Genealogy Meeting July 17
Jewish Genealogical Society
July 8, 2006
Next Meeting -- Monday, July 17, 7 p.m.
Genealogy "Show and Tell" -- Treasures from Our Family Trees
Albert Einstein Residence Center, 1935 Wright St., Sacramento
Most of us have a few treasured family mementoes with stories to go with them. Whether it's Great-Grandma's menorah, a prayer book carried through Ellis Island or a weathered photo or letter, share a little of your family's history with us.
Come bring a keepsake from your own genealogical attic to "show and tell" how these items can enhance our family legends and bring them to life. Or, just come and enjoy the stories and memorabilia shared by our members. So get that box off the top shelf in the closet, or dig through Grandma's trunk and join us Monday evening, July 17 for our own version of Antiques Roadshow. No appraisers, but members dusting off family treasures that come with special stories.
Upcoming Meeting Dates
Monday, July 17, 2006, 7 p.m. -- Genealogy "Show and Tell"
No August Meeting
Monday, September 18, 2006, 7 p.m. -- Report from NY IAJGS Conference
Monday, October 16, 2006, 7 p.m. -- TBA
Sunday, November 19, 2006. 10 a.m. -- Mark Heckman's Travels in Ukraine
All Over the Map:
Avotaynu reports that Ancestry.com has completed its project to put all publicly available U.S. federal censuses —from 1790 to 1930 — online with an everyname index. It took ten years to process the estimated 540 million records. ..... The JGS of Montreal, Canada has indexed Quebec vital records, with a surname index available online at http://www.jgs-montreal.org/vital/search-frame.html. They include an extraction of the so-called Drouin collection (1841–1942) and more than 10,000 1917 to 1954 records kept by rabbis there. Copies of the Drouin collection can be ordered for US $13 via the Web site. ..... From the RootsWeb Review, here are some links to online phone books:
Phone Books of the World: http://www.phonebookoftheworld.com/
Infobel.com: http://www.infobel.com/world/ Find Phone Books (worldwide):
For British maps, check out the MAPCO Web site. There is a large, detailed map of England and Wales circa 1840, enlargeable by sections, that should assist researchers: http://archivemaps.com/mapco/lewis/lewis.htm ...... And Sid Salinger reports that the August issue of Family Tree Magazine is unusually good, with an extensive article of "Hebrew Heritage." Included is a full page of related Web sites, books and CDs.
June 19, 2006 Meeting Notes
Mark Heckman called the meeting to order, his last meeting as president. After serving two terms, he will turn the gavel over to newly elected president Burt Hecht. Mark will continue his service as librarian.
Mark said the library has more than 100 volumes, including some that have been checked out and not (yet) returned. He renewed his plea for those who might inadvertently have borrowed a book and forgot to return it, to please check their bookshelves.
Allan Bonderoff presented the treasurer's report -- there is $1,523.55 in our account.
Burt Hecht previewed the upcoming meetings. In July -- Monday, July 17, 7 p.m., we'll have a kind of genealogical "Antiques Roadshow, " or show-and-tell, with members bringing in a cherished item linked to their family tree. Start thinking now about what you could share with the group.
There will be no meeting in August, due to the international conference in New York. The September meeting -- Monday, September 18, 7 p.m., will be a debriefing of the conference by members who attended. More than 75 different presentations are expected at the conference. Next year's conference will be in Salt Lake City, July 15-19.
October's program will be announced; November's, on Sunday morning, November 19, will feature Mark Heckman talking about his recent trip to Ukraine.
Mark noted that in response to last month's authorization of the purchase of a laptop for the group's use, he has found a Dell for $499 plus tax, which he will order.
A new addition to the library: Cora Schwartz' "The Forgotten Few," about the village of Mogelov in Ukraine.
Mark then asked members to briefly share current success stories or brickwalls in their research efforts.
Pam Dallas -- Featured Speaker
"Making the Most of Cemetery Research"
Before beginning her talk, Pam commented on the interactive discussion she had just witnessed at the meeting, noting that the room set-up was great for encouraging dialogue among members, versus other genealogy groups that have a podium and chairs set up auditorium-style.
In focusing on cemetery research, Pam presented two basic rules of thumb.
"My cardinal rule is you have to belong to at least two genealogical societies ... one in the area where you live. You need a support group. Genealogy is an addiction just like any other addiction." She said you want a group you can bring you brickwalls to, and to celebrate your successes with, people who share your same enthusiasm.
Secondly, you want to belong to a society in another geographic area, where your ancestors may have lived. "Nobody knows an area like the people who live there," she said.
Pam said in this country there are lots of different styles of tombstones. One of the other lectures she gives is about tombstone rubbings; she'll touch on this briefly tonight.
Types of cemeteries -- in the United States there are numerous types of cemeteries -- government, church, privately-owned and family cemeteries. "And I have found individuals in cemeteries where I never expected to find them."
Pam said in the United States, the first cemeteries were connected with churches. The first Jewish immigrants, until there were Jewish cemeteries or funeral homes, frequently ended up in churchyards, she said.
Family plots -- "I dislike these, since family ownership changes and there are no written records."
Also county cemeteries, garden cemeteries (like the one featured in the movie "Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil."), urban cemeteries (run by government entities, usually with records); veterans cemeteries and municipal or lawn park cemeteries. Pam is not a fan of the latter -- "I hate flat head stones-- you can't put much information on them."
There are also potter's fields, for which they is no information, and pet cemeteries. "I have a great aunt buried alongside her cat, after a court battle with her estate."
A lot of written records are overlooked, Pam said. We have to take the time to dig out the information. The records of the monument company that went out of business may have ended up at the local historical society.
Pam showed examples of permits to transport dead human bodies. And there is a paper trail if you die in one state and move the body to another.
Pam said she found on GenWeb a listing of coroner's reports, with information on what was found on the deceased's body.
The death certificate is always in the state where you die. Pam cited the example of a relative who lived his whole life in Indiana, but visited relatives across the state line in Kentucky, and that's where he died. So the death certificate was issued in Kentucky.
(It was noted that if an American dies outside the country, the records are with the Secretary of State's office and sometimes a consulate office.)
"Just as we create paper trails in life, we create paper trails in death," Pam said. Records re transit of the body may be with the cemetery or at the city or county level. "I called San Francisco, gave them a credit card number and they faxed a copy of a death certificate" of an individual who died in the 1920s. "In L.A., they say send us a check."
Death certificates usually list cause of death and is the best place to get the name of the cemetery where the person is buried, Pam said.
But you need to evaluate who gave the information on the death certificate and why was the information asked. "Remember that the person giving the information is someone under stress, mourning and may not know the information requested."
Pam said death certificate information is usually a combination of primary and second sources. "The only thing you know for sure is when and where the person died." She said you need to review the information and be nitpicky. The records may offer good clues but can be way off base.
As to the spelling of names? "When you're researching, find five 8-year-olds and ask them to spell the names -- let that be your guide."
Pam then discussed information that can be obtained from obituaries. "You need to find as many as possible, check as many publications as you can." One write-up may have additional information and clues not found in another. Along with local papers -- "take the city and go out 50 miles" -- check religious and ethnic papers in the area. For big cities, check all the city's papers."And if the person lived somewhere else for a long time, there could be an obituary where he lived, or had family or associates."
Not sure what towns were nearby? Pam said there are more and more older maps on the Internet. In the obituary itself: If there's the phrase "died suddenly" you might look for additional articles, particularly if the person is young. Maybe they drowned, were in an accident or other newsworthy reason for an article.
If there's mention that the person died "after a long illness," there may be articles in smaller papers -- "chatty" social columns that might talk about family coming to visit. There may also be doctor's or hospital records.
Funeral notices -- these are paid notices, what the funeral home puts in the paper to list the funeral time and information (versus obituaries, which are longer articles talking about the person.) Notices sometimes give the address and phone number of family member.
Who gives information for obituaries? "We should do our own, who better?" Pam says. Her mother-in-law wrote her own,
Tombstones: "If it looks too new, doesn't fit in with the other stones around it, start investigating," said Pam. She discovered a modern tombstone with her relative's name in a small cemetery next to a cornfield, but he was actually buried with his second's wife's family in another location.
The basics: If you don't know where the death occurred or what cemetery, check the Social Security Death Index, if the person would have received Social Security.
Pam praised the "Yellow Book of Funeral Directors" as a good resource. There is also a directory of Jewish Funeral Directors of America: their Web site lists member chapels: http://www.jfda.org/
Funeral home records are usually passed from one home to the next, Pam said. (Lester Smith said records from a funeral home in Troy, NY that went out of business are now in the public library.) Pam said when you do your city directory research, look for a list of funeral homes and cemeteries operating in the city at that time.
What to Say: When contacting cemeteries or funeral homes, Pam says she's "doing family history medical research and looking for these records." (Art Yates says he's "doing my family medical history research.") That seems to be more effective than telling them you're doing genealogy research.
Other Sources: DAR-- Chapters of the Daughters of the American Revolution undertook a large-scale project to transcribe cemetery burials and published maps which were sent to their Washington, D.C. office Other record locations that can be useful: USGS maps online; NUCMUC -- National Union Catalogue of Manuscripts and Collections; WPA records
The Cemetery Record Compendium is available at the Family History Library -- this was prepared in the 1970s.
The Library of Congress took on an indexing projects of scholarly papers in its collection through NUCMUC (see above) -- go to www.loc.gov and search "NUCMUC." You can search library catalogues, putting in search criteria such as cemetery name, geographic locations, etc.
Pam said records travel and may not always be where you expect them to be. This index tells you where they're located, helping you connect with records that have ended up somewhere else.
Add to list of Web sites -- www.graveyards.com
This is a searchable database for cemeteries; it may also include Web sites or phone numbers.
USGS Geographic Names Information System http://geonames.usgs.gov/index.html -- can put in counties, cemeteries, etc.
For veterans cemeteries, check out www.cem.va.gov . Included are specific site maps as to where persons are buried.
Two great ideas from Pam: "There are two things I've had success with I want to share," Pam said.
First, for a cemetery photo in a location she can't get to, Pam sends a disposal camera with a padded envelope and $5 or $10 and ask for a photo of particular tombstone. She also does her advance research and sends as much information as she has on the person. 'I've never had a camera not returned," she said.
Second, she asked whether members were aware of the Random Acts of Genealogical Kindness Web site. At this site, www.raogk.org, you can link up with volunteers who can do go to the local courthouse, pull a death certificate or take photos for you, for only the cost of expenses.
A question was asked about cremation. In many cases, without a tombstone or cemetery involved, genealogists are just left with looking for obituaries and death certificates.
The case of the late Iris Carter Jones, a Sacramento genealogist, was brought up. She had devoted many years of her life to genealogy, including efforts to keep California records accessible. When she died a few months ago, there was no funeral and her husband didn't want to put anything in the paper. However, friends were ultimately able to get a nice obituary prepared by the Sacramento Bee recounting her efforts.
Pam also briefly discussed techniques for tombstone rubbing. DON'T use shaving cream or chalk; they damage and increase deterioration on the stone. You can take a roll of Tums and make it into a white powder and rub it on parts you can't read. Also, thin aluminum foil can be wrapped around a tombstone for an impression.
Pellum or tracing paper can be used for a rubbing, attached by masking tape only. Pam suggests buying a lumberman's crayon from a home supply store and using the flat side to go over the letters. She then sprays an aerosol fixative on the rubbing at the cemetery, and it lasts for years. "Stay away from wax, it melts!"
For those fascinated by obituaries, Pam said they might want to read a new book: The Dead Beat -- Lost Souls, Lucky Stiffs, and the Perverse Pleasures of Obituaries by Marilyn Johnson, a look behind the obituary page.
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More on Cemetery Research:
Three New York cemeteries now have their burial databases online: Mt. Zion, Mt. Hebron and Mr. Carmel. Steve Morse's site at http://stevemorse.org now has a one-step link to these databases.
Allan Dolgow passed on several more helpful Web sites of interest for cemetery research:
Search for Cemetery Records:
International Jewish Cemetery Project:
Mt. Sinai -- St. Louis
JOWBR Cemetery Inventory
JewishGen Online Worldwide Burial Registry
See you Monday, July 17!