Sunday, March 18, 2012 10 a.m.
"Superstitions and Other Irrational Beliefs Guiding our German Ancestors' Lives"
Making family history come alive means going beyond dates and places, beyond historical facts and numbers. Knowing what life was like when our ancestors lived will add color to your personal family tale. Next Sunday, Ingeborg Carpenter will present some of the prevailing superstitions and lores that guided life in the communities where our northern European ancestors lived.
Ingeborg was born and raised in Germany and is a regular speaker at the Sacramento German Genealogy Society. Her presentations focus on the daily life of our ancestors, their living conditions, working life and social settings. She teaches classes on how to read the German script, mentors German family research and is currently working on becoming a Certified Genealogist.
From Avotaynu's E-Zine:
Barbara Walters’ Roots To Be on TV Program
The ancestry of broadcast journalist and TV personality Barbara Walters will be featured on the television program "Finding Your Roots with Henry Louis Gates." The program will be aired on PBS April 1 at 8 p.m. . According to Wikipedia, Walters’ paternal grandfather, Isaac Abrahams, was from Lodz, Poland. The announcement was made by Jim Yarin of Massachusetts who stated he did the research into Walters’ ancestry for the program.
(This is the 2012 season of this PBS program, which, like "Who Do You Think You Are?" focuses on researching the genealogy of well-known people. WDYTYA takes a break this Friday and returns on the 23rd.
From the New York Times:
Archives on a 20th-Century Diaspora Are Being Put
Published: March 2, 2012
Jews are known for their wanderings, even if those have not always been at their own instigation, and one of the most sweeping chronicles of their migrations has been stored at the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, a relief and rescue organization that is almost 100 years old.
American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee
The archives of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee include a photo of Leonard Bernstein at a concert in a refugee camp in Germany around 1948 and a photo of Marc Chagall when he was teaching Jewish war orphans and pogrom survivors in Russia in 1921.
Its archives are sought after by scholars and genealogists and most intimately by descendants of war refugees and disaster survivors hoping to find out what bittersweet adventures their ancestors endured. But delving into those records has itself sometimes been an adventure, requiring searches through indexes, microfiches, file cards and folders in Midtown Manhattan; Long Island City, Queens; and Jerusalem. In a digitized world, that kind of effort has seemed increasingly archaic.
Now the organization, which is widely known as “the Joint” and has helped Jewish communities in 79 countries with food, schooling and job training, is about to put a large chunk of those archives online. There will be a searchable index for every document, photograph and record card, an essential tool considering that the Joint’s archives contain over 500,000 names and 100,000 photographs.
“The thing about online is you basically broaden the audience phenomenally because people don’t have to come to New York,” said Marion A. Kaplan, a professor of modern Jewish history at New York University. She used the organization’s paper records for a 2008 book about a little-known farming settlement of 800 refugees in Sosúa, Dominican Republic, during World War II.
Among the Joint’s treasures: a photograph of a young Leonard Bernstein conducting a concert performance of “Rhapsody in Blue” for concentration camp survivors at a refugee camp in Feldafing, Germany, around 1948; a photograph of a young Marc Chagall taken in 1921 when he taught at a home near Moscow for World War I orphans and pogrom victims; letters from Hirsch Manischewitz, of the matzo and wine manufacturing family, arguing for the need to send matzos to the beleaguered Jews of Russia; letters chronicling the odyssey of Elias Canetti, the Bulgarian-born Nobel Prize winner in literature, who was part of a of a Joint-organized convoy of Sephardic Jews through Nazi-occupied Europe to neutral Lisbon.
This reporter was shown an index card stored in Jerusalem providing documentation of the presence of his father, Marcus; mother, Rachel; brother, Joshua; and himself (then known as Israel) in a displaced persons camp in Landsberg, Germany, in 1949; they left in 1950 for America.
“People who were children when these events took place have a hard time putting the pieces together — who did what, how did we get to the D.P. camp, how did we get from the D.P. camp to America,” said Linda Levi, the archive director.
At first, only written records from 1914 to 1932 will be available, but the whole rich repository of modern Jewish history will eventually be scanned through a process known as “optical character recognition,” which converts typewritten words into text that can be edited and searched by computer.
The Joint archive will join other troves of historical data about Jews also available online, like Yad Vashem’s compilation of three million Holocaust victims and a searchable database of victim records compiled by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington and the Web site Ancestry.com.
David Bezmozgis, 38, a Canadian fiction writer who was chosen by The New Yorker magazine in 2010 as among the 20 most promising writers under 40, is working on a novel about the Jewish experience in Crimea. He has tapped the archives to research a Joint-sponsored movement in the 1920s and ’30s to turn penniless shtetl and ghetto Jews into farmers on Soviet collective farms. Mr. Bezmozgis said he found photographs of the apprentice farmers on John Deere tractors, and letters tracing the history of the project, which ended after Stalin turned against foreign influence and 17 employees were killed.
Mr. Bezmozgis has a special feeling for the Joint because his family was helped by that organization in their journey from Latvia to Italy to Toronto.
Harry Bialor, 82, a retired Brooklyn businessman who survived World War II with a sister by hiding on a Polish farm but who lost his parents, two brothers and a second sister, learned about the photographs of Leonard Bernstein from an article he had read and, since he had been at Feldafing as a teenager, wanted to see if his face appeared in some pictures.
“Conduct?” he said of Bernstein’s concert. “He played! He was at the piano playing! And it was hot. No air-conditioning. Bernstein said, ‘We’ll sweat together in Yiddish.’ He played marvelously on a lousy piano.”
Mr. Bialor did not find his face in the photographs.
Gary Mokotoff, a genealogist in New Jersey, has often scoured Joint records for his work and once discovered the existence of a distant cousin, Charles, who was sending money to his mother back in Poland before he died in the influenza epidemic of 1919.
Bob Belenky, 80, a psychologist living in New Hampshire, found an old passport and letters in the Joint archives that helped him make a trip to Ukraine last spring to learn more about his father’s work as a tractor expert on the collective farms Mr. Bezmozgis has studied.
The Joint was founded in 1914 by wealthy German-Jewish families — with names like Schiff, Warburg, Morgenthau and Lehman — to help struggling Jews in Palestine who were cut off from European sources of aid by the outbreak of war. It has since helped Jews desperate to leave Germany during the Nazi era, landless Holocaust survivors gambling on the young nation of Israel, and Jews isolated behind the Iron Curtain. The Joint played a key role in Operation Solomon, in which thousands of Ethiopian Jews were covertly airlifted overnight to Israel in 1991.
The Joint has also provided assistance for non-Jews after natural disasters, like the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. Today, according to Amir Shaviv, assistant executive vice president, the Joint, with a budget of over $333 million, provides food, medicine and other assistance to 200,000 Jews in the former Soviet Union and to smaller communities in Hungary, the Czech Republic, Poland, and Egypt, where, according to Joint officials, perhaps 80 Jews are left.
The Joint gets 850 research requests a year and expects many more once its archive goes live online, which should happen within days. Still, digitized archives will not help everyone.
Mr. Bialor, who sometimes sounds like Mel Brooks’s 2,000-year-old man, points out that though his wife uses their computer for e-mail, he no longer bothers with the thing. “When I first got it, I fooled around,” he said, “but I ran into so many problems I gave up.”
See You Sunday, March 18 at 10 a.m.