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241Genealogy Notes and Update

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  • SusanneLevitsky@aol.com
    Aug 6, 2011

      Jewish Genealogical Society
      of Sacramento
      August 6, 2011
      Our next meeting:
      Research Logs -- A Powerful Tool
      Monday, August 15, 2011, 7 p.m.
      The August speaker is Linda Lucky, a curator and manager for the Family History Center in Sacramento.
      Linda will discuss the value of research logs and where to begin, what family documents to gather and what forms are available for recording information.  Linda says this is not an area to take for granted -- how you gather and record data and information can help immensely or make it more difficult to record and confirm your family history.
      Look forward to seeing you on the evening of the15th.
      Movie Pick:
      Here's a movie I (Susanne Levitsky) mentioned in my talk about French Jews a few months back -- "Sarah's Key" (Elle S'Appellait Sarah), starring Kristin Scott Thomas.  It should be opening in Sacramento in the next few weeks.
      Based on the best-selling book, the fictionalized story includes a focus on the single most deadly round-up of French Jews during World War II.  Over two days in 1942, some 13,000 Parisian Jews -- men, women and children --were rounded up and locked in the Vel D'Hiv indoor cycling area for five days without food, and little water or sanitation.  From there, they ended up in Auschwitz; only 25 people of the 13,000 returned.
      Included in the film is a brief sequence  where Kristin Scott Thomas visits the French Memorial de la Shoah museum.
      I saw the movie in Paris last fall with my French cousins and can recommend it.
      Kristin Scott Thomas in the Memorial de la Shoah Museum in Paris
      Notes from the Monday, July 18 Meeting
      Vice-President  Burt Hecht called the meeting to order, as new President Victoria Fisch was ill.  Burt asked how many members plan to attend the upcoming International JGS conference in Washington, D.C.?  Art Yates and Mort Rumberg plan to do so.
      Burt noted that October 15 is Family History Day at the State Archives -- we will have a table and are looking for people who might want to staff the table for an hour or so.  The hours are 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on that day.
      The Sacramento Central Library has announced its genealogy classes for September -- they are held in the West Meeting Room on Sunday the 11th and the 18th, from 1:30 to 3 p.m. The class on the 11th will focus on Civil War Research; on the 18th Lorenzo Cuesta will present information on Ancestry.com's Border Crossing database.  (Today's speaker, Marian Kile, said that Lorenzo is an exceptionally entertaining speaker.)
      The Family History Center on Eastern Aveneue has fall classes both during the day and in the evenings -- call (916) 487-2090 for details.
      August 27 will be the 18th annual Nevada County genealogy conference, "Digging for Your Roots," held in Grass Valley,  Call (530) 346-8909.
      Burt talked about upcoming speakers:
                  August  15 -- Linda Lucky will talk about Research Logs.
                 September 19 --   Immigration and Naturalization Research, Lynn Brown
      July Program -- Marian Kile"                                                                                               Getting Started by Being Organized"
      Marian is a volunteer at the Family History Center -- she heard a presentation there in 2005 and thus began her interest in genealogy.  She now conducts classes at the FHC and throughout the area.
      "I have six family lines I'm now doing, so it does get overwhelming," Marian says.  She suggests getting a folder or small binder for each family you're researching, and use the same size sheets for your information
      Marian talked about different filing systems -- basically four -- by surname (subdivided by location), by location (divided by country, state, city), by documents  (based on record type -- marriage, death, birth, military, etc.)and by sequential numbers, and "I prefer the last one." That one involves sequential numbering assigned to each source as it's filed and requires a separate index.

      Steps for the sequential numbering filing system include setting up a binder for each family name, placing each item into its own archival sleeve, numbering each sleeve in the upper right-hand corner, placing the sleeves in the binder, and then type out an index of the documents in a spreadsheet program.
      Keep Documents with the Surname --
      Marian says that when a female is growing up, all of her documents with her maiden name stay with that family.  If she gets married and there is a binder for that family, her documents under her married name would be filed in that family.
      Marian says to develop your tool kit for keeping organized. This would include:
      -- an index to the documents
      --  tracking census data
      -- research logs
      -- tracking correspondence
      -- tracking e-mails
      -- tracking message board postings.
      Here's what Marian advises for setting up a "To Go" kit:
      For each family, take a binder  and have these items in sleeves:  family group sheets, pedigree charts, research logs, census tracking, index to documents, chronology/timeline, blank papers and extra sleeves.
      And, Marian says, you can use this same system for organizing other materials, such as genealogy handouts, recipes, warranty cards and instruction manuals, magazine articles and newsletters, and correspondence.
      She says we also need a standardized way to store genealogy images electronically.
      -- In genealogy apps, you can link documents/photos to a person or event.
      -- Have separate electronic folders for documents and for photos.  Then you can have a subfolder for each family, and easily copy them if you want to share with relatives.
      -- To find the documents easily for linking, name them by Last Name,First Name, date, and type of document.
      --For linked photos, use the same naming conventions.
      To track unknown famioy members, or possible members, Marian has some suggestions:
      -- Set up a different database to keep the main database "clean."  Set up an electronic folder for the documents of these possible family members, and in your binders, just have a divider in the back for those documents.
      When you determine the person's relationship with the family, move them into the proper database, move the electronic files, link the files, and move the hard-copy documents into your binders and update the index.
      In terms of census tracking, Marian says there's very little in the 2010 census, just a few questions, which won't be available until 2082.
      In the meantime, she's given her relatives the questions -- "would you answer these for me?" and put the responses in her database.  She's also asked for photos of their houses to include.
      "If I'd only had pictures of houses from the 1920 and 1930 censuses, wouldn't that be cool?"
      Her final thoughts?  "Get going and get organized!"
      Megan Smolenyak
      Genealogy expert; Author, Who Do You Think You Are? The Essential Guide to Tracing Your Family History
      6 Degrees of Separation: Kyra Sedgwick and Kevin Bacon Are Cousins
      According to a just released 60 Minutes/Vanity Fair poll, 78% of Americans are somewhat or very curious about their ancestry, and more than a third (34%) have already researched their heritage. Not surprisingly, television executives have noticed the soaring popularity of genealogy and responded with celebrity roots shows -- most notably British import, Who Do You Think You Are? (NBC), and an annual PBS series with an ever-evolving name (Faces of America, African American Lives, etc.) hosted by Henry Louis Gates, Jr.
      In the interest of full disclosure, I should mention that I've worked on all these shows, so I was delighted when Kyra Sedgwick talked about her experience with the latest Gates series on a recent appearance on the Late Show with David Letterman.
      Though Dave was clearly a skeptic, Kyra insisted that she "found out so many things she didn't know" and protested, "But it was on PBS! You have to believe PBS!" Among the revelations she shared were some of her famous, distant cousins -- Richard Nixon, Jimmy Carter and Marilyn Monroe -- but it was the last name she dropped that grabbed Dave's attention. Apparently, Kyra and her husband, Kevin Bacon, are 10th cousins once removed.
      She described this discovery as "a little upsetting," but it shouldn't be and Dave should tuck aside his skepticism. Here's why. I'll spare you a treatise on genealogical math, but suffice it to say that we all have millions of cousins, so a few of them are bound to be famous. And though we tend to make kissing cousin jokes about West Virginia, the phenomenon is far more widespread and pronounced than many realize. In fact, if you and your spouse both have deep colonial American roots or both have French Canadian ancestry, the odds are excellent that you're cousins.
      Both Kyra and Kevin fall into the colonial American category (for an interesting taste of Kyra's family history, read In My Blood: Six Generations of Madness and Desire in an American Family by John Sedgwick), so while their cousinship wasn't a given, it's not shocking either. Even so, I imagine they're probably thankful that their connection is more distant than six degrees.
      With Digital Mapmaking, Scholars See History
      Published: July 26, 2011
      Few battles in history have been more scrutinized than Gettysburg’s three blood-soaked days in July 1863, the turning point in the Civil War. Still, there were questions that all the diaries, official reports and correspondence couldn’t answer precisely. What, for example, could Gen. Robert E. Lee actually see when he issued a series of fateful orders that turned the tide against the Confederate Army nearly 150 years ago?
      Jason P. Smith for The New York Times
      The geographer Anne Kelly Knowles has used mapmaking software to re-examine the Gettysburg battlefield.
      The Past in Three Dimensions
      Articles in this series are examining how digital tools are changing scholarship in history, literature and the arts.
      Anne Kelly Knowles, Will Rousch, Caitrin Abshere and others; and National Archives, Maryland
      A “viewshed” analysis showing what Gen. Robert E. Lee could have seen on the second day of fighting at Gettysburg. The light areas would have been visible.
      Now historians have a new tool that can help. Advanced technology similar to Google Earth, MapQuest and the GPS systems used in millions of cars has made it possible to recreate a vanished landscape. This new generation of digital maps has given rise to an academic field known as spatial humanities. Historians, literary theorists, archaeologists and others are using Geographic Information Systems — software that displays and analyzes information related to a physical location — to re-examine real and fictional places like the villages around Salem, Mass., at the time of the witch trials; the Dust Bowl region devastated during the Great Depression; and the Eastcheap taverns where Shakespeare’s Falstaff and Prince Hal caroused.
      Like the crew on the starship Enterprise, humanists are exploring a new frontier of the scholarly universe: space.
      Mapping spatial information reveals part of human history that otherwise we couldn’t possibly know,” said Anne Kelly Knowles, a geographer at Middlebury College in Vermont. “It enables you to see patterns and information that are literally invisible.” It adds layers of information to a map that can be added or taken off at will in various combinations; the same location can also be viewed back and forth over time at the click of a mouse.
      Today visitors to Gettysburg can climb to the cupola of the Lutheran seminary, where Lee stationed himself on July 2, the second day of fighting; or stand on Seminary Ridge, where the next day Lee watched from behind the Confederate lines as thousands of his men advanced across the open farmland to their deaths in the notorious Pickett’s Charge. But they won’t see what the general saw because the intervening years have altered the topography. Over the decades a quarry, a reservoir, different plants and trees have been added, and elevations have changed as a result of mechanical plowing and erosion.
      Geographic Information Systems, known as GIS, allowed Ms. Knowles and her colleagues to recreate a digital version of the original Gettysburg battlefield from historical maps, documented descriptions of troop positions and scenery, and renderings of historic roads, fences, buildings and vegetation. “The only way I knew how to answer the question,” about what Lee saw, Ms. Knowles said, “was to recreate the ground digitally using GIS and then ask the GIS program: What can you see from a certain position on the digital landscape, and what can you not see?”  
      She said her work helps “make Lee’s dilemma more vivid and personal.” Nineteenth-century military leaders relied primarily on their own eyes, and small differences in elevation were strategically important. “Lee probably could not have possibly seen the massive federal forces building up on the eastern side of the battlefield on Day 2 during the famous attack on Little Round Top,” Ms. Knowles said. “He had to make decisions with really inadequate information.”
      So did Lt. Gen. James Longstreet, who was vilified in the Confederacy partly because of his decision on July 2 to take his troops on a long countermarch to avoid detection rather than attack Little Round Top directly. The march “made Longstreet the goat of Gettysburg,” Ms. Knowles said. But there was no way that Longstreet could have seen that Little Round Top was undefended at the time. “The analysis says Longstreet made the best decision he could,” added Ms. Knowles, who is currently working on a digital map of the Nazis’ territorial conquests and forced labor camps in Europe.
      New methods of computer-assisted geographic analysis can also offer new interpretations of familiar topics. Geoff Cunfer, a historian at the University of Saskatchewan, revisited causes of the 1930s Dust Bowl by analyzing data from all 208 counties in Texas, New Mexico, Colorado, Oklahoma and Kansas that were affected, an impossible undertaking without this system. He found that the traditional explanation of farmers’ extensively plowing the land without care for environmental limits was only true in some places. Barely plowed Southern counties also suffered from the plague of dust. Using reports of annual precipitation, unplowed grassland, wind direction, droughts, agricultural censuses, historical studies and previous reports on dust storms — “a messy shoebox full of newspaper clippings” — Mr. Cunfer created data sets that could be plotted on maps.
      He discovered that dust storms regularly occurred in the 19th century and were a natural part of plains ecology before any plowing occurred, but were “unreported and unpublicized,” he said. 
      Advanced mapping tools, around since the 1960s, were initially used primarily for environmental analysis and urban planning. In the late 1980s and 1990s geographic historical information systems enabled scholars to take census information and other quantifiable data and plot changes in a location over time. By the late 1990s professional networks and organizations began to form, but this sort of mapmaking remained on the margins.
      This system insists on precision, explained David Bodenhamer, a historian at Indiana University who is editing a series of books on the spatial humanities. Every bit of data is represented by a point, a closed polygon or a pixel on a map. Critics complained this exactitude did not allow for multiple viewpoints.
      National Archives, Maryland
      Ms. Knowles's team used this 1875 topographical map of Gettysburg to create a digital representation of the  battlefield terrain.
      By the mid-2000s technological developments enabled scholars to break out of the strict map format and add photographs and texts to create what Mr. Bodenhamer calls “deep maps,” which can capture more than one perspective.
      In 2005 Mr. Bodenhamer, collaborating with colleagues at Florida State University and West Virginia University, helped create the Polis Center in Indianapolis, which calls itself the first virtual spatial humanities center. One of their early projects was financed by the National Endowment for the Humanities: a detailed digital atlas of religion in North America that broke down denominations by county. Geographic Information Systems make it possible to analyze complex and changing patterns of political preferences, religious affiliation, migration and cultural influence in fresh ways by linking them to geography, Mr. Bodenhamer said.
      Benjamin Ray, the director of the Salem Witch Trials Documentary Archive at the University of Virginia, said visualizing data helps you to analyze it. “The eye is a very good sorter of patterns,” he said. Mr. Ray had wondered why witchcraft charges spread so rapidly and widely in 1692 from Salem across 25 communities, whereas previous incidents had remained small and localized. When he plotted the accusations on a digital map that showed a progression over time, it struck him immediately: “It looked like a kind of epidemic, almost a disease.”
      That made him examine what the Salem authorities did differently this time that failed to contain the hysteria. He found that the judges broke their own rules by permitting people to make accusations without posting a monetary bond, letting accusers be interviewed in groups and allowing “spectral evidence” — evidence only visible to the accuser — as sufficient for a conviction. After adding church affiliation to the map, he saw there was also a correlation between church membership and the accusers, which reflected a rift in the village over support for the minister.  
      Mr. Bodenhamer said the humanities had become too abstract and neglected physical space. The value of what scholars are calling “the spatial turn,” he added, is that “it allows you to ask new questions: Why is it that something developed here and not somewhere else, what is it about the context of this place?”
      From Avotaynu's Recent E-Zines
      An Interesting Consideration in DNA Evaluation
      I (Gary Mokotoff)have always been pessimistic about the use of DNA to prove kinship because without a perfect match, you are dealing in probabilities. For example, in my own 64-marker contribution to the FamilyTreeDNA database, the closest matches are off by three markers—8 persons in total—and the company states that the probability of kinship with any one of the 8 persons within eight generations is 69%. I see no significance in the fact that there is a 69% chance the person is related to me within some meaningful amount of generations.

      This past week I was staring at the results and realized that while the probability of kinship with any of the 8 within eight generations is only 69%, I had 8 chances to establish kinship. What is the probability that at least one of the 8 was close kin? It turns out, the likelihood is 95% that one of them is related to me within eight generations. What I must do is determine which one.

      These probabilities use the same formula as coin tossing. Toss a coin and the probability that any specific toss will come up “heads” is 50%. But the probability that any one of 10 tosses will come up heads is more than 99.9%. It only fails if all 10 tosses come up “tails.”

      News from JewishGen

      Yizkor Books in Print Project. JewishGen has started a project to put in print and make available for purchase yizkor books that have been completely translated into English by JewishGen volunteers. The project is looking for people with expertise in editing, layout, image processing and book cover design. Additional information about the project is located at http://www.jewishgen.org/Yizkor/ybip.html.

      JOWBR. The JewishGen Online Worldwide Burial Registry now contains 1.7 million records from 3,200 cemeteries in 51 countries. The latest update consisted of more than 120,000 records and 49,000 new photos of tombstones. Information about this project can be found at http://www.jewishgen.org/databases/Cemetery/Submit.htm.


      Yet another company has a UK and Republic of Ireland death index online. They do not indicate how many records they have, but it is not unreasonable it exceeds one million. They state that “over the coming months and years we will be building a substantial database of tens of millions of burial and cremation records.” There are 133 persons named Cohen in the database. At no charge, the burial date and cemetery location are provided. Any additional information is fee based. The site is located at https://www.deceasedonline.com.

      List of Surviving Jews in Holland

      According to Peter Lande, JewishGen volunteers are indexing a list of Jewish survivors in Holland prepared by the Centraal Registratiebureau voor Joden in Amsterdam after the end of World War II. There are a total of 24,163 names. In many cases the listings include the place of birth or former residence of an individual, and these include hundreds of listings of individuals from non-Dutch cities and towns, primarily in Germany. The list should appear on JewishGen before the August conference.

      Avotaynu.com Named One of the 101 Best Genealogy Websites
      Avotaynu.com was named by Family Tree Magazine as one of the 101 Best Genealogy Websites of 2011 for tracing your roots. It noted the Nu? What’s New? archives and the Consolidated Jewish Surname Index as components of the website.

      Boston 2013

      http://avotaynu.com/gifs/nwn/PaulRevere.jpgThe 2011 conference is not yet history and already the Jewish Genealogical Society of Greater Boston is planning for the 2013 conference which they will host. They have a minimal website at http://www.jgsgb.org/conf2013.

      The site includes a picture of the statute of Paul Revere holding a menorah as he makes his famous ride to warn the colonials that the British army was advancing to Concord, Massachusetts, to capture a cache of arms. (This incident is considered the start of the American Revolutionary War.) The picture includes the parody on the words Revere supposedly made as he rode through the countryside awakening militia men: “The British are coming, the British as coming!” JGSGB changed it to “The genealogists are coming!”
      See You Monday Evening, August 15th
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