Wanted: Tracing criminal records

Ron Arons was surprised to learn that his great-grandfather had done time in Sing Sing Prison.

Maybe there’s more to your own family history than you know! Search the Sing Sing Jewish Inmate Database for what might surprise you.

His first book, “The Jews of Sing Sing,” was a resounding success, and his new book, “Wanted! US Criminal Records,” should be just as successful.

The 380-page book covers 50 states and the District of Columbia, federal records (state by state), where to find prison records, parole, execution, a short primer on considerations for criminal research. Ron’s years of experience have certainly contributed to this new field of genealogy.

While Ron says the price ($49.99) might shock some people, he believes that if he can save anyone even one hour in their search for information, the price is justified. “I think I can save people hours and hours of time,” he added, during a phone call when we discussed the new book.

The book should be of interest to professional genealogists, libraries, social sciences, true crime, mystery writers – in short, anyone who wants to research criminals for many reasons.

“Wanted! U.S. Criminal Records Sources & Research Methodology” seems to be a one-step reference for information sources about criminals from America’s past.

It lists archives, libraries, courts and online sites containing numerous sets of criminal information, such as prison records, criminal court records, parole records, pardon records, execution information and more. There are also examples of documents in repositories and how to conduct genealogical research on criminals.

The new book is for sale on his website. Go to STORE and scroll down to the book ($49.99, including $5 S&H, but not taxes).

Ron will also be speaking at various venues across the country, such as Jamboree 2010.

In March, he’ll appear March 15 at the New England Historic Genealogical Society (NEHGS) in Boston and March 16 at the New York Public Library (NYPL). See his website for his current list of appearances.

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New York: Jews of Spain conference, Dec. 5-7

The historic link between Spain and the Jewish people will be explored at an international conference – “The Jews of Spain: Past and Present” – set for December 5-7, organized by the American Sephardi Federation/Sephardic House.

The event, at New York City’s Center for Jewish History, will bring together experts and scholars from the US, Canada and Israel, with the participation of senior Spanish government officials.

Renowned as both the historic birthplace of Sephardic culture, Spain was also the site of dark moments in Jewish history.addressing both the triumphs and travails of the Sephardic Jewish legacy in Spain.

The event is being organized by ASF with the assistance of the Consulate General of Spain in New York.

Saturday night’s opening will feature a gala concert and dessert reception with Spain’s Paco Díez, showcasing his voice, guitar, hurdy-gurdy, bagpipes, percussion and folk traditions from diverse regions in Spain.

The program covers contributions of Jews to Spain through scholarship, culture, the tragic medieval period, and contemporary issues.

Speakers include:

From Insiders to Outcasts: A History of the Jews in Spain – Prof. Jane S. Gerber (CUNY)

Yehuda Halevi, Poet and Pilgrim – Prof. Raymond P. Scheindlin (JTS)

The Challenge of Philosopy on Religious Thought: The World of Moses Maimonides – Dr. Albert L. Ivry (NYU)

Jewish Thought: The Mystical Traditions – Prof. Elliot Wolfson (NYU)

The Reconquista: Jews and the New Realities of Christian Spain – Prof. Jonathan S. Ray (Georgetown University)

The Unknown Jewish Artists of Spain – Dr. Vivan Mann (JTS)

Jews and the City in Medieval Spain – Prof. Eleazar Gutwirth (Tel Aviv University)

The Inquisition/The Expulsion of 1492 and Don Isaac Abravanel – Prof. Eric Lawee (York University)

Spain and the Jews Today – Enrique Mugica Herzog (ombudsman, Spain)

The Jewish Communities in Contemporary Spain – Jacobo Israel (president, Federation of Jewish Communities in Spain)

The Sephardic Heritage as a Living Part of Spanish Culture – Diego de Ojeda (director general, Casa Sefarad/Israel, Madir) and Assumpcio Hosta Rebes (secretary general, Red de Juderias, Girona)

A book will be published on the conference topics, documenting Sephardic heritage’s deep roots in Spain. Translated into Spanish, it will be distributed throughout Spain to universities, libraries and other centers.

Tickets are daily attendance or a Sunday-Monday package ($95, with a discount for ASF members/NextGen members for $75). Fee includes a kosher buffet lunch each day. The Saturday night program is $35/$25, for concert and dessert reception. Reservation deadline is November 30.

The program is funded by the Edmond J. Safra Philanthropic Foundation. Other participating organizations are Casa Sefarad/Israel (Madrid); Red de Juderias (Girona), the Instituto Cervantes (New York) and The Catalan Center (NYU).

ASF/SH is committed to promoting this program to a wider Jewish and non-Jewish audience to enrich public knowledge about the Sephardic Jewish experience.

ASF has a library and archives exclusively devoted to Sephardic/Mizrahi topics and authors – the only one in the western hemisphere open to the public. Its mission is to collect, preserve and provide access to resources for the study of Jews tracing their ancestry to the Iberian Peninsula, North Africa, the Middle East, the Balkans and the Orient. Click for the Online Catalog.

“The Jews of Spain: Past and Present” is a year-long ASF initiative. Other components include:

Exhibition: “Jerusalem and the Jews of Spain: Longing and Reality.” Free and open to the public through May 2010.

Film Festival: The Sephardic Jewish Film Festival (February 4-11, 2010, New York) will feature selected films on Spain.

Lecture Series: Such topics as “Maimonides, Spinoza and Us;” “Daughters of Sara, Mothers of Israel;” and “The Jewish Presence in Contemporary Catalan Literature.”

See the ASF site link above for much more information.

Boston: Prof. Zvi Gitelman, Nov. 12 and 15

Judaic Studies scholar Professor Zvi Gitelman will give two lectures at the Third Lecture Series co-sponsored by Hebrew College and the Jewish Genealogical Society of Greater Boston.

Prof. Zvi Gitelman will give two lectures on Jewish Genealogy and History

On November 12, Prof. Gitelman will speak on “Culture Wars: Litvaks vs Galizianers in Eastern Europe,” at 8pm at Temple Emanuel, Newton.

The program focuses on the cultural chasm – sometimes comic, sometimes tense – between the two main streams of Yiddishkeit. Eastern Europe, home to 80% of American Jews, was an area of diverse religious practices, political ideologies, Yiddish pronunciation, foods, customs, and dress. Some of this diversity carried over to America, but it has faded in the post-immigrant generations. This talk will explore the differences among Eastern European Jews and the stereotypes to which they gave rise, illustrating the richness and vitality of a civilization that continues to inform Jewish life in Europe, the Americas and Israel.

On November 15, his second talk is titled “A century of ambivalence: Jews, Soviets and Russians,” at 3.30pm at Hebrew College, Newton.

His talk will address the complex and uneasy relationship among Jews, Soviets and Russians. In 1900, 5.2 million Jews lived in the Soviet Empire; today, they number about 500,000. On the one hand, Russian Jewry experienced pogroms, two World Wars, two revolutions, purges, Communism, the Holocaust and Stalin’s anti-Semitism over the course of a century or more. On the other hand, Russian Jewry experienced unprecedented social, political and vocational mobility.

Gitelman is the Tisch Professor of Judaic Studies and Professor of Political Science at the University of Michigan. He served as Director of the Frankel Center for Judaic Studies and Director of the Center for Russian and East European Studies at the University. He is the author of “Ethnicity or Religion? The Evolution of Jewish Identities” and “A Century of Ambivalence: The Jews of Russia and the Soviet Union since 1881,” and numerous other books.

Both programs are free. Space is limited for the November 15 program, and advance registration is required. Register online or call 617-559-8622.

An intensive nine-session course (Monday evenings) on how to research Jewish family history begins at Hebrew College on February 8, 2010. For more information, click here. It is taught by experienced genealogists from the Jewish Genealogical Society of Greater Boston.

Both the lectures and the course are made possible by a generous grant from Harvey Krueger of New York.