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Genealogy Update

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  • SusanneLevitsky@...
    June 10, 2013 Upcoming Meetings: Next Sunday, June 16, 10 a.m. Breaking through Brick Walls Einstein Center, Sacramento Sunday, June 23, 2 p.m.
    Message 1 of 47 , Jun 10, 2013
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      June 10, 2013
       
      Upcoming Meetings:
       
      Next Sunday, June 16, 10 a.m.    "Breaking through Brick Walls"
                                                            Einstein Center, Sacramento
       
      Sunday, June 23, 2 p.m.       "Next Steps in Jewish Family Research," Victoria Fisch
                                                    Davis Library
       
      Sunday, July 21, 10 a.m.     "The WPA:  Sources for Your Genealogy," Gena          
                                                         Philibert-Ortega
                                                   Einstein Center, Sacramento
       
       
      May 19 Meeting Notes
       
      President Victoria Fisch called the meeting to order.  She noted that we have a new venue in Davis, the Yolo County library on E. 14th Street.  Meetings will be held there every fourth Sunday from 2 to 4 p.m.
       
      On May 21, there will be a tour of the El Dorado County Archives and Museum in Placerville; admission is free.
       
      Victoria presented the JGSS slate of officers for 2013-14:
       
      President -- Victoria Fisch
      Vice Presidents for Programming -- Art Yates and Dave Reingold
      Treasurer -- Bob Wascou
      Recording Secretary/Publicity -- Susanne Levitsky
      The slate was voted upon and approved.
       
      Mort Rumberg was thanked for his many years of finding program speakers -- "It takes two people to replace him,"  Victoria said.
       
      Teven Laxer was welcomed as the new librarian.  He noted that there are some 20 books out on loan that should be returned; he will start contacting the borrowers.
       
      Teven said we have about 300 volumes in the library that are part of the inventory, with maybe another 100 not yet inventoried.
       
      Dave Reingold talked about the upcoming National History Day -- "we're always looking for topics and people to work with students." Those interested can contact Dave at camp_wiseowl@....
       
      The Sacramento Public Library continues to offer a free 45-minute session, "book a genealogist."
      Victoria mentioned that the Western States Jewish History group is putting together a series of online museums-- check out their website for online exhibitions, starting with Los Angeles and San Francisco.
       
      The Boston IAJGS conference in August 4-9; Bob Wascou and Teven Laxer are among those planning to go. Victoria Fisch and Jeremy Frankel have decided to not to go, due to one of the speakers included in the program.
       
      May Program -- Jim Rader on "The New Super DNA Tests"
       
      Jim talked about FamilyTree DNA, which tests different parts of your DNA. Details can be found on FamilyTreeDNA.com.   He says this test does all the search work.
       
      National Geographic sends its test to Family Tree DNA, he says.
       
      Jim says you can search for a surname or can set up a group -- there are more than 6,000 groups out there now.
       
      Bennett Greenspan, founder of Family Tree DNA -- "his reason for starting it was to do his Jewish genealogy research," Jim says.
       
      Family history and DNA will be the focus of several speakers on June 6 at the upcoming Southern California Genealogy Jamboree, which Jim will be attending.  It takes place just two blocks from the Burbank airport.
       
      23andme.com  -- the wife of Google co-founder Sergey Brin is involved with this site, which plans to test one million people to establish a large database and track diseases.
       
      Some questions to ponder:
       
      When does your ancestry have an ethnicity?
       
      What date did you become a member of a nationality?
       
      Jim says race is a social construct, not a biological one.
       
      You have to break that old notion that you're from Germany.  But where did those ancestors come from?
       
      AncestryDNA -- can go back to your great, great-grandparents.
       
      Each company doesn't have rights to other companies' databases.
       
      Jim showed what he received from three different companies -- FamilyTree DNA, Ancestry DNA and 23andme -- different results for each. 
       
      FamilyTree DNA -- showed he had 87% Western Europe ancestry,12.08% European (Scandinavia, Turkey, Finnish)
      Ancestry DNA -- 67% Central Europe, 38% Scandinavian
      23andmeDNA -- 100% European
      "As we get more and more tests, it gets more and more foggy," Jim says.
       
      FamilyTreeDNA Family Finder tests 289 markers; Ancestry DNA 100; National Geographic 200.
      When something is "autosomal" it tests all of your DNA>
       
      FamilyTree DNA's Family Finder Feature tells you who has the same actual DNA that you have, Jim says.  "It definitely goes back three generations."
       
      "The very largest pool is FamilyTree DNA."
       
      Common uses for your DNA findings:
      -- finding adoptee relatives
      -- find fellow sperm donor siblings
       
      Tests 700,000 locations out of three billion.  "You can map your whole chromosome now for $1500," Jim says.
       
      Before, the DNA focus was on STRs; now the focus is on the SNP -- single base pair substitutions--which account for many of the genetic differences between you and others (appearance, diseases, etc.)
       
      Most--no observable differences.
       
      "With the SNPs, we can figure out where you are in the timeline."
       
      Hundreds of video clips on YouTube to check out re DNA,SNPs, etc.
       
      Jim says FamilyTree DNA stores your DNA for 20 years -- "none of the others do that." And your test will always be updated with the latest science.
       
      www.yhrd.org -- if you want to create a map, you put your results in.  Haplotype database.
      Family Tree DNA does Y-DNA STR testing, has the best set-up for surname projects, and the largest genealogical database.
       
      23andme -- does medical risk testing as well, possibly the best for the ethnic admixture.
       
      Ancestry DNA -- only does autosomal DNA now, links to trees on Ancestry, US only.
      "There's no commonality in the tests," Jim says.
       
      Jim noted that if you want to read up on DNA and genealogy, there are about 30 books on Amazon.com, some on forensic genealogy.
       
      ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
       
       
      From Gary Mokotoff's Avotaynu E-Zine:  May 26
       
      U.S. Version of Who Do You Think You Are? Returns to Television
      The U.S. version of the family-history based show  Who Do You Think You Are? is returning to television on July 23 at 9 p.m. It will appear on the TLC network with Ancestry.com remaining as the sponsor. There will be eight one-hour episodes in the new season. The celebrities featured this year include: Christina Applegate, Kelly Clarkson, Cindy Crawford, Chris O’Donnell and Zooey Deschanel.

      New “Forced Labor 1939–1945” Website
      A website “Forced Labor 1939–1945” has interviews with nearly 600 persons from 26 countries who had to perform forced labor during the Nazi period. It is located at https://zwangsarbeit-archiv.de/archiv/en/archive. Some are undoubtedly Jews because 25 of the interviewees live in Israel.

      An interactive map shows sites of biographical relevance to the interviewees: place of birth, deportation, camps, companies and prisons, places of residence after 1945. You check off which of nine categories are relevant to your search and then all locations are highlighted on the map. Clicking on a location identifies which interviews include the location. If you are registered, you can listen to the interview. The most comprehensive search is “Mentioned Places” which includes hundreds of locations.

      To hear the interviews requires registration which is processed by the site’s creators. You then receive a response in e-mail containing login details if your application to register was successful. I registered but never received a response.


      UK National Archives Adds Naturalization Records Online
      The records of thousands of 19th-century immigrants to Britain are now available to search and download online at http://tinyurl.com/UKNaturalisation. The collection, which covers the period 1801 to 1871, includes records relating to more than 7,000 people who applied to become British citizens under the 1844 Naturalisation Act, as well as a small number of papers relating to denization, a form of British citizenship that conferred some but not all the rights of a British subject.

      The records include:
         • All naturalization applications to the Secretary of State, 1844–1871
         • Some naturalizations by private Act of Parliament, 1801–1868
         • Some letters applying for denization, 1801–1940

      The announcement can be found at http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/news/840.htm.

      JewishGen Offering Intermediate-Level Course in New York Research
      Many Jewish family historians have ancestors or collateral relatives with roots in New York City. Starting June 1, JewishGen is offering an intermediate-level course in New York City research. It will focus on the more esoteric documents generated such as naturalization, probate, landsmanshaftn, voter registration, newspapers, and court cases.

      The four-week course has seven text lessons that are downloaded; there are no specific times for the course; students interact with the instructor though a 24/7 forum, in a query and answer format. Phyllis Kramer, JewishGen Vice-president for Education, is the instructor. Tuition is $100 (there are no waivers for this course). Additional information, including a video, is at http://www.JewishGen.org/education.

      JOAN GRIFFIS , Commercial NewsThe Commercial-NewsSun May 19, 2013, 01:00 AM CDT   May 19, 2013
      Noted genealogical author Megan Smolenyak has reported in the Huffington Post that after a bit of a lull in genealogical programming, four genealogy series will premiere on U.S. television in the near future. First one was Christopher Guest and Jim Paddock’s mockumentary series, “Family Tree,” on May 12 on HBO.
       
      The remaining series that are “under production” are “Who Do You Think You Are?” (TLC) and “Finding Your Roots (PBS) — which both focused on celebrity subjects — and Genealogy Roadshow, “an Irish import … with an emphasis on family history mysteries, historical events, and ‘average Joes.’”
       
      Smolenyak’s website, Honoring Our Ancestors, at http://www.honoringourancestors.com, should be bookmarked and visited frequently for helpful advice and other information. For example, a click on the toolbar title “Library” allows one to click on “Internet Research” with links to Smolenyak’s articles from the Huffington Post, Ancestry Daily News, Family Chronicle, and others.
       
      “Celebs” on the toolbar, provides links to interesting articles including President Obama’s roots, Michelle Obama’s roots, and Annie Moore’s roots (the little girl who was the first to step on Ellis Island).
       
      Smolenyak’s generosity is greatly appreciated by the 600 recipients who've received her no-strings-attached genealogical grants since May 2000. Read the stories of the genealogical projects she's supported.  Perhaps a local society could request similar help? (The online application is brief and easy.)
       
      Under the toolbar title, “Submit,” one can click on a link to share with Smolenyak information or stories under the topics Orphan Heirlooms (“treasures” that need to be returned to owners/descendants), Lost Loved Ones’ Stories, and Brick Wall/Mystery Stories. She welcomes such new challenges, and although she “can’t tackle all cases,” her expertise might be just what is needed.
       
      In her latest book she remarks, “It’s high time for all of us to let our roots show.” Start searching.
       
       
      Avotaynu, May 19 edition:
       
      European Holocaust Research Infrastructure Adds New Tool
      A new tool for researchers is now available on the website of the European Holocaust Research Infrastructure. It is called “EHRI National Reports” and provides for 47 countries an historical overview of the Holocaust period and what archives in the country have Holocaust-related material. Finally, there are published works cited that provide information about the Holocaust period. A description of the project is at http://www.ehri-project.eu/drupal/national-reports-on-website.


      JewishGen Memorial Plaque Project

      JewishGen wants to grow its Memorial Plaque Project. This is a database primarily of plaques placed on a memorial board on synagogue walls. Also known as “yahrzeit plaques,” they exist to memorialize relatives, usually parents or siblings. On the anniversary of the person’s death (yahrzeit), the plaque is illuminated by two small lights on each side. The name is read to the congregation at the Sabbath service before the yahrzeit. These plaques are of genealogical value because they usually include the name of the deceased, date of death reckoned by both the secular and Jewish calendars and the person’s religious name, which includes the name of the person’s father (above example: Chaim ben [son of] Meir.).

      Information on how to submit data can be found at http://www.jewishgen.org/databases/Memorial/Submit.htm. The database is at http://www.jewishgen.org/databases/Memorial.

      MyHeritage Introduces “Record Detective”
      MyHeritage has added a feature to their record search capability called “Record Detective.”  When you identify a record of interest in their collection of historical records, Record Detective will provide a summary of additional records about the person, or about people related to that person. For the more advanced researcher, the feature would be a disadvantage, because it will make the person aware of records s/he already knows of. For example, locating a person in the 1940 U.S. census might produce a result showing that the person in the 1930 and 1920 censuses. The reaction of the advanced researcher might be that the records are known, yet it might be new information to the beginner.
      ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
       
      From the newsletter of the JGS of Ventura and the Conejo Valley:
       
      First American Jews
      Geni.com has made available Rabbi Malcolm H. Stern’s book, First American Jewish Families: 600 Genealogies, 1654-1988. It identifies more than 25,000 members of the earliest Jewish immigrants to the U.S. beginning in the colonial days. It's available to be viewed here: http://tinyurl.com/bkfr3c7. You may also connect directly to the database by clicking: http://tinyurl.com/acynmo3http://www.jgscv.org
       
      How The USCIS Helped Break Down a Brick Wall
      By Jan Meisels Allen
       
      This is a summary of the 5-minute genealogical hint given at the May 5th meeting. USCIS answered the question: What was Aaron Baker’s original name.
       
      What I Knew:
       
      Aaron Baker was my maternal Aunt Anna’s husband for 57 years—they married in 1922. He was a farmer in Torrington Connecticut, born in Kovno, Lithuania, and according to the 1920 and 1930 censuses he immigrated in 1914 to the United States. He immigrated with his mother Etta. The 1920 census noted his immigration year—1914 and said he had applied for naturalization: PA. At that time he was living in Torrington with his mother Etta.
       
      The 1930 census had him married to my aunt and living with their two sons: Allen and Merrill. It stated he immigrated in 1914 and that he was a naturalized citizen. I could not find his ship’s manifest and I had assumed his original name was Beker or Bekerowitz.
       
      I was going to Boston in late October for an IAJGS board meeting –I thought I would go a day ahead and do some personal genealogy. Knowing that he was naturalized between 1920 and 1930 from the census records, and that he “probably” immigrated in 1914 I contacted the New England Historic and Genealogy Society asking if they had any records that would either show his naturalization or his name change. They replied they did not and referred me to the National Archives North East Region. They also replied that they had nothing they could find.
       
      Superstorm Sandy prevented my original plan to go to Boston a day early—and as neither organization could assist, I contacted Marian Smith at the USCIS and asked if it was worthwhile to make an inquiry to them. Marian let me know that she found his file and it was interesting—the file had 12 documents in it! She also told me his original name was Israel Buruchowitz! I should fill out the USCIS forms and submit the payment to get the records. I went to the JGSCV website http://www.jgscv.org and clicked on “resources”: United States and scrolled down to the USCIS link: http://www.uscis.gov/genealogy and completed the on-line form and payment.
       
      When I received the packet, the cover letter explained that they identified 12 documents but were only enclosing 10 documents in their entirety and two partially as under the Freedom of Information Act others were named and they could not provide their confidential information—such as birthdate, Social Security number etc. These would have pertained to my aunt and their eldest child and as I did not need them I did not pursue the appeal which was offered.
       
      Of most interest was the New Naturalization Lost or Mutilated Form where Aaron attests that “it was burned up by mistake in burning other papers which I thought were no longer needed”. Aaron started his inquiry for a replacement of his naturalization papers several months after the US entered World War II—he probably needed them to prove he was not an alien during the war.
       
      Other documents included in the file and sent to me were: Certificate of Naturalization; Duplicate Naturalization Certificate, a query about different names on the Petition for Naturalization (Israel Buruchowitz) and the Declaration of Intention (Aaron Baker), the name change letter, the new naturalization form when the original is lost or mutilated, and a letter to the Immigration and Naturalization Service dated February 1, 1943 complaining that he had started the reapplication process in February 1942 in their Boston office and followed their suggestions, paid the fee, filled out the forms and told to appear at a local court in April 1942 where he was interviewed and had heard nothing since.
       
      Documentary: No Place on Earth
       
      A documentary film about Jews who hid in a cave in the Ukraine for more than a year during WWII, No Place On Earth is being released in selected cities across the U.S. To see the trailer go to http://tinyurl.com/blrprhf. To see where and when it's being shown, and to request a screening visit http://tinyurl.com/ag2yw2w
       
      WORLD'S OLDEST TORAH SCROLL DISCOVERED IN ITALY
       
      After conducting carbon dating tests, the University of Bologna in Italy announced this week  it has what may be the oldest complete Torah scroll in the world. The scroll had been stored in the university library, but in 1889, was mislabeled by a librarian, who dated it to the 17th century. However, a Hebrew professor recently examined it and realized the script was that of the oriental Babylonian tradition—meaning it was much older than previously thought.
       
      Subsequent carbon dating confirmed the scroll may have been written more than 850 years ago.
       
      ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
      See you at our meeting next Sunday, June 16th!
       
       
    • SusanneLevitsky@...
      Upcoming Meetings: --Sunday, Sept. 27, 10 a.m. – Glenn Kurtz, “Three Minutes inPoland – Discovery of a Lost World in a 1938 Film” --Sunday, Oct. 18, 10
      Message 47 of 47 , Aug 17
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        Upcoming Meetings:
         
        --Sunday, Sept. 27, 10 a.m. – Glenn Kurtz, “Three Minutes in Poland – Discovery of a Lost World in a 1938 Film”
         
        --Sunday, Oct. 18, 10 a.m., Susan Miller, “Jews in a Moslem World”

         
         
        JGSS minutes for meeting on August 2, 2015
         
        Mort Rumberg took the minutes for Susanne Levitsky who was not present.  (Thanks, Mort!)
         
        President Victoria Fisch made several announcements concerning scheduling and various genealogical events. She noted that the JGSS will participate in the annual Food Faire on August 30. Volunteers are welcome.
         
        Mort provided a quick tour of his eight days in Israel for the 35th annual International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies. He has a data stick with about two-dozen speaker handouts. The conference program was passed around and if people would like a copy of a conference presentation’s handout, email Mort and he will forward it (his email address is below). He noted that not all presentations had handouts. He said it was an incredible experience being there and would like to return and see the many other sights he missed.
         
        President Fisch introduced the speaker, Dr. Valerie Jordan, who spoke about Family Secrets and Genealogy – how genealogy may intentionally or accidentally uncover hidden family secrets.
         
        Dr. Jordan is a Ph.D. in Developmental Psychology, now retired. Born and raised in New York City, she came to California in 1977. She is a second generation American from Odessa (her maternal great-great grandmother), and from Bucharest (her maternal grandmother). She passed around photos of a very handsome couple (her grandmother and grandfather) and a family photo showing four generations.
         
        Valerie defined secrets as being an intentional concealment of information from others. The information can be shameful, painful, or harmful to others. She differentiated this from privacy, which she defined as a person not wanting to share information, but the information is not shameful, painful, or harmful. She also differentiated it from unknown or forgotten information or stories.
         
        When would you intentionally tell people of a family secret? These are some of the times: When they are “old” enough to handle the information; when a specific milestone or family event is reached and it is appropriate; when symptoms or distress becomes unmanageable and needs to be revealed.
         
        Secrets take many forms. Valerie discussed the following examples of secrets that families may not want revealed:
        Religious secrets – possible crypto or converso Jews in the family history.
        Biological secrets – she gave the example of Bobby Darin’s story where he was devastated when he discovered that his “sister” was actually his mother.
        Secret families – Charles Lindbergh had seven secret children.
        Political secrets – Perhaps someone in the family having, for example, a communist party background – “red” diaper babies, slavery secrets
        Secret affairs
        Mental health secrets – such as suicide, addictions, mental illness, sexual orientation/identity, abuse, etc.
        Adoption secrets
        Incarceration secrets
        Military service secrets
         
        Next, Valerie discussed genograms. Genograms are charts or pictorial displays used in family therapy and medicine to gather family history, relationship patterns, stories and medical histories. It displays medical history and family stories in a creative and non-genealogical chart. The charts use symbols and terms to describe family members and their relationships and are used by many therapists. She provided examples of such charts using Martin Luther King, Jr.’s family and Bill Clinton’s family.
         
        Obviously these types of charts have advantages and disadvantages.
        Advantages include obtaining useful information in a collaberative and engaging manner; observing family patterns across generations; collecting stories of resilience and hardships; possibly uncovering toxic family secrets and unknown relationships.
         
        Disadvantages include providing too much detail; exposing secrets too soon; too much focus on the past; identifying relationships that a client or family member may not be ready for or even want to know. There can be little information available or too few relatives to ask.
         
        Genograms are different from genealogical family trees: vital statistics and absolutely correct data are not essential, since the focus of a genogram chart is on relationships and stories. However, these charts can be useful as an adjunct to family trees.
         
        Valerie discussed secrets within her own family, indicating that she had known the “story” her mother told her in 1967 about her maternal grandfather, but subsequently found out that her mother’s story was “wrong.” Research convinced her that her mother’s story was wrong, possibly hiding a secret. She used census data, naturalization documents, passport and travel documents, city directories, marriage certificates, and his obituary in a Marin County newspaper in May, 1962, to flesh out her family story. The information was displayed in a genogram. She is still looking for more details.
         
        This presentation was extraordinarily interesting and exceptional for the questions and audience participation it stimulated.
         
        Mort has a copy of her PowerPoint presentation and it is available upon request. Send an email to mortrumberg1@....
         
        Morton M. Rumberg
         
         
        From Gary Mokotoff’s Avotaynu E-Zines:
         
         

        New Website Identifies Victims of Disasters
        Was a member of your genealogical family the victim of a train wreck, significant fire, flood, shipwreck, plane crash or other disaster? The Eastman Online Genealogy Newsletter notes there is a website, http://www3.gendisasters.com, that identifies such persons.

        The authors of the site must have spent hundred of hours copying newspaper accounts of the disaster and lists of the persons dead and injured or missing. There are 99 air disasters for New York State alone. The well-known Triangle Shirtwaist fire is included, of course. There are 90 overall results for persons names Cohen.



        Site Identifies More Than 5,000 Facebook Sites That Focus On Genealogy
        Katherine R. Willson of Ann Arbor, Michigan, has undertaken the monumental task of identifying more than 5,000 Facebook sites that focus on genealogy. The Jewish section has 25 entries.

        The number of Facebook sites devoted to Jewish genealogy is even greater because the list does not cross-reference a number of items. For example, not included in the Jewish portion is “Jewish Memory, History & Genealogy in Moldova” which is found only in the Moldova section, and “Dutch Jewish Genealogy” found only in the Netherlands section. It would be wise to first examine the Jewish list and then use your browser’s search engine to locate any item on the list that has the word “Jewish” or “Jews” in its name. This also applies to place names. Toronto Facebook sites appear in numerous sections.

        Browse the Table of Contents to understand the scope and organization of the list. The database is located at https://moonswings.files.wordpress.com/2015/07/ genealogy-on-facebook-list-aug-2015.pdf.


        “Right To Be Forgotten” May Be Spreading
        If you are interested in following the battle over the European Union’s “Right To Be Forgotten” ruling, the New York Times has published a comprehensive article about the subject describing the position of the rule’s advocates as well as opponents. It is at http://tinyurl.com/R2BForgotten. Another lengthy discussion can be found at https://euobserver.com/opinion/129823.

        NARA and Ancestry.com Plan To Renew Their Partnership Agreement
        For seven years the U.S National Archives and Record Administration (NARA) and Ancestry.com have operated under an agreement where Ancestry.com and its subsidiary Fold3 can scan documents at the Archives and have exclusive use to these images for five years. Ancestry is permitted to charge for access to the documents. After five years, NARA can use the images in any way it cares to, including making them available to the public at no charge.

        The two organizations are now renewing the agreement with some changes that benefit the genealogical community.
           • The five-year embargo previously started when Ancestry.com placed the images online at their site. Now the clock will start running when they complete the scanning process. Apparently it can take up to two years for Ancestry to place the images online, so the clock will start earlier.
           • The updated agreement encourages Ancestry to post segments of large collections immediately rather than waiting for the entire collection to be completed.
           • The new agreement outlines NARA’s commitment to protecting Personally Identifiable Information (PII) and more specifically spells out Ancestry’s responsibilities if PII is identified.


        Kaunas City Government Agrees to Maintain Jewish Cemetery
        Lithuanian governments at all levels have been severely criticized by some Jewish organizations for refusing to recognize government complicity in the murder of Lithuanian Jews during the Holocaust period. Now the Kaunas City Municipality has agreed to maintain a Jewish cemetery in its city at the request of Maceva, the organization involved in maintaining and documenting the remaining Jewish cemeteries in Lithuania. The city plans to tend to the cemetery in several stages and has allocated €8,000 for the inventory and identification of graves. Additional information is at http://tinyurl.com/KaunasJewishCemetery. It includes a number of photographs of the current condition of the cemetery.

        Maceva has its own site at http://www.litvak-cemetery.info/en. Its home page includes a map of Lithuania showing the location of all known Jewish cemeteries.

        Maceva Matching Grant Program. An anonymous donor has offered a matching grant up to $5,000 for the Maceva Cemetery Project. All donations to Maceva made between August 4 and August 31 are eligible to be included in this offer. Go to http://www.litvaksig.org/contribute to make a donation. Select "Maceva Cemetery Project" as the Special Project.



        “New” Database: Name Changes in the Palestine Gazette
        The Israel Genealogy Research Association is adding more databases to their site at http://genealogy.org.il/. One of them, “Name Changes in the Palestine Gazette,” is a list of more than 28,000 persons, mostly Jews, who legally changed their names while living in Palestine during the British Mandate period from 1921–1948. This database has an interesting history.

        I (Gary Mokotoff) am known for creating some of the earliest—pre-Internet—databases for Jewish genealogy including today’s JewishGen Family Finder and the Family Tree of the Jewish People. A lesser known one is titled “Name Changes in the Palestine Gazette.” This minor database has significance today because it was the genesis of the Daitch-Mokotoff Soundex System.

        The story: At the Jerusalem conference held in 1984, I met the late Rabbi Shmuel Gorr, who was one of the first professional Jewish genealogists. He wrote to me a few months later, knowing I was in the computer services business, stating he wanted to create a database of Jews who legally changed their name during the British Mandate period. These names were published in the official publication called the “Palestine Gazette.” He’d send me photocopies of the pages from the “Gazette” and I’d computerize the list organizing them by original name and new name. This database was valuable to genealogy because many people knew they had relatives who made aliyah (immigration) during the 1920s and 1930s and changed their name but they did not know the new name.

        The list was compiled, placed on microfiche, and distributed to all Jewish Genealogical Societies.

        The project was the genesis of the Daitch-Mokotoff Soundex System. At that time, I observed that the European names being changed had many spelling variants. Being familiar with the American Soundex System developed by Robert Russell in 1918, I applied this system to the European names and found it did not work. One significant problem was that those names spelled interchangeably with the letter w or v, for example, the names Moskowitz and Moskovitz, did not have the same soundex code. So I developed by own soundex system and applied it to the Palestine Gazette names. This modification to the U.S. soundex system was published in the first issue of AVOTAYNU, in an article titled "Proposal for a Jewish Soundex Code." Randy Daitch read the article and made significant improvements to what I had developed. The joint effort became known as the Daitch-Mokotoff Soundex System which today is used by JewishGen; the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS) for retrieving case histories; and the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum. It can be used to search the Ellis Island database of 24 million immigrants at the Stephen P. Morse One-Step site.
        ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
        See you at the end of September.
         
         
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