- Jewish Genealogical Societyof SacramentoTV tonight, Friday, February 24:"Who Do You Think You Are?" on NBC, Channel 3,, 8 p.m., continues with its third celebrity, Blair Underwood. The complete programs on Martin Sheen (Feb. 3) and Marisa Tomei (Feb. 10) can be found on the program's website.
Meeting Notes from February 19, 2012President Victoria Fisch called the meeting to order and welcomed members and guests. She mentioned the upcoming Jewish Heritage Festival, which will not be held on the Capitol grounds but on 20th street between L and N this year. The date is Sunday, April 29, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.Victoria noted that Jeremy Frankel of the Bay Area JGS helped with California research on Helen Hunt, one of the celebrities featured on this season's "Who Do You Think You Are?"Two weeks ago, Jeremy and Victoria visited the Eldridge Street synagogue in New York; Victoria will bring in some slides to show at the next meeting.Upcoming meetings and speakers:Sunday, March 18, 10 a.m. -- Ingeborg Carpenter -- "Superstitions and Other Irrational Beliefs Guiding Our German Ancestors' Lives."Sunday, April 15, 10 a.m. Lynn Brown, "USCIS and How to Order Citizenship Records Online."Sunday, May 20, 10 a.m. Robinn Magid, "California Jewish Cemeteries."Monday, June 18, 7 p.m. Glenda Lloyd,"City Directories."Bob Wascou mentioned that those researching Ukraine should be aware that the Ukraine SIG (Special Interest Group) has a new web page as of this week, with a lot more information. He said the Romania SIG is also upgrading its website and includes information on the area of Hungary that was once part of Romania.A gift presentation was made by the JGSS to the Albert Einstein Residence Center. Les Finke, director of the center, was on hand to accept the “superduper” boombox picked out by Dave Reingold. Les said it was an especially welcome gift, given the use of music in so many of the center’s activities.The Einstein Center will celebrate its 30th anniversary April 22, and will show off its newly green, high-tech building improvements.Les also mentioned the role of the late Marvin Freedman in influencing Les’ move to Sacramento.February presentation -- Steve Morse on the 1940 Census Searching Without a Name IndexAs Steve noted, the census data will become available to the public at 9 a.m. EST April 2. He said he’s heard that it could be six to nine months before names will be searchable. In the meantime, he has several tools now available on his website (www.stevemorse.org ) to help with searches until that time. Steve worked with Joel Weintraub on the various tools.Census day was April 1, 1940. The census reflects who was in the household on that day.Steve said they have scanned all the microfilm and are putting the scanned images up, for free, on April 2. Ancestry.com has said the material would be free through 2013; FamilySearch (LDS) and Archives.com are also providing free access.Steve noted that the census is organized by enumeration district. “The challenge is to find out what ED your address corresponds to.”Maybe your looking to find addresses for your relatives. Two suggestions include looking at Social Security applications, which started in 1936. There is also the World War II draft registration, which is just a few years later than the 1940 census.New things on the 1940 census included:listing the informant for the first time, indicated as : (x)If the neighbor were the informant, it might be noted in the margin.People were asked about the highest grade completed and place of birth (country) according 1937 boundariesAmong the one-step census tools on Steve’s site:1) One-step Large City ED finder2) One step ED definition tool, used for rural areas3) 1930 to 1940 census ED converter, if you know the 1930 ED.Steve noted that census tracts are stable geographic units. In one of his one-step tools, you get a tract map and can enter the tract number in the ED definition tool.If streets are missing, it could be because the street names were changed. Joel Weintraub put together a list of 220+ cities with a list of old street names and new numbering.The name index will come along, but the location tools will not be obsolete, Steve says. The one-step site will support a name index. "We'll probably have more search fields than the commercial websites," he says. "It will be easier to search difficult years."He says the map tool for San Francisco is "totally illegible -- don't try it."Expect the unexpected -- two new things he noted:1)The Census Minute -- Persons born on April 2, 1940 are not counted. If a father died on March 31, he was not counted.The Census minute -- 12.01 a.m. -- those who died before and those born after are not counted. Steve says there are about 7,000 people born soon after who are not reflected in the census.2) Why are so many pages missing?Pages 41 to 60B appear to be missing, except they never existed, Steve says.National Archives Website -- Steve showed us that under Finding Aids, they direct people to his one-step website.And he predicted that "on April 2, my site is going to crash."To check out his census tools, go to www.stevemorse.org~~~~~~~~~~~~~.RootCellar Has New WebsiteRoot Cellar Sacramento Genealogical Society is pleased to announce the grand opening of its new website. The url is still the same: http://www.rootcellar.orgAdditions to the site are still planned, particularly a searchable catalog of our genealogical library housed at the California State Archives.Email: rootcellarsgs@...Upcoming Events:31 Mar 2012, Spring Seminar with George G. Morgan, registration form on website6 Oct 2012, Sacramento Archives Crawl13 Oct 2012, Family History Day at the California State Archives, http://fhdnews.blogspot.comMegan Smolenyak is THE leading genealogy investigator in this country, and possibly the world. Many folks may recognize Megan from her numerous TV appearances on shows and networks such as Good Morning America, the Today Show, the Early Show, CNN, NPR and BBC. This former international marketing consultant’s awards include National Genealogical Society's Award of Merit, a gold Folio Eddie, five writing awards from the International Society of Family History Writers and Editors, and four Tellys for video production.
If that doesn’t jog your memory, try these nostalgic news clips: President Obama and Sarah Palin are related. President Obama has Irish ancestry. Strom Thurmond and Al Sharpton’s families have a common past. The person who established these relationships that made the headlines? Megan Smolenyak. While such genealogical confirmations may elicit a public chuckle, or raise an eyebrow, they don’t begin to scratch the surface of the truly remarkable work this lady performs.
Our nation’s military serves, protects, and sometimes dies for us. In fact, currently there are 75,000 Americans still unaccounted for from WWII, 8,000 from Korea, and 1700 from Vietnam. Yes, there are more from WWI, the Cold War, and other combat arenas. These men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice deserve to go home.
As one of the first to utilize DNA as a means to explore heritage, Megan’s work was quickly recognized by the Unites States military, and for the past decade Megan has worked furiously and relentlessly to reunite previously unknown heroes with their families. This work has become so much a part of her that she stood alone at the burial of the remains of a soldier she identified when no living family members were yet located. Such is the heart of Megan Smolenyak.
Previously, Megan co-authored “Trace Your Roots with DNA,” the best-selling, how-to book on genetic genealogy. Her other books include “Honoring Our Ancestors,” “In Search of Our Ancestors,” and “They Came to America.” Now she has written “Hey, America, Your Roots Are Showing.” This book affords the reader a ringside seat as Megan recalls a number of career highlights including tracking First Lady Michelle Obama’s heritage, the Obama-Palin link, and locating the families of our fallen soldiers as far back as the Civil War. There are a few how-to tips for those who would like to perform their own family investigations. But most importantly, this book more than any other allows us to travel Megan’s journey and learn just how devoted she is to her work and how extremely consuming, heart wrenching, and joyous genealogy investigation can be.
http://megansmolenyak.com/index.htmlQ) From international marketing to genealogy detective. What brought about that unique shift in careers?
A) I started genealogy in the 6th grade and it’s always been my first love, but back when I finished school, it seemed a fantasy to make a living as a genealogist, so I became a consultant. I enjoyed it and had the opportunity to see the world, but I reached a point where I was averaging nine months a year overseas and living the rest of life in little gasps in between suitcases. That’s when I decided to make a change and give genealogy a go as a profession – and I’ve been beyond fortunate. It still amazes me how many wonderful opportunities have come my way.
Q) As a veteran, I’m humbled and grateful for your work. As a former police detective, I understand how difficult your job can be. How did you feel the first time you actually reunited a fallen soldier with his family? I would suspect there was as much relief as joy.
A) First, please allow me to thank you for your service in both capacities. I happen to be an Army “brat,” so this work is incredibly meaningful to me. I’m just a small part of the process, but am fortunate enough to be the family’s first point of contact, a responsibility I don’t take lightly. Having located thousands of family members over the years, I’ve done it many times now, but it’s still a fresh experience each time. And I suppose the “first” that stands out the most for me is the first funeral I attended at Arlington National Cemetery. To see the actual outcome of the efforts of the Army and JPAC was unforgettable.
Q) Obviously, your work requires long hours and a lot of travel. How do you and your husband stay connected?
A) My husband is perhaps the most patient and flexible man on the planet. When possible, he tries to travel with me, but otherwise, we keep in touch by phone. And now with FaceTime on our iPads, we can see each other!
Q) Not every case is solvable, and there is always one that stays with us, the one we can’t forget or let go of. Which unsolved case is your constant companion?
A) Unfortunately, I’m not at liberty to be very specific, but there was a case involving a soldier who lost his life in Vietnam that tormented me for quite a while. He was born overseas to foreign parents, and his mother brought him to America, where she cycled through a number of locations and marriages. After he died, she returned to her home country. In the course of my research, I also discovered a previously unknown child of the soldier’s. I came up short the first time, but for whatever reasons, the case was given back to me, and I was able to resolve it. Perhaps because my father served in Vietnam, that one really had a hold of me until I got that second chance.Q) What was it about tracking genealogy that first captivated you?
A) Back when I was in a youngster in school, we were instructed to go home one day and ask our parents where our surnames were from. When we went back the next day, we had to put our names on slips of paper in our countries of origin, and I – slightly misinformed, as I would later learn – had the whole of the then-Soviet Union to myself. Having grown up in a military family and in several countries, I had spent my life in a multi-cultural environment and didn’t realize until that moment what I strange name I had. That’s what sparked my curiosity and once I took my first steps, it became my own personal history mystery, so I quickly became addicted to the thrill of the hunt!
Q) Any parting comments for your readers?
A) Talk to your elders – and I mean soon. I’ve written whole books on how to research your roots, so could bombard you with tactics, websites and resources, but the one regret I hear over and over again is some version of, “I wish I had asked him when he was still alive.” Older relatives are living libraries and have so much to share. The databases and records will be there waiting for you. Talk to Grandma first! You’ll be glad you did.DA Kentner is an author and journalist. www.kevad.net
- 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.