- May 8, 2013Upcoming MeetingsSunday, May 19, 10 a.m. -- Jim Rader, "New Super DNA Tests"Longtime genealogist Jim Rader will return to show us how the new DNA tests can help us learn where our ancestors lived before they had surnames. These tests provide information about a more historic time period that's covered by the science of anthropology.Jim Rader has been a civil engineer, computer programmer and adult education insturctor. He's been lecturing about genealogy since 1991 and published his first family history book in 1992. His genealogy pursuits include coordinating the Rader family surname study at Family Tree DNA and researching all the Rader families in the world.Sunday, June 16, 10 a.m. -- "Breaking Through Brick Walls"Sunday, July 21, 10 a.m. -- Gina Ortega, The WPA: Sources for Your GenealogyNotes from April 14, 2013 MeetingPresident Victoria Fisch called the meeting to order. She noted that the Sacramento Public Library offers free 45-minute sessions with a genealogist; call (916) 264-2920 for details. It was mentioned that Bernie Marks does some sessions on Tuesday afternoons. The Library continues to hold Sunday classes, on April 28, May 5 and May 29.April 28 is the Jewish Heritage Festival, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. We'll have a booth as in years past, have books of surnames for visitors to look up names, etc.Liz Igra passed out a flyer seeking as many Holocaust survivors as possible for next year's commemoration of Yom HaShoah. She's looking for photos, documents, letters, artifacts for an exhibit. Liz can be reached at liz@...April Speaker -- Sherri Venezia, "Finding My Ancestors-- Our Amazing Trip to Ukraine"Sherri Venezia says that the older she got, the more interested she became in finding out about her family history. She lived with her grandmother in New York, and remembers her grandmother saying she came from Austria. It was really the Austro-Hungarian Empire, now Ukraine.
"I was eight or nine years old, and she said 'Lemberg." My first thought was of Limburger cheese."Sherri says she spent days in the New York public library. She looked at marriage cards, brides' cards, grooms' cards, birth records, and found the names of her great-grandparents on death certificates. "I had grandchildren, and my own family was going forward. But I was more interested in my family going backwards."So Sherri started doing research on the JRI Poland site (Jewish Records Indexing) as well as www.ellisisland.org. She discovered that the family actually came from Tuchapy, currently in Ukraine.With Jewish Family Finder, Sherri found a man in Montreal that was looking for the same family. "I got the name of his guide, and more information."Sherri then started planning a trip. She and a friend flew from Sacramento to Washington, D.C., then to Munich, where they would catch a plan to Lviv. Her next experience was surreal, given her grandmother's family story. "I got to the boarding area and it said "Flight to Lemberg leaving ..."Lviv is the Ukranian name, Lemberg the German name."We landed in Lviv and had a guide and driver standing there." Sherri said she then had several goals -- to enjoy the area, to not forget the Holocaust, and to cherish and honor my family by going to cemeteries and villages that were still standing.Sherri said she found the region very poor, with people still living in little towns. "If my grandmother and relatives were resurrected, the only difference would be the telephone poles and the electrification.""It was frozen in time," she said. She urged people to visit their ancestral homes now to get a sense of where and how your family lived. "Your relatives who passed away would know where they were," she said.Sherri visited several Holocaust memorials and also Janowska, a Nazi labor camp.She can share information on her guide and arrangements, for those who may be visiting Ukraine. She also mentioned the film "Everything is Illuminated, " based on the novel of the same name, about a Jewish man who goes to Ukraine to search for a woman who saved his grandfather from the Nazis.~~~~~~~~~~~~~Build a Digital Family Tree With These 5 ToolsBy Jill KrasnyAmateur genealogists hoping to uncover a link to Abe Lincoln can easily turn to the web to dig in their ancestor's closet. But taking the commercial route doesn't come cheap.People curious about family history spent a whopping $2.3 billion on genealogy products and services last year, according to a study by market research firm Global Industry Analysts. They took most of their work to sites like Ancestry.com, which charge between $22.95 and $34.59 per month for access to billions of pertinent records. One-on-one consultations set them back $2,000 to $5,000 per session, depending on the length and complexity of the project, a spokesperson told Mashable.Despite those sites' popularity, “it’s perfectly possible to do everything without spending a dime,” says Terry Koch-Bostic, a Mineola, N.Y.-based director of the National Genealogy Society, a non-profit education, training and records-preservation group.We asked the genealogist to share her favorite tools for building an online scrapbook free of cost.1. FamilySearch.comHistorically known as the Genealogical Society of Utah, Family Search dates back to 1894, the year it was founded. In 2010, the company undertook the daunting task of converting millions of records (from over 100 countries) from microfiche to digital images. Now all those records are accessible on its site, which also helps users create digital scrapbooks of photos.“If I’m going to direct someone who’s never done genealogy, I’m going to direct them to this site,” says Koch-Bostic. “In terms of the data and research they have, it’s spectacular.”2. TreelinesStoryworth made headlines last month when it launched its tool to record family lore. But Treelines, still in beta, is just as intriguing and useful.“The site allows you to build the tree as you go,” says Koch-Bostic. Add stories and images as time permits. The end result is a visual, photographic narrative that's part tree, part timeline and eye-catching graphic. Hover over a year, for example, and you'll get an in-depth milestone description along with a vintage photo. It's like peering into a digital shoebox.3. Family VillageLaunched two years ago, this Facebook game, modeled after Zynga’s Farmville, features a hiker scaling her family tree — it grows as she gathers more research. The point of the game is to teach players the basics of genealogical methodology. Over the course of the hike, players turn up vital records and track their findings on ancestry charts and family group sheets. They also dig through federal census records between 1790 and 1940 to fill in the missing gaps of their lineage. It’s fun and highly addictive for those just starting out on their genealogical adventures.4. Various Grave SitesA host of sites exists for the sole purpose of storing death certificates. Koch-Bostic recommends Billiongraves.com, Findagrave.com and Legacy.com, that latter of which excels at collecting obituaries. Obits are particularly helpful for finding relatives in certain areas and information about where they lived, where they worked and attended school.5. Digitized Newspapers“The most wonderful information comes out of newspapers,” says Koch-Bostic, so long as you have access to a computer at home. Start searching by state, then try the Library of Congress — its Chronicling America website offers a treasure trove of historical newspapers published from 1690 to the present. When plugging in search terms, be sure to search narrowly and widely, advises Koch-Bostic.~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~A New Way to Find ObituariesGenealogyInTime Magazine has made another major upgrade to its free Genealogy Search Engine. The most recent enhancement is designed to make it quick and easy to find recent obituaries.Now instead of searching all over the internet for an obituary of a friend, family member or acquaintance, the Genealogy Search Engine will find it for you. Simply enter the name of the person in quotes into the search box.Many obituaries are indexed by the search engine within 24 hours of appearing on the internet. The Genealogy Search Engine also contains a significant number of older obituaries.Most modern obituaries are handled by funeral homes. Obituaries appear without delay on the funeral home website or on a dedicated obituary website. In contrast, the traditional approach of looking for an obituary in a newspaper (even an online newspaper) has its limits. Many online newspapers require a subscription, not all obituaries appear in newspapers, and there is often a delay of several days before an obituary is published.These issues are solved by the Genealogy Search Engine, which actively scans and indexes funeral home and obituary websites making it a convenient one-stop location to find recent obituaries.There are several additional benefits with this recent enhancement:• The Genealogy Search Engine can now be used as a people search engine. In many instances, family members listed in an obituary are older and many do not have a strong internet “footprint”. In other words, these people are not very visible in normal internet searches. However, the Genealogy Search Engine will clearly pick them up.• Obituaries typically list two or three generations of a family. Thus, finding a living person through an obituary will also often find other close family members. This is very useful when searching for distant living relatives.• Obituaries are one of the few places on the internet where a woman’s married name and maiden name are listed together. Thus, the large collection of obituaries indexed by the Genealogy Search Engine provides a powerful new avenue of research for those difficult-to-track female ancestors.From recent Avotaynu E-Zines by Gary Mokotoff:JRI-Poland Begins Linking Its Index to Actual Records
Jewish Records Indexing – Poland has started its previously announced plans to link their 5 million indexed records to the actual digital images of documents in Polish archives. The first major collection comes from fond 300 of the AGAD (Central Archives of Historical Records) in Warsaw. More than 700,000 records are now linked to images.
When using the JRI-Poland index at http://jri-poland.org/, if there is a notation "View Image" in the leftmost column, it means the image is now online. Write down the contents of the “Akta” column. This is the consecutive entry number in the AGAD register. Then click "View Image.” This may not bring you to the exact page of the document but it will be close. The last four digits of the URL is the page number of the sub-collection. Increasing/decreasing the value will take you to the next/previous page.
Example. Searching for persons named “Terner” from the town of “Kolomyya” produces 70 results, one of which is Lazar Terner, born in 1897 in Kolomyya. The record number (Akta) is 92. Clicking “View Image” displays birth entries 85–88 (link here). Entry 92 is on the following page. To get to that entry, change the four-digit number at the end of the URL from “0022” to “0023.” This displays entries 89–92.
There is a major advantage to these highly structured URLs: You can browse the collection by changing the value in the URL and searching page by page. This may be useful when an entry isn't found in the JRI-Poland index but the approximate date of the event is known.
Preliminary Program of 2013 Conference Now Online
Planners of the 33rd annual IAJGS International Conference on Jewish Genealogy have placed a preliminary program on their website at http://iajgs2013.org. It includes lectures, Special Interest Group luncheons, and computer workshops. The program can be searched in a number of ways: by title, speaker, date, experience level, type of presentation (e.g., lecture or workshop), topic category, and geographical focus. For example, there are 13 events that include Hungarian information and 13 on the topic of “Genetics and DNA Research.”
Some of the notable speakers include:
• Ward Adriaens - Head of Archives, Kazerne Dossin (Memorial, Museum and Documentation Center of the Holocaust) , Mechelen, Belgium,
• Dr. Lenka Matusikova - Archivist, Deputy Head of the First Department (responsible for the pre-1848 state and church archival holdings) of the National Archives in Prague, Czech Republic
• Olga Muzychuk - Deputy Head of the State Archival Service of Ukraine
• Zsuzsanna Toronyi - Head of the Hungarian Jewish Archives
• Yochai Ben Ghedalia - Director of the Central Archives for the History of the Jewish People
Register for the conference now by going to the home page at http://iajgs2013.org. The conference is being held from August 4–9 in Boston at the Park Plaza Hotel & Towers.
Boston University Adds Jewish Genealogy to Its Curriculum
Since 2008, Boston University has had a curriculum leading to a “Certificate in Genealogical Research.” It now has added a course in Jewish genealogical research to the program. The instructors, both Certified Genealogists, are Nancy Levin and Rhoda Miller. The course will be held at the university’s Charles River Campus in Boston July 29–August 2, the week before the annual conference.
The course will provide researchers with the tools, resources, strategies, and background information specific to Jewish genealogical research. Among numerous topics, participants will learn about working with foreign languages and alphabets; naming patterns and traditions; border changes; Jewish cemetery research; Holocaust research; and research websites. Country-specific research and documents will be discussed.
To register and find additional information about the course, go to http://professional.bu.edu/schedule/course-details.asp?CID=15447&dept=CPE. Information about the total program is at http://professional.bu.edu/programs/genealogy/.
JDC Records from Post-WW II Period Now OnlineThe American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee has placed online their post-World War II New York 1945–1954 collection. This collection contains more than 2,800 files, including policy memos, telegrams, correspondence generated by JDC’s New York Headquarters, and eyewitness reports from JDC field staff working in displaced persons and refugee camps in Germany, Austria and Italy. The database can be searched at http://archives.jdc.org/archives-search/?s=archivestopnav. In some cases, the actual documents are shown. Additional information about the collection is at http://archives.jdc.org/about-us/articles/jdc-records-from-the.html.New Website: Digital Public Library of America
Digital Public Library of America was launched recently. It's a project to make the holdings of America’s research libraries, archives, and museums available online and free of charge. It is located at http://dp.la (how is that for a short URL!) and currently contains 2.4 million records. The book portion includes out-of-copyright works or those provided with permission of the copyright owner. Most books date from before the 1920s.
Since 2.4 million is a small number compared to the potential of this resource, much is the information is from isolated collections. Searching for “Jews” produced 407 results. Of these, 50 were from a collection of the Zionist Organization of America located in the South Carolina Digital Library - College of Charleston. Another Jewish entry was a book, The Jews of Eastern Europe, from the Brandeis University Library and published in 1921 by the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge. There are many oral histories in the Jewish collection.
Museum of History of Polish Jews Opens
Virtual Shtetl Now Documents More Than 2,3000 Towns
On April 19, the Museum of the History of Polish Jews opened its doors and immediately began its cultural and educational programming. Many of the events planned for April and May commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising which began on April 19, 1943. The museum is the implementer of Virtual Shtetl, a site that includes information about more than 2,300 towns, including 78,000 photographs, 900 videos and more than 100 audios. Information about the museum can be found at http://www.jewishmuseum.org.pl/en/cms/home-page/. The Virtual Shtetl site is at http://www.sztetl.org.pl/en/.
Index to 2,255 Auschwitz Prisoner Photos Searchable Through Morse Site
Since last June, the Stephen P. Morse site has had an index to mug shots of 2,255 Auschwitz prisoners. From the opening of the Auschwitz concentration camp in 1941 through the middle of 1942 all entering prisoners were photographed, full face, right and left, with their prisoner number and insignia, i.e. type of prisoner, but not names. With very few exceptions, this process ceased in mid-1942 due to a shortage of photographic paper. As the Russians approached in 1945, an attempt was made to destroy the photos, but more than 30,000 were saved and are held at the Auschwitz Museum. Copies of some of these photos have been shared with the USHMM, Yad Vashem, and the International Tracing Service.
Volunteers at the USHMM were able to identify by name virtually all of the 2,200 photos in museum's possession, and these names have been placed in a database available at the Steve Morse website. Procedures for obtaining copies of the photos are explained at the website. Volunteers are now working to identify the photos which appear in the ITS collection. When this project is completed, the names will be added to the website.
While these few thousand photos show a tiny percentage of Auschwitz prisoners, they are an unusual and emotional last glimpse of these previously invisible victims of the Holocaust.
The index can be searched at http://stevemorse.org/dachau/auschwitz.html.
From the Washington Post's weekly Travel Chat, April 22, (excellent travel resource-- SL)My son just came back from a week in Jewish Galicia, the area of Ukraine and Poland his great grandfather came from, staying for a few days each in Krakow and L'viv. One thing he noticed--the area relies now on a kind of kitchy post-Soviet tourism. He went to one pub in L'viv where you had to give a password of "Slava Ukrainia"--freedom to Ukraine--and you could throw darts at posters of Lenin and Stalin. In Krakow, his hotel was across from the Propaganda Pub, with pictures of Breznhev and other Soviet and Polish communist leaders.– April 22, 2013 2:32 PM
From Avotaynu April 14:
Online Guide of Murder Sites of Jews in the Former USSR
Yad Vashem has created an “Online Guide of Murder Sites of Jews in the Former USSR.” The list is provided by town within region for today’s Belarus and Ukraine. It's located at http://tinyurl.com/KillingSites. Included is place, latitude/longitude, actual murder site, event (what actually occurred). General information about the mass killings can be found at http://www.yadvashem.org/untoldstories/database/homepage.asp.
New Blog:Marilyn Robinson has started a blog "Jewish Gem's Genealogy: Mining For Your Elusive Ancestors." It can be found at yourjewishgem.blogspot.com.~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~See you Sunday morning, May 19!
July 15, 2017Upcoming Meetings --No July MeetingGetting Started in Genealogy --- August 20, 9 a.m. to noonSeptember 17, 9 a.m. to noon
Meeting Notes -- June 11, 2017Mort Rumberg called the meeting to order and welcomed members and guests.Mort mentioned that the numbered parking spaces are for Einstein residents and we should park elsewhere.There will be no meeting next month, when the IAJGS conference will be held in Orlando.The California Museum will have a film program through August 6 --“Light and Noir,” exiles and Emigres in Hollywood, 1933-1950.Librarian Teven Laxer showed several books we have in our library, including “The History of the Jews in Milwaukee” and “The History of the Jews in Los Angeles” – both have cross-references to newspaper articles. We also have a Legacy Family Tree 8.0 Manual.Teven said we have close to 500 volumes in our library, most targeting Jewish genealogy. The library is one of the benefits of membership.The Tikva group will have its next program June 25 on Anti-Semitism. It will take place at B’Nai Israel from 1 to 4 p.m. The guest speaker will be Nancy Appel from the ADL in San Francisco.Judy Persin is organizing the August and September meetings which will focus on Beginning Genealogy Workshops, from 9 a.m. to noon on August 20 and September 17. There will be two sessions each Sunday. “We’ll provide the basics for those who are just beginning and it’s also a great review for old-timers,” Judy said.The cost is $10 for members, $15 for non-members, covering both August and September workshops.Registration form for the August/September workshops attached. Please reserve now to secure a space.June Speaker – Maryellen Burns “The Power of Story”Why do we tell stories? What is revealed, what is hidden in the story.“Growing up, I was really isolated,” Maryellen said. “I didn’t discover I was Jewish until I was 10, when my parents invited a friend who had been in Auschwitz. I went from knowing nothing to now having 586 pages of relatives on my maternal grandmother’s side."She said her father was on the road from ages 7 to 9 – the only reason he could survive was that he could read the hobos’ symbols and find Jewish families in the South.Maryellen noted that while Jews don’t have godparents, two friends of her family, Nate and Laura, filled that role. She also recalls one day when Woody Guthrie, Andre Segovia and Arthur Fieldler’s sister were at her house.“I want to know the character of the person who is part of my history,” Maryellen said, something she learns through conversation. She says she has more than 110 conversations on her phone.She said the stories we tell and the stories we hide tell a lot about us.Maryellen said the family photos she had came from cousins, including many in the last few years. “My parents took a picture and then sent it to relatives.”“Each one of us in our lives has a keeper of stories,” she said. “The oral tradition plays a large part in Jewish culture.”"What we are named, who we are named for – are names chosen to hide our identity, to perhaps look we were Catholic?” That was the case for Maryellen and her brothers.Maryellen asked the group to talk to the person next to them about their names. Who were they named after?"And if you had a nickname, how did that affect your identity?”Seven Reasons Why We Tell Stories--They define who we are – what we choose to tell and what we want to conceal.-- To plant ideas in people – ideas, thoughts and emotions.-- We like stories-- We are born to tell stories.-- We are literally wired to relate to people who tell a storyIt’s our own natural tendency to tell fictional stories as well as true stories.-- Stories inspire action.-- We tell stories to impress.Maryellen asked the group, how many of you plan on recording your story in some way? Most of you. What is the mechanism you will use?Why is it important to you? Do it for your kids? Think about donating a copy to the library. Maybe you can bring something that will spark a story in someone else.Maryellen said we tend to rely on lists of questions. “But get into conversation, let the story lead where the person wants to go. What did the house, Grandma, smell like? What did you hear when you were there?”Maryellen does talks on a number of subjects, including book architecture, whipping up a family cookbook, and (for the Renaissance Society), how every wave of immigration affected the food in the local area.Maryellen can be reached by email at Maryellen_burns@....~~~~~~~~~~~~~International Jewish Genealogy Conference hosts a plethora of talentHeritage -- Florida Jewish Names June 23, 2017Harvard Professor Henry Louis Gates, host of the popular PBS television show "Finding Your Roots," will address the IAJGS annual awards banquet with a talk on "Genealogy and Genetics in America.
What do Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Alexander Hamilton and Aida have to do with discovering your ancestors? To find out, join other genealogists at the 37th IAJGS International Conference on Jewish Genealogy from July 23–28 at the Disney World Swan Resort in Orlando, Florida.
Henry Louis Gates Jr., host of the PBS hit series "Finding Your Roots," will be the featured speaker on "Genetics and Genealogy in America" on Thursday evening at the conference. Some of the many celebrities that Gates has successfully helped to find their Jewish roots include Barbara Walters, Julianna Margulies, Gloria Steinem, Norman Lear, Tony Kushner, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Robert Downey, Jr., Carole King, Alan Dershowitz and Dustin Hoffman.
"This is a one of a kind opportunity for the Greater Orlando Jewish community to trace their ancestors-both for those totally new to family history research and those already experienced in genealogy," said Dr. Diane Jacobs, local host conference co-chair.
Sunday evening will feature "Alexander Hamilton, the Jews, and the American Revolution," presented by Dr. Robert Watson, professor, historian, author, and media commentator.
Wednesday evening, there will be a special showing of the 2016 acclaimed documentary "Aida's Secrets" (sponsored by MyHeritage). This documentary is a story about family secrets, lies, high drama and generations of contemporary history. The international story begins with World War II and concludes with an emotional 21st century family reunion. Izak was born inside the Bergen-Belsen displaced persons camp in 1945 and sent for adoption in Israel. Utilizing the resources of Yad Vashem and MyHeritage, secret details of his birth mother, an unknown brother in Canada and his father's true identity slowly emerge in this extremely personal investigative film.
Featured Monday evening, acclaimed expert and author on etymology and geographic distribution of Jewish surnames, Alexander Beider and Harry Ostrer will debate "Setting the Record Straight: What Yiddish and DNA Tell Us About Ashkenazi Origins" (sponsored by FamilyTreeDNA).On Tuesday evening, "1917: A Turning Point in American Jewish History" (sponsored by JGSLA) will be presented by Hasia Diner, author and Paul and Sylvia Steinberg Professor of American Jewish history at New York University.Professor Robert Watson, a featured speaker at the IAJGS Florida/Caribbean conference, will talk about our Nevis-born founding father "Alexander Hamilton, the Jews, and the American Revolution."
Stanley Diamond is a leader in Canadian Jewish Research, JRI-PolandMONTREALER RECEIVES MEDAL FROM GOVERNOR GENERALBy Bill Gladstone - July 13, 2017 Canadian Jewish NewsStan Diamond, left, receiving his medal from Gov.Gen David Johnston. SGT. JOHANIE MAHEU RIDEAU HALL PHOTOIn 1986, when Montrealer Stan Diamond sold his decorative-ceiling company after a successful business career, he could not have envisioned that a second career, even more monumental than the first, lay ahead of him. Almost by happenstance, it seems, he became executive director of a large, U.S.-based non-profit organization called JRI-Poland, which would help thousands of people research their family roots – an achievement for which he received a Meritorious Service Medal from the Governor General of Canada at Rideau Hall in Ottawa on June 23.To date, JRI-Poland (short form for Jewish Records Indexing, Poland) has indexed some five million 19th-century and early 20th-century Jewish birth, marriage, death and other records from more than 550 Polish towns. Not only is the database fully searchable online, but more than two-million records are available for download, with more becoming accessible every few months.Driven by an executive committee of four, a 16-member board and an international network of hundreds of volunteers, JRI-Poland raises about US$100,000 ($133,000) each year, most of which goes to digitizing and indexing records that are mostly hand written in antique Polish script or Russian Cyrillic. Scores of volunteers from the United States, Canada, Israel, Australia, Great Britain, France and elsewhere participate in the project.Diamond has heard countless stories of people achieving remarkable, sometimes even life-changing results from the JRI-Poland database. It has been instrumental, for instance, in uniting long lost family members. Recently, a brother and sister in Jerusalem found a half-brother from their father’s second family, who was previously unknown to them, even though he was living just 90 minutes away. Last year, Diamond used the database to confirm the birth date of 112-year-old Auschwitz survivor Yisrael Kristal of Haifa, who was subsequently proclaimed the world’s oldest man by Guinness World Records.His inbox is filled with stories of research “miracles” and people telling him that JRI-Poland has solved enduring family mysteries. “Two weeks ago, a woman in Toronto wrote us that her grandfather had always said they were related to (the late French actor and mime) Marcel Marceau and she wanted to know how,” he said. Taking on the challenge, he found that Marceau’s family was from the Polish town of Bedzin, where their surname had been Mangel, and was able to make the connection to the woman’s family. The lady was thrilled.While Jewish record books in most towns survived the devastation of fire, flood and war, there are often gaps in the series of available years. In a few towns, the records disappeared entirely. Sometimes it’s a matter of town officials being careless; and some records were lost during the tumultuous Nazi era, when the occupying Germans took over town halls for their headquarters. In Pultusk, Jewish records before 1875 were reportedly destroyed by the Jews themselves, who feared the Nazis would use them to track down the town’s Jewish families.The Warsaw cemetery, Diamond related, once had huge volumes of burial registers that disappeared. “What we were told by the management of the Warsaw cemetery is that they were used as firewood during the war,” he said. “They were huge registers – you’re looking at a cemetery with some 300,000 or more burials.”Diamond’s knowledge of Polish geography, developed over many annual two-week trips, seems remarkable for a non-native. “At the end of one trip, we were talking to the director of the archives about all sorts of things and I was pulling the names (of towns) out of a hat and he remarked, ‘You know, Mr. Diamond, I think you know more about the Polish State Archives (PSA) and about Polish geography than anybody else outside of Poland’,” he said.His knowledge of both Polish geography and Jewish genealogy began innocently enough some 30 years ago, when he wanted to trace the path of a rare genetic condition called beta thalassemia within his own family tree. Travelling to Poland, he received permission to index the Jewish records from his own ancestral town, Ostrow Mazowiecka. When he was done, he paid a visit to Prof. Jerzy Skowronek, then director of the PSA.“When I presented him with the printout of the database, I was not in any way, shape or form thinking about what was going to happen next,” Diamond said. “He said to me, ‘Mr. Diamond, this is very impressive, I wasn’t expecting this.’ And I don’t know what prompted me at that moment, but I said, ‘Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could do this for all of Poland?’And he said, ‘Well it’s not our policy, but maybe we’ll start small and do a few more towns’.”When he returned to Canada, Diamond began calling people and raising interest. He attributes the fall of the Berlin Wall and the fortuitous co-operative spirit of the PSA as chief factors – along with the rise of the personal computer and the World Wide Web – behind JRI-Poland’s step-by-step development and growth. “Everything came together, the timing was exquisite,” he said. “It was a continuum of one thing happening after another that made all this possible.”A key step along the way was the agreement that Diamond signed with the PSA in 1997 that officially recognized JRI-Poland as a partner. “After that, we had the credibility to go to each branch of the PSA, having been introduced by headquarters. Back then, of course, we were still buying photographs of the index pages. When digitalization became a reality, that was also a turning point,” said Diamond.Diamond has already received numerous awards for his work, including a Lifetime Achievement Award from the International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies. Last December, he was nominated for the Order of Merit of the Republic of Poland.Sign Up Now for our August/September Workshops -- Form Attached