Googling for relatives!

There are many genealogy sites holding so much information. Do you regularly check sites for new information on your families? Sites are frequently updated, and a new search of an old site might even produce long-lost family. Googling helped this family reunite:

The last time the women met was in 1937; one waved from a Moscow train. Today, 70 years later, thanks to the Internet, the three were reunited in Florida.
Ossie Rasher, 81, and Sophia Altfeld, 78 – both in Florida – were reunited with Rosalie Berkovich, 80, of Acton, MA, who had waved from the train.

Googling by Berkovich’s son, Sasha, produced the names of the long-lost cousins on a genealogy site. They were reunited within weeks during a weekend in Altfeld’s Coconut Creek home, and plan a full family reunion in summer 2008.

Berkovich and her cousins spent most of their reunion weekend reminiscing and flipping through old family photographs, she said.

“It’s like we’d known each other and seen each other almost every day since (1937),” Rasher said. “There’s no strangeness between us at all. And we can’t wait to get together again.”

The Boston Herald carried the story.

DNA: Swabbing away

The DNA swabbers are everywhere these days, appearing at family reunions and life cycle events. Used correctly, it is a great boon for genealogists around the world. It can confirm related individuals when documents run out or can help researchers avoid expensive wild goose chases when results do not match.

A Wisconsin State Journal article is spotlighted here.

Along with the stories of several swabbing people, it also discusses the October Science magazine report which indicated results might not be as informative as expected and that there are privacy concerns because the industry is unregulated.

In the Science report, the authors write that most DNA tests can trace only a few of a person’s ancestors, and the tests cannot pinpoint the place of origin or social affiliation of an ancestor with certainty. While the tests can show that two people are related, it’s not always clear how they’re related, Ossorio said.

Pilar Ossorio, an associate professor of law and bioethics at the University of Wisconsin Law School and a co-author of the Science article, says the tests may give a false sense of specificity, and that everyone is related to each other if you go back far enough. The authors seem concerned about individuals want to know about their race or ethnicity, and say that there is no clear connection between an individual’s DNA and his or her racial or ethnic affiliation.

Not all companies are up front about these limitations, she adds.

The story also quotes Family Tree DNA founder and president Bennett Greenspan, who said he has no big beefs with the Science article and shares many concerns, although he wishes the authors would not have lumped all companies together.

Greenspan founded Family Tree DNA in Houston in 2000 and describes it as the first company to make DNA testing available for genealogical purposes. He has watched many other firms enter the field, some with questionable business practices, he said.

“There’s no federal oversight,” he said. “It certainly wouldn’t bother me if every company had to have a licensed anthropologist on staff.”

His company, says Greenspan, has five anthropologists and three geneticists and can determine within a 99.9% likelihood that two men with exact DNA matches share a common ancestor.

The story goes on to discuss Dan Greenspan, a University of Wisconsin-Madison pathology professor, whom Bennett Greenspan contacted when he founded Family Tree DNA and was searching his roots. Although Dan submitted his DNA as customer 163 back in the early days, more than 325,000 people have been tested by the company.

Although the two were not related, the professor’s interest in genealogy was triggered by the experience and he has attempted to convince other family members to submit DNA samples.

New York Nostalgia: Sublime Jewish food

While this story is a bit late for the Hanukkah theme it follows, your tastebuds will still be happy. There’s also a photo gallery if you’ve forgotten what these amazing delights look like.

In the 1930s, New York had some 3,000 kosher delis; today, there are about a dozen. The 2nd Avenue Deli – which closed last year – reopened a few weeks ago. Is a resurgence on the way?

Read on for sublime East Broadway Kosher Bakery’s chocolate babka, Yonah Schimmel’s knishes, Zabar’s matzo ball soup, Katz’s pastrami sandwich, Barney Greengrass’s bagels and lox, Russ & Daughter’s chopped liver, Sarabeth’s cheese blintzes and Guss’s pickles.

I first saw this story on the Australian Jewish News site, which features Jacqui Gal’s blog.

Among the soundbytes:

And then there was the knish. This was my favourite discovery. Correct me if I am wrong, but knishes are not typical of Australian Jewish cooking.

I had never even heard of one before my first visit to New York. I experimented by tasting one at a bagel place, soon after arriving here, but that lumpy bit of potato, broccoli and dough did the humble knish no favours.

Gal then discovered Schimmel’s knishes:

One bite and I could see why. The lump of spiced and mashed potato was fluffy and warm and encased in a light pastry. Served with coleslaw and pickles (for an extra dollar) it was a satisfying meal, for the grand total of $3.75 (plus tax).

Note: I’m not sure if this price is in Australian or US dollars!

To read Gal’s complete “Festival of Lights and Bites” review, click here.

Our ancestral food is good any time on any day of the year – except Yom Kippur, of course!

Israel: Online Family Roots Forum, Jan. 3

The Jewish Family Research Association Israel (JFRA Israel) Ra’anana branch meeting will feature Arnon Hershkowitz, founder of the Online Israeli Family Roots Forum (Tapuz), who will discuss “Online Genealogy Communities: Not a Virtual Reality!”

Hershkowitz will discuss the need for online genealogy communities and the differences between several types of such communities. Especially, genealogy forums (discussion boards), blogs and wikis will be presented and discussed.

The most essential questions will be raised: What is the purpose of each community? Who can initiate them? Who is the driving force behind them? What kinds of participation do they provide? Are they regulated?

Note that this meeting is at 7.30pm, Thursday, January 3. This is different from the regular meeting day and date.

Doors open at 7pm, at Beit Fisher, 5 Klausner St., Ra’anana. Admission: JFRA members, NIS 5; others, NIS 20.

Googling for relatives!

There are many genealogy sites holding so much information. Do you regularly check sites for new information on your families? Sites are frequently updated, and a new search of an old site might even produce long-lost family. Googling helped this family reunite:

The last time the women met was in 1937; one waved from a Moscow train. Today, 70 years later, thanks to the Internet, the three were reunited in Florida.
Ossie Rasher, 81, and Sophia Altfeld, 78 – both in Florida – were reunited with Rosalie Berkovich, 80, of Acton, MA, who had waved from the train.

Googling by Berkovich’s son, Sasha, produced the names of the long-lost cousins on a genealogy site. They were reunited within weeks during a weekend in Altfeld’s Coconut Creek home, and plan a full family reunion in summer 2008.

Berkovich and her cousins spent most of their reunion weekend reminiscing and flipping through old family photographs, she said.

“It’s like we’d known each other and seen each other almost every day since (1937),” Rasher said. “There’s no strangeness between us at all. And we can’t wait to get together again.”

The Boston Herald carried the story.

DNA: Swabbing away

The DNA swabbers are everywhere these days, appearing at family reunions and life cycle events. Used correctly, it is a great boon for genealogists around the world. It can confirm related individuals when documents run out or can help researchers avoid expensive wild goose chases when results do not match.

A Wisconsin State Journal article is spotlighted here.

Along with the stories of several swabbing people, it also discusses the October Science magazine report which indicated results might not be as informative as expected and that there are privacy concerns because the industry is unregulated.

In the Science report, the authors write that most DNA tests can trace only a few of a person’s ancestors, and the tests cannot pinpoint the place of origin or social affiliation of an ancestor with certainty. While the tests can show that two people are related, it’s not always clear how they’re related, Ossorio said.

Pilar Ossorio, an associate professor of law and bioethics at the University of Wisconsin Law School and a co-author of the Science article, says the tests may give a false sense of specificity, and that everyone is related to each other if you go back far enough. The authors seem concerned about individuals want to know about their race or ethnicity, and say that there is no clear connection between an individual’s DNA and his or her racial or ethnic affiliation.

Not all companies are up front about these limitations, she adds.

The story also quotes Family Tree DNA founder and president Bennett Greenspan, who said he has no big beefs with the Science article and shares many concerns, although he wishes the authors would not have lumped all companies together.

Greenspan founded Family Tree DNA in Houston in 2000 and describes it as the first company to make DNA testing available for genealogical purposes. He has watched many other firms enter the field, some with questionable business practices, he said.

“There’s no federal oversight,” he said. “It certainly wouldn’t bother me if every company had to have a licensed anthropologist on staff.”

His company, says Greenspan, has five anthropologists and three geneticists and can determine within a 99.9% likelihood that two men with exact DNA matches share a common ancestor.

The story goes on to discuss Dan Greenspan, a University of Wisconsin-Madison pathology professor, whom Bennett Greenspan contacted when he founded Family Tree DNA and was searching his roots. Although Dan submitted his DNA as customer 163 back in the early days, more than 325,000 people have been tested by the company.

Although the two were not related, the professor’s interest in genealogy was triggered by the experience and he has attempted to convince other family members to submit DNA samples.

New York Nostalgia: Sublime Jewish food

While this story is a bit late for the Hanukkah theme it follows, your tastebuds will still be happy. There’s also a photo gallery if you’ve forgotten what these amazing delights look like.

In the 1930s, New York had some 3,000 kosher delis; today, there are about a dozen. The 2nd Avenue Deli – which closed last year – reopened a few weeks ago. Is a resurgence on the way?

Read on for sublime East Broadway Kosher Bakery’s chocolate babka, Yonah Schimmel’s knishes, Zabar’s matzo ball soup, Katz’s pastrami sandwich, Barney Greengrass’s bagels and lox, Russ & Daughter’s chopped liver, Sarabeth’s cheese blintzes and Guss’s pickles.

I first saw this story on the Australian Jewish News site, which features Jacqui Gal’s blog.

Among the soundbytes:

And then there was the knish. This was my favourite discovery. Correct me if I am wrong, but knishes are not typical of Australian Jewish cooking.

I had never even heard of one before my first visit to New York. I experimented by tasting one at a bagel place, soon after arriving here, but that lumpy bit of potato, broccoli and dough did the humble knish no favours.

Gal then discovered Schimmel’s knishes:

One bite and I could see why. The lump of spiced and mashed potato was fluffy and warm and encased in a light pastry. Served with coleslaw and pickles (for an extra dollar) it was a satisfying meal, for the grand total of $3.75 (plus tax).

Note: I’m not sure if this price is in Australian or US dollars!

To read Gal’s complete “Festival of Lights and Bites” review, click here.

Our ancestral food is good any time on any day of the year – except Yom Kippur, of course!