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Genealogy Updates and Notes

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  • SusanneLevitsky@aol.com
    Jewish Genealogical Society of Sacramento www.jgss.org May 4, 2006 Night Riders: Now that we’ve switched over to Monday evening meetings until fall, there
    Message 1 of 1 , May 4, 2006


      Jewish Genealogical Society

      of Sacramento




      May 4, 2006  



      Night Riders:

      Now that we’ve switched over to Monday evening meetings until fall, there maybe people who prefer not to drive at night but would attend if they had transportation.  If you need a ride for an upcoming meeting, e-mail us at jgs_sacramento@... and we will try to arrange transportation for you.


      Our next meeting is Monday, May 15 at 7 p.m. when Les Finke, executive director of the Albert Einstein Residence Center, will present a program on Creating Family Video Documentaries.



      New York Conference… It’s All Relative

      Global Jewish genealogists prepare for an intense annual event offering 180-plus programs
      (excerpts from an article by
      Schelly Talalay Dardashti)

      The 26th IAJGS International Conference on Jewish Genealogy, set for August 13-18 in New York City, (at the Marriott Marquis in Times Square) will offer conference speakers from 18 countries and an extensive computer education center sponsored by Ancestry.com.  For all event details, including conference and hotel registration, go to www.jgsny2006.org  Early registration discounts expire May 15.  Members of the Sacramento JGS are among those planning to attend.


      Each of the 5 1/2 days offers sessions from early morning on, while evenings are for special events, including musical performances. Tours to Jewish sites and cemeteries are also arranged.  Programs are geared to all levels of researchers.

      Each conference features the world’s leading experts. The most difficult part for researchers is to choose which program to attend of six to eight possibilities at each time slot, and still manage to get in special interest group meetings, personal meetings with experts, lunches and dinners with friends and networking over coffee with global colleagues.

      Among the programs:

      New York University’s Professor of American Jewish History Hasia Diner will speak on “Into and Out of the Lower East Side” about the history of that neighborhood, while “Jewish Women in America: A history of their own,” will discuss how American Jewish women differed from Jewish women elsewhere and from other American women.

      Internationally acclaimed klezmer performer Joel Rubin  has written books on Jewish musical tradition and klezmer music. In addition to performing with Pete Rushefsky, he’ll present “Our Middle Name was Klezmer: Jewish musical families in the 19th and 20th century Poland,” and “Beyond Bagels and Klezmer: Reflection on Contemporary American Jewish Popular Music.”

       Environmental planner and architect Philippe Amstislavski develops and applies GIS tools to help communities in distress. He will speak on “Using Geographic Information Systems to map Jewish roots: Tools and opportunities to enhance genealogical research,” introducing basic GIS concepts while focusing on Jewish migration and settlement patterns from Eastern Europe to North America and Israel.

      A cemetery preservation panel will include: “Challenges facing preservation and restoration of Jewish cemeteries in Poland,” Chief Rabbi of Poland Michael Schudrich of Warsaw; “The Documentation, Protection and Preservation of Jewish Cemeteries in Central and Eastern Europe,” Dr. Samuel D. Gruber, Jewish Heritage Research Center. director, research director, US commission for the Preservation of America’s Heritage .

       While the majority of available resources are Eastern European and Ashkenazi, Sephardic genealogy resources are increasing daily. Sessions include overviews and updates, surnames, the Farhi family project and Web site, Sephardic DNA projects, Italian Jews, Ottoman and modern Turkish Jewish resources, Sephardic/Oriental female given names database, indigenous Romaniote Greek Jews and Sephardim in the Baltics.

      A first-ever DNA and genetics track covers medical and genetic family history, using genetic information, genetic genealogy perspectives, genealogy as a subset of anthropology, genes for genealogists and genealogical family puzzles.

      And there is much more. Is your target Eastern and Central Europe? Learn about history, archives, villages and cemeteries, linguistics, Budapest treasures, Prague archives, Hungarian gazetteers, Lviv archives, Polish government Belarussian files in the Vilnius archives, identifying female lines without surnames, small German towns, Ukrainian/Galician archives, Galician Jewish self-government, Prussian Poland vital records, and more.

      North American sessions will address cataloguing cemeteries or burial societies, children rescued, Jewish agricultural colonies, immigrant manifests, American Jewish women, university libraries, unexpected records, property records, 20th century military research, census research, computer courses, landsmanshaften societies, probate research, Washington DC, Chicago, death information, the Catskills, court records, finding living descendants, WWII immigration resources, newspaper research and others.

      Nearly 40 technology and internet resource sessions will look at online auctions, family web sites, using geographic information systems to map roots, creating one-step research tools, one-step Web pages, tours of Web sites and resources, find relatives on the Internet, using Excel to produce databases, creating genealogy websites, preserving family stories, using optical character recognition, new JewishGen developments, using census, Pages of Testimony, photography, workshop in adoption reconnecting, digging deeper and linking, using the Internet to research Israeli sources, cyberspace memorials, genealogy of a NYC tenement and more.

      And Coming in 2008… Chicago

      The IAJGS Board is very pleased to announce that the 2008 IAJGS Annual International Conference on Jewish Genealogy will be held in Chicago.  This will be an IAJGS-hosted conference with the involvement of the JGS Illinois currently being worked out.  The last time the conference was held in Chicago was 1984.


      And just a reminder that the 2007 Conference will be in Salt Lake City,

      Germany Will Open Records on Holocaust Victims

      New York Times 

      April 18, 2006



      WASHINGTON, April 18 — Germany agreed today to allow access to a vast trove of information on what happened to more than 17 million people who were executed, forced to labor for the Nazi war machine or otherwise brutalized during the Holocaust.


      The German government announced at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum that it is dropping its decades-long resistance to opening the archives in the town of Bad Arolsen. The files stretch for more than 15 miles, hold up to 50 million documents and make up one of the largest Holocaust archives in the world.


      "We now agree to open the data in Bad Arolsen," the German Justice Minister, Brigitte Zypries, said at a news conference here. She said Germany would seek revision of an 11-nation arrangement that governs the archives.


      The accord ends a nasty diplomatic dispute between the United States and Germany. More important, officials at the Holocaust museum said, it will open the documents to historians and researchers, whose access to them has been blocked because of Germany's strict privacy laws.


      Paul Shapiro, the director of advanced Holocaust studies at the museum, said the documents will offer insights into the day-to-day evils of the Nazi era: "the routine process of deportation, concentration camps, slave labor, killing."


      Mr. Shapiro said museum officials hope to make the documents "truly accessible," available for computer viewing at Holocaust research centers around the world. Since 1998, about half the documents have been copied in digital form. About 20 percent of the documents were copied on microfilm before 1998, he said.


      Until now, Holocaust survivors and their relatives have been able to seek information from the Bad Arolsen archives, but they have sometimes waited years for answers.  In its reluctance to make the archives widely accessible, the German government has cited the potentially sensitive information. The papers may reveal, for instance, who was treated for lice at which camp, what horrible medical experiments were conducted on particular prisoners, and which inmates were tempted to collaborate with their captors.


      The Holocaust museum officials praised the German Justice minister and credited her with helping to sway her government. They speculated that the recent election of Angela Merkel as chancellor may have created a feeling that it was time for a change.


      While historians and researchers will find the material invaluable, the real beneficiaries are the relatives of Holocaust survivors. "Many are dying every day," Mr. Berger said. "They deserve to know what happened to their fathers or their uncles. This archive can help them."


      Additional information on the records below from Gary Mokotoff's 'What's Nu" Avotaynu E-Zine of April 18.


      Germany Approves Release of ITS Records

      Germany announced today that it favors opening the record collection of the International Tracing Service (ITS) located in Arolsen, Germany. The agreement would permit the 11 countries making up the ITS committee to copy the ITS material and make it available through their national archives in accordance with national laws. This decision will be formally approved at the May 17 meeting of the ITS Council, then ratified by member countries. Even before formal approval, work will begin to get the material ready for copying, particularly the large part already digitized. The new German position was approved by the German cabinet and announced at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum by German Justice Minister Brigitte Zypries.

      Until now,
      Germany resisted public access to the records citing privacy considerations. The member countries can now obtain copies of the records and make them available to the public based on each countries privacy laws. Ironically this will be least useful for German scholars since German law is far more restrictive than the laws of other countries.

      The holdings of the International Tracing Service are one of the most valuable sources of information about the fate of people, both victims and survivors, caught up in the Holocaust. Their records place an individual at a specific place and time during the Holocaust period. They claim to have 40 million such pieces of information. Their sources, to name a few, are deportation lists, concentration camp death lists, ghetto records and  post-war refugee records.

      Shown  is one of the millions of index cards in the ITS collection. It is for a Berek Mokotow and gives his birth date (11 March 1892), birth place (Warchau--Warsaw, Poland), that he arrived at Dachau concentration camp on 3 September 1940 from Sachsenhausen concentration camp and probably died on 15 January 1941 at Dachau. It even gives his home address in Frankfurt, Germany. Also provided is the source of the information (Dachau Entry Register) and a reference number to locate the original document.

      Tel Aviv Chevra Kadisha Provides Online Death Records

      (Also from Gary Mokotoff's "What's Nu")

      The Tel Aviv Chevra Kadisha (Burial Society) has placed information online about those buried in six Tel Aviv area cemeteries. Included is the decedent's name, father's name, date of death (both Hebrew and secular) and cemetery name.

      The site is located at http://www.kadisha.biz/. It is completely in Hebrew. To search for an individual or do a generic surname search, you must type the information in Hebrew. If you don't have a Hebrew keyboard use the Stephen P. Morse English to Hebrew transliteration program located at http://stevemorse.org/hebrew/eng2heb.html.

      The site is shut down on Shabbat and holy days.



      April 17 Meeting Notes


      President Mark Heckman called the meeting to order.  He noted that elections for new officers will be held in May.  Treasurer Allan Bonderoff and Secretary Susanne Levitsky have agreed to continue on in their positions, but nominations are needed for president and vice-president of programming.


      Burt Hecht expressed an interest in serving as president but would need a vice president to help with program planning.


      Member and author Mort Rumberg has generously donated a copy of his book, "Codename: Snake" to our library.  The award-winning novel is about a Jewish assassin operating in Nazi Germany.


       Allan Bonderoff presented the treasurer's report. With two recent dues checks, the balance in our account is $1564.58.


      Art Yates reported on the recent meeting of the Sacramento Valley Genealogical Society  and noted that founder Iris Carter Jones recently passed away. She had been instrumental in leading the fight to keep state vital records accessible.


      Programming Vice-President Burt Hecht gave an overview of upcoming meetings:


      Monday, May 15, 7 p.m. -- Les Finke - Creating Family Video Documentaries


      Monday, June 19, 7 p.m. -- Pam Dallas -- Making the Most of Cemetery Research


      July -- research sources in New York area (in conjunction with IAJGS August conference)


      August -- No meeting due to New York conference


      September -- Conference highlights


      October  -- Jewish history in Northern California


      November -- Mark Heckman on his trip to Ukraine


      December -- "Antique Roadshow" with members bringing in heirlooms, memorabilia



      Mark reminded members about the Web site, www.jgss.org  and Bob Wascou told new members and visitors that they have to subscribe to our list server in order to get e-mail notification.


      Members can check books and CDs out of our library.  Mark has started to do an updated inventory of our collection.  He noted that Marv Freedman has volunteered to donate a laptop computer for that purpose.


      Mark said that in line with our new tradition, taking a few minutes to share personal successes or roadblocks at each meeting,  Art Yates had something to share.


      Art said that when he went to the Sacramento Bee's Web site to try to find Iris Carter Jones' obituary, he somehow found www.obits.com .  He found a Chicago paper via the search engine and found a reference to an obituary for the father of his wife's two cousins he was searching for.  For $3.95 he could purchase the whole obituary (and did) . He found references to where the two were living and their married names, and went to ancestry.com and ultimately ended up with a phone number for one of the cousins, although hasn't reached her yet.


      Through his search efforts, he found an obituary for one of his own cousins and discovered that the archives in Missouri have been greatly expanded since the last time he used them.  "If you have a death certificate registration number you can get a copy of it for only a dollar."  Art said there were also war records and naturalization records.


      It was suggested that re cemetery records, find out who's paying for the maintenance on the cemetery plot.  That is a potential source of information.

      Member Allan Dolgow shared a url for the Mt. Hebron Cemetery in New York, which has information online and allows a name search: http://www.mounthebroncemetery.com/search.asp?type=interment

      Allan also passed on a cemetery directory page for other New York cemeteries:


      In other items, Marilyn Amir wanted to let the group know that Tuesday, April 25 is Yom Ha Shoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day.  It will be commemorated at 7 p.m. at B'nai Israel.


      April Speakers --David and Sonia Hoffman

      The Grand Duchy of Lithuania Project


      We were pleased to have David and Sonia Hoffman up from the Los Angeles area to speak to us (as well as the Bay Area JGS the day before).


      David Hoffman, a clinical psychologist and former UCLA professor, was co-founder of the Litvak Special Interest Group (SIG).  He and his wife Sonia, president of the Jewish Genealogical Society of Los Angeles since 2001, established the nonprofit Jewish Family History Foundation. The Foundation offers the Grand Duchy of Lithuania Project, which can bridge the gap from 19th to 18th century records.  Their work was featured in a 2004 Jerusalem Post article.


      They have been tackling the project for about six years, working with thousands of public records, constantly learning new things.  David had traced his Friedman family of Ariogala, Lithuania to an 1816 census, and while visiting the archives in Vilnius in 1999, asked if other documents were available.  He found the 1784 and 1765 Ariogala census-tax lists, identifying his family, through naming patterns, to the mid-1600s.


      David started off the presentation by discussing the historical background of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania.   About 77 percent of the Jews in the 18th century lived in the Grand Duchy, and up to 80 percent of the Jews alive today have ancestors from that area.


      The Grand Duchy came to an end in 1795 with its partition; the largest portion became part of Russia.


      Poland gave great autonomy to Jews, allowing them to have their own parliament.  The Council of Four Lords established in 1581 collected taxes from the kahals, based on the census conducted by kahal leaders.  Taxes started off at 2 zlotys per Jew and 1 1/2 zlotys per peasant, later raised as noted in other censuses.


      The Hoffmans have accessed some records in the Vilnius archives for the 1784 census.  There is also the 1765 census, which includes Lithuania and areas of Belarus, Poland and the Ukraine.


      Most Jews became subjects of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.  Some were in Russia, some in Prussia.


      In 1784, there were 20 districts in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania.  Most of the towns exist today.  On the Hoffman's Web site, there is a list by district of all the kahals.  There is an alphabetical list as well.  The names are spelled in two ways -- in Polish on the original documents and how they're spelling the locations  today.


      "This may be one of the most important products of our project," David Hoffman said.


      David noted that a large number of Jews lived in rural areas. Jews were registered in a particular kahal; the kahal received 1 percent of the rent and business transactions for that kahal.


      As far as the records are concerned, their conditions vary; some are good and some are not.  The language is old Polish and there is no standard format.


      In some towns, the records list only the heads of households.  There were no surnames until the 19th century, and many people had double surnames.  The Hoffmans found seven signatures in Hebrew at the end of each list.


      For the larger cities, occupations were listed, and the Hoffmans noted that Jews were well-integrated into the Polish-Lithuanian economy.  They played major roles in foreign trade, as far away as Great Britain, Moscow and Turkey. "In some towns, 90 percent of the merchants were Jews," the Hoffmans said.

      In Vilnius in 1674 the first guild was established for jewelers.  Others, for vintners, bankers, farmers as well as craftsmen, then followed.


      There was a tax exemption for Jews who settled on uncultivated land.  Most Jews on the list in towns appeared to live in taverns.


      If you know the name of the major landowners (magnates) it may help you find your family, according to the Hoffmans.  There are 500-600 feet of shelf space devoted to the Radziwill family records.


      In Vilna and some of the larger cities, the lists are organized by streets.


      Analysis of countrywide records:


      The Hoffmans have taken the 1784 census list -- more than 2,000 pages -- and put the records into Excel spreadsheets.  There is still more information to come, which they will make available on their Web site or JewishGen in the future.


      The 1765 census has very good lists. 

      At the time, the Jewish population in the:

      Kingdom of Poland                                 429,484

      Grand Duchy of Lithuania                        157,649


      Total                                                     587,133


      Most historians of this area believe the Jews were undercounted. After adjusting these figures for children under one (6.3%) and 20 % for underreporting (since there was a head tax), the total is probably closer to 750,000.


      In the 1784 census, fewer people were reported, since the territory was now smaller.


      There were increasing and decreasing families over time, with events having an impact, such as wars, epidemics, fires, expulsion of Jews, underreporting, and incentives to relocate to new areas.  Also, towns were put into different kahals with different jurisdictions.


      An article by Gershon Hundert notes that Jews lived mostly in towns and owned most of the shops and didn’t feel like a minority.   In 1784, an estimated 40% of Jews lived in rural areas, but it’s hard to know what was considered urban vs. rural at that time.


      Will you be able to link with your family? The Hoffmans note that due to Jewish tradition of naming children after deceased grandparents, it’s possible to see patterns of names that could lead you to your ancestors.  If you have vital records for the towns they lived in, that is helpful.


      The 1806-1811-1816 revision lists, which are records that include surnames, are in Cyrillic, with many translated.  You need to find at least one person old enough to appear on the 1784 census list.  On the Hoffmans’ Web site, www.jewishfamilyhistory.org, they’ve outlined the steps that can be used to go from one generation to the next in the records.


      Inheritance files and wills can begin a paper trails that can lead you to the 18th century.  Other types of records included estate records from nobility (the magnates) including Smorgon records from 1622-1788.  Smorgon is in Belarus today. 


      The Hoffmans’ Web site, www.jewishfamilyhistory.org  provides details on their efforts as well as many articles by others relating to18th century documents and families as well as maps from the 17th to 19th century.  They welcome volunteers to help them with their efforts.


      - - - - - - - - - - - - - -


      See you at the next meeting, Monday evening, May 15.


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