May is Jewish Heritage Month

Since 2006, May has been American Jewish Heritage Month, recognizing more than 350 years of Jewish contributions to American culture.

The Library of Congress offers a portal for activities and events surrounding this celebration.

Partners in this collaborative effort are The Library of Congress, National Archives and Records Administration, National Endowment for the Humanities, National Gallery of Art, National Park Service, and the US Holocaust Memorial Museum.

Click here for related exhibits and collection links.

Events  include:

May 4-26
First Person: Conversations with Holocaust Survivors
1pm, Tuesdays/Wednesdays, USHMM.

May 5
Keynote Address: Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) delivers the keynote address for the LOC’s celebration of Jewish American Heritage Month. LOC.

May 6
Lecture: “American Jews and the Myth of Silence after the Holocaust” 2010 Monna and Otto Weinman Annual Lecture. USHMM.

May 10
Book Talk: Author Robin Gerber, “Barbie and Ruth: The Story of the World’s Most Famous Doll and the Woman Who Created Her.” LOC.

May 13
Lecture: “Child’s Play: The Judaization of Adolescence in 20th-Century America,” by Jenna Weissman Joselit (Charles E. Smith Professor of Judaic Studies; George Washington University; former Distinguished Visiting Scholar, John W. Kluge Center, LOC), LOC.

May 14
Conversation: with Holocaust survivor Charles Stein, USHMM.

Other exhibits:

A Forgotten Suitcase: The Mantello Rescue Mission (USHMM). The story of George Mandel, a Hungarian Jewish businessman who befriended a Salvadoran diplomat, Colonel José Arturo Castellanos, in the years leading up to World War II. After Castellanos was named El Salvador’s Consul General in Geneva, he appointed Mandel, who had assumed a Spanish-sounding version of his last name, “Mantello,” to serve as the Consulate’s first secretary. Learn about this little-known story.

Jews in America (National Endowment for the Humanities)

Jewish Veterans of World War II

See the websites of the partner organizations for more events.

Washington DC: NARA Genealogy Fair, April 14-15

The Jewish Genealogical Society of Greater Washington will participate in the Sixth Genealogy Fair sponsored by the National Archives and Record Administration (NARA) on Wednesday-Thursday, April 14-15, in Washington DC.

Admission is free for the two full days of lectures and exhibits at the National Archives Research Center Lobby and Pennsylvania Avenue Plaza. National Archives Building, 700 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Washington DC. Enter on Pennsylvania Avenue.

For the full NARA Announcement, program schedule, directors and more, click here. For more information on the JGSGW, click here.

Speakers include historian at the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, Zack Wilske; professional genealogists Susannah Brooks, Elizabeth K. Kerstens, Marie V. Melchiori, and Thomas Shawker M.D.; and National Archives experts Patrick Connelly, Rebecca Crawford, Damani Davis, John Deeben, Claire P. Kluskens, Trevor Plante, Constance Potter, Mary Frances Ronan, Rebecca Sharp, Katherine Vollen, and Reginald Washington.

Guest exhibitors include the Library of Congress, Washington DC Family History Center, FamilySearch, Federation of Genealogical Societies, and local county genealogical societies.

Programs will run from 9:30am-4:30pm both days and will showcase the diversity of Federal records located at the National Archives as resources for family history research. Speakers include National Archives staff, historians, and genealogy professionals. The fair will provide information and guidance for experienced genealogy professionals and novices alike. The event is presented in partnership with the Foundation for the National Archives and with support from

Sessions include workshops on records relating to minority and ethnic groups including African Americans, Chinese, German, Irish, Japanese, Native Americans, and women, as well as a session on DNA genealogy testing, and an evening program on the new genealogy-based TV series “Who Do You Think You Are?”

National Archives staff will demonstrate how to use databases including the Archival Research Catalog (ARC) and Access to Archival Databases (AAD). Staff at the “Help! I’m Stuck” table will be available to assist researchers.

See the Complete schedule for Day 1 – Wednesday, April 14; and the Complete schedule for Day 2 – Thursday, April 15. View the condensed schedule for both days, showing session titles, times and locations. See the map of the fair, showing the locations of guest genealogy exhibitors, NARA genealogy exhibitors,and sessions.

Guest genealogy exhibitors include many archival, historical, libraries exhibitors, NGS, FGS, ethnic societies, and more – see the list at the link above.

Readers in the Washington DC area may be interested in other regional spring genealogy meets in addition to the NARA event:

April 10 – The Mid-Atlantic Germanic Society – Bowie, Maryland – brochure
April 10 – The Family History Institute of Southwest Virginia – Wytheville –
April 16-17, 2010 – The Virginia Genealogical Society 50th Anniversary Conference – Richmond – brochure

Like to plan ahead? The JGSGW will host the 2011 IAJGS International Conference on Jewish Genealogy at the Grand Hyatt Hotel (Washington, DC) from August 14-19, 2011.

Long Island: Exploring the 1940 census, Jan. 24

Explore the 1940 census with NARA’s Dorothy Dougherty, at the next meeting of the Jewish Genealogical Society of Long Island (New York) on Sunday, January 24.

The program begins at 2pm at the Mid-Island JCC, in Plainview.

The 1940 Census will be made publicly available in April 2012, and this workshop will prepare family historians by describing the genealogical information contained in this database.

This census was conducted during the Great Depression and the New Deal, on the brink of US involvement in World War II, and documents Americans during a time of national struggle.

Dorothy Dougherty is the public programs specialist for the National Archives’ Northeast Region branch in New York. Her responsibilities include public, education and outreach efforts.

Her NARA career has also included development, training and deployment of NARA’s online Archival Research Catalog, (ARC). And she has been a Manhattan research consultant, New York State Archives Records Manager, and a historical museum interpreter.

She holds a master’s degree in history with an archives certificate (CW Post, LIU, New York)

For directions and more information, view the JGSLI site.

National Archives: A kid in a candy store

When I was a kid, I always imagined heaven as being locked in a library. All those books just for me! I guess that archive, museum and library directors must feel the same way.

According to an article by Barbara Barrett on, the National Archives’ new director David Ferriero, 64, feels like a kid in a candy store.

Until recently, David Ferriero’s favorite artifact at the National Archives was the canceled $7.2 million check – “an actual check!” – that was used to purchase the territory of Alaska back in 1868.

But then two weeks ago, Ferriero, the archives’ new director, saw an old American Indian treaty buried in a secret vault. It was etched on parchment and festooned with ribbons and, he recalled, “a string of the most beautiful cobalt blue and white beads.”

“Wampum!” he exclaimed in a recent interview. “Have you ever seen wampum?”

By now, Ferriero probably has a new favorite item. For the nation’s 10th archivist, the former director of New York’s public libraries, the discoveries come daily.

In November 2009, he was sworn in as NARA director, in charge of the US collection of some 10 billion items in its treasure trove. He’s the first librarian to lead the archives.

Beyond the so-called Charters of Freedom, written by our Founding Fathers, the National Archives holds old legislative bills, early sketches of the Apollo moon lander and formerly classified details on the attempted U.S. cover-up of a downed U-2 spy plane in the Soviet Union. There are decades of slave ship manifests, military records and immigration logs treasured by genealogists.

From shelving books to associate libraries director at MIT, and from Duke University’s vice provost for libraries, he took the helm for New York City’s public library system.

Ferriero also is the consummate librarian, delighting in history while promoting openness in government. He tries to wander every day through the National Archives’ rotunda, home to the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, to marvel alongside the tourists.

Ferriero was recently asked if he had the backbone to take on the White House over public records. He responded that it just wasn’t the White House, but government in general and that he needs to make sure that each agency is doing what it is supposed to do regarding records.

It takes an experienced librarian to sort this out as the government has 2,000 systems for classifying documents. Ferriero is also in charge of the new National Declassification Center and has four years to work through 400 million pages of top secret federal documents dating to WWI.

Technology may be his greatest challenge as NARA finds a way to preserve electronic records and handle evolving technology.

Read the complete story at the link above. Read more about the National Archives.

Florida: Palm Beach, NARA records, Jan. 13

Join the jolly genealogists of the Jewish Genealogical Society of Palm Beach County at their next meeting, “digging for treasure in your pajamas,” on Wednesday, January 13, 2010.

Tracing the Tribe thinks they mean digging for treasure while wearing pajamas, not that there is buried treasure in your pj’s. Of course, Tracing the Tribe hasn’t seen your pj’s.

The day’s program features 11.30am SIG sessions (Belarus, Lithuania), 12.30pm brick wall session, 1pm business meeting and the main event, all at the South County Civic Center in Delray Beach.

Fee: members, free; others, $5. Dress: Bunny slippers optional (NOTE: This is Tracing the Tribe’s feeble attempt at a joke!).

The speaker is Rob Richards, National Archives Records Administration Archivist, from Atlanta, Georgia, whose complete topic is “Digging for Treasure in Your Pajamas – Searching NARA records with your personal computer.”

Until recently NARA records were only available on site at national or regional offices. NARA is now digitizing and placing online many genealogically important records.

The program will identify records at NARA and demonstrate how to search those records for specific information using your personal computer. It includes both a PowerPoint presentation and live Internet searches. The topic is suitable for beginners and experienced researchers.

Richards holds a BA in History (University of Nevada Las Vegas) and and MA in Library and Information Science (University of Illinois). He has been with the National Archives for seven years, with four in Denver before his move to Atlanta as senior archivist. He has given many workshops concerning NARA records, many on genealogical resources.

See the website for more information. Brick wall session questions may be submitted in advance. BusinessWeek spotlight

Genealogists and family historians know that genealogy is big business. We know what it costs us personally to pursue our passion – multiply that by thousands and hundreds of thousands of ancestry-oriented researchers!

It is obvious that the major release of’s Holocaust Collection was the impetus for Business Week‘s recent story in its Tech Beat column. Tracing the Tribe noted previously that the new release is accessible (at no charge) during October.

The Library of Congress has been aggressive in getting its assets online. Now the National Archives & Records Administration has partnerships with Google,, and to create and make available a growing part of its vast collection.

The most recent fruit of these efforts: A large collection of holocaust-related documents just made available through Footnote. Full access to Footnote’s data normally costs $11.95 a month or $79.95 a year, but the Holocaust collection is free for the month of October.

The magazine noted that this Footnote release is – after Bad Arolsen and Yad Vashem – the world’s third most significant collection of this period. Previously, the only way to access the records (from NARA and the US Holocaust Memorial Museum) was via a personal visit to NARA sites.

The article also mentions the Ardelia Hall component, which deals with Nazi looting of art and cultural treasures, as compiled by the US State Dept. Other elements include war crimes transcripts, concentration camp registers and more. Footnote offers researchers the ability to annotate items, add stories or photos.’s partnership with NARA means that fragile documents are now not only protected, provides expanded public global access and – most importantly – are now searchable.

The story did say that it was unfortunate that beginning in November, viewers will have to pay to see the images. NARA’s partnerships fund digitization projects which preserve records and offer global access. There is a cost to that technology, but NARA – and the public, I think – understand that the ability to share and access important resources, while protecting them for future generations, is also valuable.

For researchers based around the world, online document images are valuable. An on site personal visit to look at these documents costs much more than a subscription to, and anyone with a computer connection can access and search the collections.

Footnote’s major Holocaust collection, free access

One of the darkest times in world history is seen in the release of an important new digital Holocaust collection.

In a timely move – as some in today’s world continue to loudly deny that this tragedy ever took place –, the National Archives and the US Holocaust Memorial Museum have today released these original records and images.

For the first time online, view one million Holocaust-related records, millions of names, 26,000 photos, some 600 interactive survivor and victim accounts, concentration camp records, maps, timelines and more. [Photo at left above: Dachau gates.]

Jews around the world have just recalled our ancestors’ names and shared family history at gatherings and in synagogues during Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. This collection – released at such an important time in the Jewish year – will help preserve and share the history of an event that has touched nearly every Jewish family in the world, regardless of origin.

Most importantly, Footnote is providing completely free access to this collection throughout October.

View the collection here via a special microsite. Be patient if pages seem to load slowly, which will likely be due to the heavy traffic this collection is expected to generate. Also note that some indexing is still coming in, but everything is expected to be linked by Thursday, October 1, according to

Visitors will be able to create pages to highlight discoveries as they search for names and photos, add comments and stories, share insights. There is no charge to access and contribute to these personal pages.

This collection gives visitors a first-hand glimpse into the tragedy of the Holocaust, a “personal story not included in history text books,” according to CEO Russ Wilding. Additionally, these important records will become more widely accessible and help people now and in the future learn more about the Holocaust.

Here is a sample page of a Dachau concentration camp register (click to enlarge):

The collection includes:

– Concentration camp registers and documents from Dachau, Mauthausen, Auschwitz, and Flossenburg.

– The “Ardelia Hall Collection” of records relating to the Nazi looting of Jewish possessions, including looted art.Click here for more.

– Captured German records including deportation and death lists from concentration camps.

– Nuremberg War Crimes Trial proceedings’s special Holocaust site offers:

– Stories of Holocaust victims and survivors.

– Place where visitors can create their own pages to memorialize their Holocaust ancestors.

– Pages on the concentration camps – includes descriptions, photos, maps, timelines and accounts from those who survived the camps.

– Descriptions and samples of the original records from the National Archives.

If you have not yet accessed – a subscription site – free access to this Holocaust Collection will enable readers to become personally familiar with its rich resources.