Vienna: Searching JASSNIGER

At the Bendigo Famiy History Expo, attendee Margaret Brown told me about her JASSNIGER relatives from Vienna, and even went home to bring me the birth and death certificates.

Click on each image to see them better. Each holds detailed information on various individuas, including maiden names of mother and grandmother, etc.

If you are researching Margaret’s father’s rare name, let me know and I’ll put you in touch with her. Some dozen burials are in Vienna; she knows there was a US branch but has not yet checked for it.

Australia: Bendigo family history expo

On Sunday, we drove up to Gold Rush country for the Bendigo Family History Expo, visited the famous Hanging Rock, saw my first wallaby, and saw the view from Mt. Macedon (left).

The easy ride from Melbourne went through gently rolling green hills, populated by cows, sheep and horses. There were many wineries, historic towns and mineral springs along the way, but no time, unfortunately, to stop and smell the grapes!

At the expo, there were some 60 experts, local groups and societies filling a large hall at the Bendigo Leisure Center (community center, in the US), but there were no classes or workshops as is usual at similar US events There was a steady stream of visitors all day.

Within 15 minutes of putting up two signs (Jewish Research and, and starting a MyHeritage overview looping powerpoint presentation, several people had come over to ask questions about both.

Questions included where to find more information about the families SIMEON (Liverpool, UK) and ISRAELOWITZ (Melbourne), while others shared information about postcards from Israel (pre-state)brought back by fathers and grandfathers who had served in the British and Australian armies.

I learned about Jews who had settled in Avoca, a small area community, and met a man who carried his 13,000-name family tree on his iPhone (using Reunion software).

One young woman stopped by to ask about her great-grandparents named ENGLANDER and MOVRIN (both from Germany). I offered various websites for her to access.

Margaret Brown told me about her JASSNIGER relatives from Vienna (see separate post).

Unfortunately, there was no Internet access at the expo or I could have helped more people directly.

As people came up and asked questions, I wrote down websites for them to access at home, including JewishGen and its many components, Ancestry and others. All public libraries in Victoria carry the Ancestry Library Edition, making it easier for researchers.

Here’s my first in-person long-distance wallaby (left). A mob of them were eating grass at the Hanging Rock racecourse.

Melbourne Conference: Writing Ancestral Stories

Following Ambassador Yuval Rotem’s family history journey, Australian author Arnold Zable discussed techniques involved in writing family stories.

His own family is from Bialystok; his books and stories reflect those roots.

At the heart of good writing, he said, is imagination. He clarified this by focusing on the meaning of “image,” and the process of creating and seeing the image – of a place.

“If you can ‘see’ it, you can write it,” he said. Walking the streets of that place, talking to people who came from there – all adds to the “image.” Newspapers of the time provide more material and photographs. “If I can’t ‘see’ it,” he said, “I know more research is needed.”

He described a Melbourne place called Cafe Scheherezade, named for the woman who told 1,001 stories. Zable said the place was once – it no longer exists – filled by people, each of whom could tell their own stories – just as many and just as well.

He discussed the scenes that Ambassador Rotem used in his own family history journey, describing vignettes and memoirs, all of which provide missing links in an ancestral chain, and help to explain the mystery of those missing links.

Zable advised researchers to look for their ancestry, to find where they come from and to share their stories.

Mellbourne Conference: Day Two

Although it rained heavily all night, the morning was bright and sunny. Conference sessions began at 8.30am.

I’ve known Bubbles Segall (right) for many years. She lived in a remote area of Australia for some three decades and recently moved to Melbourne. Her excellent program on “Writing Family Newsletters” inspired several attendees to begin such a venture. (See a separate Tracing the Tribe post on her presentation)

Other concurrent sessions were Czech research and beginning genealogy.

The second plenary session featured three archivists from local and national archives: Kim Burrell (National Australian Archives), Anne Burrows (State Library of Victoria) and James McKinnon (Public Records Office of Victoria). Each provided information on what the institutions hold and what researchers might find. Tomorrow (Tuesday), we will tour both the NAA and the SLV.

The most moving session was with Israeli Ambassador Yuval Rotem (Frenkel), who described his family history search (see separate Tracing the Tribe post), which all began with his son working on a family tree project, and Australian author Arnold Zable who spoke on “Writing Our Ancestral Stories.”

Following lunch, there were concurrent sessions of the Israel SIG (with Sallyann Amdur Sack-Pikus, Ziva Fain and myself), “Caring for Your Family Records” (Shauna Hicks) and “Jewish Naming Traditions” (Lionel Sharpe).

At a combined session, Sallyann presented “Resources for Holocaust Research,” covering resources at Yad Vashem, USHMM and ITC-Bad Arolsen.

An “Ask the Experts” closed the second day with some good audience questions on dating photographs, Austrian military uniforms and more.

On Tuesday, we’re off to visit archives and libraries.

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.

Melbourne: Shabbat down under

The weather report indicated possible showers today, and the heavens have really opened up, with thunder, rain and hail. Glad I’m inside today!

After nearly two weeks of travel, jet lag has finally hit.

This past week was spent kicking back, frequently napping and getting the travel fuzz out of my brain.

My hosts, Ziva and Sam Fain, couldn’t be nicer, and their two pooches are wonderful.

Last night, for Shabbat dinner, I cooked up a Persian Shabbat meal of abgusht, gonde, khoresht-e-lubia sabz, rice and golden tahdiq. None of the guests had ever eaten Persian food before and it seems this was a big hit.

For readers unfamiliar with the cuisine: abgusht is a chicken soup flavored with handfuls of mint and parsley, carrots, parsnips, onion and lots more. Gonde are meatballs of ground chicken, grated onion, roasted chickpea flour, cardamom, turmeric, pepper and salt, cooked in the soup.

Khoreshts are stews with meat and vegetables and/or herbs. Lubia sabz are green beans. This particular dish uses very lean stew meat, sauteed fresh green beans, lots of carmelized onion, crushed tomatoes, whole tomatoes, lime juice and cinnamon. Shirazi salad – finely diced tomato, cucumber, red onion dressed in lime juice, salt, pepper, and a little olive oil – was also on the table.

Ziva has a beautiful herb garden, and there is nothing like the taste of fresh-picked herbs (two kinds of mint, flat-leaf parsley, basil, oregano and more). It really made a difference. She also has a small vegetable garden, and a big fig tree in her front garden.

Dessert included watermelon and cantalope slices, strawberries and blueberries.

This week, we visited the new Holocaust museum that is just opening – school groups are already going through it. I met many of the volunteers, and some of the JGS people, including Lionel Sharpe, on our quick visit.

The conference starts tomorrow, so I’m trying to kick back and go over materials.

I’ve connected with my long-lost cousins from Bobruisk who have lived in Melbourne for quite some time – they are still in shock over my phone call and one of the brothers and his family live only a few blocks from my hosts! They are Katsnelson and their mother was a Talalay. We will spend one day next week together. Another day will be spent with Bene Israel friends from India, who have lived here for many years.

On Sunday, March 14, the plan is to be in a place called Kangaroo Flat for the Bendigo Family History Expo. My hosts are planning a visit down to Phillips Island to see the penguins (I love penguins). Sydney is also on the list as I will be seeing my cousins, Bob and Di Conley.

Stay tuned for the conference first day report!

Australia: Jewish genealogy conference, March 7-9

The weather in Melbourne couldn’t be better, sunny and breezy. Tracing the Tribe is blogging away and getting ready to speak at the second Australian National Conference on Jewish Genealogy, March 7-9.

The Australian Jewish News reported on the conference in a story on February 22.

The story focused on Israeli Ambassador Yuval Rotem who will also speak at the conference and describe his search for long-lost relatives in Australia.

Rotem, 50, was posted to Canberra in 2007; he spoke at the first conference in 2008, which the Australian Jewish Genealogical Society held in that city. The embassy hosted a reception for attendees at the conference.

Lionel Sharpe, secretary of the Australian Jewish Genealogical Society (Victoria) said in the story that the conference theme is “Our Jewish Roots,” and that it will look at ways that genealogists – from beginners to experts – can use today’s resources most effectively.

One important point that Lionel stressed is that there are so many new sites appearing and more archives are becoming accessible. Many experienced genealogists did a lot of work decades ago and couldn’t find anything then, but they are not aware of the new sources.

He says that the conference will recommend that researchers start looking again, but through different glasses.

Dr. Sallyann Amdur Sack-Pikus and myself are among the international speakers.

Other speakers include:

Writer-lecturer Arnold Zable (media as a resource for finding family); researcher Krystyna Duszniak (locating relatives in Poland); journalist-filmmaker Daniela Torsh (genealogy in the Czech Republic and Austria); Holocaust researcher Jenni Buch (Belarus); and Gary Luke (Australian Jewish colonial period.

Tracing the Tribe is very excited to be here and to take part in this event.