April Genealogy Notes
- Meeting Notes from April 18, 2005
Jewish Genealogy Society of Sacramento
President Mark Heckman called the meeting to order. Information was shared
about the upcoming international conference July 10-15 in Las Vegas at the
Flamingo Hilton. (Next year’s conference will be held in August at the Marriott
Marquis in New York.)
Art Yates pointed out an interesting Web site, www.raogk.org , which focuses
on “Random Acts of Genealogical Kindness.” Volunteers from locations in the
U.S. and around the world will look up public information for you, photocopy
information for you, take photos of tombstones, etc., asking only to be
reimbursed for expenses. Sid Salinger said he had someone help him in Pennsylvania
and Michigan, with good results.
Lester Smith talked about the upcoming Yom Hashoah program May 5 at 7 p.m.
He hopes to have some Yad Vashem Web site material on display for those
Our Monday, May 16, 7 p.m. meeting will feature Mark Heckman talking about “
Making Your Own Ken Burns-Style Video on Your Computer.” Mark will give a
similar presentation at the upcoming Las Vegas conference.
The treasurer’s report from Allan Bonderoff: $1,908.49 in our
April Speaker: Jason Lindo on Anusim -- Conversos or Hidden Jews
Jason Lindo, a descendant of Spanish and Portuguese Jews, talked to us about
the history of the Anusim, also called Conversos or Hidden Jews. He
discussed the origins of Sephardic Jews, from the Iberian Peninsula, Spain and
Portugal, probably around the time of the founding of Carthage. He said they were
not Jews of the Middle East, Italy, Greece or Turkey. The language of these
Sephardic Jews is Ladino.
Jason said that up until 1942, these Jews greatly contributed to Spanish and
With the reconquista, the pushing out of Muslim moors to North African, came
the reassertion of the Catholic church. In 1492, Ferdinand and Isabella
expelled 150,000 to 300,000 Jews from Spain within six months. Many went to
Portugal, until two years later, when the King of Portugal married the daughter of
the King of Spain and she wanted the country free of Jews.
Since that meant the country’s medical doctors would all leave, they instead
required forced conversion of these Jews. Jason said they were herded into
the harbor for a mass baptism. There were records of Jews drowning their
children rather than having them converted. Jason said he was a descendant of those
forced to be baptized Jews.
Jason said most historians think the majority of the crewmembers on Columbus’
ship were conversos, finding that an easy way to escape the religious
In Spanish and Portuguese, these people were called “Marranos,” which means
pig, so the term has a pejorative connotation. The last public act of
conversion was having them eat pork in public. They could be brought to the
Inquisition if they didn’t buy pork or made sausage out of chicken. The preferred
term today is Anusim. Research in this area is often referred to as
Jason talked about some of the ways to track Anusim genealogy. He said there
were records of court transcripts of people who went before the Inquisition,
they were very meticulous. He told of people being burned at the stake for
frying eggplant in olive oil instead of lard.
“We use family traditions, common threads of Sephardic culture” to trace
Jewish roots, Jason said. “You need to be a cultural anthropology detective.”
He talked about foods eaten by these families, customs used at birth, marriage,
how the dead are buried.
Jason distributed a list of names of Sephardic families who left, who never
became Anusim. “Pay careful notice to names that go back and forth in the
marriage line,” he said. In his own family, the Lindos and Costas and variations
such as DaLindo and DaCosta were common.
Jason said doing research in Portugal to obtain records, there is a sense it’
s disturbing to the Catholic church that families are returning to Judaism.
In Mexico, he said there are places where graves have been vandalized if they
think they had been Jews.
In Southern Texas and most of New Mexico, Jason said 80 to 90 percent of the
population was originally Conversos, because the Inquisition became active in
Mexico in the early 1800s. He said there are stories of Conversos taken from
Santa Fe and tried in Mexico.
Stories show us customs that point to our Jewish past, Jason said. A big
custom in rural Mexico was evening weddings, with lace tablecloths covering four
posts. And the groom stomps on a bottle or glass for good luck. In his
family, Jason said they would cover mirrors as soon as someone died. “For a lot of
us, find the custom and then trace it back,” he said.
Almost every Anusim family has some tradition of lighting candles or oil
lights on Friday night. Some families lit eight candles on Christmas eve. When
the house was cleaned, the dirt was swept into the center of the house -- you
don’t sweep in front of the mezuzah on the door.
Which wall did they hang the crucifix on? If it was the eastern wall, the
family was probably of Jewish origin.
Jason said tombstones have been found with Jewish symbols on the bottom,
buried beneath the earth, so they didn’t show.
He also noted that some Spanish and Portuguese speak an archaic language that
contains some Hebrew words. And some of the language was modified to reflect
their origins -- he citied the word dios, which is plural for the trinity,
but anusim preferred to say “deo,” singular. “There are little linguistic
clues,” he said.
Jason also shared the story of a one-time altar boy in Panama who today is
Rabbit Yosef Garcia.
Until 1914, Jason said it was illegal to be anything but Catholic in Spain. “
For us, genealogy was not so much looking to our past as making a life choice,
” he said. Many were disowned by their families for choosing Judaism. “It’
s still a raw wound. So much of the Latino identity is caught up in being
“For us it’s not so much confirming the past but a reawakening of the past.”
Jason said there were no practicing Jews in Iberia until the 1920s -- “there
was no prejudice because they hadn’t met any Jews for several hundred years.”
On the Spanish government’s Web site, from the Biblioteca Nacional in Madrid,
there are records of the Inquisition, through the middle of the 1600s,
scanned and online. Jason said the Vatican Library will also confirm sources of
information, but will not send them to you; you have to go there in person.
Jason said the best clearinghouse for Sephardic books, founded by
Congregation Sherith Israel, is www.sephardichouse.com, “an invaluable Web site.”
Another site is www.sephardim.com. He also mentioned the book “Secrecy and Deceit,
” by David Gitlitz, and the film, “The Last Marrano,” a copy of which is
available at B’nai Israel.
He said there are two Anusim synagogues in the U.S., in Portland and in
Albuquerque. But in any large Sephardic synagogue in this country you’ll find
Anusim, Jason said. The synagogue on Wilshire Blvd. in Los Angeles has at least
40 families. He said there is also a huge Anusim population in Puerto Rico.
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Jewish Genealogical Society
April 13, 2008 Notes
Vice-President Mort Rumberg called the meeting to order in Burt Hecht’s absence. He announced several upcoming genealogy conferences, including one in Kansas City, Missouri May 14-17 for the National Genealogy Society, and closer to home, one in Burbank June 27-29 -- the 39th annual Southern California Genealogy Jamboree. Allan Bonderoff mentioned that the Burbank conference might be of particular interest, since there is a focus on Eastern European and German genealogy.
On Saturday, October 18 will be the second annual Chico genealogy conference -- they would like us to have a display at the conference.
Mort gave an overview of upcoming speakers -- mark your calendars now.
Sunday, May 18 -- Judy Baston will talk about Polish ancestral records.
Monday, June 16 (back to Monday night schedule) -- Steve Morse will debut a new talk on genealogy and DNA.
Monday, July 21 -- Shelly Dardashti of Israel will talk about “Tracing the Tribe.”
Monday, August 11 -- Dr. McDonald on the “Science of Names,” particularly Ashkenazi and Mizrahi names.
Monday, September 15 -- John Powell on city directories.
Sunday, October 12 -- Solving those brick wall problems
It was mentioned that JewishGen has moved its offices to New York and the Museum of Jewish History , and JewishGen founder, Susan King, “retired.” Warren Blatt (who spoke at our 10th anniversary luncheon) is taking over as head of the Web site effort.
Treasurer’s Report: There is $2,223.75 in our account.
Our speaker this month was Glenda Lloyd, longtime area genealogist who has spoken to us numerous times. Glenda helped organize and served as the first president of Root Cellar-Sacramento Genealogical Society. She teaches genealogy through San Juan Adult Education and has taught classes at the Family History Seminars and Family History Day at the State Archives.
She noted that the Root Cellar Library Collection of the Sacramento Genealogical Society is open for perusal from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. the first Saturday of each month. It’s located in the State Archives Building , 1020 O Street , Fourth floor.
Glenda’s topic was “Census Records -- Framework for American Genealogy.” She said the census puts a person in a specific place every 10 years.
Starting in 1790 and continuing through the 1840 census, only the heads of households were listed. From 1850 through 1930 (the last year we can currently access), each person living at a particular address was listed. (The U.S. has a 72-year privacy law on census data, while in England it’s 100 years.)
In the 1880 census, the relationship to the head of household was listed (already being done in the British census beginning in 1850).
The 1890 census -- “it was essentially destroyed,” Glenda said. There was a “Great Register” published in California , however. The middle counties of Kentucky survived, and also a veterans’ schedule.
“You sometimes have to do the genealogy of an area,” Glenda said, “since the counties were often divided.” She pointed out a great resource book, “The Federal Census, 1790-1920” by William Dollarhyde. In 2008, he published “Census Substitutes and State Census Records.”
Tips for Census Success:
1) Extract information for every year your person appears in the census. “I encourage you to look at every census,” Glenda said, noting you can find information about small children, nieces and nephews, elderly parents and more -- and they may only appear in one census.
Glenda said children are often listed by their middle names, so don’t hesitate to note all of the children.
She said 28,000 names were done for the Family History Center extracting project, and many were found to be listed only by initials. Census takers also used abbreviations such as Wm., Thos, Jn with an “o” above for John, Jo with “s” above for Joseph, and Ja with an “s” above for James.
Census takers could put a person in the wrong county, and the person transcribing could also make an error on the county. Some census takers had English as a second language, some couldn’t spell. These are some of the reasons Glenda said you might not find your person in the transcription.
If you’re using Ancestry, the last name is put on Soundex, but not the first name.
2) Record the information exactly as it appears on the census. (With Ancestry, you get the actual image.) Put your editorial comments in brackets.
3) Glenda handed our reference forms with headings for all the censuses from 1790-1930.
4) Record the date and place of viewing the census, or census film number.
5) Record the date the census was taken.
In Ancestry, under the image is the reference. View as printer friendly before your print.
Ancestry: When you find an error in the census, please take the time to correct it -- click on “comments and corrections.” You can note misspelled or alternate names, can add a comment, can report an image problem. You can correct only the Ancestry information, not the actual census.
Glenda wrote the initials “Ia” on the board and asked what state it what. Iowa ? No, its Indiana . Similarly, a fancy first letter could easily confuse Lawyer and Sawyer. Glenda said Ks and Rs often look the same as well.
6) Keep a record of censuses searched.
Glenda provided a chart with a grid for every census since 1790. “Keep track of what you’ve found, and also negative searches as well.” She suggested we shade in the square for the period when the particular ancestor was alive, so you know where to look.
7) Always read the original census. Digital images on Ancestry, Genealogy.com and Godfrey Library are considered original.
8) When searching indexes, consider every possible spelling of the name.
Glenda shared an example of a relative named Zile, the spelling of whose name is different in every census searched. “If nothing else, don’t get hung up on the spelling of a surname -- the census takers and transcribers have done more than you imagine.”
9) Search by soundex, given name, or locality on Ancestry. You can search by just given name, just by surname, just by location.
10) Always read the names on either side of your ancestor to see who the neighbors were. “People normally moved in family groups, ethnic groups or religious groups.”
11) Check county boundaries to see if they’ve changed.
12) After locating your ancestor in an index, check other sites if the image is not clear.
Don’t overlook the state censuses (such as Kansas and New York ) and the agricultural census in California .
Glenda also talked about the variety of questions asked, depending on the year of the census. Some examples:
-- In 1850-60, people were asked to list slaves by age, sex, color
-- In 1880, census takers asked if people were disabled, crippled or maimed -- this might be a clue that they were in the Civil War, and you might want to look for military records.
-- From 1900-1930, people were asked what year they immigrated to the U.S.
-- From 1890-1910, mothers were asked how many children they had, and how many were living.
--From 1890-1930, people were asked if they owned their home. (If so, you can look for land and tax records.)
-- In 1920, naturalized citizens were asked the year of naturalization.
-- In 1930, people were asked if they had a radio set in their home.
“Use the census, “ Glenda said. “Make use of everything that’s there.”
Allan Bonderoff suggested asking older relatives if they remember anybody else in the apartment building. Glenda agreed, said you need to work sideways, find out who’s living next door.
Glenda said she thinks Ancestry has the best indexes but you have to pay for them. They is free access at the Sacramento County Library and the Family History Center . Genealogy.com is another pay site.
USGenWeb has some of the censuses transcribed, but be sure to go back to the original.
The Pacific Archives in San Bruno has copies of the original censuses, but you have to do the searching the old-fashioned way.
Tax and land records -- Glenda said there is not yet much on Ancestry or online-- the best way to search is to go the place where the records are. “I usually go to Salt Lake City , use the Family History Library -- they have films of most of the land records.” They can also be ordered for $6/film.
The Family History Center has the 1880 American census as well as the 1881 English, British Isles and Canadian censuses, for free.
Glenda said people sometimes say their families were missing, but often they’re listed in a nearby county, especially if they lived near a county boundary.
Other records can sometimes offer pieces of information, or verify census records -- Judith Geften said officials couldn’t locate a record of her birth at the time she was applying for a passport, but she was saved by the discovery of a record for a diphtheria shot when she was six years old.
Bob Wascou pointed out that through Steve Morse’s site (www.stevemorse.org) you can find enumeration district numbers and access the census just using street names and addresses. He also said that he found a cousin in the census twice, once in New York and once in Philadelphia . Glenda said that’s not so unusual -- sometimes mothers would want to indicate all their children, even if they were living elsewhere.
Glenda said you need to document oddities that show up, so that another 100 years down the line, someone won’t have to struggle with the same information.
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About.com --Kimberly's Genealogy Blog
California Woman Charged with Cyber Grave Robbing
According to an article in Wired.com, U.S. federal prosecutors charged a Southern California woman with aggravated identity theft and other crimes this week for allegedly using the Social Security Death Index at popular genealogy research site RootsWeb.com to locate people who had recently died and then take over their credit cards. What makes this interesting is that the Social Security Death Index (or Death Master File), is actually publicly released under the Freedom of Information Act for the purpose of preventing fraud, rather than perpetrating it.
The 15-count indictment, which was filed in federal court in Los Angeles on Tuesday, alleges that the woman has stolen goods and cash advances from at least 100 of the deceased individuals from October 2005 through last month. After locating the Social Security Number, birth date, and death date of a recently deceased individual in the Social Security Death Index (SSDI), the accused would then search online for a recent address for the deceased individual, as well as any other identifying information. It is alleged that the accused would then randomly call credit card companies to determine if the deceased individual had an account and, if so, she would take over the account by requesting that the mailing address be changed. In some cases, she would even add her own name as an authorized user of the card.
This crime apparently exploits a loophole in the use of the SSDI as a fraud-prevention tool. While companies routinely check applications for new credit card and bank accounts against the SSDI, this case involves accounts that were already open where, apparently, the verification policies and procedures are more lax.
Many say that databases and indexes such as the Social Security Death Index should not be online for fear of identity theft, but I feel it is much more important to look at the credit card companies, banks, and other such financial organizations to protect the accounts of their customers. Information is publicly available in all types of places. Many localities do not restrict access to death records, for example. Obituaries -- available in newspapers, on microfilm, and online -- often offer up a wealth of "private" details, such as the date of birth and death, and the mother's maiden name. Real estate transactions, which can help document a current residence, appear in local newspapers, and are readily available at the courthouse and online.
It's easy for people to blame the "genealogy sites," but hopefully, this case will bring more attention to the financial institutions charged with protecting our identity. Mike Ward, spokesman for RootsWeb, said it well. "The reason the Social Security Administration has it [Social Security Death Master File] out there is to prevent fraud, and when it's used to perpetrate fraud it's because not all the checks and balances were in place on the financial institution's end." Removing publicly available information from the Internet is not the answer. It's time to for financial organizations to rethink the way they protect the privacy of their customers and close those loopholes.
Saturday April 19, 2008 | comments (2)
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Jewish Genealogical Society
April 26, 2009
Sunday, May 17, 10 a.m. -- Ron Arons – The Musical “Chicago” and all that Genealogical Jazz
Monday, June 15, 7 p.m. -- Anna Fecter -- Using Ancestry.Com to Enhance Your Family History Research
Notes from the April 19 Meeting:
President Mort Rumberg called the meeting to order and welcomed those in attendance, including two new members, Albert and Marilyn Glynn.
Behind Mort was new JGSS sign to be used at the upcoming Jewish Heritage Festival as well as Family History Day and other events. The Jewish Heritage Festival will be held on the Capitol grounds Sunday, May 3, 1 to 4:30. Three thousand people are expected -- we will hand out brochures and have a few laptops where we can link people up with the Ellis Island database. Volunteers are needed to help staff our booth for an hour or so.
Other upcoming events include the Southern California Genealogy Jamboree in Burbank, June 26-28.
Mort asked those who would be interested in being a part of the local Genealogical and Historical Society’s Speaker’s Directory to let him know. Two of our members have signed up so far.
Mort mentioned that elections will be held in May, and encouraged members to indicate their interest in positions of interest.
Bob Wascou noted that early-bird rates are available for the August Philadelphia conference through April 30. He pointed out that two of the speakers at the conference are in attendance today -- Steve Morse and Ron Arons. And Bob will be escorting the director of the Romanian archives to the Philadelphia archives during the conference.
Gary Sandler passed around a publication called Landsmen, produced by the Suwalk-Lomza Interest Group.
Carl Miller noted that tomorrow night, April 20 at 7 p.m., a Yom HaShoah service will take place at B’nai Israel.
April 19 Speaker – Steve Morse
The JGSS was the first group to hear Steve Morse’s new presentation on Phonetic Matching -- Soundex with Fewer False Positives. Steve talked about the work he and Alexander Beider have done to debut a new system for searching for names phonetically.
Steve noted that typically there are different choices for searches -- “starts with,” “contains,” “sounds like,” and “ends with.” He reviewed the history of various search systems.
1) Russell, in 1918, patented the first Soundex system, associated a number with a name. Only the start of the name was considered.
2) American Soundex -- 1930s. This is a slight modification of Russell’s work, and first used by the Census Bureau.
3) Daitch-Mokotoff Soundex -- 1985. This system was optimized for Eastern European records. It uses sequences of letters (vs. a single letter) and is the first to consider an entire name.
4) Double Metaphone -- 2000 -- Phillips. This system accounts for foreign pronunciations but just considers the start of a name.
5) Beider-Morse Phonetic Matching -- 2008
This new system identifies the language, then uses pronunciation rules based on the language. It considers the entire name, and significantly reduces the number of false positives.
Steve showed a few examples from the Ellis Island database. If you search for the name Washington, you get 3900 names via the American Soundex system. Daitch-Mokotoff (D-M) : 9 names. Phonetic Matching: 4 names.
Searching for the name Eisenhower (and the former president is in the database, returning from the Panama Canal in 1924) -- American Soundex gives you 375/388 names that are false positive (98 percent). D-M: 21/27 names are false positive (80 percent). Using Phonetic Matching, there are two false positives, or 8 percent.
Steve then presented an overview of Phonetic Matching.
1) Pronunciation Depends on Language -- you transliterate into sequence of phonetic tokens from the name, and compare names based on these tokens.
Current languages available for this process -- English, French, German, Hebrew, Polish, Hungarian, Spanish , Romanian and Russian. Portuguese and Italian are now done as well. Being considered -- Turkish, Arabic.
2) Defining the language.
If you take the name Schwarz, the Rule for “sch” at the beginning of a name makes it German or Russian.
The rule for “rz” at the end of a name makes it German or Polish.
So you conclude that the name is German.
If you have the name “Szwarc,” you know that “sz” is found in Polish or Hungarian. The “c” at the end could be Polish or Russian. So it’s Polish.
3) More Rules for Determining Language
Characteristics of unique languages.
4) Phonetic Tokens
One starting point is the International Phonetic Alphabet, but it offers too fine a distinction between sounds and characters not on a standard keyboard.
5) Our Simplification
The Beider-Morse system is limited to standard Latin characters, and they have dropped characters with similar sounds.
So, transliterating names to phonetic tokens -- apply language-specific rules.
6) Rules Need to Consider Context
Keep in mind what comes before and what comes after. The well-known example of “ghoti” -- could be the word fish under certain contexts.
7) Common Rules for Many Languages
-- Final devoicing -- linguistic concept
-- Regressive Assimilation of consonants -- voice or unvoiced characteristics
8) Approximate Rules
a) unstressed (syllable) equivalence
Nixon sounds the same as Nixan
Hard to determine the stressed syllable, so this is approximate.
b) Phonetic proximity of a pair of sounds
n before b sounds close m before b
9) Searching for matches
Searching for a name in a list of names. Encode the name before the search. If you don’t know what language it is, determine on a name-by-name basis. The database is already encoded when you put a coded name in.
Steve said the new system doesn’t replaced Soundex, but supplements it. He said Jeffrey Malka is already using it on SephardicGen. Steve also talked to people at the U.S. Holocaust Museum when he was in Washington last week, about their using it.
“I hope it will be used in more databases as time goes by,” Steve said. “ We’ll give it out free for recognized, nonprofit uses.”
After his formal presentation, Steve went online and demonstrated a few examples of how phonetic matching greatly cuts down the number of false hits. “This doesn’t replace Daitch-Mokotoff, but complements it.”
Steve will be speaking in Davis June 27, together with his daughter. They will present an updated version of his DNA talk, which he gave to us last year.
From Gary Mokotoff’s Avotayu E-zine
JGSLI Yearbook Project
The Jewish Genealogical Society of Long Island has initiated a project where it will act as an intermediary to match researchers with yearbook owners. High school, college or other school yearbooks or class lists can be an interesting source of information and photos. In addition to a graduating photo, there may be photos of a relative participating in a sports activity, school orchestra, club, etc.
To date more than 900 yearbooks have been made available by volunteers through this program. Additional information can be found at http://www.jgsli.org/yearbook_project.htm. It includes the procedure for how to add yearbooks in your possession to the program
Ancestry Adds Border Crossings from U.S. to Canada
Ancestry.com has now added border crossings from the U.S. to Canada (1908–1935) to its collections. Previously it only had crossing from Canada to the U.S. (1895–1956). The new database has more than 1.6 million names. Last year the company added Canadian Passenger Lists, 1865–1935, which contains more than 7.2 million names.
Photographs of Arrival at Auschwitz
There are now (at least) two photo essays of Jews arriving at Auschwitz on the Internet. One, at
http://isurvived.org/Survivors_Folder/Lustig_Oliver/Commentary-PhotoAlbum-1.html#Up has a description of each scene. The other at the Yad Vashem site appears to be from the book Auschwitz Album and includes an audio narrative. It is located at
Poland to Publish Online List of WWII Dead
An online list of some of the estimated six million Polish citizens who died during World War II is to be published at http://www.stratyosobowe.pl. The initial offering will only have 1.9 million names. An estimated 3 million of the 3.3 million Jews living in Poland in 1939 died during World War II. Additional information can be found at http://www.ejpress.org/article/35991.
From the Bulletin of the Jewish Genealogical Society of the Conejo Valley and Ventura County…
Jewish Surname Selection
The text of the decree by Emperor Josef II demanding each Jew select a constant surname can be found at: www.shoreshim.org/en/infoEmperorJoseph.asp This Austrian Empire edict was effective January 1, 1788. There is an excellent searchable database of documents from Krakow and some other towns at www.shoreshim.org/en/dbSearchKrakow.asp.
Life Photos on Google
Google is hosting old Life Magazine photos form the 1750s to today – just type in the year or subject where it says search. “Poland, WW II” finds photos of the Warsaw ghetto and more. A shtetl search such as “Brody, Ukraine” provides photos and maps. The searches are not limited to Life photos but can extend to Google’s entire photo gallery.
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