February 10, 2013
Sunday, February 17, 10 a.m., Victoria Fisch and Jeremy Frankel, "Doings in the Cemetery"
Victoria and Jeremy will discuss interpretation of dates, symbols and common inscriptions found in Jewish cemeteries. They'll also talk about alternate methods for finding burials, including online resources, and show headstones from California, New York, London, Paris, Venice and Florence.
Join us next Sunday to learn more.
Sunday, March 3, 2 p.m. (Bet Haverim, Davis) -- Bob Wascou on "A Walk Through JewishGen"
Sunday, March 17, 10 a.m., Shlomo Rosenfeld, "Discovering a Live Family Branch that Survived the Holocaust"
Sunday, April 14, 10 a.m. Sherry Venezia, "Return to Galicia, Land of My Ancestors"
January 20, 2013 Meeting Notes
President Victoria Fisch called the meeting to order and invited guests to share the areas they're researching.
Registration has now opened for this summer's Boston IAJGS conference. Those who can't attend this year may want to consider next year's location, a bit closer: the conference will be in Salt Lake City in 2014.
Victoria noted that our group has recently made several donations. She read a thank-you letter from the Einstein Center, to whom we donated a record player. We also received thanks from the Jewish Federation, who received $100.
Family History Day at the State Archives is set for October 12 this year. Victoria is chairing the event, whose theme is Immigrants. There will be information on German and Italian genealogy, many different groups. "We welcome volunteers in any capacity," she says. Contact her at victoriafisch@....
Victoria and Jeremy Frankel will be speaking in Napa January 27, as well as in Davis February 3. They will present our February program, "Doings in the Cemetery," on February 17.
Treasurer Bob Wascou reminded us that the $25 annual dues are now due.
On April 28, the Jewish Heritage Festival will be held in Sacramento, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Details to come.
The Southern California Genealogical Society's Jamboree 2013 is set for June 7-9.
There was a recent New York Times article by Gina Kolata on DNA; it is reprinted below.
Suzanne Donachie shared her experience with Family Tree DNA -- "yes, it works!" She would encourage everyone to get their DNA tested. It took four to six weeks for her to receive the results back.
January Program -- Janice Sellers
Reconstructing Family Information When You Start with Almost Nothing
Janice, a member of the Bay Area JGS, has also been a longtime volunteer at the Oakland Family Search Library.
She discussed the efforts she took to help a client who gave her just a few details -- the name Steinfirst, the location of Titusville, PA, a female cousin, Amelia, with an unknown married name, and that one of his male cousins was a police surgeon. There was also something about Beaver Falls. "Please find my cousins," the client asked.
"The first thing I do is to try to find them in as many censuses as possible," Janice said.
1) Census Survey
She found a Steinfirst family in the 1880 census in Titusville, PA. In the 1900 census, there were more children listed and the wife's mother was living with them.
The 1900 census listed son Samuel as living in Allenstown.
In 1910, the family was still in Titusville, and Janice recounted changes in the family status as reflected in the subsequent censuses of 1920 and 1930.
So Janice was able to build a family tree.
Janice said her second step is:
2) Searching for Vital Records
She looked on JewishGen, and JOWBR -- the Jewish Online World Burial Registry -- and found some death records, including at least one relative who died before the next census, which is why he wasn't listed.
Janice noted that www.newspaperarchives.com has about 95 million records and also includes Canada, Japan, the UK and a few other countries as well as the U.S.
Local papers and ethnic and minority papers often have more detailed information and are worth looking at.
There's also the Social Security Death Index.
"So far, I've found nobody named Amelia, and the entire Titusville paper is on newspaperarchives.com," Janice says. "I have five generations of the family and still no connection to my client."
Janice said one of the sons of the family founded a Jewish paper in Pittsburgh -- and there the father's name is spelled wrong.
Janice returned to the census information and found a new branch of the family, a sister Lena Sabel who she found used to be Sablaclowsky, and an Annie became Amelia.
After finding the name in the census, Janice says she now looks to find it vital records.
Her client wanted her to find living descendants, and she indeed found one who lived in Oakland. Neither knew of the other's existence.
"It's an example of how quickly people fall out of touch and don't know of family names."
Atfter hundreds of hours of research, Janice said she found everything her client had recalled -- "everything matched what he remembered." She was ultimately able to put together seven generations of the family.
At that point, the client didn't want her to look further, for probate records or naturalization papers.
"Probate records can give you wonderful information but he just didn't want me to order it."
"Most of my research was done with online materials," she said."You can build on what you find, step by step."
Here's a source of information you may have never considered ... dog license records: See # 5.
1. Consulate Records
Many of us have ancestors who spent at least some time abroad. Perhaps they were seamen, sailing from port to port to deliver goods to foreign ports and bring others back to America. Perhaps they were serving as missionaries in far-off lands. Whatever the reason, you may find information about them, including records of birth, marriage, and death, in the records of the State Department. These records are housed at the National Archives. In order to find this information, you will need to know the date and place where your ancestor was. With that, you can discover the consulate or embassy that served that location.
2. Local Censuses
We often use federal and state censuses as part of our research. But how about local censuses? In Massachusetts, for example, the cities and towns (except for Boston) are required to “annually in January or February visit or communicate with the residents of each building in their respective cities and towns and, after diligent inquiry, shall make true lists containing, as nearly as they can ascertain, the name, date of birth, occupation, veteran status, nationality, if not a citizen of the United States, and residence on January 1 of the preceding year and the current year, of each person three years of age or older residing in their respective cities and towns.” Accessing those records at town hall could provide a gold mine of information.
3. Fraternal/Benefit Organizations
These can be a rich source of information, even more so when dealing with immigrants. In the days prior to the widespread availability of insurance, many organizations were founded as mutual aid/mutual benefit societies to provide assistance in time of need. Many of these were founded by immigrant groups (such as the Irish and the Catholic Order for Foresters), and their records may provide information on the immigrant’s origins. The same can be true of other groups, such as the masons, who recorded the lodge where incoming members first joined, and other lodges he had been a member of. This valuable information can help you track the movements of your ancestors.
4. Ear or Cattle Marks
In many times and places, livestock was allowed to wander in communal areas. This mandated that people be able to identify their own livestock from that of others. Marks were made in different ways. Sometimes a pattern of cuts would be made in the ear. Other times, brands were used in the animal’s hide. This allowed owners to cull their livestock from a communal herd. The marks were proprietary, and were often passed from father to son. They could also be sold as part of a person’s estate.
Pet license information from the city of Milton, Washington.
5. Dog Licenses
Dogs have been the pets of humans for centuries. By the nineteenth century, licensing was often required in populated areas. How can dog licenses help you genealogically? Think of them as a specialized form of tax list. Dog licenses can provide evidence of where a person lived. They might even provide you with an exact address, which is especially helpful in areas where city directories were sparse. And, of course, you can learn more about the family pet as well.
From Avotaynu's January 20 E-zine:
YIVO Launches Online Guide to Its Archives
YIVO Institute has launched an online guide to its archives at http://yivoarchives.org. The new site expands and upgrades the original Guide to the YIVO Archives, published in book form in 1998. The website provides facilitates access to YIVO’s vast archives of about 23 million documents, manuscripts, photographs, films, sound recordings, art works and artifacts. The institute holds materials about Jewish life around the world, with special focus on Eastern Europe, the Yiddish language, literature and culture, the Holocaust and its aftermath, and U.S. Jewish life with emphasis on the period of migration.
Registration for Boston Conference Now Open
Registration is now open for the 33rd IAJGS International Conference on Jewish Genealogy to be held at the Boston Park Plaza Hotel from August 4–9, 2013. There are early registration discounts: register by April 30 and the cost is $280 and $180 for spouse/domestic partner. Thereafter, it is $320/$220;onsite registration is $350/$250. For details: http://www.iajgs2013.org/register_conference.cfm.
Incredible Research Opportunities at Annual Conferences
I tell people that if the annual IAJGS International Conference on Jewish Genealogy was held in Nome, Alaska, it still would be worthwhile attending. That's because of the incredible collection of lectures, meetings and opportunities to network. When you add to it the research opportunities, it is yet another reason to attend. The planned venues for the next few years are quite remarkable in opportunities to do research.
Boston 2013. As a major city of the U.S., Boston includes the New England Archives the American Jewish Historical Society; Regional Federal Records Center of the National Archives Record Administration (NARA); one of the largest genealogy libraries in the world, New England Historic Genealogical Society; and a major library, Boston Public Library. A bit of a drive (about two hours) is the Yiddish Book Center in Waltham, Massachusetts. Check these facilities’ websites to get a flavor for their collections.
Salt Lake City 2014. Home of the largest genealogy library in the world, the Family History Library, whose collections contain 3.5 billion names, 2.4 million rolls of microfilm and 278,000 books.
Jerusalem 2015. Here is the chance to meet those Israeli relatives you correspond with but have never met. Facilities include the Central Archives for the History of the Jewish People, Israel State Archives, Yad Vashem, Central Zionist Archives.
Eastern Europe 2018 (tentative). What a great opportunity to walk in the footsteps of your ancestors by attending the 2016 conference which will likely be held either in Warsaw, Poland, or Vilnius, Lithuania. What a great opportunity to visit the archives that contain your family records and browse the collections, hands on, instead of using an intermediary to do your research.
January 17, 2013 New York Times
Web Hunt for DNA Sequences Leaves Privacy Compromised
The genetic data posted online seemed perfectly anonymous — strings of billions of DNA letters from more than 1,000 people. But all it took was some clever sleuthing on the Web for a genetics researcher to identify five people he randomly selected from the study group. Not only that, he found their entire families, even though the relatives had no part in the study — identifying nearly 50 people.
The researcher did not reveal the names of the people he found, but the exercise, published Thursday in the journal Science, illustrates the difficulty of protecting the privacy of volunteers involved in medical research when the genetic information they provide needs to be public so scientists can use it.
Other reports have identified people whose genetic data was online, but none had done so using such limited information: the long strings of DNA letters, an age and, because the study focused on only American subjects, a state.
“I’ve been worried about this for a long time,” said Barbara Koenig, a researcher at the University of California in San Francisco who studies issues involving genetic data. “We always should be operating on the assumption that this is possible.”
The data are from an international study, the 1000 Genomes Project, that is collecting genetic information from people around the world and posting it online so researchers can use it freely. It also includes the ages of participants and the regions where they live. That information, a genealogy Web site and Google searches were sufficient to find complete family trees. While the methods for extracting relevant genetic data from the raw genetic sequence files were specialized enough to be beyond the scope of most laypeople, no one expected it to be so easy to zoom in on individuals.
“We are in what I call an awareness moment,” said Eric D. Green, director of the National Human Genome Research Institute at the National Institutes of Health.
There is no easy answer about what to do to protect the privacy of study subjects. Subjects might be made more aware that they could be identified by their DNA sequences. More data could be locked behind security walls, or severe penalties could be instituted for those who invade the privacy of subjects.
“We don’t have any claim to have the answer,” Dr. Green said. And opinions about just what should be done vary greatly among experts.
But after seeing how easy it was to find the individuals and their extended families, the N.I.H. removed people’s ages from the public database, making it more difficult to identify them.
But Dr. Jeffrey R. Botkin, associate vice president for research integrity at the University of Utah, which collected the genetic information of some research participants whose identities were breached, cautioned about overreacting. Genetic data from hundreds of thousands of people have been freely available online, he said, yet there has not been a single report of someone being illicitly identified. He added that “it is hard to imagine what would motivate anyone to undertake this sort of privacy attack in the real world.” But he said he had serious concerns about publishing a formula to breach subjects’ privacy. By publishing, he said, the investigators “exacerbate the very risks they are concerned about.”
The project was the inspiration of Yaniv Erlich, a human genetics researcher at the Whitehead Institute, which is affiliated with M.I.T. He stresses that he is a strong advocate of data sharing and that he would hate to see genomic data locked up. But when his lab developed a new technique, he realized he had the tools to probe a DNA database. And he could not resist trying.
The tool allowed him to quickly find a type of DNA pattern that looks like stutters among billions of chemical letters in human DNA. Those little stutters — short tandem repeats — are inherited. Genealogy Web sites use repeats on the Y chromosome, the one unique to men, to identify men by their surnames, an indicator of ancestry. Any man can submit the short tandem repeats on his Y chromosome and find the surname of men with the same DNA pattern. The sites enable men to find their ancestors and relatives.
So, Dr. Erlich asked, could he take a man’s entire DNA sequence, pick out the short tandem repeats on his Y chromosome, search a genealogy site, discover the man’s surname and then fully identify the man?
He tested it with the genome of Craig Venter, a DNA sequencing pioneer who posted his own DNA sequence on the Web. He knew Dr. Venter’s age and the state where he lives. Bingo: two men popped up in the database. One was Craig Venter.
“Out of 300 million people in the United States, we got it down to two people,” Dr. Erlich said.
He and his colleagues calculated they would be able to identify, from just their DNA sequences, the last names of approximately 12 percent of middle class and wealthier white men — the population that tends to submit DNA data to recreational sites like the genealogical ones. Then by combining the men’s last names with their ages and the states where they lived, the researchers should be able to narrow their search to just a few likely individuals.
Now for the big test. On the Web and publicly available are DNA sequences from subjects in the 1000 Genomes Project. People’s ages were included and all the Americans lived in Utah, so the researchers knew their state.
Dr. Erlich began with one man from the database. He got the Y chromosome’s short tandem repeats and then went to genealogy databases and searched for men with those same repeats. He got surnames of the paternal and maternal grandfather. Then he did a Google search for those people and found an obituary. That gave him the family tree.
“Now I knew the whole family,” Dr. Erlich said. And it was so simple, so fast.
“I said, ‘Come on, that can’t be true.’” So he probed and searched and checked again and again.
“Oh my God, we really did this,” Dr. Erlich said. “I had to digest it. We had so much information.”
He and his colleagues went on to get detailed family trees for other subjects and then visited Dr. Green and his colleagues at the N.I.H. to tell them what they had done.
They were referred to Amy L. McGuire, a lawyer and ethicist at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston. She, like others, called for more public discussion of the situation.
“To have the illusion you can fully protect privacy or make data anonymous is no longer a sustainable position,” Dr. McGuire said.
When the subjects in the 1000 Genomes Project agreed to participate and provide DNA, they signed a form saying that the researchers could not guarantee their privacy. But, at the time, it seemed like so much boilerplate. The risk, Dr. Green said, seemed “remote.”
“I don’t know that anyone anticipated that someone would go and actually figure out who some of those people were,” Dr. McGuire said.
See you next Sunday, February 17, at 10 a.m.