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Genealogy Update

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  • SusanneLevitsky@aol.com
    Jewish Genealogical Society of Sacramento www.jgss.org October 5, 2006 Family History Day Saturday, October 14 It s time for the annual Family History Day at
    Message 1 of 60 , Oct 5, 2006

       

      Jewish Genealogical Society

      of Sacramento

       

      www.jgss.org

       

      October 5, 2006

       

       

       

      Family History Day Saturday, October 14

       

      It's time for the annual Family History Day at the State Archives, downtown at 1020 O Street.  We'll have a booth along with other genealogy groups, and need a few more volunteers to spare an hour or two.  The event lasts from 8:30 to 4 p.m. -- contact Gerry Ross at 381-3213 if you can help out.  Those who've participated in the past have greatly enjoyed it.

       

      For more details on the day's activities, check out: the State Archives' Web site: www.ss.ca.gov/archives/level3_famhistday.html

       

       

      Upcoming Meeting Dates -- Mark Your Calendar!

       

                                                                                     

       

       

      Monday, October 16, 7 p.m.

      Mark Heckman  -- Travels in Ukraine -- the 2006 Czernowitz Reunion

       

      Sunday, November 19, 10 a.m.

      Ron Arons -- The Internet Beyond JewishGen and Steve Morse's Web Site

       

      Sunday, December 10, 10 a.m.

      Reva Camiel -- Family Videotaping Production

       

              

       A few items shared from Avotaynu's e-newsletter:

      WeRelate.org: The www.werelate.org Web site claims to be an Internet search engine that only finds genealogy-related sites.  Avotaynu editor Gary Mokotoff  tried it and found it works fairly well. Searching for information about his ancestral town of Warka, Poland, using Google resulted in only three genealogically relevant sites on the first page. Others included hotels and weather reports. Using WeRelate.org he said all could be considered relevant. The first was the Wikipedia entry for the town giving its history; the second was a description of the voivodship (county/province) that included Warka. The third was a Warka entry from the catalog of the Family History Library.

      WeRelate.org is a general search engine. It can be used to search for people, surnames or places. Mokotoff used "ice cream" as keywords, and the first few hits were a genealogy site with the heading "Italians, Ice Cream and Settlement;" a second page from the same site; a page about the history of ice cream; a RootsWeb site that included the words.

      1837online.com: 1837online.com claims 400 million British records, including complete birth, marriage and death records from 1837–2004; census records, 1861–1891, with an all-name index; living relatives indexes; and military records. Future plans call for passenger emigration lists, 1890–1960, with an all-name index. It is expected to be available in mid-2007.

      For birth, marriage and death records, provided are images of pages from the government index. The 1837online.com index only captures the first and last name on each page. This means you must know the year of the event to find the entry in the government index. Otherwise, you must browse year by year until the entry is found.

      Military records include a National Roll of the Great War 1914–1918; soldiers who died in the Great War; Army Roll of Honor 1939–1945; and Armed Forces births, marriages and deaths.

      You can search for records free of charge but retrieving the information is fee based. The cost is £5 for 50 units; £10 provides 110 units. Many records cost more than one unit. Alternately, there are annual subscriptions for unlimited use of certain offerings.

       

       

      New Book: A Field Guide to Visiting a Jewish Cemetery
      A Field Guide to Visiting a Jewish Cemetery, by Rabbi Joshua L. Sega offers a good book on understanding the ways of Jewish cemeteries and how to interpret the Hebrew inscriptions on tombstones.

      Hebrew tombstone inscriptions can be a challenge to some researchers. But the material presented in this book is simple enough that it can be understood by those with the most limited exposure to Hebrew, yet comprehensive enough to be a valuable resource to the most sophisticated readers.

      There is a dictionary of Hebrew words and common expressions that appear on tombstones. Since the carving of a tombstone can be expensive, sometimes Hebrew expressions are represented in abbreviated form. An appendix shows commonly used abbreviations.

      The book is 220 pages, softcover, and lists for $19.95. Avotaynu is currently offering it for $18 plus shipping. Additional information, including the Table of Contents and a sample chapter can be found at http://www.avotaynu.com/books/cemeteryfield.htm.


      Google Provides Online Index to Old Newspapers
      Google's latest is an index to old periodicals, located at http://news.google.com/archivesearch/. The Google site appears to be a merging of many fee-for-service indexing services plus a few that are available for no charge. The sources are worldwide. Avotaynu's Gary Mokotoff found references to Polish sources when searching for "Mokotow."

      The first line of every hit states the source and date. When there's a fee to retrieve the item, the price is shown on this line. If there are a substantial number of hits, the system allows the user to narrow the list by time period or source.


      Fifth Cemetery in New York City Area Goes Online
      Mt. Ararat Cemetery, located in Lindenhurst, New York, has placed its 45,000 burials online. This is the fifth New York-area Jewish cemetery to make their burials available on the Internet. It is located at http://www.mountararatcemetery.com. Previous listings are
      Mt. Carmel Cemetery (Queens, New York) at http://www.mountcarmelcemetery.com;
      Mt. Hebron Cemetery (Queens, New York) at http://www.mounthebroncemetery.com;
      Mt. Moriah Cemetery (Fairview, New Jersey) at http://www.mountmoriahcemeteryofnewjersey.org; and Mt. Zion Cemetery (Queens, New York) at http://www.mountzioncemetery.com.

       

       

      New Blog: http://tracingthetribe.blogspot.com


      Schelly Talalay Dardashti is a freelance journalist specializing in Jewish genealogy, travel and food. A New Yorker who has lived in several countries, she began her research in 1989, as the researcher for her husband's family and her own. Anyone bearing either of the rare names is sure to be related. With origins in Belarus, Russia, Ukraine, Spain and Iran, each extensive tree dates to about 1740.  Her articles have appeared in a host of Jewish press and genealogy publications and journals.

       

      Old BT phone books now available online

      News from Britain: People researching their ancestry have been given an online boost after telecommunications company BT launched more than 100 years' of phone books on the Web. The company hopes to tap into the nation's huge interest in genealogy by providing millions of names, addresses and phone numbers covering the period 1880 to 1984.

      At one stage, BT allowed brief job descriptions. The author of Dracula, Bram Stoker, of Victoria 1436, was listed as a barrister, while Houdini could be found under 'handcuff king'. BT has linked up with genealogy site Ancestry.co.uk to host the phone books.   The project's partners have started with Greater London, which contains 72 million names and covers the areas of Surrey, Hertfordshire, Essex, Kent and Middlesex. The goal is to complete all 250 million names by the end of next year.

      Family history enthusiasts will be able to search by name, year and county, helping them fill in any gaps in their ancestor and house histories.


      September 18, 2006 Meeting

       

      Business Items:

      President Burt Hecht called the meeting to order and announced that Allan Bonderoff's presentation, "From Shtetl to Hester Street," would be given in January, to allow sufficient time for a review of the New York conference.

       

      Burt noted that Bob Wascou had received a special mention from the Romanian SIG (Special Interest Group) for his work with the Kishinev/Moldova databases.  Bob has devoted many hours to coordinating and encouraging volunteers and research, with more than 290,000 names added to the database.  Congratulations, Bob!

       

      Bob made a plug for more volunteers -- "we can always use people who can translate Hebrew, Yiddish or Romanian."

       

      Allan Bonderoff gave the treasurer's report, requesting a moment of silence for the current balance.  With the recent purchase of a laptop computer, our account now has $905.91.

       

      Mark Heckman gave an update on our library, which will have a full CD set of the New York conference.  We now have a completely indexed library with information scanned into a database.  Mark said we'll soon have a bar code for every person and every book.  To find out what's in our library, go to our Web site, http://jgss.org

       

      Bob gave an update on the cemetery project  -- he's trying to get data into the right format for JewishGen.  "We also have two things to update -- information on the headstones, which we didn't have, and photos of the headstones."

       

      Family History Day, October 14: Members are being sought to staff our table at the annual Family History Day at the State Archives, 1020 O Street.  The day runs from 8:30 to 4 p.m.; contact Gerry Ross at 381-3213 if you can help out for an hour or two.  Those who've participated in the past have had a great time.

       

       

      Sept. 18 Program: The New York Conference

       

      Art Yates and Teven Laxer reported on attending the International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies conference last month in New York City.

       

      ART: Art began the presentation.  He said he's attended about seven conferences and this one was the most gratifying in terms of doing personal research.

       

      He gave a day-by-day description of his experience.  On Sunday, he went to the talk by Ada Green on cemetery research. The speaker said she got death certificates on every one she was researching, something Art noted is much harder to do in California.

       

      "Don't believe anything you see on a tombstone," the speaker said.  She said someone's name may be on a tombstone but the person may be buried in Florida.   She talked about how couples often would have both their names put on a tombstone in advance of their deaths, with the surviving spouse often moving away.

       

      Green said she also looks for burial permits for additional or confirming information.  "Unless the cemetery has the date of death, you don't know if the person's buried there -- it may be only a nice headstone."

       

      Some other concerns -- no middle names on most headstones, so if it's a common name, should verify; the translation of lettering can vary, sometimes the parent and sibling are named on the same tombstone; with changing borders, the cemetery may be in a different town.

       

      The following day, Art had signed up for a tour of Ellis Island.  He had wanted to go since his father had come through there and Art had had great success on the Ellis Island database, finding the street address where his father had lived.  In addition, Art's children had put their grandfather's name on the wall at Ellis Island.  

       

      He found the guide from Big Onion Tours very knowledgeable, sharing information such as they had immigrants climb the stairs so they could be observed for physical disabilities, hair lice, etc.

       

      After Ellis Island, Art visited the National Archives for the New York region where he found indexes for birth, death and marriage licenses (although not the certificates themselves).  "But don't believe what your family tells you -- my mother-in-law and father-in-law weren't married in St. Louis but in Albany, New York -- I found the documents."

       

      On Tuesday Art attended the Hungarian luncheon where he enjoyed the exchange of ideas with his fellow attendees.  He later attended a three-hour meeting which skirted the controversy of the Mormon baptisms of Jews.  "The attitude of those in charge was that this is not something we're going to discuss." That was until Gary Mokotoff spoke up and was able to recount the six days he spent in Salt Lake City focusing on the issue.  Gary was able to convince those in attendance that the church is closely looking at the baptisms and revoking the privileges of those who cross the line.  A planned vote on a letter about the issue drew a motion but no second.  "After Gary's synopsis, there was no need to go further."

       

      Art said they are looking for sites for future conferences -- 2008 will be in Chicago and 2013 in Warsaw.

       

      On Thursday, Art focused on personal research, including, which famous New York deli has the best sandwich -- Katz', Carnegie or the Stage .  "The Carnegie has by far the best pastrami sandwich," Art declared.

       

      Next on his agenda was a visit to the White Plains, New York cemetery to see the graves of his aunt and uncle.  It was also a chance to visit the city of his birth.

       

      TEVEN: Teven Laxer then shared his impressions of the conference, which went beyond the seminars.  His first night there he and his mother enjoyed klezmer music followed by a discussion of Yiddish theater and what it meant to immigrants.  Teven said his great uncle was a star of Yiddish theater and he was pleased and surprised to see two slides of him in the Powerpoint presentation made to the group.

       

      A 2006 Jewish Genealogy Yearbook was distributed, with pages on the various societies, including our own.  Teven shared copies of our page.

       

      Teven said he went to quite a few seminars; there were many, with 2,000 to 3,000 people attending the conference.  Along with the seminars, there were labs, movies, impromptu discussions and "birds of a feather" interest groups that announced meetings.   "It was hard to figure out where to go."  He went to 6-7 workshops a day, lasting an hour and a half to two hours.  "Some days I don't remember if I had lunch."  There is one lunch, however, he does remember.

       

      One of the benefits of the conference, Teven said, was meeting people he knew only through e-mail.  "My wife is a descendant of a 17th century German rabbi, and there's a guy in Baltimore who's researched with me hundreds of people in the family.  We got together for lunch and met for the first time; I found out he was 92.  We're having sandwiches in an open area of the hotel talking about our research, when people on either side of us overhear us and chime in about researching the same family -- and one was from London and the other Tel Aviv."

       

      Teven said it was an amazing experience that happened to him several times during the conference. 

       

      Teven said many of the speakers we've had here in Sacramento over the years spoke at the conference, including Gary Mokotoff, Steve Morse, Ron Arons and Stanley Diamond, who we've tried to get.  Diamond gave an update on the JRI (Jewish Records Indexing) Poland efforts.

       

      Teven went to a workshop on hometown societies and at the end, as he was about to leave, a woman said she had a program from one of the societies.  It just happened to be a 1930 program for the Geller society, "and on page 6, my grandmother and grandfather were listed as officers."  

       

      "There were maybe 100 people in the workshop and someone happened to have a booklet with my grandparents' names," he said.

       

      Teven brought back several books for the library, including a copy of Judith Frazin's "Translation Guide to 19th Century Polish Documents," and "The Galitzianers, 1772-1918."  He also snagged one of the books being given away in a Miriam Weiner workshop, a guide to Kishinev in English and Russian.

       

      Teven put in a plug for a book expected to be out in bookstores this week -- Daniel Mendelsohn's "Lost -- A Search for Six of Six Million."  The author's describes his quest in Ukraine and beyond to find out exactly what happened to his relatives.

       

      While in New York, Teven had the opportunity to visit a 90-year-old cousin in a nursing home.  "She had no short-term memory but incredible long-term memory," he said.  Teven urged that even if someone's in a nursing home, make the effort to talk to them.

       

      ART:  Art wrapped up the program discussing his visit to a county records office and a Jewish cemetery in Troy, New York.  He observed that the cemeteries in Troy, New York had almost no perpetual care of tombstones; others disagreed.  But he was able to find tombstones of his wife's relatives, despite the overgrowth of vegetation.  "Pam Dallas would be proud of me," he said.  (Pam had told us about finding family tombstones nearly hidden at the edge of a cornfield.)

      - - - - - - - - - -

       

       

      An article that may be of interest...

       

      The Jerusalem Post Internet Edition

      A revolution in Jewish genealogy

      Adinah Greene, The Jerusalem Post

      Oct. 3, 2006


      They are coming from all over the world to claim their royal heritage.

       

      First, on October 19, they will meet in

    • SusanneLevitsky@...
      July 15, 2017 Upcoming Meetings -- No July Meeting Getting Started in Genealogy --- August 20, 9 a.m. to noon September 17, 9 a.m. to noon Meeting Notes --
      Message 60 of 60 , Jul 15


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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