Genealogy Notes and Updates
Jewish Genealogical Society
Notes from August 11, 2008
President Mort Rumberg called the meeting to order and introduced two new members, Arleen Burns and Carry Cohn. Arleen has relatives born in Poland, while Carry was born in Germany. Welcome to both.
Burt Hecht donated some IMAC books for anyone who might want them. Bob Wascou followed up on last meeting’s mention of a woman who wanted to donated some 600 genealogy books. While most were not of interest, Bob showed off about a dozen that are new additions to the library,including “The Timetables of History,” which talks about historical events that happened in different years.
Mort mentioned that Family History Day at the State Archives is Saturday, October 11 -- we’ll have a booth and are seeking volunteers to staff it for a few hours at a time.
Mark Your Calendars: Upcoming Speakers:
Monday, September 15, 7 p.m. -- Allan Bonderoff, From Shtetl to Hester Street
Sunday, October 12, 10 a.m. -- Unbricking Brick Walls
Sunday, November 9, 10 a.m. -- Steve Morse on Ellis Island
Sunday, December 14, 10 a.m. -- Treasures from Our Attics
August Program --“The Science of Names”
Before introducing our speaker, a native of Scotland, Mort presented him with a JGS mug of Earl Grey tea and a scone, to follow in the tradition of Scottish hospitality.
The speaker was Dr. Donald MacRae, who has a Ph.D in etymology from the University of Edinburgh. He spends six months of the year as a visiting lecturer at the University of Edinburgh and the other six months in Sacramento. As a boy, Dr. MacRae was a student of heraldry, and he served as a junior officer-in-waiting to the Scottish Court of Lord Lyon working in the genealogical confirmation area for grants or arms. He learned about both family and clan histories. He has written several books on the Science of Names and is a certified genealogist with the American Genealogical Society.
“Everyone has a name and should be interested in them,” Dr. MacRae said. “A name is a word in a language. It does not come from some place, just its source, which is a language.” He recalled that a woman once told him that her name, Carter, was Canadian. “But there’s no Canadian language.”
Growing up in Scotland, Dr. MacRae didn’t speak English until he was eight years old (“and my grandfather not until he was 28,” he said. He grew up in a Highland family, which was fervently anti-Anglo.
Names are divided into four divisions. Most can be found in one of the four:
1) PLACE NAMES
The suffixes le, ley, ly, leigh mean meadow -- the name Bradley, for example, means broad meadow.
Wickstead -- There were steads before they used “ton” as town. And ton came from stone-- the stone in the town that indicated how far to the next stone.
Bennington -- ing means offspring of, -- “you read from the back.” The town of the offspring of Benjamin.
Dr. MacRae said there are a huge number of prefixes and suffixes included in place names.
2) OCCUPATIONAL NAMES
These may involve a task or an office.
Task -- the suffix -er came from the old word for man in pre-German
Titles -- burger, pope, priest, king
This is where the child is named after the father.
-- sohn (Teutonic)
-- sen (Nordic)
Mac - Gaelic word for son Both Scots and Irish use Mac and Mc
The “O’” prefix is Irish -- “The Irish have a group of names all to themselves.”
MacDonald -- Scotland
MacDonnellson in Ireland would become O’Donnell
Donnell -- original name
During the Norman conquest, the French word for son, “fils,” came into the language, and became Fitz.
Fitzwilliam, Fitzhugh, Fitzgerald. “These are strictly Irish names.”
Welsh -- they use the prefixes ab or ap
Ap Hugh before consonants, Ab Evan before a vowel
Then, over time, Ap Hugh became Pugh
Ab Evan became Bevins
Ab Howell became Powell
Spanish names --
Use the suffix “ez” for son of --- Martinez (son of Martin)
Portuguese -- uses “es” but you don’t pronounce the end -- Gomes (like gnomes)
Italians -- have singular, plural, masculine and feminine endings. Also diminutives.
4) ATTRIBUTABLE NAMES
These are nicknames, sobriquets. A lot of Jewish names are attributable.
Can relate to personality, appearance, size
Black, Brun, Blanc, Weiss, Alba
“In 14th century England, some names were not complimentary.”
MacRae comes from MacGrath, not MacRae, son of Rae.
MacPherson, son on the parson.
“Everytime a man has more than one son, another branch is added to the family,” Dr. MacRae said.
Dr. MacRae also discussed the real reason for hyphenated names in the UK, from the landed gentry, and recognition of inheritance.
Last names, he said, were required under Henry the VII, about 1494 and called “visitations.” Henry said there were no such things are Saxon or Norman names, only English names.
Sephardic names --
When the Romans went into Judea, there were a lot of mandates for those living there. Many left for other regions where enforcement was less stringent. One of those regions was the Iberian peninsula, They became known as the Sephardim, “from which we get our word ‘shepherd,’” Dr. MacRae said.
Later, people began combining Hebraic names w/Spanish place names.
avanill -- place in the mountains
abranez -- son of Abraham
There was also a lot of Arabic, due to the Moors.
Dr. MacRae said there is a whole Web site devoted to Sephardic names, with the derivation of the name, Spanish or Hebrew -- www.sephardic.com
“Several languages completely elude us, “ Dr. MacRae said -- “Estonian, Finnish.”
Ashkenazi names -- first went into the Teutonic countries, Holland, Scandinavia, Germany
Then migrated in the 12th century into the lowland areas of Germany, in the Ruhr/Moselle valleys, then further north, into Poland and Latvia, also a branch south into Hungary.
In 1145 in England, crossroads were extremely important. That might be where the stone was placed, indicating how far to the next stone. Around the crossroads a tavern or inn might be built, then you would need a stable for the horses, and a place for the people who take care of the horses. And that’s how the towns grew.
There were hamlets, and that’s how the “ham” came to be at the end of the name.
Next to the crosswords often was an iron cage where a person who did something bad might be found, and where he would stay until death.
Dr. MacRae also talked about Scotland in general. “Bravehart, Sir Sean Connery -- all of these things brought back a nationalistic issue in Scotland. The Highlanders are Celts, the lowlanders Anglo-Scots. “The difference is race. What you think of as Scottish -- kilts, tartans, whiskey -- is the Highlanders.
And a few tips:
“Never call a kilt a skirt, never call a tartan a plaid, and never call him Scotch -- it’s a derogatory word.
Lord Lyon is the Queen’s minister of everything in Scotland. Since the 1400s, he’s been the judge advocate of everything that goes on in Scotland.”
Doing genealogy in Scotland? The registry office in Edinburgh is the place to find it. Online:
www.scottishregistry.com/uk Dr. MacRae said you have to buy minutes by credit card and then they may assign you a time, which could be in the middle of the night. Once you get online, “you have to have all your ducks in a row.” He said you need to have DSL, cable or T3 to download documents, but the transfer is very quick.
“I’m so proud of the Scottish government (for putting together this Web site) -- you can get huge volumes of information that are absolutely pure,” he said.
On the other hand, “the Mormon Church doesn’t certify their information is real or accurate, or have trained people,’ he said. “Only 10 percent of the information in Salt Lake City is real, and which 10 percent are we talking about?” He expressed dismay with the accuracy of the family history sheets.
“I’m very disappointed in American genealogy that too many people aren’t proving their data, especially in Salt Lake City, “ he said. “ I have become extremely guarded about doing genealogical research in the U.S.” Make sure your data comes from a creditable source -- a lot of places you think are creditable sources are not.
”It’s unfortunate the most Americans don’t get interested in genealogy until their 4th or 5th decade, when older relatives are gone or can’t remember.”
The hardest genealogy is American genealogy, he said, citing the example of trying to find Tennessee records that apparently disappeared during the Civil War.
Scots -- once you get to Scotland, it goes very quickly, and you can make use of old parish records. It’s the 120 years in the U.S. that are hard to document.
Social Security Death Index
Recently the RootsWeb newsletter shared some background on the Social Security Dealth Index, an online version of which is hosted on RootsWeb.
THE SSDI: WHAT IS IT?
In 1935, President Roosevelt signed the Social Security Act into law, providing Social Security benefits to all eligible citizens. Participants were given a Social Security number to identify them.
The Social Security Administration (SSA) keeps a record of all individuals who have a Social Security number and whose death is reported to the agency. This information is recorded in the SSA's Death Master File.
The SSA doesn't publish the Death Master File; it sells the database to others (including RootsWeb) who make it publicly accessible and searchable. Various companies offer the SSDI online but each formats the data differently, updates at different intervals (RootsWeb updates ~monthly), and employs its own search engine. Therefore, not all SSDIs are equal—even though the information is derived from a single source.
The SSDI was not created to assist people in genealogy, but it has become a valuable genealogical resource.
WHO WILL I FIND IN THE SSDI?
If you are looking for information on someone from the U.S. who died after 1962 (the year the SSA began digitizing its records), the first place to start is the SSDI.
Most people in the index are from the U.S., but a few Canadians, Mexicans, and individuals of other nationalities are in the index. Some Americans who worked or died abroad may also be found in the database.
Some individuals who died before 1962 can be found in the SSDI as well.
WHY MIGHT SOMEONE NOT APPEAR IN THE SSDI?
Among the reasons why someone might not be included in the SSDI are the following:
- The death was not reported to the Social Security Administration (SSA).
- The death was recent and the person has not been indexed yet.
- The individual did not participate in the Social Security program. (Not everyone was required to have a Social Security number until 1988. Before then, farmers, housewives, government employees, unemployed people, and those with other retirement programs may not have had Social Security numbers or participated in the Social Security program.)
The RootsWeb SSDI search engine supports the asterisk (*) as a trailing wildcard where at least the first three letters are known. For example, "Rob*" will find all names beginning with Rob and containing zero or more additional letters. Enter "402*" in the field for zip codes and the search engine will search for any zip codes beginning with 402.
ORDERING INFORMATION ON SOMEONE YOU FIND IN THE SSDI
Once you have located someone in the Social Security Death Index, you can order his or her SS-5 form (the form filled out to apply for a Social Security card). Among other information, the SS-5 form contains complete birth information (date, city, county, country) and the maiden name of the individual's mother. It costs $27 to order an SS-5 form.
Chicago 2008: JewishGen-Ancestry news release
Via Bob Wascou, who found this on Tracing the Tribe: The Jewish Genealogy Blog.
Tonight's evening program at the conference was the announcement of the agreement between Ancestry.com and JewishGen.org. Here are portions of the joint news release:
ANCESTRY.COM AND JEWISHGEN ALIGN TO PROVIDE MORE ONLINE ACCESS TO MILLIONS OF JEWISH HISTORICAL DOCUMENTS
Partnership Enables Broader Research of Jewish Ancestry Through Powe rful Search Tools in One Centralized Location
CHICAGO – Aug. 19, 2008 – The Generations Network, Inc., parent company of Ancestry.com, and JewishGen, a non-profit organization dedicated to researching and promoting Jewish genealogy and an affiliate of the Museum of Jewish Heritage – A Living Memorial to the Holocaust, today announced a partnership designed to provide easier online access to millions of important Jewish historical documents. JewishGen's collection of databases will be integrated and be made available for free on Ancestry.com, making these historical Jewish records and information ore accessible than ever before. As part of the agreement, the JewishGen site will also be hosted in Ancestry.com's data center.
For the first time ever, those interested in researching Jewish ancestry will be able to search JewishGen’s databases on Ancestry.com.Under the new agreement, some of the important JewishGen content that will be available on Ancestry.com includes databases from many different countries, the Holocaust Database, Yizkor Books (memorial books from Holocaust survivors), The Given Names Database and JewishGen ShtetlSeeker, among others. The JewishGen collections will be available on Ancestry.com by the end of the year.
Details of the agreement include:
- Personal information stored on JewishGen, such as data entered into the JGFF and Family Tree of the Jewish People, will not be shared.
- JewishGen will continue to independently administer the JewishGen website, mailing lists and affiliates.
- To learn more about this import ant agreement, or if you would like a sneak peek of the Jewish collections that will be available on Ancestry.com, visit www.ancestry.com/JewishHeritage.
British Genealogy Records Online: Ancestry hunters stuck in past as Web project fails
From the London Guardian, August 16, 2008
Genealogists must rely on smudgy microfilm records
Genealogists reacted with anger yesterday after it emerged that a government Web site, which promised direct access to 171 years of family records, had been delayed indefinitely following the failure of a Whitehall computer project.
An attempt to scan, index and digitise 250m records of births, marriages and deaths in England and Wales from 1837 to the present day was supposed to result in a new public Web site that would let people trace their ancestors at the touch of a button next February. Now, three years after the government awarded the £16m contract to German computer giant Siemens, the deal has been terminated with only half the work done.
The failure drew strong criticism from genealogists who were already dismayed that last October the government removed access to paper ledgers that contained indexes of births marriages and deaths at the family records centre in London when it decided to launch the site.
The General Register Office), which is responsible for the records, said only 130m had been scanned, and plans to make the index public had been shelved. Missing are details of birth records from 1837 to 1934 and death records from 1837 to 1957. The Identity and Passport Service (IPS), which runs the GRO, said it had only paid half the fee as a result.
Yesterday, the IPS were unable to say when the project would be completed and how it would pay for the rest of it.
Sue Hills, who runs Ancestral Footsteps, a company that offers tailor-made genealogical holidays, said: "This is a devastating blow. Everyone was incredibly excited because this was going to be a fantastic research tool and one of the big events in the world of ancestry."
The number of Britons exploring their past has boomed in recent years with the advent of commercial websites which provide access to indexes of available records and the popularity of the BBC TV programme "Who Do You Think You Are," in which celebrities trace their family histories. The National Archives saw its visitor figures online and also to its offices in Kew, south-west London, double from 23.2 million in 2006 to 56.8 million in 2007.
From Avotaynu’s E-Zine, August 10, 2008
JOWBR Now Includes More Than One Million Burials
The JewishGen Online Worldwide Burial Registry (JOWBR) has recently uploaded thousands of new records so the searchable database contains more than one million burials in nearly 2,000 cemeteries and landsmanschaft plots throughout the world. Recent additions have been made for Canada, Hungary, Romania and the United States. Almost 9,300 photos of tombstones have also been added as well.
JewishGen also added the ability to search and filter by the town of burial. A complete list of cemeteries can be found at http://www.jewishgen.org/databases/Cemetery/tree/CemList.htm. The database search engine is located http://www.jewishgen.org/databases/cemetery/. As is true of almost all JewishGen projects, the JOWBR database is accomplished by volunteers who donate records of tombstone extractions and photos.
Ancestry.com Plans Digitization of Non-American Records Groups
Ancestry.com is currently in the process of digitizing a number of non-American record collections that can be valuable to Jewish genealogical research. They include Canadian Passenger Lists and Inbound UK Passenger Lists. Plans call for these projects to be completed within the year. The projects include:
(Message over 64 KB, truncated)