Illinois: Midwest Jewish Genealogy Conference, June 6

The Jewish Genealogical Society of Illinois has organized a one-day Jewish genealogy conference, “From the Shtetl to the 21st Century,” on Sunday, June 6, in Skokie.

The full-day event features experienced instructors on topics to expand knowledge of genealogical resources, including a two-part Beginners’ Workshop. Five time slots each feature three concurrent programs.

This event can also be considered a great lead-in and preparation for the main event of the Jewish genealogy year, the 30th IAJGS International Conference on Jewish Genealogy – JGSLA 2010 – which runs from July 11-16, in Los Angeles.

Speakers at the Illinois event include Ron Arons (keynote speaker), Judith R. Frazin, Harriet Rudnit, Abby and Bill Schmelling, Ralph Beaudion, Leslye Hess, Robin Seidenberg, Irwin Lapping, Alvin Holtzman, Louisa Nicotera, Everett L. Butler and Mike Karsen.

Topics include: Beginners’ Genealogy Workshop, Using the Internet to Research Your Family History, Travel to Your Ancestral Shtetl, Find That Obituary Online, Holocaust Research in Libraries and Internet, Polish Translation Guide, Mining for Gold: Online Newspapers, Waldheim Cemetery, Basics of DNA Testing, Mapping Techniques, Cook County Genealogy Online, Genealogy Research Reasoning, Write Your Family History Now, Ask the Experts.

Before May 15, fees are: Members (of any Jewish Genealogical Society), $45; others, $50, Conference plus JGSI membership (new member only), $70. After May 15, each category increases by $10.

Download an event brochure, and find more program details, at the JGSIllinois website.

Los Angeles: Changing Eastern European Borders, April 26

To understand in detail where our ancestors lived requires knowledge of the changing borders of Eastern Europe.

If you’re in or near Los Angeles, try to attend the next Jewish Genealogical Society of Los Angeles’ meeting tomorrow (Monday, April 26), which will focus on “The Changing Borders of Eastern Europe,” presented by Hal Bookbinder.

The program begins at 7.30pm at Tracing the Tribe’s former home synagogue – Valley Beth Shalom – in Encino.

I’ve seen Hal’s border changes presentation several times. It is excellent and puts everything into perspective. Researchers are likely to learn details that they never knew before. At left, compare only two screens for 1914 and 1937 to see some very major differences.

While the towns didn’t move, the borders moved around them. My grandfather, born in Suchostaw (Galicia->Poland>Ukraine), used to say that he never knew where they were living until they heard how the teacher said good morning to the class.

Some towns have been in several countries, and this impacts archives and extant records, depending on  which government was in charge when. Border changes – country changes – also impacted the lives of our ancestors and knowing about those changes also helps. Changes impacted the languages in which records were kept, where the records may be found, migration patterns and more.

Hal uses his own ancestral town of Dubno as an example of these changes.

A past president of the IAJGS and a current JGSLA board member, he’s been researching his family for more than two decades, has traced two lines to the mid-18th century and identified more than 3,000 relatives.  He’s written several Jewish genealogy articles and contributed to several books. In his professional life, he directs computing for UCLA Healthcare and teaches university-level Information Technology.

Fee: JGSLA members, free; others, $5. The group’s traveling library will be available at 7pm.

For more information, visit the JGSLA website.

New York: Gesher Galicia spring event, April 18

The Gesher Galicia Spring regional meeting is set for Sunday, April 18, at the Center for Jewish History, 15 W. 16th Street, New York City.

The two-part program begins at 11am.

Part 1: Update on the Cadastral Map and Landowner Records Project, with Gesher Galicia president and research coordinator Pamela Weisberger.

Cadastral land records and property maps are an excellent source of family history information. Studied together, they can show the exact location where a family lived in a shtetl. They can tell the story of neighbors or siblings who resided near each other and demonstrate how close a family lived to the synagogue, cemetery, schools, or the market square. Using house numbers gleaned from vital records, a connection can be made between these physical locations and the genealogical data. Landowner taxation books show the size and value of the properties that Jewish families owned or rented, adding greatly to the history of a family. These records are invaluable when other metrical records are not available, and in some cases they may be the only documented evidence relating to your ancestors.

Examples of maps and records from Phase 4 of the project will be shown and discussed, along with examples from a 1765 Polish magnate “census” book showing the Jewish residents of Grzymalow and the first appearance of Jewish surnames as derived from the occupations of the Jews who lived on the estate grounds. The next phase of the project (June 2010) will be detailed along with the return of the Lviv Street and House Photography Project in July 2010.

2. A Galician Childhood Recounted – The True Story of Feige Hollenberg-Connors Feige, who was born in Korolowka in 1933.

In addition to a house on the market square, her family had farmland outside of town, inherited from her Rosenstock grandfather. She led an idyllic childhood until war broke out and her family had to go into hiding. Hear her first-hand account of what it was like to grow up in this shtetl, until at age 14 she was hidden by a Ukrainian family that later betrayed her, escaped from the ghetto andlabor camp, and survived in the forest until the war’s end.

Feige returned to Korolowka last summer with cave explorer Chris Nicola, who will be on hand to add a coda to her story involving his discovery of “Priests Grotto” the seven-mile long cave where 38 Jews from the town hid until the war was over, and his tenacious path to both discover the identities of those who survived the horrors of war and to successfully reunite them.

There is actually a Part 3 to this program. After lunch, the JGS of New York will meet with speaker Roma Baran to hear her story of rediscoveringher family’s true identities.

A JGSLA 2010 preview will also be offered.

The meeting is free to all. Invite anyone who might be interested. Click here for directions.

Boston: Maps and Mapping Tools, March 14

Web-based maps and mapping tools are the focus of the next meeting of the Jewish Genealogical Society of Greater Boston on Sunday, March 14.

The program with Ron Arons and Jay Sage begins at 1:30 pm at Temple Emanuel, Newton Centre.

Ron will discuss websites that provide a broad range of historical maps.

He’ll demonstrate basic and advanced features of internet-based mapping facilities developed by Google ( and Microsoft (, as well as lesser known mapping facilities provided by, Microsoft’s MapCruncher, and IBM’s Many Eyes.

Jay will feature Google Earth – the web-based software and data that provide an amazing high-resolution three-dimensional model of the earth, based on satellite and aerial photographs – and explain how it can be used to map one’s family history or to make virtual visits to places where family events took place.

Ron has spoken at several international conferences on a variety of genealogy topics. He appeared in the PBS TV series, “The Jewish Americans,” to discuss Jewish criminals of New York’s Lower East Side and his book, “The Jews of Sing Sing,” appeared in 2008.

Former JGSGB president, Jay is current co-editor of the Society’s journal and has given lectures at international and local conferences.

Fee: JGSGB members, free; others, $5.

For more details, click here.

Maryland: Snowmageddon mapping madness, Feb. 17

Are you considering using a dog sled team or cross-country skis to get around these days in Maryland?

Perhaps the white stuff will melt enough for you to attend this mapping madness program with Ron Arons, at a meeting of the Jewish Genealogical Society of Greater Washington, on Wednesday, February 17.

The event begins at 8pm, in the Tikvat Israel Synagogue sanctuary, 2200 Baltimore Road, Rockville.

“How to find anyone, anywhere, anyhow by using the latest in online mappnig, tracking and detecting techniques,” is the title of Ron Aron’s program. Ron’s a New York native who lives in San Francisco.

The program includes the basics of Google and Microsoft’s net-based mapping sites –,, and more advanced functionality, as well as other useful tools as, Microsoft’s MapCruncher, IBM’s Many Eyes and more.

Things change so quickly in this field and Ron keeps up-to-date with all the new innovations.

He is the author of “Jews of Sing Sing” and his new book, “Wanted! US Criminal Records.” Since losing both his parents nearly two decades ago, he became interested in understanding his roots, and has traced his families to England, Poland, Romania, Ukraine, Belarus and Lithuania. For more about Ron, see his website.

He’s a frequent speaker at many genealogy societies and conferences.

Fee: JGSGW members, free; others, $5.

For more details, click here.