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Genealogy Update

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  • SusanneLevitsky@aol.com
    Jewish Genealogical Society of Sacramento www.jgss.org March 1, 2010 Upcoming genealogy-related TV programs this week: Wednesday, March 3, 8 p.m., Channel
    Message 1 of 37 , Mar 1, 2010
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      Jewish Genealogical Society

      of Sacramento



      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?” 

      Follow the heartwarming journeys of Sarah Jessica Parker, Emmitt Smith, Lisa Kudrow, Matthew Broderick, Brooke Shields, Susan Sarandon and Spike Lee as they embark on a journey to discover the story of their ancestors. From Salem witches to French royalty to former slaves, the stories they uncover hold fascinating twists and turns that are at times touching, at times heartwrenching and always revelatory.

      Who Do You Think You Are? also shares ideas and research strategies that could help you make new breakthroughs — and help people understand what they can discover about their own families.


      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:

      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




      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

      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

      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.

    • SusanneLevitsky@...
      April 9, 2014 Upcoming Meetings -- Sunday, April 20 (Easter Sunday), Lynn Brown: U.S. Citizenship Records and Research Sunday, May 18, Leon Malmed:
      Message 37 of 37 , Apr 8 3:16 PM
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      April 9, 2014
      Upcoming Meetings --   
      Sunday, April 20 (Easter Sunday),  Lynn Brown:  "U.S. Citizenship Records and Research"
      Sunday, May 18, Leon Malmed: "Surviving a Secret Childhood in Nazi-Occupied France"
      Sunday, June 15, Steve Morse: The Julian Calendar and Its Importance to Genealogists"
      March 16, 2014 Meeting Notes
      Mort Rumberg called the meeting and welcomed members and guests. He noted that President Victoria Fisch, who could not be present, was the subject of an article in The Voice, about an exhibit she curated at the Folsom History Museum on Pioneer Jews of the Gold Rush.  She will be speaking about the exhibit at a meeting in Davis March 23.
      On April 4, Root Cellar will hold their annual Spring Seminar in Sacramento.
      Bob Wascou update -- We're pleased to hear that Bob is now at home and can receive cards and emails; no calls or visits yet. 
      Abraham Spivak -- Longtime JGSS member Abraham sent us a note that he is moving to the Spring Lake Village senior community in Santa Rosa to be closer to one of his children. We wish him well and hope he'll stay in touch.
      March Program -- Frederic Hertz
      "Finding David Blumenfeld: A Family Reunited through Discovery of a Diary"
      Frederic Hertz said there were four ways he got to know his family -- from the family narrative, from the discovered diary, from what you learn on the Internet, and "what we learned when we got on a plane to Latvia."
      Frederic said he was fortunate to grow up in St. Paul, Minnesota  with all four of his grandparents living.
      Three-fourths of them were born within a 100 miles of each other, and the other within 200 miles, in an area of western Latvia.  It was outside the Pale of settlement but not in Germany, although German-speaking,
      His great-grandfather, David Blumenfeld, was born in 1863.  He came to America in 1884, to a town in Michigan. "One of the rules was that Jews didn't compete with other Jews." So hiis great-grandfather moved on to South St. Paul, Minnesota, where there was no men's store.
      David and his great-grandmother had four children .  One of the daughters was rebellious and became a Christian -- it was her grandson who found Blumenfeld's diary.  The youngest  of the four children went to Harvard Law School in 1923.
      The family did not respect David as a writer-- "My mother thought he did so to get away from his wife."
      David did not got to synagogue often, but did undertake a 500-page translation of the Old Testament in rhyming verse.  He had it published by a vanity press. David died in 1955.
      In 2009, the family found a box of his unpublished work -- eight unpublished novels and the diary.  "My Episcopalian second cousin found the box in a basement laundry room," Frederic said.  The cousin had all the works PDF'ed for family members.
      The cousin's mother, David's daughter, was a poet and a writer, probably why she ended up with the books. She then passed on the box to her son.
      The book called "Diary" is a slightly fictionalized family story, but everything has turned out to be true, Frederic said.  Through three-fourths of the book, the names are changed, then in the last fourth, they change to real names.
      "It was pretty intense for my family," Frederic said. "My mother and my aunt did not want their portions published."
      The diary's events began in 1840, although written in 1920.
      What did the family learn from the research?
      "We decided it wasn't enough to read all these things," Frederic said.  "We wanted to go there."  He said five of them made the trip, just the right number.  "It was a pivotal experience."
      Those on the trip included Frederic's sister, Deborah, chair of the Judaic Studies Program at UC San Diego.
      Frederic said they met with the head of the Jewish Museum in Riga who pulled out books on the history of their great-grandfather's village. The family's store on the town square appeared in photos for many years, until it was demolished in 1945.
      They thought the name of one of his great-grandfathers was Gottschalk, but discovered it was Klatsov, which means laborer. Families had to take German names.
      "We decided we were going to recreate David's trip to the United States.  There's still a boat that goes to Hamburg -- we took the same boat ride, at the same time of year."
      Frederic said that all during his childhood, "we thought we didn't have any family who died in the Holocaust," he said. But he found a Yad Vashem record for David Klatsov.
      Back to David Blumenfeld  -- Frederic says he came to America because he was going nowhere in Latvia.  "There weren't really any pogroms there; it was more of an economic migration than a flight from anti-semitism."
      But the younger brother of his ancestors, who owned a leather goods store on the village square, "was killed by the Latvians with the Nazis looking on."  Testimony about him was submitted by his daughter in Haifa, which gave Frederic another connection to research, finding one relative had moved to the Bay Area.  "All this research, and [one relative] knew everything, and he lived 10 miles from me."
      Summing up his journey sparked by the diary, Frederic said:
      "I have come to understand my family, its values and a sense of history, along with many of their internal conflicts, in a way I never could, but for this."
      "I felt like I understand my past; it also helped explain the life they created in the Midwest."
      What Frederic and family did on their trip:
                  -- Visited a historian and archivist during their three days in Riga, hired one for the day in Tukkums, the family's village.  They also visited Vilnius, in Lithuania, where there is a "very moving ghetto museum."
      Frederic's book recommendations: David Laskin's "The Family"  -- Frederic says it talks about the three Jewish families entering the 20th century -- one in New York, one in Palestine, and one in Ukraine.
      Ellen Cassedy's "We are Here: Memories of the Lithuanian Holocaust."
      From the National Archives:
      Have Your Say: Open Government at the Archives!
      by Meredith Stewart on April 2, 2014
      It’s that time again! We are developing the agency’s third Open Government Plan and we need your suggestions for 2014-2016.
      Take a look at our overview of proposed actions for this plan and our previous plan and tell us what you would like to see included. How do you think we should further transparency, participation, and collaboration at the National Archives?
      We’re looking for your feedback on a variety of topics, including:
      ·         Innovation, crowdsourcing, and public engagement
      ·         Digitization and online public access
      ·         Freedom of Information Act (FOIA)
      ·         Declassification
      ·         Records management
      Post your suggestions on this blog post, or email opengov@.... Please send us your suggestions by April 23, 2014 so they can be considered for the plan.
      Southern California Jamboree 2014
      It's coming June 6-8 at the Los Angeles Marriott Hotel in Burbank.  This the 45th annual Jamboree hosted by the Southern California Genealogical Society.  Art Yates is a longtime attendee and sings its praises … for details on this year's event, "Golden Memories: Discovering Your Family's History," go to the  Jamboree websitehttp://r20.rs6.net/on.jsp?ca=6c983984-ce69-4964-8f20-e396b4cf360a&a=1103157486799&d=1116824501552&r=3&o=http://ui.constantcontact.com/images/p1x1.gif&c=3f9c3130-aa60-11e3-874d-d4ae529a8639&ch=40532520-aa60-11e3-87a8-d4ae529a8639April 30 is the deadline for early-bird reservations.

      Tracing your family tree? The 10 best apps to help you find your relatives

      Laura Berry, lead genealogist for BBC1's Who Do You Think You Are?, offers an expert's guide to aid your online searches
      • Laura Berry   The Observer, Saturday 5 April 2014 02.00 EDT
      Laura Berry BBC1
      Laura Berry, the lead genealogist for BBC1's Who Do You Think You Are? Photo: James Higgins
      A decade ago there was no point even considering researching your roots if you weren't prepared to spend days, months or potentially years trawling through dusty registers and reels of microfilm in an archive where the temperature is controlled at near Arctic conditions. Now I can browse centuries of marriage records on my iPad while basking in the sunshine.
      The internet opened up a world of possibilities for anyone eager to find out, at the click of a button, if a First World War soldier, merchant seaman or criminal lurks in their family tree. What's more, you can start the process anywhere, surrounded by family, and this is where the best genealogy apps come into their own.
      The smartphone has given us so many tools rolled into one – a video camera for recording uncle Albert's war stories, a voice recorder for the camera shy, interactive maps so you can find the house where your grandfather was born and a pocket scanner for quickly capturing copies of great aunt Ethel's ration book before she chucks it out without telling you.
      Before you know it you'll be infected with the genealogy bug, seeking out the nearest archive in search of all those documents that haven't yet been digitised.
      interviewy app
      Interviewing your family is the best place to begin. This voice recording app offers clear sound, good basic functionality and the option to tag audio files that you have saved. If you want to keep the interviews for posterity, using a plug-in microphone with your smartphone or tablet will improve the quality further still.
      Start building your family tree and find your ancestors in billions of historic records. This works best when used with a monthly subscription to the Ancestry website. Individual family records can be bought by non-subscribers (up to £1.49 a document), which is useful, but the subscription allowing unlimited downloads is more cost-effective.
      who do you
      Who Do You Think You Are? magazine is the UK's leading family history monthly. This forum app gives access to a rapidly growing genealogy community online. Somewhere for newbies to ask for friendly pointers and for experienced hands to share advice. It is also a good place to pick up birth, marriage and death certificates.
      Family trees that are easy to build and to view even offline. There are three privacy settings and a function to create a fast family tree by connecting with relatives via Facebook. If you want to view historical documents, including census returns, wills and nonconformist records, you have to pay to subscribe via TheGenealogist website.
      Another great tool for creating and editing your tree. A useful feature allows photographs to be incorporated. Has a good but basic facility for looking up records, but you need to pay a full subscription to view search results. It supports 32 languages and is renowned for its worldwide genealogy community, helping you link to relatives overseas.
      Designed to help you search for family graves worldwide, but equally useful for those who want to share their findings via crowdsourcing. Add photographs of headstones and transcribe memorial inscriptions to build up the database. Also lets you post a request for local volunteers to search for your ancestor's headstone in a cemetery. To maximise the results, use Find A Grave in combination with Billiongraves, another great app that's suitable for Android and iOS.
      Links with Dropbox and iTunes so that you can view trees and research logs created with RootsMagic desktop software. Gedcom files can also be converted from other genealogy software companies for viewing as RootsMagic files while you are out and about. Contains tools, including a date calculator, perpetual calendar, and relationship calculator.
      Every genealogist needs a first-class filing system and One Note is proving a credible competitor to the popular Evernote app. Incorporate digital photographs of old letters, clippings from genealogy websites, videos and audio interviews into your searchable notes, share them with relatives and sync with all your devices.
      reunion app
      IPHONE, IPAD (£10.49)
      Accompanies one of the best family tree building software programmes, Reunion. Easy to use and with detailed but simple layouts, this app lets you work seamlessly on the go. The one downside is that it is available only for those who already have the full software package installed on a Mac.
      Pin old family photographs of a known area on to an interactive map and search for thousands of images uploaded by museums and archives. Great for comparing changes to the places where your ancestors lived or worked, as it overlays historical scenes on to Google Street View. Browse by date or location to find images and stories behind them.
      The Guardian is running a Masterclass on researching your family tree on alternative dates in May and June 2014
      See you  at our next meeting, Sunday, April 20
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