December 8, 2012
Sunday, December 16, 10 a.m. -- Lynn Brown, ”Immigration and Citizenship Records"
Sunday, January 20, 10 a.m. -- Janice Sellers, "Reconstructing Family Information From Almost Nothing"
Sunday, February 17, 2013, 10 a.m. Victoria Fisch and Jeremy Frankel, "Doings in the Cemetery"
Sunday in March, 2013, Shlomo Rosenfeld, "Discovering a Live Family Branch That Survived the Holocaust"
Notes from November 18, 2012 Meeting
Victoria Fisch called the meeting to order and welcomed members and guests, who included Carol Handschu Stern who is a member of a Jewish Genealogy Club in San Luis Obispo.
Dues -- $25 -- for 2013 are now payable, made out to the JGSS, and sent to our address at the Einstein Center, or brought to the next meeting and given to Treasurer Bob Wascou. We rely on these contributions to pay small honorariums to our speakers, purchase books for our library, and more.
Victoria mentioned that she has copies of the syllabus from the recent Family History Day in Sacramento -- they are available for purchase at $5/each.
"We have great news about our connections in Davis," Victoria said. Meetings have been set up at Bet Haverim in Davis for February 3, March 3 and April 7, all Sundays. The emphasis on the presentations will be beginning genealogy research, which is what most people seemed interested in.
Bob Wascou said we're donating extra copies of books to the congregation there. He said the rabbi is very interested in genealogy.
Victoria gave an overview of upcoming JGSS meetings (see above).
Next year's International JGS Conference ill be held in Boston August 4-9, 2013.
Gerry Ross noted that the Einstein Center will hold a bazaar on December 9 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., with hand-made objects, chocolate, Yiddish records and other items for sale.
Glenda Lloyd, who has spoken to our group many times, will teach a 10-week class through the San Juan Adult Education program, on Fridays, both beginning and intermediate genealogy. The classes begin January 18.
Presentation by Gary Sandler: ViewMate
Gary Sandler, a JGSS member, gave a presentation on ViewMate, which was honored with an award at the Paris IAJGS conference. ViewMate can be accessed through JewishGen: www.jewishgen.org/viewmate . It allows people to post documents and seek free translation assistance from volunteers.
Why should people use it?
-- To translate a postcard in Grandma's shoebox, from Yiddish to English
-- To translate an internal Russian passport
-- To translate a headstone from a photo you took while visiting a cemetery in New York or Kiev.
-- To translate a ketuba marriage document
-- To learn about the decade and country of an old family photo.
Gary said ViewMate was created by Bernard Kouchel in about 2000. "There were two programmers who helped before me, then I came in," Gary said.
More than 19,675 images have been posted so far, with more than 22,000 responses posted by volunteers.
"I work with a team," Gary says. "We match translators to family historians."
There are twelve translation categories, including Yiddish, Hebrew, Polish, Russian, German, Hungarian, "other" and also "tombstone."
All of the categories are managed by individuals.
"What you have is a collaboration," Gary says, "where later translators can offer revisions, additions to the initial translation."
To Use ViewMate:
-- computer Internet access
-- a scanner
-- a JewishGen Account (free)
FAQs for ViewMate are online and really helpful, Gary says. They include tips for scanning, what to do if you don't have a scanner, reference information, thanking a translator, and getting the word out that your image is available.
The most common question is "how should I scan my image, what file format?"
ViewMate supports multiple format, except PDFs.
The size limit for your file is 1 MB or less. This is "automatically and ruthlessly enforced."
You can send no more than five images per week. Overall, ViewMate posts 75-100 images a week.
There is a live administrator, like a moderator. When we approve posting an image, you'll get an e-mail, Gary says. We try to approve images twice a week.
If you're signed up for various discussion groups, you can market your image and send a link.
After seven days, the image is archived. You can request an additional week-- "request repost."
So the basic ViewMate process is:
1) Upload your scanned document
2) Submit it for approval, wait a few days.
3) Approved for seven full days, then goes to
Gary says to be clear about what sort of translation you need -- whether word for word, a rough translation, or names and dates.
And be sure to thank your (volunteer) translator.
And if you can read other languages, start looking at others' translations and see if you can start doing some yourself.
Some valuable links:
Valuable email address -- JewishGen discussion list
Recent Items That May Be of Interest
Suzanne Donachie tells us that Family Tree DNA is having a holiday sale on DNA kits through the end of December. For details, go to www.familytreedna.com
"History Unearthed Daily"
From Gary Mokotoff's Recent Avotaynu's E-Zines:
Ancestry.com Launches Newspapers.com
Ancestry.com has launched a new website, Newspapers.com, with a collection of more than 800 U.S. newspapers dating from the late 1700s into the early 2000s, a total of 25 million pages. Cost for an annual subscription is $79.95. The cost to Ancestry.com or Fold3 subscribers is only $39.95. There is a seven-day free trial offer.
It is difficult to evaluate this collection for persons with Jewish ancestry who came to the U.S. after 1880. Searching for “Mokotoff” yielded only one result but “Tartasky,” an equally unusual name, had 91 hits. I have gotten many, many more hits for “Mokotoff” at other online newspaper archives. There are a number of newspapers from the major metropolitan areas, locations where immigrant Jews lived. A list of all newspapers and years covered is located at http://www.newspapers.com/papers.
Shoah Foundation Places More Information About Survivors on Internet
The Shoah Foundation has placed on the Internet information about the tens of thousands of Holocaust survivors they have interviewed. This includes date/place of birth and names of people mentioned in the interview with relationship to interviewee. The names of people were extracted from the interview itself. Disclosed are names of spouses (inferring number of times married), parents, siblings, children, etc. Biographical information includes pre- and post-war religious identity.
Most of these interviews were made in the early or pre-Internet days. One survivor told me her motivation for the interview was that the Shoah Foundation, at that time, stated the purpose was to counter the claims of Holocaust deniers through personal testimony. She was well aware that her interview would be made available to the public at selected facilities throughout the world but was upset that now personal information about her life was instantly available to billions of people. Renee Steinig notes in a posting to the JewishGen Discussion Group: “Using these new searches, I was able to identify two distant relatives whose connection to my family was not apparent from the old Testimony [Shoah Foundation] Catalogue.”
The database can be found at http://vhaonline.usc.edu/Search.aspx. It brings up the never-ending controversy of privacy versus public good. The interview described above was given with the understanding it would be used to fight Holocaust deniers. Now it is being used without permission to reunite families by disclosing information some interviewees consider private.
Judaica Europeana Revisited
A posting to the JewishGen Discussion Group about Judaica Europeana suggested that I revisit the site located at http://www.judaica-europeana.eu/. In 2010, it was a startup effort with plans to document the Jewish presence and heritage in the cities of Europe. It then had online 10,500 photos, 1,500 postcards and 7,150 recordings as well as several million pages from books, newspapers, archives and press clippings. Judaica Europeana now boasts 3,611,000 pages from books, newspapers and archives; 62,000 photographs, postcards and museum objects; 23,000 sound files of music and oral history; and 2,000 moving image files. Originally there were 10 project partners, now there are 30. Good background information about aspects of Jewish life in Europe.
Thanksgiving, Chanukah Together in 2013
Stephen P. Morse noted that next year the first day of Chanukah and Thanksgiving Day coincide, and this will not occur again through the year 9999. In subsequent e-mails, Morse explained this applies only through the year 9999. There is a slow drift between the Hebrew and secular (Gregorian) calendars amounting to one day every 217 years. So in about 80,000 years it will drift by one full year, and we will be back to where we started. At that point, we once again will be lighting Chanukah candles at our Thanksgiving dinner. This drift is covered by Morse in his paper at http://stevemorse.org/hebrewcalendar/hebrewcalendar.htm.
For only two years in the immediate future will you light the first candle of Chanukah on Thanksgiving night: 2070 and 2165. Thereafter, Morse states, you will have to wait until November 23, 79043 for the two calendars to match up.
This posed all other kinds of other trivia questions. When will Erev Chanukah and Erev Christmas (Chanukah and Christmas Eve) occur on the same day in this century? Answer: 2016, 2027 and 2072. All these calculations, through the secular year 9999, can be made at Morse’s “When Did” site at http://stevemorse.org/jcal/whendid.html.
A ‘Little Jerusalem’ in the Heart of Italy
Kathryn Ream Cook for The New York Times
The medieval village of Pitigliano, Italy.
By ABBY ELLIN
Published: November 22, 2012 New York Times
MY parents have an unofficial ritual: wherever they travel, whether it’s Paris, San Francisco or Havana, they visit the Jewish part of town. They go to temple, they seek out local Jews, they make a donation. It’s their way of feeling connected to their heritage, and also of showing solidarity.
The New York Times
Over the years, I have gently teased them about their custom. Who appointed them Chroniclers of the Jews Worldwide? And yet, the older I become, the more I find myself following in their path.
And so, when I was in Rome recently and heard about a tiny medieval village in Tuscany called Pitigliano (known as La Piccola Gerusalemme or Little Jerusalem) I wanted to see it. My plan was to spend a day in this walled town in the Maremma region in the province of Grosseto, about 105 miles northwest of Rome. Pitigliano is blessedly untouristy, with only about 25,000 visitors a year. Most want to explore the Jewish culture, although some are simply besotted with the idea of yet another impossibly magnificent Italian village.
And that it is. As I drove up the winding road to the hill town, 1,026 feet above sea level, I was reminded of the first time I saw Jerusalem. With its parapets, ceramic tile roofs and multitiered buildings perched on layers of red volcanic tufa stone, Pitigliano resembles a sparkling, pint-size Holy City. The village, which was originally settled by the Etruscans, was once home to a thriving Jewish population that had settled there in the early part of the 16th century. They came mainly from the nearby Lazio region, which bordered the anti-Semitic Roman Papal States that periodically drove out Jews.
In Pitigliano, I met with a local guide, Rafaella Agresti, whose English was impeccable. Together, we walked through the medieval gate into the old city, passing the Orsini Palace, a 14th-century fortress, now a museum, and the even older Church of San Rocco. The remnants of a 17th-century aqueduct built by the Medici family runs through town.
As we navigated the narrow streets, Ms. Agresti told me that the Jews and Christians of Pitigliano had led a peaceful coexistence. In the 16th century, Count Niccolo Orsini IV, a member of the feudal Orsini family, ruled Pitigliano, an independent fief whose inhabitants were mainly peasants. Although he was Catholic, he thought Jews, mostly bankers and artisans, could help revitalize Pitigliano’s lagging economy. So, while Jews in places like Umbria and Lazio were imprisoned or exiled, in Pitigliano they worked as moneylenders, carpenters, cobblers and tailors.
That good will changed somewhat after the Medici family, which was appointed by the Pope, came into power. In 1622, the Jews in Pitigliano were confined to a ghetto; men were required to wear red hats, and women red badges on their sleeves. Still, the relationship between Jews and non-Jews was friendly; in 1773, the liberal Catholic Grand Duke of Tuscany, Pietro Leopoldo, officially recognized the Jews of Pitigliano, which meant they could come and go as they wished. In 1799 the ghetto was desegregated, and by 1850 there were about 400 Jews in town, roughly 10 percent of the population. But 11 years later that population began to shrink when the Jews of a unified Italy were granted equal rights and allowed to move freely about the country. Many left for Florence, Rome and elsewhere.
By 1938, when the Fascist racial laws were applied, only about 60 Jews were living in Pitigliano, among them the family of Elena Servi.
Now 82, Ms. Servi, who was born in Pitigliano, has dedicated her life to preserving and restoring her hometown’s Jewish history. I was eager to meet her at the Little Jerusalem Association (lapiccolagerusalemme.it), a cultural organization comprising about 150 Jews and non-Jews from around the world. Ms. Servi founded the association in 1996 with her son, Enrico Spizzichino. It is situated inside a series of interconnected buildings, one of which houses the Jewish Museum of Culture.
Ms. Agresti and I walked beneath an arch with a half-moon-shaped sign emblazoned with the words “La Piccola Gerusalemme: Antico Quartiere Ebraico” (Old Jewish Quarter) and into the museum, where Ms. Servi was behind the counter. Since she does not speak English, we communicated in a mixture of Hebrew and my limited Italian.
“We had no problems with non-Jews,” she said. “We were friends, sharing our matzo from Passover and their chocolate from Easter.” She credits her survival during World War II to the Catholic farmers in the valley who protected her and her family from the Germans. She also hid in a cave with her family for three months while neighbors took food and water to them. When she emerged, only about 30 Jewish families were left in Pitigliano. Other than a decade in Israel, she has lived her whole life in Pitigliano.
Kathryn Ream Cook for The New York Times
Elena Servi, keeper of Jewish history.
Kathryn Ream Cook for The New York Times
A staircase to the Jewish museum.
I descended a steep staircase into cavern-like rooms to find the ritual bath, or mikvah; a forno delle azzime, or oven for baking leavened and unleavened bread (which was in use until 1939); a textile-dyeing room; a wine cellar; and a kosher butcher — all of which are dug into the tufa stone. Sunlight streamed through windows, which had been carved into the stone.
Although services are no longer held in the neighboring synagogue, it is open for viewing. The gold-and-white building, with its carved pews, wooden pulpit and Holy Ark, was restored to its 1598 splendor after the roof collapsed in 1961. From their gallery upstairs, women glimpsed the goings-on through an intricate wooden screen, as was customary in Orthodox Judaism. In the courtyard a plaque commemorates the 22 Jews born in Pitigliano who were killed in concentration camps.
While the Jewish community today consists of only Ms. Servi, her son, a nephew and three grandchildren, there is no mistaking the Jewish influence in Pitigliano. Sfratti — stick-shaped biscuits filled with ground walnuts, honey, nutmeg, orange peel and wrapped in dough — are a local delicacy. The word sfratti is derived from sfratto, meaning eviction in Italian. Legend has it that the police would hit Jews with rods to force them into the ghettos; the Jews subsequently transformed their pain into something edible. (A good place to try the sweet, crunchy treat is at Panificio del Ghetto at 167 Via Zuccarelli, near the synagogue.)
Hebrew words have also penetrated the local dialect. Gadol, Hebrew for big, has morphed into “Gadollo” in Pitigliano. Kasher, a variant of kosher, means loosely, nice or O.K. Many homes still have mezuzas.
Non-Jewish culture also influenced the Jews, most notably in the Jewish cemetery hidden in a cypress grove along State Road 74. One can make private arrangements to visit through the Little Jerusalem Association. Unlike traditional Jewish cemeteries, some of the graves there feature monuments of angels and a statue of a young girl — a nod to the Christian way of “giving grief a face,” as Ms. Servi put it.
THE Jewish quarter is only a block or so long, and the rest of Pitigliano is small. It took only about three hours to wander the ghetto and the labyrinth of streets, winding stairways, piazzas and shops in the historic district. After about five minutes I was hopelessly lost and enjoying every second of it. The locals are welcoming in that extraordinary Italian way, always ready with a smile and a wave. Men sat on benches sipping the wine they had made in their cellars. They happily offered a taste, and I happily accepted.
Each street and alleyway culminates in a spectacular view of rolling hills dotted with olive groves, chestnut, oak and pine trees. The region is punctuated with tunnels and caves etched into the tufa stone, called Vie Caves (Etruscan Pathways).
Exhausted after so much wandering, I found an outdoor table at the Hostaria del Ceccottino (Piazza San Gregorio VII, 64; ceccottino.com), a neighborhood spot near the ghetto. I ordered a mozzarella and tomato salad and a glass of Pitigliano’s crisp white wine, bianco de Pitigliano.
Before leaving, I did as my parents do when they travel, and made a small contribution to the Little Jerusalem Association. Ms. Servi’s words made sense to me. “Who knows what’s going to happen to this place in 20 years?” she said. “We must preserve the past as long as possible.”
IF YOU GO: WHERE TO STAY
Albergo Guastini (Piazza Petruccioli; albergoguastini.it) is the only hotel in the old town. Some of the inn’s rooms have magnificent views, and it has a terrific restaurant. Prices for a double range from 50 to 90 euros (about $62 to $112, at $1.25 to the euro) until Dec. 20. Il Tufo Rosa (Piazza F. Petruccioli 97-101; iltuforosa.com) offers six rooms in a restored house in the old town. Each room is named for a countess who played an important role in Pitigliano’s history. The owners also produce extra virgin olive oil. Prices for a double room are 55 to 68 euros a night. Terme di Saturnia Spa and Golf Resort (termedisaturnia.it). A 30-minute drive outside Pitigliano is the 15th-century town of Saturnia, famous for its mineral springs. This luxurious destination spa, built around a 3,000-year-old mineral pool, is the only hotel in the area to offer a “heritage tour” package of Jewish Pitigliano, which includes three nights in a deluxe room; a daily buffet breakfast; dinner in the restaurant Aqualuce; a massage; complimentary use of the thermal pools and Roman baths; and a guided tour of Pitigliano. Rates start at 2,014 euros (based on double occupancy).
Gifts for the genealogy geek
Published: Saturday, December 01, 2012, 8:05 AM By Daniel Klein/For The Jersey Journal The Jersey Journal
It's that time of year again. Are you wondering what you can get for your genealogy-minded loved one for the Christmas season? Here are a few gifts I've found that might get your family's historian digging deeper in the family tree's roots.
Digital is the big keyword in genealogy these days, so you might want to think of a digital camera to take photos of your documents, or maybe a digital recorder for those oral history interviews with Great-Aunt Mabel. You might even want to kill two birds with one stone and treat your family historian to a tablet, like the iPad, iPad Mini, Windows 8 or one of the other tablets available on the market. I recently got myself an iPad and am loving the ease with which I can do any of the aforementioned tasks. In fact, I'm writing this column on my iPad! There are plenty of genealogy and research apps available and carrying one of these tablets around is much lighter and easier than a laptop. You can take a look at the iPads at the Apple website and check out the Windows 8 tablets at the big box stores like Target, Wal-mart or through Amazon.com.
The Flip-Pal mobile scanner is a cute little flatbed scanner you can take with you to your favorite repository (assuming they allow it) to scan documents. A friend recently bought one and loves it, but I have to give a warning: it's only 10"x6" so it would be necessary to scan even letter size documents twice in order to get the whole page. The software includes a utility to stitch separate images together to form a larger, complete image. More information about this handy tool can be found at www.flip-pal.com.