Israel: Who Do You Think You Are, debuts Feb. 4

Israel now has its own version of the popular BBC hit, Who Do You Think You Are.

Tracing the Tribe’s conversation with the Jerusalem office of the Israel Broadcasting Authority indicated that the six 50-minute episodes will appear on Channel 1 at 9.30pm on consecutive Thursdays, from February 4-March 11.

I spoke to the show’s producer this morning and have been invited to a special screening Tuesday night of the episode featuring Israeli comedian, actor and musician Tal Friedman.

The first episode features journalist and television personality Gabi Gazit and his journey to find out about his family. Born Gabriel Greenstein in Czechoslovakia, he learns about places and stories he’s never heard and about his parents’ true history. Along the way, he learns about their experiences, and how that history shaped their lives and his own.

According to the producer, Gazit believes his participation in the show was one of his most rewarding experiences.

The lineup for the remaining episodes include:

February 11: Tal Friedman; comedian, actor and musician.

February 18: Ohad Knoller; actor

February 25: Shifra Horn; author

March 4: Michal Yanai; actress

March 11: Professor Yoram Yovel, psychiatrist and psychoanalyst

The show will soon premiere its US version, and is already seen in the UK, Canada, Australia.

Tracing the Tribe knows where Israeli genealogists and family historians will be on Thursday evenings!

Miami: Steve Morse, Feb. 7

Super Bowl Sunday is even more special when genealogy superstar Steve Morse comes to town. He’ll be in Miami, at the Jewish Genealogical Society of Greater Miami, on Sunday, February 7.

Spend the morning with “super” Steve and JGS members, who will also be celebrating the group’s 21st anniversary. The morning program starts at 10am at the Greater Miami Jewish Federation, 4200 Biscayne Boulevard, Miami.

Steve is the award-winning creator of the One Step Genealogy Website. He’s received many genealogy awards for his innovative contributions and has informed international audiences with his talks.

South Floridians who may have missed him at previous IAJGS conferences or those snowbirds or anyone visiting the area should come along. On this trip, Steve will only appear at the Miami JGS.

He will give two very interesting talks.

— “Beider-Morse Phonetic Matching: Alternative to the Soundex with Fewer False Hits.” This new system was developed by Steve and Alexander Beider.

Searching for names in large databases containing spelling variations has always been a problem. One solution, known as soundex, is to encode each name into a number such that names that sound alike will encode to the same number. The search would then be based on finding matching numbers, which results in finding all names that sound like the target name.

Soundex is based on the surname spelling, with no regard to how the name might be pronounced in a particular language and has been a problem. The phonetic encoding described in Steve’s lecture incorporates rules for determining the language based on the spelling of the name, along with pronunciation rules for the common languages. This has the advantage of eliminating matches that might appear to “sound alike” under the pure spelling criteria of soundex but are phonetically quite unrelated.

— “From DNA to Genetic Genealogy: Everything You Might Want to Know, But Were Afraid to Ask.”

The study of genetics that started with Gregor Mendel’s pea experiments in 1865 has now entered the genealogy field with Megan Smolenyak’s coining of the term “genetealogy” in 2000. To understand the genealogical aspects requires an understanding of some of the basic concepts.This talk introduces genes, chromosomes and DNA, and goes on to show how DNA is inherited. That knowledge of inheritance can be used for finding relatives you didn’t know you had, learning about your very distant ancestors, the routes they traveled, and
determining if you are a Kohen (descendant of Jewish high priests).

Tracing the Tribe heard Steve present this one at a past Southern California Genealogical Society Jamboree conference. It explains things very well from a non-scientists’ point of view. It’s a great introduction to understanding DNA genetic genealogy. Hopefully, it will encourage and inspire more people to get involved with testing and projects!

Come along and celebrate the JGS of Greater Miami’s milestone anniversary. There is no fee and special refreshments will be saved.

For directions and more information, such as secure parking, click on the JGSGM website.

WDYTYA Live: Research guides, workshops, Feb. 26-28

Who do You Think You Are Live – The National History Show in the UK – has published online a series of guides for those researching ancestors.

The show is set for February 26-28, at the Olympia in London.

Click here and see the left menu. click on “What’s Your Story?” and see the list of available guides.

In addition, to Jewish Ancestors, the other guides are Getting Started, Army Ancestors, Criminal Ancestors, Divorced Ancestors, Irish Ancestors, Migration, Scottish Ancestors.

Each has additional links and resources within the text. Additional Jewish resources listed in the guide are Jewish Genealogical Society of Great Britain and JewishGen.

The Jewish guide covers immigration; birth, marriage and death certificates; census records and wills.


Several workshops at the show will feature well-known individuals in several fields.

On Sunday, February 28, Laurence Harris and Daniel Horowitz will each present a workshop.

On Friday, Saturday and Sunday, DNA workshop presentations feature Bennett Greenspan, Max Blankfeld and Michael Hammer of the University of Arizona.

All speaker biographies are available here.[Note: Speaker biographies are listed by first name – not surname – which I found strange for a genealogy-focused event. Also, not all biographies are listed.]

— Sunday details:

Laurence will provide the top 10 tips for tracing Jewish ancestors – which he uses for professional and personal genealogical goals – from 12-15-1pm.

He’s a professional genealogist and family historian. He has researched for the Who Do You Think You Are TV series and specialises in tracing Jewish Ancestors and living relatives in the UK and overseas. He is the former chairman and genealogical inquiries officer of the Jewish Genealogical Society of Great Britain.

Daniel’s workshop is set for 2.15-3pm, titled “Face Recognition and Photo Tagging for Genealogy Research,”in which he’ll cover this state-of-the-art technology available at

Daniel is the genealogy and translation manager at, an IAJGS board member, Israel Genealogical society member, a genealogy educator and wears other hats as well.

— DNA workshop details: founder Bennett will present “New frontiers for DNA and genealogy” all three days, from 12-12.45pm, and “21st century tools for genealogists” 5-5.45pm Saturday; Max will present “DNA for genealogy – basic concepts” 10-10.45am each day and “National Geographic’s DNA project – The Genographic Project,” 4-4.45pm Friday and Saturday and 3-3.45pm Sunday.

While our friends will be enjoying this London event, I will be speaking in Hong Kong and Australia – a really exciting journey! Tracing the Tribe hopes to be at the London event in 2011.

London: Romanian synagogue exhibit opens Feb. 3

London’s Spiro Ark will open a photo exhibition – The Last Jew of Sighisoara and Transylvanian Synagogues – on Wednesday, February 3.

The exhibit will be of interest to those researching Romania or in the restoration of Eastern European Jewish sites in Eastern Europe. The synagogues in the photographs – where Jews are no more – will become Jewish historical and cultural centres.

The exhibit opening will include a talk by Jessica Douglas-Home on the Mihai Eminescu Trust’s restoration work on historic buildings in Romania.

The Trust, chaired by Douglas-Home, was founded in 1987 and works in Saxon Transylvania, where its goals are to conserve and restore the region’s historic built heritage, to revive the economic life of its village communes and to train indigenous craftsmen in new or forgotten skills.

Freelance journalist Petru Clej, with a special interest in Jewish Romanian history and the Holocaust, will speak on “Attitudes towards the Holocaust in Romania – from frank admission to ugly denial.”

The film “Gruber’s Journey,” by Radu Gabrea, will be screened.

Doors open at 6.30pm; the program begins at 7pm. Fee: £5 (+£1 online booking fee)

Spiro Ark is a London-based charitable organisation which organises Jewish cultural events and courses in Jewish history, culture and languages. Its tag line is “inspiration through Jewish history and culture.”

Learn more about Spiro Ark, which aims to teach Jewish history and culture. It believes both are important as it combines Jewish education, history and culture to maintain Jewish identity in the 21st century.

The Spiro Ark also has a blog which covers events, reviews and history. Co-founder Nitza Spiro authored a post on the upcoming exhibit, raising some interesting questions:

The question whether old and dilapidated synagogues, which are no longer in use should be restored and maintained, is in our view a rhetorical one. For us Jews whose life-line to things Jewish is Jewish history, the answer is obvious. The question however remains whose responsibility it is to bear the cost.

Should it be an individual whose ancestors came from the specific area or used that particular synagogue; should a Western community adopt a restoration as their memorial to those who perished leaving us with the obligation to remember, or should it be the responsibility of the State where the synagogues are found?

She includes more information on the Mihai Eminescu Trust’s restoration of the Medias synagogue which will become a national heritage center to teach visitors, including students, about Transylvania’s Jewish history.

Thanks to Saul Issrof of London for this tip.

Sephardim: Museum of Family History exhibits

The virtual Museum of Family History also has material for researchers of Sephardim.

Holocaust Memorials in Havana and Santa Clara, Cuba

Synagogues of Asia: Burma, China, Hong Kong, India, Lebanon, Singapore, Tajikistan, Turkey [Asian side].

Synagogues of Turkey: (European side of Istanbul)

Synagogues of Spain. The photo at left is the El Transito Synagogue in Toledo.

— Postcards from Home: Turkey

Museum creator Steve Lasky wishes to include more pre-war family photos. Readers with such photos are invited to contact Steve.

Romania, Hungary, Ukraine: New index project

Is your research focused on historic Hungary’s Maramaros county? Today it is Maramures county, Romania and sub-Carpathian Ukraine.

This announcement should encourage researchers of these areas to jump for joy!

It also supports that old adage: If you want something done, ask a busy person or a group of busy persons!

Brooke Schreier Ganz is definitely one of those people, as are Sandy Malek, Vivian Kahn and others. Despite their considerable personal and professional responsibilities – not the least those connected to JGSLA 2010 – this is what they and other volunteers are working on right now.

She has asked Tracing the Tribe to inform its readers about this broad project that should assist so many more researchers to find out more about their families.

There’s a new project underway to index Jewish vital records for towns that were located in the former Hungarian county of Maramaros. Today, these towns are split between Maramures county in northern Romania and the Zakarpattya (sub-Carpathian) region of southwestern Ukraine, so this project will be valuable for researchers of all three areas.

Brooke has completed a first-ever inventory database of all of the specifically-Jewish vital records (pre-1896) known to be held in the Romanian National Archives branch in Baia Mare, Romania, which is where most of the Maramaros towns’ records are stored today. She has put it online on the project’s website (see below).

Both modern town names and many former/alternate/Hungarian names are listed, and all are searchable. Using that new inventory database as a guide, and with the help of a great researcher in Romania, the group has started to obtain high quality digital photographs, page by page, of many of the old Jewish register books stored in Baia Mare, encompassing thousands of Jewish records. They hope to acquire more in the future.

Above find a birth register page from Sacel, Romania.

This project will index these records, placing data into spreadsheets, and submitting all the spreadsheets for inclusion into the various free JewishGen databases (All-Hungary,All-Romania, All-Ukraine, etc.), so that they will be available to everybody. These register books have NOT been microfilmed by the Mormons.

Here’s a guide to the project:

1) Which towns from Maramaros county are known to have surviving Jewish vital records stored in the Baia Mare archives?

Towns now located in Romania, known to have surviving Jewish vital records in the Baia Mare archives:

Baia Mare (Nagybana), Berbesti (Bardfalva), Birsana (Barczanfalu), Bistra (Petrovabisztra), Bocicoel (Kisbocsko), Bocicoiu Mare (NagyBocsko), Bogdan Voda (Konyha), Borsa, Botiza (Batiza), Breb, Budesti (Budfalu), Calinesti (Felsokalinfalva), Campulung la Tisa (Hosszumezo), Cornesti (Somfalu), Craciunesti (Karacsonfalva), Desesti (Desze), Dragomiresti (Dragomerfalva), Dragos Voda, Feresti (Fejerfalu), Giulesti (Gyulafalu), Glod, Harnicesti (Hernecs), Hotinka (Hoteni), Iapa (Kabola-Patak), Ieud (Jood), Kabalacsarda (Kabola Csarda), Leordina (Lerdene), Lunca la Tisa (Lonka), Mara (Kracsfalva), Moisei (Mojszin), Nanesti (Nanfalu), Ocna Sugatag (Akna-Sugatag), Oncesti (Vancsfalva), Petrova, Poienile de sub Munte (Ruszpolyana), Poienile Izei (Sajo-Polyana), Remeti (Remete), Rona de Jos (Alsorona), Rona de Sus (Felsorona), Rozavlea (Rozalia), Ruscova (Ruszkova), Sacel (Szacsal), Salistea de Sus (Felsoszelistye), Sapinta (Szaploncza), Sarasau (Szarvaszo), Sarbi (Sirbi), Satu Sugatag (Falusugatag), Seini(Szinervaralja), Sieu (Sajo), Sighetu Marmatiei (Szighet), Stramtura(Szurdok), Tirgu Lapus (Magyarlapos), Vadu Izei (Farkasrev), ValeaStejarului (Disznopatak), Valeni (Mikolapatak), Viseu de Jos (Alsovisso), Viseu de Mijloc (Kozepviso), Viseu de Sus (Felsovisso).

– Towns now located in sub-Carpathian Ukraine, known to have surviving Jewish vital records in the Baia Mare archives:

Bedevlya (Bedohaza), Bila Tserkva (Feheregyhaza), Bilovartsi (Kiskirva), Bushtyno (Falu-Bustyahaza), Chumalovo (Csomanfalva), Dobryanskoye (Nyagova), Drahovo (Kovesliget), Dubove (Dombo), Dulovo (Dulfalva), Hanychi (Ganya), Hrushovo (Kortvelyes), Kalyny (Alsokalinfalva), Kolodne (Darva), Komsomol’s’k(Nemetmokra), Kosivs’ka Poliana (Kaszopolyana), Krasna (Taraczkraszna), Kryve(Nagykirva), Lopukhiv (Brusztura), Neresnytsia (Nyereshaza), Nizhneye Selishche (Alsoszelistye), Novobarovo (Ujbard), Novoselytsia (Felsoneresznice), Nyzhnya Apsha (Alsoapsa), Okruhla (Kerekhegy), Pidplesha (Pudplesa), Pryborzhavs’ke (Zadnya), Rus’ka Mokra (Oroszmokra), Rus’ke Pole (Urmezo), Shyrokyy Luh (Szeles-Lonka), Solotvyno (Slatina), Sredneye Vodyanoye (Kozepapsa), Tereblya(Talaborfalu), Teresva (Tarackoz), Ternovo (Kokenyes), Tyachiv (Tecso), Uhlia (Uglya), Ust’-Chorna (Kiralymezo), Velykyy Bychkiv (Kisbocsko), Verkhnie Vodiane (Felso-Apsa), Vil’khivtsi (Irhocz), Vodytsia (Apsita), Volovec (Bordfalva), Vonihove (Vajnag), Vynohradiv(Csamato), Yasinya (Korosmezo).

2) What years do the records cover?

Jewish birth, marriage, and death records exist for almost every one of the “Romanian” towns listed above for the period of 1886-1895.

About two thirds of those towns also have birth and death records for the 1870s-1886. A few towns have earlier coverage; one has a tiny number of birth records back to 1772! “Ukrainian” towns’ records coverage is more uneven, but for some of the little towns north of Szighet, some record books have survived (with a few gaps) back to 1851. See the website for a full listing of all known record types and years for each town. That database will be continually updated and corrected as we learn more.

3) What are the records like?

They are nearly all in Hungarian (some old ones in German and, for one town, in Hebrew) and are generally very easy to understand, even if researchers don’t know Hungarian. Handwriting ranges from decent to excellent. Sample photos of some records are on the website.

What information might a record contain? Birth records, for example, generally offer these fields [NOTE: Not every record contains every field] :

Child: Given name, date of birth, gender.
Father: Surname, given name, hometown, occupation.
Mother: Maiden name, given name, hometown.
Town of birth.
Town of birth registration.

Notes (may include Godfather’s name [often a relative, such as a grandfather], other information).
Other surnames mentioned in this record.
Other towns mentioned in this record.

Casting a wider net is important when working with Eastern European records. According to this project, birth records for one town showed that 99% of children born in that town in the 1880s had at least one (and sometimes both) parents born in other nearby towns. This means that your family of interest may be found in more towns than you might know about.

4) How can I help?

Readers and researchers of these areas can help the Maramaros/Maramures indexing project: Volunteer to help transcribe the old records, and/or make a donation (tax-deductible in the US!) to JewishGen to help acquire photographs of more old record books. See additional details on the website.

The project is also looking for people with records indexing experience to help manage all of this! Please e-mail if you might be interested.

5) What’s the website address?

Special thanks go to Dan Jurca, Beth Long, Sam Schleiman, Vivian Kahn and Sandy Malek for helping to get this project off the ground.

Readers with questions may email Brooke.

Seattle: Genetic genealogy, Jan. 30

How can DNA genetic genealogy help you in your research?

Readers in the Seattle area can learn about the basics in a program presented by the Seattle Genealogical Society at the Green Lake Library from 1-3pm on Saturday, January 30. It is free.

“Genetic Genealogy — How to Use DNA to Solve Genealogical Puzzles and Uncover New Questions You Never Faced Before” with speaker Larry Jones, a Seattle attorney.

Paternal, maternal and autosomal genetic markers yield different results and are of differing values to your ancestral research. Learn how to overcome some kinds of dead-ends in your research and see what kinds of roadblocks are unlikely to be overcome with DNA results.

Jones is researching five Y-lines of paternal genetic ancestry and one X-line of maternal ancestry. He has been researching his family history for 45 years and has published four books of family history on Welsh and English ancestors.

The SGS advises participants to bring the name, location and date of their most ancient ancestor in each of their various male ancestral lines. A lucky person or two may go home with the solution to a genealogical puzzle, especially if you have a wireless laptop along.