MyHeritage announces major upgrade

A favorite site is MyHeritage.com. In addition to its amazing photo handling capability, online Family Tree Builder, family websites, it also features a great genealogy search engine which searches some 1,400 genealogy websites at once to provide targeted information on names you are researching.

The Family Tree Builder is also functional in 15 different languages as well as dual language entry (for example, enter data in English and it will also appear in Hebrew!)

The search engine – MyHeritage Research – was upgraded this week, and now searches across more than 10 billion records to provide the most extensive genealogy searches on the Internet. The price is also right – it’s free.

Hundreds of new genealogy databases were added, so if you’ve tried it before, do try it again for even more results.

Researchers can enter only a family name or a combination of given and family name. Use the above link to search the database. Parameters include exact spelling or multiple spelling variations (called Megadex by MyHeritage). The length of time required for the extensive resources being searched may take a few minutes.

It is very useful if researchers are looking for a rare or uncommon name or an combination of a rare first and last name.

For Jewish genealogists, there’s more good news. MyHeritage has collaborated with JewishGen and the JewishGen All-in-One search has been added to MyHeritage Research. Thus, the search will now include almost all JewishGen databases, not available elsewhere on the Web.

The company also asks for users to share success stories, submit requests for covering additional sites in MyHeritage Research or report bugs. All can be posted to the Support Forum.

The MyHeritage team is working to bring researchers new tools. A recent breakthrough is Smart Matching technology connecting family trees submitted by users. For more information on site innovations, check the company blog here.

Sephardic events around the world

An excellent monthly newsletter on Sephardic activities worldwide is the monthly Sephardic cultural events bulletin. Read the December issue online here. Although written in Spanish, it is rather easy to understand.

Activities are listed for Spain (Barcelona, Besalu, Girona, Madrid, Melilla, Segovia and Valencia), Germany, Argentina, Austria, US, France, Serbia, UK and Israel. Events include films, concerts, art exhibits and more.

Some highlights:

Barcelona. January 1, 2008. Woody Allen and his New Orleans Jazz Band in a New Year concert at the Liceu Grand Theatre. Although definitely not Sephardic, it sounds like lots of fun!

Girona.Inauguration of new exhibits at the Girona Museum of Jewish History and a photo exhibit at the Bonastruc Center

Madrid. Theater, art exhibit, a Hanukkah exhibit open through January 24.

Melilla. A presentation on Casa Sefarad-Israel and its 2008 programming.

Segovia. Visits to the Jewish Quarter, and a multi-media exhibit on the house of Abraham Senneor through December 30.

Argentina. A film, “Un pogrom en Buenos Aires,” about the persecution and assasination of Jews in 1919 Buenos Aires. The film will be shown at the 2008 New York Jewish Film Festival.

Austria. Jewish artists in an exhibit “From Monet to Picasso,” including Modigliani.

New York. Jewish Museum of New York, exhibit on Camille Pissarro through February 3.

Israel. Ladino course at the Cervantes Institute in Tel Aviv.

UK. At the Jewish Museum of London, an exhibit on secret Jews in London,“A Certain Identity: Secret Jews Around the World.” It covers Spain, Portugal, Brasil, Cuba and Iran.

Serbia. An exhibit of antique photographs and objects relating to Sefardim in the Balkans and Turkey.

Colorado: Digitizing Denver’s neighborhoods

If your family lived in Denver, Colorado, here’s a great new resource.

The Institute of Museum and Library Services has provided a $778,000 grant to the Denver Public Library’s Western History/Genealogy Department for the Library’s Creating Communities: Digitizing Denver’s Historic Neighborhoods project.

According to the department’s manager Jim Kroll, the Library will become the city’s archival records respository and the project will create a centralized digital repository of materials about the city.

Also linked to the public records will be manuscripts, photographs, published narrative, cartography, audio and video recordings and newspaper clippings from private sources.

Over the next three years, the library will work on this with its partners: the City of Denver, the Colorado Alliance of Research Libraries, DU Penrose Library, Auraria Library and the Colorado Historical Society.

Read more here.

Warsaw: Reconstructing a cemetery

The Warsaw Jewish Cemetery and its director Przemyslaw Isroel Szpilman are the focus of this Associated Press story by Monika Scislowska.

Cemetery director Przemyslaw Isroel Szpilman walks among the moss-covered and crumbling gravestones of the Warsaw Jewish cemetery, painstakingly jotting details in his notebook.

The Nazis burned the offices and files of the sprawling 19th-Century burial site in 1943, and now Szpilman is taking on the monumental task of reconstructing the cemetery’s records of its estimated 250,000 graves.

“When I became director … many people from around the world would come every day and ask about the graves of their ancestors,” said Szpilman, 36, who has run the cemetery since 2002.

“Each time I had to explain why I cannot help them,” he said. “I decided that as a director I must help them, so I started to make” records of the graves.

He had completed some 60,000 records as of last week, after five years. This represents about 25% of the work to be done. He believes he may be done by 2012. It is made a bit easier by a Chicago philanthropist who has supported four Jewish students who have been taking pictures, notes and organizing a website.

Opened in 1806, the first burial was a year later. Warsaw’s Jewish community of about 350,000 was nearly wiped out during the Holocaust. The cemetery survived, but not the records. Szpilman handles some 20 burials annually and maintains the site.

Stone by stone, Szpilman reads the inscriptions (Yiddish, Hebrew, Polish) and records the details in a notebook (full name of the deceased, father’s name, date of death, etc.) and transcribes notes and grave location into his computer.

There is a personal motivation for Szpilman. His great-grandfather, Jankiel Szpilman, was buried somewhere in the cemetery in the 1930s but has not yet been located. His grandfather was a distant relative of Wladyslaw Szpilman, whose story of survival was told in the Oscar-winning movie “The Pianist” by Roman Polanski.

Read more here.

National survey: Researchers are younger

Ancestry.com’s latest survey revealed a lack of family knowledge among Americans as well as some interesting results.

-According to the survey, genealogy’s demographics may be changing as more younger Americans are looking for roots: 83% of respondents ages 18-34 were interested in learning their family history, followed by ages 35-54 (77%) and ages 55+ (73%).

-Half the respondents know the name of only one or none of their great-grandparents. One-third cannot name any of them.

-22% don’t know what either of their grandfathers do or did for a living.

-Although known as a nation of immigrants, 27% of American respondents don’t know where their family lived before arriving in America.

-78% say they are interested in learning more about their family history.

-Only 50% of American families have researched their roots.

-Regional comparisons were also interesting. Southern respondents knew the least aboutfamily roots: Only 38% know both their grandmothers’ maiden names, compared to 50% of Northeasterners. Only 47% of Southerners know what both their grandfathers do or did for a living, while 55% of Northeasterners know both grandfathers’ occupations.

The most important part of this survey, in my opinion, is the changing demographics indication. Jewish genealogy societies and organizations need to make a concerted effort to encourage participation by younger individuals. This can be accomplished in various ways: Outreach programs, special student member pricing, sponsoring educational programs or awards at the high school level and numerous other activities.

Outreach should be a major investment in a field dominated until recently by those ages 55+. Attracting new blood (e.g. younger researchers) is a necessity to keep creativity and ideas flowing to all researchers, particularly in technological areas.

What is your genealogical society doing or planning to do to attract younger, active members? I’m interested in your comments and look forward to reading them.

Chicago, Chicago: 2008 International Conference on Jewish Genealogy

The first official announcement of the 28th IAJGS International Conference on Jewish Genealogy has been made. The event will be held August 17-22, 2008, at the Chicago Marriott Downtown Magnificent Mile, in Chicago, Illinois.

It is co-hosted by the Jewish Genealogical Society of Illinois, the Illiana Jewish Genealogical Society and the IAJGS.

This conference is the longest genealogy conference in the US, running from Sunday to Friday. The daily schedule starts in the early morning and continues through evenings with special events and programs, as well as an annual banquet, film festival and many more activities.

Attendees from around the world gather each year to learn, share expertise and collaborate with those researching the same locations and names.

As details are announced, Tracing the Tribe will provide information and highlights. A sneak peek at 2008 was provided at last year’s event in Salt Lake City; click here for that posting.

In addition to presentations in 20 research categories (see separate posting on the Call for Papers), Special Interest Groups (SIGs) and Birds of a Feather (BOF) groups will meet to focus on specific topics.

Some 16 SIGs will meet on such topics as German-Jewish Genealogy, Ukraine, Poland, and Litvak Jewish Genealogy research. European/Eastern European specialists and/or archivists are expected to present and advise attendees about country-specific resources. Larger SIGs will offer luncheons with featured speakers.

At least 16 smaller BOF meetings will meet on Yiddish Theater, Suwalki Lomza, Posen Prussia and Lublin & Zamosc Area.

Special sessions include aspects of Sephardic ancestry, the Midwestern Jewish experience, computer sessions, immigration records and more, and a resource room will provide a wide variety of materials for attendees.

Genzyme Corporation is underwriting a special mini-symposium – “Genetics, Jewish Diseases, and the Role of Genealogists.” Speakers will include Dr. Lee P. Shulman, MD; Prof. Anna Ross Lapham (Chief, Division of Reproductive Genetics, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern University); Gary Frohlich, Certified Genetic Counselor with Genzyme Therapeutics; and a Chicago Center for Jewish Genetic Disorders representative.

This 2008 edition of the Film Festival will feature a wide range of films relevant to Jewish genealogy.

Chicago – home to a large active and historic Jewish community whose descendants live today around the world – offers many opportunities for research at such venerable Jewish institutions as the Spertus Institute of Jewish Study (Asher Library and the Chicago Jewish Archives); the renowned Newberry Library; and many public institutions (including the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners, the Office of the Circuit Court Clerk of Cook County, the Cook County Assessor’s Office, the Cook County Vital Records office) and the Great Lakes Regional branch of NARA (NationalArchives), as well as various university resources and special collections.

This event will make staying connected even easier as the hotel will provide free guest room internet service, as well as free access to onsite health facilities.

For more, click here.

Call for Papers: 2008 Jewish genealogy event

This year’s main event for Jewish genealogists is the 28th IAJGS International Conference on Jewish Genealogy. It is set for August 17-22, 2008, at the Chicago Marriott Downtown Magnificent Mile in Chicago, Illinois.

The websitehttp://www.chicago2008.org – is now functioning and the call for papers has gone out. Hotel and conference registration will open in January.

The Call For Papers

If you are planning to submit program proposals, remember that the deadline is January 15, 2008.

Requirements for online submittal (prepare these in advance for cutting and pasting into the fields): 100 word biography, recent lectures given, title of proposed presentation and categories covered, 100 word abstract of presentation.

Proposal categories include:

Canadian Research
Computer Training Workshops (Hands-On)
Eastern European and Central European Research
Eretz Israel, pre- and post-1948
Genetics and DNA Research
Holocaust Research
Jewish History/Sociology
Latin American Research
Methodology
Migration and Naturalization
Mizrachi Research
Research in Other Locales (Australia, Africa, Asia, etc.)
Photographic and Document Preservation
Rabbinic Research
Repositories
Sephardi Research
Technology and Internet Resources
United States Research
Western European research
Yiddish theater/Jewish Music

Each session is 75 minutes, including 15 minutes for Q&A.

The committee is looking for presentations NOT given at the previous three conferences, as well as proposals providing specific research methodlogy with information for researchers to enable replication of the presenter’s success in acquiring data. Also in the mix: the speaker’s experience and ability to present a high quality oral presentation, topic originality and anticipated interest level.

All submissions must be made online. Submitters will be notified by March 1, 2008 as to acceptance, and handout/resource material (required for each accepted program)is due by April 10, 2008 (for the conference syllabus). Send questions to program@chicago2008.org.