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April Genealogy Notes

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  • SusanneLevitsky@aol.com
    Jewish Genealogical Society of Sacramento _www.jgss.org_ (http://www.jgss.org/) April 26, 2009 Upcoming Meetings: Sunday, May 17, 10 a.m. -- Ron Arons –
    Message 1 of 3 , Apr 26, 2009


      Jewish Genealogical Society

      of Sacramento



      April 26, 2009

      Upcoming Meetings:

      Sunday, May 17, 10 a.m. -- Ron Arons – The Musical “Chicago” and all that Genealogical Jazz

      Monday, June 15,  7 p.m. -- Anna Fecter -- Using Ancestry.Com to Enhance Your Family History Research


      Notes from the April 19 Meeting:

      President Mort Rumberg called the meeting to order and welcomed those in attendance, including two new members, Albert and Marilyn Glynn.

      Behind Mort was new JGSS sign to be used at the upcoming Jewish Heritage Festival as well as Family History Day and other events.  The Jewish Heritage Festival will be held on the Capitol grounds Sunday, May 3, 1 to 4:30.  Three thousand people are expected -- we will hand out brochures and have a few laptops where we can link people up with the Ellis Island database.  Volunteers are needed to help staff our booth for an hour or so.

      Other upcoming events include the Southern California Genealogy Jamboree in Burbank, June 26-28.

      Mort asked those who would be interested in being a part of the local Genealogical and Historical Society’s Speaker’s Directory to let him know.  Two of our members have signed up so far.

      Mort mentioned that elections will be held in May, and encouraged members to indicate their interest in positions of interest.

      Bob Wascou noted that early-bird rates are available for the August Philadelphia conference through April 30.  He pointed out that two of the speakers at the conference are in attendance today -- Steve Morse and Ron Arons.  And Bob will be escorting the director of the Romanian archives to the Philadelphia archives during the conference.

      Gary Sandler passed around a publication called Landsmen, produced by the Suwalk-Lomza Interest Group.

      Carl Miller noted that tomorrow night, April 20 at 7 p.m., a Yom HaShoah service will take place at B’nai Israel.

      April 19 Speaker – Steve Morse

      The JGSS was the first group to hear Steve Morse’s new presentation on Phonetic Matching -- Soundex with Fewer False Positives.  Steve talked about the work he and Alexander Beider have done to debut a new system for searching for names phonetically.

      Steve noted that typically there are different choices for searches -- “starts with,” “contains,” “sounds like,” and “ends with.”  He reviewed the history of various search systems.

      1) Russell, in 1918, patented the first Soundex system, associated a number with a name.  Only the start of the name was considered.

      2) American Soundex  -- 1930s.  This is a slight modification of Russell’s work, and first used by the Census Bureau.

      3) Daitch-Mokotoff Soundex -- 1985.  This system was optimized for Eastern European records.  It uses sequences of letters (vs. a single letter) and is the first to consider an entire name.

      4) Double Metaphone -- 2000 -- Phillips.  This system accounts for foreign pronunciations but just considers the start of a name.

      5) Beider-Morse Phonetic Matching -- 2008

      This new system identifies the language, then uses pronunciation rules based on the language.  It considers the entire name, and significantly reduces the number of false positives.

      Steve showed a few examples from the Ellis Island database.  If you search for the name Washington, you get 3900 names via the American Soundex system.  Daitch-Mokotoff (D-M) : 9 names.  Phonetic Matching: 4 names.

      Searching for the name Eisenhower (and the former president is in the database, returning from the Panama Canal in 1924) -- American Soundex gives you 375/388 names that are false positive (98 percent).  D-M: 21/27 names are false positive (80 percent).  Using Phonetic Matching, there are two false positives, or 8 percent.

      Steve then presented an overview of Phonetic Matching.

      1) Pronunciation Depends on Language  -- you transliterate into sequence of phonetic tokens from the name, and compare names based on these tokens.

      Current languages available for this process -- English, French, German, Hebrew, Polish, Hungarian, Spanish , Romanian and Russian.   Portuguese and Italian are now done as well. Being considered -- Turkish, Arabic.

      2) Defining the language.

      If you take the name Schwarz, the Rule for “sch” at the beginning of a name makes it German or Russian.

      The rule for “rz” at the end of a name makes it German or Polish.

      So you conclude that the name is German.

      If you have the name “Szwarc,” you know that “sz” is found in Polish or Hungarian.   The “c” at the end could be Polish or Russian.  So it’s Polish.

      3) More Rules for Determining Language

      Characteristics of unique languages.

      4) Phonetic Tokens

      One starting point is the International Phonetic Alphabet, but it offers too fine a distinction between sounds and characters not on a standard keyboard.

      5) Our Simplification

      The Beider-Morse system is limited to standard Latin characters, and they have dropped characters with similar sounds.

      So, transliterating names to phonetic tokens -- apply language-specific rules.

      6)  Rules Need to Consider Context

      Keep in mind what comes before and what comes after.  The well-known example of “ghoti” -- could be the word fish under certain contexts.

      7) Common Rules for Many Languages

      -- Final devoicing -- linguistic concept

      -- Regressive Assimilation of consonants  -- voice or unvoiced characteristics

      8) Approximate Rules

      a) unstressed (syllable) equivalence

            Nixon sounds the same as Nixan

           Hard to determine the stressed syllable, so this is approximate.

      b) Phonetic proximity of a pair of sounds

      n before b sounds close m before b


      9) Searching for matches

      Searching for a name in a list of names.  Encode the name before the search.  If you don’t know what language it is, determine on a name-by-name basis.  The database is already encoded when you put a coded name in.


      Steve said the new system doesn’t replaced Soundex, but supplements it.  He said Jeffrey Malka is already using it on SephardicGen.  Steve also talked to people at the U.S. Holocaust Museum when he was in Washington last week, about their using it.

      “I hope it will be used in more databases as time goes by,” Steve said. “ We’ll give it out free for recognized, nonprofit uses.”

      After his formal presentation, Steve went online and demonstrated a few examples of how phonetic matching greatly cuts down the number of false hits.  “This doesn’t replace Daitch-Mokotoff, but complements it.”

      Steve will be speaking in Davis June 27, together with his daughter.  They will present an updated version of his DNA talk, which he gave to us last year.


      From Gary Mokotoff’s Avotayu E-zine

      JGSLI Yearbook Project
      The Jewish Genealogical Society of Long Island has initiated a project where it will act as an intermediary to match researchers with yearbook owners. High school, college or other school yearbooks or class lists can be an interesting source of information and photos. In addition to a graduating photo, there may be photos of a relative participating in a sports activity, school orchestra, club, etc.

      To date more than 900 yearbooks have been made available by volunteers through this program. Additional information can be found at http://www.jgsli.org/yearbook_project.htm. It includes the procedure for how to add yearbooks in your possession to the program

      Ancestry Adds Border Crossings from U.S. to Canada
      Ancestry.com has now added border crossings from the
      U.S. to Canada (1908–1935) to its collections. Previously it only had crossing from Canada to the U.S. (1895–1956). The new database has more than 1.6 million names. Last year the company added Canadian Passenger Lists, 1865–1935, which contains more than 7.2 million names.

      Photographs of Arrival at
      There are now (at least) two photo essays of Jews arriving at
      Auschwitz on the Internet. One, at
      http://isurvived.org/Survivors_Folder/Lustig_Oliver/Commentary-PhotoAlbum-1.html#Up has a description of each scene. The other at the Yad Vashem site appears to be from the book Auschwitz Album and includes an audio narrative. It is located at

      Poland to Publish Online List of WWII Dead
      An online list of some of the estimated six million Polish citizens who died during World War II is to be published at http://www.stratyosobowe.pl. The initial offering will only have 1.9 million names. An estimated 3 million of the 3.3 million Jews living in
      Poland in 1939 died during World War II. Additional information can be found at http://www.ejpress.org/article/35991.


      From the Bulletin of the Jewish Genealogical Society of the Conejo Valley and Ventura County

      Jewish Surname Selection

      The text of the decree by Emperor Josef II demanding each Jew select a constant surname can be found at: www.shoreshim.org/en/infoEmperorJoseph.asp  This Austrian Empire edict was effective January 1, 1788.  There is an excellent searchable database of documents from Krakow and some other towns at www.shoreshim.org/en/dbSearchKrakow.asp.

      Life Photos on Google

      Google is hosting old Life Magazine photos form the 1750s to today – just type in the year or subject where it says search.  Poland, WW II” finds photos of the Warsaw ghetto and more. A shtetl search such as “Brody, Ukraine” provides photos and maps.  The searches are not limited to Life photos but can extend to Google’s entire photo gallery.


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