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Genealogy Update

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  • SusanneLevitsky@aol.com
    Jewish Genealogical Society of Sacramento www.jgss.org March 29, 2012 Upcoming television: Who Do You Think You Are? Friday, March 30, 8 p.m., Channel 3 --
    Message 1 of 43 , Mar 29, 2012

    Jewish Genealogical Society
    of Sacramento
    March 29, 2012
    Upcoming television:
    Who  Do You Think You Are?  Friday, March 30, 8 p.m., Channel 3  -- Focus on Rita Wilson, who travels to Greece and Bulgaria.
    Finding Your Roots -- PBS series with Henry Louis Gates, Sunday, April 1, 8 p.m., KVIE -- Barbara Walters and Geoffrey Canada
    Upcoming meetings:
    Sunday, April 15, 10 a.m. -- Lynn Brown, U.S. Customs and Immigration Service 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
    Notes from the March 18, 2012 Meeting
    President Victoria Fisch called the meeting to order and mentioned an upcoming research trip to Salt Lake City, organized by Gary Mokotoff.  This is the 20th consecutive trip, taking place this year from October 18-25.  For details, contact gary@....
    The Sutro Library is in the process of moving to its new location at San Francisco State; it should reopen sometime in May.  One of its holdings is a large collection of city directories on microfilm.
    The Sacramento Central Library continues its Sunday genealogy programs in upcoming weeks.  There is also a free "Book a Genealogist" opportunity, where a researcher can spend 45 minutes with you.  For details, call (916) 264-2920.
    Upcoming meetings:  See above.
    Victoria thanked Mort Rumberg, Bob Wascou and Burt Hecht for organizing materials and cleaning up debris in our meeting room.
    Victoria said she recently had brunch at the home of the new director of the National Archives in San Bruno, Marcy Goldstein.  Marcy noted the archives is poorly funded and many of the staff are not archivists and not as cooperative as desired.
    Teven noted that Jan Allen will be testifying next week about bills that would take away access to the Social Security Death Index, based on fears of identity theft.  Teven said he's consistently found birth information on the SSDI and said there a petition has been circulated to stop the current efforts.
    Art Yates, who will be attending the IAJGS conference in Paris, noted that the registration fees will be going up at the end of March.
    March Program --"Myths and Superstitions That Influenced Our Ancestors' Lives"
    Our speaker was Ingeborg Carpenter, who emigrated to the United States from Germany 40 years ago.  She is a regular presenter at the German Genealogical Society  and her classes have included how to read German script.
    Her March presentation focused on the non-Jewish community and the environment they lived in.  She said learning more about daily life helps make the names and numbers of our research come alive.  What did the community look like? Where did people live? How did they support themselves?
    "This helps you flesh out your family story even more," she said. "Whose traits and habits do you have?"
    Ingeborg said superstitions were part of the culture in which Germanic ancestors lived.
    Superstitions are beliefs not based on knowledge.  Most have to do with luck, prophecy and spiritual beings.
    She said the word superstition comes from the Latin meaning "standing over in amazement."  In Greek, the word means survivor.  In the Middle Ages, it meant opposition to Christianity.
    Ingeborg noted that most of the basics of life -- food, shelter, relationships, etc. -- have the most superstitions related to them.
    Food -- including fields, grains, livestock
    Water -- --wells, springs, streams
    Shelter -- house, hearth, barn

    Relationships -- cradle to grave
    The darkest time of the year -- Twelfth Night -- has many superstitions surrounding it.  Ingeborg said her mother would not clean during that period -- December 25 to January 5.   The belief was the souls of the deceased were out and about and the house and barn needed to be protected.  You do not draw water from the well.
    And the exact center of the period is New Year's Eve.
    On January 5, you smoke out evil spirits  -- herbs are burned, smoke is used to purify the house and barn; it's the best time for oracles.
    February 2nd  (our Groundhog Day) -- Lichtmas, Candlemas -- official end to Christmas season--farmers bring a new supply of candlewax to church to be blessed.  
    First of May -- on the eve of May 1st, the spirits are out to cause upsets.
    This is a special day in Germany-- women may get special powers of sight, to know their future husbands.
    There may be glimpses of elves, swan maidens, also nightmares.
    Young men collect everything not nailed down and put it in a large pile -- you have to collect it.
    The first of May is also a federal holiday and labor day in Germany.
    Water is another important element to our ancestors.  Christians are baptized with water; every day, water had to be hauled inside by somebody, usually more than once.
    It was the duty of the entire community to keep the well clear and pure, spiritually clean as well. Pentecost and St. John's Day (June 23) -- days the wells were cleaned.
    Both solstice days, the well has to be covered and locked, same with eclipses, Twelfth Night.
    Wells and springs also have oracle powers.
    Need to keep clean and full, needs sacrifices of bread, salt.
    St. John's Day (June 23)  --before calendar changes, was the summer solstice.  Longest day of the year.
    Ancient fire wheel -- symbol for sun.
    Cobalt -- house spirit like a leprechaun, protects house.
    Children -- must never walk into grain field; grain witch would get them. Also, must never spit into well, or lean into well.
    Adults -- when you build your house, put something live in the wall, like an egg.
    Never pick flowers from a grave.
    Never leave laundry hanging out at night.
    Don't sew on the Sabbath.
    If more forks than people on the table, the house will be haunted.
    From the JGS of Ventura/Conejo Valley
    More on the 1940 Census
    The 1940 census will reflect the U.S. coming out of the Great Depression, and some of the world at war. The National Archives working with Archives.com will have the photographic
    images available on April 2, 2012, the day the 1940 census is released on their new, dedicated
    website www.1940census.archives.gov. Other organizations, such as Ancestry.com will receive
    the images on April 2 and will immediately upload the images—as there are millions of
    images, it may take a few weeks to get them all up. They are expecting to have the full name
    index available by the end of the year.
    You can download a blank 1940 census form from Ancestry:  http://tinyurl.com/83qf9lx.
    1940 New York City Telephone Directories Need to be Digitized
    By Jan Meisels Allen
    The New York Public Library is digitizing all of the 1940 New York City telephone directories. They plan to have them available at the time of the 1940 US census release April 2, 2012. There will be a separate website for this, but at this time that url is not known. However, there will be a link to that website from the NYPL site when it becomes available. Go to: www.nypl.org and in the search box type in ‘1940 telephone directories’. (Be sure to first click the ‘NYPL.org’ button below the search box to insure receiving the desired results)
    For those of us with family in New York City in 1940 this will be an invaluable tool to help with location for searching the 1940 Census as it will not be name-indexed when first released..
    Also be aware that in 1940 not everyone could afford a telephone, and therefore, it is possible that the person(s) you are searching for may not be found in the telephone directories.
    The NYPL digitized telephone directory release will be a seamless tool as they're working with  Steve Morse and his one-step website.
    From Avotaynu's E-Zine, March 25
    Site Identifies Jewish Cemeteries of Lithuania
    Maceva (Hebrew for “tombstone”), a non-profit Lithuanian organization, has developed a website at http://litvak-cemetery.info that identifies 272 Jewish cemeteries in Lithuania most of which are abandoned and desecrated. The primary focus of the organization is “to collect, catalogue and publicize information about these cemetery sites throughout the country. Maceva photographically documents remaining tombstones and translates all legible gravestone inscriptions.”

    Clicking on the name of a particular cemetery will lead to a page that provides up to three links. “Link to IJCP” takes you to the International Jewish Cemetery Project of the International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies which provides additional information abut the cemetery. A “Link to Heritage” shows photographs of the cemetery, and “Digitalized” provides the detailed information including photographs of individual tombstones and names of persons buried there. Some of the completed projects are on JewishGen Online Worldwide Burial Registry.

    Current projects include translation of gravestones from the Pabrade Jewish cemetery, translation of gravestones from the Dieveniskes Jewish cemetery, and sorting pictures from Utena Jewish cemetery.

    See you at our next meeting, Sunday, April 15!
  • SusanneLevitsky@...
    March 9, 2015 In Memory of BobWascou Bob was a longtimemember, mentor and past president of our society and a tireless advocate forthe JGSS and friend to
    Message 43 of 43 , Mar 9
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      March 9, 2015
      In Memory of Bob Wascou
      Bob was a longtime member, mentor and past president of our society and a tireless advocate for the JGSS and friend to members new and old.  In Sacramento he coordinated efforts to photograph each headstone at the Home of Peace cemetery, among other efforts. But he also took a leadership role in Romanian research and more.
      Bob was placed on the JewishGen Wall of Honor for his work as project coordinator for the Kishinev (Moldova) databases and also became the Research Coordinator for ROM-SIG, the Romanian Special Interest Group.  Through his guidance, more than 290,000 items were added to JewishGen's All-Romanian database.
      Rosanne Leeson, co-coordinator of ROM-SIG, has advised us that a special fund has been set up in memory of Bob at JewishGen:
      http://www.jewishgen.org/JewishGen-erosity/v_projectslist.asp?project_cat=20   The fund will be used to help obtain materials for the SIG in places closest to Bob's heart.
      And we were honored to note that in Bob's obituary his family requested any donations in his memory be made to the JGSS.
      We extend our deepest sympathy to Bob's wife, Linda, and son, Danny, at this difficult time.
      Bob Wascou at far right, at 2010 IAJGS Conference in Los Angeles
      Our Sunday March 15 Meeting, 10 a.m.
      "Anusim -- Crypto Jews on Your Family Tree"
      Join the Jewish Genealogical Society of Sacramento for the presentation by Jason Lindo and Susan Aguilar on "Anusim" or "Crypto-Jews” from the Iberian Peninsula, Jews forced to convert to Christianity.  The program will focus on customs and countries of origin, the clues most descendants of Anusim first discover.
      Sephardic Jews have their origins in the Iberian Peninsula, what today is Spain and Portugal. Both countries had a sizeable population of Crypto-Jews.
      Jason will discuss customs in the home, food customs, religious customs and those associated with death. Jason is the descendant of Portuguese Crypto-Jews (Marranos). While raised in the Greek Catholic faith in Hawaii, he grew up in a home that continued many of the customs of his Portuguese family's Crypto-Jewish heritage.  Jason converted to Judaism in 1996 and is an active member of the Congregation B'nai Israel.
      Susan Aguilar of Elk Grove is a doctoral candidate in Jewish History and Culture at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley.  Her area of specialization is medieval Iberia.
      From Gary Mokotoff's Recent Avotaynu E-Zines:

      A Bit of History:
      Convicts to Australia and the Daitch-Mokotoff Soundex System

      A recent news release by Ancestry.com noting they have records of Australia’s “First Fleet” of convicts sent to colonize the area reminded me that the first article in the first issue of AVOTAYNU, January 1985, was written by the late Chief Rabbi of Australia, Israel Porush (1907–1991), about the history of Australia.

      The British permanent presence in Australia started on January 26, 1788, when a group of 750 convicts landed there to establish a penal colony. Known as the “First Fleet” to Australians, the penal colony was created because the British colonies in North American had recently gained their independence and Great Britain had no place to dump their excess convicts. Rabbi Porush noted that some of the members of the First Fleet were Jewish but “…Most of the Jewish convicts were guilty of petty crimes such as pick-pocketing, shop-lifting and receiving stolen goods…” He then went on to note that many of these Jewish convicts eventually were freed and became prominent citizens in the early history of Australia.

      In rereading the article, when I came to its end, I noticed it was immediately followed by an article written by me titled “Proposal for a Jewish Soundex Code.” This article was read by Randy Daitch, another Jewish genealogist, who at that time was also contemplating the inadequacies of the conventional Russell Soundex System for German and Eastern European surnames. The two of us collaborated and the result was the Daitch-Mokotoff Soundex System, which today is the default search option for most of the databases on JewishGen.

      The Daitch-Mokotoff Soundex System also is used by the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS) as its standard soundex system for retrieving case histories and is the standard at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, DC. It is used to search the Ellis Island database of 24 million immigrants at the “
      Stephen P. Morse Searching the Ellis Island Database in One Step” site.

      Israel State Archives to Digitize and Place Its Records Online
      Yaacov Lozowick, Chief Archivist at the Israel State Archives, is in the process of fulfilling a dream. His dream is to digitize the documents held by the Israel State Archives and place the records on the Internet (if privacy considerations do not apply). This is the year we can anticipate results. Lozowick indicates that the first record group to be available later this year will be either the 80,000 files of requests for citizenship during the British Mandate period, or the 800,000 files of Israel's first census in 1948. He notes that the paper document collection at the archives is so huge, it might take 25 years to complete the project.

      FDA Eases Access to DNA Screening for Inherited Diseases
      In 2013, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) banned the DNA service 23andme from claiming they offered health-related information stating “...you are marketing the 23andMe Saliva Collection Kit and Personal Genome Service (PGS) without marketing clearance or approval in violation of the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act (the FD&C Act).”
      Now the FDA has reevaluated the situation and says they are easing access to DNA tests used to screen people for devastating genetic disorders that can be passed on to their children. The Associated Press states, “This announcement offers a path forward for the Google-backed genetic testing firm 23andMe, which previously clashed with regulators over its direct-to-consumer technology.”

      The Winter issue of
      AVOTAYNU describes how a woman used the 23andme service before the ban, which lead to the discovery that she had a genetic propensity for breast cancer (BRCA2 gene). An MRI proved she had the early stage of the disease.

      GenealogyIndexer Adds Automated Hebrew, Yiddish Transliteration System
      Logan Kleinwaks has hundred of scanned directories at his website,
      http://genealogyindexer.org. It includes, to date, 129 yizkor books, most of which are written in Yiddish and Hebrew. To search these books previously required that you use Hebrew/Yiddish characters to search the site. Kleinwaks has now added a new way to search Hebrew and Yiddish sources.

      There now is an option for automated transliteration, so the search term can be typed in Latin letters and the system will find matches in Hebrew and Yiddish. To enable this option, change the pull-down menu, "Add Latin -> Cyrillic," to "Add Latin -> Cyrillic + Hebrew" or "Only Latin -> Hebrew." The transliteration only works with single-word search terms and the Regular Match option (not D-M Soundex or OCR-Adjusted). It is limited by the accuracy of the OCR software used to convert scanned documents to (Hebrew, Yiddish) text.

      Guarding Denmark’s Jewish Heritage

      A memorial service on Feb. 16 in Copenhagen for the victims of attacks on a synagogue and an event promoting freedom of expression. Credit Leonhard Foeger/Reuters
      COPENHAGEN — The attack on Copenhagen’s synagogue earlier this month that left a volunteer Jewish watchman dead is a tragedy for a society that, for more than two centuries, has insisted that there is no tension between being Jewish and being Danish. It was precisely this sense of national solidarity across religious lines that helped save Denmark’s Jews from the Nazis during World War II.
      And that’s why it rubbed many Danes the wrong way when Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu invited Danish Jews to “come home” to Israel after the attack. Even if Denmark’s Jews clearly face a new threat, this time from a small group of extremist Muslim Danes, Mr. Netanyahu seemed to be belittling the social unity that is so treasured by most Danes and denying both Denmark’s proven ability to protect its Jewish population — something that Danes are very proud of — and Danish Jews’ affinity for their country.
      Denmark is a very unusual case in the troubled history of Europe and its Jews. Two hundred years ago, many European thinkers argued that there was an insurmountable contradiction between being patriotic and being Jewish. Much of Europe’s subsequent anti-Semitism was rooted in this idea.
      But in Denmark, Jews were welcomed and in 1814 obtained a charter assuring them access to employment while submitting them to civil law. With the Danish Constitution in 1849, Jews became citizens with full and equal rights. Although prejudice and a hint of anti-Semitism existed, there was no basis for the ideological anti-Semitism that flourished in Europe in the 1930s. Indeed, in 1939 the Danish Parliament passed laws against it.
      With the German occupation of Denmark in 1940, the nation’s relationship with its Jewish minority was put to a fateful test. The Danish government ruled the country under German “protection,” and in many areas caved in to German interests. Still, the government insisted that there was no “Jewish problem,” and declined repeated German requests to single out the Jews. King Christian X told the prime minister that if the Germans obliged the Danish Jews to wear the Star of David, then “we must all wear yellow stars.” The remark led to the myth that the king wore the yellow star during his daily ride around occupied Copenhagen.
      Resistance to the idea of discriminating against the Danish Jews became a patriotic symbol. When the government resigned in August 1943, and thus could no longer grant the Jews protection, the Nazi occupiers moved against the 7,000 Danish Jews. A raid was organized on Oct. 1, 1943, but few were captured. The vast majority of Jews were warned in advance — when Hitler’s own representatives tipped off leading politicians, who then spread the word within the Jewish community. Even leading Nazis feared the raid would provoke an uprising in the Danish population and in total less than 500 Jews were deported. The rest sought refuge and with the help of their countrymen managed to escape to safety in neutral Sweden.
      The rescue was perceived as an act of patriotism and as a quiet rebellion against the occupation and its terror. After the war, most Jews returned to Denmark, where they generally found their property and apartments untouched and often cared for by neighbors and friends. Of the 500 who were deported to Theresienstadt, approximately 90 percent were rescued and brought back to Denmark in a dramatic last-minute operation just before the collapse of the Third Reich.
      The fact that the vast majority of Danish Jews were spared the horrors of the Holocaust has become a national rallying point and a central part of modern Denmark’s national self-understanding.
      The targeting of Jews today is particularly troubling because, with immigration, mainly from Muslim-majority countries, rising in recent decades, prominent members of the Jewish community have been among the foremost advocates of integrating these new Danes deeply into society. While right-wing parties have grown in popularity here, Danish Jewish leaders have emphasized the dangers of exclusion, prejudice and intolerance.
      While anti-Semitism isn’t widespread in Denmark, there are a number of radicalized second- and third-generation immigrants who project the Israeli-Palestinian conflict onto local Jews, and see any Jew as a representative of Israel. This creates a latent threat of violence against Jews — as was so sadly demonstrated earlier this month.
      Most interesting is the number (or lack of numbers) of comments to this article. Apparently concern for and/or fighting antisemitism,...
      Other groups have been targeted as well. Newspapers and cartoonists have been forced to beef up security due to direct threats and failed attempts to attack them. Indeed, the first deadly attack this month was on a seminar about the freedom of expression. Still, handling this threat presents the Jewish minority and the rest of Danish society with a particular dilemma.
      For two centuries, Denmark’s strategy of not treating Jews differently has been highly successful. Yet the threat from violent extremists is now undeniable, and no one can guarantee that a similar attack won’t happen again.
      But how do we provide for special protection when nobody wants the Jewish minority to be seen as special? How can we protect not only the security of Jews and Jewish institutions, but also their traditional position as a well-integrated part of Danish society?
      The key is to address directly the extremism and the radicalization leading to threats against Jews, cartoonists and others targeted by violent extremists without erecting walls and barriers.
      In the short run, protection measures will be necessary, but in the end it’s about avoiding escalation and safeguarding Denmark’s open and safe society, and the idea that religious minorities shouldn’t be treated any differently than any other citizens. That’s a much harder challenge — and a more important one.
      Bo Lidegaard is editor in chief of the Danish daily Politiken and the author of “Countrymen: The Untold Story of How Denmark’s Jews Escaped the Nazis.”
      See you at next Sunday's meeting, March 15, 10 a.m.
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