17 August 2018

IAJGS 2018 Warsaw Conference - Day 6

I never understand why people leave conferences before they close. Excellent presentations are often given on the last day. When planning my flight home from Warsaw, I made sure that I selected a flight that would allow me to stay at the conference until the end (i.e., before lunch).

I heard two excellent presentations on Friday morning. In fact, I think these two were among the better ones I heard this year.

Ed Mitukiewicz presented, "Location, Location, Location: Using Historical Maps to Find Your Ancestral Towns in Eastern Europe." This presentation paired nicely with Carol Hoffman's on Wednesday afternoon. These should be required for anyone who is have difficulty locating their family shtetl.

Ed completely won me over when he noted a methodology dear to my heart: one should compare and correlate information from multiple sources to locate one's ancestral community. It is similar to triangulation - look for the area of intersection among evidence in one's sources.

Renee Carl's, " 'Did You Know Your Grandfather was a Twin?' And Other Questions I've Asked My Mother," addressed in another way a topic similar to the one I had presented on Tuesday in my talk "When It Takes a Village: Applying Cluster Research Techniques." She advocated for widening the net: collecting many records for many family members. 

She suggested that researchers should:
  • gather oral history
  • create research plans to answer questions
  • try to prove or disprove information from gathered oral history
  • question whether one really has a brick wall in one's research
  • create wide trees (include collateral relatives)
  • examine original sources 
Essentially, she argued for an iterative process between oral history and document research.

This was all very good stuff. And imagine! It was all in the last two hours of the conference!

See you in Cleveland in 2019!

IAJGS 2018 Warsaw Conference - Day 5

Seems like something comes up nearly each year that I miss the Professional Genealogists BOF meeting. I managed to attend last year. Last year I missed attending the IAJGS Annual Meeting because I was making a presentation (I sent another member of the Phoenix Jewish Genealogy Group to represent us). This year I figured I should attend the IAJGS Annual Meeting, myself. That meant missing the Professional Genealogists BOF, which was scheduled at the same time - Thursday morning. Such is the IAJGS conference experience when one is involved in one's community!

IAJGS announced that new board members are Janette Silverman, Sarina Roffe and Christa Cowen (all U.S. residents). There was some animated discussion regarding the lack of new board members representing other countries this year. Apparently 1/3 of IAJGS member societies are international and the current board will not reflect that diversity. In the recruitment committee's defense, they apparently contacted representatives of non-USA societies and no one from those societies stepped up this year. I imaging that two year's from now some new tactics will be employed.

This past year the membership committee has been employing new tactics that resulted in ten new societies joining the IAJGS. These include societies in Albany, NY; Kansas City, MO; Hungary; northeast Florida and Fort Wayne, Indiana. Nice!

Two awards winners were announced. The Stern Award went to Litvak SIG for their "Vilna Household Register Books project." Reclaim the Records took the Stegman Award for their acquisition of the New York City birth and death indices.

Next year in Cleveland! - 28 July - 2 August 2019.

Thursday was just that sort of day, and I had to make a hard choice for my next event, as well. There were a number of good options and I chose to attend Doug Hykle's "Documenting the Life and Death of an Eastern European Shtetl - Research Sources for Genealogists." 

I first made Doug's acquaintance several year's ago when he asked me for contact information for my 2nd cousin once removed, Sally Eisner, who was born in Zaleszczyki, moved to nearby Torskie when she was about 10, and was interned in Tluste (Tovste) during part of WWII. Quite a few years ago Sally had recorded her recollections for the USC Shoah Foundation and Doug had some questions for her about her experiences and testimony. With information I was able to provide, Doug made contact and traveled to Sally's home to interview her in-person. He's that kind of researcher. 

He describes his work as "community-scale forensic genealogy" and he has created and manages a wonderful website on Tovste that chronicles both Jewish and non-Jewish life in the community. Original sources come from the State Archives in Lviv, where the earliest Tluste Jewish records date to 1787.

Through Yad Vashem databases, the International Tracing Service, Gesher Galicia; testimonies from the USC Shoah Foundation and the Fortunoff Collection (at Yale University); and Sefer Tluste Doug has developed a spreadsheet of about 2,600 victims in 700 families.

Doug Hykle's research is a tour de force. So glad I attended his session.

For this conference, as I have for the last several, I organized an informal Jewish genealogy blogger's get-together. This year we did a bring-your-own lunch. Ten bloggers (or blogger wanna-bes) attended - which was more than I expected. We chatted about the blogging platforms we use and their pros and cons. 

Several of us who use Blogger (a Google product) are worried that Google, based on past history with other apparently non-monetized products, might not continue to support it. We have no inside information, really. 

We also talked about different emphases and pages on our blogs that some use as lures for readers. These include Philip Trauring's forms and Compendium of Jewish Genealogy on Blood and Frogs; Lara Diamond's genetic genealogy articles on Lara's Genealogy; Banai Feldstein's WDYTYA nitpicker articles at The Ginger Jewish Genealogist. A year of so ago I added list of Jewish genealogy blogger's as a page on my blog.

Other current bloggers in attendance included: Marysia Galbraith - Uncovering Jewish Heritage; Mary-Jane Roth - MemoryKeeper's Notebook; and Daniel Horowitz, who contributes to the MyHeritage blog.

I'd a busy morning, but, fortunate for me, I was well-prepared for my presentation: "Learning Our Craft: Online Opportunities for Improving Our Research Skills." The concept for this presentation is that one ought to return to the IAJGS conference next year with a solid year's worth of genealogy learning and experience under one's belt. The talk provides information on how to find blogs, podcasts, webinars and online courses and programs. I had quite a good audience for this presentation - which was not recorded.

I attended Carol Hoffman's short presentation, "Where's My Shtetl OR What's in a Name?" because overcoming challenges in identifying towns of origin is one of my pet topics (and peeves).[1] I had no problems with Carol's presentation. Carol, past-President of Litvak SIG and 2018 IAJGS Volunteer of the Year, ably covered the topic within the limited time-frame. The limited time meant the presentation had to be basic and there was not a great deal of time for the audience to ask questions.

I have to admit that I am not a fan of the short presentation format that IAJGS has introduced in the last couple of years. I especially feel this format is unnecessary at a conference outside the USA where all presentations have been shortened to one hour (45 minute talk plus questions) from the usual 75 minutes (one hour talk plus questions). Short presentations (25 minutes) short-change discussion and push speakers to over-simplify their topics. 
  The general reception for all conference attendees was held immediate before the Thursday evening banquet. And immediately before that was the IAJGS President's reception. Since I am a JGS president, I was invited. I definitely did not need any more food! I like to eat breakfast and I am not used to eating as late as I have been at this conference. Polish people seem to do dinner a bit late in the evening. Eating late means I am still digesting when I wake up in the morning. At this reception I was, however, quite happy with the provided glass of wine.

Early in the conference Max Heffler offered to reserved a seat for me at the JewishGen table during the banquet. That was pretty nice because the table is in the front row (it was also nice because there were some nice people at the table).

The banquet speaker was Kanstanty Gebert, listed as a journalist and Jewish activist. He also has taught a universities in Poland, Israel and the USA. His talk at the banquet centered on the complex development of Polish feelings toward remembering the Holocaust and the place the Jewish community once had in Polish society. I know that few things in life are one-sided or black and white. And Gebert's talk, placing the evolution of Polish and Jewish attitudes in recent historical context, surely bore that out.

The IAJGS Lifetime Achievement Award went to Mark Halpern. All I can say is that Mark is one of the kindest, most generous and accessible genealogists I know. I, like so many others, are indebted to him for his good work and his willingness to help and share.

Banai Feldstein won the award for Outstanding Project/Resource/Program for CSI: Crowd Sourced Indexing Project 

Outstanding Publication by a Jewish genealogical society went to Venturing Into Our Past, JGS of Conejo Valley (California).

I mentioned earlier that Carol Hoffman was named Volunteer of the Year. They actually gave two awards this year. Another went to Max Heffler.
A Special Award for volunteer service went to Susan Edel. 

1. As a matter of fact, this is a topic I have spoken on at several past conferences and published on in Avotaynu. I did not offer to present on this topic this year.

13 August 2018

IAJGS 2018 Warsaw Conference - Day 4

I had the pleasure of breakfast with Judy Golan this morning. I have been enamored with her prize-winning work tracking marriages and contacts among Jewish people in the Opatow area of Poland ("Reading Between the Lines: Mining Jewish History Through Extraction of Polish Archive Data"). Take a look at the International Institute for Jewish Genealogy and the Paul Jacobi Center website to read her research report. 

I see her work as quite anthropological (and just up my alley). Unfortunately, I could not attend her presentation Tuesday morning since mine was scheduled at the same time. 

Judy has also been very helpful to me in seeking JRI-Poland indexed records for researching my Aunt Lee Urbass Wilson's family from Opatow and Ostrowiec. Thank you Judy for making time for a fan.

Wednesday morning belonged to Ukraine SIG. I attended the Ukraine Special Interest Group meeting followed by the luncheon. 

Ukraine SIG's mission is to collect, transcribe, translate and create indices for records from towns within the Russian Empire portions of today's Ukraine. 

There are now 4,163 subscribers to the JewishGen's Ukraine SIG Discussion Group. This year, there are 11 new town leaders and several new kehilalink (ancestral town) websites hosted on JewishGen.

The SIG is slowly working through 1897 Russian census records (67,000 pages) and has translated 600 pages, resuting in 1,644 lines of information. 

A 1916 business directory covering Kiev, Podolia and Volhynia gubernias the latest project.

At the luncheon, Lara Diamond, Phyllis Grossman and Anna Royzner spoke about their successful (and sometimes poignant) roots trips. These should be inspirational to anyone planning such a community visit in the old country.

After lunch I attended the Bukovina BOF get-together. It was rather free-form. Some of the same tpics discussed at the RomSIG meeting the previous day were discussed. One of the challenges that I see it that there are several unrelated websites hosting Bukovina Jewish records. While JewishGen's RomSIG page includes some links. They do not include all of them.

Later in the day, I took in "Unique Surname Gives insight Into the History, Adoption, and Regulation of Jewish Surnames: Poland, Galicia," presented by Drs. David Elbaum and Heshel Teitelbaum. One of the reasons I wanted to attend this talk was to meet Heshel. He and I have crossed paths since he came up as a fairly close relative of a couple of my father's first cousins (siblings). My cousins are related to me via their father. They are related to Heshel via their mother's family. It was nice to make the connection.

The talk was interesting but I have to admit the time of day and emphasis on rabbinic genealogy conspired to make me miss portions of the talk. Their apparently provocative hypothesis was that Rabbi Yakov Koppel Likower of Poland was actually an Italian Jew (possibly from Amsterdam or Venice). I kept on thinking that DNA testing might be a good idea.

The JewishGen 2018 Annual Meeting was at 6:00 PM. 

JewishGen now has over 1000 volunteers working all over the world. They announced Yefim Kogan, of Bessarabia SIG, as volunteer of the year. 

This year's meeting included announcement of additional partnerships that can only enhance JewishGen's status of a go-to center for Jewish genealogy:
  • Miriam Weiner Routes to Roots Collection - this collection includes items Miriam collected over the years as she researched in archives in Eastern Europe. Material is and will be searchable via JewishGen's search box. Som material is already online. More will come. The collection includes more than 15,000 Holocaust records, maps, name lists for Poland and Ukraine, antique postcards and both Miriam Weiner's books.
  • Israel Genealogy Research Association - by Fall 2018 one will be able to search their website via access through JewishGen (and vice versa).
  • Jewish Galicia & Bukovina.org - 10,000 burial records will soon be added to JOWBR. 
  • Gesher Galicia - received a grant from JewishGen to index 8,000 Holocaust records from the Polish State Archives in Nowy Sacz and Rzeszow.
  • Beit Hatfutsot - Their family trees will be included when one searches JewishGen's Family Tree of the Jewish People.
Of great interest to me, since I am one of the moderators of the JewishGen Discussion Group, was the long-overdue announcement about improving the group by replacing the Lyris software. The new software will have html capability, allow plain text and non-Latin characters. Hurrah!!!

In the next few year, JewishGen will start the process to replace and update their website. 

In the meantime, the current JewishGen site now includes a unified search capability that it did not previous have. Now one can search the Family Tree of the Jewish People, the JewishGen Family Finder, Jewish Records Indexing-Poland, and all-country and all-topic databases from one search box. This is a significant improvement for reesearchers.

IAJGS 2018 Warsaw Conference - Day 3

I started Tuesday, day 3, at 8 A.M. with the first of my two presentations at the conference: "When It Takes a Village: Applying Cluster Research Techniques." This talk discussed the advantages of researching those who associated with your subject relative. This is an especially useful strategy when information about a particular family member is scant. I discussed the case of Feiga Grinfeld who I only knew from a passenger manifest. She appeared to be a family member. But I could not determine how she might be related to my family.

Through following other immigrants from Feiga's Russian Empire town of origin and broadening the search to include their relatives and in-laws I was able to locate Feiga geographically far from where she was initially expected to be. 

Once I located her and still could not identify family links, it was possible to conduct genealogical research to find her current relatives, test their DNA and compare the results to my known relatives. Through a combination of DNA analysis and document research I was able to place Feiga Grinfeld within my family tree.

I had a slight break in action before heading to the JewishGen Expert Table in the Resource Room at 10:15 to help walk-ups with their genealogy queries. I spoke several researchers and tried to help. Sometimes I was more successful than other times. But I always enjoy the interactions and challenges. 

I then attended the Romania Special Interest Group (SIG) lunch. This year, due to reorganization/rejuvenation of RomSIG, this was an informal affair - but well-attended.  

After lunch I listened to my friend Janette Silverman's interesting talk about her research into Displaced Persons Camps after World War II: "From DP Camp to the US and Back to Europe."  

Janette generously donated her time and research skills to find information about her friend Ruth Ebner who arrived in the United States with her mother and father sometime between 1948 and 1950. 

For this type of research the best bets are Yad Vashem, US Holocaust Memorial Museum and International Tracing Service (ITS) databases. Often an online search will locate information that then may be acquired by emailing the repository. In Ebner's case, their passenger manifest was in a United Nations compilation accessible in ITS records.

Please Review the Presentations You Attended
I was told that last year I had many more reviews of my presentations than any other speaker at the conference. One of reasons, I believe, is that I always include a slide near the end of my presentations showing people where to find the review form in the conference app. 

It is not too late to review presentations at this year's conference (but do it soon!). Go into the app, find the presentation page and click on the clipboard (see, below). The complete the review. The presenters, many of whom will benefit from constructive feedback, with thank you.


12 August 2018

IAJGS 2018 Warsaw Conference - Day 2

I have lagged in the blogging this conference. I left my laptop home and expected to blog my Eastern European visit via my iPad as I had done five years ago. Now, however, iPad apps for using Blogger are no longer supported by Google. Thus, I had to blog directly in the browser (Safari) on my iPad. 

This method is far from user friendly. I stopped and started several posts and then decided to finish them when I returned State-side and could work in Blogger via my laptop. 

So during the next few days, despite being in the throes of jet lag, I will complete my self-assigned task.
On Monday, 6 Aug 2018, I started the day with an topic unfortunately relevant to much of my Eastern European research: "Hopeless Case Studies: How to Search for Family Roots in Towns Without Records." This talk by Jakub Czuprynski was quite good. Jakub, a Polish native, speaks  excellent English. He was easily understood.

Jakub explained that the paucity of records in some places is related to destruction due to a variety of events. Building fires and World War I and World War II caused record loss. In addition, there were poor archival practices in the Austrian Empire before 1875. In some cases there was deliberate and systematic disposal of documents. 

In 1876, the Austrian administration created the position of clerk for vital records registration. It wasn't until 1919 that the Polish State Archives (PSA) was created. At that point local repositories were to send their records to the PSA.

Jakob's take-away message was that persistent research can bring some results. Passport applications, notorial records, land and mortgage books, and court records may be located in municipal and district offices. He also mentioned the Antoni Schneider Collection - an unfinished encyclopedia of Galicia research by the late historian. This collection is in the National Archives in Krakow.

Next on my schedule was the Romania Special Interest Group meeting chaired by Barbara Hershey. I have recently agreed to serve on the new board for this group that is retooling after a change in leadership. Barbara explained that we have quite a few records in our possession that need indexing. Hew priority is to index those in hand before seeking out additional collections. There is much to do!

Those with interest should know that there are RomSIG records uploaded to Crowd Sourced Indexing. They are ready for those who have the ability and desire to help.

It seemed to be "Hopeless genealogy" day for me and I next attended the Disna Birds of a Feather (BOF) meeting chaired by Ralph Salinger. The discussion was quite interesting to me. 

A few years ago Ralph took over the group within Litvak SIG and did a great job finding records from the Disna District in what is now Belarus and Lithuania. But shortly after starting he announced that all records had been found. 

I recall asking if Litvak SIG had search archives in Belarus. He said, "No," and promised they would do so. Then shortly after that, he again announced that all records had been located. Needless to say, there were few records from my community, Kozyany, and none representing my family.

Paul Zoglin, an expert in Belarus records, pressed Ralph on Litvak SIG's methods of collection and record discovery. I now hope that the group will refocus their search.

The next talk on my schedule was cancelled, so I spend time in the Resource Room reviewing my PowerPoint for my talk tomorrow morning. 

I attended the conference "Meet and Greet Reception" and intended to listen to the Pamela Weissberger Memorial Lecture by Dr. Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett in the evening. But, a friend asked me to dinner and I took that opportunity instead.