Jewish Genealogical Society
April 4, 2010
Sunday, April 18, 10 a.m. – Daniel Horowitz, Facial Recognition Technology for Genealogy
Sunday, May 16, 10 a.m. – Leslie Nye, Handwriting Analysis
Monday, June 21, 7 p.m. -- Marilyn Ulbricht, “Digging It, Researching Outside the Box”
Notes from March 21, 2010 Meeting
Bob Wascou called the meeting to order; President Mort Rumberg was away visiting a new grandchild.
Bob noted that Sacramento’s Central Library allows you to book a 30-minute genealogy session for free. Call 916-264-2920 or register online at www.saclibrary.org. There are upcoming programs on May 16 and 23.
The Sonoma County Genealogical Society is holding a seminar April 24 in Santa Rosa. For details go to www.scgs.org.
Family History Day at the State Archives is set for Saturday, October 9. We’ll plan to have a table once again.
In May, our JGSSS will hold an election for next year’s officers. Burt Hecht and Carl Miller are on the nominating committee and would like to hear from you if you’re interested in serving in a position.
Mark Heckman encouraged people to make use of our library. “There’s probably at least one book on almost any topic.” Members are allowed to check out books for a month at a time.
Bob said he’s working on a database for Sacramento’s Home of Peace cemetery and researching to verify that the information he has is correct. “There is no complete list of the burials in the old cemetery,” Bob said, “and we’re trying to recreate that list.”
Allan Bonderoff treasurer’s report for March 21: there is $1661.70 in our account.
March Speaker – Liz Igra
Holocaust survivor Liz Igra of Sacramento shared her fascinating personal story with us in March. Liz is a retired teacher and speaks to schools about the Holocaust. She is 75 years old but was only about four when the events of World War II began to impact her life.
“Iris Bachman (a JGSS member) urged me to keep speaking to groups, and found documents for me, “Liz says. “She gave me the energy to go ahead.”
Liz found that in talking to people about the Holocaust, they knew history, dates and places “but didn’t understand. It became my quest to help teachers and kids understand.”
“I was not aware that what I was remembering was Hitler’s strategy of deception – I just remembered that it happened.”
Liz said her father was a surgeon educated in Switzerland; both he and her mother, as well as Liz, were born in Krakow, Poland.
“I was the first and only grandchild on both sides of the family and terribly spoiled,” she says. “I had a nanny and my mother had maids.”
Liz said her parents were pretty assimilated and did not speak Yiddish.
“The first thing I remember is when the Germans came to town and my aunt was told her husband wouldn’t be coming home tonight – he was needed for the war effort. He went to the Black Forest, where he was killed – although we didn’t know it at the time.”
Soon after that, Liz says the Germans came to their house and “very politely” asked if we could share the house with a German officer, and they did,.
Then they were told they needed ID badges with a star or armband. “Within weeks or months, we were told we needed to move to a certain part of town.” Liz says one part of their apartment faced the ghetto, the other side, the town. She said they were not hungry at first, since her father often received food in payment for his medical work.
“In 1942, the commandant of the ghetto told my father that there would be a relocation of women and children. My father took me and my mother to the bus stop, and that was the last time we saw him.”
Liz said the next morning the commandant said they could return and take what they could carry into the ghetto, which was made much smaller. “I was allowed to take my buggy with my doll.”
There wasn’t much food, Liz recalls. “What I remember most is the bread ration – black bread, sometimes with straw.”
Not long after she recalls a jeep coming down the street, with a man standing on top, shouting. He made everyone come out. “A mob of people was walking down the street, and not long after we heard horrible sounds of people screaming and crying, and shots being fired, and then cheering as people were being killed in the marketplace. There was a children’s massacre. The cobblestones started to turn pink. I never saw my aunt or little cousin after that.”
Liz said her nanny who had stayed in their house overhead that the ghetto would be liquidated. She was able to smuggle Liz and her mother out after they hid under her bed.
“We got on a train for Krakow and went to a safe house. Within days, there was a knock at the door, two uniformed and two non-uniformed men. The woman getting money from us was also getting money by denouncing us.”
Her mother asked to get a glass of water, and they were able to run downstairs to the street and escape. They got new papers and her mother got a job, putting Liz with a family while she worked.
“One day at lunch, someone told my mother, ‘I’m not sure if it’s true or not, but someone told me you were Jewish.’ That night, my mother and I got on the train and got off finally somewhere near the foot of the Carpathian Mountains. Then we started walking.”
Liz says they walked at night and hid during the day in the forest. “Our food was snow, sugar cubes and alcohol drops.”
Her mother recited children’s poetry, family stories and started teaching the multiplication tables. And then Liz got the chicken pox. Her mother had two choices – to risk being caught to get help for Liz, or to bury her in the forest. She picked the first and went to a forester’s hut.
The pair ended up joining a family with a guide – “my mother bribed everybody, she was prepared” – and they went from Czechoslovakia to Hungary. The guide told them at 6 o’clock that evening they should cross the road and would be in Hungary. Except that they were intercepted by border police and taken to jail.
“I thought I was in heaven,” Liz says, “with a shower and soup.”
A few days later Liz, her mother and others were marched down the street to a convent school. They heard terrible sounds from the room where people were taken, and they didn’t come back out. Liz’ mother was interviewed and told her husband looked Jewish. She slapped the officer’s face and they escaped the fate of the others.
Not longer after Liz and her mother ended up in the Budapest jail which wasn’t pleasant. They spent several months there but were released in fall 1943, probably due to lack of space. The next challenge? Liz contracted scarlet fever. She was placed in an isolation ward in a hospital.
The two remained in Hungary and were there when Budapest was liberated, which took six months, street by street.
“I was hungry a lot of the time during the war but this time we were starving,” Liz says. “My mother found a bag of horsefeed, wet it and put pieces on the stove and we had one meal a day. I remember asking my mother to remember, after the war, how to make these.”
The two were put on a cattle truck to go back to Krakow, still using their false names after the war. One day her mother finds her brother --Liz’ uncle. Aside from Liz, they were the only two from both sides of the family who survived the war. The uncle would not let them pretend any longer they weren’t Jewish.
Liz’ nanny, who had stayed in their house, had saved a lot of their possessions. They set her up with an apartment in Krakow and decided to go to France. They had tried to go to the United States but couldn’t get in. Eventually they made their way to Australia, where Liz went to school and later met her husband.
Liz talked about the deception of the Nazis. She learned that her father was taken to the Belzec camp, but not before he and the others got off the train at a building the Germans had made to look like a real station. They gave people tokens for their luggage and escorted them to the showers, where they received another token for their clothes. “600,000 people were murdered, and they were deceived until the last minute,” Liz says.
She says the Belzec camp existed only about nine months, and was one of only three camps set up explicitly for killing people, no labor.
Since she retired, Liz started organizing training for teachers about the Holocaust and created the
Central Valley Holocaust Educators’ Network, working with the U.S. Holocaust Museum. The Network offers model curricula, teacher lesson plans, reference material, fiction and nonfiction for children and adults, and video and audio tapes. She also stresses the importance of studying the roots of anti-Semitism.
The network is totally non-profit and can be reached at info@.... It worked with 60 teachers in February.
“Has my experience stopped me from living a full life? No,” Liz says.
Root Cellar Annual Seminar
This year’s Sacramento Root Cellar conference March 27 featured Daniel Lynch, author of “Google Your Family Tree” (and a book we have in our library.) Lynch spoke to several hundred local genealogy buffs and shared tips on how to narrow your Google searches, use Google books for genealogy research, use Google news archives, Google alerts, video and images.
Among Lynch’s tips for filtering Google searches:
Use the minus sign to exclude terms
Use the tilde sign (~) followed by your search term (for example, ~genealogy --no space between the tilde and the word --) to get words with similar meetings. (In the case of the word genealogy, the search also pulled up items with the words “family history, family tree, vital records” and other terms in them.)
The tilde in front of the word vintage -- ~vintage + postcards + a town name – in Google images will bring up old photos and postcards.
Use the wild card asterisk in between two words to capture anything that might show up in between in your search -- for example – “Patrick * Lynch” where it could be a middle initial or a full middle name.
Don’t hesitate to click on “cached” pages – which may be a capture of the last Web page, even if it isn’t currently available.
Root Cellar’s 2011 seminar will feature Geoff Rasmussen of the Legacy-Millennia Corporation on Saturday, April 9, 2011 in Sacramento. Rasmussen has spoken twice before and was invited back by popular demand.
From Gary Mokotoff’s Avotaynu E-Zine, April 4:
Footnote.com Makes U.S. Census Available at No Charge
Footnote.com is making its U.S. census index and images available at no charge. That is the good news. The bad news is that they have available only 6% of the 1900 census, 4% of the 1910 census, 3% of the 1920 census, 98% of the 1930 census and 100% of the 1860 census. The good news is that the 3% of the 1920 census includes much, if not all, of New York City. The 1910 census data includes Pittsburgh, and the 1900 census includes Chicago.
I use the Ancestry.com collection, but the value of another index is that it may not include the errors that exist in the first index. For example, I found a Mokotoff family in the Footnote database that was misspelled in the Ancestry index as Bokotoff.
Footnote still provides Holocaust-related records from the National Archives and U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum at no charge. Both the Holocaust and census databases can be accessed from the home page at http://www.footnote.com.
Online Education Courses by Family History Library
The Mormon Family History Library is now offering online education courses at no charge. The initial offerings are:
• England Beginning Research (5 courses)
• Germany Research (3 courses)
• Ireland Research (5 courses)
• Italy Research (1 course)
• Principios básicos para la investigación genealógica en Hispanoamérica (México) (3 courses)
• Research Principles and Tools (6 courses)
• Russia Research (2 courses)
• U.S. Research (4 courses)
I (Gary Mokotoff) listened to the first Russian course, given by Daniel Schlyter, and it was a good overview of the history and geography of Russia. The second course, also given by Schlyter, is about records and resources. The Library is reaching out to the professional genealogy community asking for people to volunteer to provide additional lectures for the collection.
The list of courses can be accessed from the home page by clicking “Free Online Classes.” The exact URL is http://www.familysearch.org/eng/library/education/frameset_education.asp?PAGE=education_research_series_
From the JGS of the Conejo Valley newsletter:
Ancestry.com has listed its new or improved collections (both US and International) in one handy place: http://tinyurl.com/ye9ppt4.
Who Do You Think You Are?” the NBC prime-time show depicting celebrities searching their family history, is attracting more viewers. The March 12 episode that followed NFL star Emmitt Smith’s efforts was seen by 13% more adults than the previous episode (Sarah Jessica Parker, right) according to Media Life Magazine. It also represents an increase of 50% over NBC’s previous offering on Friday night at 8 p.m .an indication of the growing interest in genealogy.
If you missed the episode where Lisa Kudrow traces her Jewish roots to eastern Europe and the Holocaust you may view it at http://tinyurl.com/cfp55h.
It appears Sarah Jessica Parker’s show will repeat April 9, followed by profiles on Susan Sarandon and Spike Lee on succeeding Friday evenings.
Turner Publishing buys Ancestry.com's books division
Turner, which has produced more than 800 genealogy titles since 1984, adds more than 100 titles to its roster, including bestsellers “The Source: A Guidebook of American Genealogy,” “Ancestry’s Red Book,” and “1-2-3 Family Tree.”
Terms of the deal were not disclosed. Ancestry.com actually grew out of Ancestry Publishing, which was founded in 1983.
- 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.