Florida: ‘Googling Goodies for Genealogists,’ April 25

“Googling Goodies for Genealogists” will be presented by Paul L. Enchelmayer at the next meeting of the  Jewish Genealogical Society of Broward County (Ft. Lauderdale, Florida), in conjunction with Nova Southeastern University (NSU), on Sunday, April 25.

The free program begins at 1pm at NSU’s Alvin Sherman Library, 3100 Ray Ferrero Jr. Blvd, Davie.

Enchelmayer has spoken to nearly two dozen societies and clubs, presenting programs to help others learn how technology can aid in family history projects.

He is chair of the Genealogy Group, University Club, Winter Park; past president and current webmaster, Central Florida Genealogical Society, Orange County; member and webmaster, Florida State Genealogical Society’s Speakers Bureau; member, National Genealogical Society; and member, Hamilton County Genealogical Society, Cincinnati, Ohio.

Seating is limited, pre-registration required, so click here to let them know you’re coming.

For more information, click on the JGSBC site, or send an email. A link on the JGSBC site will lead to the library site, with a map and directions.

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 MyHeritage.com), 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.

America’s WDYTYA: Tree or shrub?

Tracing the Tribe assumes the television reviewer at the New York Times simply doesn’t understand genealogy and the passion it creates in many of us.

Neil Genzlinger’s review seemed sarcastic with twinges of jealousy toward those with what he considers “interesting” family histories.

It appeared his only contact with genealogy was a quick family tree demo that Ancestry.com built for him. It’s easy to see that he perhaps just didn’t get it, although he did say that he could understand how people could spend hours on some gen sites, as he did, after seeing that demo.

Genzlinger called today’s mass of genealogists and family history fans “a happy cult.” We tend to be happy, of course, when we discover new information, although “cult” seems the wrong word. It carries the meaning of “brainwashed” to the extent that such individuals cannot see clearly.

I think that the millions of researchers think clearly, and can handle the expected and unexpected, the unusual and mundane, the simple everyday facts of life, warts and all.

We know there are no Indian princesses and few royals, that our names were not changed at Ellis Island, and we are not only interested in names and dates, but in the people who bore those names and lived in those historical times.

I’m not sure if he is being sarcastic when he writes about the “raised expectations” that the show might trigger among viewers. Genzlinger also writes that “other shows have also worked the gimmick, both in the United States and abroad.”

Gimmick? A show that encourages interest in our roots and our families is a gimmick? Providing resources and raising awareness of the possibilities to find information on our families is a “gimmick”?

Does he really think that only Lisa Kudrow had families exterminated by the Einzatsgruppen in Belarus, as my entire ancestral shtetl of Vorotinshtina also experienced (except for a handful of people away on business or at school that day)? Does he realize that 90% or more of Belarus’ rural Jews were murdered during the same period? And that was just one geographic area.

He does detail in a few words the focus of each episode, and writes “But all are fascinating, and that’s the problem.”

Some of us may take the genealogical plunge expecting cool family stories like the ones the celebrities get, only to find that we’ve been ordinary and uninteresting since we were living in caves.

I think the reviewer missed the point.

Genealogists and family history researchers are happy to find any information on our families. While confirming or uncovering exotic or unexpected family stories are nice achievements, I don’t think most of us go looking for these. We are merely searching and tracing our ancestors through whatever means are available. No matter what we find is valuable and we still do our “happy dances” when we find something unexpected or long sought-after.

WDYTYA helps its viewing audience by illustrating the fact that information does exist, that all is not lost, that there is assistance and expert knowledge out there – although viewers may have to dig for it.

To say that viewers will only identify with the celebs isn’t giving the viewing public enough credit.

Tracing the Tribe only wants that special permit that the celeb gets, when he or she finds a parking spot every time right in front of archives and libraries, and no lines at the desk when they enter the building.

While many people have romantic histories, the majority of us have ancestors who lived ordinary lives, and all we are doing is to try and understand them, how and where they lived, while preserving and transmitting this information to the younger generations.

So what, if – as the reviewer writes – “you may find that everyone you’re related to was nothing but a drone in the vast hive of humanity, living unremarkably and dying unexceptionally, just as you probably will.”

Tracing the Tribe doesn’t think, as the reviewer writes, we need a companion site called fakeancestry.com to supply us with cattle-rustlers, horse thieves or other black-sheep types. The mere fact that we had ancestors who were brave enough to pick themselves up and take dangerous journeys to different countries and manage to survive – or not – is enough for most of us. Could we do what our ancestors did?

I often think of my great-grandmother Riva Bank Talalay, who shlepped across several countries, carrying a 5-month-old infant and a 2-year-old toddler, a samovar, a schissel, feather beds and more, hiding in churches during pogroms hoping her baby wouldn’t cry and be smothered by other Jewish refugees also hiding in the building. She led a very ordinary life, but her courage, bravery and strength in doing what she had to do was spectacular.

Every family has a story. I don’t think we need to “swap ancestors” to liven things up.

Getzlinger interviewed Kudrow:

Genealogy, she counseled, isn’t just about looking for ancestors who were historically noteworthy; the most remarkable fact of history is simply survival, through mass migrations and economic depressions and flu epidemics and so on. Several of the stars in “Who Do You Think You Are?” seem genuinely humbled by how close they came to never existing.

“To me that’s what this show is about,” Ms. Kudrow said, “that all of us are here because the people before us endured something extraordinary.”

Tracing the Tribe’s sentiments exactly.

Read the entire review at the link above.

Today in Jewish history: March 6

Interesting things happen every day, and to keep up with interesting Jewish history, try “This Day in Jewish History.”

On this day in history:

1239: With the Edict of Valencia, Spanish King James I validated privileges of the Jews of Aragon. The Jewish courts (bet din) were authorized to try all cases except capital offenses.

1475: Birth date of famed Italian artist Michelangelo Buonarroti. Say Michelangelo to most people and they respond, Sistine Chapel ceiling. Say his name to Jews and the response is “Moses.” “Moses” is a marble sculpture which depicts the greater Jewish leader. Originally intended for the tomb of Pope Julius II in St. Peter’s Basilica it was placed in the minor church of San Pietro in Vincoli on the Esquiline in Rome after the pope’s death. The statue depicts Moses with horns on his head. This is believed to be because of the mistranslation of Exodus 34:29-35 by St Jerome. Moses is actually described as having “rays of light” coming from his head, which Jerome in the Vulgate had translated as “horns.” This horned Moses provided further proof that the Jews were, as the Gospel says, “the Devil’s spawn.”

1815: With the defeat of Napoleon, new restrictions were imposed on the Jews all over Europe.

1816: The Jews were expelled from the Free City of Lubeck, Germany at the instance of the local guilds. This was part of the reactionary backlash that followed the defeat of Napoleon a year earlier.

For more information, go to the Temple Judah website and open the Adult Education Tab.

“This Day…In Jewish History ” is part of the Jewish History Study Group in Cedar Rapids, Iowa: “There is no claim to originality or scholarship by the ‘compiler,’ Mitchell A. Levin. The sources, including texts and websites are too many and too varied to provide academic citations for each entry or part thereof. “

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.

Judaica Europeana: Online access to 10 collections

A two-year project has been launched to digitize, for online access, Jewish culture collections at 10 European institutions.

The European Commission provided $2 million for Judaica Europeana‘s $4.13 million project, which will digitize 10,500 photos, 1,500 postcards and 7,150 recordings, along with several million pages from books, newspapers, archives and press clippings, from the project’s partner libraries, archives and museums. It is part of a larger EC project to digitize general cultural resources.

The project will be headed by the European Association for Jewish Culture and the Judaica Collection of Frankfurt’s Goethe University Library. Other partners are:

= European Association for Jewish Culture Judaica Collection, Johann Wolfgang Goethe University Library, Frankfurt am Main
= Alliance Israélite Universelle, Paris
= The Jewish Museum of Greece, Athens
= Hungarian Jewish Archives, Budapest
= Ministero per i Beni e le Attività Culturali – Ministry for Cultural Heritage and Activities, Rome
= Amitié, Bologna
= The Emanuel Ringelblum Jewish Historical Institute, Warsaw
= Jewish Museum London
= The British Library, London
= MAKASH Advancing CMC Applications in Education, Culture and Science
= The Central Zionist Archives at the World Zionist Organization
= Paris Yiddish Centre – Medem Library

Judaica Europeana (JE) will also work on other digital collections for comprehensive coverage of Jewish life in European cities.

An aim of the project is to demonstrate how the addition of Judaica content leads to improved use in discovery, delivery, and cultural heritage resource integration for multilingual multicultural use by scholars, cultural heritage professionals, educators and students, cultural tourists and the general public.

Upcoming Judaica Europeana (JE) Events:

15 March 2010, Berlin:
Digital Access to Jewish Heritage Collections: JE and MICHAEL

14 April 2010, Jerusalem:
JE Seminar, Israel Association of Judaica Librarians
21-23 April 2010, Florence:

JE: Applying Semantic Web Technologies to access European Jewish

3 May 2010, Tel Aviv:
The European Digital Library: Europeana and JE
25-29 July 2010, Ravenna:

Judaica Partners presentations on urban Jewish studies and Judaica

30 July 2010, University of Bologna, Ravenna Campus:
The JE Digital Humanities Workshop

For more information, see the website above.

On the road again: Hong Kong, Australia

Tracing the Tribe’s first-ever trip to Hong Kong and Australia begins tomorrow and I’ll be blogging every day.

In Hong Kong, my schedule includes:
  • Wednesday, February 24, 8pm, at the Jewish Community Center: “The IberianAshkenaz DNA Project: So You Think You’re Ashkenazi?”
  • Thursday, February 25, 8pm, at the Jewish Community Center: “Introduction to Jewish Genealogy,” for the community.
  • During the week, I’ll also present “Intro to Jewish Genealogy” for students at Carmel College.

I’ll do some sightseeing (weather permitting), enjoy the cuisine, meet interesting people and spend Purim in Hong Kong. Of course, I’ll be blogging, so stay tuned.

On March 1, I fly to Melbourne, Australia, for the Second Australian National Jewish Genealogy Conference (March 7-9). I’m honored to have been invited for this event and look forward to seeing the Australian Jewish genealogy community.

My presentations include the IberianAshkenaz DNA Project as well as social media for today’s genealogists.

Friends and family are part of the Australian schedule, including cousins who come from Bobruisk, Belarus and from America (in Sydney). I’ll be visiting the Sydney cousins for the second part of my trip, and may do some additional talks there.

On the return flight, I will speak on MyHeritage.com, presenting an overview of its tools and features and encouraging people to participate in the new Beit Hatfutsot-MyHeritage.com partnership.

Family trees created with a special version of the free MyHeritage software will be periodically transferred to Beit Hatfutsot for digital archiving for ever.

This should be a very exciting trip, new sights, fascinating people and much much more.

Blogging will be on the menu in Australia as well.

Readers who either live in these destinations or who have been there before, are invited to suggest their favorite experiences – things to see, places to eat, etc.

Next week in Hong Kong!