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Genealogy Update

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  • SusanneLevitsky@aol.com
    Jewish Genealogical Society of Sacramento _www.jgss.org_ (http://www.jgss.org/) July 27, 2009 Upcoming Meetings: Monday, August 17, 7 p.m. -- Ron Young,
    Message 1 of 50 , Jul 27, 2009
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      Jewish Genealogical Society

      of Sacramento


      July 27, 2009


      Upcoming Meetings:

      Monday, August 17, 7 p.m. --  Ron Young, Converting 35mm Slides to Video

      Monday, September 14, 7 p.m. --  Jerry Unruh, Using the Internet for Genealogy

      Sunday, October 18, 10 a.m. -- Roy Ogus, The South African Jewish Community


      Notes from the July 20, 2009 Meeting

      President Mort Rumberg introduced the evening’s speaker, Dr. Joel Weintraub of Dana Point.  Joel is an emeritus biology professor at Cal State, Fullerton, who has volunteered for many years at the National Archives facility in Laguna Niguel.  He has also worked with Steve Morse since 2002.

      Joel’s two-hour presentation focused on the 1940 U.S. census which will be open and available to the public in April 2012.

      “It’s 986 days away -- two and a half years,” he said about the opening of the census.  And since April 1, 2012 is a Sunday, he guesses Monday, April 2 will be the first day the data will be available.





      Why talk about it now, Joel asks?  “Because it’s the last good genealogy census, we can showcase one-step tools and we’re looking for volunteers.  And everything you know about why the census is released after 72 years is wrong.”

      Taking us back to 1940, Joel noted that the minimum wage was 30 cents an hour, unemployment was about 15 percent.  The census started April 2, 1940, “a frozen moment in time.”

      Joel provided definitions used, such as enumerator (the counter), schedule (the forms the enumerator filled out) and ED (enumeration district). 

      “Those alive on that day are counted,” -- or are they? 

      Joel said his main research sources are a 1940 enumeration handbook, old newspaper columns and archives, a scrapbook of clippings he found on eBay, films, and a book on procedural history.

      He said planning began for the census with a committee created in 1937. Some 6,000 questions were suggested to be included in the census. Among those rejected: do you own a Bible, are you over 6 feet tall, and how many dogs do you own?  (Although one county in New York took a dog census in 1941-- enumerators were paid 20 cents a dog, versus four cents usually provided for humans in the regular census.)

      Joel showed a clip from a short Three Stooges movie (1940) focusing no the census: “No Census, No Feeling.”

      The government did a trial census using two counties in Indiana.

      Highlights of the 1940 Census questions:

      -- Name

      -- Who gave the information

      -- A new question: What is your highest grade completed?  (In 1930 they had asked whether the person was able to read and write.  In 1940, an estimated 1/4 of the population had a high school education.)

      Dropped was a question about parents’ birthplaces; there was no immigration information or dates, or naturalization, just one citizenship column.)

      The 1930 census was not a Depression census -- it hit after.  But the 1940 census did include a question regarding residence as of April 1, 1935, and did you move from a rural area or a city greater than 2,500 people.

      Employment questions -- Did you work the week before the Census date? Were you on relief?

      Some of those in CCC camps may have not been counted, some may have been counted twice.

      The last question --- How much money did you earn? And did you earn more than $50 from other than wages or salary?  People got furious about this question, Joel said.

      The average wage in 1940 was about $1900.


      Senator Charles Tobey of New Hampshire opposed the census and advocated a national census strike.

      If you didn’t want to tell the enumerator something, you were able to fill out the form, place it in a sealed envelope.  The enumerator noted where you lived and put a “C” for confidential on his form.

      For the 1940 census, Joel said 5 percent of the population was sampled -- this was the first year of population sampling.  These people answered additional questions.

      Joel said the trend has been less questions for everybody and more sampling.  On the 2010 census form, he said there are only 10 questions.

      “The 1940 census was the last good genealogical census,” Joel said.

      In promoting public awareness of the 1940 census, a record was made and distributed to radio stations, and  a slogan developed: To Know America, Tell America.

      In 1940, Joel said they began to estimate the undercount of the census.  About six months after the census, there was mandatory Selective Service registration.  Based on that data, there were 13 percent more blacks and 3 percent more non-blacks.

      On opening day of the census, what can you expect, Joel asked.

      -- Most likely, there will population schedules  online (no film)

      -- There will be no name index

      Geographical searches and locational tools

      Check out www.stevemorse.org, census folder -- where search tools are posted.

      Joel has manually transcribed 28 rolls of film, the National Archives is proofing.  There will be a city block index, and information about changes in enumeration districts from the1930 to 1940 censuses.

      “We can use volunteers” to do more, Joel said.

      All cities over 50,000 in population are done and will be searchable.  Joel has taken photos of more than 61,000 frames from 1940 films.   “We have lots of tools all dressed up and ready to go.”

      The 72-Year Rule and Confidentiality

      Joel presented a chronology about the census itself as well as the 72-year rule for release of census data.

      In the Constitution, in 1787, Congress was given the right to direct the census.  States have also taken censuses -- New York completed its last one in 1925.

      In the 1790 census, there was no confidentiality and the tradition of census data being public continued until 1850.

      Presidential proclamations beginning with William Howard Taft stressed the confidential nature of the census, but Joel said the Census Bureau didn’t follow along, and in 1917, used some of the information to track down draft evaders.  In 1940, census data was used to aid in the internment of the Japanese.  “And, on at least one occasion,” Joel said, “in 1943, names were given to the FBI.”

      In Canada, census data is closed for 92 years, and now, if you say you don’t want your information to be disclosed, it won’t.  In Australia its 99 years and 100 years in England.

      Why 72 years in the U.S.? “It has nothing to do with life expectancy,” Joel said.

      Is it because there are 72 columns around the National Archives building? No.

      Here’s why:  the 1870 census records were transferred to the Archives in 1942 and released -- 72 years after they were taken.  It became the tradition, records being closed for a period of 72 years.  (FYI, the life expectancy for those born in 1870, was 66.2 years.)

      Joel then traced the history of divergent views on census records disclosure and restrictions, with debates between the head of the National Archives and the head of the Census Bureau.  The Census Bureau usually advocated for confidentiality, the Archives for openness and the right to know.

      In 1973, it was decided that confidentiality restrictions were no longer necessary.  Joel said there were three things that continued to support this view -- 1) House Speaker Carl Albert was interested in genealogy, 2) so was President Jimmy Carter, and 3) the acclaim of the book “Roots,” tracing Alex Haley’s genealogy.

      But, Joel said, “the director of the Census Bureau and the Archivist could changes the rule tomorrow if they wanted to.”

      For more information on Joel Weintraub’s presentation and related efforts, see his Web site at http://members.cox.net/census1940/


      Treasurer’s report from Allan Bonderoff:  Our JGSS account balance is currently $1320.25 after recent expenditures.  Your annual dues go to purchase books for our library, provide small honorariums to our speakers and more.


      From recent editions of Avotaynu’s E-Zine:

      New Book: Handbook of Ashkenazic Given Names and Their Variants
      The most important part of Alexander Beider’s name dictionaries is not the dictionary portion but the introductory portion, a scholarly dissertation on the book’s subject. It was this portion of his first book, A Dictionary of Jewish Surnames from the Russian Empire, that established him as one of the world’s leading authorities on the origin and evolution of Jewish surnames in Eastern Europe. The 300-page introductory portion of his Dictionary of Ashkenazic Given Names actually is his doctoral thesis at the Sorbonne’s Dept. of History.

       Dr. Beider has created a new book, Handbook of Ashkenazic Given Names and Their Variants which is that portion of the larger 
      Dictionary of Ashkenazic Given Names: Their Origins, Structure, Pronunciation, and Migrations focusing on the needs of genealogists. Missing from the smaller work is the doctoral thesis and the portion citing sources for all the variant names. Included in the Handbook is the description of the origin and evolution of the name, a tree-like structure of all the name variants showing how they were derived from the root name, and the all-important indexes which list all 15,000 names derived from the 735 root names. The index is in three sections: names as they appeared in the Latin alphabet, names in the Cyrillic alphabet and those in the Hebrew alphabet.

      I (Gary Mokotoff) used it to research my mother’s Hebrew name: Tsiril. I was surprised to find out that it is a variant of Sarah. The Derivation Scheme for Sarah showed the evolution of the name from Sarah, to Tsore to Tserl(e) to Tsirl(e). All told, Dr. Beider identifies nearly 100 variants of the popular feminine given name, Sarah.

      Handbook of Ashkenazic Given Names and Their Variants is 232 pages, softcover and costs l$26.00 plus shipping. It can be ordered at http://www.avotaynu.com/books/handbook.htm. As an illustration of the content of the book, the complete citation of the feminine name, Sarah, is shown, including a description of its origin and derived names. Also shown at the site is a complete list of the 15,000 names..

      New Book: Sephardic Genealogy–Second Edition
      Jeffrey S. Malka, author of the award-winning Sephardic Genealogy: Discovering Your Sephardic Ancestors and Their World, has completely updated the book.  Nearly 100 pages longer, it adds a new chapter on DNA as well as new chapters on resources for the Sephardic communities of
      Portugal, England, Rhodes, Hamburg-Altona and Vienna. There is also a new chapter on how to research the Spanish archives with clues on deciphering old Spanish script.

      The section on the Internet is fully updated and now includes more than 300 links to sites that have information valuable to Sephardic research. The surname index alone has 3,037 names.

      The book, 472 pages with hard cover, can be ordered for $45 plus shipping through http://www.avotaynu.com/books/Sephardic.htm.

      Need Volunteers to Translate Yizkor Book Information
      Lance Ackerfeld, recently appointed JewishGen’s Yizkor Book Project Manager, is looking for volunteers to translate from Hebrew to English lists of necrologies found in yizkor books. Yad Vashem has supplied these lists as Excel files. According to Ackerfeld, these lists have important information including names of parents, spouses, location in the war and more. To volunteer for the translation project, contact Ackerfeld at lance.ackerfeld@....

      New Functions at Stevemorse.org
      Stephen P. Morse reports two new functions at his One-Step site, http://stevemorse.org.

      Morse has had for some time an Assembly District/Election District (AD/ED) finder for the
      New York State censuses of 1905, 1915 and 1925 for all boroughs of New York City. Given a street address in New York City, the function determines the correct AD/ED.  You then use this result to find the census record on microfilm.  FamilySearch, the genealogy arm of the Mormon Church, has now placed at its site images of the 1905 census for the borough of Brooklyn without a name index. Morse has update his AD/ED finder linking the results of the search directly to the FamilySearch census images.

      The second function is an Ahnentafel calculator converting an Ahnentafel number into a description of the relationship between the individual and the person whose pedigree is being defined – i.e., on a pedigree chart, the person with an Ahnentafel number of 123 is the mother's mother's mother's father's mother's mother of the person whose pedigree is defined. For more about the numbering system: http://genealogy.about.com/cs/research/p/ahnentafel.htm.

      JOWBR Now Has 1.2 Million Records

      The JewishGen's Online Worldwide Burial Registry has been updated for the Philadephia conference. Added are more than 94,000 new records and 12,000 new photos from 16 countries. This brings JOWBR's holdings to more than 1.2 million records from more than 2,400 cemeteries (or cemetery sections) from 46 countries.

      Some of the collections added in the recent update are:
         • U.S. National Cemetery Records. More than 23,000 records from 150 national cemeteries located in 46 states and
      Puerto Rico. These records represent veterans whose markers have a Star of David on it.
      Iasi, Romania. 17,500 additional burial records translated from the Hebrew burial register from 1888–1894 and women's records from 1915–1943.
      Bathurst, Ontario. 9,000 additional records from 60 sections of this Canadian cemetery.
      Krakow, Poland. 6,300 records from the Miodowa Street Cemetery in Krakow.
      Vitsyebsk, Belarus. 5,600 cemetery records
      Bayside, NY. 5,600 additional records from the Bayside/Ozone cemetery complex
      Chernivtsi, Ukraine. 4,300 additional records and photos

      The database is searchable at http://www.jewishgen.org/databases/cemetery/. A list of cemeteries included in the collection can be found at http://www.jewishgen.org/databases/Cemetery/tree/CemList.htm

      Mormon/Jewish Controversy: The Problem That Won’t Go Away
      Mormon Leaders Present President Obama with HIs Family History

      The Mormon Church practice of posthumously baptizing Jews murdered in the Holocaust made the news media again when Mormon leaders presented  President Barack Obama with five leather-bound books detailing Obama's family history.  What was not mentioned at the meeting was the fact that the Church had posthumously baptized Obama’s mother as well as other ancestors of the
      U.S. president.

      In response to the revelation by the news media of the baptism, a Church spokesperson gave the standard Church response, "It is counter to Church policy for a Church member to submit names for baptism for persons to whom they are not related."  So baptism of non-relatives goes on unabated contrary to Church policy but in conformity with Church doctrine.

      Meanwhile the posthumous baptism of Holocaust victims continues. Baptisms as recently as July 2009 have been discovered contrary to Church policy but in conformity with Church doctrine.

      Third Edition of Polish Translation Guide Published
      Judith Frazin has expanded and enhanced her A Translation Guide to 19th-Century Polish-Language Civil-Registration Documents (including Birth, Marriage and Death Records) in a third edition. In addition to being a translation guide, it also helps the reader locate Polish ancestral towns on a modern map, determine if old vital records exist, learn how to acquire them and—through its unique step-by-step method—decipher and translate the records. The book is published by the Jewish Genealogical Society of Illinois of which Frazin is a former president.

      Jewish Genealogical Research Trip to Salt Lake City

      For those who want an additional dose of genealogical research in addition to, or instead of, the annual conference, veteran Jewish genealogists Gary Mokotoff and Eileen Polakoff are offering a research trip to the LDS (Mormon) Family History Library in Salt Lake City from October 22-October 29, 2009, for the 17th consecutive year. To date, more than 400 Jewish genealogists have participated from around the world.

      The program offers genealogists the opportunity to spend an entire week of research at the Library under the guidance of professional genealogists who have made more than a three dozen trips to
      Salt Lake City. For details: http://www.avotaynu.com/slctrip.htm.


    • SusanneLevitsky@...
      January 9, 2016 Upcoming Meetings: Sunday, January 17, 2016, 10 a.m. -- Ron Arons: Handwriting Analysis -- Documents and Graphology Sunday, February 21, 2016,
      Message 50 of 50 , Jan 9
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        January 9, 2016
        Upcoming Meetings:
        Sunday, January 17, 2016, 10 a.m. -- Ron Arons: Handwriting Analysis -- Documents and Graphology
        Sunday, February 21, 2016, 10 a.m. -- Marisa Louie Lee -- 20th Century Immigration and Naturalization Records
        Ron Aron's presentation on January 17:
             This presentation will cover both document examination and graphology. The former is the more accepted discipline of comparing questioned samples with known handwriting samples. For decades courts have allowed document analysis as evidence in probate cases, etc.
             Ron says graphology is the more questionable "art" of trying to determine personality characteristics and behavior based on the analysis of signatures and handwriting in general. Although a "soft science," graphology has some merit. Examples of how both document examination and graphology can be used in genealogical research will be provided. Also, various software packages and books that can help understand these two topics will be discussed.
        Ron has spoken to our group many times and is the author of "The Jews of Sing Sing." In 2005 Ron won a Hackman Research Residency Award from the New York State Archives to continue his research of New York Jewish criminals.
        In January 2008, Ron appeared on the PBS television series, The Jewish Americans, regarding Jewish criminals of New York’s Lower East Side.
        Save the Date: April 2, 2016 -- Root Cellar Spring Seminar
        The Sacramento Genealogical Society's annual day-long seminar will feature Cyndi Ingle of Cyndi's List. The event will be held once again at the Fair Oaks Presbyterian Church.
        November Meeting Summary
        The focus of the meetings was addressing brick walls, with several of our JGSS members participating. Panel members Tony Chakurian, Victoria Fisch and Teven Laxer shared their thoughts, some of which are noted below:
        Victoria said one of the most important things for success is to be a creative thinker. She also stressed the importance of looking at primary source documents -- civil records, immigration records, wills, probate, etc.
        Teven noted the common myth of names being changed at Ellis Island. In fact, when immigrants boarded a ship, their names were placed on a passenger manifest, and they had to have a passport and proper documentation.
        It was noted that name changes in Russia were very difficult to do.
        Tony noted that on Ancestry.com, you can put in the first name only and approximate age and perhaps find a whole family group.
        Victoria noted that in city directories, you might find the same address and profession but the "smoking gun" for a name change.
        Where do you access city directories? Ancestry (also some Canadian, German), Internet Archive  (www.internetarchive.org) scans all kinds, the digital material is free.
        Book suggestion: "The Ice Cream Queen of Orchard Street" by Susan Gilman -- a novel about an immigrant girl's success.
        "If you are serious, you have to have a subscription to Ancestry or go to the Mormon Library and use their subscription -- FamilySearch is a free online database.
        San Francisco Genealogy, 1849 to present -- a nonprofit site, web page lists all kinds of databases -- www.sfgenealogy.com/sf/
        Tony said Intenetarchive has original census books scanned --you can read it there if you can't read it on Ancestry.
        Victoria -- don't bother with the Ellis Island site -- if you want to use it, go through Steve Morse's portal.
        Teven talked about ViewMate on JewishGen, where you can upload a document and ask for help in translating.  He also mentioned the  "Tracing the Tribe" blog.
        For the census, people were asked what year they immigrated -- these years were often wrong, but use as a window of time.
        In putting in names to search in Ancestry, use the wild card generator -- * represents multiple characters, ? represents one character.
        ItalianGen -- good site for New York City vital records, with bride and groom index.  From about 1867 up to about 1948. Gives you a certificate number.
        Teven recounted that the six things he thought he knew about his family history, ranging from where the ship sailed, to what year, to what port, to what name -- all turned out to be wrong.
        JRI Poland -- photographs and digitization of records.
        Where to put your family tree? Victoria says she would put your primary tree on Ancestry, but save the data once in a while.  "It's crazy to be maintaining more than one tree."
        Teven -- one of my favorite things about Ancestry is the "shaky leaves," which are hints. But Victoria says beware of the leaves if there is no source. Always look for primary sources.
        Fold3 -- a subsidiary of Ancestry, has military records (formerly Footnote). War of 1812 pensions just came online.
        Tony -- Will and probate records from just about every state just came online.
        December Meeting Summary
        Our speaker was Jeremy Frankel, on "Thirty Years. A Birthday Cake -- the Wrong Family."  Jeremy, president of the San Francisco JGS, is a professional genealogist.
        It all happened on the 9th of April, 1985, Jeremy said.  It was the second night of Passover and as he and his family were finishing the meal, his father asked him, "Did you know my brother was married before?"
        Jeremy didn't, but the information he subsequently learned led to a discovery of a new part of his family.
        It turned out that Jeremy's uncle married a woman, Sophie Ost, in 1930 but separated within a year. What his Uncle Charlie may or may not have know was that his wife was pregnant, and Leatrice Levy was born in 1931.  When the couple divorced, they all used his changed last name, changed from Levy to Leader.
        Note from Jeremy: Free BMD is a very useful website for British civil records -- http://www.freebmd.org.uk/.
        In his presentation, Jeremy described his search for this part of his previously unknown family. He discovered through research that was Leatrice living in Wales; she had married a Nigerian with the last name of Iwobi.
        "What do I do? Do I tell them about their half-sister?"
        Jeremy wrote to family members, culminating, in April 2015, with a family reunion in London with the different family branches represented.
        Jeremy said his newly found relatives were very warm people, and "you never know where genealogy is going to take you.  If my grandfather hadn't talked to me ..."
        Victoria Fisch noted several "accumulator" public record sites that are useful, including
        "Advanced Background Check"  that posts the last six addresses, along with possible relatives and ages, and also Intelius and US Search.
        The Southern California Genealogical Society is pleased to announce the 47th Annual Southern California Genealogy Jamboree. The conference will be held at the Los Angeles Marriott Burbank Airport Hotel, Burbank, California, Friday through Sunday, June 3-5, 2016. Registration is now open and available on the Jamboree website. You can either complete your registration through the online shopping cart or download the registration form and mail it in.
        Jamboree 2016 offers an exceptional educational opportunity for family historians and genealogists of all experience levels. The theme for Jamboree 2016 is "Giving to the Future by Preserving the Past." We welcome all attendees who are interested in genealogy and preserving the past for future generations. Our heritage focus is on German, Eastern European, and African-American research. Topics covered include research methods, analysis and problem solving, organization techniques, family history writing, the use of technology, and more.
        Jamboree 2016 will feature: 
        • Over 55 national, regional and local speakers
        • JamboFREE sessions Friday morning including Beginning Genealogy, Librarians' Boot  Camp, Why and How to Become a Professional Genealogist, Using Social Media for  Genealogy, and Genealogy & DNA Roundtables
        • Five specialty workshops (separate fee required) 
        • Free exhibit hall throughout the weekend
        • Research tours Thursday and Friday
        • Special activities each day
        • One-on-one research assistance provided by members of the Southern California  Chapter, Association of Professional Genealogists
        Back by popular demand, SCGS will hold its fourth Genetic Genealogy Conference,"The Future of the Past: Genetic Genealogy 2016," on Thursday, June 2, 2016. also at the Los Angeles Marriott Burbank Airport Hotel. This conference provides the opportunity to hear from some of the top leaders in the field of genetic genealogy, with topics suitable for all levels of experience with using DNA for genealogical research. Six intensive workshops will also be offered during this event that will provide an opportunity for in-depth study of genealogical research techniques of interest to a variety of experience levels (additional fee required). The Genetic Genealogy Conference is separate from Jamboree, and separate registration fees apply. 
        Early Bird registration ends April 23, 2016. Special pricing for 2016 offers a discount to those who register for both Jamboree and "The Future of the Past: Genetic Genealogy 2016" as well as discounts for SCGS members for each event.
        Don't forget to make your hotel reservations! The Los Angeles Marriott Burbank Airport Hotel room reservations are now open. Room rates range from $165 to $185 per night. To make your reservations online, visit http://www.tinyurl.com/jambo2016Hotel/, or call directly at 800.736.9712. Be sure to mention the group "SCGS Conference" when making your reservation to get the Jamboree rate and to guarantee your room. 
        The best way to keep in touch with Jamboree and the Genetic Genealogy Conference is to subscribe to the Jamboree blog, either through RSS feed or by updates sent directly to your email. Information on Jamboree activities and schedule details will be updated regularly on the Jamboree website.
        From the December 27, 2015 Avotaynu E-Zine:

        New York Times Cautions on European Union “Right to Be Forgotten” Rule
        In an editorial, the New York Times has cautioned European Union that the EU is “clearly motivated by a desire to protect the privacy of their citizens. But they should be careful that in trying to achieve that admirable goal they do not harm other rights, like free speech.” It expressed concern that the planned EU law “would come at a cost to free expression and leave a redacted history for Internet users.”

        The editorial can be found at
        http://tinyurl.com/NYTRTBF. It includes a good summary of the entire controversy.

        EU Privacy Regulation Specifically Excludes Holocaust-related Documents
        The problem of researchers gaining access to Holocaust-related documents about specific individuals was put to rest by a regulation drafted by the European Union. In past years, it was not uncommon for archivists to refuse access to information about Holocaust victims without proof of death. Archivists would state without proof, they would not release data until 100 years after the birth of a person.

        The European Union privacy regulation currently being formulated specifically excludes Holocaust-related data from privacy rules. EU member states are authorized to provide personal data to researchers when there is a general public interest value “for example with a view to providing specific information related to the political behavior under former totalitarian state regimes, genocide, crimes against humanity, in particular the Holocaust, or war crimes.”

        An article about the ruling can be found at

        Library and Archives Canada -- Web Pages for Genealogy Research by Ethnic Group
        Library and Archives Canada (LAC) has sections of its website devoted to researching various ethnic and cultural groups in Canada. Each page describes the Canadian history of the group, genealogical resources available at LAC, links to other sites and published material about the group. The Jewish section is located at
        http://www.bac-lac.gc.ca/eng/discover/immigration/ history-ethnic-cultural/Pages/jewish.aspx.

        There are a total of 26 groups presented including Hungarian, Italian, Polish, Russian and Ukrainian. Links to these sites are shown on the Jewish site.

        Swiss Banks Release Names of Dormant Bank Accounts Holders
        Swiss banks have published the names of more than 2,600 people whose bank accounts in Switzerland have lain dormant for more than 60 years, giving them or their heirs one last chance to claim their wealth before it reverts to the state. It is believed that a number of these accounts are for Holocaust victims.

        The names can be searched at
        https://www.dormantaccounts.ch. Click on the “Publications” button at the bottom of the screen to access the search engine

        From the January 3, 2016 Avotaynu E-Zine:
        Latest Plans to Make More Government Records Available
        Note to JGSS members -- Brooke is our March 2016 speaker.

        http://avotaynu.com/Gifs/NWN/BrookeGanz.jpgBrooke Schreier Ganz, creator of the organization “Reclaim the Records,” has indicated on her website, https://www.reclaimtherecords.org, future plans to make additional government records available to the public. They include:
           • Index to all New York City marriage records, 1930–2015
           • Index to New York State Deaths (Outside of New York City), 1880–1957
           • New York City Birth Certificates, 1910–1915

        The New Jersey Birth, Marriage, and Death Indices, 1901–1903 and 1901–1914 have been acquired by Ganz. Information about this collection is at
        https://www.reclaimtherecords.org/records-request/5/. She also received from the New York City Municipal Archives the Index to New York City Marriage Applications, Affidavits, and Licenses, 1908–1929. She now has a New York State Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) request to the New York City Clerk's Office for the New York City Marriage Index 1930–2015.

        Ganz wants other family historians to request records under their state’s Freedom of Information Law. Toward this end, she will post to MuckRock.com her filings where everyone can observe the FOIL process in real time, “and hopefully learn that it's not so scary and impenetrable after all.” Her request for the New York City marriage records, 1930–2015 can be seen at
        https://www.muckrock.com/foi/new-york-city-17/index-to-all- new-york-city-marriage-records-1930-2015-23051. She notes, “If you browse around [the MuckRock] site, you can see all kinds of FOIL requests to all kinds of agencies in every state, coming and going, accepted and not accepted and redacted and fulfilled and ignored and everything else that can happen to a request. It's fun to poke around and see what other people are doing, and how good or bad the various agencies are about their responses.”

        She is also asking people who know about historically or genealogically important public records that have limited public access—or no public access—to fill out a survey form at
        https://www.reclaimtherecords.org/ records-survey. If appropriate she will add it to her “To Do” list, which currently is quite extensive, and can be seen at https://www.reclaimtherecords.org/to-do.

        What motivated her to get involved in public access to these records, what she has accomplished to date, and her plans for the future will be the lead article in Winter issue of
        AVOTAYNU, which will be published in early February.

        Can Genetic Research Help You?
        Adam Brown, director of the Avotaynu DNA Project recently received an inquiry from a person which said, “My husband and I are exploring our families. Can genetic research help us?”

        Below is Brown’s response.

        The usefulness of DNA testing is a function of what you are trying to achieve. If you are trying to ascertain whether someone is related to you or not, DNA testing is exceptionally useful. For example, if your husband is a Goldstein and he would like to know whether he and another Goldstein are descended from the same individual through their fathers, that is very easy to ascertain with a Y-Chromosome test for each of the men. If you are trying to ascertain whether you are related to a particular individual within the last four or five generations, and you and that person do not share a common male ancestor, you should be able to figure that out by having you and the other individual take an autosomal DNA test.

        If you are unfamiliar with your family history and are taking first steps to explore your family background, an autosomal DNA test can be very helpful by describing your likely ancestral origins and providing a list of individuals who match you to varying degrees. Furthermore, by comparing Y DNA and mitochondrial results to the large database maintained by the Avotaynu DNA project, you may be able to learn about your ancient and medieval origin of your specific patrilineal and matrilineal lines as well.

        If you are trying to expand your family tree by identifying specific new relatives through DNA testing, sensational results can be obtained but it requires a bit of luck (relatives need to have been tested) and possibly additional testing. This past year, for example, Avotaynu published an article by an individual who compared his Y chromosome and autosomal results to those of suspected relatives and demonstrated that Strauss families around the world were part of one and the same family torn apart during the Shoah.

        Until DNA testing becomes universal among individuals interested in Jewish genealogy (and our Jewish DNA database grows every day), there are no guarantees that DNA research will expand your existing trees, but it will most certainly expand your understanding of your family’s place in the overall Jewish family tree. Undoubtedly you will find DNA matches to numerous individuals with whom you are related. Some close relative matches may appear from out of the blue as Mark Strauss’ did, while other predicted relationships may predate records and not be readily apparent. The important lesson from the Strauss study was that many of the family members whom he matched had been previously tested; Mark had even tested himself. To quote the genetic genealogist Israel Pickholtz: “You do not just get DNA tested so you can find people; you also get tested so that others may find YOU.”

        The types of tests offered and the prices charged for them change frequently. You can stay up to date on these by participating in the Avotaynu DNA project, which offers expert advice on DNA testing and will help answer your questions. Keep abreast of the Project by enrolling for Avotaynu Online at
        http://tinyurl.com/oygl3dr and participate directly in the Avotaynu Project directly by either enrolling your existing test or by purchase a new test at http://tinyurl.com/pd8zjk2. For personal answers to your questions, feel free to email us at AvotaynuDNA@.... Additional information about the project can be found at http://www.avotaynuonline.com/2015/12/ announcing-avotaynu-dna-project.

        USCIS Announces Two Genealogy Webinars
        The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has announced two webinars to be conducted by USCIS historian Marian Smith as part of its “History and Genealogy ‘Your Questions’” webinar series. The first, “The Curious Case of Albert Miller,” will be held on January 22 at 10 a.m., Sacramento time. This presentation will discuss the search for answers in the case of an immigrant who arrived at Philadelphia in 1908. Questions raised by Albert Miller’s naturalization documents lead to additional information in a variety of places and some very surprising results. At the time of the event, go to
        https://connect16.uc.att.com/EventEntry/ Websites/?VaccId=uscis&ExEventID=82058965&CT=M&oldee=1 to log on. This session will not be recorded.

        The second webinar will be held on March 25, again at 10 a.m. This will be the more usual USCIS genealogy webinar, a question and answer session. Submit questions to Ms. Smith by March 11 via e-mail to
        cishistory.library@... with the subject line “Your Questions Webinar.” If your question relates to a document, attach a copy of the document to the e-mail. Documents submitted with questions may be shared and discussed during the live webinar. To ensure the hour is of interest to the widest audience, questions answered will be those most commonly asked or that generate the most useful answers.

        Information about USCIS webinars can be found at http://www.uscis.gov/HGWebinars.

        See you on the 17th, 10 a.m.
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