Washington DC: Following false trails, May 16

False trails are common in genealogy, and many of us have followed them as we delve into documents and family stories.

Sallyann Amdur Sack-Pikus, PhD will discuss this topic at the next meeting of the Jewish Genealogical Society of Greater Washington, on Sunday, May 16.

The program begins at 1.30pm, at B’nai Israel, 6301 Montrose Road, Rockville, Maryland.

Attendees are invited to share similar “false trail” experiences – email them to the JGSGW – and they will be discussed at the meeting.

Sallyann was instrumental in founding the International Institute for Jewish Genealogy, Jewish Genealogical Society of Greater Washington, International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies, and Avotaynu. She has chaired or co-chaired six of the annual international Jewish genealogy conferences, authored or co-authored seven books for genealogists and has consulted on numerous projects. Click here for more.

Fee: JGSGW members, no charge; others, $5.

For more information and directions, click here.

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Melbourne: State Library of Victoria

Tuesday was tour day for conference attendees.

While some visited the National Archives of Australia (NAA) and the Public Records Office of Victoria (PROV), others visited the State Library of Victoria (SLV).

SLV genealogy librarian Anne Burrows – who presented her institution’s holdings to conference attendees on Monday – was the guide for our group. Her colleague Grant led another group.

The SLV’s main reading room is a busy place, offering desks, computers as well as comfortable chairs for visitors. The room was full of people busily working away on their own laptops as well as the library’s computers.

Just off the main reading room is the Genealogy Library, which is located in a former outdoor courtyard, now roofed over. Once considered for a restaurant, the space features elegant marble floors and tall stained glass windows of the surrounding buildings’ exterior walls. Sunlight streams through the roof’s glass panes into the room which holds shelving units, microfilm and microfiche cabinets and readers, as well as computers.

In honor of the Australian Jewish genealogy conference, a dual-sided display of Jewish genealogy books, journals and newsletters was at the entrance to the room.

Standing by the book display (left) is an old genealogy friend – Dr. Albert Braunstein of Melbourne – whose family, like mine, has roots in Mogilev, Belarus.

Anne took us through the room describing holdings in more detail.

In addition to the display at the entrance, there are more Jewish genealogy books on shelves, including many of Avotaynu’s publications – even Jeff Malka’s “Sephardic Genealogy” – and the Avotaynu journal. Of course, there are extensive general genealogy reference works and materials.

Microfiche includes holdings of the Australian Jewish Historical Society and other resources as indicated on this drawer label.

Computers also hold reference materials for those searching Jewish genealogy, such as databases on this computer in the center. A search for Australian Jewish Historical Society pulled up hits in the manuscript collection.

Patrons and researchers have access to printers for microfilm and microfiche images; digital cameras are allowed or users may download images directly to their own flash drives or memory sticks.

There are numerous GenieGuides covering Australian states and topics, such as convict material. Each binder holds many pages of additional sources of information (including selected microfiche, microfilm, CD and online records in the Genealogy Center. Although now only in hardcopy, future plans include online accessibility to this information.

Although I’m focusing in this post on the specific Jewish resources at the SLV, its extensive holdings include immigration records, vital records and much more, including the Ancestry.com Library Edition, available to all library visitors.

While the SLV’s Genealogy Collection focuses on sources from Australia, the UK and New Zealand, it also reflects Victoria’s ethnic diversity with an expanding range of Italian, Vietnamese, Chinese and Jewish material.

Core sources include indexes to civil registration for all Australian states and territories (as they are released), Australian cemetery and immigration records, electoral rolls and directions, and much more, including collective biographies and “how-to” guides.

The SLV’s Newspaper Reading Room holds more than 91,000 newspaper volumes in its Newspaper Collection – almost every newspaper published in the state since 1882, as well as earlier papers 1838-1880 (with some gaps).

Washington, DC: ‘Following False Trails,’ Feb. 7

Have you pursued any wild goose chases or false trails in your own research?

Sallyann Amdur Sack, PhD, will address “Following False Trails,” at the next meeting
of the Jewish Genealogy Society of Greater Washington on Sunday, February 7.

It begins at 2pm, at Adas Israel, in Washington, DC.

Attendees are also requested to email similar experiences in advance of the meeting and Sallyann will address those as well.

Dr. Sack is the only genealogist listed in “Jewish Women in America.”

She has chaired or co-chaired six annual international conferences on Jewish genealogy, authored or co-authored seven books for genealogists and has consulted on numerous projects.

She has founded or co-founded the International Institute for Jewish Genealogy and Paul Jacobi Center (IIJG), the Jewish Genealogy Society of Greater Washington, the International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies (IAJGS), Avotaynu, Inc., publisher of works on Jewish genealogy, is president of the Avotaynu Foundation, and is editor of AVOTAYNU: the International Journal of Jewish Genealogy.

Sack holds a Harvard University/Radcliffe College AB magna cum laude, and a George Washington University, PhD in Clinical Psychology. She has had a clinical psychology private practice since 1972.

Book: An Ashkenazi given name handbook

Avotaynu has announced the publication of Alexander Beider’s “Handbook of Ashkenazic Given Names and Their Variants.”

This softcover book is the dictionary section of his previously published and massive volume, “Dictionary of Ashkenazi Given Names.” It does not contain Beider’s 300-page introductory section – his doctoral thesis for the Department of History at the Sorbonne (Paris).

Included is the description of each name’s origin and evolution, demonstrating how name variants are derived from the root name, with the indexes listing 15,000 name variants of the 735 root names.The three-part index is in the Latin alphabet, Cyrillic and Hebrew.

The 232-page softcover is $26 plus shipping. Avotaynu offers free shipping for orders of $50 or more in the US. If you will be attending Philly 2009 – the 29th IAJGS International Conference of Jewish Genealogy – and live outside the US, contact Avotaynu to reserve a copy for pick-up at the conference and save what can be a major international shipping charge.

Here’s a very small portion of the full-page Yentl entry; view the complete entry here.

Several names with the same root gentil were used by Jews in various Romance countries. Since the Middle Ages, Gentile was a common name in Italy. Gentel appears in medieval documents from Spain. Migrants from these countries came to the Ottoman Empire and as a result ג׳ינטיליה and ג׳ינטיל were common names in that area. Gentil, Gentile, Gentila and Gentilia appear in medieval sources from southern and northern France, while ינטיל and יינטיל are quoted in Hebrew documents from England dating from the 13th century. Note that English Jews mainly originated from northern France. In old French, the adjective gentil(l)e meant noble. The use of the similar names in France, Italy and Spain could either be due to migrations between these countries or independent events.

For more information, click here; to see the 15,000-name index, click here.

Book: Lost Synagogues of Brooklyn

Calling all Brooklynites! Avotaynu’s Gary Mokotoff has announced a new book – “Lost Synagogues of Brooklyn,” by Ellen Levitt, a lifelong Brooklyn resident.

As a former resident myself, it was interesting to peruse the list of synagogues and addresses and find myself getting a little nostalgic.

Some 91 synagogues are photographed and written about in detail in the pages of this book.

Jewish life in Brownsville, East New York, Flatbush-East Flatbush, Bedford-Stuyvesant, and other nearby areas of Brooklyn through the 1950s was a lively, rich, and varied environment. During the next few decades it dissipated greatly. As Jews moved to other areas, they left
behind their synagogues.


Avotaynu’s latest book, “The Lost Synagogues of Brooklyn,” is a photographic essay of these ex-shuls; it tells what happened to them and how they appear today. Many became churches whose facades still have Jewish symbols.

The book offers photographs, interviews and analyses on these 91 structures. Some have been preserved, others are in disrepair. Included are the memories of former members of those congregations, as well as of the church members who own the buildings today.

Some of the photos in a Brooklyn Historical Society exhibit (November 2006-February 2007), and Levitt lectured on the topic. The exhibit and lecture were the impetus for this book.

For more information, click here to see the table of contents, a sample page and a list of the synagogues pictured.

Book: Lost Synagogues of Brooklyn

Calling all Brooklynites! Avotaynu’s Gary Mokotoff has announced a new book – “Lost Synagogues of Brooklyn,” by Ellen Levitt, a lifelong Brooklyn resident.

As a former resident myself, it was interesting to peruse the list of synagogues and addresses and find myself getting a little nostalgic.

Some 91 synagogues are photographed and written about in detail in the pages of this book.

Jewish life in Brownsville, East New York, Flatbush-East Flatbush, Bedford-Stuyvesant, and other nearby areas of Brooklyn through the 1950s was a lively, rich, and varied environment. During the next few decades it dissipated greatly. As Jews moved to other areas, they left
behind their synagogues.


Avotaynu’s latest book, “The Lost Synagogues of Brooklyn,” is a photographic essay of these ex-shuls; it tells what happened to them and how they appear today. Many became churches whose facades still have Jewish symbols.

The book offers photographs, interviews and analyses on these 91 structures. Some have been preserved, others are in disrepair. Included are the memories of former members of those congregations, as well as of the church members who own the buildings today.

Some of the photos in a Brooklyn Historical Society exhibit (November 2006-February 2007), and Levitt lectured on the topic. The exhibit and lecture were the impetus for this book.

For more information, click here to see the table of contents, a sample page and a list of the synagogues pictured.

Book: Lost Synagogues of Brooklyn

Calling all Brooklynites! Avotaynu’s Gary Mokotoff has announced a new book – “Lost Synagogues of Brooklyn,” by Ellen Levitt, a lifelong Brooklyn resident.

As a former resident myself, it was interesting to peruse the list of synagogues and addresses and find myself getting a little nostalgic.

Some 91 synagogues are photographed and written about in detail in the pages of this book.

Jewish life in Brownsville, East New York, Flatbush-East Flatbush, Bedford-Stuyvesant, and other nearby areas of Brooklyn through the 1950s was a lively, rich, and varied environment. During the next few decades it dissipated greatly. As Jews moved to other areas, they left
behind their synagogues.


Avotaynu’s latest book, “The Lost Synagogues of Brooklyn,” is a photographic essay of these ex-shuls; it tells what happened to them and how they appear today. Many became churches whose facades still have Jewish symbols.

The book offers photographs, interviews and analyses on these 91 structures. Some have been preserved, others are in disrepair. Included are the memories of former members of those congregations, as well as of the church members who own the buildings today.

Some of the photos in a Brooklyn Historical Society exhibit (November 2006-February 2007), and Levitt lectured on the topic. The exhibit and lecture were the impetus for this book.

For more information, click here to see the table of contents, a sample page and a list of the synagogues pictured.