- 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
- November 6, 2017Next Meetings:Sunday, November 19 – Ron Arons: “Finding Living People on the Internet”Sunday, December 17 -- Robinn Magid: JRI-Poland, Preparing for Warsaw ConferenceSunday, November 19, 2017, 10 a.m.“Finding Living People on the Internet”Ron Arons returns to share information and websites that can assist you in locating living people. He gave us a similar presentation a few years back with outstanding resources to assist in finding people. The majority of his examples are about women as they are more difficult to track down than men.Ron will focus on people finders and directories, professions, social networking, international websites, court and other government records, newspapers and political contributions. He will also talk about “negative research,” proving someone is dead, not alive.Ron is the author of “The Jews of Sing Sing” and appeared on the PBS television series, “The Jewish Americans,” speaking about Jewish criminals of New York’s Lower East Side. In the process of researching his criminal ancestor’s past, Ron has traced his roots to England, Poland, Romania, Ukraine, Belarus and Lithuania.JGSS October 15, 2017 MeetingPresident Mort Rumberg welcomed members and guests. Member Teven Laxer urged members to look for film numbers in Family Search. The films are often town-specific. He found 200 people from a town he was researching in Germany –“120 real cousins of my wife.” He was able to go back to 1706. You need to have a user name and log in but there is no charge. “The most amazing discovery I’ve had in a long time”Teven accessed records at the Family History Library on Eastern Avenue. For details, contact teven.laxer at sbcglobal.net.October Program – Vivian Kahn, “Digging for Gelt in JewishGen.org”vkahn@...Vivian Kahn, an Oakland resident, is the vice president for special interest groups (SIGs) on JewishGen. She said JewishGen is the largest online resource for Jewish genealogy and it’s constantly growing. Around since 1987, its mission is to preserve Jewish history for future generations. There are 500,000 people registered, with four paid staff and more than a thousand volunteers.Vivian said there are more than 2,000 subscribers to the Hungarian SIG, with almost everything done by volunteers: database and indexing, photos, etc.How to NavigateFirst, you have to sign up, using the email address at which you subscribed. (Or resubscribe with a new address.) There are a lot of online classes to assist you.“I cannot overemphasize getting your family tree on the Internet so people can find you,” Vivian said. “Get your info out there as widely as possible.”She also recommended putting your name and towns in the JewishGen Family Finder.“We use the current place name” – there are resources to find out the current name of the town you’re looking for. But if you put in a historical name or Yiddish name of the town, it won’t recognize it.”Through Family Finder, there are more than 100,000 researchers who’ve put in a half-million entries.Family Trees – 4600 submitted – have to submit a GEDCOM file,a language format that genealogy software programs can understand.Databases – the Heart of JewishGenTown Finder – Jewish communities databases for reasonably sized communities at the beginning of the 20th century. JewishGen Gazetteer lists every place.Holocaust Database – multi-source database, including U.S. Holocaust Museum. Can be searched directly or through the country database.Burial Registry and Headstones – before World War I, most headstones did not have surnames, but does list father’s first name (whereas headstones for non-Jews, usually not.)JewishGen has a licensing agreement with Ancestry.com.Country Databases—Because of changing boundaries, may show up in multiple databases. You should subscribe to a JewishGen discussion group on this site. Always use a substantive subject line in your emails – “ Searching for Berkovitz Family” – versus “Looking for my Great-Grandfather.” The discussions are archives, so you may find something from previous years.Find Your Town6500 towns with Jews in 1900JewishGen Gazetteer – every town, probably over 2 million, in Eastern EuropeOther insights from Vivian:Both headstones and death certificates tend to be inaccurate because of those supplying the information – whereas World War I draft registration cards and wedding certificates tend to be reasonably accurate, because people are providing info about themselves.Burial societies – typically found in U.S., not Europe, often organized by people from a particular foreign town.Find town listing and get nearby communities, get coordinates and can match up with 19 th century maps.Kehila links – websites individuals or groups have created for former Jewish communities. “We used to call them shtetl links but changed to kehila links.”Country databases – “probably the most important thing we have.” The Poland database has some 6.8 million records.Records are constantly growing – countries that in the past did not allow access to records, like Romania, now have changed policies. “We hired a guy in Romania to photograph records.”Several SIGs (Special Interest Groups) – are separately hosted, such as JRI-Poland [subject of our Dec. 2017 meeting] and Gesher Galicia. All the rest are divisions of JewishGen. There are 27 regional SIGs; most have a website and a discussion group.JewishGen Discussion Groupsn AMore than 35, can search 15+ years of archivesIf you donate $100 or more on an annual basis, can take educational classes and can search multiple variables.JewishGen is a nonprofit, tax-deductible organization.