Jewish Genealogical Society of Sacramento www.jgss.org March 1, 2010 Upcoming genealogy-related TV programs this week: Wednesday, March 3, 8 p.m., ChannelMessage 1 of 35 , Mar 1, 2010View Source
Jewish Genealogical Society
March 1, 2010
Upcoming genealogy-related TV programs this week:
Wednesday, March 3, 8 p.m., Channel 6 (PBS), last segment of “Faces of America” with Dr. Henry Louis Gates.
Friday, March 5, 8 p.m. , Channel 3 (NBC) -- “Who do you think you are?”
Upcoming JGSS Meetings:
Sunday, March 21, 10 a.m. – Holocaust Survivor Liz Igra
Sunday, April 18, 10 a.m. –Facial Recognition Technology, Daniel Horowitz
Sunday, May 16, 10 a.m. -- Handwriting Analysis, Leslie Nye
Notes from February 21, 2010 Meeting
President Mort Rumberg called the meeting to order and introduced a new member. Welcome to Suzanne Donachie, who is researching Chicago relatives.
Mort mentioned that the Einstein Center is broadcasting live programs from New York City’s 92nd Street Y. The lectures and a buffet dinner are $25. For more information, call 972-9555.
Upcoming meetings -- on March 21, we have Liz Igra, a Holocaust survivor; on April 18, Daniel Horowitz, talking about facial recognition software; on May 16, Leslie Nye will talk about handwriting analysis; on June 21, the president of Sacramento’s Root Cellar will talk about “Research out of the Box;” on August 8 (date change), Aaron Joos of Antwerp will talk about “One Foot in America,” a talk he will have given at the July conference; and on October 17, Dale Friedman will present an introduction to Jewish genealogy.
Bob Wascou noted that a recent story in the Bee highlighted “Dr. Bob” La Perriere, who gives historical tours of the old city cemetery. Our Bob said he will be doing some research at the cemetery, which is associated with the Center for Sacramento History.
Root Cellar/Sacramento Genealogical Society is holding its spring seminar Saturday, March 27 from 9 a.m. to 3:45 p.m. The featured speaker will be Daniel M. Lynch, author of "Google Your Family Tree". He will conduct four sessions:
1--Introduction to Google for Genealogists
2--Using Google for Genealogy Research
3--Google News Archive, Google News Timelines and Google Alerts
4--Google Images, Video and other Tools for Genealogists
A registration form and more details about the seminar are available at www.rootcellar.org. Space is limited so don’t delay if you’re interested in attending.
Treasurer Allan Bonderoff reports that we have $1,556.20 in our checking account as of February 21.
February Speaker, Victoria Fisch -- Jews of the Gold Rush -- Who Knew?
Victoria presented a historical overview of pioneer Jewish merchants in Northern California. She has prepared a chapter for an upcoming publication by Avotaynu.
“On Passover we ask four questions -- today I have five,” she says. “Why did Jews come; where did they come from and where did they go; when did they come; what did they do; and who were they.
Here is some of what Victoria mentioned in her presentation.
Why did they come and where did they come from?
In 1848, it was the year of the revolutions in Europe.
There were1848 reforms in Prussia, but they resulted in a big backlash, with anti-Jewish riots. The Jews in Bohemia and Moravia formed militias for protection.
Earlier in France, in 1830, the government took over control of the rabbis and Jewish institutions. There were riots in Alsace in eastern France and some Jews crossed the border to the other side of the Rhine.
From 1845-1871, the number of Jewish emigrants, not including those in the Austro-Hungarian empire, totaled about 110,000. About half were from Prussia, the next largest group from Bavaria.
1871 was the Franco-Prussian war which had an impact as well.
Why did they come to California?
The California Gold Rush: In 1848, President James Polk mentions the gold in his State of the Union speech. Within two months, there were no sailing vessels left on the eastern seaboard.
How did they get here?
Victoria says there were several methods of travel. The first was ships. New Orleans was the 2nd largest port of entry during the Gold Rush, after New York. By land, there were both northern and southern routes of travel to California.
To get to California, ships could go around the horn, requiring an extended journey, or go through the isthmus of Panama, with cholera prevalent at the time. Victoria read an account of the Panama travel, involving mules, malaria, cholera and heat.
Arrivals at the port of San Francisco in 1848 totaled 98. In 1849, it jumped to 500, and in 1850, to 12,000.
Because the fares for steamships, stagecoaches, etc. were expensive, it weeded out those who made the trip. “You had to have money to get here.”
When did they come to California?
Beginning with the gold strikes, Victoria extends the Gold Rush period to the beginning of the 20th century.
What did Jewish immigrants do?
They were merchants, something they were well-equipped to do, Victoria says, given their experience with agrarian economies. They were able to do the same in California.
The first established merchants were in big cities; then, it was typical to send single male relatives to outposts and camps.
Victoria says the tax records for 1862-65 were filled with Jewish names.
The Jewish experience in the Gold Rush -- Victoria says it was very unique -- different than for those who came in the 1880s and 1890s to eastern cities.
Because there were new mining towns, it was an open, integrated situation for Jews -- the pioneer environment enabled them to participate as equals.
Victoria cited Robert Levinson and his doctoral thesis, “The Jews of the California Gold Rush,” which we have in our library. Levinson notes that longtime Jewish residents could not recall incidents of anti-semitism. “The acceptance of Jewish citizens extended to newspaper accounts,” Victoria says, “and the papers always published the dates and times of high holiday services.”
Victoria also noted that there was more assimilation with the Jews in California versus those back east. “There was freedom to intermarry -- something not seen on the eastern seaboard.”
I.J. Benjamin, a Moravian traveler, authored “Three Years in America,” writing about his visits to the gold fields. He encouraged Jews to buy land and purchase cemeteries.
Victoria provided a handout on the pioneer Jewish cemeteries (some of which the Sacramento JGS has visited and worked in over the years). She says there are eight Jewish cemeteries in the Gold Country, along with one in Sacramento, three in Stockton. Some are still in use.
“I think the most beautiful one if the one in Sonora,” Victoria says. There is one in Oroville, maintained by the city, and six under the direction of a Magnes Museum commission.
Yolo County -- in 1891 a Woodland Burial Society was formed, with the last interment in 1939.
A handout was distributed on cemeteries in Sacramento, Stockton and the Gold County. Victoria also provided information on Gold Rush synagogues, congregations and benevolent societies.
Jews were also enthusiastic participants in fraternal organizations – the Masons, Odd Fellows, etc., Victoria says.
Victoria showed a wedding guest list for nuptials held in San Francisco -- there were 85 guests from throughout Northern California and beyond.
“The other answer to what did the Jews do -- merchant’s fortunes were based on mine’s successes. Some merchants stayed in a particular area, others left.”
After 1879, only a handful of Jews remained in the Gold Rush areas -- most had moved to the port areas.
Who were they?
Albert Abraham Michelson was the first American to win the Nobel prize in physics (focusing on the measure of velocity of light).
In the 1850s he lived in Murphys in Calaveras County, then moved to Virginia City. He had gone to hi
gh school in San Francisco and then to West Point.
Philip Charles (P.C.) Cohn -- He had a business in New York then came west with his father for the Fraser gold strike in British Columbia (1862). By 1863, he came back to Sacramento and started a mercantile store. In 1904 P.C. was a California delegate to the Democratic convention and elected senator from Sacramento from 1913-16.
He purchased 60 acres in Orangevale, 240 acres in El Dorado County and seven acres in the Tahoe area. After he died in 1928, a park in Folsom was named after him. “Bob Wascou e-mailed me his funeral record ... currently his headstone is missing.”
Victoria says as more and more databases are put onto Ancestry, she’s getting more and more hits, for naturalization records, passport applications and more. “I believe in exploiting Ancestry to the max,” she says.
Victoria notes you can put in just the first three letters of a name, followed by an asterisk; you can do first-name only searches, and no-name searches, putting in dates or states.
Victoria cites a few books of interest:
-- The Age of Revolution -- “very readable.”
-- Pioneer Jewish Cemeteries
-- Businesses of Jews in Louisiana
-- The Jewish Settlement in Sacramento (Wyatt, 1987)
-- Ava Kahn’s book -- Jewish Voices of the California Gold Rush -- “very dense.”
“My perception is that with most of the books,” she says, “your head will spin. I don’t believe there is a book out there that gives you a comprehensive picture of the Jews of the Gold Rush.”
Victoria brought many of the books she researched to her presentation; several are part of our JGSS library.
From the JGS of the Conejo Valley (Ventura County) newsletter:
NARA MOVES TO PERRIS
As of March 1, the National Archives and Records Administration facility previously located in Laguna Niguel has moved to Perris in Riverside County. The move is being made for cost-savings to the federal government. The address for the new regional archive is:
National Archives at Riverside
23123 Cajalco Road
Perris, CA 92570
COLLECTIONS OF JEWISH CULTURE
Ten institutions across Europe have joined forces to provide online access to their Jewish culture collections. The joint project, called "Judaica Europeana," is part of an effort to digitize
many of Europe's cultural resources. The European Commission provided a major grant for
Judaica Europeana. The first phase of this project can be visited at www.judaica-europeana.eu.
From the Orlando Sentinel:
Daughter discovers a genealogy gold mine in father's letters
Joanie Schirm talks about her father's collection of letters and documents. Since her father Dr. Oswald A. Holzer's death in 2000, she has amassed an extensive collection of his World War II-era letters, documenting the impact of the Nazi regime on his life. (Joe Burbank, Orlando Sentinel / February 15, 2010)Jeff Kunerth, Orlando Sentinel February 21, 2010
In the upstairs rec room of her home on Lake Concord, Joanie Schirm has spread her father's life over a leather-sheathed pool table. Curled black-and-white photographs spill from overstuffed envelopes. There's a stack of home movie canisters, plastic filing boxes with hanging folders of documents, and thick binders with letters written in Czech 70 years ago.
Her father, Oswald Holzer, a Jewish physician, deserted the Czechoslovakian Army in 1939 as Nazi Germany overtook the country and conscripted the army. He ended up in China where, eight days after they met, he married Ruth Alice Lequear on Sept. 20, 1940.
Nearly 60 years later, when Oswald and Ruth died within three days of each other, Schirm and her siblings discovered 534 documents dating back to 1885 and including 392 letters written to her father by 78 different people during World War II.
"It was a great gift to me," she said. "My sense is that it was meant for me to do this. It was meant for me to free all these voices."
Schirm is 61, a solid gold member of the Baby Boom generation that is spurring a resurgence of interest in ancestry and genealogy. Two new television shows are devoted to people digging up their past. The popular on-line genealogy website Ancestry.com has an estimated 850,000 paid subscribers.
"We Baby Boomers are getting to the place in our lives where this craze for genealogy is going to get bigger and bigger," said Schirm, who owned a successful engineering firm and was instrumental in bringing World Cup soccer to Orlando in 1994. "My message is to do it while you can. There are so many questions I wish I could ask my parents."
Schirm will share what she has learned from exploring her father's life at a talk on genealogical research Tuesday at the Congregation of Reform Judaism in Orlando.
Some of what she discovered includes:
•44 of her ancestors, including her paternal grandparents, perished in the Holocaust.
•Czech is a hard language to learn.
•The Czech tailor who made her father's Army riding britches hanging on the wall of the rec room was executed in 1942 for his role in the assassination of Reinhard Heydrick, the Nazi overlord of Czechoslovakia who came up with the plan to create extermination camps as the "final solution to the Jewish problem."
The letters, the documents, the photographs and movies her father left behind are a genealogist's dream — a rare opportunity for Schirm to travel back in time and crawl inside her father's mind. Because Holzer kept carbon copies of the letters he wrote, she can read conversations between him, his friends and relatives that took place decades before her birth.
The letter that means the most to Schirm was discovered eight years after her father's death on the bottom shelf of a cabinet he made that stored his children's board games.
It was the last letter written to Oswald from his father, Arnost Holzer. It was dated April 21, 1942 — three days before Arnost and his wife were sent by the Nazis to the Czechoslovakian ghetto and from there to their death at an extermination camp.
Arnost's letter begins, "My dear boy," and says, "I am not certain whether I will see you ever again, so I decided to write these lines as my good bye to you." And then it offers this advice to his son, the doctor: "I wish for you to find full satisfaction in your profession. I also wish that your profession of curing doesn't just become a source of wealth for you, but that you yourself become a benefactor to the suffering humanity."
In those final words, Schirm said, she recognized the origins of her father's compassion for others and the stacks of billing receipts he left behind with the notation "NC" — no charge.
She has compiled her father's letters and her own research into a book she calls My Dear Boy: A Memoir by Joanie Schirm.
"My father would love this," Schirm said. "He was a great storyteller and in the end I'm telling his last story."
Schirm's talk on genealogical research takes place at 1 p.m., Tuesday at the Congregation of Reform Judaism, 928 Malone Dr., Orlando. Jeff Kunerth can be reached at jkunerth@... or 407-420-5392.
Copyright © 2010, Orlando Sentinel
See you Sunday, March 21.
December 3, 2013 Upcoming Meetings: Sunday, December 15, 2013, 10 a.m., Sacramento -- Lynn Brown : Preparing Your Eastern European Research Sunday, JanuaryMessage 35 of 35 , Dec 3 7:06 AMView SourceDecember 3, 2013Upcoming Meetings:
Sunday, December 15, 2013, 10 a.m., Sacramento -- Lynn Brown :"Preparing Your Eastern European Research"Sunday, January 19, 2014, 10 a.m., Sacramento -- Sasha Abramsky:Stories From My Family: From Siberian Labor Camps to London's Beth Din; From the Yeshiva to the Communist Party to Social Democracy.Notes for November 17, 2013 Meeting
President Victoria Fisch welcomed members and guests.
Dave Reingold talked about the Philippines typhoon, called "Yolanda" there, and said his wife's family were all okay. He said there is a small Jewish community in the Philippines, and donations may be made through the Jewish Federation with a notation for "Typhoon Yolanda" relief.
Treasurer Bob Wascou said that 2014 dues can be paid now -- $25 for the upcoming year or $300 for a life membership. Checks should be made out to the Jewish Genealogical Society of Sacramento and can be mailed to the JGSS care of the Einstein Center, #220, 1935 Wright Street, Sacramento, CA 95816.November Program -- Steve Morse: One-Step Web Pages and a Case Study of Renee Kaufman
San Francisco genealogist Steve Morse returned to give a brief overview of the one-step pages on his website (www.stevemorse.org). ; He has 16 categories, more than 200 different tools on the site, and showed how you can do free research knowing very little, even with the wrong spelling of names.
He showed information he found for Israel Baline (later Irving Berlin), born in Mohilev, Russia. He showed a one-step took for ships' photos, where you can specify the name of the ship and have a wide range of sites to look at for photos, some free, some not.
He asked whether anyone recalls the ship "Carpathia"? Yes, it picked up survivors of the Titanic in April 1912, but "also brought my grandmother to the United States in 1913."
"My website has no charge, no required email address, no registration." He says he indicates if he links to a commercial site, and paid sites are just a small part of those he features.
His site includes one-step pages to census records, vital records, a birth database site and much more, including Montreal city directories, for example. For death records, he said, the Social Security Death Index is the best tool, "and I have a one-step tool on my site."
"I have a record of being blocked by most sites," he said, "so I only allow you to do two lookups per day."He said you previously could get someone's original Social Security application, but now they are blacked out if you don't tell them the parents' names in advance. It costs $27.
NYC birth and death records (through the Italian Genealogical Society site) are also available on his site.He said about a year ago the LDS Family History Library began emailing images to people, when you tell them the certificate number and roll number. "Email to Family Search photo duplication and it's free -- you can get something back as soon as a week later." See his website for how to get the FHL roll number.
"Never put down everything you know -- the record might be wrong, and if you put down what you think it is, you might get nothing."
He showed a search for details on Donald Duck, which turned up quite a bit, including nephews Huey, Dewey and Louie.
Steve's website also includes a relationship calculator, to show you how you're related to that cousin. He also has a Hebrew calendar, a site for finding sunrise and sunset times, for maps, and more. There is also a way to translate alphabet character sets.
For those without a paid subscription to Ancestry.com, he urged them to check their local libraries, as most subscribe.
In answer to a question about outbound ship records, for those going from the U.S. to other countries, Steve said the records didn't exist and don't exist today.
Steve then presented a Case Study of Renee Kaufman. He was asked to be a presenter in a memorial lecture series honoring Renee Kaufman, the sister of someone he went to school with.
Steve wanted to find out about Renee Kaufman, without asking the family. "What do I know? I know there's a lecture series in her name in Manhattan. I know the name of her brother, but when I started, I didn't even know her first name.""Google is your friend," Steve says. He googled the lecture series, found Renee's first name. "I put in her whole name, and up came a family tree."
So Steve learned her parents' names, found the father's visa to work in Mexico, and got birthdates through the Social Security Death Index. He learned more information through the 1940 census, found that her maiden name "Levkov" was recorded as "Revkov," and learned Renee's age at her first marriage.
In looking the 1940 census, Steve put in just three letters of people's first names. He found an entry for Leakos (instead of Levkov). He also thought his friend Jerome would not be listed in the census, as Steve was born after it, but in fact Jerome was 9 months old.
"I got Renee's parents' marriage date through the New York City Bride and Groom Index. There was a roll number, and from that, I could order a free photo duplication."
Renee's father's naturalization records were available (search NYC Naturalizations in One-Step on Steve's website), although not the date of his declaration.
For Renee's mother, he found her in the 1925 New York state census, and learned that she and her siblings had come to the U.S. first, and their parents followed later.
Steve learned additional family details from the 1910 and 1920 censuses, including a marriage between first cousins.
In the 1915 census, Steve found a record for a woman with Renee's mother's name, Ruth, listed as a prisoner at the State Training School For Girls, a reform school.
"It was not our Ruth -- this one came from England. I was unable to find our Ruth's 1915 census record."Steve encouraged those looking at census records to look at the preceding and following pages. He said families tended to live together, and you might find a relative close by.
Death notices and tombstones -- Steve found "Aunt Laura" as part of his case study, although there was no new information. He also noted that the birthdatabase.com site (one of his one-step sites), does not take people out when they die, and thus offers another source of information.
Steve's conclusion on the Renee Kaufman Case Study: "All of these records were found online -- it took me about four hours over two days to find this information. It's not magic."
He also cautions that names are never spelling correctly. Never trust a woman's age. And confirm records -- "or you could put your mother in reform school!"
Member Iris Bachman asked Steve -- "Why are we worried about the NSA when we've got you?!"
Following his presentation, Steve noted that he was recently contacted by Zeke Emanuel, brother of Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, and a major architect of Obamacare, about possibly assisting with the government's health care website.
MapOfUs.org Adds Historic Maps Dating Back To the 1700sAn Alabama-based company that provides a single source for old and new state and US maps has added new historical maps.Representatives with MapOfUs.org announced today that it now has historic maps from as early as the 1700s in its database.“This will allow us to be able to serve and help more people who need to have old and new state maps and maps of the United States as a whole,” said Brian Nichols, spokesman for Genealogy Inc., the parent company of MapofUs.org.“Starting in 1776, all of our atlases are scanned copies of the originals, with the original spelling of town names and counties allowing historians and genealogists to find the answers that they are seeking,” Nichols said, before adding, “For example, for 1776 the US map of Massachusetts shows the original names of many of the islands in the area, before they were shortened or modernized.”Nichols went on to note that that all of its maps are free for personal use only, and may not be reproduced for resale or distribution.Currently, MapofUs.org features maps from each state such as Washington showing interactive county formation map, Department of Transportation (D.O.T.) Roads and Highway maps, old Atlas maps, and map links.In addition each state page contains rotating animated maps showing all of the county boundary changes and all of the county boundaries for each census year for each year.Past and present maps of US, according to Nichols, are overlaid so that visitors to the website can see the changes in county boundaries, downloadable County D.O.T. Maps, and state Atlas maps.About MapofUS.org -- MapofUS.org provides a single source for old and new state and US maps.From recent Avotaynu E-Zines by Gary Mokotoff:
Ancestry.com and Associated Press Bring AP Archives Online
Ancestry.com has collaborated with the Associated Press to make 50 years of news stories—in their original wire copy format—available online. There are five collections. All can be found at http://ancestry.com/AP.
Associated Press, Name Card Index to AP Stories, 1905–1990. This is an index of every person who appeared in an AP report during that time period. The cards were updated when additional references were made for the person rather than creating a separate index card for every mention. For example, there were AP reports about the World Gathering of Jewish Holocaust Survivors in 1981. Persons mentioned in the reports are in the index.
Associated Press, Service Bulletin, 1904–1927. The Service Bulletin was an internal AP publication with the purpose of communicating the “General Orders” of AP’s General Manager. It is unindexed.
Associated Press, Stories and Newsfeatures, 1937–1985. This collection includes AP news stories (1937–1985), which were selected by news librarians for microfilming to create an internal news archive of more than 700 reels. The set was not meant to be complete but to include only those stories of national or international importance. I had trouble using the database. For the keyword field, the site stated “e.g., pilot or Flying Tigers.” Using either of these search parameters produced no results. Apparently the Subject field is mandatory. Searching for “Flying Tigers” with a subject field of “Aviation” produced results. Similarly “Guadalcanal” produced no results but “Guadalcanal” and the Subject “Navy” produced 2,627 hits.
Associated Press, Subject Card Index to AP Stories, 1937–1985. Similar to the Name Card index, except it is by subject. A single card may contain multiple reports on the subject. “Flying Tigers” produced reports of the famous American volunteer group as well as the airline with that name. Placing the two words in quotes produced results only for the volunteer group.
Vilnius Vital Records
Litvak-SIG has reported they have translated 110,824 records for the city of Vilnius and posted them to the All Lithuania Database at http://www.litvaksig.org/index.php/component/litvaksearch/?view=ald. Another 17,573 records have been translated and are available to qualified donors on the Vilnius DRG Shutterfly site. There are about 78,000 additional records to translate. You can make a contribution to the Vilnius District Research Group on the LitvakSIG website's contributions page at http://litvaksig.org/contribute. A list of surnames in the most recent batch of birth records (1901–1915) is at https://vilnius.shutterfly.com/surnames.
Another Collection of Holocaust Oral Interviews
The Oral History Division of the Avraham Harman Institute of Contemporary Jewry at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem has 900 Holocaust audio interviews and transcripts in their archives. They include interviews conducted in the early 1960s when the reservoir of survivors—especially those who were adults during the war—was much larger and for many survivors these interviews were the first time they had given an account of their experiences. The website is at
New Towns Added to KehilaLinks Project
One of the valuable resources located on JewishGen is the KehilaLinks Project which contains information about individual towns throughout the world where Jews live or once lived. These sites were created by individuals who wanted to share with other family historians information about the town. The entrance to the site is at http://kehilalinks.jewishgen.org. If you do not find your town listed and wish to create a site, contact the KahilaLinks volunteers as described at the site.
New towns added during October include (most from the Czech Republic):
Boskovice (Boskowitz), Czech Republic; Dresden, Germany; Hostice (Hoschtitz bei Wolin), Czech Republic; Kasejovice (Kasejowitz), Czech Republic; Kbel, Czech Republic; Kuzova (Wallisgrun), Czech Republic; Humpolec (Gumpolds, Humpoltz), Czech Republic; Liberec (Reichenberg), Czech Republic; Lomnice (Lomnitz), Czech Republic; Naseldowice, Czech Republic; Malinec, Czech Republic; Podivín (Kostel), Czhech Republic; Prcice (Pertschitz), Czech Republic; Prestice (Pschestitz), Czech Republic; Rousínov (Okres Rakovník), Czech Republic; Safov (Schaffa), Czech Republic; Stod (Staab), Czech Republic; Unicov (Mährisch Neustadt), Czech Republic; Usov (Märisch Aussee), Czech Republic; Vlci, Czech Republic; Vseruby (Neumark), Czech Republic; Vysoka Libyne (Hochlibin), Czech Republic; Wroclaw (Breslau), Poland
Group Trip to Lithuania -- June 17 to June 27, 2014.
For the 21st year, Howard Margol and Peggy Mosinger Freedman are organizing a group trip to Lithuania from June 17 to June 27, 2014. Included are visits to the various archives, synagogues, ghettos, Holocaust sites, meetings with Jewish leaders, sightseeing, guide/interpreters, and two days to visit and spend time in your shtetl, or shtetlach of interest. All meals are included (except for one dinner and two lunches), the finest hotels (new and modern), modern buses, and much more. This year the group size will be limited to 25.
Details and a full itinerary of the trip can be found at http://www.litvaktrip.peggyspage.org or contact the tour leaders at litvaktrip@....
From the New York Times 11/17/13The GetawayTraveling to Find Your RootsJosh CochranBy CAREN OSTEN GERSZBERGPublished: November 15, 2013 Comment·It was lunchtime at the Outlaws’ Shack in Poiana Brasov, a mountain resort in Transylvania, and we were washing down chunks of kashkaval cheese and peasant bread with sips of tsuica, a Romanian plum brandy. At a neighboring table, a man picked up a red onion and bit into it as if it were an apple — something I had seen only my father do.Traveling to Romania a few years ago was a chance to see, firsthand, where my father, who had died two years earlier, spent his childhood. Armed with addresses I’d collected from my father’s sister, and accompanied by my three children, I felt the trip was a chance to experience my father’s heritage: to see his home and school, the local synagogue, the mountain resort where he learned to ski, and to eat the foods he spoke of longingly (though I refrained from biting into a raw onion).Prompted by TV shows, such as “Who Do You Think You Are?” (whose new series started on TLC in July) and the new PBS series “Genealogy Roadshow,” a spinoff of the Irish hit, a growing number of people are traveling with their family tree in tow.While these shows bring heritage travel into your living room, the quick access to information offered by genealogical websites, like FamilySearch.org and Ancestry.com is prodding many to research their family tree and then travel to wherever the branches may lead. Hubs of databases that include historical records, census lists, immigration directories and military histories, these sites provide a wealth of digitized information to help jump-start such journeys.Long-lost relatives are also getting together via social networking sites, like Facebook and Twitter. For example, in preparation for their trip to Cyprus, Irene Lane’s family used Facebook to network and make introductions to long-lost Greek family members. Ms. Lane’s mother told them, “ ‘We are coming and we’d like to see you,’ and they welcomed us warmly,” said Ms. Lane, the president of Greenloons, an eco-travel company in Vienna, Va.Tourism offices and governments have caught on to the interest in heritage-seeking travel. Ireland is now organizing gatherings (thegatheringireland.com) for people with Irish backgrounds. And after a successful run in 2009, Scotland is planning a Year of Homecoming in 2014 (visitscotland.com), inviting all those with Scottish roots to explore and celebrate their ancestry.People setting out to find their roots are often motivated by a desire for personal connection, said Megan Smolenyak, a genealogist who, in conjunction with Hagers Journeys (Hagersjourneys.com), will research and create ancestry adventures. “We’ve become this mobile churning society and there’s a hunger for this belonging,” she said. “Whether I go to the Ukraine or Slovakia, I get treated like family because of my name.”If you’re interested in making such a trip, you’ll need to gather as much information as possible. “Start with what you know, and that’s you,” said Diana McCain, head of the research center at the Connecticut Historical Society. She suggested noting dates — birth, marriage and, in some instances, death — for you, your parents and close relatives, as well as searching your attic for newspaper clippings, obituaries and diplomas. Glean as much information as possible from living relatives. Ask them to relate old family stories, and if they know of any distant relatives who may still live in your family’s native country.If searching for roots in the United States, you’ll need to determine where to find the records of births, marriages, deaths and property transfers, among others. Depending on the state and time period, it may be the county, town or state government or a combination of them that has the records. “Each state has unique resources,” Ms. McCain said, “and while there’s a tremendous amount of information online, there are vast collections of records that are available only on microfilm or in their original paper form in a government office.” Once gathered, the documents can provide an array of information about ancestors.If your travels take you to a non-English-speaking country, consider enlisting the help of a local bilingual guide who can do some groundwork before your arrival. Travel agents and tour operators can help find someone for hire; the Association of Professional Genealogists (Apgen.org) is another source for finding researchers.If you’re lucky, one of your relatives may have already done the research. For Tom Kosanda of Chicago, a financial consultant, it was his father who hired a researcher four years before Tom Kosanda’s trip to the Czech Republic to gather information about their lineage, rooted near the city of Ceske Budejovice. After learning that Austin-Lehman Adventures (Austinlehman.com) offered a bicycling trip in the Czech Republic, with a two-day stay in Ceske Budejovice, Mr. Kosanda contacted the company about visiting his relatives nearby. With some routing assistance from the trip’s guide, the Kosandas rode their bicycles about 20 miles to his family’s village, met with Mr. Kosanda’s Czech cousins and together they cycled to the villages where various relatives lived. They visited churches where kinfolk had married and finished the day at a castle. “It was a rare, bonding experience to meet people that are related to you, and be able to say that I came from there,” Mr. Kosanda said.Even if there are no direct family members to meet, travelers can still gain from strolling by former family homes and visiting local places of worship, cemeteries and living history museums.Last summer, I traveled with my two teenage daughters to Grenade-sur-Garonne, a village in southwestern France where my mother’s family lived before my grandparents were deported to concentration camps. Because my mother had taken me to the village previously, I was able to share specific stories and locations with my daughters, deepening their connection to their grandmother’s history.As we stood outside the home where my mother’s family had lived, I showed Nicole and Emily the trellised courtyard across the street where my mother played hide-and-seek. We walked to the village square, and stood on the corner in the spot where my mother stood as a 7-year-old child, watching as her parents boarded a truck that would transport them to the camps.Since my mother’s childhood stories had led us across the Atlantic Ocean to this tiny village, her granddaughters were able to experience a deep sense of connection to their past — something they never would have found on Facebook.~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~See you at our next meeting, Sunday, December 15, 10 a.m.