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.

Southern California: Mad mapper Ron Arons, Feb. 1

Genealogy’s mad mapper Ron Arons will present his popular mapping program at the Jewish Genealogical Society of the Conejo Valley (JGSCV), on Monday, February 1.

“Mapping Madness” begins at 7pm, at Temple Adat Elohim, Thousand Oaks. Note that this is a different day of week and time.

Learn how to use Internet-based on-line mapping techniques including maps, tracking and detecting showing how to find anyone, anywhere, anyhow. Technology is the genealogist’s friend, and Ron is a great teacher of imparting new ways to utilize important resources.

He’ll review the basics of Google and Microsoft’s internet-based mapping facilities,, and, and then introduce more advanced functionality. Ron will also discuss less traditional facilities provided my, Microsoft’s MapCruncher, IBM’s Many Eyes.

Things change constantly on the Internet and Ron is up-to-the-minute with new resources and will discuss them during his presentation.

Ron wrote a very helpful article on maps for genealogists in Roots-Key (Fall-Winter Vol. 29, Issue 3-4) of the JGS of Los Angeles. It is reprinted in the most recent issue of the JGSVC (February 2010, Vol. 5, Issue 5, pages 4-6).

The Internet has plenty of records to keep even the most advanced researcher busy for many years to come. But the Net offers so much more, including historical maps and a variety of online mapping tools that will enrich a genealogist’s knowledge of his / her ancestors and current relatives. Historical maps allow one to see where a person lived and what the conditions in the neighborhood were like. By simple extrapolation, one can estimate what the physical setting and environment of that other person’s life was like.

Maps can be used to track migration patterns of family members or show where any / all of your relatives live currently or where they had lived anytime in the past. Beyond the maps themselves, mapping tools can be tied to photographs and even combined with them as we’ll see with Microsoft’s MapCruncher facility. Other interesting online mapping tools / sites include IBM’s Many Eyes website,, and a variety of tools from behemoth Google.

[NOTE: Ron’s article has many tips and resources for those interested in learning how maps can help researchers. Tracing the Tribe recommends reading it, particularly for those readers who cannot hear Ron in person. To read the complete article, click here and use the bottom links to go to Newsletters. ]

A JGSCV founding member and a nationally known genealogy speaker, Ron began researching his roots some 12 years ago. He wrote a 2008 book, “The Jews of Sing Sing,” and appeared on the PBS series, “The Jewish Americans.”

Ron holds a BS (Engineering) from Princeton and an MBA from the University of Chicago.

The meeting is free and open to the public. For directions and more information, click here.

Jerusalem: Mount of Olives now online

The world’s oldest Jewish cemetery just went online, according to the Jerusalem Post.

More than 20,000 gravestones have already been documented, but there are some 200,000-300,000 in the cemetery. There’s a lot still to do.

Mount of Olives burials go back some 3,000 years, to the First and Second Temple periods, and continues today. From 1948-1967, when Jordanians were in charge of the area, there was severe destruction, including broken and destroyed tombstones, with others used to pave floors in Jordanian army camps. During that era, a road was paved south from the top of the mountain. The road to Jericho was widened. All of this took place on top of the graves.

Following the Six Day War, the cemetery was slowly restored. Until now, however, there has been no major effort to map and record graves or to decipher and restore names on the tombstones.

Workers identify the graves and locate them on the map. The website allows global viewers to zoom in on an aerial photo and see a photo of each grave. Each name listed shows available information and a photograph, while users can upload additional data and photos about their loved ones and others who are buried there.

Those planning a visit can also create (and print) a map and route of graves to visit.

Read the story here, about the website, which is available in English, Hebrew and Russian.

Tracing the Tribe’s experience with the database:

Search the database with only one letter. I searched for D (Dardashti) and for T (Talalay/Talalai) and J/I (Jassen/Iasin), but none were listed yet, although I know some who are buried there. I’m sure they will be listed eventually. Using the first letter or the first two letters of the surname produces a drop-down list of possibilities. However, if you put in the first three letters of a surname, there is no drop-down list. However, the list appears if you put in the first three letters of a given name.

Doing a search for COHEN, I found COHEN YAZDI. I clicked on the results and found the grave of Lea Cohen Yazdi who died March 27, 1944. On the map I could zoom to the specific grave. Here’s a portion of the map that showed (the red dot is the grave):

I clicked on Grave Details and saw this:

This was interesting as the burial society was listed as Spanish, yet the surname of YAZDI indicates a Persian origin.

Here is the actual gravestone photo, after using Snag-It and adjusting brightness and contrast.

According to the news story:

A new project undertaken by the City of David archeological Park, located south of Jerusalem’s Old City and at the foot of the Mount of Olives cemetery, has begun the process of identifying and documenting tombstones throughout the entirety of the Mount of Olives and uploading the data to the Web.

Tens of thousands of graves on the mount have already been mapped and incorporated into a database, in the first-ever attempt to restore the graves and record the history of those who were buried there. The project includes the creation of a Web site ( ) that aims to raise awareness of the City of David and to honor the memory of those buried in the cemetery, as well as to inform about the tours and activities available.

Additionally, the Web site tells stories of the people buried in the cemetery and, through a simple search window, one can locate the documented graves by name.

The project’s public relations director Udi Ragones hopes the web site will give people around the world an opportunity to clear the dust from generations of their loved ones’ graves. The project is fascinating from both personal and historical perspectives.

Read the complete story here.