New York: Beyond the basics, April 11

The Jewish Genealogical Society of New York will present “Basics and Beyond,” an afternoon family history seminar, on Sunday, April 11.

The program will run from 1-5pm, at UJA-Federation of New York 130 East 59th Street, 7th floor, Manhattan.

Experienced genealogists will present two tracks – for beginners and those more experienced.

Beginners’ Track:
— How to get started
— Tracing your family in the US
— Finding/interpreting census/vital records
— Crossing the pond: Finding/interpreting passenger arrival/naturalization records

Advanced Track:
— Organizing, goal-setting, record-keeping
— What’s new in computer research
— Researching European records at home

Tracks run simultaneously; participants may attend sessions in either or both tracks

Topics include:

— Finding and interpreting census and vital records
— Passenger arrival and naturalization records
— Computer research
— Research organization
— Record-keeping and goal setting
— Searching European records from home.

Advance registration required, no on-site registration. For more information and registration, click here.

Fee: JGSNY members, $18; others, $25. New member special: $40, includes 2010 JGSNY membership (annual membership alone is $36).

Melbourne: The conference opens

Although Melbourne suffered from a 100-year rain, with flooded streets, damaged and leaking roofs, hail (from marble-size to much larger!), nothing stopped these intrepid genealogists from arriving at the Beth Weizmann community building in Caulfield South.

Sallyann Amdur Sack-Pikus gave the keynote address and focused on “Jewish Genealogy: Past , Present and Future,” as she detailed the history and growth of Jewish genealogy in the US and worldwide.

After a coffee break, I was up next with our “Iberian Ashkenaz DNA Project: So You Think You’re Ashkenazi.” It generated many questions and people were talking to me all day about their family’s stories. The point was to raise awareness of the possibilities and it certainly seemed to do just that.

I hadn’t known previously, but I was to lead a Sephardic SIG group next, with another group of interested people with even more interesting stories to tell and questions to be answered.

Following lunch (complete with felafel, potato salad and the rest), I then presented “The New Technology Frontier: Social Networks and Blogging,” which also encouraged questions and comments, as I covered Facebook, Twitter, Blogging and genealogy social networking sites. Several people at the session and ater during the day mentioned that their trees had been hijacked at Geni.

There were several concurrent sessions. I attended Jenni Buch’s Belarus session and Peter Nash’s excellent “China: Resources for Family Research,” which offered some rather amazing sources discovered by Peter. Attending Peter’s talk was our new friend Helen Bekhor of Melbourne, whose Sephardic family – originally from Baghdad – was interned by the Japanese in Shanghai. Peter attended the Kadoorie School in Shanghai and it sounded like they knew some of the same people way back then. Rieke Nash’s session on JRI-Poland was next.

What I missed: Krystyna Duszniak’s “Unearthing the Polish Past by Necessity: The Historica Journey to a Poish Passport,” Todd Knowles’ “British Holldings of the Family History Library,” Daniela Torsh’s “Finding Hilda: An Austrian Genealogy Story,” and Prof. Martin Delatycki’s “Genetic Disease Among Jewish People.” There were also SIG groups on researching early Australia, German research, Hungary and the Netherlands.

In the evening, a reception was held at the nearby Glen Eira Town Hall, complete with wine, sushi and more. A moving address was given by the young mayor, Steven Tang, who described his trip back to Poland and search for his mother’s Jewish roots, as well as his father’s Chinese roots. Awards were given to hardworking society members.

The society lost some time ago one of its major movers and shakers – Les Oberman – a good friend of mine. A meeting room was dedicated with a plaque bearing his name.

Ziva Fain and I are now out the door to day two of the conference.

Photos and more will be posted tonight.

Carnival of Eastern European Genealogy

Steve Danko hosted the 11th edition of the Carnival of Eastern European Genealogy centered on given names.

These Carnivals of Genealogy are very useful. We are challenged to respond to topics we haven’t really thought about or addressed in our blogs. Each participant handles the topic from his or her own viewpoint and we all learn from each other.

The charge for this challenge was:

The topic for this edition is First (Given) Names: Did any of your ancestors have an unusual given name? Have you discovered the meanings behind the given names of your ancestors? Did your ancestors use any naming patterns for their children? Are there any given names that are particularly common in your family history? Did any of your ancestors have given names that you particularly like or dislike? Does your family celebrate “Name Days”? Did your immigrant ancestors change their given names after they arrived in America? Tell us about the first (given) names in your family. You can concentrate on one name, a few names, or you can go wild and write about the first names of all your ancestors!

Participants included Jessica Oswalt of Jessica’s Genejournal (German); Lisa of 100 Years in America (Hungarian and Croatian); Julie Cahill Tarr at GenBlog; Donna Pointkouski of What’s Past is Prologue (Bavarian and Polish); Jasia of Creative Gene and Al’s Polish-American Genealogy Research on their Polish names; Steve’s own Polish names; and, of course, Tracing the Tribe’s “Here’s a Leib, There’s a Leib!” which touched on Belarus and Iran.

About Tracing the Tribe, Steve wrote:

Schelly Talalay Dardashti of Tracing the Tribe: The Jewish Genealogy Blog writes about her family’s practice of naming children after their relatives. This practice results in an interesting conundrum when all the children in a single family decided to name one of their sons after the child’s grandfather. And so, today, anyone with the name Leib Talalay, wherever he may live, is probably a cousin. Read all the details at Here’s a Leib, there’s a Leib! While you’re at it, you’ll find out why Schelly’s daughter loves her given name and initials, and why Schelly was once known as Shirley! Thanks for a great article, Schelly. It’s a fascinating read!

This was a great topic, Steve. Thank you for this opportunity.

Do read descriptions and pointers to all participant entries at Steve’s link above.

Here’s a Leib, there’s a Leib!

The newest Carnival of Eastern European Genealogy is focusing on family first names, hosted by gen-blogger Steve Danko.

Here’s a bit of history, humor, naming traditions and patterns to peruse.

Anyone named Leib Talalay is sure to be a cousin, no matter where he is today.

The main branch of our Talalay family was from Mogilev, Belarus from the 1700s and, from 1832, from a newly established agricultural colony down the road apiece (Vorotinschtina, adjacent to Zavarezhye, about 12 miles south-southwest from Mogilev).

Rabbi Leib Talalay was a Talmudic scholar, and the son of a rabbi, Mikhl Talalay, and likely many generations of rabbis before that. Leib was rather famous and this, combined with the Ashkenazi Jewish tradition of naming children after a deceased relative, meant that each of Leib’s children named a son after him. And so on and so forth, down to the present day.

Leib’s claim to fame – at least the one I’ve heard the most about – is that he studied the Talmud through three times. There is a Yiddish term for that, but I’ve forgotten it. Because of this achievement, he was awarded all the stale bread in the bakery every day. Considering the number of mouths Leib had to feed, this was a rather good deal for his family.

Whether I find an olden-days Leib Talalay in Chaussy or Gorki (near Mogilev), or more contemporary days in Novosibirsk, Siberia, Moscow or St. Petersburg – he’s more than likely one of ours.

In the New World, of course, Leib’s namesakes became generally known as Louis and in more contemporary terms, some Laurences as well. In some Jewish families, keeping only the same beginning letter is considered enough to maintain the tradition.

His father was Mikhl (Michael) and so – again according to naming traditions – there are a lot of Mikhl and Michael and a large number of Moshe (Moses) – this name back to a 1353 document discovered in the Lerida, Catalunya archives (kosher winemaker Mosse Talalya). From London to St. Petersburg to Napoli, we have Michael Talalays.

This Ashkenazi naming practice can be confusing as women are also named for deceased grandmothers or other female relatives. Thus nearly every Leib had a sister named Gita (for her grandmother).

However, it is not as confusing as a family tree I received for the Ben Tolila family who left Spain in 1492 and settled in North Africa, also a rabbinical family in Meknes, Fez and elsewhere. We believe that this family is possible related to our Talalay before the Expulsion.

In any case, naming traditions in Sephardic families are different from Ashkenazi. The highest form of honor is to name a newborn after its living grandmother or grandfather. I received numerous pages in which nearly every generation was named Samuel (Shemuel) for the men and Mercedes for the women. It was impossible to fathom, and I got a headache trying to separate the generations.

My great-grandfather Aron Peretz Talalay, who would become Aron Tollin soon after he landed in New York and then Newark, was also honored with children named after him. One cousin’s middle name became Paris instead of Peretz, although the first name remained the same. Great-grandmother’s brother Hatzkel and their father Tsalel had a large number of Charles named after them.

And what were we going to do with a name for our daughter when we had a Leah and a Chana to name after? We racked our brains and came up with an Italian version, Liana, combining Lia (Leah) and Ana (Chana). It was a great success and she never met another girl with her same name until many years later. It also worked for the Persian family who could pronounce this “new” and strange name. Of course, many called her Diana, but we worked through that one also.

In Miami, a nurse told us we couldn’t take the baby home without a middle name and we hadn’t thought of one. We did ask about the hospital sending her to college if we left her there without a middle name; they said no. We finally settled on Shayne (for Shaine/Sheine, Yiddish for beautiful). We figured Liana Shayne would look great on a theater marquee if she wanted to become an actress, a doctor or lawyer. We did realize that with the last name of Dardashti, her initials would be interesting – you figure it out. We said to ourselves, “Oh, that’s just a passing fancy. No one will recognize those initials when she grows up.” Yeah, right.

Throughout her school years, her classmates delighted in her name and initials and thought her parents were soooo cool and that we must have been hippies living in a commune. Nothing could have been further from the truth. Can you spell “square,” boys and girls?

How many readers hate their own names or have children who hate their names for a variety of reasons? We were lucky; she loves her first name and her initials!

My grandmother’s names evolved as well. Born in Mogilev as Chayeh Feige (Chaya for life, Feige for small bird), she became known as Bertie in her Newark school, and later more elegantly as Bertha. Her mother-in-law from Suchostow (Austro-Hungary, Galicia, Poland, Ukraine) was Rebeka Halpern Fink, known variously on the Bronx’s Grand Concourse as Rebeki and rarely Becky. But her headstone in the Suchostower Benevolent Society plot reads Regina Fink.

The other side of the family is Persian, and this is where the strange names to Western ears really come into play. Standard Hebrew and Persian literary names of the old generations include Yaqub (Jacob), Israel, Moshi (Moses), Ebrahim (Abraham)Parviz, Atollah and Faramarz are connected to wives and daughters named Khorshid (sun), Tavuus (peacock), Nane-jan, Sabh-jan, Paridokht, Farangis, Heshmat and Azam.

French names began to take hold when the Alliance Israelite Francais school opened its doors. Boys took on typical French names as a sign of education. In some families, two children might have French names, the others Persian names. Today, in Los Angeles (Tehrangeles), the younger generations are more likely to be named Tiffany, Ashley and the like, while boys have the same names as their non-Persian classmates.

The entire time we lived in Teheran, I was called Shirley instead of Schelly. I gave up trying to correct everyone; it was just easier to accept it. Just this summer, I visited a Los Angeles cousin who learned for the first time that it was really Schelly. She was shocked when her kids said she’d been saying it wrong (forever!).

What’s in a name?

In Jewish tradition, it represents generations of family history. Think about who that person was named after, and the person who carried it before? Go back generations and generations and you’ll see the same names repeated. These patterns are very useful clues in researching old documents including the days before surnames were required.

However, there are always exceptions in families: my mother was named after a cigar and an actress (Muriel, although the Yiddish version was Mirrel) while a Canadian cousin was named after the family’s beloved dog. Really.

Looking forward to hearing your “name” stories in comments.

Here’s a Leib, there’s a Leib!

The newest Carnival of Eastern European Genealogy is focusing on family first names, hosted by gen-blogger Steve Danko.

Here’s a bit of history, humor, naming traditions and patterns to peruse.

Anyone named Leib Talalay is sure to be a cousin, no matter where he is today.

The main branch of our Talalay family was from Mogilev, Belarus from the 1700s and, from 1832, from a newly established agricultural colony down the road apiece (Vorotinschtina, adjacent to Zavarezhye, about 12 miles south-southwest from Mogilev).

Rabbi Leib Talalay was a Talmudic scholar, and the son of a rabbi, Mikhl Talalay, and likely many generations of rabbis before that. Leib was rather famous and this, combined with the Ashkenazi Jewish tradition of naming children after a deceased relative, meant that each of Leib’s children named a son after him. And so on and so forth, down to the present day.

Leib’s claim to fame – at least the one I’ve heard the most about – is that he studied the Talmud through three times. There is a Yiddish term for that, but I’ve forgotten it. Because of this achievement, he was awarded all the stale bread in the bakery every day. Considering the number of mouths Leib had to feed, this was a rather good deal for his family.

Whether I find an olden-days Leib Talalay in Chaussy or Gorki (near Mogilev), or more contemporary days in Novosibirsk, Siberia, Moscow or St. Petersburg – he’s more than likely one of ours.

In the New World, of course, Leib’s namesakes became generally known as Louis and in more contemporary terms, some Laurences as well. In some Jewish families, keeping only the same beginning letter is considered enough to maintain the tradition.

His father was Mikhl (Michael) and so – again according to naming traditions – there are a lot of Mikhl and Michael and a large number of Moshe (Moses) – this name back to a 1353 document discovered in the Lerida, Catalunya archives (kosher winemaker Mosse Talalya). From London to St. Petersburg to Napoli, we have Michael Talalays.

This Ashkenazi naming practice can be confusing as women are also named for deceased grandmothers or other female relatives. Thus nearly every Leib had a sister named Gita (for her grandmother).

However, it is not as confusing as a family tree I received for the Ben Tolila family who left Spain in 1492 and settled in North Africa, also a rabbinical family in Meknes, Fez and elsewhere. We believe that this family is possible related to our Talalay before the Expulsion.

In any case, naming traditions in Sephardic families are different from Ashkenazi. The highest form of honor is to name a newborn after its living grandmother or grandfather. I received numerous pages in which nearly every generation was named Samuel (Shemuel) for the men and Mercedes for the women. It was impossible to fathom, and I got a headache trying to separate the generations.

My great-grandfather Aron Peretz Talalay, who would become Aron Tollin soon after he landed in New York and then Newark, was also honored with children named after him. One cousin’s middle name became Paris instead of Peretz, although the first name remained the same. Great-grandmother’s brother Hatzkel and their father Tsalel had a large number of Charles named after them.

And what were we going to do with a name for our daughter when we had a Leah and a Chana to name after? We racked our brains and came up with an Italian version, Liana, combining Lia (Leah) and Ana (Chana). It was a great success and she never met another girl with her same name until many years later. It also worked for the Persian family who could pronounce this “new” and strange name. Of course, many called her Diana, but we worked through that one also.

In Miami, a nurse told us we couldn’t take the baby home without a middle name and we hadn’t thought of one. We did ask about the hospital sending her to college if we left her there without a middle name; they said no. We finally settled on Shayne (for Shaine/Sheine, Yiddish for beautiful). We figured Liana Shayne would look great on a theater marquee if she wanted to become an actress, a doctor or lawyer. We did realize that with the last name of Dardashti, her initials would be interesting – you figure it out. We said to ourselves, “Oh, that’s just a passing fancy. No one will recognize those initials when she grows up.” Yeah, right.

Throughout her school years, her classmates delighted in her name and initials and thought her parents were soooo cool and that we must have been hippies living in a commune. Nothing could have been further from the truth. Can you spell “square,” boys and girls?

How many readers hate their own names or have children who hate their names for a variety of reasons? We were lucky; she loves her first name and her initials!

My grandmother’s names evolved as well. Born in Mogilev as Chayeh Feige (Chaya for life, Feige for small bird), she became known as Bertie in her Newark school, and later more elegantly as Bertha. Her mother-in-law from Suchostow (Austro-Hungary, Galicia, Poland, Ukraine) was Rebeka Halpern Fink, known variously on the Bronx’s Grand Concourse as Rebeki and rarely Becky. But her headstone in the Suchostower Benevolent Society plot reads Regina Fink.

The other side of the family is Persian, and this is where the strange names to Western ears really come into play. Standard Hebrew and Persian literary names of the old generations include Yaqub (Jacob), Israel, Moshi (Moses), Ebrahim (Abraham)Parviz, Atollah and Faramarz are connected to wives and daughters named Khorshid (sun), Tavuus (peacock), Nane-jan, Sabh-jan, Paridokht, Farangis, Heshmat and Azam.

French names began to take hold when the Alliance Israelite Francais school opened its doors. Boys took on typical French names as a sign of education. In some families, two children might have French names, the others Persian names. Today, in Los Angeles (Tehrangeles), the younger generations are more likely to be named Tiffany, Ashley and the like, while boys have the same names as their non-Persian classmates.

The entire time we lived in Teheran, I was called Shirley instead of Schelly. I gave up trying to correct everyone; it was just easier to accept it. Just this summer, I visited a Los Angeles cousin who learned for the first time that it was really Schelly. She was shocked when her kids said she’d been saying it wrong (forever!).

What’s in a name?

In Jewish tradition, it represents generations of family history. Think about who that person was named after, and the person who carried it before? Go back generations and generations and you’ll see the same names repeated. These patterns are very useful clues in researching old documents including the days before surnames were required.

However, there are always exceptions in families: my mother was named after a cigar and an actress (Muriel, although the Yiddish version was Mirrel) while a Canadian cousin was named after the family’s beloved dog. Really.

Looking forward to hearing your “name” stories in comments.