Jewish Genealogical Society
March 1, 2010
Upcoming genealogy-related TV programs this week:
Wednesday, March 3, 8 p.m., Channel 6 (PBS), last segment of “Faces of America” with Dr. Henry Louis Gates.
Friday, March 5, 8 p.m. , Channel 3 (NBC) -- “Who do you think you are?”
Upcoming JGSS Meetings:
Sunday, March 21, 10 a.m. – Holocaust Survivor Liz Igra
Sunday, April 18, 10 a.m. –Facial Recognition Technology, Daniel Horowitz
Sunday, May 16, 10 a.m. -- Handwriting Analysis, Leslie Nye
Notes from February 21, 2010 Meeting
President Mort Rumberg called the meeting to order and introduced a new member. Welcome to Suzanne Donachie, who is researching Chicago relatives.
Mort mentioned that the Einstein Center is broadcasting live programs from New York City’s 92nd Street Y. The lectures and a buffet dinner are $25. For more information, call 972-9555.
Upcoming meetings -- on March 21, we have Liz Igra, a Holocaust survivor; on April 18, Daniel Horowitz, talking about facial recognition software; on May 16, Leslie Nye will talk about handwriting analysis; on June 21, the president of Sacramento’s Root Cellar will talk about “Research out of the Box;” on August 8 (date change), Aaron Joos of Antwerp will talk about “One Foot in America,” a talk he will have given at the July conference; and on October 17, Dale Friedman will present an introduction to Jewish genealogy.
Bob Wascou noted that a recent story in the Bee highlighted “Dr. Bob” La Perriere, who gives historical tours of the old city cemetery. Our Bob said he will be doing some research at the cemetery, which is associated with the Center for Sacramento History.
Root Cellar/Sacramento Genealogical Society is holding its spring seminar Saturday, March 27 from 9 a.m. to 3:45 p.m. The featured speaker will be Daniel M. Lynch, author of "Google Your Family Tree". He will conduct four sessions:
1--Introduction to Google for Genealogists
2--Using Google for Genealogy Research
3--Google News Archive, Google News Timelines and Google Alerts
4--Google Images, Video and other Tools for Genealogists
A registration form and more details about the seminar are available at www.rootcellar.org. Space is limited so don’t delay if you’re interested in attending.
Treasurer Allan Bonderoff reports that we have $1,556.20 in our checking account as of February 21.
February Speaker, Victoria Fisch -- Jews of the Gold Rush -- Who Knew?
Victoria presented a historical overview of pioneer Jewish merchants in Northern California. She has prepared a chapter for an upcoming publication by Avotaynu.
“On Passover we ask four questions -- today I have five,” she says. “Why did Jews come; where did they come from and where did they go; when did they come; what did they do; and who were they.
Here is some of what Victoria mentioned in her presentation.
Why did they come and where did they come from?
In 1848, it was the year of the revolutions in Europe.
There were1848 reforms in Prussia, but they resulted in a big backlash, with anti-Jewish riots. The Jews in Bohemia and Moravia formed militias for protection.
Earlier in France, in 1830, the government took over control of the rabbis and Jewish institutions. There were riots in Alsace in eastern France and some Jews crossed the border to the other side of the Rhine.
From 1845-1871, the number of Jewish emigrants, not including those in the Austro-Hungarian empire, totaled about 110,000. About half were from Prussia, the next largest group from Bavaria.
1871 was the Franco-Prussian war which had an impact as well.
Why did they come to California?
The California Gold Rush: In 1848, President James Polk mentions the gold in his State of the Union speech. Within two months, there were no sailing vessels left on the eastern seaboard.
How did they get here?
Victoria says there were several methods of travel. The first was ships. New Orleans was the 2nd largest port of entry during the Gold Rush, after New York. By land, there were both northern and southern routes of travel to California.
To get to California, ships could go around the horn, requiring an extended journey, or go through the isthmus of Panama, with cholera prevalent at the time. Victoria read an account of the Panama travel, involving mules, malaria, cholera and heat.
Arrivals at the port of San Francisco in 1848 totaled 98. In 1849, it jumped to 500, and in 1850, to 12,000.
Because the fares for steamships, stagecoaches, etc. were expensive, it weeded out those who made the trip. “You had to have money to get here.”
When did they come to California?
Beginning with the gold strikes, Victoria extends the Gold Rush period to the beginning of the 20th century.
What did Jewish immigrants do?
They were merchants, something they were well-equipped to do, Victoria says, given their experience with agrarian economies. They were able to do the same in California.
The first established merchants were in big cities; then, it was typical to send single male relatives to outposts and camps.
Victoria says the tax records for 1862-65 were filled with Jewish names.
The Jewish experience in the Gold Rush -- Victoria says it was very unique -- different than for those who came in the 1880s and 1890s to eastern cities.
Because there were new mining towns, it was an open, integrated situation for Jews -- the pioneer environment enabled them to participate as equals.
Victoria cited Robert Levinson and his doctoral thesis, “The Jews of the California Gold Rush,” which we have in our library. Levinson notes that longtime Jewish residents could not recall incidents of anti-semitism. “The acceptance of Jewish citizens extended to newspaper accounts,” Victoria says, “and the papers always published the dates and times of high holiday services.”
Victoria also noted that there was more assimilation with the Jews in California versus those back east. “There was freedom to intermarry -- something not seen on the eastern seaboard.”
I.J. Benjamin, a Moravian traveler, authored “Three Years in America,” writing about his visits to the gold fields. He encouraged Jews to buy land and purchase cemeteries.
Victoria provided a handout on the pioneer Jewish cemeteries (some of which the Sacramento JGS has visited and worked in over the years). She says there are eight Jewish cemeteries in the Gold Country, along with one in Sacramento, three in Stockton. Some are still in use.
“I think the most beautiful one if the one in Sonora,” Victoria says. There is one in Oroville, maintained by the city, and six under the direction of a Magnes Museum commission.
Yolo County -- in 1891 a Woodland Burial Society was formed, with the last interment in 1939.
A handout was distributed on cemeteries in Sacramento, Stockton and the Gold County. Victoria also provided information on Gold Rush synagogues, congregations and benevolent societies.
Jews were also enthusiastic participants in fraternal organizations – the Masons, Odd Fellows, etc., Victoria says.
Victoria showed a wedding guest list for nuptials held in San Francisco -- there were 85 guests from throughout Northern California and beyond.
“The other answer to what did the Jews do -- merchant’s fortunes were based on mine’s successes. Some merchants stayed in a particular area, others left.”
After 1879, only a handful of Jews remained in the Gold Rush areas -- most had moved to the port areas.
Who were they?
Albert Abraham Michelson was the first American to win the Nobel prize in physics (focusing on the measure of velocity of light).
In the 1850s he lived in Murphys in Calaveras County, then moved to Virginia City. He had gone to hi
gh school in San Francisco and then to West Point.
Philip Charles (P.C.) Cohn -- He had a business in New York then came west with his father for the Fraser gold strike in British Columbia (1862). By 1863, he came back to Sacramento and started a mercantile store. In 1904 P.C. was a California delegate to the Democratic convention and elected senator from Sacramento from 1913-16.
He purchased 60 acres in Orangevale, 240 acres in El Dorado County and seven acres in the Tahoe area. After he died in 1928, a park in Folsom was named after him. “Bob Wascou e-mailed me his funeral record ... currently his headstone is missing.”
Victoria says as more and more databases are put onto Ancestry, she’s getting more and more hits, for naturalization records, passport applications and more. “I believe in exploiting Ancestry to the max,” she says.
Victoria notes you can put in just the first three letters of a name, followed by an asterisk; you can do first-name only searches, and no-name searches, putting in dates or states.
Victoria cites a few books of interest:
-- The Age of Revolution -- “very readable.”
-- Pioneer Jewish Cemeteries
-- Businesses of Jews in Louisiana
-- The Jewish Settlement in Sacramento (Wyatt, 1987)
-- Ava Kahn’s book -- Jewish Voices of the California Gold Rush -- “very dense.”
“My perception is that with most of the books,” she says, “your head will spin. I don’t believe there is a book out there that gives you a comprehensive picture of the Jews of the Gold Rush.”
Victoria brought many of the books she researched to her presentation; several are part of our JGSS library.
From the JGS of the Conejo Valley (Ventura County) newsletter:
NARA MOVES TO PERRIS
As of March 1, the National Archives and Records Administration facility previously located in Laguna Niguel has moved to Perris in Riverside County. The move is being made for cost-savings to the federal government. The address for the new regional archive is:
National Archives at Riverside
23123 Cajalco Road
Perris, CA 92570
COLLECTIONS OF JEWISH CULTURE
Ten institutions across Europe have joined forces to provide online access to their Jewish culture collections. The joint project, called "Judaica Europeana," is part of an effort to digitize
many of Europe's cultural resources. The European Commission provided a major grant for
Judaica Europeana. The first phase of this project can be visited at www.judaica-europeana.eu.
From the Orlando Sentinel:
Daughter discovers a genealogy gold mine in father's letters
Joanie Schirm talks about her father's collection of letters and documents. Since her father Dr. Oswald A. Holzer's death in 2000, she has amassed an extensive collection of his World War II-era letters, documenting the impact of the Nazi regime on his life. (Joe Burbank, Orlando Sentinel / February 15, 2010)Jeff Kunerth, Orlando Sentinel February 21, 2010
In the upstairs rec room of her home on Lake Concord, Joanie Schirm has spread her father's life over a leather-sheathed pool table. Curled black-and-white photographs spill from overstuffed envelopes. There's a stack of home movie canisters, plastic filing boxes with hanging folders of documents, and thick binders with letters written in Czech 70 years ago.
Her father, Oswald Holzer, a Jewish physician, deserted the Czechoslovakian Army in 1939 as Nazi Germany overtook the country and conscripted the army. He ended up in China where, eight days after they met, he married Ruth Alice Lequear on Sept. 20, 1940.
Nearly 60 years later, when Oswald and Ruth died within three days of each other, Schirm and her siblings discovered 534 documents dating back to 1885 and including 392 letters written to her father by 78 different people during World War II.
"It was a great gift to me," she said. "My sense is that it was meant for me to do this. It was meant for me to free all these voices."
Schirm is 61, a solid gold member of the Baby Boom generation that is spurring a resurgence of interest in ancestry and genealogy. Two new television shows are devoted to people digging up their past. The popular on-line genealogy website Ancestry.com has an estimated 850,000 paid subscribers.
"We Baby Boomers are getting to the place in our lives where this craze for genealogy is going to get bigger and bigger," said Schirm, who owned a successful engineering firm and was instrumental in bringing World Cup soccer to Orlando in 1994. "My message is to do it while you can. There are so many questions I wish I could ask my parents."
Schirm will share what she has learned from exploring her father's life at a talk on genealogical research Tuesday at the Congregation of Reform Judaism in Orlando.
Some of what she discovered includes:
•44 of her ancestors, including her paternal grandparents, perished in the Holocaust.
•Czech is a hard language to learn.
•The Czech tailor who made her father's Army riding britches hanging on the wall of the rec room was executed in 1942 for his role in the assassination of Reinhard Heydrick, the Nazi overlord of Czechoslovakia who came up with the plan to create extermination camps as the "final solution to the Jewish problem."
The letters, the documents, the photographs and movies her father left behind are a genealogist's dream — a rare opportunity for Schirm to travel back in time and crawl inside her father's mind. Because Holzer kept carbon copies of the letters he wrote, she can read conversations between him, his friends and relatives that took place decades before her birth.
The letter that means the most to Schirm was discovered eight years after her father's death on the bottom shelf of a cabinet he made that stored his children's board games.
It was the last letter written to Oswald from his father, Arnost Holzer. It was dated April 21, 1942 — three days before Arnost and his wife were sent by the Nazis to the Czechoslovakian ghetto and from there to their death at an extermination camp.
Arnost's letter begins, "My dear boy," and says, "I am not certain whether I will see you ever again, so I decided to write these lines as my good bye to you." And then it offers this advice to his son, the doctor: "I wish for you to find full satisfaction in your profession. I also wish that your profession of curing doesn't just become a source of wealth for you, but that you yourself become a benefactor to the suffering humanity."
In those final words, Schirm said, she recognized the origins of her father's compassion for others and the stacks of billing receipts he left behind with the notation "NC" — no charge.
She has compiled her father's letters and her own research into a book she calls My Dear Boy: A Memoir by Joanie Schirm.
"My father would love this," Schirm said. "He was a great storyteller and in the end I'm telling his last story."
Schirm's talk on genealogical research takes place at 1 p.m., Tuesday at the Congregation of Reform Judaism, 928 Malone Dr., Orlando. Jeff Kunerth can be reached at jkunerth@... or 407-420-5392.
Copyright © 2010, Orlando Sentinel
See you Sunday, March 21.
- Upcoming Meetings:--Sunday, Sept. 27, 10 a.m. – Glenn Kurtz, “Three Minutes in Poland – Discovery of a Lost World in a 1938 Film”--Sunday, Oct. 18, 10 a.m., Susan Miller, “Jews in a Moslem World”
JGSS minutes for meeting on August 2, 2015Mort Rumberg took the minutes for Susanne Levitsky who was not present. (Thanks, Mort!)President Victoria Fisch made several announcements concerning scheduling and various genealogical events. She noted that the JGSS will participate in the annual Food Faire on August 30. Volunteers are welcome.Mort provided a quick tour of his eight days in Israel for the 35th annual International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies. He has a data stick with about two-dozen speaker handouts. The conference program was passed around and if people would like a copy of a conference presentation’s handout, email Mort and he will forward it (his email address is below). He noted that not all presentations had handouts. He said it was an incredible experience being there and would like to return and see the many other sights he missed.President Fisch introduced the speaker, Dr. Valerie Jordan, who spoke about Family Secrets and Genealogy – how genealogy may intentionally or accidentally uncover hidden family secrets.Dr. Jordan is a Ph.D. in Developmental Psychology, now retired. Born and raised in New York City, she came to California in 1977. She is a second generation American from Odessa (her maternal great-great grandmother), and from Bucharest (her maternal grandmother). She passed around photos of a very handsome couple (her grandmother and grandfather) and a family photo showing four generations.Valerie defined secrets as being an intentional concealment of information from others. The information can be shameful, painful, or harmful to others. She differentiated this from privacy, which she defined as a person not wanting to share information, but the information is not shameful, painful, or harmful. She also differentiated it from unknown or forgotten information or stories.When would you intentionally tell people of a family secret? These are some of the times: When they are “old” enough to handle the information; when a specific milestone or family event is reached and it is appropriate; when symptoms or distress becomes unmanageable and needs to be revealed.Secrets take many forms. Valerie discussed the following examples of secrets that families may not want revealed:Religious secrets – possible crypto or converso Jews in the family history.Biological secrets – she gave the example of Bobby Darin’s story where he was devastated when he discovered that his “sister” was actually his mother.Secret families – Charles Lindbergh had seven secret children.Political secrets – Perhaps someone in the family having, for example, a communist party background – “red” diaper babies, slavery secretsSecret affairsMental health secrets – such as suicide, addictions, mental illness, sexual orientation/identity, abuse, etc.Adoption secretsIncarceration secretsMilitary service secretsNext, Valerie discussed genograms. Genograms are charts or pictorial displays used in family therapy and medicine to gather family history, relationship patterns, stories and medical histories. It displays medical history and family stories in a creative and non-genealogical chart. The charts use symbols and terms to describe family members and their relationships and are used by many therapists. She provided examples of such charts using Martin Luther King, Jr.’s family and Bill Clinton’s family.Obviously these types of charts have advantages and disadvantages.Advantages include obtaining useful information in a collaberative and engaging manner; observing family patterns across generations; collecting stories of resilience and hardships; possibly uncovering toxic family secrets and unknown relationships.Disadvantages include providing too much detail; exposing secrets too soon; too much focus on the past; identifying relationships that a client or family member may not be ready for or even want to know. There can be little information available or too few relatives to ask.Genograms are different from genealogical family trees: vital statistics and absolutely correct data are not essential, since the focus of a genogram chart is on relationships and stories. However, these charts can be useful as an adjunct to family trees.Valerie discussed secrets within her own family, indicating that she had known the “story” her mother told her in 1967 about her maternal grandfather, but subsequently found out that her mother’s story was “wrong.” Research convinced her that her mother’s story was wrong, possibly hiding a secret. She used census data, naturalization documents, passport and travel documents, city directories, marriage certificates, and his obituary in a Marin County newspaper in May, 1962, to flesh out her family story. The information was displayed in a genogram. She is still looking for more details.This presentation was extraordinarily interesting and exceptional for the questions and audience participation it stimulated.Mort has a copy of her PowerPoint presentation and it is available upon request. Send an email to mortrumberg1@....Morton M. RumbergFrom Gary Mokotoff’s Avotaynu E-Zines:
New Website Identifies Victims of Disasters
Was a member of your genealogical family the victim of a train wreck, significant fire, flood, shipwreck, plane crash or other disaster? The Eastman Online Genealogy Newsletter notes there is a website, http://www3.gendisasters.com, that identifies such persons.
The authors of the site must have spent hundred of hours copying newspaper accounts of the disaster and lists of the persons dead and injured or missing. There are 99 air disasters for New York State alone. The well-known Triangle Shirtwaist fire is included, of course. There are 90 overall results for persons names Cohen.
Site Identifies More Than 5,000 Facebook Sites That Focus On Genealogy
Katherine R. Willson of Ann Arbor, Michigan, has undertaken the monumental task of identifying more than 5,000 Facebook sites that focus on genealogy. The Jewish section has 25 entries.
The number of Facebook sites devoted to Jewish genealogy is even greater because the list does not cross-reference a number of items. For example, not included in the Jewish portion is “Jewish Memory, History & Genealogy in Moldova” which is found only in the Moldova section, and “Dutch Jewish Genealogy” found only in the Netherlands section. It would be wise to first examine the Jewish list and then use your browser’s search engine to locate any item on the list that has the word “Jewish” or “Jews” in its name. This also applies to place names. Toronto Facebook sites appear in numerous sections.
Browse the Table of Contents to understand the scope and organization of the list. The database is located at https://moonswings.files.wordpress.com/2015/07/ genealogy-on-facebook-list-aug-2015.pdf.
“Right To Be Forgotten” May Be Spreading
If you are interested in following the battle over the European Union’s “Right To Be Forgotten” ruling, the New York Times has published a comprehensive article about the subject describing the position of the rule’s advocates as well as opponents. It is at http://tinyurl.com/R2BForgotten. Another lengthy discussion can be found at https://euobserver.com/opinion/129823.
NARA and Ancestry.com Plan To Renew Their Partnership Agreement
For seven years the U.S National Archives and Record Administration (NARA) and Ancestry.com have operated under an agreement where Ancestry.com and its subsidiary Fold3 can scan documents at the Archives and have exclusive use to these images for five years. Ancestry is permitted to charge for access to the documents. After five years, NARA can use the images in any way it cares to, including making them available to the public at no charge.
The two organizations are now renewing the agreement with some changes that benefit the genealogical community.
• The five-year embargo previously started when Ancestry.com placed the images online at their site. Now the clock will start running when they complete the scanning process. Apparently it can take up to two years for Ancestry to place the images online, so the clock will start earlier.
• The updated agreement encourages Ancestry to post segments of large collections immediately rather than waiting for the entire collection to be completed.
• The new agreement outlines NARA’s commitment to protecting Personally Identifiable Information (PII) and more specifically spells out Ancestry’s responsibilities if PII is identified.
Kaunas City Government Agrees to Maintain Jewish Cemetery
Lithuanian governments at all levels have been severely criticized by some Jewish organizations for refusing to recognize government complicity in the murder of Lithuanian Jews during the Holocaust period. Now the Kaunas City Municipality has agreed to maintain a Jewish cemetery in its city at the request of Maceva, the organization involved in maintaining and documenting the remaining Jewish cemeteries in Lithuania. The city plans to tend to the cemetery in several stages and has allocated €8,000 for the inventory and identification of graves. Additional information is at http://tinyurl.com/KaunasJewishCemetery. It includes a number of photographs of the current condition of the cemetery.
Maceva has its own site at http://www.litvak-cemetery.info/en. Its home page includes a map of Lithuania showing the location of all known Jewish cemeteries.
Maceva Matching Grant Program. An anonymous donor has offered a matching grant up to $5,000 for the Maceva Cemetery Project. All donations to Maceva made between August 4 and August 31 are eligible to be included in this offer. Go to http://www.litvaksig.org/contribute to make a donation. Select "Maceva Cemetery Project" as the Special Project.
“New” Database: Name Changes in the Palestine Gazette
The Israel Genealogy Research Association is adding more databases to their site at http://genealogy.org.il/. One of them, “Name Changes in the Palestine Gazette,” is a list of more than 28,000 persons, mostly Jews, who legally changed their names while living in Palestine during the British Mandate period from 1921–1948. This database has an interesting history.
I (Gary Mokotoff) am known for creating some of the earliest—pre-Internet—databases for Jewish genealogy including today’s JewishGen Family Finder and the Family Tree of the Jewish People. A lesser known one is titled “Name Changes in the Palestine Gazette.” This minor database has significance today because it was the genesis of the Daitch-Mokotoff Soundex System.
The story: At the Jerusalem conference held in 1984, I met the late Rabbi Shmuel Gorr, who was one of the first professional Jewish genealogists. He wrote to me a few months later, knowing I was in the computer services business, stating he wanted to create a database of Jews who legally changed their name during the British Mandate period. These names were published in the official publication called the “Palestine Gazette.” He’d send me photocopies of the pages from the “Gazette” and I’d computerize the list organizing them by original name and new name. This database was valuable to genealogy because many people knew they had relatives who made aliyah (immigration) during the 1920s and 1930s and changed their name but they did not know the new name.
The list was compiled, placed on microfiche, and distributed to all Jewish Genealogical Societies.
The project was the genesis of the Daitch-Mokotoff Soundex System. At that time, I observed that the European names being changed had many spelling variants. Being familiar with the American Soundex System developed by Robert Russell in 1918, I applied this system to the European names and found it did not work. One significant problem was that those names spelled interchangeably with the letter w or v, for example, the names Moskowitz and Moskovitz, did not have the same soundex code. So I developed by own soundex system and applied it to the Palestine Gazette names. This modification to the U.S. soundex system was published in the first issue of AVOTAYNU, in an article titled "Proposal for a Jewish Soundex Code." Randy Daitch read the article and made significant improvements to what I had developed. The joint effort became known as the Daitch-Mokotoff Soundex System which today is used by JewishGen; the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS) for retrieving case histories; and the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum. It can be used to search the Ellis Island database of 24 million immigrants at the Stephen P. Morse One-Step site.~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~See you at the end of September.