JGSLA 2010: Belarus events set

As a charter member of the Belarus SIG, this group is dear to Tracing the Tribe’s genealogical heart.

Belarus SIG began life as a crowded birds-of-a-feather meeting spearheaded by Daveid Fox, at the Boston 1996 conference and became a SIG at the 1998 Los Angeles event. The speaker in Boston was a then-recent Mogilev immigrant to Brooklyn, Bella Nayer, who had been very involved in community affairs.
The map (above left) is a 1916 map of Belarus. 
The graphic (below right) is a woodcut of the Mogilev synagogue.

What does the SIG have planned for its return to its birthplace?

Tracing the Tribe has already covered the Belarus luncheon (Tuesday, July 13) speaker: Moscow born, Jewish filmmaker, researcher and travel professional Michael Masterovoy.

The luncheon description reads:

 “In 1793,the central part of Belarus, including Minsk, became a part of the Russian empire. In addition to being the capital of Belarus it was also a center of Jewish life and home of many Torah sages and Yeshivas that attracted students from all over Europe. Before World War II, Jews made up 40% of the total  population in the city. Join Moscow born, Jewish filmmaker, researcher and travel professional, Michael Masterovoy, as he takes you on a tour of a present-day Belarus, which resonates with the past. View a short video of several Belarusian shtetls, walk the streets of Movsha Shagal’s (Marc Chagall’s) Vitebsk with Michael (and view the museum) and learn about the positive aspects of travel to a socialist state with a human face, the land of vodka and honey that echoes with the footsteps of our ancestors.”

The luncheon is a fee-added event. Belarus SIG luncheons are always well-attended – sign up early and avoid disappointment.

The Belarus SIG business meeting is set for later the same day and will feature the group’s progress and achievements.

The group also plans to be part of the Sunday opening day Market Fair, from 2-4.30pm.

The Market Fair will feature experts and mavens staffing “pushcarts” and offering assistance and guidance, representing nearly every region where Jews once lived. “Wares” will include old maps, vital records, landowner records, historical photos and postcards, translation, crafts, cooking and much more.

Food (including kosher) will be available for purchase. And don’t miss the great klezmer concerts (yes – two of them!) by Yale Strom and Hot Pstromi, after the Market Fair and again in the early evening.

For more information on the Belarus SIG, its treasure trove of databases and much more, click here.

Yizkor Book Project: Additions and updates during April

The dedicated volunteers at the Yizkor Book Project at JewishGen were busy in April. See below for the complete list of additions, new projects, updates and more.

Four new Translation Fund Projects have been organized for Debica and Grajewo (Poland), Leova (Romania) and Olkeniki (Lithuania). These projects collect funds to hire professional translators so these books can be made accessible online. Readers with roots in these geographical locations (and others) are invited to contribute to the Translation Fund.

The list, with links to each community, is organized by country:
(NP=New Project; N=New Entry; U=Updated)

AUSTRIA

NP — Neunkirchen (The Holy Community of Neunkirchen: A story of Jews in their native land)

BELARUS

NP — Disna (Disna; memorial book of the community)
U — Antopol (Shards of Memory: Messages from the Lost Shtetl of Antopol)
U — Ruzhany (Rozana; a memorial book to the Jewish community)
U — Smarhon (Smorgon) (Smorgonie, District Vilna; memorial book and testimony)
U — Voronovo (Voronovo: Memorial Book to the Martyrs of Voronovo)

LITHUANIA

N — Backininkeliai (Pinkas Lita)
N — Balsiai (Pinkas Lita)
N — Baltiskis  (Pinkas Lita)
N — Baltmiskis  (Pinkas Lita)
N — Baltusova (Pinkas Lita)
N — Baranas (Pinkas Lita)
N — Bariunai (Pinkas Lita)
N — Barova (Pinkas Lita)
N — Barsenai (Pinkas Lita)
N — Barstyciai (Pinkas Lita)
N — Bartininkai (Pinkas Lita)

POLAND

NP — Grojec (Grizer Scroll)
NP — Grudki (Horodok; in memory of the Jewish community)
NP – Serock (The book of Serock)
N — Baligrod (Memorial book; dedicated to the Jews of Linsk, Istrik and vicinity)
N — Lutowiska (Memorial book; dedicated to the Jews of Linsk, Istrik and vicinity)
N — Ustrzyki Dolne (Memorial book; dedicated to the Jews of Linsk, Istrik and vicinity)
U — Bedzin (A Memorial to the Jewish Community of Bendin)
U — Bialystok (The chronicle of Bialystok)
U — Brzeziny (Brzeziny memorial book)
U — Chelm (Commemoration book Chelm)
U — Czyzew-Osada (Czyzewo Memorial Book)
U — Dabrowa Gornicza (Book of the Jewish Community of Dabrowa Gornicza and its Destruction)
U — Debica (The Book of Dembitz) – additions to Polish section
U — Kaluszyn (The Memorial Book of Kaluszyn) – necrology
U — Katowice (Katowice: the Rise and Decline of the Jewish community; Memorial Book)
U — Kutno (Kutno and Surroundings Book)
U — Lesko (Memorial book; dedicated to the Jews of Linsk, Istrik and vicinity)
U — Miedzyrzec Podlaski (Mezritsh book, in memory of the martyrs of our city)
U — Opoczno (The Book of Opoczno: memorial for the destroyed community)
U — Piotrkow Trybunalski (A Tale of One City: Piotrkow Trybunalski)
U — Ryki (A memorial to the community of Ryki, Poland) – additions to Polish section
U — Zelechow (Memorial Book of the Community of Zelechow ) – added pictures to Polish section

UKRAINE

N — Skhodnitsa (Memorial to the Jews of Drohobycz, Boryslaw and surroundings)
U — Kolomyya (Memorial book of Kolomey and surroundings)
U — Ivano-Frankivsk (Towns and Mother-cities in Israel: Memorial of the Jewish Communities which Perished)
U — Vystosk (Our town, Visotsk; Memorial Book)

See all additions and updates flagged here.

Ancestor Approved: 10 things about my ancestors

Tracing the Tribe has received the Ancestor Approved award from Pat and Judy, the GenealogyGals.

Their blog is a joint effort.

Award recipients are supposed to report on 10 things learned about our ancestors that have surprised, humbled, or enlightened us, and then pass along the award to 10 more genealogy bloggers who are doing their ancestors proud.

1. Surprised: At the life of my maternal great-grandmother Riva BANK TALALAY – born in a shtetl outside Kovno – who was ran away to the Gypsies – so the story goes – to avoid a disliked marriage. Along the way, she learned herbal healing, midwifery, reading tarot cards and palmistry. When she did marry Aron Peretz Talalay and moved to his agricultural colony Vorotinschtina, some 12 miles southwest of Mogilev, Belarus, she was known for creating the first closet in the shtetl. In Newark, New Jersey, she was also a midwife and healer and well-known for getting her way to make living better for her family.

2. Surprised: That the generation-to-generation one-liner – “This was our name in Spain” – has been corroborated by archival research in Spain and DNA genetic testing.

3. Enlightened: Our TALALAY family’s first immigrant ancestor met an English-speaker on the boat over in 1898 who advised him to change his name as no one would give a job to Mr. Tell-a-lie. Thus TOLLIN, TALLIN, TAYLOR, TOLL, TALL and – of course – those lost Philadelphia FEINSTEINs, came about.

4. Enlightened: My maternal FINK (Suchostaw, Galicia -> Ukraine) grandfather and his brothers had a large building maintenance company in New York City. Once, during a window-cleaners’ strike, a worker was quoted as calling his employers, “those rats, the FINKs.” According to family story, the term “rat-fink” was born.

5. Surprised: On hearing that my mother, as a teen, used to swim across Kauneonga Lake (Catskills, Sullivan County, about 10 miles from Monticello) frequently. It is a very large lake!

6. Humbled: To have found at least one lost branch of the Dardashti family, and thus fulfilling a request of my husband’s eldest aunt Nane-jan – made more than 35 years ago in Teheran – to find the lost branches (descendants of relatives who became Moslem) and tell them that they had cousins who thought about them all the time.

7. Humbled: To think about the difficulties Nane-jan underwent as the first Jewish girl to go to school in Teheran in 1902. The community stopped buying from her father, a butcher, and she endured taunts and attacks on her way to school. All her sisters also went to school, with some of them becoming French teachers. It wasn’t easy being a father with such advanced enlightened thinking in those days.

8. Frequently flabbergasted when thinking of our newly-connected TALALAY-KATSNELSON relatives (from Bobruisk, Belarus) in Melbourne, Australia. Their eldest daughter Nelly is a journalist and her daughter is Miliana. I’m Schelly, a journalist and our daughter is Liana. Do you also hear Twilight Zone music?

9. Surprised at how much cousin Leon in Melbourne and I resemble each other. His mother was a Talalay whose father (Gamshei) had moved (reasons still unknown) from Mogilev to Bobruisk.

10. Still shocked: My late cousin Victor Talalay (Toronto) and I both located information about the family branch in Israel at the same time, decades ago, when we separately visited Israel and found the data in the English phone book. We each dutifully copied the info and held onto the scraps of paper with name, address and phone number for decades. I finally wrote and located the granddaughter as her grandfather, who placed the entry every year, had died only a year or so prior. He had placed the info in the English phone book every year hoping that US relatives would find it and contact him. He had arrived from Berlin (after leaving Mogilev in 1902 and going to London and Germany) to Israel in 1933. Moral: Never procrastinate when it comes to following up on all clues to family history.

Since I am coming into this award late – procrastination still runs in our family – and I believe almost all bloggers have already been tagged, I am awarding this coveted prize to everyone who has not already been noted.

Belarus: Dokshitsy Diaspora Reunion, August 20-22

Tracing the Tribe reported earlier on the planned Dokshitsy (Belarus) Diaspora Reunion.

Aaron Ginsburg of Natick, Massachusetts has provided more information on the reunion which will take place in a suburban Boston hotel, from Friday-Sunday, August 20-22. See Tracing the Tribe’s earlier post for additional details.

There’s also a tentative program which may also help other researchers attempting to plan such a reunion for their own ancestral villages.

Aaron’s message is doubly important at this time of the year:

Passover is a time when we are called on to remember our shared past.

We remember Sinai because we know that our ancestors were there; we remember Dokshitsy because our ancestors were there.

The road from Sinai to today runs through shtetlach like Dokshitsy where so many of our parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents began their lives.

The lost Jewish communities of Eastern Europe, including Dokshitsy, are part of a past that continues to unite us no matter where we live.

Aaron reminds Dokshitsy descendants that volunteers are needed to help out, families to create presentations and talks about their family histories from the shtetl to the Diaspora.

Descendants who wish to participate and help in planning should contact Aaron through the group’s website or Facebook page (Jewish Dokshitsy).

Tentative Schedule:

Friday, August 20
5-8pm: Sign in, cocktails, light snacks, introductions, and networking.
7.30-8.20pm: Services, followed by dinner (Kosher option).

Saturday, August 21
7-9am: Services
8.15-9am: Breakfast
9am: Organizers’ welcome and introductions
9.30am: Dokshitsy– a vanished world
10.45am: The Dokshitzers who left – how a small shtetl gave rise to the Dokshitsy Diaspora
Noon: Lunch
1pm: Dokshitzers who stayed – the Holocaust in Dokshitsy; the Dokshitsy Cemetery Restoration Project; future remembrance projects
2:15-4pm: Family Presentations
4-7pm: Break
7pm: Pre-dinner presentation; slide show; photographs
8-11pm: Dinner, informal sharing experiences, family stories

Sunday, August 22
8-11am: Light breakfast and goodbyes

When will YOU plan a reunion for your ancestral shtetl’s descendants?

JewishGen: Yizkor Books report for March

The Yizkor Book team at JewishGen has been keeping busy during March. As the Jewish calendar edges towards Yom HaShoah, this project becomes even more relevant to researchers around the world.

In addition to new books, updates to existing books, the Necrology Database continues to be updated. Key: Unless indicated by (N)=New Project, all listed below are updates:

BELARUS:
Antopol, Belarus
(Shards of Memory: Messages from the Lost Shtetl of Antopol)
David Gorodok, Belarus
(Memorial book of Davidgrodek)

Jasionówka, Belarus (N)
(Encyclopedia of Jewish Communities in Poland, Volume VIII)

Lakhva, Belarus
(First ghetto to revolt, Lachwa)
Ruzhany, Belarus
(Rozana; a memorial book to the Jewish community)
Smarhon (Smorgon), Belarus
(Smorgonie, District Vilna; memorial book and testimony)

LITHUANIA:
Skuodas, Lithuania
(Memorial Book of Skuodas)
Skuodas, Lithuania (N)
(Testimony on the murder of the Jews of Shkud, Lithuania)

Svencionys, Lithuania
(Svintzian region: memorial book of 23 communities)

MOLDOVA:
Tighina, Moldova
(Bendery Community Yizkor Book)

POLAND:
Bedzin, Poland
(A Memorial to the Jewish Community of Bendin)
Brody, Poland
(An Eternal Light: Brody in Memoriam)
Kaluszyn, Poland
(The Memorial Book of Kaluszyn) – necrology

Kolo, Poland
(Book of Kolo; 500 Years of Yiddish Kolo)

Krasnik, Poland
(Book of Krasnik)
Kutno, Poland
(Kutno and Surroundings Book)
Piotrkow Trybunalski, Poland
(A Tale of One City: Piotrkow Trybunalski)
Pultusk, Poland
(Pultusk Memorial Book)

Siemiatycze, Poland (N)
(The Community of Semyatitch)

Warka, Poland
(Vurka memorial book)
Wieliczka, Poland
(The Jewish community of Wieliczka; a memorial book)
Zelechow, Poland
(Memorial Book of the Community of Zelechow) – pictures added to Polish section
Zhovkva, Ukraine (N)
(Memorial book of Zolkiew) – necrology)


ROMANIA:
Marghita, Romania
(Memorial book of the community of Margareten and the surrounding region)
Oradea, Romania
(A city and yesterday; memorial book to the Jews of Grosswardein)

UKRAINE:
Bil’che-Zolote, Ukraine (N)
(A Time to Speak – The story of My Life) -necrology
Demidovka, Ukraine (N)
(The Town of Demidovka) – necrology

Kamyanets Podilskyy, Ukraine
(Kamenets-Podolsk and its surroundings)
Kolomyya, Ukraine
(Memorial book of Kolomey and its surroundings)
Kovel’, Ukraine
(Kowel; Testimony and Memorial Book of Our Destroyed Community)

Readers who wish to financially assist Translation Fund projects should click here.

WDYTYA: Back to Belarus with Lisa

From Suzanne Russo Adams at Ancestry.com, 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, Ancestry.com, JewishGen.org

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 Footnote.com. 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, Footnote.com’s Holocaust collection (and other records), the Ancestry.com Jewish Family History Collection, and, of course, Tracing the Tribe: The Jewish Genealogy Blog.

Never give up, and keep searching.

Melbourne: Meeting the family – at last!

Thirty years ago, Alexander Katsnelson, his wife Jenny and toddler Nelly arrived in Melbourne from Bobruisk, Belarus.

Later on, his father and brother Leon arrived from Bobruisk. Alex and Leon’s mother was a TALALAI whose family was from Mogilev.

In the photo below are (from left) Leon, Schelly and Alex.

About seven years ago, members of the Australian Jewish Genealogical Society – notably the late Les Oberman – located Alex and Jenny after information from new-found Moscow cousins indicated they might be in Melbourne.

We communicated for awhile until I experienced a major computer malfunction and lost much data (including emails). Yes, I know. Tracing the Tribe always advocates backing up, backing up, backing up. I goofed and thus our family lost years during which we could have been in contact.

However, as soon as I landed in Melbourne, I told my hostess, Ziva Fain, that we needed to find them. Fortunately, we found L. Katsnelson in the online phone book (cousin Leonid), who gave me Alex’s number.

Today was cousin day.

Alex and Jenny came to take me to their home – which is very close to Ziva’s – where Alex’s younger brother Leon, their older daughter Nelly and granddaughter Miliana, 2, were waiting. Later that day I also met Nelly’s son Jordan, 5, and Nelly’s sister Fleur.

Nelly has a degree in journalism – is it genetic? – while Fleur is an attorney. Our daughter is Liana, Nelly’s is Miliana.

We went over family charts and photographs. Leon told us many anecdotes from his childhood. As the younger brother, he was closer to his grandmother and he remembered a large photo on the wall of his mother’s family in Mogilev.

When Alex and Jenny left, they could not take any family photos with them. When Leon left, he took many small photos, but was not permitted to take other family memorabilia. His mother’s sister went to Brooklyn later on and took other items, including the photo. She has since died; no one knows where the large photo of the Mogilev family is now, but Alex and Leon said they will try to find who has it (and many other photos) and have them scanned.

After lunch, Jenny showed me a Russian-language site that translates as “classmates” – sort of a Russian Facebook. We checked for TALALAI and were amazed to find so many, although some I knew. This could be a very valuable resource for genealogists. Names can be typed in English, but everything else seems to be in Cyrillic.

I showed Jenny and Nelly how to use both Ancestry and JewishGen. Everyone was surprised to see how many FamilyFinder entries for KATSNELSON from Bobruisk were listed. A few years ago, Leon had been contacted by a US researcher who sent him information and charts but they couldn’t see how they were related; he did not hear from that researcher again.

Many of the KATSNELSON researchers in the Family Finder are either deceased or have not logged in since 2004.

Jenny is also looking for her HEIMAN (sometimes written KHAYMAN) family of Bobroisk. Her grandmother lived in Bobruisk, but her family had moved to Riga, Latvia, where she grew up and attended school. How and why they moved to Riga is a story in itself.

Jenny and I later went to dinner and we didn’t stop talking all evening. There was an instant connection, as if we had known each other for a lifetime.

There will be more to tell. And this time we won’t lose the connection!