Sept. Genealogy Update
Jewish Genealogical Society
September 28, 2008
Upcoming Meetings -- Mark Your Calendars! Back to Sunday Schedule
Sunday, October 12, 10 a.m. -- Unbricking Brick Walls
Sunday, November 9, 10 a.m. -- Steve Morse on the Ellis Island Database
Sunday, December 14, 10 a.m. -- Treasures from Our Attics
For the next meeting, October 12, you are the guest speakers -- it’s an opportunity for beginners or genealogy veterans to bring a research question that’s stumped you. Take advantage of the wisdom of our members and get suggestions on breaking through the brick walls to find that relative listed or dig up a new document.
Notes from September 15, 2008 Meeting
President Mort Rumberg called the meeting to order and made several announcements. The Sacramento Central Library will be holding two upcoming genealogy seminars this month -- September 21 on Vital Records Online and September 28, Searching for Soldier Ancestors.
JewishGen recently partnered with Ancestry.com, making its databases accessible on the Ancestry Web site. (Art Yates noted that if you subscribe to Ancestry through the JewishGen Web site, the JewishGen site receives some remuneration.)
The Mormons will be holding a genealogy conference in early October in Chico , “Treasures of Your Past.
The Citrus Heights Rootcellar will celebrate its 30th anniversary October 8. They will meet at the Citrus Heights Community Center (on San Juan near Auburn and Old Auburn Blvd. ), from 7 to 9 p.m. All are welcome to attend.
The dates for the 2009 40th annual Southern California Genealogy Jamboree areFriday through Sunday, June 26-28, 2009.The deadline for the Call for papers has been extended through September 30. The ethnic focus for the conference will be the British Isles (English, Irish, Scottish and Welsh). The Jamboree is the largest genealogy event on the West Coast -- the 2008 event drew 1200 speakers, exhibitors and attendees. For details: SCGSJamboree@..., www.genealogyjamboree.blogspot.com.
And Family History Day at the State Archives is Saturday, October 11 this year, from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. We will have a table, and are seeking volunteers to staff it for an hour or two during the day. The location is 1020 O Street , with easy light-rail access.
You can staff our table, then take advantage of these options:
1) Tour the State Archives.
2) Research in the Root Cellar Library.
3) Visit The California Museum for History, Women and the Arts.
4) Attend classes in the Archives' Preservation Lab.
5) Learn about resources at the State Archives, State Library, Sacramento Archives and Museum Collection Center (SAMCC), and the Sacramento Family History Center.
6) Meet the genealogical, historical and lineage societies.
7) Choose from 25 classes presented by top genealogy speakers.
Class topics new this year include:
* "Treasures Found in Libraries & Historical Societies" by Glenda Lloyd
* "Once Upon a Time: Genealogical Storytelling" by Cath Trindle
* "Using Military Records" by Sue Roe
* "E-books & Newspapers" by Lynn Brown
* "California Homestead Records" by Melinda Kashuba
* "Cussin' Cousins: An Open Forum for Frustrated Genealogists" by Linda Johnson
* "Using Legacy Software" by Carol Byers
For a full class schedule, event flyer, driving directions, parking and light rail information, visit http://www.sos.ca.gov/archives/archmonth2008b.html
Volunteer at our JGSS table and enjoy the festivities.
Mort noted that we had several members attend the international conference in Chicago last month. He asked Sue Miller and Art Yates to give us a brief report.
Sue said it was the first international genealogy conference that she and Carl had attended. “There were so many choices of what to attend, so we split up.” She also represented Mort in attended the presidents’ council meeting, where the society’s directors were elected. Sue said there were 53 local genealogy societies represented at the conference, and about 780 attendees.
She and Carl purchased an extra syllabus set for our library as well as an audio CD set. There was also a request for scanned documents being made available in the future, rather than cumbersome binders.
Upcoming international conference locations:
2009 -- Philadelphia
2010 -- Los Angeles
2011 -- Washington , D.C.
2012 -- Paris
2013 -- unknown
2014 -- Israel
Art Yates also attended; this was his ninth conference. “It was just as good as all the others, complete and well-run.” If he were grading the hotels, however, he said this one, the Mariott on the Miracle Mile in Chicago , left much to be desired.
Art attended a talk by Gary Mokotoff on the International Tracing Service, where Mokotoff recounted his trip earlier this year, taking 20-30 people in to see the records which have been sealed in Germany for years. Each participant was provided with his own interpreter. More records are expected to be made available in the future.
Art also went to talks on British migration, the federal and state census and the annual Hungarian lunch. He also heard a presentation from a representative of Family Tree Maker, advising people that if they buy the 2008 version at half-price ( a version with many problems), they would get the (improved) 2009 version for free. Art says in the 2009 version, for any address, it will bring up a map. It also brings up of all the addresses from the city you’ve entered.
“The highlight for me for me was trying to contact relatives in the Chicago area,” Art said. He linked up with Debbie, who drove about two hours south from her home to meet him.
Gary Sandler also attended the conference, his first, and gave two presentations -- one on searching the Ellis Island records (he worked with Steve Morse on the software for the gold form), and the second on the use of citations in keeping your records up to date.
Gary said he took advantage of the open lending library the Chicago and Illinois societies had assembled for the conference. He also enjoyed the film festival -- films ran continuously from about 8 in the morning to 9 at night. Gary also joined the Litvak SIG (special interest group) while he was there.
“There were generally seven different things to go to at any one time,” Gary said.
He learned that JewishGen is staffed by only three people -- “everything else is done by donations or volunteers.”
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Bob Wascou brought up our annual donation to the Einstein Center , which doesn’t charge us any rent for the meetings or our library space. He said he learned they wanted to get a Nintendo Wii-- a motion was made and seconded, and approved, to have Bob pursue the purchase for our donation this year.
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Mark Heckman said he and Bob Wascou had finally completed their work computerizing our library. They devoted about two years to the effort. From now on, if you want to check out a book, you do it through the computer we’ll have on hand.
Mark noted that our recent speaker, Schelly Dardashti, has compiled a list of the 10
must-have” Ashkenazi and 10 “must-have” Sephardic books for a genealogy library. We have all 10 of the Ashkenazi books, including newly revised versions of “Where Once We Walked” and “Russian Surnames.” We have two on the Sephardic list.
Mark said the library was greatly underutilized, and encouraged members to take a look at what we have. “We have a lot of good resources that are not online.”
We’ll be posting the list on our Web site. You can keep the book a month, bringing it back at the next meeting (or dropping it off to Gerry Ross at the Einstein Center ).
And new books are being added all the time. Thanks to Marv Freedman for the newest donation, “ Canada ’s Jews.”
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Member AllanBonderoff provided the September program, a talk entitled “From Shtetl to Hester Street .”
Allan described some typical emigration patterns from Eastern Europe , bringing it down to a personal level and describing one person’s journey in 1908.
“You hear that the Imperial Army of the Czar wants you, so you decide it’s time to leave,” Allan said. “Between 1881 and 1914, 24 million Russian and Jewish people left Russia .”
How do you get your ticket? The best way is to have a relative in America buy the ticket.
Allan said Jews had to pay an exit fee to get out of the country. So one-third will convert, one-third will die, and one-third will leave the country.
Bribes to Russian civil servants were typical.
“This will be the most difficult journey of your life -- until your first New York subway ride.”
Allan said there were smugglers, and people usually left under cover of night. The travelers would walk, or sometimes take small railroad cars. Once en route, you most likely would surrender your ticket to the guide.
“ Germany and Austria were the best countries for Jews at the time, Russia was the last,” he said.
In 1894, there was a German law that said if you’re going to New York , you could only sail on a German ship. British ships were a lot cheaper, and many took a route from Germany to Britain to the U.S.
Allan said his grandmother and son were detained in a cell for a few months while writing relatives for money.
He said the Jewish community in England was not helpful -- “they didn’t want these country bumpkins here.” He said there had been Jews in England going back to Roman times, including many Sephardic Jews. There were many Ashkenazic settlements on the eastside of London , Allan said, from the fur trader days.
Allan said it usually took 2-3 days on the train, the about 3 days on the North Sea before the voyage to New York , which was about a week. Once in New York , the first and second-class customers went through customs on the ship; a barge took the rest to Ellis Island . (Those arriving before 1890 were processed at Castle Garden . They then might have boarded emigrant trains to the west.)
At Ellis Island , they wanted to be sure the arrivals were in top physical condition. The shipping companies had doctors that gave thorough physicals before sailings, otherwise they would have to take the passengers back home.
So the staircase at Ellis Island was a major test -- they had the immigrants walk up. For those who huffed and puffed, some were allowed to stay, some were sent back.
When the immigrants were cleared at Ellis Island , they arrived at the Port of New York and then had to find transportation from the Battery to Hester Street . There was no subway to the Lower East Side until the 1920s.
New York was considered more anti-semitic than states such as Maryland , so some Jews took ships that arrived in Baltimore .
Allan noted that there was also a route from Odessa to Galveston , Texas , an important port for the cotton trade. For those coming in from Siberia , they might disembark at Angel Island , near San Francisco .
See you October 12 -- bring those brick walls!
Excerpts from Gary Mokotoff’s Sept. 14 and 28 Avotaynu E-Zines:
Morse Implements Phonetic Algorithm for Ellis Island Database
(Note -- Steve Morse will be talking to us about the Gold Form at our November meeting.)
Stephen P. Morse has given the Beider-Morse Phonetic Matching System (BMPM) its first practical application: the Gold Form of the Ellis Island Database located at Morse’s One-Step site http://stevemorse.org/. It does not replace the Daitch-Mokotoff Soundex (DM) option for searching surnames but is an alternative.
People who have used the DM Soundex option on JewishGen or the Ellis Island databases know that a major disadvantage is the number of false positives -- results that seemingly could not be variants of the surname sought. BMPM seeks to address that problem. But BMPM has its faults too -- it can generate false negatives; valid surnames may not appear in the results. This especially occurs in Anglicized (American) names based on the European names sounding alike to the American spelling but not phonetically equivalent. For example surnames that contain the European name “Silber-” invariably were Anglicized to “Silver-” even though they are not phonetically identical.
The proper strategy in using the two alternatives is to use the phonetic BMPM first. It uses far more sophisticated techniques than the DM approach and tends to produce more exact results. If you don't find the results you're seeking, then use the soundex variant.
BMPM was developed by Morse and Alexander Beider, author of numerous books published by Avotaynu about Jewish names. Gary Sandler (note -- a JGSS member) also assisted in the project by helping build the phonetic tables. The project had its genesis in the “Recreation of the Destroyed Communities of the Holocaust ” project of the International Institute of Jewish Genealogy.
NARA Has Online Immigration Indexes
Many years ago books were published that were indexes to passenger arrivals during portions of the 19th century from Germany, Ireland, Italy and Russia. The U.S. National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) now has these indexes on the Internet. They are:
Germans to America 1850–1897
Irish (Famine) 1846–1851
Italians to America 1855–1900
Russians to America 1834–1897
The databases are located at http://aad.archives.gov/aad/series-list.jsp?cat=GP44. The design of the site is a bit awkward. Data about each immigrant includes name, age and destination. Instead of including name of ship and arrival date, a Manifest Identification Number is provided. You must then go back to the page identified above and click the link to Manifest Header Data File to retrieve that information. My solution was to open up two pages (tabs) of my browser both pointing to the above URL. I used one to retrieve the data about the passenger and the second to retrieve the ship’s data.
The definition of “German,” “Irish,” “Italian” and “Russian” is not ethnicity but country of origin. Thus a Russian who came to the U.S. from England and listed his country of origin as “England” is not in the Russians to America database.
NARA has other databases online that they consider of interest to genealogists. They can be linked to at http://aad.archives.gov/aad/index.jspunder “Genealogy/Personal History.”
Site Shows in Which Countries a Surname Appears
There is an Internet site indicating whether a surname occurs in a number of countries throughout the world. The countries included are—as determined from the map shown at the site— U.S., Canada, Argentina, Australia, New Zealand, India, Japan and most of Europe but not Finland, Greece, Portugal, Czech and Slovak Republics, the former Soviet Union and Yugoslavia. The site claims its sources are telephone directories and electoral rolls. It is located at http://www.publicprofiler.org/worldnames.
Other statistics for a given surname include the most common forenames, top countries that include the surname including frequency per million inhabitants, top regions and top cities. If you click on a country, it displays frequency by region.
I found out, for example, that there are persons named Wlodawer (my paternal grandmother’s name) living in Germany and France.
Jewish Metrical Records from L’viv Archives Recatalogued
JRI-Poland and Gesher Galicia are creating a detailed inventory of the microfilms of Lviv State Archives in Ukraine that are at the Mormon Family History Library. The cataloging done by the Library was found to contain errors. The inventory, an Excel file download, is located at the JRI-Poland website at http://www.jri-poland.org/agad/lvivinventory.xls and on the Gesher Galicia website at http://www.jewishgen.org/Galicia/assets/images/LvivFilmInventories.xls. A description of the project can be found at http://www.jri-poland.org/agad/lviv.htm.
“Do I Have Jewish Ancestry?”
Every week I (Gary Mokotoff) get inquiries from Christians who think they may have Jewish ancestry. The typical profile is that they had a grandparent who was secretive about his/her past or that the family has a lot of “Jewish” given names such as Jacob, Joseph, Abraham, etc. Many of them have searched Avotaynu’s Consolidated Jewish Surname Index (CJSI) and found their ancestral surname on the list.
The most popular page in the avotaynu.com domain is not our Home Page but the Consolidated Jewish Surname Index located at http://www.avotaynu.com/csi/csi-home.htm. The CJSI is a collection of surnames appearing in 42 databases some of which contain only Jews (i.e., Jewish Records Indexing-Poland project) or contain mostly Jews (i.e., Family Tree of the Jewish People).
The fact that you find a surname in CJSI does not necessarily mean that this surname is Jewish. This occurs for three major reasons:
1. Jews and non-Jews share surnames. The third most common Jewish surname in the United States (after Cohen and Levy) is Miller. Clearly Miller in both non-Jewish and Jewish.
2. Intermarriage and conversion. The fact that the surname McKenney appears in CJSI does not mean that Jews bore this name. One source of McKenneys is the Family Tree of the Jewish People, a database of family trees developed by Jewish genealogists. But these trees would also include non-Jewish branches of families.
3. Nature of database. Some of the databases named are predominantly Jewish but do contain non-Jewish individuals. An example is the Russian Consular Records database of people who transacted business with the Czarist consulates in the United States.
If the surname appears in one of the four Jewish surname dictionaries published by Avotaynu (Russian Empire, Galicia, Kingdom of Poland and German) or in one of the databases of Sephardic names, then the author’s sources were compelling enough for them to consider the surname Jewish.
Jewish given names is a poor source of the likelihood a family is Jewish, unless the given names are uniquely Jewish. Biblical names such as Jacob, Joseph and Abraham are not uniquely Jewish given names. Malka, Chaim and Feivel are. My experience has been that people who make inquiries based on given names are invariably people with German ancestry where use of Biblical given names was common.
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