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Genealogy Update

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  • SusanneLevitsky@aol.com
    Sunday, April 19 Meeting -- Steve Morse Phonetic Matching: An Alternative to Soundex with Fewer False Hits Genealogist Steve Morse of “one-step” fame
    Message 1 of 60 , Apr 4, 2009


      Sunday, April 19 Meeting -- Steve Morse


      Phonetic Matching: An Alternative to Soundex with Fewer False Hits

      Genealogist Steve Morse of “one-step” fame will present a program on “Phonetic Matching.” Searching for names in large databases containing spelling variations has always been a problem.  One solution, known as soundex, is to encode each name into a number such that names that sound alike will encode to the same number.  The search would then be based on finding matching numbers, which results in finding all names that sound like the target name.

      The "sounds-alike" criteria used in soundex is based on the spelling, with no regard to how the name might be pronounced in a particular language.  The phonetic encoding Steve will describe incorporates rules for determining the language based on the spelling of the name, along with pronunciation rules for the common languages.  This has the advantage of eliminating matches that might appear to "sound alike" under the pure spelling criteria of soundex but are phonetically quite unrelated.

      The work Steve will discuss was developed together with Alexander Beider.

      The meeting is set for 10 a.m. on April 19.


      Montreal Records Index Soon Available


      Burt Hecht passes on this information from Canadian genealogist Stanley Diamond -- the JGS of Montreal now has new resources that can provide a lot of missing information.  Access details will be announced soon.  The group’s Web site is at http://jgs-montreal.org/.


      As a registered genealogical society in Quebec, the JGS of Montreal was eligible to purchase the index to marriage and death records registered in Quebec from 1926 -96.  The marriage indices may include dates/years of birth or age; death indices may include age/years of birth, date of death, location, as well as parents and spouses' names. 


      Fascinating NY Times Series on Civil War Soldier

      (Note from Susanne: I read all five of the columns linked below.  Great detective and genealogical efforts are recounted -- and don’t skip the readers’ comments at the end of each column.  You don’t have to be a Civil War buff or have relatives in the Civil War to enjoy these.)


      This is the fifth and final installment of “Whose Father Was He?” — an investigation into a photograph of three children found on the dead body of Amos Humiston, a fallen Union soldier, at Gettysburg in 1863. Part one can be read here; part two here; part three here; and part four here.

      Three children 


      The soldier’s body was found near the center of Gettysburg with no identification — nothing save for an ambrotype (an early type of photograph popular in the late 1850s and 1860s) of three small children clutched in his hand. Within a few days the ambrotype came into the possessionof Benjamin Schriver, a tavern keeper in a small town west of Gettysburg. The details of how Schriver came into possession of the ambrotype have been lost to history. But the rest of the story survives, a story in which this photograph of three small children was used for both good and wicked purposes.


      Tree Climbing is Her Specialty

      Manchester Union-Leader

      Saturday, Mar. 28, 2009

      MANCHESTER – A small piece of paper and a large dose of curiosity changed the life of Melinde Sanborn.

      Sanborn was an undergraduate with dreams of being an archaeologist in 1976 when she came across a note at the home of her mother-in-law. It mentioned infant twins "so small they had to be incubated under teacups."

      Twins? She didn't know of any twins in her husband's family. Who were they? How long ago were they born? Sanborn had to know.

      She started investigating and found that there were multiple sets of twins in the family tree, even triplets. Friends and family members were so impressed they started asking her to look into their ancestry. They were even willing to pay her.

      "I loved it," Sanborn said. "And I never stopped."

      Sanborn scrapped her aspirations of being an archaeologist and decided she would become a genealogist. Instead of digging into the ground to find physical remains that would tell the story of cultures, she decided to start digging into files and records to tell the story of individual people.

      She went from becoming a sort of historian to someone who is more like a biographer. The way Sanborn puts it, "No individual has the same story."

      If that's the case, there will be hundreds of stories floating around the Center of New Hampshire when the 10th annual New England Regional Genealogical Conference is held there April 22 to 26.  More than 500 genealogists will be swapping stories and sharing their methods of tracking down a person's history. At least 22 genealogical societies, including the American Canadian Genealogical Society of Manchester, will be represented.

      Many people may casually associate genealogy with tracing their family tree, but other uses include proving wills and helping doctors understand the origins of hereditary issues in families.

      Sanborn, who now lives in Bedford, said the highly acclaimed mini-series "Roots," which first aired in 1977, kick-started a fascination among people looking to trace their family trees. The Internet made finding the information even easier.  And both of those developments helped people such as Sanborn.

      "It brought a tremendous number of hobbyists," Sanborn said. "It actually increased my business quite a bit."

      Inevitably, Sanborn said, the amateur is confronted by a "thorny problem," a roadblock that stops the flow of information.

      "That's when they need someone like me to answer those questions," she said.

      090328GENEALOGY_275px (THOMAS  ROY)

      Melinde Lutz Sanborn stands by one of her many bookcases with research and genealogy books. (THOMAS ROY)

      Genealogy requires a mind that is curious, resourceful and methodical enough to pore through records from libraries and courthouses, municipal documents, church registers, census records and published letters. Sanborn has that.

      She is respected enough in her profession to be one of the 50 living genealogists elected to the American Society of Genealogists.

      The bulk of her early work was tracing heirs to close out wills, but she now spends as much time editing and writing books and journals (40 and counting) and serving as the director of Boston University's certification program for genealogical research, for which she is also an instructor.

      The versatility of genealogy is outlined in the course description, which says it can be useful in "librarianship, archival management, teaching, historical research, law, medicine, biology, or other related fields."

      Part of Sanborn's preparation for the course she teaches on forensic genealogy is to have her class study a Jane Doe murder that occurred in Bedford in 1971.

      Unlike the recent case of a man who was identified through fingerprints two days after being found dead in the woods of a quiet North End neighborhood, the young woman found in Bedford along a path near Kilton Road and Route 101 has never been identified.

      Sanborn believes she can find the woman's identity using the principles of genealogical research.

      "I've found thousands of people with names, some who were missing," Sanborn said. "I think I can flip it and find a dead person with no name.

      "I've never found anybody who didn't have a name, but I'm confident it can be done. She's somebody, and we can find out who she is."

      Sanborn is working with Bedford police on the case, but solid leads are not easy to come by because of a lack of technology at the time of the case and evidence that has been lost or not accounted for.

      For people looking to solve much simpler problems about their family, the upcoming conference (www.nergc.org) provides an opportunity to talk with experts such as Sanborn.


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    • SusanneLevitsky@...
      July 15, 2017 Upcoming Meetings -- No July Meeting Getting Started in Genealogy --- August 20, 9 a.m. to noon September 17, 9 a.m. to noon Meeting Notes --
      Message 60 of 60 , Jul 15

      July 15, 2017
      Upcoming Meetings --
      No July Meeting
      Getting Started in Genealogy --- August 20, 9 a.m. to noon
      September 17, 9 a.m. to noon

      Meeting Notes -- June 11, 2017
      Mort Rumberg called the meeting to order and welcomed members and guests.
      Mort mentioned that the numbered parking spaces are for Einstein residents and we should park elsewhere.
      There will be no meeting next month, when the IAJGS conference will be held in Orlando.
      The California Museum will have a film program through August 6 --“Light and Noir,” exiles and Emigres in Hollywood, 1933-1950.
      Librarian Teven Laxer showed several books we have in our library, including “The History of the Jews in Milwaukee” and “The History of the Jews in Los Angeles” – both have cross-references to newspaper articles.  We also have a Legacy Family Tree 8.0 Manual.
      Teven said we have close to 500 volumes in our library, most targeting Jewish genealogy. The library is one of the benefits of membership.
      The Tikva group will have its next program June 25 on Anti-Semitism. It will take place at B’Nai Israel from 1 to 4 p.m.  The guest speaker will be Nancy Appel from the ADL in San Francisco.
      Judy Persin is organizing the August and September meetings which will focus on Beginning Genealogy Workshops, from 9 a.m. to noon on August 20 and September 17. There will be two sessions each Sunday. “We’ll provide the basics for those who are just beginning and it’s also a great review for old-timers,” Judy said.
      The cost is $10 for members, $15 for non-members, covering both August and September workshops.
      Registration form for the August/September workshops attached. Please reserve now to secure a space.
      June Speaker – Maryellen Burns “The Power of Story”
      Why do we tell stories? What is revealed, what is hidden in the story.
      “Growing up, I was really isolated,” Maryellen said.  “I didn’t discover I was Jewish until I was 10, when my parents invited a friend who had been in Auschwitz. I went from knowing nothing to now having 586 pages of relatives on my maternal grandmother’s side."
      She said her father was on the road from ages 7 to 9 – the only reason he could survive was that he could read the hobos’ symbols and find Jewish families in the South.
      Maryellen noted that while Jews don’t have godparents, two friends of her family, Nate and Laura, filled that role. She also recalls one day when Woody Guthrie, Andre Segovia and Arthur Fieldler’s sister were at her house.
      “I want to know the character of the person who is part of my history,” Maryellen said, something she learns through conversation. She says she has more than 110 conversations on her phone.
      She said the stories we tell and the stories we hide tell a lot about us.
      Maryellen said the family photos she had came from cousins, including many in the last few years. “My parents took a picture and then sent it to relatives.”
      “Each one of us in our lives has a keeper of stories,” she said. “The oral tradition plays a large part in Jewish culture.”
      "What we are named, who we are named for – are names chosen to hide our identity, to perhaps look we were Catholic?” That was the case for Maryellen and her brothers.
      Maryellen asked the group to talk to the person next to them about their names. Who were they named after?
      "And if you had a nickname, how did that affect your identity?”
      Seven Reasons Why We Tell Stories
      --They define who we are – what we choose to tell and what we want to conceal.
      -- To plant ideas in people – ideas, thoughts and emotions.
      -- We like stories
      -- We are born to tell stories.
      -- We are literally wired to relate to people who tell a story
                  It’s our own natural tendency to tell fictional stories as well as true stories.
      -- Stories inspire action.
      -- We tell stories to impress.
      Maryellen asked the group, how many of you plan on recording your story in some way? Most of you. What is the mechanism you will use?
      Why is it important to you? Do it for your kids?  Think about donating a copy to the library.  Maybe you can bring something that will spark a story in someone else.
      Maryellen said we tend to rely on lists of questions. “But get into conversation, let the story lead where the person wants to go. What did the house, Grandma, smell like?  What did you hear when you were there?”
      Maryellen does talks on a number of subjects, including book architecture, whipping up a family cookbook, and (for the Renaissance Society), how every wave of immigration affected the food in the local area.
      Maryellen can be reached by email at Maryellen_burns@....
      International Jewish Genealogy Conference hosts a plethora of talent
      Heritage -- Florida Jewish Names  June 23, 2017
      Harvard Professor Henry Louis Gates, host of the popular PBS television show "Finding Your Roots," will address the IAJGS annual awards banquet with a talk on "Genealogy and Genetics in America.

      What do Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Alexander Hamilton and Aida have to do with discovering your ancestors? To find out, join other genealogists at the 37th IAJGS International Conference on Jewish Genealogy from July 23–28 at the Disney World Swan Resort in Orlando, Florida.

      Henry Louis Gates Jr., host of the PBS hit series "Finding Your Roots," will be the featured speaker on "Genetics and Genealogy in America" on Thursday evening at the conference. Some of the many celebrities that Gates has successfully helped to find their Jewish roots include Barbara Walters, Julianna Margulies, Gloria Steinem, Norman Lear, Tony Kushner, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Robert Downey, Jr., Carole King, Alan Dershowitz and Dustin Hoffman.

      "This is a one of a kind opportunity for the Greater Orlando Jewish community to trace their ancestors-both for those totally new to family history research and those already experienced in genealogy," said Dr. Diane Jacobs, local host conference co-chair.

      Sunday evening will feature "Alexander Hamilton, the Jews, and the American Revolution," presented by Dr. Robert Watson, professor, historian, author, and media commentator.

      Wednesday evening, there will be a special showing of the 2016 acclaimed documentary "Aida's Secrets" (sponsored by MyHeritage). This documentary is a story about family secrets, lies, high drama and generations of contemporary history. The international story begins with World War II and concludes with an emotional 21st century family reunion. Izak was born inside the Bergen-Belsen displaced persons camp in 1945 and sent for adoption in Israel. Utilizing the resources of Yad Vashem and MyHeritage, secret details of his birth mother, an unknown brother in Canada and his father's true identity slowly emerge in this extremely personal investigative film. 

      Featured Monday evening, acclaimed expert and author on etymology and geographic distribution of Jewish surnames, Alexander Beider and Harry Ostrer will debate "Setting the Record Straight: What Yiddish and DNA Tell Us About Ashkenazi Origins" (sponsored by FamilyTreeDNA).
      On Tuesday evening, "1917: A Turning Point in American Jewish History" (sponsored by JGSLA) will be presented by Hasia Diner, author and Paul and Sylvia Steinberg Professor of American Jewish history at New York University.
      Professor Robert Watson, a featured speaker at the IAJGS Florida/Caribbean conference, will talk about our Nevis-born founding father "Alexander Hamilton, the Jews, and the American Revolution."

      The conference will include special emphasis on finding ancestors through DNA, finding Converso/Anusim ancestors, Jews in Florida, the Caribbean and the South, and strategies for passing your family legacy on to younger generations. Conference tracks, workshops, and sessions will focus on how to trace your ancestry through the Diaspora: in Poland, Galicia, Germany, Ukraine, Lithuania, Hungary, Austria, Israel, Latvia, Lithuania, Belarus, Sub-Carpathia, Czech Republic, North Africa, South Africa, Brazil, Bessarabia/Moldova, and more. The special aspects of tracing Ashkenazi, Sephardi, Mizrahi, and rabbinic family lines will be covered.
      Stanley Diamond is a leader in Canadian Jewish Research, JRI-Poland
      By Bill Gladstone -   July 13, 2017   Canadian Jewish News
      Stan Diamond, left, receiving his medal from Gov.Gen David Johnston. SGT. JOHANIE MAHEU RIDEAU HALL PHOTO
      In 1986, when Montrealer Stan Diamond sold his decorative-ceiling company after a successful business career, he could not have envisioned that a second career, even more monumental than the first, lay ahead of him. Almost by happenstance, it seems, he became executive director of a large, U.S.-based non-profit organization called JRI-Poland, which would help thousands of people research their family roots – an achievement for which he received a Meritorious Service Medal from the Governor General of Canada at Rideau Hall in Ottawa on June 23.
      To date, JRI-Poland (short form for Jewish Records Indexing, Poland) has indexed some five million 19th-century and early 20th-century Jewish birth, marriage, death and other records from more than 550 Polish towns. Not only is the database fully searchable online, but more than two-million records are available for download, with more becoming accessible every few months.
      Driven by an executive committee of four, a 16-member board and an international network of hundreds of volunteers, JRI-Poland raises about US$100,000 ($133,000) each year, most of which goes to digitizing and indexing records that are mostly hand written in antique Polish script or Russian Cyrillic. Scores of volunteers from the United States, Canada, Israel, Australia, Great Britain, France and elsewhere participate in the project.
      Diamond has heard countless stories of people achieving remarkable, sometimes even life-changing results from the JRI-Poland database. It has been instrumental, for instance, in uniting long lost family members. Recently, a brother and sister in Jerusalem found a half-brother from their father’s second family, who was previously unknown to them, even though he was living just 90 minutes away. Last year, Diamond used the database to confirm the birth date of 112-year-old Auschwitz survivor Yisrael Kristal of Haifa, who was subsequently proclaimed the world’s oldest man by Guinness World Records.
      His inbox is filled with stories of research “miracles” and people telling him that JRI-Poland has solved enduring family mysteries. “Two weeks ago, a woman in Toronto wrote us that her grandfather had always said they were related to (the late French actor and mime) Marcel Marceau and she wanted to know how,” he said. Taking on the challenge, he found that Marceau’s family was from the Polish town of Bedzin, where their surname had been Mangel, and was able to make the connection to the woman’s family. The lady was thrilled.
      While Jewish record books in most towns survived the devastation of fire, flood and war, there are often gaps in the series of available years. In a few towns, the records disappeared entirely. Sometimes it’s a matter of town officials being careless; and some records were lost during the tumultuous Nazi era, when the occupying Germans took over town halls for their headquarters. In Pultusk, Jewish records before 1875 were reportedly destroyed by the Jews themselves, who feared the Nazis would use them to track down the town’s Jewish families.
      The Warsaw cemetery, Diamond related, once had huge volumes of burial registers that disappeared. “What we were told by the management of the Warsaw cemetery is that they were used as firewood during the war,” he said. “They were huge registers – you’re looking at a cemetery with some 300,000 or more burials.”
      Diamond’s knowledge of Polish geography, developed over many annual two-week trips, seems remarkable for a non-native. “At the end of one trip, we were talking to the director of the archives about all sorts of things and I was pulling the names (of towns) out of a hat and he remarked, ‘You know, Mr. Diamond, I think you know more about the Polish State Archives (PSA) and about Polish geography than anybody else outside of Poland’,” he said.
      His knowledge of both Polish geography and Jewish genealogy began innocently enough some 30 years ago, when he wanted to trace the path of a rare genetic condition called beta thalassemia within his own family tree. Travelling to Poland, he received permission to index the Jewish records from his own ancestral town, Ostrow Mazowiecka. When he was done, he paid a visit to Prof. Jerzy Skowronek, then director of the PSA.
      “When I presented him with the printout of the database, I was not in any way, shape or form thinking about what was going to happen next,” Diamond said. “He said to me, ‘Mr. Diamond, this is very impressive, I wasn’t expecting this.’ And I don’t know what prompted me at that moment, but I said, ‘Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could do this for all of Poland?’And he said, ‘Well it’s not our policy, but maybe we’ll start small and do a few more towns’.”
      When he returned to Canada, Diamond began calling people and raising interest. He attributes the fall of the Berlin Wall and the fortuitous co-operative spirit of the PSA as chief factors – along with the rise of the personal computer and the World Wide Web – behind JRI-Poland’s step-by-step development and growth. “Everything came together, the timing was exquisite,” he said. “It was a continuum of one thing happening after another that made all this possible.”
      A key step along the way was the agreement that Diamond signed with the PSA in 1997 that officially recognized JRI-Poland as a partner. “After that, we had the credibility to go to each branch of the PSA, having been introduced by headquarters. Back then, of course, we were still buying photographs of the index pages. When digitalization became a reality, that was also a turning point,” said Diamond.
      Diamond has already received numerous awards for his work, including a Lifetime Achievement Award from the International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies. Last December, he was nominated for the Order of Merit of the Republic of Poland.
      As for the Meritorious Service Medal, all JRI-Poland leaders and volunteers also share in the honour, he said: “What we have accomplished has only been made possible through teamwork and a level of collaboration and dedication unmatched in the Jewish genealogical world.”
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