content that will be available on Ancestry.com includes databases from many different countries, the Holocaust Database, Yizkor Books (memorial books from Holocaust survivors), The Given Names Database and JewishGen ShtetlSeeker, among others. The JewishGen collections will be available on Ancestry.com by the end of the year.

"This important partnership between JewishGen and Ancestry.com demonstrates a commitment both to preserving Jewish heritage and providing the public with unprecedented access to these records," said Warren Blatt, Managing Director of JewishGen. "The impact on the genealogy community will be significant; not only will genealogists now have the use of powerful search tools to make research easier, they will be able to find everything for their Jewish heritage research needs at one location."

David G. Marwell, Director, Museum of Jewish Heritage, said, "The continuity of Jewish heritage is central to the Museum's mission. We are pleased that this partnership will make it easier for users to discover their Jewish roots and connect or re-connect to their family's history."

To learn more about this important agreement, or if you would like a sneak peek of the Jewish collections that will be available on Ancestry.com, visit

About JewishGen

www.jewishgen.org, became an affiliate of the Museum on January 1, 2003. An Internet pioneer, JewishGen was founded in 1987 and has grown from a bulletin board with only 150 users to a major grass roots effort bringing together hundreds of thousands of individuals worldwide in a virtual community centered on discovering Jewish ancestral roots and history.

Researchers use JewishGen to share genealogical information, techniques, and case studies. With a growing database of more than 11 million records, the website is a forum for the exchange of information about Jewish life and family history, and has enabled thousands of families to connect and re-connect in a way never before possible.

About Ancestry.com

With 26,000 searchable databases and titles and nearly 3 million active users, Ancestry.com is the No. 1 online source for family history information. Since its launch in 1997, Ancestry.com has been the premier resource for family history, simplifying genealogical research for millions of people by providing them with many easy-to-use tools and resources to build their own unique family trees. Ancestry.com is part of The Generations Network, Inc., a leading network of family-focused interactive properties, including
www.myfamily.com, www.rootsweb.com, www.genealogy.com and Family Tree Maker. In total, The Generations Network properties receive nearly 8.5 million unique visitors worldwide (© comScore Media Metrix, March 2008). To easily begin researching your family history, visit www.ancestry.com.

Here is the JewishGen and Ancestry Fact Sheet:

We are pleased to announce that JewishGen.org, the premier resource for Jewish genealogy, and Ancestry.com, the largest online resource for family history information, have entered into a cooperative agreement.

Basics of the agreement:

  • JewishGen will make some of its databases available on the Ancestry website.
  • Ancestry will provide hardware and network support for the JewishGen website.

Benefits of the agreement:

  • JewishGen will be able to provide more robust and functional resources to genealogists throughout the world.
  • Specific and immediate improvements will be seen in the speed of the website, along with greater accessibility when searching databases.
  • More people will be exposed to Jewish genealogy and have access to a greater range of resources to assist in researching family history.
  • JewishGen's comprehensive records and information, contributed by volunteers from around the world, will continue to remain freely available on JewishGen.org.

Details of the agreement:

  • JewishGen remains an independent non-profit organization, affiliated with the Museum of Jewish Heritage - A Living Memorial to the Holocaust.
  • There will be no change to the JewishGen management team, structure or affiliation with the museum.
  • This new agreement, combined with generosity of our donors throughout the world, will allow us to continue offering all of JewishGen's extensive resources for no charge.
  • Privacy of personal information for JewishGen users is of key importance to us. Information about JewishGen registrants will not be shared.
  • Personal informtion stored on JewishGen, such as data entered into the JGFF and Family Tree of the Jewish People, will not be shared.
  • JewishGen will continue to independently administer the JewishGen website, mailing lists and affiliates.

Chicago 2008: Logan Kleinwaks

The hotel's fifth floor lobby is a busy place - registration, seating areas, organization tables, vendor room. Many old friends and new readers of Tracing the Tribe pass through this area so it is a great place to meet.

Logan Kleinwaks, one of Jewish genealogy's young stars (I don't think he's 30 yet!), and I sat and talked about his newly updated Genealogy Indexer site. Logan specializes in OCR technology - optical character recognition - and its application to many kinds of documents.

He creates fully searchable, soundexed (Daitch-Mokotoff system now, with other formats to be added), full text databases from various printed sources, such as historical city directories, yizkor books (memorial books of communities) and more, including page images.

He launched the beta version of the site only a day or two ago for this conference. The current bare-bones interface will be improved quickly, but a single searchbox makes it all as easy as possible. He wanted conference attendees to see what is contained in this resources.

Logan is adding yizkor books using images from the New York Public Library website, and has added some 10% already. "If I wasn't at the conference," he said, "I'd be able to add about 10 books a day."
Currently, some 70,000 pages are included; when all the yizkor books are included, the total will be a quarter-million pages.

What this means for researchers as that a search, for example, for a specific name or town or both, will produce results containing the highlighted name, the volume it was found in, the page numbers, etc.
Many yizkor books are not indexed; some are 600 pages long, and few are written in English, with most in Hebrew and Yiddish. He has a virtual keyboard where the Hebrew, Yiddish, Cyrillic and other symbols are available, so searches can also be made in those languages for even more results.

Among the available lists are Polish Army Officer lists of the 1920s-30s, including many Jewish officers.

Although I searched for Talalay, none were found ... yet; for my Fink line, it was nice to see initials so results could be sorted. Searching for my grandfather's shtetl of Suchastow, there were a number of hits to be examined later. Logan's search for a family and place - bornfeld rohatyn - produced results where both search terms came up in the hits.

Other parameters can be any phrase (in quotes), including addresses. For example, a researcher might have an address from an old letter or passenger index (for family left in Europe). Type in the address and see what else pops up at that address (a business, other families, etc.)

Currently listed: General Polish resources (including 19th century), Galicia, Romania (Bucharest phone directories), as well as a 1913 general trade directory for South America.

For researchers of Sephardic families, the site offers some interesting and rare resources: The 1894 Commercial Director for Jews in England, includes many Sephardic names; Library of Congress digitized Bulgarian directories; and notary records from Amsterdam for traders and merchants in Danzig - many of whom were Sephardic.

One of the first searchable directories Logan completed was a 1924 or 1925 Bulgarian one, others include the 1917, 1919, large 1945 and 1947 (only for Sofia); languages, depending on date include German or Cyrillic. A Bulgarian diplomat was visiting the Library of Congress and was shown the collection. He found family references and became so excited that he called his staff to cancel all his appointments back at the office.

Eventually, Logan plans to be able to offer geographical distances: For example, hits within a certain distance of a specific town.

What sort of of materials can be successfully added to the site? Any printed text or images is fine for this process. Says Logan, "Private collectors of directories have contacted me for ways to get them scanned and working some institutions."

He is actively looking for material on his own and says that any images, printed text, large documents - as long as the permissions (for copyright) have been secured. And if anyone has hard copies of rare material they want to see online with the searchable ability, contact him at loganATgenealogyindexerDOTorg..

Also stopping by was opening keynote speaker E. Randol Schoenberg. His connection with Logan - besides the fact they both went to Princeton University - was that Schoenberg's grandfather had a suit made in 1940 by Logan's great-grandfather in New York, and found in the Schoenberg archives:
1 black double-breasted suit as tried in New York and  I want to see samples.  Send samples of fabric by airmail.
More detail is added; he wrote the letter on December 8 and wanted the suit by Christmas!

Chicago 2008: Cook County records online

Cook County Genealogy Online was presented Monday evening at the Chicago conference.

The website of the Cook County Clerk's office makes available more than 6 million historical Cook County vital records, with free index searches. Researchers, for a fee, can download high-resolution scans of the original documents.

Cook County Clerk David Orr said he wanted to make genealogy research more convenient and accessible to genealogists in many places. Some 100,000 people in 45 countries have already registered.

According to conference attendee Hilary Henkin (Los Angeles) who found and downloaded death records for possible cousins, "When I first downloaded the images, they looked like 'fuzzy dots.' However, when enlarged, they were very clear and easy to read."

These were new records for Hilary, who was looking for her father's missing "mystery" cousins. Based on information on the death certificates, she now has to visit the Mogilev (Belarus) section of Chicago's Waldheim Cemetery. Her grandfather was, like these possible cousins, from Mogilev.

She will also visit the Cook County Circuit Court later this week - with regional naturalization records - and attempt to get documents for these possible cousins.

Her father's uncle Abraham Henkin was born 1875 in Mogilev, and listed on JewishGen's "Birth Index for Boys" (Belarus SIG) born in that city. She has found a death certificate for Abraham born 1886 - the son of Moishe - but she's looking for an Abraham born 1875 - the grandson of Yuval-Moishe.

Hilary is hoping the naturalization records will reveal more details. She's a happy camper hot on the trail of a link.

The new online resource will help the Vital Records department as more online users will be able to do for themselves what staff used to do.

Illinois law states that genealogy records include birth certificates 75 years or older; marriage licenses 50 years or older; and death certificates 20 years or older.

18 August 2008

JewishGen's updated Holocaust database

JewishGen has added 17 datafiles to its searchable Holocaust Database, which now has nearly two million records, according to the website's data acquisition vice president Joyce Field.

Here are the names of each file, the number of records in each and a URL for the introduction to each. Before searching, read the introductions to understand more about each file and what it holds. Search the database here www.jewishgen.org/databses/Holocaust.

- Krakow Transport List (6,701)<http://www.jewishgen.org/databases/holocaust/0119_Krakow_transports.html>

- French Prisoners in Stutthof (237)

-Ahlem Hospital Survivors (243)

- Sarajevo Survivors Who Went to Palestine, December 1948 (1,553)<http://www.jewishgen.org/databases/holocaust/0142_Sarajevo_survivors.html>

- Daugavpils (Dvinsk) Ghetto List 05-Dec-1941 (962)<http://www.jewishgen.org/databases/holocaust/0143_Daugavpils_ghetto.html>

- Rochlitz Hungarian Women (197)


- Lodz Ghetto Work Identification Cards (2,195)<http://www.jewishgen.org/databases/holocaust/0147_Lodz_work_cards.html>

- Passports of German Jews (500)<http://www.jewishgen.org/databases/holocaust/0148_German_Passports.html>

- Mszana Dolna, Poland 15-Jun-1942 Census (1,036)<http://www.jewishgen.org/databases/holocaust/0149_Mszana_Dolna.html>

- Natzweiler-Struthof Camp (33,722)

- Teis-Dambovita Camp Prisoners 1 October 1941 (1,234)<http://www.jewishgen.org/databases/holocaust/0152_Teis-Dambovita.html>

- Zagreb Survivor Lists (1,201)

- Natzweiler Medical Experiments (86)http://www.jewishgen.org/databases/holocaust/0154_Natzweiler_medical.html>

- Danzig and Polish Nationals Who Were Refugees in Mauritius (340)<http://www.jewishgen.org/databases/Holocaust/0155_Danzig_Polish_nationals.html>

- S.S. Astir Passenger Manifest (184)<http://www.jewishgen.org/databases/holocaust/0156_Astir_manifest.html>

- Bucharest Students (1,376 records)<http://www.jewishgen.org/databases/holocaust/0159_Bucharest_students.html>

- Auschwitz-Buchenwald Transport (22-Jan-1945-26-Jan-1945: 4,359)<http://www.jewishgen.org/databases/holocaust/0161_Auschwitz_Buchenwald_Transport.html>

This database was made possible through the efforts of volunteers, JewishGen staff, SIG members and many other individuals.