See you Sunday morning!
- Victoria Fisch and Jeremy Frankel will present "Doings in the Cemetery."Jewish Genealogical Society of SacramentoSunday, February 17, 10 a.m., Albert Einstein Residence Center.Victoria and Jeremy will discuss interpretation of dates, symbols and common inscriptions found in Jewish cemeteries. They'll also talk about alternate methods for finding burials, including online resources, and show headstones from California, New York, London, Paris, Venice and Florence.
- Next Meeting: Sunday, April 14, 10 a.m."Return to Galicia," Sherri Venezia Albert Einstein Center, SacramentoAfter a decade of family research, Sherri Venezia felt an intense need to go to the Ukraine and visit Lviv, a city central to where her ancestors lived and the capital of the historic region of Galicia. Lviv is also a UNESCO World Heritage site.With the help of a local guide and researcher, Sherri discovered the names linked with places through research and also visited a local concentration camp, Janowska, and a former ghetto enclosure. She'll share her visit as the first person in her family to set foot in Lviv in more than 100 years.Sherri Venezia lives in Davis and is a retired school psychologist.~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~Thanks to Dave Reingold, here's the link from last week's CBS Sunday Morning piece on the 20th anniversary of the Holocaust Museum.~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~A fascinating Washington Post story on two Italian sisters who survived Auschwitz together and travel with students back to the camp.http://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/style/sisters-live-to-tell-their-holocaust-story/2013/04/07/5c2d24a2-9aea-11e2-9bda-edd1a7fb557d_sto~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~New Life in U.S. No Longer Means New NameBy SAM ROBERTS New York TimesFor many 19th- and 20th-century immigrants or their children, it was a rite of passage: Arriving in America, they adopted a new identity.Charles Steinweg, the German-born piano maker, changed his name to Steinway (in part because English instruments were deemed to be superior). Tom Lee, a Tong leader who would become the unofficial mayor of Chinatown in Manhattan, was originally Wong Ah Ling. Anne Bancroft, who was born in the Bronx, was Anna Maria Louisa Italiano.
The rationale was straightforward: adopting names that sounded more American might help immigrants speed assimilation, avoid detection, deter discrimination or just be better for the businesses they hoped to start in their new homeland.Today, most experts agree, that traditional immigrant gambit has all but disappeared.“For the most part, nobody changes to American names any more at all,” said Cheryl R. David, former chairwoman of the New York chapter of the American Immigration Lawyers Association.Precise comparative statistics are hard to come by, and experts say there was most likely no one precise moment when the practice fell off. It began to decline within the last few decades, they say, and the evidence of its rarity, if not formally quantified, can be found in almost any American courthouse.The New York Times examined the more than 500 applications for name changes in June at the Civil Court in New York, which has a greater foreign-born population than any other city in the United States. Only a half dozen or so of those applications appeared to be obviously intended to Anglicize or abbreviate the surnames that immigrants or their families arrived with from Latin America or Asia. (A few Russians and Eastern Europeans did, but about as many embraced their family’s original surnames as adopted new ones.)The vast majority of people with clearly ethnic surnames who applied to change them did so as a result of marriage (belatedly adopting a spouse’s surname or creating a new hyphenated one) or childbirth (because they were legally identified when they were born only as a male or female child or were adopting a parent’s name).Iyata Ishimabet Maini Valdene Archibald of Brooklyn changed her name to Ishimabet Makini Valdene Bryce. Guo Wi Chan of Forest Hills, Queens, changed his to Ryan Guowei Chan. And after Jing Qiu Wu, the Flushing, Queens, mother of 5-year-old Star Jing Garcia, divorced, she renamed her daughter Star Rain Wu, dropping her husband’s surname.Several dropped Mohammed as a first name, adopting Najmul or Hayat instead. And one older couple changed their last name from Islam to Khan, but they said they were conforming to other younger family members rather than reacting to discrimination.Sociologists say the United States is simply a more multicultural country today (think the Kardashian sisters or Renée Zellweger, for instance, who decades ago might have been encouraged to Anglicize their names), and they add that blending in by changing a name is not as effective for Asians and Latin Americans who, arguably, may be more easily identified by physical characteristics than some Europeans were in the 19th century and early 20th century.Also, at least in certain circumstances, affirmative action and similar programs have transformed ethnic identity into a potential asset.“If you are talking about 1910, the social forces on conformity were much stronger,” said Marian Smith, senior historian of the United States Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services, “whereas now an immigrant arrives with all these legal and identity documents, a driver’s license in their pocket, a passport, with one name on it. To change this is a big deal.”Douglas S. Massey, a Princeton University sociologist, suggested that newcomers from overseas and their children no longer felt pressure to change their surnames beginning “during the 1970s and 1980s, as immigration became more a part of American life and the civil rights movement legitimated in-group pride as something to be cultivated.”You can apply to the State Supreme Court to change your name (for $210) or to Civil Court (for $65) as long as you swear that you are not wanted for a crime and are not doing so to defraud anyone. Immigrants can simply check a box on their applications for naturalization. (The government said that in 2005 fewer than one in six did so, and for every possible reason.)A century or so ago, some names were simplified by shipping agents as immigrants boarded ships in Europe. Others were transliterated, but rarely changed, by immigration officials at Ellis Island. Many newcomers changed their names legally, from Sapusnick to Phillips (“difficulty in pronouncing name, interferes with their business,” according to a legal notice), Laskowsky to Lake (“former name not American”) and from Katchka to Kalin (Katchka means duck in Yiddish and a particular Mr. Katchka was “subjected to ridicule and annoyance because of this”).Most requests appear to have been granted routinely, although as recently as 1967, a Civil Court judge in Brooklyn refused to change Samuel Weinberg’s family name to Lansing “for future business reasons, such that my sons shall not bear any possible stigma.” The judge’s name was Jacob Weinberg.During World War I, another Brooklyn judge refused the application of a Weitz to become a Weeks.“There is no good reason why persons of German extraction should be permitted to conceal the fact by adopting through the aid of the court names of American or English origin,” the judge ruled. “It may involve some moral courage to bear German surnames or patronymics in these days, but the discomfort can best be borne by a display of genuine loyalty to this country.”Nancy Foner, a sociology professor at Hunter College of the City University of New York, said: “Jews and Italians changed their surnames in the past so that people wouldn’t identify them as Jews or Italians, the famous cases of course being movie stars. But if you look, phenotypically, nonwhite — East Asian, for example, or black — changing your last name is not going to make a difference. Betty Joan Perske became Lauren Bacall, and most people didn’t know she was Jewish; whatever name she used, Lena Horne was black.”Lisa Chang, whose parents came from Korea in 1976, had assumed she would marry a Korean man, but decided to retain her maiden name when she wed a Caucasian instead.“I felt like I would lose a part of myself and my Korean heritage and like I was cheating on my family’s name,” said Ms. Chang, 28, a troubleshooter for online advertising sites. “No one actually told me I had to change my last name, but I did feel some pressure from my future in-laws.”Marija Sajkas, 40, a health care advocate who moved from Yugoslavia seven years ago, is adopting her Bosnian husband’s surname, Tomic — partly because it is easier to pronounce. “I am fortunate,” she said, “to have a great husband who also has a pronounceable surname.”Even these days, finding precisely the right adoptive name — one syllable or not — can be a problem. Not long ago, David M. Glauberman, a Manhattan public relations executive, grew tired of having to spell his name every time he left a telephone message. Instead, he legally changed his name to Grant. The first time he left a message, a secretary asked: “Is that Grand with a ‘d’ or Grant with a ‘t’?”Sam Roberts’s grandfather arrived in the United States as Samuel Rabinowitz. His family first changed the name to Rubin, then to Roberts.~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~See you Sunday morning!
- Sunday, June 16, 10 a.m., Albert Einstein Residence CenterBreaking Down Brick Walls
Our June meeting focuses on breaking through the barriers, solving the problems you haven't been able to solve. Join us Sunday as our members provide guidance on those tough questions that impede research. The answers may help you in your own research efforts.~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~And here's an item from Avotaynu about the new museum in Antwerp. You may recall a speaker we had in the last year or so who discussed the Red Star Line and is involved with the museum.Red Star Line Museum To Open in September
A Red Star Line Museum will open on September 27 in Antwerp, Belgium. It will be housed in three buildings in Antwerp harbor that originally served the ship line. In the museum, a timeline of human migration is illustrated with 20 personal stories of passengers who traveled on the Red Star Line.
Antwerp was a particularly popular port of emigration for Jews from Central and Eastern Europe. These people constituted a sizeable proportion of the Red Star Line’s passengers. The shipping company recruited its customers from deep within Eastern Europe. It conducted a vigorous advertising campaign and used an extensive network of agents. To take one statistic: of the 2.8 million people to leave czarist Russia for the United States between 1899 and 1914, 40% were Jewish. These people came largely from Lithuania, White Russia (Belarus), Ukraine, Bessarabia (Moldova) and Poland. In addition, there were also many Austrian-Hungarian Jews. In many cases, these were people of very limited means who were assisted by several Jewish relief organizations in Antwerp. The majority of these migrants came by train through Germany with a minority reaching Antwerp by boat. A further description can be found at http://tinyurl.com/RedStarJewish.
At present, the purpose of the museum is to display the immigrant experience. There is no mention of research facilities or record collections. The museum’s website is at http://www.redstarline.org.~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~And here's Part 3 from the New York Times series on archival techniques for preserving your family history:
June 12, 2013Tips on Archiving Family History, Part 3By THE NEW YORK TIMESReaders sent dozens of questions about archiving and preserving family history and stories to Bertram Lyons, an archivist at the American Folklife Center of the Library of Congress in Washington. He was recently asked to be the editor of the International Association of Sound and Audiovisual Archives, an organization that aims to share best practices in the management of audiovisual materials internationally. He received his master’s degree in museum studies from the University of Kansas in 2009.The first set of answers dealt with questions of preserving audio. The second set of answers addressed film and photos, digital and analog. This week Mr. Lyons fields questions about manuscripts, video and other issues. This feature is now closed to new questions.How to Store Aging DocumentsQ. I’ve been told that plastics are not the best thing to store old documents in, and they should be placed in archive quality, acid-free paper products and boxes. However, what advice can you give to family members who keep and cherish documents from the 1800s that are flood prone and who probably would not be willing to consider safety deposit boxes, because they want to keep them at home? Are there sealed, waterproof containers that are advisable in this situation? PamA. Pam, check out this list of suppliers of archival products that the Smithsonian maintains. It’s not the case that all plastics are bad. In fact, certain plastics are highly recommended for long-term storage. The key with plastics is to avoid PVC-based polymers and to avoid any type of plastic that off-gases to a dangerous degree. Three forms of plastic that are regularly used in preservation scenarios are polyethylene, polypropylene and polyester. Look for archival storage products that are composed of one of these three polymers. If photos are involved, make sure the product has passed the Photographic Activity Test (PAT). If so, most products will advertise this fact.Q. How could you preserve an autograph book that has writings in it from friends of my great-grandmother. The dates are 1885 through 1887. Cukie, Lacombe, La.A. Cukie, the first thing I would do is to purchase a high-quality storage container for it. You want something that lays horizontally and that encloses the book entirely. It also needs to be made of acid-free and lignin-free materials. Hollinger Metal Edge sells such containers. You can also purchase 100-percent-cotton fabric to wrap the book before it is stored in the box. Keep it out of the light entirely (the full-enclosure box will help that), and keep it in a cool, dry space. Heat, light and moisture all speed the decay of cellulosic materials (which is what the paper of the book is made of).Digitizing Documents From World War IIQ. We have a massive collection of old family WWII letters, many of which are near crumbling. We would like to have them digitized and then made into a physical book and an e-book. What suggestions do you have to accomplish this myself or with services that do this type of archival work? Thanks. KoaQ. My grandfather’s negatives from World War II are crumbling. I know from letters written between him and his brothers that Agfa chemicals and paper were used. How do I preserve them? They are 120-millimeter format. Should I try refixing them with fixer? Villette 1Q. I have a box filled with items from my father’s WWII experience in the Persian Gulf — many letters, photos, crumbling newspaper clippings, pamphlets, patches. How do I preserve and put them together to form an interesting archive for my children and grandchildren? PeggyA. Koa, take a look at the responses I provided to other questions about photo digitization and preservation. I provided a lot of resources related to digital imaging (scanning) that will be useful for your case, too. Before you prepare for any scanning, though, it would be helpful for you to stabilize the letters physically. If they are not already, be sure to store them in acid- and lignin-free folders and boxes and to keep them in dark, cool, dry locations, preferably off the floor.Villete 1, I’m sorry that I cannot be of more help. I have little experience with physical conservation of damaged negatives. This article by Paul Messier gives a good introduction to preservation considerations for negatives. It also has a useful bibliography that can lead you to further sources. Also, see my earlier answers to photo-preservation questions in which I included many other links to resources.Peggy, it sounds as if you have a wonderful collection to pass on to your children. See my earlier answers to questions about photo and manuscripts preservation and storage. There are links to resources that provide guidance on methods to store and protect your collections. Remember to also document what the contents are. If there are people in photographs, document them. Your children will not have the information otherwise. Document dates and places as well. You can keep inventories on paper or in digital formats that your children can use in the future to know what everything is. And if the collection is ever donated to an archive, these inventories will be of great help to archivists and researchers.Being an employee of the Library of Congress, I would be remiss not to mention the Veterans History Project (VHP) as a potential home for collections that document the experiences of United States veterans. Its Web site gives information about the project and how to participate. It is an amazing and growing resource documenting the experience of veterans of all United States wars from World War I to contemporary conflicts.Many Choices for Digital VideoQ. We hold a growing community archive of recorded and filmed oral histories. For archival purposes, we’ve been using digital video tape for filming, as well as CF cards for audio.1. Is there any reason not to switch completely to nontape video recording? What format or quality setting is most universal (HD/Standard)?2. I recently became aware of the limitations of the Mac’s Time Machine as an archive and now create actual file backups. Should we abandon Time Machine or double up on the external drive stack?3. What is the most important part of any interview to save and in what format? Our archive of recordings and transcripts is stored on external drives and refreshed, but we also keep printed hard copies of all interviews. ChinquapinA. Chinquapin, you ask great and difficult questions. For long-term preservation purposes, the trend is to move toward file-based digital formats instead of carrier-dependent formats. This trend assumes an underlying strategy for maintaining the integrity of digital files and for keeping the files alive and redundant. Unfortunately, for video, there are many choices when it comes to codecs (the way the bits are encoded/decoded to represent the visual data, e.g., ffv1, H.264, Apple ProRes) and wrappers (the way the elements of the video — video, audio, metadata, etc. — are packaged together into a single file, e.g., Quicktime, AVI, MXF). And then there are more choices for matters such as resolution, color space and frame rate. I serve on a working group for audiovisual guidelines as part of the Federal Agencies Digitization Guidelines Initiative (FADGI). Although it is not available yet, we are working on a comparison chart for digital video codecs and wrappers.I am not too familiar with Time Machine’s limitations, but I am certain that you should make an effort to keep redundant (multiple) copies of your files on multiple drives, and if possible on multiple storage formats, as well as in different physical locations.At the American Folklife Center, we keep the raw footage from interviews as well as the final produced version (if one exists). We also generate transcripts and store those transcripts in physical and digital formats.Kara Van Malssen (Audiovisual Preservation Solutions) provides a useful overview of video preservation and management in this article that was written for a project called Oral History in the Digital Age. The article includes a list of resources that add further depth to the conversation, including “A Primer on Codecs for Moving Image and Sound Archives” by Chris Lacinak and a link to the video preservation Web site.The Importance of MetadataQ. What is the role of metadata in the personal/ family archive. Should an independent archivist have a metadata strategy when preserving digital historical material? Where do we even begin? I would also love to hear your thoughts on the longevity of external hard drives. a_wallA. A_wall, metadata, at its most basic, is information about the what, who, when, how, why and where regarding any given object, idea or event. Therefore, in my opinion, metadata plays an essential role in the personal/family archive. The beautiful thing about family history is that we often pass it orally from generation to generation. Humans also have a long history of writing things down in memoirs or letters or on things themselves in order to send information about the past into the future. I think people will continue to do such things.The harder question, however, is in what format will humans share information about digital collections as we pass it down from generation to generation. You cannot write on the back of a digital file, as we all know. But you can write in the digital file. And you can keep supplemental information about the digital file in spreadsheets and databases and other electronic forms. I think it is important that we all independently think about the methods through which we will share essential information about our digital collections with future generations. In my work, I’ve found that simpler methods of description prove more sustainable than complex methods. As an independent archivist, if you can develop a consistent strategy for describing your digital historical materials, you will be doing a service to those who come after you. With digital material, this assumes that you also develop a long-term storage strategy for your collections and the documentation about your collections, which leads me to your next question about the longevity of hard drives.Hard drives will not last forever. They have an average failure rate of about three to five years at this point. This means that you need to have plans to migrate from drive to drive about every three years. It is also important that you have redundant copies of your collections on separate drives (if possible on different storage formats or with some combination of online storage services and local hard drives) and in separate physical locations. Digital preservation is a long-term commitment to active migration.No Storage Medium Lasts ForeverQ. What’s safer (i.e., more crash-proof and more secure from prying eyes): an external hard drive or online storage? What are the best online storage sites? LarryQ. What is the life expectancy for an external hard drive? Will my backups last forever? SamQ. I’ve already lost pictures, videos and audio because of lost and broken drives and computers, so I’ve started storing media in the cloud more and more. But is “the cloud” really safe in the long term? spacebaileyA. As part of a Web site about personal archiving, the Library of Congress recently put together a quick guide to thinking about storage media. The key takeaway, in my opinion, is that no storage medium lasts forever. With digital information, active migration is essential. You will need to be prepared to develop a storage strategy for your digital files that includes multiple storage formats (hard drives and online storage services, among others), multiple locations (home, online, neighbors, friends, family) and active monitoring and migration to new storage in regular intervals. At this point in the game, no single storage format or service is enough to ensure the health and integrity of your files.Q. When will the Twitter archive be available for public search and retrieval? Jason F.A. Jason F., here is the most current release of information about the Twitter archive from the Library of Congress. Included at the bottom of the page is a detailed white paper on the topic.Unifying Family’s Oral HistoriesQ. I’ve been interviewing my grandparents and great-aunts and -uncles as part of a project to create an oral history of my family for future generations. The recordings are digital, but at this point I have dozens of hours of recordings spread across CDs, USB keys and external hard drives — and I haven’t transcribed any of it. Do you have any pointers for organizing this audio, other than the basic transcription services out there? I’d love to be able to sort the audio by family member, date or other information. CarolA. I love that you are doing this project, Carol. It will be a valuable resource for future generations. First and foremost, I recommend that you unify all of your recordings under one roof. Move them all to an appropriate-size external hard drive and then make a copy of that drive so that you have two copies. See some of my other answers in this column for more information about digital file management. Next, take time to make at least a preliminary inventory of your recordings. Use a spreadsheet instead of a text document so that the data is standardized and can be imported into other formats. At the very least, include information about the interviewer, the interviewee, the date of the interview, the location of the interview and the duration of the interview, as well as a short summary of the contents of the interview. Also provide a unique identifier for each audio file (e.g., the file name) and connect this identifier to the data in your spreadsheet. This will provide quick searchability while you wait to move to a more automated method.At this point you have the raw materials necessary for use in any automated interface. There are simple and basic systems that you could use for search and access, even something like iTunes could work locally on your computer. Be sure not to assume that a searchable system will provide preservation. You’ll need to continue to be active in your efforts to ensure the integrity and health of the files and the descriptions about the files. There are also more robust systems that you can use to provide access (for yourself, your family or the public) to the interviews. A new project, Pop Up Archive, hopes to provide support for people like you who are looking for methods to organize, preserve and provide some type of access to audio collections.The Need to Share StoriesQ. I thought my mother’s diaries, tiny handwritten lines, would be a memory trove. But I find myself not reading them. Now I am trying to leave memories to my grandchildren, writing memoirs, assembling pictures. But I ask, “Will they care?” Maybe all this memoir writing is for me, to justify my life, not for them? How can I put these artifacts and words together so it might be relevant to their lives? BarbaraQ. I have a rambunctious group of siblings, associated nieces and nephews, grand-nieces and -nephews and an angelic, positive 92-year-old mother who is full of stories developed over the life of all these people. Her attitude in life has brought her through so many situations with positive outcomes, an exhibition of what a positive attitude can do in face of the most difficult of situations. How can we best capture her life for sharing with the current and future generations of our family? KatA. Barbara, Kat, in my mind, you are asking questions about the most fundamental impulse that drives collecting institutions like archives, museums and libraries: memory. How do societies document evidence and information about the past in such a way that will be useful for their members in the present as well as for anyone at anytime in the future? How do families pass down their knowledge, experiences, histories and legends from one generation to the next? People have been successful at this endeavor for centuries and centuries, and I have no doubt that we will continue in step. Different groups in different times have employed a diverse set of available technologies to communicate to future generations, including oral traditions, written traditions and documentary recording media (still images, sound recordings and moving images).In my opinion, what we have learned up to this point is that we need to continue to exploit all of these methods to ensure that we pass on as much as possible from one generation to the next. We need to share stories; we need to write to each other, and about each other; and we need to record our voices and our likenesses. We cannot preserve everything. And not everything needs to be preserved. But the more we talk, the more we write and the more we document, the better chance some fragment of our expressions and experiences will make its way to our descendants.Previous Ask an Expert columns can be found here.
- Please join us on Sunday:Sunday, July 21, 10 a.m. "The WPA: Sources for Your Genealogy"Einstein Center 1935 Wright St., SacramentoGena Philibert-Ortega will talk about the Works Progress Administration of Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal, that involved projects to help Americans get back to work. Less well known may be projects that included gathering historical information and conducting oral interviews. The presentation will look at the WPA's legacy and how its projects can enhance your genealogical research.Mark Your Calendars -- "Who Do You Think You Are?" ReturnsNew shows featuring celebrity genealogy will start again on Tuesday, July 23, 9 p.m., on the TLC network.~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~Article from the New York Public Library:Why Your Family Name Was Not Changed at Ellis Island (and One That Was) by Philip Sutton, Milstein Division of United States History, Local History and Genealogy, Stephen A. Schwarzman Building July 2, 2013Between 1892 and 1954, over twelve million people entered the United States through the immigration inspection station at Ellis Island, a small island located in the upper bay off the New Jersey coast. There is a myth that persists in the field of genealogy, or more accurately, in family lore, that family names were changed there. They were not. Numerous blogs, essays, and books have proven this. Yet the myth persists; a story in a recent issue of The New Yorker suggests that it happened. This post will explore how and why names were not changed. It will then tell the story of Frank Woodhull, an almost unique example of someone whose name was changed, as proof that even if your name was changed at Ellis Island (it wasn't), it wouldn't have mattered. Confused? Read on...The legend goes that officials at Ellis Island, unfamiliar with the many languages and nationalities of the people arriving at Ellis Island, would change the names of those immigrants that sounded foreign, or unusual. Vincent J. Cannato's excellent book American Passage: The History of Ellis Island explains why this did not happen:Nearly all [...] name change stories are false. Names were not changed at Ellis Island. The proof is found when one considers that inspectors never wrote down the names of incoming immigrants. The only list of names came from the manifests of steamships, filled out by ship officials in Europe. In the era before visas, there was no official record of entering immigrants except those manifests. When immigrants reached the end of the line in the Great Hall, they stood before an immigration clerk with the huge manifest opened in front of him. The clerk then proceeded, usually through interpreters, to ask questions based on those found in the manifests. Their goal was to make sure that the answers matched. (p.402)Inspectors did not create records of immigration; rather they checked the names of the people moving through Ellis Island against those recorded in the ship's passenger list, or manifest. The ship's manifest was created by employees of the steamship companies that brought the immigrants to the United States, before the voyage took place, when the passenger bought their ticket. The manifest was presented to the officials at Ellis Island when the ship arrived. If anything, Ellis Island officials were known to correct mistakes in passenger lists. The Encyclopedia of Ellis Island states that employees of the steamship companies,…mostly ticket agents and pursers required no special identification from passengers and simply accepted the names the immigrants gave them. Immigrant inspectors [at Ellis Island] accepted these names as recorded in the ship's manifests and never altered them unless persuaded that a mistake had been made in the spelling or rendering of the name. Nonetheless the original name was never entirely scratched out and remained legible. (p.176)Although it is always possible that the names of passengers were spelt wrong, perhaps by the clerk when the ticket was bought, or during transliteration, when names were translated from one alphabet to another, it is more likely that immigrants were their own agents of change. Cannato, for instance, suggests that people often changed their name in advance of migration. More commonly, immigrants would change their names themselves when they had arrived in the United States, and for a number of reasons.Someone might change their name in order to make it sound more American, to fit in with the local community, or simply because it was good for business. There is at least one instance of a small businessman arriving in the United States from Eastern Europe changing his name, at least his public name, to something that sounded Swedish, because he had settled in a Swedish neighborhood in New York City. Immigrants would sometimes officially record their name change, when naturalizing for instance, but often, as there was no law in New York State requiring it be done, no official record of a name change was made. People would just start using a different name.John Colletta, in his book They Came in Ships, describes the immigration process at Ellis Island in more detail:[The] Inspector [in the immigration receiving center] had in has hands a written record of the immigrant he was inspecting and, asking the same questions over again, could compare the oral statements with it. The inspectors therefore, read the names already written down on the lists, and they had at their service a large staff of translators who worked along side them in the Great Hall of the Ellis Island facility. (p.12)Contemporary descriptions of Ellis Island do not mention name changes at Ellis Island. A search of historical newspapers using the ProQuest Historical Database produces only one story about name changes written during the time that Ellis Island was in operation.Leonard Lyon's entertainment column Broadway Potpourri, in the Washington Post of April 10th, 1944, states that Harry Zarief, "the assistant concert master for Morton Gould," and famously a father of quadruplets, had recently changed his name back from Friedman.Friedman. His name originally was Zarief, but when his family arrived at Ellis Island the immigration inspector told him that Zarief was too complicated, and recorded his name as "Friedman." Many years later the "Friedman" was changed back to the original Zarief. (p.9)There are hundreds of stories about the immigration inspection station in the newspapers of the time that do not mention names being changed. In a 1922 article, titled To Be or Not to Be American in the New York Times, journalist Elizabeth Heath describes a visit to Ellis Island, and the Great Hall where immigrants were processed.Upstairs, in the great main hall of the building, the straggling crowd is skillfully split into a dozen long lines, each leading to the desk of an inspector. Before him is spread the manifest of the steamship company, giving the required information about each steerage passenger - religion, relatives in America, amount of money, source of passage money, literacy, occupation, and the positive statement that the candidate for admission does not believe or practice polygamy or anarchy. It is a seeming miscellany of information, but each item has a direct bearing on the legality of admission. (p.41)A letter to the Chicago Tribune advice column The Legal Friend of the People, dated September 16, 1912 discusses name changes and an application for citizenship, and mentions Ellis Island.After having lived in the United States for five years I changed the spelling of my name. When I made my declaration to become a citizen of the United States, about a year and a half ago, I gave my name as I now spell it. Will this cause any hitch in my taking out final citizenship papers six months hence? [...] I understand that all declarations of intention to become a citizen are forwarded to New York and verified by the records at Ellis Island. When it is discovered that my name, as I spelled it when I took out my first papers, is not on the books [the ships manifests] there, will this interfere with my taking out my final naturalization papers?The advice given in reply:On making the application for final papers, you should spell your name as in the original application. You have the right to change the spelling without a court process. (p.6)The idea that names were changed at Ellis Island raises lots of questions. For instance, if names were changed, what happened to the paperwork? And if inspectors were charged with changing names, why are their no records of this? Where are the lists of approved names? Where are the first hand accounts, of inspectors and immigrants? If immigrants had name changes forced upon them, why did they not simply change their name back when they entered the country? Or, if they could not, where is paperwork describing the roles of Federal officials charged with making sure that names were not changed back?All rather silly, perhaps. Yet the myth persists, almost exclusively in family lore. One explanation might be that we live in more enlightened times. People migrating to the United States no longer feel that they have to change their name to fit in, and so it seems strange that people would voluntarily change their name generations ago.Marian L. Smith, in her essay American Names: Declaring Independence, suggests that another interpretation of the Ellis Island myth might be:That an immigrant is remembering his initial confrontation with American culture. Ellis Island was not only immigrant processing, it was finding one's way around the city, learning to speak English, getting one's first job or apartment, going to school, and adjusting one's name to a new spelling or pronunciation. All these experiences, for the first few years, were the "Ellis Island experience." When recalling their immigration decades before, many immigrants referred to the entire experience as "Ellis Island."There is always the exception to the rule. The clipping below is from the passenger list for the steamship S.S. New York, which arrived at the Port of New York, from Southampton, England, October 4th, 1908. It shows that a passenger's name has been crossed out and replaced with another, that of Mary Johnson. The clipping below that is from the United Kingdom Outward Passenger Lists and confirms that the passenger had described himself as Frank Woodhull, a clerk, and alien in the United States.List or manifest of alien passengers: S.S. New York (American Line) Sept 26th,1908United Kingdom outward passengers: S.S. New York (American Line) Sept 26th,1908The S.S. New York's passenger list includes an addendum, a page titled Record of Aliens Held for Special Inquiry. This was a list of the names of passengers disembarking from the S.S. New York, who were detained at Ellis Island. The reason given for "Mary Johnson" being held for further inspection is that "she" was travelling as Frank Woodhull "in male attire." Mr. Woodhull proved that he would not be a financial burden on the United States, and was allowed to continue his journey to New Orleans.Record of aliens held for special inquiry: S.S. New York (American Line) Sept 26th, 1908The incident generated headlines in newspapers all over the country, and Frank Woodhull gave a number of interviews, where he told his story, a story that tells us much about the times. Here it is as told to the New York Times, October 5th and 6th, 1908.My life has always been a struggle. I come of an English-Canadian family, and I have most of my fight to make all alone. Thirty years ago, when I was 20, my father died and I was thrown entirely on my own resources. I came to this country a young girl and went west to make my way. For fifteen years I struggled on. The hair on my face was a misfortune. It was often the subject of rude jest and caused me endless embarrassment. The struggle was awful, but I had to live somehow, and so I went on. God knows that life has been hard, but of the hardness of those years I cannot speak.Then came a time fifteen years ago when I got desperate. I had been told that I looked like a man, and I knew that in Canada some women have put on men's clothes do men's work. So the thought took shape in my mind. If these women had done it why could not I, who looked like a man? I was in California at the time. I bought men's clothes and began to wear them. Then things changed. I had prospects. My occupation I have given here as canvasser, but I have done many things. I have sold books, lightning rods, and worked in stores. Never once was I suspected that I was other than Frank Woodhull. I have lived my life, and I tried to live it well. Most of the time I have been in California, but now I am going to New Orleans, where there are chances of employment.I have never attempted to take citizenship papers. I knew to do so would be either to reveal my sex or else become a law breaker. I have never been the latter. I did not know that there was a law against women wearing male attire in this State or I would have sailed to another port. My folks come originally from England and it had long been my wish to go there and take a look about. So with a measure of success the longing grew and I began to save up for my holiday. I went over in the steerage two months ago and returned the same way.On October 8th, 1908 Woodhull returned from Europe, and passing through Ellis Island, as an alien, despite having lived in the United States for a number of years, was pulled to one side by an official who thought that he might have Tuberculosis. Erica Rand, in her book The Ellis Island Snow Globe, quotes an article that appeared in the New-York Tribune, describing "what happened when Woodhull was called for further examination:[…] Woodhull told the surgeon "Oh, please don't examine me!" She pleaded. "I might as well tell you all. I am a woman, and have traveled in male attire for fifteen years." "(p.80)Woodhull was brought before a Board of Special Inquiry at Ellis Island, who according to the New York Times, October 6th, declared him a "desirable immigrant [who] should be allowed to win her livelihood as she saw fit." (p.6)Woodhull talked about how women were expected to behave, dress, and of the types of work open to them.Women have a hard time in this world. They are walking advertisements for the milliner, the dry goods stores, the jewelers, and other shops. They live in the main only for their clothes, and now and then when a woman comes to the front who does not care for dress she is looked upon as a freak and a crank. With me how different.See this hat? I have worn that hat for three years, and it cost me $3. What woman could have worn a hat so long? Bah! They are the slaves to whim and fashion. What could I do when fifteen years ago I faced the crisis in my life? There was only housework to which I could turn.[…] Men can work at many unskilled callings, but to a woman only a few are open, and they are the grinding, death-dealing kinds of work. Well, for me, I prefer to live a life of independence and freedom.The New York Times goes on to add that the individual identified at Ellis Island as Mary Johnson, was freed, to "face the world as Frank Woodhull." (p.6)A thorough search of Ancestry Library Edition provides no clues as to Frank Woodhull's whereabouts after leaving Ellis Island, though the internet does include references to his settling in New Orleans, becoming an American citizen, and dying in 1939: citations are missing. Perhaps, after the furor, Frank decided to change his name, to avoid further publicity. This story illustrates one thing. Once Woodhull left Ellis Island, he was no longer obliged to be known as Mary Johnson, but was free to resume his life, complete with the name and identity of his choosing. Ellis Island could not impose a name upon him.Further readingCopies of ship's manifests, or passenger lists, are avialable at New York Public Library, via the database Ancestry Library Edition.If you would like to read more about Ellis Island, try searching for materials in the Library's catalog. You can use the following subject terms:The Library's Digital Gallery includes many images of Ellis Island.~~~~~~~~~~~~~~From Gary Mokotoff's E-zines, July 7 and 14, 2013:Lithuanian Internal Passport Indexing Project Reaches 116,000
The LitvakSIG Internal Passport Project (1919–1940) has now indexed 116,191 records. For the period 1919–1940, every Lithuanian citizen age 17 or older was required to have an internal passport. They are called “internal passports” because they could only be used for travel within Lithuania. In reality, they were personal identification documents ... and a valuable genealogical resource because they include name, date/place of birth, address, nationality, religion, occupation, some special traits (if the person had any), family status, information about children.
There is an 18-month delay between the date the data is extracted and the date they are available to the public at no charge. The information is more readily available if a person contributes money or time to the project. Complete information can be found at http://www.jewishgen.org/databases/Lithuania/InternalPassports.htm.
Genealogical Research in the 1980sWhile placing the contents of Avotaynu’s files back into their proper order after our move, I [Gary Mokotoff] came upon two file drawers that represented my early family history research in the 1980s. It made me think about how things have changed with the advent of the Internet and digitized images. Here are some examples.
Some of my most cherished possessions from the 1980s’ collection are the passenger arrival (Ellis Island) records acquired by expending much energy. The records, available then only on microfilm, required that you first search an index sequenced in soundex order. My original family name, Mokotow, soundexed to M230. The American version, Mokotoff, coded to M231. Consequently, I had to look in two different places in the index. (It was one of my motivations for creating the Daitch-Mokotoff Soundex System—a system that supports Germanic and Slavic names as well as Anglo-Saxon names.)Once you found the index card, you could identify which microfilm had the actual passenger record and then retrieve the microfilm reel of the passenger list and locate the page of interest. The film was then brought over to a microfilm printer and a copy of the pages(s) was made. I never did find the arrival record of my great-grandparents because their surname was misspelled on the passenger list. I had to wait more than 20 years for the Stephen P. Morse One-Step site on the Internet which can locate passengers with minimal information about the name.
In 1981, I stumbled onto a place called the (Mormon) Family History Center in New York City. The Family History catalog, then on microfiche, showed they had Jewish vital records of the Mokotow ancestral town of Warka, Poland. At that time the Center did not have a microfilm printer. Wanting to capture every document of a person named Mokotow, I brought along my non-digital camera loaded with black/white film and took a snapshot of every Mokotow record projected on the microfilm table. The film was taken to a photo store where it was developed and printed. These snapshots are still in my possession. Years later, a trip to the Family History Library in Salt Lake City allowed me to make prints from the microfilm. Today, Jewish Records Indexing – Poland has indexed these records, and it is likely that in the next 12 months, the actual digitized images located at the Polish State archives site will be linked to this index.
My collection also includes some excellent indexed road maps of the countries of Eastern Europe. These were used to find an ancestral town in the 1980s before there was http://maps.google.com.
We have come a long way in the past 25–30 years in doing family history research. What used to take hours or days now takes minutes. What could not be found due to misspellings has been overcome with indexes that include wildcard and soundex searches.~~~~~~~~~~~See You at Sunday's Meeting!
- Frederick Hertz on"Finding David Blumenfeld: A Family Reunited through Discovery of a Diary" --which ultimately led to a trip of discovery to Latvia.See you at 10 a.m. at the Einstein Center.
- Jewish Genealogy Society of SacramentoSunday, June 15, 10 a.m."The Julian Calendar and Its Importance to Genealogists"-- Steve MorseThe Julian calendar is important to historians because it was used worldwide for more than 16 centuries, and in various parts of the world for another three centuries after that. It's important to genealogists because it was used to record events in many countries as recently as the early 1900s.Converting from Julian calendar dates to our current Gregorian calendar dates appears to be straightforward. But a deeper look shows the subtle issues involved, such as double-dating, undetermined year starts and birthdates that change over time.San Francisco genealogist Steve Morse returns to give us a historic perspective of the Roman calendars from which the Julian calendar is derived. He'll then explain the workings of the Julian calendar and the reforms made to convert it to the more accurate Gregorian calendar. Steve will discuss the implications of these reforms and the problems they can cause for genealogists and historians.Please join us for this program Sunday morning at the Einstein Center in Sacramento.Genealogy Shows Cardinal O’Connor’s Mother Was JewishBy ALISON LEIGH COWAN JUNE 10, 2014 New York TimesCardinal John Joseph O'Connor in 1993. While the cardinal was well-known as a defender and friend of the Jewish people, he was apparently unaware that his mother was born Jewish, the daughter of a rabbi. Credit Fred R. Conrad/The New York TimesBRIDGEPORT, CONN. — In his 16 years as the Catholic Church’s top official in New York, Cardinal John Joseph O’Connor was a staunch friend and defender of the Jewish people.He spoke often about what he had seen at Dachau as a Navy chaplain. He used his platform as head of the Archdiocese of New York to support Soviet Jewry, and played a role in the Vatican’s recognition of the state of Israel. Mayor Edward I. Koch, a Bronx-born Jew who worked closely with the cardinal, proclaimed that he loved him “like a brother.”Yet there was something Cardinal O’Connor apparently never knew: His mother was born a Jew, the daughter of a rabbi and butcher.“The basic fact is, my mother was Jewish,” said Mary O’Connor Ward-Donegan, the cardinal’s 87-year-old sister. Observing the Jewish matrilineal tradition, she added, “That means my two brothers were Jewish, my sister was Jewish and I am Jewish. Of that I am very proud.”The saga, reflecting the kinds of rifts, new starts and reinventions that mark many American families, emerged in recent weeks, first in the April 30 issue of Catholic New York in a first-person essay by Mrs. Ward-Donegan, who had been searching for information about her forebears. The revelation set off a storm of genealogical research by the religious press, including Jewish Week, which called upon Renee Stern Steinig, an expert in Jewish genealogy, to connect some dots.Mary O'Connor Ward-Donegan, the cardinal’s 87-year-old sister, at her home in Ridley Park, Pa.She and her daughter Eileen discovered the family's Jewish roots. Credit Jessica Kourkounis for The New York TimesSo far, there is no indication that the cardinal, who died in 2000, knew about his lineage. His mother, Dorothy, a devout Catholic who died in 1971, told her children little about her upbringing, according to Mrs. Ward-Donegan.The first hint that her mother had been born in a Jewish home came when Mrs. Ward-Donegan’s daughter, Eileen Ward Christian, spotted some headstones online, including some inscribed in Hebrew.Though Mrs. Ward-Donegan had thought her mother’s maiden name was spelled Gomple or Gumple, she eventually realized that she was seeking family members named Gumpel. The headstones her daughter happened upon were for Gustave Gumpel and Tina Ruben, “wife of Gustave Gumpel,” the couple Mrs. Ward-Donegan now knows as her Prussian-born maternal grandparents. They were in a Jewish cemetery in Fairfield, Conn., owned by the Bridgeport synagogue B’nai Israel.B’nai Israel will accept a member’s non-Jewish spouse for burial now, according to Rabbi James Prosnit, the congregation’s spiritual leader since 1990. But he said the synagogue’s gatekeepers in 1890, when Mrs. Gumpel died, or in 1914, when Mr. Gumpel was buried, would not knowingly have buried anyone there who was not Jewish.Other clues to the grandparents’ religious identity, culled from B’nai Israel’s archives and other sources scoured by Mrs. Steinig, made a strong case that Gustave Gumpel was both rabbi to B’nai Israel and butcher to the German-Jewish community that he and his wife joined in the 1880s after leaving the Lower East Side of Manhattan.Hearing that Mrs. Steinig had traced Rabbi Gumpel’s place of business for a time to a “meat market,” Mrs. Ward-Donegan suddenly recalled a conversation she had with her mother, who had one mangled finger. When she asked her mother how it happened, “Playing in her father’s butcher shop,” was the reply.By all indications, Tina Gumpel was the rabbi’s second wife, helping raise four children from a prior marriage as well as five of her own. She died about 10 years after coming to the United States, sometime around her 30th birthday, leaving Mr. Gumpel to raise the large brood on his own. Her youngest child, identified as Deborah on an 1887 birth record, Dora in the 1900 census, and Dorothy Gomple when she converted to Catholicism and was baptized by Father William J. Fitzgerald in Bridgeport in 1908, was a toddler when her mother died.Cardinal John Joseph O’Connor greeted, from left, Rabbi Israel Mowshowitz, assistant to Gov. Mario Cuomo; Rabbi Michael Wyschogrod of the American Jewish Congress, and Rabbi Moses Birnbaum of the New York Board of Rabbis at St. Patrick's Cathedral in 1988. Credit John Sotomayor/The New York TimesMrs. Ward-Donegan said her mother was subsequently cared for by two half sisters, who had been thrust into a role they apparently resented. Dorothy bolted the moment she came of age and, Mrs. Ward-Donegan said, “never went back.” She built a new life in Philadelphia, where she married Thomas O’Connor, a decorative painter, in late 1909 at St. Clement’s Church.Mrs. Steinig said Dorothy was probably not the first of the Gumpel children to leave the family behind. Newspaper obituaries, vital records and a 1915 will left by Emma, one of the half sisters who looked after Dorothy, point to rifts in the family between children who remained Jewish and three sisters who appear to have made other choices.According to both Mrs. Ward-Donegan and Joseph Zwilling, a spokesman for the New York Archdiocese, the cardinal occasionally referred to his mother as a newcomer to Catholicism. “It wasn’t a secret,” Mr. Zwilling said. But based on her German roots and apparent knowledge of German as a child, the assumption was that she had converted from Lutheranism.Mrs. Ward-Donegan, who lives in Ridley Park, Pa., said she only began digging into her roots after her daughter, Mrs. Christian, gave her a paid subscription to Ancestry.com, an online fount of genealogical records, for Mother’s Day two years ago. The two women were planning a trip to Ireland and wanted to read up on their ancestors before they went. “This is how it all started,” said Mrs. Ward-Donegan. “I started building trees on my father’s side of the family, and for my mother’s side of the family, it was really difficult to find anything.”Mrs. Christian played around with the search engine and made an observation that changed everything: her mother’s family seemed to be buried in a Jewish cemetery in Connecticut.Mrs. Ward-Donegan was soon prowling in the Connecticut cemetery for clues, aided by two nuns from Sisters of Life, whose order had close ties to the cardinal.They spotted Tina Gumpel’s grave near the entrance, and, farther back, the graves of Rabbi Gumpel and four of his children. A phrase from the Book of Job was etched in Hebrew on Rabbi Gumpel’s tombstone, describing him as a man who was “plain and straight” and of good character.Rabbi James Prosnit of the Bridgeport synagogue B’nai Israel, with Gustave Gumpel's gravestone at the synagogue's cemetery in Fairfield, Conn. Mr. Gumpel was the maternal grandfather of Cardinal O'Connor. Credit Andrew Sullivan for The New York TimesThe reference to Job was apt. Rabbi Gumpel’s life was marked by setbacks and challenge. He outlived the mothers of his children, and was left to raise his children on his own.Also, B’nai Israel’s minutes and other archival records suggest that the community might have been less than appreciative of his services. His name appears nowhere in the programs or extensive news coverage about the opening of the synagogue’s first building in 1911, or about an 1899 wedding that fused two of the congregation’s founding families.“Maybe he was too Orthodox for them,” said Robert K. Lesser, 90, a Bridgeport lawyer and grandson of the marrying couple. “That’s why you don’t see his name around much. He was a butcher, and a rabbi in name only. They must not have respected him much. That was a low-class occupation.”As immigrants who had arrived some decades earlier, Mr. Lesser said, his grandparent’s set “already had their noses up in the air.”Rabbi Prosnit called the Gumpel saga, in which a Jewish daughter ventures off and pursues a new life with a man of a different faith, “an American version of the ‘Fiddler on the Roof’ story.”America in the Gumpels’ day, he said, was a land of assimilation, and “plenty of Jews were embracing the majority culture” when they arrived in the United States.Mrs. Ward-Donegan acknowledged that she might never know why her mother left the fold or who may have influenced her. She said her own progeny were all comfortable with their newfound knowledge of their background.“Born of a Jewish mother, you’re Jewish,” she said. “I have eight children, and they’re fine with that. And I’ve told them, of course, all the girls will carry the line.”Mrs. Christian said her daughters, both adopted from Asian countries, were tickled by this, and kept asking, “So that means I’m Jewish, too?”Census Records Shed a New Light on Some of the Mayor’s ForebearsBy SAM ROBERTS JUNE 1, 2014The ancestral home of Bill de Blasio at 205 East 17th Street. Credit Chester Higgins Jr./The New York TimesBill de Blasio’s mother was born in the house on East 17th Street in Manhattan. His grandmother, great-grandmother and other relatives lived there, too, at the start of the 20th century. Now, newly-digitized records from a 1905 New York State census have filled in some of the gaps in the congenial Italian heritage that he says grounded him, while his German-American father struggled with alcoholism and ultimately killed himself.Mr. de Blasio has never been inside the three-story redbrick house at 205 East 17th Street, but he has heard plenty of family folklore.“Both my parents were 44 when they had me, so everyone I grew up with were children of the immigrant generation,” the mayor recalled in an interview. “I got an unusual vantage point.”While it was already known that his ancestral connection to Italy helped shape Mr. de Blasio’s life, new details about how his relatives arrived, and the 17th Street rowhouse itself, may also help explain how his “Tale of Two Cities” campaign theme evolved.PhotoAccording to census records, the mayor's grandmother and great-grandmother lived at the 17th Street residence. Credit Courtesy of Ancestry.comHis grandmother, Anna Briganti, emigrated from Grassano, “a poor hill town in the middle of nowhere,” he recalled, and yet a village priest instilled in the family the value of education. One of her brothers, who remained in Italy, became a college professor. Of two others, who lived on 17th Street, one was a doctor and another was a civil engineer.“This was a small-town family of very limited means, but there was a strong educational impulse on my mother’s side,” Mr. de Blasio said.Still, the family did not have to disembark at Ellis Island to be screened, because they would have gone through the process before boarding their ship.While the men pursued professional careers, the women were also independently entrepreneurial. Their embroidery business grew into Misses Briganti “high-class ladies dresses,” with a store just off Fifth Avenue.The family was even well-off enough to afford a live-in servant, identified in the census as Rosie Salami, an Italian immigrant.(The digitized version of the original handwritten 1905 enumeration records are available free to New York State residents as part of a collaboration among the New York State Archives, Ancestry.com and FamilySearch).Anna Briganti, apparently, was no shrinking violet. In 1908, she sued a Hoboken doctor for $20,000 (about $500,000 in today’s dollars) for breach of promise, for refusing to marry her.Near the East 17th Street house, St. George’s Episcopal Church, on Stuyvesant Square, also seemed to embody the “two cities” refrain that Mr. de Blasio would later adopt.In 1897, the pastor, the Rev. Dr. W. S. Rainsford, touched off a firestorm in the city by publicly deriding an ostentatious costume ball at a time when “never were the lines between the two classes — those who have wealth and those who envy them — more distinctly drawn.”Three years later, J. Pierpont Morgan’s eldest daughter was married at St. George’s, the same year that the Rev. Dr. S. C. Swallow denounced the tyranny of capital from the pulpit there to an audience of working men.At the turn of the century, Stuyvesant Square was the proverbial changing neighborhood, “fast being surrounded by an alien tenement population,” as The New York Times described it.Neighbors still included the artist Otto Toaspern and John M. Lander, a society band leader and associate of Ward McAllister, the self-appointed arbiter of New York society, who coined the term “The Four Hundred.” But German and Irish immigrants began moving in, followed by Jews and Italians.The neighborhood has bounced back. Recently, a one-bedroom apartment at 205 East 17th, between Second and Third Avenues, with a working fireplace and a Japanese soaking tub, was listed at $570,000.A version of this article appears in print on June 2, 2014, on page A19 of the New York edition with the headline: Census Records Shed a New Light on Some of the Mayor’s Forebears.Genealogy series 'Who Do You Think You Are?' to feature Cynthia Nixon, Rachel McAdamsA preview for the upcoming season teases that Nixon discovers surprising secrets about her ancestors.By Annie Martin | June 4, 2014 at 2:44 PM |The 48-year-old Sex & the City actress and 35-year-old The Notebook star are set to explore their heritage on the genealogy docuseries show. The program facilitates various celebrities to take an in-depth look at their family history, and the stars often discover surprising information and secrets in the process.The series aired for three seasons on NBC, and will return to TLC for a second season next month. The upcoming episodes also feature Valerie Bertinelli (One Day at a Time), Jesse Tyler Ferguson (Modern Family), Lauren Graham (Gilmore Girls), Kelsey Grammer (Cheers, Fraiser) and Rachel's sister Kayleen McAdams. Past stars include Sarah Jessica Parker, Brooke Shields, Tim McGraw and Vanessa Williams.The new season of Who Do You Think You Are? premieres July 23 on TLC.~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~Didn't know they had genealogy merit badges!-- SusanneJackson, WyomingThursday, June 5, 2014 Calendar· Genealogy: Merit Badge for Boy Scouts - Computer Lab· Wednesday, June 18th starting at 2:00 PM and ending at 4:00 PM MDT. Jackson, WY·Boy Scouts working on completing their genealogy merit badges welcome. An adult may register to participate alongside a Boy Scout. Instructor: Lynn McDowell. Location: Computer Lab. Free. Register at the Library Front Desk or call 733-2164, press 1.~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~Megan Smolenyak -- Genealogy Expert, Author of "Hey, America, Your Roots Are Showing" & "Who Do You Think You Are?"
Genealogy on TV: 28 Celebrities and CountingPosted: 06/05/2014 9:47 am EDT Updated: 06/05/2014 11:59 am EDToA pair of Valeries: Valerie Bertinelli tapes for Who Do You Think You Are? in London and Senior Advisor to President Obama, Valerie Jarrett, learns about her heritage in Finding Your RootsIf you're as obsessed with celebrities or genealogy (or perhaps both) as many these days, you're in luck as both TLC and PBS have announced fresh seasons of their celebrity roots series. Who Do You Think You Are? returns on TLC on July 23 for six episodes, while Finding Your Roots will launch 10 on September 23. And just for good measure, PBS is tossing in a second season of its "regular Joe" ancestry show,Genealogy Roadshow, which is now seeking stories for a September taping in New Orleans.If you're not familiar with these shows, they both feature well known individuals learning about their roots, but there are several differences, beginning with the volume and nature of the celebrities. Each episode of Who Do You Think You Are? focuses on a single person, while Finding Your Roots swirls the stories of two or three together -- generally centered on a unifying theme such as immigration -- in any given show.Those on Who Do You Think You Are? consistently come from the entertainment field with an occasional tip of the hat to sports. This season, for instance, will have Valerie Bertinelli, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Lauren Graham, Kelsey Grammer, Cynthia Nixon, and Rachel McAdams (no athletes this time). Given that TLC also purchased past episodes from NBC (where the series initially aired in the U.S.), it's possible that Matthew Broderick, Lisa Kudrow, Rob Lowe, Reba McEntire, Tim McGraw, Gwyneth Paltrow, Sarah Jessica Parker, Brooke Shields, Vanessa Williams and Rita Wilson will also make an appearance.By contrast, Finding Your Roots includes both performers and individuals known for other reasons, such as writers, producers, presidential advisors, and chefs. As with Who Do You Think You Are?, they also mix in a few athletes. Among the 30 celebrities hitting our screens starting this September are Ben Affleck, Billie Jean King, Tina Fey, Ken Burns, Anderson Cooper, Courtney B. Vance, Stephen King, Sally Field, Gloria Reuben, Rebecca Lobo, Carole King, Deepak Chopra, Ming Tsai, Angela Bassett, Valerie Jarrett, Aaron Sanchez, Derek Jeter, Tony Kushner, Nas, Tom Colicchio, Khandi Alexander, and Alan Dershowitz (that's three Kings in case you're keeping score).The formats of the two shows also differ. In Who Do You Think You Are?, the star embarks on a road trip of self-discovery, piecing together the clues of their heritage with the assistance of what might be considered local guides -- mostly professors, but sometimes archivists, librarians or genealogists. Finding Your Roots is much more studio-based with celebrities seated at a table with host Henry Louis Gates, Jr. who walks them through a "book of life" that's been prepared in advance. The show also incorporates field footage, which may or may not include the celebrity whose family history is being told.Over past seasons, Finding Your Roots (which is a continuation of sorts of the earlier PBS series African American Lives and Faces of America), has steadily spotlighted genetic genealogy. While this has been less true of Who Do You Think You Are?, that will likely change this year since the show's sponsor, Ancestry.com, has been placing greater emphasis on its DNA offerings of late.And finally there's Genealogy Roadshow, an Irish import, which tackles the rest of us who aren't famous enough for the other two shows. PBS has not yet announced the debut date of its second season.(Full Disclosure: The writer has worked on Who Do You Think You Are?, Finding Your Roots, African American Lives, and Faces of America and wrote the companion book for Who Do You Think You Are?).Follow Megan Smolenyak on Twitter: www.twitter.com/megansmolenyak~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~See you Sunday morning!
- Our August genealogy meeting is set for Sunday at 10 a.m., at the Einstein Residence Center, 1935 Wright Street in Sacramento.We'll have members share their reflections about the recent international conference in Salt Lake City, as well as view a video about "The Forgotten Refugees'" -- the mass exodus of Jews from Iran and other Arabic countries in the 20th century.Please join us this Sunday.
- Don't forget to join us Sunday for Glenda Lloyd's presentation on obituaries and all you can glean from them.10 a.m. at the Einstein Center.
- The storms will be gone ... why not spend the morning enjoying our Genealogy Jeopardy game and celebrating the JGSS' 25th anniversary.See you at 10 a.m. Don't forget to bring your $25 check for 2015 dues, payable to the JGSS.
- Sunday March 15, 2015, 10 a.m."Anusim -- Crypto Jews on Your Family Tree"Join us Sunday 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 has spoken to us twice before, with fascinating presentations.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.
- Jewish Genealogical Society of SacramentoSunday, April 19, 10 a.m. -- Video, "There Was Once"Albert Einstein Residence Center, 1935 Wright Street, Sacramento"The seed of inspiration for the production of There Was Once... was planted in filmmaker Gabor Kalman's mind and heart when he received an e-mail from a stranger halfway around the world. Gyongyi Mago, a high school teacher in Kalocsa, Hungary, introduced herself and explained that she was doing research about the history of the town for a dissertation."."There Was Once...is a 103-minute documentary produced and directed by Kalman. It documents how the Nazi invasion of his homeland and the subsequent Holocaust affected the people who lived in the town where he spent the first ten years of his life."Join us this Sunday morning as we screen this video.From recent Avotaynu E-Zines by Gary MokotoffDiscount for an Amazing Set of Books
Encyclopedia of Jewish Life Before and During the Holocaust for Only $49!
One of the more remarkable books published in recent years is Encyclopedia of Jewish Life Before and During the Holocaust. This three-volume work provides information about more than 6,000 shtetls and cities of your ancestors in almost every country of continental Europe (exceptions: Bulgaria, Finland, Portugal, Spain, Switzerland). You can view a list of towns at http://www.avotaynu.com/books/encytowns.htm. It almost certainly includes towns of interest to you.
The Encyclopedia of Jewish Life Before and During the Holocaust is the condensation of the renowned Pinkas HaKehillot series published by Yad Vashem plus information on areas of Europe yet to be covered by the series. The Encyclopedia chronicles the history of the Jewish communities and its people, as well as the habits and customs of the communities. There are more than 600 photographs and illustrations.
Through special arrangement with the publisher, NYU Press, Avotaynu is offering to its Nu? What’s New? subscribers this three-volume work at the incredible price of only $49.00 plus shipping for the next eight days. The offer ends on April 19. Shipping costs are $10 for U.S. purchasers. This set originally sold for $325.00.You need to use the following links to get the special price:
U.S. Deliveries only: http://www.avotaynu.com/books/encyclopediaUS.html
News About the Conference
There are a number of announcements about the 37th IAJGS International Conference on Jewish Genealogy which will be held from July 6–10 at the Ramada Hotel in Jerusalem, Israel.
Special Speakers. The keynote speaker at the opening session will be Rabbi Israel Meir Lau, the Chief Rabbi of Tel Aviv, Chairman of Yad Vashem and Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi of Israel from 1993 to 2003. Noted genealogist Dick Eastman will speak at the closing banquet. Eastman is author of the daily online newsletter "Eastman's Online Genealogy Newsletter" which is read by more than 60,000 genealogists.Early Registration Deadline Extended. The Early registration discount fee has been extended through May 6.
Exploration Sunday. One of the more remarkable aspects of this summer’s conference is Exploration Sunday, a pre-conference program offering a variety of research and touring options. On Sunday, July 5, attendees can participate in any of the 13 special events. It is unique to Israel.
Information about each tour can be found by going to the conference website at http://iajgs2015.org, selecting the Program menu and from the menu selecting “Exploration Sunday.” The tours are:
• Yad Vashem
• Central Archives of the History of the Jewish People and the National Library of Israel
• Central Zionist Archives and the Old Yishuv Court Museum
• Ghetto Fighter’s House Museum and the Illegal Immigrants Detention Camp in Atlit
• Old City of Jerusalem
• New City of Jerusalem
• Latrun and Mini-Israel
• Caesaria, Zichron Ya’akov and Ein Hod
• Palmach Museum and Tel Aviv Walking Tour; Weizmann Institute
• Rishon Le-Zion Aliyah Museum and Museum of Babylonian Jewry; Eretz Israel
• Museum and Jaffa
• Dig For a Day
• Masada and Dead Sea Area.
How To Find Missing Family Search Records
An online newsletter new to me, Family History Daily, has an excellent article on some of the more subtle ways of searching large genealogy Internet sites such as FamilySearch, Ancestry.com, FindMyPast and MyHeritage. One part the article notes that FamilySearch has millions of images online that have not yet been indexed and, therefore, are not searchable. A technique for accessing these images is discussed. The article can be found at http://tinyurl.com/FamilyHistoryDaily.
Ancestry.com Adds Lodz Ghetto/Czechoslovakia Lists
Ancestry.com recently added a number of Lodz ghetto lists it acquired from the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM). They include:
• Ghetto Inhabitant Lists, 1939–1944
• Ghetto Register Books, 1939–1944
• Ghetto Hospital Death Records, 1941–1944
• Ghetto Hospital Illness Records, 1940
• Transports to Chelmo (Kulmhof) Camp, 1944
The first-named list can be found at http://search.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=5176. Links to the other lists exist on that page to the right of the screen.
Czechoslovakia. Ancestry also has a number of Czechoslovakian Holocaust records. One collection can be found at http://search.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=60759 with links to other sites to the right of the screen.
Access to these records is at no charge per agreement with the USHMM, but registration is required.
U.S. National Archives Adds “Iraqi Jewish Archives” to Its Site
The U.S. National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) has added to its website a special section about the collection of Iraqi Jewish material that came into its possession as a result of the 2003 U.S. war with Iraq. It is located at http://www.ija.archives.gov/. It includes a search engine and an exhibit.
In 2003, shortly after U.S. forces secured Iraq, Harold Rhode, a past president of the Jewish Genealogy Society of Greater Washington and then a U.S. government official, discovered Jewish artifacts, including a Torah, in the flooded basement of the Iraqi Intelligence Service in Baghdad. Rhode wrote about the find in the Summer 2003 issue of AVOTAYNU. These 2,700 books and tens of thousands of documents were severely damaged by the flooding. They managed to make their way to the United States and were given to NARA for record preservation.
The current Iraqi government has demanded the original material be returned to their country as “national treasures,” but public outcry (and U.S. senators) has delayed a decision. The ultimate disposition of the material is still undecided. Virtually no Jews live in Iraq today.
The story of how the artifacts were discovered and the consequences can be seen at http://tinyurl.com/IraqiJewishArtifacts. Its title is “The Savior of Iraqi Jewish Heritage: An Interview With Dr. Harold Rhode.”
New: Virtual Museum of Judaica in Moldova
A Virtual Museum of Judaica in Moldova is now online at http://www.jewishmuseum.md/en/main/menu?alias=museum. At present, the site is very poorly designed. The black background hides important elements of the home page presented in dark blue. At the lower left is the search engine. I searched for Tiraspol, a major city in Moldova, and got no results. The browsing mechanism is almost invisible in Firefox and barely visible in Internet Explorer. After selecting a subject, photographs, to view those beyond the first page, click the almost imperceptible dots (1, 2, 3, 4,…) in dark blue directly over the words at the bottom of the page: VIRTUAL MUSEUM OF JUDAICA IN MOLDOVA "ON THE TRAILS OF HISTORY" An announcement of the site can be found at http://www.jcm.md/en/component/k2/item/289-virtual-museum-2015-1.~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~See you at our meeting Sunday in Sacramento, 10 a.m.
- Jewish Genealogical Society of SacramentoSunday, October 18, 2015, 10 a.m.Susan Miller, "Jews in the Moslem World"Join us Sunday morning for a presentation by Susan Gilson Miller, Professor of History at UC Davis. Susan, who teaches courses in Jewish studies, will speak on "Jews in the Moslem World."Susan Miller is a graduate of Wellesley College and the University of Michigan, and has taught at both, as well as at Harvard University, where she served as director of the Moroccan Studies Program from 1991 to 2008. She has lived and worked in North Africa, starting her career as a Peace Corps volunteer in Morocco from 1971-73, where she learned fluent Moroccan Arabic.She has published numerous books and is the recipient of two Fulbright Fellowships. Her current research concerns rescuing and humanitarian relief in North Africa during World War II.~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~From Gary Mokotoff's Avotaynu October 12 E-Zine:Announcing NARA’s Digitization Priorities
A few weeks ago, the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) asked the public for suggestions and feedback about their digitization priorities. NARA reports that, overwhelmingly, people asked them to digitize records of genealogical interest, including immigration and ethnic heritage records and military and veterans records, especially those from World War I and II, and, of course, records that had preservation concerns.
NARA has published their list of priority items for the next 18-24 months; few
have to do with items of genealogical interest. Their priorities include such items as Nixon White House Tapes, John F. Kennedy Assassination Records Collection and German Flown Aerial Photography (1939–1945). Those of genealogical interest include All Naturalization Records(!?) and a few specific groups such as “Case Files of Disapproved Pension Applications of Veterans of the Army and the Navy Who Served Mainly in the Civil War and the War with Spain (1861–1934).”
An article that includes the complete list can be found at http://narations.blogs.archives.gov/2015/ 10/02/announcing-naras-digitization-priorities.
What Was Life Like in a Typical Village in Eastern Poland?
What was life like in a typical village in eastern Poland? How were the holidays celebrated? What did people eat? How did they spend their spare time?
Virtual Shtetl has placed online the memoir of Henry Gitelman who was born “on the sixth day of Succot” in “the year that telegraph poles were first installed.” He describes his life in Slawatycze, Poland. It can be read at http://tinyurl.com/SlawatyczeMemoirs. The memoir is presented in 73 pages and, unfortunately, there is no Table of Contents. Glancing through the pages, you will see a description of his personal experience before, during and after the Holocaust.
For the First Time, ITS Places Documents of Nazi Persecution Online
The International Tracing Service has placed online a trickle of the 55 million documents in its possession about German persecution of individuals during the Nazi era. They are those artifacts inscribed onto the UNESCO “Memory of the World” register.
ITS has uploaded three collections in an initial step including photos of personal objects that were taken from the prisoners in the concentration camps, a collection on the death marches and files from the Child Search Branch from the time immediately following the liberation of Nazi victims.
Representatives from the eleven member states in the International Commission, the governing body of the ITS, decided in 2014 that starting in 2015, ITS would gradually begin placing its documents online. For the pilot project, the three collections were chosen that, based on the subject matter, the amount of data, and data protection considerations, are appropriate for presenting on this online portal. In addition, a scholarly reappraisal and the archival description of the collections played roles in making this selection.
A description of the online inventory is at http://digitalcollections.its-arolsen.org/.
TheGenealogist Places British Emgiration Lists Online
TheGenealogist has just released 5M UK emigration records for the period 1896–1909. The search engine allows searching by name, port of embarkation, port of destination, country of departure, country arrival and nationality. These records also exist on Ancestry.com. Additional information about the announcement can be found at http://tinyurl.com/TheGenealogistEmigrationLists.
Ancestry Adds German Phone Directories (1915–1981)
A posting to the JewishGen Discussion Group notes that Ancestry has added phone directories for Berlin (1915–1981), Frankfurt-am-Main (1926–1980), Hamburg (1927–1980), Leipzig (1941–1980) and Munich (1929–1980). The collection is at http://search.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=60654.
The Library Card Catalog Is Officially Dead
The card catalog, a fixture in libraries for more than 100 years is officially dead. The Online Computer Library Center (OCLC) the cooperative that created the world’s first shared online catalog system back in 1971, allowed libraries to order custom-printed cards that could then be put in their own card cataloging systems. Now, says OCLC, it’s time to lay a largely symbolic system that’s well past its prime to rest.
Read more at http://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/card-catalog-dead- 180956823/?no-ist.~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~See you Sunday morning!
- Join the JGSS this Sunday for Jeremy Frankel's presentation.Sunday, December 13, 10 a.m."30 Years. A Birthday Cake -- and the Wrong Family!"Jeremy Frankel will describe how he began his genealogical quest and what ended up being his 30-year search for his grandfather's brother's family. The talk will encompass English research "and the unwitting mistake I made." But he says it all turned out fine in the end, culminating in a family reunion this past April in London.Jeremy has been the president of the San Francisco Bay Area Jewish Genealogical Society for the past 14 years and has been working as a genealogist for the past 15 years. He was born in London, England and spent 14 years as a cartographer and land surveyor. His spare time was spent as a volunteer restoring England's abandoned canals.See you Sunday at 10 a.m. for our December meeting.
- Ron Arons will be our Sunday speaker, talking about handwriting analysis and graphology and how they can assist in genealogical research.. Join us at 10 a.m. at the Einstein Center.And don't forget to bring your $25 check for annual dues, made out to the Jewish Genealogical Society of Sacramento.If you're unable to attend the meeting, please mail your check to:The Jewish Genealogical Society of Sacramentoc/o Einstein Residence Center1935 Wright StreetSacramento, CA 95825Thanks very much!
- Jewish Genealogical Society of SacramentoSunday, July 17, 2016 , 10 a.m. -- Richard Wilson, "Making a Family Album"Richard Wilson will show the steps to produce an album focused on the history of a selected ancestor's family and its descendants. Included in the presentation: how to get started, recommendations on a format to follow and a description of the hardware, software and supplies needed. Richard will show two different family albums he has produced.Richard is a fourth-generation Californian who started recording his family history about 1995 using a basics Roots computer program. He has done extensive research in French-Canadian historical records.Richard is president of the Roots and Gold Dust Genealogical Society in Placerville and also teaches a class in the use of the Legacy software program.Please join us Sunday morning at the Einstein Residence Center, 1935 Wright Street.
- Join us this Sunday to hear from Librarian Karen Paige about all the holdings at the California State Library's California History Room.Karen will introduce us to the resources within the California History Section of the California State Library. This includes all aspects of California history, including Jewish history in California.Karen will share information on the main and picture catalogues, the California Information I and II files, the databases, online resources, county histories, manuscript collections and finding-aids, the ephemera file, newspapers and photograph and periodical collections.Karen has been a librarian in the California History Room since 2001 and received her MLIS from San Jose State University.See you at 10 a.m. on the 18th at the Einstein Center.
- Jewish Genealogical Society of SacramentoSunday, April 16, 2017, 10 a.m."Finding Unknown Relatives" (Postponed from an earlier date)Victoria Fisch will explain methods of finding family members you may not have known about. She'll discuss using overseas and U.S. records to expand your research, allowing you to discover "lost" relatives and ancestors.Victoria, a native New Yorker, has been active in genealogy for more than 25 years. Along with being president of our group, she is the northern California editor of Western States Jewish History. She curated the exhibit "Pioneer Jews of the Gold Rush" at the Folsom History Museum in 2014 and is editor of a forthcoming book on the history of the Santa Cruz Jewish communityJoin us Sunday morning (Easter Sunday) for this program.FINDING FAMILYConfessions of a genealogist’s spouse· Michael Herzog Napa Valley Register· Apr 2, 2017We visited almost every location mentioned in the journal and searched for houses, churches, and schools. We were able to find many of the specific locations and take photos.In addition, we visited county courthouses and record offices and cemeteries. Given a few names to look for, I became quite good at walking cemetery rows and finding grave markers.Many of the courthouses had security concerns so I would find a comfortable bench outside to sit and wait. Most courthouses, especially in the smaller towns, provided benches on the town square for loafers like me to sit and observe the passing parade. I have a battery-powered word processor to record my observations, books to read, blank paper for notes — all I need to happily pass the time.All the while, Mary was indoors searching through records of vital statistics, property records, and city directories looking for traces of her family. In some cases they were in a particular location too short a time to have left a trail, but in others there were definite signs and hints to why they had moved on.Libraries are another research information resource and very friendly to the non-researcher. I spent many pleasant hours in libraries reading my books or theirs and seeing how the people of the town went about the business of living there.Often hours spent in searching come to nothing but sometimes there is a major prize to be had. In one small museum in Kansas in a town where the family lived for only a year, Mary discovered a class photo showing her mother in junior high school. Mary was able to take a photo of the photo for her records and give the museum some corrections to the information on the caption.We have made many voyages of family history discovery around the United States and to England and the Azores. I enjoy it all in the unstructured time it allows us together. I still honestly confess that I do not care about genealogy but I can make myself useful to one who does.And what sort of person loves the research process? I can only offer one example, but I’m sure she is not unique in tell-tale characteristics. Mary is a puzzle person. As a reward for finishing a project she’ll happily sit down with a 1,000-piece jigsaw puzzle. And for dessert she’ll look in the back of a magazine for a word puzzle to solve.And when she hits a dead end on researching a particular family line she’ll switch to a different branch for a while or just help someone else with their research. It’s the thrill of the chase as much as the results that are exciting.As a genealogist’s spouse I look forward to more of the same, a trip east in May and perhaps another visit to the family history mecca in Salt Lake City. The secret to happiness, I have found, is being able to make a good time out of the simplest raw materials at hand. Being the tag-along spouse provides all the materials I need to be happy and satisfied, and that’s my confession.Finding Family is a monthly column written by members (and spouses) of the Napa Valley Genealogical Society. Their web site is napavalleygenealogy.org/~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~See you Sunday morning!