- Jewish Genealogical Societyof SacramentoMay 5, 2012Upcoming TV:Finding Your Roots, PBS, Channel 6, 8 p.m, Sunday, May 6: -- Sanjay Gupta, Martha Stewart, Margaret ChoWho Do You Think You Are?, NBC, Channel 3, Friday, May 11 -- Jason SudeikisUpcoming Meetings:Here's our schedule for the next few months. Big thanks to Mort Rumberg for his work on obtaining these speakers.Sunday, May 20, 10 a.m. – Robinn Magid, “California Jewish Cemeteries”Monday, June 18, 7 p.m. – Glenda Lloyd, “City Directories – A Problem-Solving Approach.”Monday, July 16, 7 p.m. -- Tamara Noe, “Names: What Are You Missing?”Monday, August 20, 7 p.m. -- Ron Arons, "Finding Living People on the Internet"April 15, 2012 Meeting SummaryPresident Victoria Fisch called the meeting to order and welcomed members. Mort Rumberg shared the details about the upcoming Jewish Heritage Festival, April 29 from 10 to 4 p.m. This year it's located at 20th and Capitol. We'll have a table and could use volunteers to staff it for an hour or two.Art Yates noted that it was his birthday today, and also the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic. He said that one of his relatives, William Thomas Stead, who was friends with George Bernard Shaw, went down with the ship. [Note from Susanne -- just googled Stead, and quite a few entries, including a lengthy Wikipedia profile about him.]Lester Smith noted that 100 years ago was also eventful for his family -- it was the date of his father and mother's exit papers from Vilnius.Burt Hecht talked about the 1940 census information, and that he found all of his remaining cousins in the census, and sent them copies of the documents.April Presentation: U.S. Customs and Immigration Services, Lynn BrownLynn returned to speak to us about U.S. citizenship and immigration records, and how to order them online.Main website: http://www.uscis.govOn March 2, 2003 the immigration and naturalization function was placed under the Department of Homeland Security, and became the U.S. Customs and Immigration Service.Lynn said prior to that, there had been a lot of lapses in visas, expired passports, etc. and it was felt they needed to restructure the functions. Two other departments were put under USCIS -- the Border Patrol and ICE (Immigrations and Customs Enforcement), but they have nothing to do with genealogy.Under the new USCIS, Lynn said they've created a genealogy research department. In May 2009, a new fee-for-service online ordering and e-pay system was initiated:Lynn talked about records currently available:-- naturalization records from September 1906 to March 1956--immigration/visa records from July 1924 to May 1951-- alien and registered aliens, from 1940-- there are pre-1906 citienship records, updated-- women's naturalization from 1906-1920, when they had to be naturalized under their husband's name-- alien registration form Form AR-2, from 1940-44-- immigrant files (A-Files), from April 1944 to May 1951.Congress requested that states destroy World War I draft registration reocrds, but it was a request. Some states cooperated, some didn't. So some records still available. ?But for sure, Lynn says, the World War II records are available, and there was no request to destroy them.Immigration A Files -- 1944-51. There was a card immigrants ahd to carry in their wallets -- "today we call them green cards."Registry Files --From March 1929 to 1944, created a registry file for immigrants -- included letters, Bible or church records, employment records, and two sponsors.Visa Files -- From July 1924-1944 -- contained information normally found on a ship's registry.Lynn said the USCIS does not have:-- NARA National Archives records-- state or local archives recordsBefore you can order a record, you need to determine if the record still exists.Lynn then outlined the online process for obtaining records. There are two services:1) Index search2) Record Copy RequestLynn said you should start with the index, for a specific immigrant/individual.The fee for this is $20, using the G-1041 form.Record Copy Request:This can range from $20-35. The form is the G-1041AYou need to provide what you know, all that you know, to help them narrow down the search. Within 90 days you should get a reply back. You're looking for the individual's file, not one record -- you don't know what's in that file. They'll give you the file number.You have up to a year to order the case file."You may get one page or 27 pages," Lynn said. "Then they have another 90 days to get back to you, although mine took nine months."Lynn says if you search and say go to record, you'll get one record, not the whole file.Go to USCIS.gov/genealogy and make a genealogy request. Start with form G-1041. You can pay online or send a money order. There is no refund if no records are found."Lately this has gotten to be a very popular website," Lynn said.She suggests you read the FAQs first before ordering.Lynn said she had an interesting experience with her mother's file. "They wrote me an e-mail, and said her file was classified, dlo you still want it?" She recounted some activities of her mother here and in Sweden.Because of the privacy act for deceased individuals, their birth must either be 100 years or more from today, or you will need to provide a death certificate. For proof of death, they will accept funeral notices. They don't want the original death certificate, just the proof of death."I recommend you print the request form, fill it out and then go back and transfer the information to the online form," Lynn said. "When you order, they'll give you a case number.Lynn can be contacted by e-mail at Lgbrown@....----------Some articles that may of interest follow:FHC Classes on WednesdayThe Regional Family History Center on Eastern Avenue (2745 Eastern Avenue) holds genealogy classes on Wednesday afternoons and evenings. For details on upcoming classes, go to http://www.familyhistorycenter.info.------------Perform Random Acts of Genealogical KindnessBoston Genealogy ExaminerStarted in 1999, Random Acts of Genealogical Kindness (RAOGK) is a web-based volunteer organization that provides a wealth of services, from photographing graves to retrieving vital records, finding obituaries, researching in libraries and much more. Volunteers never charge for their time, just for expenses (photocopying or record fees, postage, parking fees, etc.). Each volunteer has committed to making at least one RAOGK a month.In October 2011, a catastrophic computer failure took down the RAOGK web site. The following month, founder Bridgett Schneider (1946-2011) died. As stated in her obituary, Bridgett had "thousands of genealogy friends around the world." Her dedication, and that of her husband Doc, inspire many of us to volunteer or perform random acts to our fellow genealogists, one at a time.Recently, RAOGK was reborn as a wiki site. It includes sections divided by state and country, detailing what volunteers are available to research and the rules of making requests. Volunteers are listed on the Massachusetts page by county, starting with "all." People who cover more than one county have their entries added more than once.----------FIFTY BEST BRICK WALL SOLUTIONS -- from the JGS of the Conejo Valley/Ventura Co.The website GenealogyInTime has published solutions to what are considered the top 50 ‘brick wall’ problems. Problems searching Names, Geography, Local Resources and Migration are separated with very specific suggestions on how to overcome those brick walls. Go to: http://tinyurl.com/c9lthc6-----------------April 18, 2012, 10:14 a.m. EDTGenealogy Tool Kit Published by Foundation for the National ArchivesWASHINGTON, April 18, 2012 -- Step-by-Step Guide to Family Research at the National Archives /PR NewswireThe Foundation for the National Archives announces the publication of the Genealogy Tool Kit: Getting Started on Your Family History at the National Archives, written by National Archives genealogy archives specialist John P. Deeben.This 160-page step-by-step guide was published by the Foundation and launched in April 2012 to coincide with the celebration of the National Archives' release of the 1940 U.S. Census. The Foundation has long supported research at the National Archives, including its annual support of the Archives' Genealogy Fair, and the development of genealogy products such as this Tool Kit and other archival and research-oriented items.The Genealogy Tool Kit will help family researchers of all levels of experience to explore how their ancestors interacted with the Federal Government over the course of their lives. Did they enter the United States from a foreign country? Apply to become an American citizen? Enlist in a regiment during a particular war? File for a patent, homestead, or pension?Through such questions, and many more, the Genealogy Tool Kit helps genealogists to navigate the records at the National Archives, from census and naturalization records to military and federal land grant records. With checklists to track the readers' progress, family trees to fill in as ancestors are discovered, and room for taking notes, the Tool Kit will also serve as researchers' own record of their family history research project.The Genealogy Tool Kit also includes the personal discovery stories of Archivist of the United States David S. Ferriero, documentary filmmaker Ken Burns, and author and journalist A'Lelia Bundles, as well as inspirational accounts from several other family historians.The Tool Kit is available for purchase in the Archives Shop in Washington, DC, over the phone at 202-357-5271, or via email at nationalarchivesstore@...-----------------Floridastoryon1940censusStuart woman recalls life in years around recently released 1940 censusBy Tyler Treadway April 16, 2012Photo by Grayson Hoffman, special to Treasure Coast NewspapersReba Shepard, education director of the Martin County Genealogical Society, searches for the 1940 census records on the National Archives website Tuesday in the Special Collections room at the Blake Library in Stuart. The 1940 census information was released April 2.providedReba Erlene Masterson was 11 years old when this picture was taken in 1939.Photo by Grayson Hoffman, special to Treasure Coast NewspapersReba Shepard, education director of the Martin County Genealogical Society, organizes paperwork before starting her search of the 1940 census records on the National Archives website Tuesday in the Special Collections room at the Blake Library in Stuart. The 1940 census information was released April 2.STUART — When the enumerator for the 1940 U.S. Census counted 11-year-old Reba Masterson, her parents, Delmer and Clara Masterson, had just moved the family home to Seventh Street in Grove, Okla.Literally moved the family home, that is."We had the same house in three different locations," said Reba Masterson Shepard of Stuart, education director and vice president of the Martin County Genealogy Society, who was born Sept. 2, 1928, in Picher, Okla., and grew up in nearby Grove.The sheet of paper filled out by the census taker showing the old house's new location and information about the Masterson family is one of more than 3.8 million digital images of census schedules, maps and other sociological minutiae released April 2 by the U.S. National Archives.General statistical information is readily available from every decennial head count conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau. However, the "manuscript census," the individual forms filled out by citizens that includes detailed and personal information such as names, ages, race, family relationships, education, birthplace, 1935 residence, employment and income, can be released only after 72 years of confidentiality expires.Pamela Cooper, head of the genealogy department at the Indian River County Library in Vero Beach, said the volumes of new information "puts the meat on the bones" of what's already been released.The 1940 census had up to 34 questions for each man, woman and child enumerated and up to 15 more for every 14th and 29th person on each 40-person tally sheet.The 2010 census, by comparison, was touted by the U.S. Census Bureau as "10 questions, 10 minutes," the shortest questionnaire in the history of the national head count."I'm still very upset with the 2010 census," said Patti Kirk of Vero Beach, creator of Family History Researchers. "It was terrible. There were almost no personal questions. It was just about getting numbers in order to rearrange congressional districts. It's going to be of no use to genealogists in the future. Of course, the excuse is that there's so much personal information about everybody available through the Internet that you don't need to get it from the census."The 1940 census, on the other hand, "is so exciting because it brings people who have been lost back closer to reality," Kirk said. "There's lots of personal information, more in-depth information about families that's invaluable to genealogists."Genealogists both amateur and professional are eating it up. As of Wednesday, the National Archives website devoted to the census (1940census.archives.gov) had delivered more than 100 terabytes (one terabyte is 1 trillion bytes) of 1940 census data; and the U.S. Census Bureau's website on the 1940 census (census.gov/1940census) had received 1.2 million hits.Historians think data from the 1940 census will be particularly enlightening because it documents the end of the tumultuous 1930s, when members of the so-called "Greatest Generation" were coming of age; the country was pulling itself out of the Great Depression; millions of Americans were moving off the farm and into the city; and World War II was looming on the horizon.In some cases, the "city" Americans moved to was as small as Grove, Okla."That last move (in 1940) was from the country into town because my brother (Wayne) had just started high school," Shepard said, "and my father thought we should be close to the school. It was the first time we had indoor plumbing, which was a big deal. Before that, my mother used to do laundry in a big pot over an open fire."The Mastersons would later join the mass migration from Oklahoma and western Arkansas to California."My father was in construction," Shepard said, "and there was more work in California. It was fine with me; I was ready to get out of that hick town."Once in California, Shepard quickly shed her Oklahoma accent."Out there, if you were an 'Okie,' you didn't fit in," she said. "I wouldn't have made junior homecoming queen — which I did — if people had known I was an Okie."A census is supposed to take a snapshot of the nation; and in 1940, the Census Bureau and the federal government were particularly interested in the country's economic picture."The reason behind every single question is politically motivated," Cooper said. "This was at the end of the Great Depression, and they were asking a lot about personal income."The census asked 13 questions about the employment status of people 14 and older, including No. 32: "Amount of money, wages, or salary received (including commissions)."Question No. 23 asked whether the person was seeking work, and No. 27 asked how many weeks the person had been unemployed up to March 30, 1940.The census also asked whether anyone in the household was employed with public emergency work projects such as the Works Progress Administration and the Civilian Conservation Corps."The government was focused on the economy," Cooper said, "and wanted to know how people were faring."The Masterson family was getting by, but just barely.Black-eyed peas were a mainstay of the family diet, Shepard recalled, because they were the cheapest bean available. But once, when her father found a quarter lying in the road, he splurged."He told the grocer, 'I'll have pinto beans,'" Shepard said, "and the grocer gave him a sackful. We feasted for a long time on pinto beans thanks to that quarter."Every 14th and 29th person listed was asked additional questions about where their parents were from (questions 36 and 37) and what language was spoken in the home "in earliest childhood" (No. 38). Three questions (39-41) were about the respondent's status as a veteran.Pat Giordano, past president of the Treasure Coast Genealogy Society in St. Lucie County, said some of the questions were controversial at the time."The census asked women how many times they had been married (No. 48) and how many children they had given birth to (the last question, No. 50)," Giordano said. "As a genealogist, if you know someone has three siblings, but their mother reports she had five children, then there may be some unknown siblings out there to track down."Shepard said she doubts the respondents always answered truthfully."Lots of people don't like the government in their business," she said. "They didn't back in 1940, and they don't today."The recently released data are a cornucopia of information for genealogists, but the information also has problems. The first is that it's not searchable by name — at least not yet. The data consist of scanned images of handwritten documents cataloged by location. That means researchers have to know the address of the person they're looking for to determine which of 147,000 enumeration districts the person lived in, then scan through pages of records for that area.As soon as the data became available April 2, thousands of volunteers began "indexing" the census by name, an arduous task that could easily take until the end of the year.The data have other problems."We've already found that the census takers made a lot of mistakes," Cooper said. "Sometimes they made the worst mistake, which is misspelling someone's name, which in some cases could have been a language problem."Census takers were supposed to go sequentially from house to house, Cooper said, "but we've been seeing them zigzagging all over the place."Cooper did laud the 1940 census takers' handwriting as "the best we've seen so far. On all the previous censuses, the handwriting is atrocious."From Gary Mokotoff's Avotaynu's E-Zine, April 15, 2012Yad Vashem To Acquire One Million More Testimonial Pages
Last March, the Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported that Yad Vashem signed an agreement with the Ukraine KGB archives that will give Yad Vashem documents from the Holocaust period including such records as deportation lists and lists of murdered Jews. (See Nu? What’s New? Volume 12, Number 11, March 20, 2011.) Now Haaretz is reporting that agreements have been signed with the national archives of Ukraine, Belarus, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia that will add more than one million testimonials by survivors.
The document collection includes passports, identity papers, documents about house use (attesting to entry and occupation procedures enforced under Communist rule), demographic registries, medical records, personal files of school teachers, and more.
The entire report can be found at http://tinyurl.com/6tl4gzs.
Lithuanian Holocaust Atlas Now in Book FormLithuanian Holocaust Atlas, located at http://holocaustatlas.lt/EN/, is a website where there is information about mass murder sites of Jews throughout Lithuania. In early February, Lithuanian Holocaust Atlas was released in book form. It describes 227 sites of the extermination of Lithuanian Jews during the Holocaust. The book is available in English and Lithuanian and is part of a project launched in 2010 by the Vilna Gaon Jewish State Museum in Vilnius and the Austrian Verein Gedenkdienst organization. Under this project, workers at the Vilnius museum and Austrian volunteers visited Jewish extermination sites to take photos and collect information in archives and local offices. The online version of the Atlas was launched last year.
The Lithuanian Holocaust Atlas claims it is the only chronicle of these historical events, comprising a register of victims, details of the mass murders and proof of the names of the perpetrators of the executions. Nowadays, the entrance to these memorial sites is often times hindered because some are located outside of cities and towns, far away from main roads and/or hidden in forests. The Lithuanian Holocaust Atlas may therefore serve as a guide book with detailed maps and transportation guidelines. Photographs of monuments and memorial boulders that have been placed at execution sites also provide a great source of information.
Additional information about the project is available at http://www.shtetl.lt/m/en/news/2301/.
Long Lost Family Returns to British TelevisionLong Lost Family, a genealogy-related program about reuniting family members who were apart for years, returned to British television (ITV1) on April 12 at 9pm. The show is sponsored by Genes Reunited. Information about the British program is at http://www.itv.com/beontv/long-lost-family.
FamilySearch Additions for the WeekBelow are the only additions of images and/or indexes to FamilySearch that I have concluded may be of interest to Jewish genealogists. The complete list can be found at http://tinyurl.com/ca4df22. This site provides links directly to the collection described. Note that announced new collections may not be complete for the dates specified and will be added at some later date.
Czech Republic, Censuses, 1843–1921 Added images to existing collection.
Czech Republic, Land Records, 1450–1850 Added images to existing collection.
Dominican Republic, Civil Registration, 1801–2010 Added images to existing collection.
Estonia, Population Registers, 1918–1944 Added images to existing collection.
Germany, Bavaria, Fürth, Emigration Records and City Directories, 1805–1921 New image collection.
Peru, Civil Registration, 1874–1996 Added images to existing collection.
Philippines, Civil Registration (National), 1945–1980 Added images to existing collection.
United States, Illinois, Cook County Marriages, 1871–1920 Added images to existing collection.
United States, Kentucky, County Marriages, 1797–1954 Added images and index records to existing collection.
United States, New Jersey, County Marriages, 1682–1956 Added indexed records to existing collection.
United States, New York, County Naturalization Records, 1792–1976 New image collection.
United States, Ohio, County Marriages, 1789–1994 Added images to existing collection.
United States, Tennessee County Marriages, 1790–1950 Added images and index records to existing collection.
~~~~~~~~~~~ See you at our Sunday, May 20 meeting!
July 15, 2017Upcoming Meetings --No July MeetingGetting Started in Genealogy --- August 20, 9 a.m. to noonSeptember 17, 9 a.m. to noon
Meeting Notes -- June 11, 2017Mort Rumberg called the meeting to order and welcomed members and guests.Mort mentioned that the numbered parking spaces are for Einstein residents and we should park elsewhere.There will be no meeting next month, when the IAJGS conference will be held in Orlando.The California Museum will have a film program through August 6 --“Light and Noir,” exiles and Emigres in Hollywood, 1933-1950.Librarian Teven Laxer showed several books we have in our library, including “The History of the Jews in Milwaukee” and “The History of the Jews in Los Angeles” – both have cross-references to newspaper articles. We also have a Legacy Family Tree 8.0 Manual.Teven said we have close to 500 volumes in our library, most targeting Jewish genealogy. The library is one of the benefits of membership.The Tikva group will have its next program June 25 on Anti-Semitism. It will take place at B’Nai Israel from 1 to 4 p.m. The guest speaker will be Nancy Appel from the ADL in San Francisco.Judy Persin is organizing the August and September meetings which will focus on Beginning Genealogy Workshops, from 9 a.m. to noon on August 20 and September 17. There will be two sessions each Sunday. “We’ll provide the basics for those who are just beginning and it’s also a great review for old-timers,” Judy said.The cost is $10 for members, $15 for non-members, covering both August and September workshops.Registration form for the August/September workshops attached. Please reserve now to secure a space.June Speaker – Maryellen Burns “The Power of Story”Why do we tell stories? What is revealed, what is hidden in the story.“Growing up, I was really isolated,” Maryellen said. “I didn’t discover I was Jewish until I was 10, when my parents invited a friend who had been in Auschwitz. I went from knowing nothing to now having 586 pages of relatives on my maternal grandmother’s side."She said her father was on the road from ages 7 to 9 – the only reason he could survive was that he could read the hobos’ symbols and find Jewish families in the South.Maryellen noted that while Jews don’t have godparents, two friends of her family, Nate and Laura, filled that role. She also recalls one day when Woody Guthrie, Andre Segovia and Arthur Fieldler’s sister were at her house.“I want to know the character of the person who is part of my history,” Maryellen said, something she learns through conversation. She says she has more than 110 conversations on her phone.She said the stories we tell and the stories we hide tell a lot about us.Maryellen said the family photos she had came from cousins, including many in the last few years. “My parents took a picture and then sent it to relatives.”“Each one of us in our lives has a keeper of stories,” she said. “The oral tradition plays a large part in Jewish culture.”"What we are named, who we are named for – are names chosen to hide our identity, to perhaps look we were Catholic?” That was the case for Maryellen and her brothers.Maryellen asked the group to talk to the person next to them about their names. Who were they named after?"And if you had a nickname, how did that affect your identity?”Seven Reasons Why We Tell Stories--They define who we are – what we choose to tell and what we want to conceal.-- To plant ideas in people – ideas, thoughts and emotions.-- We like stories-- We are born to tell stories.-- We are literally wired to relate to people who tell a storyIt’s our own natural tendency to tell fictional stories as well as true stories.-- Stories inspire action.-- We tell stories to impress.Maryellen asked the group, how many of you plan on recording your story in some way? Most of you. What is the mechanism you will use?Why is it important to you? Do it for your kids? Think about donating a copy to the library. Maybe you can bring something that will spark a story in someone else.Maryellen said we tend to rely on lists of questions. “But get into conversation, let the story lead where the person wants to go. What did the house, Grandma, smell like? What did you hear when you were there?”Maryellen does talks on a number of subjects, including book architecture, whipping up a family cookbook, and (for the Renaissance Society), how every wave of immigration affected the food in the local area.Maryellen can be reached by email at Maryellen_burns@....~~~~~~~~~~~~~International Jewish Genealogy Conference hosts a plethora of talentHeritage -- Florida Jewish Names June 23, 2017Harvard Professor Henry Louis Gates, host of the popular PBS television show "Finding Your Roots," will address the IAJGS annual awards banquet with a talk on "Genealogy and Genetics in America.
What do Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Alexander Hamilton and Aida have to do with discovering your ancestors? To find out, join other genealogists at the 37th IAJGS International Conference on Jewish Genealogy from July 23–28 at the Disney World Swan Resort in Orlando, Florida.
Henry Louis Gates Jr., host of the PBS hit series "Finding Your Roots," will be the featured speaker on "Genetics and Genealogy in America" on Thursday evening at the conference. Some of the many celebrities that Gates has successfully helped to find their Jewish roots include Barbara Walters, Julianna Margulies, Gloria Steinem, Norman Lear, Tony Kushner, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Robert Downey, Jr., Carole King, Alan Dershowitz and Dustin Hoffman.
"This is a one of a kind opportunity for the Greater Orlando Jewish community to trace their ancestors-both for those totally new to family history research and those already experienced in genealogy," said Dr. Diane Jacobs, local host conference co-chair.
Sunday evening will feature "Alexander Hamilton, the Jews, and the American Revolution," presented by Dr. Robert Watson, professor, historian, author, and media commentator.
Wednesday evening, there will be a special showing of the 2016 acclaimed documentary "Aida's Secrets" (sponsored by MyHeritage). This documentary is a story about family secrets, lies, high drama and generations of contemporary history. The international story begins with World War II and concludes with an emotional 21st century family reunion. Izak was born inside the Bergen-Belsen displaced persons camp in 1945 and sent for adoption in Israel. Utilizing the resources of Yad Vashem and MyHeritage, secret details of his birth mother, an unknown brother in Canada and his father's true identity slowly emerge in this extremely personal investigative film.
Featured Monday evening, acclaimed expert and author on etymology and geographic distribution of Jewish surnames, Alexander Beider and Harry Ostrer will debate "Setting the Record Straight: What Yiddish and DNA Tell Us About Ashkenazi Origins" (sponsored by FamilyTreeDNA).On Tuesday evening, "1917: A Turning Point in American Jewish History" (sponsored by JGSLA) will be presented by Hasia Diner, author and Paul and Sylvia Steinberg Professor of American Jewish history at New York University.Professor Robert Watson, a featured speaker at the IAJGS Florida/Caribbean conference, will talk about our Nevis-born founding father "Alexander Hamilton, the Jews, and the American Revolution."
Stanley Diamond is a leader in Canadian Jewish Research, JRI-PolandMONTREALER RECEIVES MEDAL FROM GOVERNOR GENERALBy Bill Gladstone - July 13, 2017 Canadian Jewish NewsStan Diamond, left, receiving his medal from Gov.Gen David Johnston. SGT. JOHANIE MAHEU RIDEAU HALL PHOTOIn 1986, when Montrealer Stan Diamond sold his decorative-ceiling company after a successful business career, he could not have envisioned that a second career, even more monumental than the first, lay ahead of him. Almost by happenstance, it seems, he became executive director of a large, U.S.-based non-profit organization called JRI-Poland, which would help thousands of people research their family roots – an achievement for which he received a Meritorious Service Medal from the Governor General of Canada at Rideau Hall in Ottawa on June 23.To date, JRI-Poland (short form for Jewish Records Indexing, Poland) has indexed some five million 19th-century and early 20th-century Jewish birth, marriage, death and other records from more than 550 Polish towns. Not only is the database fully searchable online, but more than two-million records are available for download, with more becoming accessible every few months.Driven by an executive committee of four, a 16-member board and an international network of hundreds of volunteers, JRI-Poland raises about US$100,000 ($133,000) each year, most of which goes to digitizing and indexing records that are mostly hand written in antique Polish script or Russian Cyrillic. Scores of volunteers from the United States, Canada, Israel, Australia, Great Britain, France and elsewhere participate in the project.Diamond has heard countless stories of people achieving remarkable, sometimes even life-changing results from the JRI-Poland database. It has been instrumental, for instance, in uniting long lost family members. Recently, a brother and sister in Jerusalem found a half-brother from their father’s second family, who was previously unknown to them, even though he was living just 90 minutes away. Last year, Diamond used the database to confirm the birth date of 112-year-old Auschwitz survivor Yisrael Kristal of Haifa, who was subsequently proclaimed the world’s oldest man by Guinness World Records.His inbox is filled with stories of research “miracles” and people telling him that JRI-Poland has solved enduring family mysteries. “Two weeks ago, a woman in Toronto wrote us that her grandfather had always said they were related to (the late French actor and mime) Marcel Marceau and she wanted to know how,” he said. Taking on the challenge, he found that Marceau’s family was from the Polish town of Bedzin, where their surname had been Mangel, and was able to make the connection to the woman’s family. The lady was thrilled.While Jewish record books in most towns survived the devastation of fire, flood and war, there are often gaps in the series of available years. In a few towns, the records disappeared entirely. Sometimes it’s a matter of town officials being careless; and some records were lost during the tumultuous Nazi era, when the occupying Germans took over town halls for their headquarters. In Pultusk, Jewish records before 1875 were reportedly destroyed by the Jews themselves, who feared the Nazis would use them to track down the town’s Jewish families.The Warsaw cemetery, Diamond related, once had huge volumes of burial registers that disappeared. “What we were told by the management of the Warsaw cemetery is that they were used as firewood during the war,” he said. “They were huge registers – you’re looking at a cemetery with some 300,000 or more burials.”Diamond’s knowledge of Polish geography, developed over many annual two-week trips, seems remarkable for a non-native. “At the end of one trip, we were talking to the director of the archives about all sorts of things and I was pulling the names (of towns) out of a hat and he remarked, ‘You know, Mr. Diamond, I think you know more about the Polish State Archives (PSA) and about Polish geography than anybody else outside of Poland’,” he said.His knowledge of both Polish geography and Jewish genealogy began innocently enough some 30 years ago, when he wanted to trace the path of a rare genetic condition called beta thalassemia within his own family tree. Travelling to Poland, he received permission to index the Jewish records from his own ancestral town, Ostrow Mazowiecka. When he was done, he paid a visit to Prof. Jerzy Skowronek, then director of the PSA.“When I presented him with the printout of the database, I was not in any way, shape or form thinking about what was going to happen next,” Diamond said. “He said to me, ‘Mr. Diamond, this is very impressive, I wasn’t expecting this.’ And I don’t know what prompted me at that moment, but I said, ‘Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could do this for all of Poland?’And he said, ‘Well it’s not our policy, but maybe we’ll start small and do a few more towns’.”When he returned to Canada, Diamond began calling people and raising interest. He attributes the fall of the Berlin Wall and the fortuitous co-operative spirit of the PSA as chief factors – along with the rise of the personal computer and the World Wide Web – behind JRI-Poland’s step-by-step development and growth. “Everything came together, the timing was exquisite,” he said. “It was a continuum of one thing happening after another that made all this possible.”A key step along the way was the agreement that Diamond signed with the PSA in 1997 that officially recognized JRI-Poland as a partner. “After that, we had the credibility to go to each branch of the PSA, having been introduced by headquarters. Back then, of course, we were still buying photographs of the index pages. When digitalization became a reality, that was also a turning point,” said Diamond.Diamond has already received numerous awards for his work, including a Lifetime Achievement Award from the International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies. Last December, he was nominated for the Order of Merit of the Republic of Poland.Sign Up Now for our August/September Workshops -- Form Attached