Colorado: Memoir writing workshop, May 13

If you don’t write the history of your family, who will?

The Jewish Genealogy Society of Colorado, under the leadership of Ellen Shindelman Kowitt, is an active group offering several programs each month.

The next program is a “Memoir Writing Workshop for the Family Historian,” with Susan Jacobs, set for 6.30pm, Thursday, May 13, at Temple Emanuel, Denver.

Discover the joy of memoir writing in Jacobs’ stimulating and fun workshop for family historians, regardless of whether or not they’ve written anything previously.

Jacobs holds a BA in oral interpretation of literature (USC) and an interdiscplinary gerontology certificate (University of Denver). She has 30 years of teaching experience and 18 years teaching memoir writing at such venues as Regis University and the Denver Jewish Community Center.

In addition to monthly programs, the JGS of Colorado also offers a community genealogy education series for which it received some interesting grants which could be duplicated in other communities. For more information on the JGSCo’s programs, including resources and useful links, see the website above.

For more information, click here.

California: Jamboree mini-course registration begins May 1

In the Los Angeles area? Here are 14 more reasons to attend the Southern California Genealogical Society Jamboree (June 11-13), in Burbank).

Registration opens May 1 for these 14 mini-course workshops (one or two hours each) – a really good line up of classes and instructors. If you are interested, sign up fast (only online as of May 1). These will likely fill quickly with only 17 seats per class.

You may sign up for the workshops only if you’ve already registered for Jamboree, but you can do both at the same time. Each registrant may sign up for only one workshop. All workshops (except one) require attendees to bring laptops or netbooks.

Download the complete Jamboree program grid here, so you’ll be better prepared to organize your time.

Read instructor bios, class descriptions and whether there’s an advance assignment to complete. Some courses require attendees to download something, register for an account, bring family details, have a specific program on your computer.

Seating is limited, so choose a second if your favorite has already filled. 

Course times, titles and instructors:

  • Friday: Using Google Earth to Map Your Ancestor’s Home, Google Docs for Beginners, Using Excel in Genealogy.
  • Saturday: Platting Your Ancestor’s Land, FindAGrave, Skype – The Cool New Way to Talk to the Grandkids, Blogger for Beginners, WordPress for Beginners, Writing Your Family History Using Microsoft Word.
  • Sunday:  Using Your Computer, Video Camera and YouTube, Second Life: A New World of Online Genealogy, Using Excel in Genealogy, Scanning Tips and Tricks, Google Reader for Beginners.

For complete mini-course descriptions, instructors and requirements, click here.

Connecticut: Genealogy guru Arthur Kurzweil, May 2

Famed genealogist and author Arthur Kurzweil will give the keynote presentation, “Jewish Genealogy as a Spiritual Pilgrimage,” at the Jewish Historical Society of Greater Hartford’s Family History Day, on Sunday, May 2.

His book, “From Generation to Generation,” was one of the first books on Jewish genealogy and inspired a generation of individuals to begin their journey of discovery (including Tracing the Tribe). He was also among the founders of the very first Jewish genealogical society, in New York City.

Kurweill will also be the scholar-in-residence at this summer’s 30th IAJGS International Conference on Jewish Genealogy – JGSLA 2010 – July 11-16, Los Angeles.

The venue is Beth El Temple in West Hartford, from 12.30-5pm. Kurzweill will also lead two workshops at the event. One will be for experienced genealogical researchers and one to help those discover what happened to relatives during the Holocaust. Fee: members, $12; others, $15. View the event brochure here for complete information on all 10 workshops and registration.

Family History Day is an opportunity for adults and middle- and high-school aged children to learn how to save family memories and treasures for future generations. The program will include 10 expert workshops on topics including conducting an effective interview; writing your own memoir; conducting genealogical research; archiving precious photos, papers and artifacts; and creating keepsake memories. A vendor showcase will display products and services related to genealogical research.

He was interviewed – “Jewish genealogy as a spiritual pursuit” – in the Jewish Ledger.

Among his other books: “On the Road with Rabbi Steinsaltz: 25 Years of Pre-Dawn Car Trips, Mind-Blowing Encounters and Inspiring Conversations with a Man of Wisdom;” “The Torah for Dummies,” “The Encyclopedia of Jewish Genealogy” and “My Generations: A Course in Jewish Family History,” a popular text used for almost two decades in North American synagogue schools. An accomplished magician, he is also coordinator of the Talmud Circle Project, directed by Rabbi Steinsaltz.

He received the Distinguished Humanitarian Award (Melton Center, Ohio State University) for his unique contributions to Jewish education, and the IAJGS Lifetime Achievement Award.
In the interview, Kurweill says:

I believe that in the same way that the Talmud says that when the Temple was destroyed, they rebuilt by doing their family trees, in our generation we have the same task. As a rebuilding generation, we are doing our family trees to rebuild, to put the pieces back together again, to take that shattered people and to bring them back together again. Our work is mitzvah work. I think we are doing a good job.

Learn how he developed an interest in genealogy:

When I began investigating my family history I found that there were no guidebooks. I ended up writing the book I wish I had been able to find.

How does an absolute beginner start?

The first step is to talk to relatives. That’s always the first step. The documents will wait. The people don’t wait. Talk to every relative you can find. Talking to relatives is the most important thing to do. After that, I’d say you should explore http://www.jewishgen.org. This is cyberspace headquarters for Jewish genealogy. If you are interested in Jewish genealogy and you go to this website, we won’t see you again for months!

Interest in Jewish genealogy is growing. More and more people each year are becoming convinced that you can be very successful in climbing your Jewish family tree. There is no question that the major factor in the growth of this pursuit is the Internet and all that it offers the researcher.

The story also addresses how his spiritual life meshes with genealogy:

It seems to me that every step of the way when we pursue our genealogical research, we are involved in mitzvahs. Who more than we honor the elderly? Who more than we reach out to the elderly people in our family and our communities and make them feel like we need them – because we do. And what is that but a mitzvah, to honor the elderly. Who more than we ask questions? The Talmud consists of questions, thousands of ways of asking different questions. Did you ever ask the question, “Where did you get that information from?” Well, there is a little code word in the Talmud for the question, “Where did you get that question from?” And who has perfected the art of asking questions more than we have?

Who like we genealogists performs the mitzvah of ahavat Yisrael, the love of the people of Israel, which really means tolerance. What Jews in the world are more tolerant than Jewish genealogists? Why are we tolerant? We are tolerant because we learn that on this branch of the family there are Galicianers, and on this branch there are Litvaks, and on this branch there are assimilated Jews and on this branch there were intermarriages! And we see that each of our families really is everybody, and in the process we become tolerant.

Read the complete interview at the link above

Florida: Orlando’s online computer research forum, April 27

As Tracing the Tribe has often said, genealogy is the great equalizer. It crosses all boundaries of faith, ethnicity, cultures and other issues that might divide us.

Genealogy doesn’t care what you eat, how or when; what you wear on your head or not; or any other issues that often separate communities and cause tension within even similar communities.

All of us are joined by our common interest in learn more about our ancestors and our unique family history.

The Internet can also be considered a great equalizer, and an online computer research forum sponsored by the Jewish Genealogical Society of Greater Orlando will help to break down brick walls, on Tuesday, April 27.

The program begins at 1pm in the main social hall of the Congregation of Reform Judaism, 928 Malone Drive.

The focus will be on breaking through brick walls, aided by five experienced computer genealogists – Herb Adler, Irwin Feldman, Paul Enchelmayer, Larry Morrell and Jose Valle – who will attempt to resolve difficult problems by demonstrating online techniques.

JGGO program chair Jerry Kurland established a working committee in early February to set up the Forum, with Carl Migden as a special advisor. Kurland surveyed society members and requested that they submit their major stumbling blocks.

Among the problems received:

— A member cannot find any trace of his great-grandfather despite the fact that he died in 1898 and is buried in Oak Woods Cemetery, Chicago.

— A member is looking for the date and port of entry of his parents from Austria.

— A third person had been trying for years to find his mother-in-law on a passenger list.

Kurland says that the forum should provide some successful results and that, as a result, researchers should become more comfortable in browing the Internet and sampling websites from home.

Society members and guests will be able to view a large screen projection on how to connect to various websites.

For more information, address, directions, visit the JGSGO site.

JGSLA 2010: What you will find!

Don’t bother getting vaccinated for the genealogy bug – it won’t help! Just be prepared for an amazing genealogy immersion experience this year.

From gold-rush pioneers to goniffs, from geo-tagging to gazetteers, and many other exciting topics, JGSLA 2010 has gathered experts, archivists, professors and authors from around the world to share their knowledge of a diverse range of fascinating topics with you and your fellow conference attendees.

These experts will bring genealogy – and possibly your personal genealogy – to life and present a new world of possibilities.

Regardless of whether you identify as a mind-mapper, Google geek, PC-pusher, Mac-Maven, Litvak, Galitzianer or “somewhere in Russia,” JGSLA 2010 is for you!

In fact, you don’t even need to be Jewish or researching your Jewish heritage – many programs provide general information, no matter what you are personally researching.

You’ll never know whom you’ll connect with at lunch, having a cup of coffee or taking a workshop. A long lost cousin? Descendants of your ancestral village? Someone investigating your family?

Will this be the year you find someone to share your research, to collaborate with others, to design a website for your research interests? Will a new resource or database provide that all-important clue enabling a major breakthrough?

You won’t know unless you come to this year’s conference!

A few tidbits:

— Ancestry will provide classes and a free (by-appointment) digital scanning service for attendees.

— JewishGen’s Warren Blatt and Michael Tobias will present “JewishGen LIVE at L.A. LIVE” on their latest databases and search capabilities.

— Steve Morse, a household genealogy name, will present a series on his website’s resources, but his new program, presented with daughter Megan, will be “DNA and the Animal Kingdom: Evolution and Genealogy in the Natural World.”

Stay tuned for news on workshops, special interest groups, birds-of-a-feather groups, films, breakfasts and tours. Everything you need to know is at JGSLA 2010.

Hong Kong: Workshop report

Following the cruise, it was back to the hotel to get ready for the workshop and go to the JCC for dinner.

After a few technical glitches – I definitely need a course in hooking up computer projectors – we got everything squared away and everyone was connected to the JCC wireless system.

There were about 20 people, all with laptops, and others looking on. I went through a short PowerPoint which discussed some generalities and also showed examples of documents from my own family research and then we began some actual accessing of sites.

One woman, with roots in Rhodes, had a very unusual name. When we went to Jeff Malka’s SephardicGen.com not only did the name pop up in several book indexes, but there were a number of burials in the Rhodes Jewish cemetery along with photos of the gravestones.

We accessed some Polish and UK records and resources, as well as features of JewishGen, SephardicGen, JRI-Poland, Ancestry and other sites.

As most readers know, even in a two-hour workshop, one barely gets into the amazing resources of so many sites. But participants received a list of major websites to look around (links to more links!), and were advised to register on JewishGen and add their information to the Family Finder.

I will be back in Hong Kong on March 21 and we’ll have at least one more session. It was an enthusiastic group, and we even had a member of the younger generation attending – I was very happy to see that.

There are so many resources out there, and we barely touched them. The time flew by and everyone understood how easy it is to spend hours on finding clues to our families.

I think there may be a JGS of Hong Kong soon. Where do we sign up for the T-shirts?

Tomorrow (Friday), I’m planning to visit the Jewish cemetery and meet with the Jewish Historical Society.

Boston: Hands-On Problem Solving, Feb. 21

The Jewish Genealogical Society of Greater Boston will host “Problem Solving with Experts – A Research Session” on Sunday, February 21.

It begins at 1:30 pm at Temple Emanuel, 385 Ward St., Newton Centre.

Beginners as well as more experienced attendees will be able to consult with experts for help with family research.

Roundtables will feature the following topics:

— Getting started with Jewish genealogy
— Using immigration, naturalization, and vital records
— Eastern European country-specific research
— Translation of foreign-language documents (Yiddish, Hebrew, Polish, Russian, German)
— Holocaust research

Admission: members, free; others, $5. Refreshments will be served. For directions, click here.

For more information, visit JGSGB.