Montreal: Quebec property records, Oct. 20

Many special interest groups, genealogy societies and historical societies have already realized that property and land records are valuable documents. Some of these groups are involved in major projects, such as using such records to reconstruct Eastern European villages.

Closer to home for many Tracing the Tribe readers, the Jewish Genealogical Society of Montreal, in association with the Jewish Public Library, will present “Uncovering Mysteries with Property Records – Hidden Landscapes of Quebec,” at the next meeting on Tuesday, October 20.

The presenters will be Gary Shroder and Sharon Callaghan of the Quebec Family History Society (QFHS).

Callaghan has written various articles for genealogical and historical societies across Canada, while Schroder, who has served as president of the QFHS since 1995, is also a member of the Special Advisory Board of Library and Archives Canada.

The meeting begins at 7.30pm in the Gelber Conference Centre, 5151 Cote Ste-Catherine/1 Carré Cummings.

The JGS of Montreal also holds Sunday morning Family Tree Workshops.

Pittsburgh: Jewish oral histories now online

A local project in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in conjunction with the National Council of Jewish Women (NCJW) has produced 516 oral history interviews now accessible and searchable online.

The story is in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.

The project – Pittsburgh and Beyond: The Experience of the Jewish Community – can be viewed online here. The interviews were made on 11,000 audio cassettes over 32 years – more than 1,200 hours of recordings – and were available online on Tuesday, September 28.

The local NCJW chapter provided the recordings to the University of Pittsburgh’s library system, which digitized them and designed a searchable site.

In 1968, volunteers began interviewing the men and women who arrived from Eastern Europe 1890-1924. It expanded to include the oral histories of Pittsburgh’s Jewish residents.

“It’s one of the largest oral-history projects in the country and perhaps the largest focused on a region — and then a population within that region,” said Rush G. Miller, director of Pitt’s library system. “We haven’t found one larger.”

The interviews illustrate such community aspects as academic, business, civic, cultural, medical, political, religious, and social evolution and development in Pittsburgh, national and international events.

Search parameters include given and surnames, geographical list and other subjects and keywords. Topical headings (including local proper names) are found under a generic heading for service or type. Find individuals, hospitals, newspapers, orphanages, synagogues, television and radio stations, fashion, medical and legal specializations. The geographic index includes three categories (Pittsburgh and vicinity, US and outside the US).

Other key pages:

The project’s history includes information on two books and two documentaries. There is a 2002 guide available as a PDF.

The tapes have intentionally never been transcribed to encourage researchers the opportunity to hear the actual voices with inflections of the respondents. Rather, all interviews have been accurately abstracted by NCJW members to reflect the balance and content of each interview and to aid researchers in accessing specific information in the interviews. The inclusion of geographic, name and subject indices further enhances research access to information on the tape interviews.

Methodology and use offers more information on the updated guide which offers abstracts and indices (geographic, personal name and subject). Dates given are those provided by the respondent, and Eastern European hometown spellings were determined through “Where Once We Walked” (Avotaynu). Names of regions or provinces – when given – are in parentheses and the country of origin refers to political boundaries of the time.

A timeline of achievements was created to show the project’s development.

Visit the site to learn how to order copies of the interviews and of supplemental materials – if available.

Banned Books Week

As Tracing the Tribe readers have noticed, I like the new JPS Blog. Yesterday, Naomi took a stab at banned books and also referenced Tablet Magazine’s article on the same subject.

Most voracious readers know that the quickest route to best-seller status is to have a book banned or challenged. It is good business for authors and publishers. Tracing the Tribe figures (tongue in cheek, of course) that for an author to really make it, they need to figure out a way to get their book banned so that it becomes a best-seller.

Hmmmm … any ideas on how we can get some really excellent genealogy books challenged and increase interest in the market for readers looking for the “really good parts”?

Both posts stem from this week’s annual celebration of Banned Books Week by the American Library Association. The ALA’s awareness campaign is a stand against censorship and for intellectual freedom. It encourages the reading public to read books that have been targets of attempted bannings. Readers are encouraged to challenge such events in local schools, libraries, bookstores and religious institutions.

Read Naomi’s JPS Blog post. She was planning to compile a list of Jewish authors whose books were nearly banned or challenged, but Tablet Magazine beat her to the punch. Here are some books referenced by Tablet and the reasons for the banning attempt:

Shel Silverstein’s Where The Sidewalk Ends (1974) was challenged in Wisconsin (1986) because it “suggests drug use, the occult, suicide, death, violence, disrespect for truth, disrespect for legitimate authority, rebellion against parents,” and in Pennsylvania (1993), because the poem “Dreadful” (with the line “someone ate the baby”) encourages cannibalism. A Light in the Attic (1981) was challenged in Wisconsin (1985) because “How Not to Dry the Dishes” “encourages children to break dishes.”

There’s even a poem entitled “A Pile of Vile Books.” The last verse:

Reading is dangerous, everyone knows.
Young minds are quite fragile, like eggs.
If you teach open-mindedness, that is just gross.
We will come there and break both your legs.

Tablet referenced some interesting challenges (read the complete article for the full list and links), and provided a link to the ALA’s 100 Most Frequently Banned or Challenged Books of the 1990s.

A Louisiana librarian (1972) painted a diaper on the naked baby in Maurice Sendak’s “In the Night Kitchen.” In Minnesota (1993), it was challenged because “reading the book could lay the foundation for future use of pornography.” This book ranks 10th on the ALA’s list above.

In Illinois (1977), the Illinois Police Association wrote to libraries asking them to remove the award-winning “Sylvester and the Magic Pebble,” by William Steig, because police officers are drawn as pigs, even though the pigs in the book “are perfectly nice pigs.”

Judy Blume’s “Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret” is ranked 60th on the ALA’s list and frequently challenged for sexual and religious themes.

Then there’s the case of Robie Harris’s comic-book style sex-education books. In 2008, a Maine library patron borrowed the book and refused to return the “disgusting” volume. Other patrons donated four additional copies of the book, which are in circulation. The book has just gone into its 15th edition.

Tracing the Tribe really enjoyed the Tablet reference to a Georgia school banning “The Bad Beginning,” the first volume in Lemony Snicket’s (aka Daniel Handler) “A Series of Unfortunate Events.” Why? Well, it seems the “evil” character tries to marry his niece, and the school deemed the book to endorse incest.

Jewish law, of course, permits both uncle-niece and cousin marriages, so from the Jewish viewpoint, that challenge wouldn’t hold water.

In any case, the piece is an interesting read.

How many banned or challenged books are on your own shelves?