San Diego: Using, May 16

Our geneablogging colleague Randy Seaver will speak on “Using Databases and Family Trees Effectively,” at the next meeting of the San Diego Jewish Genealogical Society, on Sunday, May 16.
The program runs from 1-3pm, at the Lawrence Family JCC in La Jolla.
Randy will discuss and demonstrate these topics and more and will offer recommendations.

The subscription website has many wonderful features – it’s like a lavish buffet where it is difficult to choose! What is best to do and how do you use it?
Searches: basic or advanced search; new or old search screens; exact or ranked matches; full names or wild cards; specific or all databases; restricted collection or whole collection.

For family trees: public or private; one-editor or group editors; GEDCOM upload or enter-by-hand; upload photos and documents; attach historical documents; add stories; “collect” data from others; synchronization with software; etc.

A native San Diegan, Randy is a graduate of San Diego State University in Aerospace Engineering, and is a retired aerodynamics engineer with a 38-year career at Rohr/Goodrich in Chula Vista. His ancestry is mainly colonial New England and Upper Atlantic, with some colonial German, French and Dutch forebears, and several 19th-century English immigrants.

Randy is one of our master geneabloggers, authoring Genea-Musings, The Geneaholic and the Chula Vista Genealogy Cafe.

His many genealogy activities include the Chula Vista Genealogical Society (former president, current newsletter editor and research chair); speaking to Southern California societies, libraries and groups; teaching OASIS senior adults beginning computer genealogy classes; authors the Genealogy 2.0 column for the FGS’s ForumMagazine; and is a member of NGS, NEHGS, SDGS and CGSSD.

South Florida: Third Genealogy Fair, April 10

What are you doing tomorrow?

South Florida residents can discover their roots at Nova Southeastern University’s Third Genealogy Fair, set for Saturday, April 10, from 9am-4pm.

The free event takes place at NSU’s main campus – 3301 College Avenue, Davie (Broward County) – in the Alvin Sherman Library, Research, and Information Technology Center.

Local genealogy experts will assist with all research topics, including Revolutionary War lineages; African, Spanish and Jewish roots; research methods and locating tombstones. Participating organizations include the JGS of Broward County, Cuban Genealogy Club, DAR,, Genealogical Society of Broward County, International Society of Genetic Genealogy (ISOGG), Mayflower Society and the Guild of One-Name Studies.

The program includes genealogy database demos, breakout sessions, genealogy-related exhibitors and individual consultations throughout the day.

Speakers include:

— Megan Smolenyak Smolenyak, chief family historian for, and author of the NBC show’s companion book. Her other claims to fame: Cold case researcher for the FBI & US Army; discoverer of the “real” Annie Moore, the first immigrant processed through Ellis Island; expert on genetealogy – DNA and genealogy; and founder and president of Roots Television.

— J. H. Fonkert, Certified Genealogist (Dutch and English ancestry); president, Minnesota Genealogical Society; columnist, The Septs; director, Association of Professional Genealogists, Midwest Region; and recipient of the American Society of Genealogists Scholar Award in 2009.

Attendees will receive a free genealogy workbook and materials to begin and continue their family history and free access to and lessons on using such genealogical databases as Ancestry Library, Heritage Quest and Family Search, and Family Tree Maker software.

They’ll also have time to explore the Genealogy Room and browse the library’s specialized books, journals and how-to manuals

The Sherman Library’s 4,000+ item collection was donated two years ago by the Genealogical Society of Broward County. There are also printed materials, periodicals and personal family histories to benefit patrons of all skill levels. This gen collection is in addition to digitized holdings at the library’s two primary gen databases – Ancestry Library and Heritage Quest Online.

For more on the event, click here.

WDYTYA: Back to Belarus with Lisa

From Suzanne Russo Adams at, comes a detailed report on March 19’s episode on Lisa Kudrow and her search for information in Belarus and Poland:

Kudrow’s episode was one of the most riveting of the series, says Suzanne. In it, Lisa visits the small shtetl of Ilya, Belarus, where her great-grandmother was murdered during the Holocaust.

Lisa’s father, Dr. Lee Kudrow, always wondered what happened to Yuri, a cousin who had escaped to Poland and who told about Lisa’s great-grandmother’s death. Yuri was never heard from again.

On a visit to Gdynia, Poland, to discover Yuri’s true fate, Lisa is shocked to learn that Yuri was still alive! Despite the tragic history, there is a beautiful reunion between two families separated by the Holocaust.

If you missed the episode, watch it here. (CAVEAT: Unfortunately, the link only works in the US, and not in Hong Kong or Australia, where I most recently attempted to watch it via online links.)

Suzanne provides tips (additional comments by Tracing the Tribe are included) for those curious about how the team of genealogists for this episode found out more about Lisa’s Jewish family.

Here are resources to help newcomers better understand Jewish family history research.

Go-to resources: U.S. passenger lists, Yad Vashem,,

How they helped: Lisa Kudrow’s US family heard about her great-grandmother’s death from a cousin named Yuri who visited Lisa’s dad and grandmother in the late 1940s. Lisa’s research goal is to discover where her great-grandmother was buried and learn more about Yuri. Her visit to Belarus and online resources help her achieve that goal.

Resource #1: List of Jews murdered in Ilya massacre
Lisa’s family knew her great-grandmother was killed, but through a list of victims in Ilya, she sees the proof. Written next to her name are the words “killed and burned.”

Resource #2: Yizkor book: “A Tale of Struggling, Toil, and Tears,” by David Rubin
While visiting Ilya, Lisa reviews a translated Yizkor (memorial) book about the massacre of 900 Jews in March 1942. The town’s Jewish population came to an end that day. Lisa walks the same path her great-grandmother was forced to walk 68 years ago. At the gravesite is a memorial to the murdered Jews.

Resource #3: Passenger list
Looking for some positive news on her trip, Lisa turns her search toward the one relative she knows survived – Yuri – who visited her father in the late 1940s. An Ancestry passenger list shows a man with the same surname but the given name Boleslaw. Are Yuri and Boleslaw the same person?

Resource #4: Registry card
In Gdynia , Poland, Lisa sees Boleslaw’s city registry card. Yuri changed his name to a Polish name for assimilation. His wife and son are registered.

Resource #5: Phone directory
The phone director lists Boleslaw, who is still alive.

Weren’t Eastern European records all destroyed?
The records from Eastern Europe that Lisa’s family found aren’t uncommon. Although millions of Jews were murdered in the Holocaust, records did survive.

Are you following US Jewish lines? Follow step -by-step through the US, including census records, passenger lists, citizenship records, vital records and more at various sites such as Ancestry and Once you’ve found all the US records, then jump to European records.

Learn about your family’s towns and villages, immigration data and clues to other relatives.

Check out sites such as JewishGen for a town’s Yizkor book or its Special Interest Groups (SIGs), Yad Vashem for other Holocaust-related documents, Ancestry’s holdings,’s Holocaust collection (and other records), the Jewish Family History Collection, and, of course, Tracing the Tribe: The Jewish Genealogy Blog.

Never give up, and keep searching.

Ancestry: SSDI now updated weekly

One of’s first databases, the Social Security Death Index will now be updated weekly.

The Social Security Death Index is known by its acronym SSDI. Names have been added to that database since 1996, more than 86 million of them, in fact.

The weekly updating means that this useful database will be much more current with recent deaths reported to the Social Security Administration.

What does the SSDI contain? It lists deaths reported to the SSA or the Railroad Retirement Board. Individuals who did not have social security cards are not included. Thus, not everyone you’re searching for may be found.

Ancestry offers these search tips:

— Search by the surname used by the individual at the time of death.

— No hits? Try other surnames used at other times during that person’s life.

— Search by given name, death year, birth year – without a surname.

— Try using initials as SSDI records do not always include a full given name.

— Try searching with a middle name instead of the first name.

— Try variant name forms, such as Sarah/Sally or Mary/Polly/Molly and other common forms or nicknames, such as Jacob/Jake, Isaac/Ike, Matthew/Matt, or James/John.

— For dates, switch day and month (e.g. 5 February or 2 May, which can be written 5/2 or 2/5). Some records list the entire date of death, some only the month or year.

— You can also search using the Social Security Number (SSN) alone, if you have it.

Ancestry has now made it easier to search using only the first few letters of the name and a wild card asterisk (*).

Researchers should remember that the location for death is not always where the person died or was buried, but is in fact the last place of residence known by the SSA for that person.

For example, the individual might have been on vacation or spending the winter in a warmer climate or have been anywhere in the world when they died, but the SSA would only be concerned with the official last place of residence.

Researchers need to find more evidence to determine the exact place of death.

With more records appearing weekly, check back often for family members of interest.

Ancestry Sweepstakes: Ultimate family history journey!

If you are the grand prize winner in’s new sweepstakes, you may win a very nice deal.

Have you always wanted to visit your ancestral village? Research in archives? Here’s your chance. No purchase is necessary.

You can register once a day – and if you register up to five friends, you have the opportunity to register more than once a day. Read the rules carefully.

The contest runs through April 30, and you could win the following:

  • $20,000 in travel money
  • Eight-hour consultation with an expert genealogist
  • Five experts in fields relevant to your personal family history to help you learn even more
  • Annual World Deluxe Subscription for you and five family members
    • In addition, 20 First Prize winners will receive an Ancestry World Deluxe Edition subscription.

      The Grand Prize drawing will be held on or around May 3. Go to, complete the form and see links to other relevant sections, such as the FAQ and Official Rules.

      How to sign up for the sweepstakes: Provide your email address and contact information. You don’t have to buy anything to enter. By registering (you will receive a follow-up email with a username and password to log in to a free account, but not to the subscription databases), you can start a family tree.

      To enter, go directly to Register once each day using the username and password sent to you.

      Good luck!