362See you Sunday morning!
- Jun 11, 2014Jewish Genealogy Society of SacramentoSunday, June 15, 10 a.m."The Julian Calendar and Its Importance to Genealogists"-- Steve MorseThe Julian calendar is important to historians because it was used worldwide for more than 16 centuries, and in various parts of the world for another three centuries after that. It's important to genealogists because it was used to record events in many countries as recently as the early 1900s.Converting from Julian calendar dates to our current Gregorian calendar dates appears to be straightforward. But a deeper look shows the subtle issues involved, such as double-dating, undetermined year starts and birthdates that change over time.San Francisco genealogist Steve Morse returns to give us a historic perspective of the Roman calendars from which the Julian calendar is derived. He'll then explain the workings of the Julian calendar and the reforms made to convert it to the more accurate Gregorian calendar. Steve will discuss the implications of these reforms and the problems they can cause for genealogists and historians.Please join us for this program Sunday morning at the Einstein Center in Sacramento.Genealogy Shows Cardinal O’Connor’s Mother Was JewishBy ALISON LEIGH COWAN JUNE 10, 2014 New York TimesCardinal John Joseph O'Connor in 1993. While the cardinal was well-known as a defender and friend of the Jewish people, he was apparently unaware that his mother was born Jewish, the daughter of a rabbi. Credit Fred R. Conrad/The New York TimesBRIDGEPORT, CONN. — In his 16 years as the Catholic Church’s top official in New York, Cardinal John Joseph O’Connor was a staunch friend and defender of the Jewish people.He spoke often about what he had seen at Dachau as a Navy chaplain. He used his platform as head of the Archdiocese of New York to support Soviet Jewry, and played a role in the Vatican’s recognition of the state of Israel. Mayor Edward I. Koch, a Bronx-born Jew who worked closely with the cardinal, proclaimed that he loved him “like a brother.”Yet there was something Cardinal O’Connor apparently never knew: His mother was born a Jew, the daughter of a rabbi and butcher.“The basic fact is, my mother was Jewish,” said Mary O’Connor Ward-Donegan, the cardinal’s 87-year-old sister. Observing the Jewish matrilineal tradition, she added, “That means my two brothers were Jewish, my sister was Jewish and I am Jewish. Of that I am very proud.”The saga, reflecting the kinds of rifts, new starts and reinventions that mark many American families, emerged in recent weeks, first in the April 30 issue of Catholic New York in a first-person essay by Mrs. Ward-Donegan, who had been searching for information about her forebears. The revelation set off a storm of genealogical research by the religious press, including Jewish Week, which called upon Renee Stern Steinig, an expert in Jewish genealogy, to connect some dots.Mary O'Connor Ward-Donegan, the cardinal’s 87-year-old sister, at her home in Ridley Park, Pa.She and her daughter Eileen discovered the family's Jewish roots. Credit Jessica Kourkounis for The New York TimesSo far, there is no indication that the cardinal, who died in 2000, knew about his lineage. His mother, Dorothy, a devout Catholic who died in 1971, told her children little about her upbringing, according to Mrs. Ward-Donegan.The first hint that her mother had been born in a Jewish home came when Mrs. Ward-Donegan’s daughter, Eileen Ward Christian, spotted some headstones online, including some inscribed in Hebrew.Though Mrs. Ward-Donegan had thought her mother’s maiden name was spelled Gomple or Gumple, she eventually realized that she was seeking family members named Gumpel. The headstones her daughter happened upon were for Gustave Gumpel and Tina Ruben, “wife of Gustave Gumpel,” the couple Mrs. Ward-Donegan now knows as her Prussian-born maternal grandparents. They were in a Jewish cemetery in Fairfield, Conn., owned by the Bridgeport synagogue B’nai Israel.B’nai Israel will accept a member’s non-Jewish spouse for burial now, according to Rabbi James Prosnit, the congregation’s spiritual leader since 1990. But he said the synagogue’s gatekeepers in 1890, when Mrs. Gumpel died, or in 1914, when Mr. Gumpel was buried, would not knowingly have buried anyone there who was not Jewish.Other clues to the grandparents’ religious identity, culled from B’nai Israel’s archives and other sources scoured by Mrs. Steinig, made a strong case that Gustave Gumpel was both rabbi to B’nai Israel and butcher to the German-Jewish community that he and his wife joined in the 1880s after leaving the Lower East Side of Manhattan.Hearing that Mrs. Steinig had traced Rabbi Gumpel’s place of business for a time to a “meat market,” Mrs. Ward-Donegan suddenly recalled a conversation she had with her mother, who had one mangled finger. When she asked her mother how it happened, “Playing in her father’s butcher shop,” was the reply.By all indications, Tina Gumpel was the rabbi’s second wife, helping raise four children from a prior marriage as well as five of her own. She died about 10 years after coming to the United States, sometime around her 30th birthday, leaving Mr. Gumpel to raise the large brood on his own. Her youngest child, identified as Deborah on an 1887 birth record, Dora in the 1900 census, and Dorothy Gomple when she converted to Catholicism and was baptized by Father William J. Fitzgerald in Bridgeport in 1908, was a toddler when her mother died.Cardinal John Joseph O’Connor greeted, from left, Rabbi Israel Mowshowitz, assistant to Gov. Mario Cuomo; Rabbi Michael Wyschogrod of the American Jewish Congress, and Rabbi Moses Birnbaum of the New York Board of Rabbis at St. Patrick's Cathedral in 1988. Credit John Sotomayor/The New York TimesMrs. Ward-Donegan said her mother was subsequently cared for by two half sisters, who had been thrust into a role they apparently resented. Dorothy bolted the moment she came of age and, Mrs. Ward-Donegan said, “never went back.” She built a new life in Philadelphia, where she married Thomas O’Connor, a decorative painter, in late 1909 at St. Clement’s Church.Mrs. Steinig said Dorothy was probably not the first of the Gumpel children to leave the family behind. Newspaper obituaries, vital records and a 1915 will left by Emma, one of the half sisters who looked after Dorothy, point to rifts in the family between children who remained Jewish and three sisters who appear to have made other choices.According to both Mrs. Ward-Donegan and Joseph Zwilling, a spokesman for the New York Archdiocese, the cardinal occasionally referred to his mother as a newcomer to Catholicism. “It wasn’t a secret,” Mr. Zwilling said. But based on her German roots and apparent knowledge of German as a child, the assumption was that she had converted from Lutheranism.Mrs. Ward-Donegan, who lives in Ridley Park, Pa., said she only began digging into her roots after her daughter, Mrs. Christian, gave her a paid subscription to Ancestry.com, an online fount of genealogical records, for Mother’s Day two years ago. The two women were planning a trip to Ireland and wanted to read up on their ancestors before they went. “This is how it all started,” said Mrs. Ward-Donegan. “I started building trees on my father’s side of the family, and for my mother’s side of the family, it was really difficult to find anything.”Mrs. Christian played around with the search engine and made an observation that changed everything: her mother’s family seemed to be buried in a Jewish cemetery in Connecticut.Mrs. Ward-Donegan was soon prowling in the Connecticut cemetery for clues, aided by two nuns from Sisters of Life, whose order had close ties to the cardinal.They spotted Tina Gumpel’s grave near the entrance, and, farther back, the graves of Rabbi Gumpel and four of his children. A phrase from the Book of Job was etched in Hebrew on Rabbi Gumpel’s tombstone, describing him as a man who was “plain and straight” and of good character.Rabbi James Prosnit of the Bridgeport synagogue B’nai Israel, with Gustave Gumpel's gravestone at the synagogue's cemetery in Fairfield, Conn. Mr. Gumpel was the maternal grandfather of Cardinal O'Connor. Credit Andrew Sullivan for The New York TimesThe reference to Job was apt. Rabbi Gumpel’s life was marked by setbacks and challenge. He outlived the mothers of his children, and was left to raise his children on his own.Also, B’nai Israel’s minutes and other archival records suggest that the community might have been less than appreciative of his services. His name appears nowhere in the programs or extensive news coverage about the opening of the synagogue’s first building in 1911, or about an 1899 wedding that fused two of the congregation’s founding families.“Maybe he was too Orthodox for them,” said Robert K. Lesser, 90, a Bridgeport lawyer and grandson of the marrying couple. “That’s why you don’t see his name around much. He was a butcher, and a rabbi in name only. They must not have respected him much. That was a low-class occupation.”As immigrants who had arrived some decades earlier, Mr. Lesser said, his grandparent’s set “already had their noses up in the air.”Rabbi Prosnit called the Gumpel saga, in which a Jewish daughter ventures off and pursues a new life with a man of a different faith, “an American version of the ‘Fiddler on the Roof’ story.”America in the Gumpels’ day, he said, was a land of assimilation, and “plenty of Jews were embracing the majority culture” when they arrived in the United States.Mrs. Ward-Donegan acknowledged that she might never know why her mother left the fold or who may have influenced her. She said her own progeny were all comfortable with their newfound knowledge of their background.“Born of a Jewish mother, you’re Jewish,” she said. “I have eight children, and they’re fine with that. And I’ve told them, of course, all the girls will carry the line.”Mrs. Christian said her daughters, both adopted from Asian countries, were tickled by this, and kept asking, “So that means I’m Jewish, too?”Census Records Shed a New Light on Some of the Mayor’s ForebearsBy SAM ROBERTS JUNE 1, 2014The ancestral home of Bill de Blasio at 205 East 17th Street. Credit Chester Higgins Jr./The New York TimesBill de Blasio’s mother was born in the house on East 17th Street in Manhattan. His grandmother, great-grandmother and other relatives lived there, too, at the start of the 20th century. Now, newly-digitized records from a 1905 New York State census have filled in some of the gaps in the congenial Italian heritage that he says grounded him, while his German-American father struggled with alcoholism and ultimately killed himself.Mr. de Blasio has never been inside the three-story redbrick house at 205 East 17th Street, but he has heard plenty of family folklore.“Both my parents were 44 when they had me, so everyone I grew up with were children of the immigrant generation,” the mayor recalled in an interview. “I got an unusual vantage point.”While it was already known that his ancestral connection to Italy helped shape Mr. de Blasio’s life, new details about how his relatives arrived, and the 17th Street rowhouse itself, may also help explain how his “Tale of Two Cities” campaign theme evolved.PhotoAccording to census records, the mayor's grandmother and great-grandmother lived at the 17th Street residence. Credit Courtesy of Ancestry.comHis grandmother, Anna Briganti, emigrated from Grassano, “a poor hill town in the middle of nowhere,” he recalled, and yet a village priest instilled in the family the value of education. One of her brothers, who remained in Italy, became a college professor. Of two others, who lived on 17th Street, one was a doctor and another was a civil engineer.“This was a small-town family of very limited means, but there was a strong educational impulse on my mother’s side,” Mr. de Blasio said.Still, the family did not have to disembark at Ellis Island to be screened, because they would have gone through the process before boarding their ship.While the men pursued professional careers, the women were also independently entrepreneurial. Their embroidery business grew into Misses Briganti “high-class ladies dresses,” with a store just off Fifth Avenue.The family was even well-off enough to afford a live-in servant, identified in the census as Rosie Salami, an Italian immigrant.(The digitized version of the original handwritten 1905 enumeration records are available free to New York State residents as part of a collaboration among the New York State Archives, Ancestry.com and FamilySearch).Anna Briganti, apparently, was no shrinking violet. In 1908, she sued a Hoboken doctor for $20,000 (about $500,000 in today’s dollars) for breach of promise, for refusing to marry her.Near the East 17th Street house, St. George’s Episcopal Church, on Stuyvesant Square, also seemed to embody the “two cities” refrain that Mr. de Blasio would later adopt.In 1897, the pastor, the Rev. Dr. W. S. Rainsford, touched off a firestorm in the city by publicly deriding an ostentatious costume ball at a time when “never were the lines between the two classes — those who have wealth and those who envy them — more distinctly drawn.”Three years later, J. Pierpont Morgan’s eldest daughter was married at St. George’s, the same year that the Rev. Dr. S. C. Swallow denounced the tyranny of capital from the pulpit there to an audience of working men.At the turn of the century, Stuyvesant Square was the proverbial changing neighborhood, “fast being surrounded by an alien tenement population,” as The New York Times described it.Neighbors still included the artist Otto Toaspern and John M. Lander, a society band leader and associate of Ward McAllister, the self-appointed arbiter of New York society, who coined the term “The Four Hundred.” But German and Irish immigrants began moving in, followed by Jews and Italians.The neighborhood has bounced back. Recently, a one-bedroom apartment at 205 East 17th, between Second and Third Avenues, with a working fireplace and a Japanese soaking tub, was listed at $570,000.A version of this article appears in print on June 2, 2014, on page A19 of the New York edition with the headline: Census Records Shed a New Light on Some of the Mayor’s Forebears.Genealogy series 'Who Do You Think You Are?' to feature Cynthia Nixon, Rachel McAdamsA preview for the upcoming season teases that Nixon discovers surprising secrets about her ancestors.By Annie Martin | June 4, 2014 at 2:44 PM |The 48-year-old Sex & the City actress and 35-year-old The Notebook star are set to explore their heritage on the genealogy docuseries show. The program facilitates various celebrities to take an in-depth look at their family history, and the stars often discover surprising information and secrets in the process.The series aired for three seasons on NBC, and will return to TLC for a second season next month. The upcoming episodes also feature Valerie Bertinelli (One Day at a Time), Jesse Tyler Ferguson (Modern Family), Lauren Graham (Gilmore Girls), Kelsey Grammer (Cheers, Fraiser) and Rachel's sister Kayleen McAdams. Past stars include Sarah Jessica Parker, Brooke Shields, Tim McGraw and Vanessa Williams.The new season of Who Do You Think You Are? premieres July 23 on TLC.~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~Didn't know they had genealogy merit badges!-- SusanneJackson, WyomingThursday, June 5, 2014 Calendar· Genealogy: Merit Badge for Boy Scouts - Computer Lab· Wednesday, June 18th starting at 2:00 PM and ending at 4:00 PM MDT. Jackson, WY·Boy Scouts working on completing their genealogy merit badges welcome. An adult may register to participate alongside a Boy Scout. Instructor: Lynn McDowell. Location: Computer Lab. Free. Register at the Library Front Desk or call 733-2164, press 1.~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~Megan Smolenyak -- Genealogy Expert, Author of "Hey, America, Your Roots Are Showing" & "Who Do You Think You Are?"
Genealogy on TV: 28 Celebrities and CountingPosted: 06/05/2014 9:47 am EDT Updated: 06/05/2014 11:59 am EDToA pair of Valeries: Valerie Bertinelli tapes for Who Do You Think You Are? in London and Senior Advisor to President Obama, Valerie Jarrett, learns about her heritage in Finding Your RootsIf you're as obsessed with celebrities or genealogy (or perhaps both) as many these days, you're in luck as both TLC and PBS have announced fresh seasons of their celebrity roots series. Who Do You Think You Are? returns on TLC on July 23 for six episodes, while Finding Your Roots will launch 10 on September 23. And just for good measure, PBS is tossing in a second season of its "regular Joe" ancestry show,Genealogy Roadshow, which is now seeking stories for a September taping in New Orleans.If you're not familiar with these shows, they both feature well known individuals learning about their roots, but there are several differences, beginning with the volume and nature of the celebrities. Each episode of Who Do You Think You Are? focuses on a single person, while Finding Your Roots swirls the stories of two or three together -- generally centered on a unifying theme such as immigration -- in any given show.Those on Who Do You Think You Are? consistently come from the entertainment field with an occasional tip of the hat to sports. This season, for instance, will have Valerie Bertinelli, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Lauren Graham, Kelsey Grammer, Cynthia Nixon, and Rachel McAdams (no athletes this time). Given that TLC also purchased past episodes from NBC (where the series initially aired in the U.S.), it's possible that Matthew Broderick, Lisa Kudrow, Rob Lowe, Reba McEntire, Tim McGraw, Gwyneth Paltrow, Sarah Jessica Parker, Brooke Shields, Vanessa Williams and Rita Wilson will also make an appearance.By contrast, Finding Your Roots includes both performers and individuals known for other reasons, such as writers, producers, presidential advisors, and chefs. As with Who Do You Think You Are?, they also mix in a few athletes. Among the 30 celebrities hitting our screens starting this September are Ben Affleck, Billie Jean King, Tina Fey, Ken Burns, Anderson Cooper, Courtney B. Vance, Stephen King, Sally Field, Gloria Reuben, Rebecca Lobo, Carole King, Deepak Chopra, Ming Tsai, Angela Bassett, Valerie Jarrett, Aaron Sanchez, Derek Jeter, Tony Kushner, Nas, Tom Colicchio, Khandi Alexander, and Alan Dershowitz (that's three Kings in case you're keeping score).The formats of the two shows also differ. In Who Do You Think You Are?, the star embarks on a road trip of self-discovery, piecing together the clues of their heritage with the assistance of what might be considered local guides -- mostly professors, but sometimes archivists, librarians or genealogists. Finding Your Roots is much more studio-based with celebrities seated at a table with host Henry Louis Gates, Jr. who walks them through a "book of life" that's been prepared in advance. The show also incorporates field footage, which may or may not include the celebrity whose family history is being told.Over past seasons, Finding Your Roots (which is a continuation of sorts of the earlier PBS series African American Lives and Faces of America), has steadily spotlighted genetic genealogy. While this has been less true of Who Do You Think You Are?, that will likely change this year since the show's sponsor, Ancestry.com, has been placing greater emphasis on its DNA offerings of late.And finally there's Genealogy Roadshow, an Irish import, which tackles the rest of us who aren't famous enough for the other two shows. PBS has not yet announced the debut date of its second season.(Full Disclosure: The writer has worked on Who Do You Think You Are?, Finding Your Roots, African American Lives, and Faces of America and wrote the companion book for Who Do You Think You Are?).Follow Megan Smolenyak on Twitter: www.twitter.com/megansmolenyak~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~See you Sunday morning!
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