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Genealogy Update

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  • SusanneLevitsky@...
    March 5, 2013 Upcoming Meetings: Discovering a Family Branch That Survived the Holocaust -- Shlomo Rosenfeld Sunday, March 17, 10 a.m., Albert Einstein
    Message 1 of 60 , Mar 5, 2013


      JGSS_Logo_jpeg.jpg
      March 5, 2013
       
      Upcoming Meetings:
       
      Discovering a Family Branch That Survived the Holocaust -- Shlomo Rosenfeld
      Sunday, March 17, 10 a.m., Albert Einstein Residence Center, 1935 Wright Street, Sacramento
       
      Shlomo Rosenfeld of Berkeley will talk about his family discovery, learning about some of the Rosenfelds who survived the Holocaust, living relatives his father did not know about.
       
      Shlomo, who was born in Tel Aviv, says his detective story started about two years ago, when he found an old family envelope and correspondence along with records from the German Lodz ghetto. Using birth and marriage records, he was able to trace his family back to the mid-1700s.  When Israel's Yad Vashem posted Holocaust archive records, Shlomo found a living branch of his family.  He and his sister now have three newly discovered second cousins, whom he's met in the Bay Area, Florida and Israel.
       
       
      Sunday, March 24, 2013, 2 p.m., Davis  
      "A Walk Through the Jewish Gen Website" -- Bob Wascou
      Congregation Bet Haverim, Davis
       
       
      Sunday,  April 14, 10 a.m., Sacramento
      "Return to Galicia, Land of My Ancestors" -- Sherry Venezia  
       Albert Einstein Residence Center.
       
      February 17, 2013 Meeting Notes
       
      Program Chair and Past President Mort Rumberg called the meeting to order. He passed around several recent articles -- "genealogy is in all the papers!"  They included an obituary of someone deeply involved in genealogy; a story from The Forward on an Italian converso finding his roots; a genealogist focusing on African-American research; and more.
       
      The Sacramento Central Library continues to hold genealogy classes.  you can also book a genealogist for a free consultation.  Call 916-264-2920 for details.
       
      April 28 is the date set for this year's Jewish Heritage Festival, to be held at 20th and Capitol.  We'll have a table -- if you'd like to spend a half hour or an hour and volunteer, then get a chance to see all the others booths, let Mort know.  "It's a fun day," he says.  Art Yates added, "Wear your JGSS T-shirts!"
       
      Upcoming meetings were announced -- see above.
       
      The recent February presentation in Davis, on Super Bowl Sunday, generated five new members.
      If you haven't yet paid your $25 dues for 2013, you need to do it.  And Bob Wascou is seeking someone to take over the treasurer's job from him.  "Most of the work is done online," Bob says.  His time is increasingly occupied as the research coordinator for ROM-SIG (Romanian Special Interest Group).  They are focusing on a project involving Bucharest vital records.
       
      Mort said a slate of officers for the coming year will be put together soon -- "Join us and help us get some new blood involved in the organization."
       
      Teven Laxer said the Jewish Film Festival is coming up in March, with another day added.  It will start Thursday, March 7 and run through the 10th.
       
      He mentioned the PJ Library organized by the Jewish Federation -- every month children get a free book by mail.  It's free to participate.
       
      Art Yates mentioned that you can sign up now for the Southern California Genealogy Jamboree, to be held at the Burbank Marriott, June 7-9.
       
      Our February presentation was a talk entitled "Doings in the Cemetery," presented by our president, Victoria Fisch, and Jeremy Frankel, president of the Bay Area JGS.  They focused on how Jewish tradition in deaths and burials can aid genealogy research.  Victoria asked that no notes be provided on their talk, as it is copyrighted material.
       
       
      From the February 23 and March 3 E-Zines, by Avotaynu's Gary Mokotoff:
       
      Connecticut Considering Ban on Access to Death Records
      Reacting to attempts by the public to access the death records of the 20 children and six adults shot to death at Sandy Hook Elementary School, the Connecticut state legislature is considering a bill to restrict public access to records for any children under age 18.
       
      Specifically, the proposed law states that the copy of the public record could be restricted “when the disclosure of the death certificate is likely to cause undue hardship for the family of the child.” Playing the identify theft card, one town official proposed to the legislature that the public should be denied access to all death certificates. Read an article from the Hartford Courant on the proposal here http://tinyurl.com/CTDeathCert.
       
       
      Hi Tech in Grave Identification: Version 4
      There have been many attempts to integrate today’s technology with grave identification.

      1. The simplest was the suggestion that a grave be identified in a genealogical database by its latitude/longitude using GPS (Ground Positioning Satellite) data.

      2. Some years ago, a company, Memory Medallion (http://memorymedallion.com) offered placing a microchip in a tombstone that contained information about the deceased including text, photos, videos, etc.

      http://avotaynu.com/Gifs/NWN/QRCodeCatalog.png 3. Memory Medallion has now upgraded their technology by offering a QR code option to the microchip. Scanning the code with a smartphone links to a website that describes the life of the deceased through text, photos, videos, etc, etc., etc. The company has announced plans to link to family trees on FamilySearch. Can links to Geni, MyHeritage, Ancestry be far behind?

      The latest, fourth, innovation is by Otter Creek Holdings, parent company of BillionGraves.com. No chip, no QR code, just use their LegacyTec app on your smartphone, take a picture of the tombstone, and the app will bring up headstone details from BillionGraves, Family Search, My Legacy Memorial “and other sites.”


      American Version of Who Do You Think You Are? To Be On TLC
      Dick Eastman’s Online Genealogy Newsletter is reporting that the American version of Who Do You Think You Are? is returning to television and will be on cable channel TLC. Despite apparent popularity, the show was cancelled by NBC last year.

      As proof of its return, the pop rock star, Kelly Clarkson, was recently spotted in Americus, Georgia, prior to filming her segment of the program at the Andersonville National Historic Site. The location is the home of a notorious Confederate military prison where 45,000 soldiers were held during the Civil War and 13,000 died.

      ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
       
      From the JGS of the Conejo Valley and Ventura County:
      JEWISH PIONEERS OF ORANGE COUNTY
       
      Harriet Rochlin, publisher of a Western Jewish History blog, has reviewed the above-mentioned book and describes it as, “Edited by Dalia Taft, archivist for the Orange County Jewish Historical Society, Jewish Pioneers of Orange County: The Jewish Community of Orange County, California from the 1850s – 1970s is the first comprehensive book about the Jewish community in the area. The book includes updated versions of every Orange County article from the Western States Jewish Journal, personal histories written by long-time residents, and a section ofJewish ads and newspaper announcements from the 1870s to the 1960s. The book can be purchased through the Orange County Jewish Historical Society by emailing historical@... or calling 949-435-3484.
       
      ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


      Published February 24, 2013, 12:00 AM
      DNA testing goes mainstream with genealogy enthusiasts
      Lisa Black, Chicago Tribune
       
      CHICAGO — As she swabbed the inside of his cheek, Patt Heise assured her 84-year-old father that she wasn’t crazy, just curious.
       
      She mailed off the saliva sample and waited for results. Her dad died a month later, too early to find out what DNA testing had revealed — a list of potential relatives from all over the world and a migration chart dating back to Adam.
       
      That would be “Genetic Adam,” who lived between 70,000 and 140,000 years ago in Africa, scientists believe.
       
      Heise, 61, of Palatine, Ill., acknowledges she is overwhelmed with the information but eager to use it to fill in her family tree.
       
      “I really would like to see a book on ‘DNA for Dummies,’” she said.
       
      Genetic testing for genealogists has gone mainstream, with costs plummeting as private companies refine their techniques and improve the accuracy of results. For as little as $99, anyone can order a do-it-yourself kit that comes in the mail, then submit their spit for analysis and receive results within six weeks.
       
      Genealogy hobbyists liken the quest to track their family tree to a scavenger hunt, laden with clues, surprises and dead ends. For some, a snippet of genetic material has helped confirm a specific family tie or provide new leads when a paper trail has run cold. Others have blown up ancestral land mines along the way, shredding oft-repeated family stories or, as in Heise’s case, discovering a notorious distant relative.
       
      “I found out I was related to Charles Manson — eeewww,” Heise said. Her e-mail is filled with messages from strangers, at least one in German, asking about her family lineage because of DNA test results.
       
      Recently, scientists used the technology to confirm the identity of a skeleton buried beneath a parking lot in Leicester, England, as King Richard III, who died in battle in 1485. The scientists matched the bones to two living maternal-line relatives, according to the University of Leicester, which conducted the analysis along with radiocarbon dating and a skeletal exam.
       
      Closer to home, not everyone is excited about the DNA technology, as some remain cautious about privacy or simply don’t see the need, such as Heise’s dad. But for others who are adopted or are trying to explain a gap in their family tree, the tests may provide a crucial breakthrough, experts said.
       
      “I think a lot of people find it of use to them, personally, especially if they are searching for a form of identity they are able to uncover in this way,” said Noah Rosenberg, associate professor at Stanford University’s Department of Biology and expert in evolutionary biology and genetics.
       
      “Many people have a missing relative or have a parent die young and are searching for some kind of connection,” he said. “We see a significant trend where African-Americans are searching for some understanding of the populations from which their ancestors originated from Africa.”
       
      There are no federal regulations that govern the direct-to-consumer ancestry tests, said Hank Greely, a Stanford law professor who specializes in the ethical, legal and social implications of new biomedical technologies.
       
      “Basically, both state and federal regulation only cover tests sold or done for health purposes,” Greely wrote in an e-mailed response to questions.
       
      “I would note that various false advertising statutes and regulations could be applied to genealogical testing — and, frankly, I think some of the sites are not always very clear about what they can and cannot detect.”
       
      EMOTIONAL DISCOVERIES
       
      Meanwhile, as more people contribute their own DNA to the mix, the pool of potential genetic matches grows. Private companies store the saliva samples and promise more information in years to come — for additional fees — as technology improves.
       
      Drawing from the large databases, scientists have been able to determine where groups of people who share matching threads of DNA likely came from and where they migrated.
       
      Terri O’Connell, 41, of Chicago learned through Ancestry.com that she is 37 percent Scandinavian, “which I thought was a little weird. I am Irish, German and Hungarian,” she said.
       
      “The percentage was rather large,” said O’Connell, who expects the company to release more information this year. “On their website, they group together people they think are related to you. ... I have almost 100 people in this list. It will break it down like, ‘We think you are fourth or fifth cousin.’”
       
      O’Connell started studying her family’s Irish lineage because she was young when her grandparents died.
       
      “I wanted to know who they were and what they went through,” said O’Connell, who was saddened by some of what she found. “They had these big families ... but by the time you look back again, half the kids had died.”
       
      Early on, the DNA tests used in genealogy were limited to studying the male’s Y chromosome, which is transmitted from father to son going back generations. The maternal line is traced in a different test, which looks at the mitochondrial DNA, known as mtDNA, which a mother passes to her children.
      More recently, Ancestry.com began offering a full genome — or “autosomal” — test that analyzes all 23 chromosomes at more than 700,000 places. The test provides a more recent snapshot of the maternal and paternal line, experts said.
       
      “It’s like a unique fingerprint that only you have,” said Ken Chahine, senior vice president and general manager of AncestryDNA. “By having that many locations that we can identify, we create a unique signature for you.”
       
      Family Tree DNA, based in Houston, sold about 300 kits when it first offered the service in 2000, President Bennett Green­span said. Last year, “it was tens of thousands of kits.”
       
      For $219, the test now offers 11 times more information than it did the first year, while increasing the numbers of DNA markers identified, he said. The particular region of the DNA that is analyzed is called a marker. A test that examines more markers can be expected to provide more specific information.
       
      “Over time, you can start doing more and more,” Greenspan said. “If you were to test your mother and your father ... you start matching more people, you figure out what line that came from.”
       
      The company has more than 400,000 people in its database, many of whom have discovered common ancestors, he said.
       
      “The U.S. population is actually far more related than what people first thought,” Greenspan said.
       
      Potentially misleading
       
      The Chicago-based National Society of Genetic Counselors cautions consumers about DNA testing that reveals both ancestral and medical information. The tests can be misleading if left unexplained by a professional counselor, company president Rebecca Nagy said.
       
      “One of the biggest drawbacks to these tests is they are only testing for a few genetic markers, and those few markers represent the tip of the iceberg,” Nagy said.
       
      Some people have contacted her office, concerned about results that showed they were at risk of developing cancer or Alzheimer’s disease, while ignoring the bigger medical picture.
       
      “Be prepared for what you learn, and know what questions to ask so you know what the implications might be,” she advised.
       
      In 2007, a company called 23andMe began offering both medical and ancestry information for $999, a spokeswoman said. Today, a more encompassing version costs $99 and promises 250 reports, including ethnic breakdowns and health risks.
       
      “Whatever science can tell you about your DNA, we want to make it available,” said spokeswoman Catherine Afarian, adding that participants can choose not to view their health report. “We try to build in control and choice.”
       
      For amateur genealogists like Heise, the information on her ancestry alone is enough to keep her busy for years. She has bins of documents left to sort through and 137 new potential relatives to track down, courtesy of DNA.
       
      She has confirmed that her great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-grandfather was a member of the “French 500” who settled in Gallipolis, Ohio.
       
      “There are people all over the world who are doing this,” she said, “which is exciting and overwhelming at the same time.”
       
      ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
      See you at our next meeting, Sunday, March 17!
       
    • SusanneLevitsky@...
      July 15, 2017 Upcoming Meetings -- No July Meeting Getting Started in Genealogy --- August 20, 9 a.m. to noon September 17, 9 a.m. to noon Meeting Notes --
      Message 60 of 60 , Jul 15


       
       
      July 15, 2017
      Upcoming Meetings --
       
      No July Meeting
       
      Getting Started in Genealogy --- August 20, 9 a.m. to noon
      September 17, 9 a.m. to noon


        
      Meeting Notes -- June 11, 2017
       
      Mort Rumberg called the meeting to order and welcomed members and guests.
       
      Mort mentioned that the numbered parking spaces are for Einstein residents and we should park elsewhere.
       
      There will be no meeting next month, when the IAJGS conference will be held in Orlando.
       
      The California Museum will have a film program through August 6 --“Light and Noir,” exiles and Emigres in Hollywood, 1933-1950.
       
      Librarian Teven Laxer showed several books we have in our library, including “The History of the Jews in Milwaukee” and “The History of the Jews in Los Angeles” – both have cross-references to newspaper articles.  We also have a Legacy Family Tree 8.0 Manual.
       
      Teven said we have close to 500 volumes in our library, most targeting Jewish genealogy. The library is one of the benefits of membership.
       
      The Tikva group will have its next program June 25 on Anti-Semitism. It will take place at B’Nai Israel from 1 to 4 p.m.  The guest speaker will be Nancy Appel from the ADL in San Francisco.
       
      Judy Persin is organizing the August and September meetings which will focus on Beginning Genealogy Workshops, from 9 a.m. to noon on August 20 and September 17. There will be two sessions each Sunday. “We’ll provide the basics for those who are just beginning and it’s also a great review for old-timers,” Judy said.
       
      The cost is $10 for members, $15 for non-members, covering both August and September workshops.
       
      Registration form for the August/September workshops attached. Please reserve now to secure a space.
       
      June Speaker – Maryellen Burns “The Power of Story”
       
      Why do we tell stories? What is revealed, what is hidden in the story.
       
      “Growing up, I was really isolated,” Maryellen said.  “I didn’t discover I was Jewish until I was 10, when my parents invited a friend who had been in Auschwitz. I went from knowing nothing to now having 586 pages of relatives on my maternal grandmother’s side."
       
      She said her father was on the road from ages 7 to 9 – the only reason he could survive was that he could read the hobos’ symbols and find Jewish families in the South.
       
      Maryellen noted that while Jews don’t have godparents, two friends of her family, Nate and Laura, filled that role. She also recalls one day when Woody Guthrie, Andre Segovia and Arthur Fieldler’s sister were at her house.
       
      “I want to know the character of the person who is part of my history,” Maryellen said, something she learns through conversation. She says she has more than 110 conversations on her phone.
       
      She said the stories we tell and the stories we hide tell a lot about us.
       
      Maryellen said the family photos she had came from cousins, including many in the last few years. “My parents took a picture and then sent it to relatives.”
       
      “Each one of us in our lives has a keeper of stories,” she said. “The oral tradition plays a large part in Jewish culture.”
       
      "What we are named, who we are named for – are names chosen to hide our identity, to perhaps look we were Catholic?” That was the case for Maryellen and her brothers.
       
      Maryellen asked the group to talk to the person next to them about their names. Who were they named after?
       
      "And if you had a nickname, how did that affect your identity?”
       
      Seven Reasons Why We Tell Stories
       
      --They define who we are – what we choose to tell and what we want to conceal.
      -- To plant ideas in people – ideas, thoughts and emotions.
      -- We like stories
      -- We are born to tell stories.
      -- We are literally wired to relate to people who tell a story
                  It’s our own natural tendency to tell fictional stories as well as true stories.
      -- Stories inspire action.
      -- We tell stories to impress.
       
      Maryellen asked the group, how many of you plan on recording your story in some way? Most of you. What is the mechanism you will use?
       
      Why is it important to you? Do it for your kids?  Think about donating a copy to the library.  Maybe you can bring something that will spark a story in someone else.
       
      Maryellen said we tend to rely on lists of questions. “But get into conversation, let the story lead where the person wants to go. What did the house, Grandma, smell like?  What did you hear when you were there?”
       
      Maryellen does talks on a number of subjects, including book architecture, whipping up a family cookbook, and (for the Renaissance Society), how every wave of immigration affected the food in the local area.
       
      Maryellen can be reached by email at Maryellen_burns@....
       
      ~~~~~~~~~~~~~
      International Jewish Genealogy Conference hosts a plethora of talent
      Heritage -- Florida Jewish Names  June 23, 2017
      http://www.heritagefl.com/home/cms_data/dfault/photos/stories/id/4/6/8146/.TEMP/s_topTEMP425x425-3276.jpeg
      Harvard Professor Henry Louis Gates, host of the popular PBS television show "Finding Your Roots," will address the IAJGS annual awards banquet with a talk on "Genealogy and Genetics in America.

      What do Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Alexander Hamilton and Aida have to do with discovering your ancestors? To find out, join other genealogists at the 37th IAJGS International Conference on Jewish Genealogy from July 23–28 at the Disney World Swan Resort in Orlando, Florida.

      Henry Louis Gates Jr., host of the PBS hit series "Finding Your Roots," will be the featured speaker on "Genetics and Genealogy in America" on Thursday evening at the conference. Some of the many celebrities that Gates has successfully helped to find their Jewish roots include Barbara Walters, Julianna Margulies, Gloria Steinem, Norman Lear, Tony Kushner, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Robert Downey, Jr., Carole King, Alan Dershowitz and Dustin Hoffman.

      "This is a one of a kind opportunity for the Greater Orlando Jewish community to trace their ancestors-both for those totally new to family history research and those already experienced in genealogy," said Dr. Diane Jacobs, local host conference co-chair.

      Sunday evening will feature "Alexander Hamilton, the Jews, and the American Revolution," presented by Dr. Robert Watson, professor, historian, author, and media commentator.

      Wednesday evening, there will be a special showing of the 2016 acclaimed documentary "Aida's Secrets" (sponsored by MyHeritage). This documentary is a story about family secrets, lies, high drama and generations of contemporary history. The international story begins with World War II and concludes with an emotional 21st century family reunion. Izak was born inside the Bergen-Belsen displaced persons camp in 1945 and sent for adoption in Israel. Utilizing the resources of Yad Vashem and MyHeritage, secret details of his birth mother, an unknown brother in Canada and his father's true identity slowly emerge in this extremely personal investigative film. 

      Featured Monday evening, acclaimed expert and author on etymology and geographic distribution of Jewish surnames, Alexander Beider and Harry Ostrer will debate "Setting the Record Straight: What Yiddish and DNA Tell Us About Ashkenazi Origins" (sponsored by FamilyTreeDNA).
      On Tuesday evening, "1917: A Turning Point in American Jewish History" (sponsored by JGSLA) will be presented by Hasia Diner, author and Paul and Sylvia Steinberg Professor of American Jewish history at New York University.
      http://www.heritagefl.com/home/cms_data/dfault/photos/stories/id/4/6/8146/.TEMP/s_bottomTEMP425x425-5572.jpeg
      Professor Robert Watson, a featured speaker at the IAJGS Florida/Caribbean conference, will talk about our Nevis-born founding father "Alexander Hamilton, the Jews, and the American Revolution."

      The conference will include special emphasis on finding ancestors through DNA, finding Converso/Anusim ancestors, Jews in Florida, the Caribbean and the South, and strategies for passing your family legacy on to younger generations. Conference tracks, workshops, and sessions will focus on how to trace your ancestry through the Diaspora: in Poland, Galicia, Germany, Ukraine, Lithuania, Hungary, Austria, Israel, Latvia, Lithuania, Belarus, Sub-Carpathia, Czech Republic, North Africa, South Africa, Brazil, Bessarabia/Moldova, and more. The special aspects of tracing Ashkenazi, Sephardi, Mizrahi, and rabbinic family lines will be covered.
       
       
      Stanley Diamond is a leader in Canadian Jewish Research, JRI-Poland
       
      MONTREALER RECEIVES MEDAL FROM GOVERNOR GENERAL
      By Bill Gladstone -   July 13, 2017   Canadian Jewish News
       
       
      http://1cr9883up6mem97ddj01yxgu.wpengine.netdna-cdn.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/WEB-Diamond-640x480.gif
      Stan Diamond, left, receiving his medal from Gov.Gen David Johnston. SGT. JOHANIE MAHEU RIDEAU HALL PHOTO
       
       
      In 1986, when Montrealer Stan Diamond sold his decorative-ceiling company after a successful business career, he could not have envisioned that a second career, even more monumental than the first, lay ahead of him. Almost by happenstance, it seems, he became executive director of a large, U.S.-based non-profit organization called JRI-Poland, which would help thousands of people research their family roots – an achievement for which he received a Meritorious Service Medal from the Governor General of Canada at Rideau Hall in Ottawa on June 23.
      To date, JRI-Poland (short form for Jewish Records Indexing, Poland) has indexed some five million 19th-century and early 20th-century Jewish birth, marriage, death and other records from more than 550 Polish towns. Not only is the database fully searchable online, but more than two-million records are available for download, with more becoming accessible every few months.
      Driven by an executive committee of four, a 16-member board and an international network of hundreds of volunteers, JRI-Poland raises about US$100,000 ($133,000) each year, most of which goes to digitizing and indexing records that are mostly hand written in antique Polish script or Russian Cyrillic. Scores of volunteers from the United States, Canada, Israel, Australia, Great Britain, France and elsewhere participate in the project.
      Diamond has heard countless stories of people achieving remarkable, sometimes even life-changing results from the JRI-Poland database. It has been instrumental, for instance, in uniting long lost family members. Recently, a brother and sister in Jerusalem found a half-brother from their father’s second family, who was previously unknown to them, even though he was living just 90 minutes away. Last year, Diamond used the database to confirm the birth date of 112-year-old Auschwitz survivor Yisrael Kristal of Haifa, who was subsequently proclaimed the world’s oldest man by Guinness World Records.
      His inbox is filled with stories of research “miracles” and people telling him that JRI-Poland has solved enduring family mysteries. “Two weeks ago, a woman in Toronto wrote us that her grandfather had always said they were related to (the late French actor and mime) Marcel Marceau and she wanted to know how,” he said. Taking on the challenge, he found that Marceau’s family was from the Polish town of Bedzin, where their surname had been Mangel, and was able to make the connection to the woman’s family. The lady was thrilled.
      While Jewish record books in most towns survived the devastation of fire, flood and war, there are often gaps in the series of available years. In a few towns, the records disappeared entirely. Sometimes it’s a matter of town officials being careless; and some records were lost during the tumultuous Nazi era, when the occupying Germans took over town halls for their headquarters. In Pultusk, Jewish records before 1875 were reportedly destroyed by the Jews themselves, who feared the Nazis would use them to track down the town’s Jewish families.
      The Warsaw cemetery, Diamond related, once had huge volumes of burial registers that disappeared. “What we were told by the management of the Warsaw cemetery is that they were used as firewood during the war,” he said. “They were huge registers – you’re looking at a cemetery with some 300,000 or more burials.”
      Diamond’s knowledge of Polish geography, developed over many annual two-week trips, seems remarkable for a non-native. “At the end of one trip, we were talking to the director of the archives about all sorts of things and I was pulling the names (of towns) out of a hat and he remarked, ‘You know, Mr. Diamond, I think you know more about the Polish State Archives (PSA) and about Polish geography than anybody else outside of Poland’,” he said.
      His knowledge of both Polish geography and Jewish genealogy began innocently enough some 30 years ago, when he wanted to trace the path of a rare genetic condition called beta thalassemia within his own family tree. Travelling to Poland, he received permission to index the Jewish records from his own ancestral town, Ostrow Mazowiecka. When he was done, he paid a visit to Prof. Jerzy Skowronek, then director of the PSA.
      “When I presented him with the printout of the database, I was not in any way, shape or form thinking about what was going to happen next,” Diamond said. “He said to me, ‘Mr. Diamond, this is very impressive, I wasn’t expecting this.’ And I don’t know what prompted me at that moment, but I said, ‘Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could do this for all of Poland?’And he said, ‘Well it’s not our policy, but maybe we’ll start small and do a few more towns’.”
      When he returned to Canada, Diamond began calling people and raising interest. He attributes the fall of the Berlin Wall and the fortuitous co-operative spirit of the PSA as chief factors – along with the rise of the personal computer and the World Wide Web – behind JRI-Poland’s step-by-step development and growth. “Everything came together, the timing was exquisite,” he said. “It was a continuum of one thing happening after another that made all this possible.”
      A key step along the way was the agreement that Diamond signed with the PSA in 1997 that officially recognized JRI-Poland as a partner. “After that, we had the credibility to go to each branch of the PSA, having been introduced by headquarters. Back then, of course, we were still buying photographs of the index pages. When digitalization became a reality, that was also a turning point,” said Diamond.
      Diamond has already received numerous awards for his work, including a Lifetime Achievement Award from the International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies. Last December, he was nominated for the Order of Merit of the Republic of Poland.
      As for the Meritorious Service Medal, all JRI-Poland leaders and volunteers also share in the honour, he said: “What we have accomplished has only been made possible through teamwork and a level of collaboration and dedication unmatched in the Jewish genealogical world.”
       
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