28 February 2015

Avrum's Women, Part 13: Bond of Brothers

Considering the dearth of family history artifacts in my family I sometimes forget that D-N-A are not the only letters in genealogy. So, when Sheldon told me he had a bunch of postcards and letters that had been sent from his grandfather Levi Yitzchak in Ukraine to Sheldon's father Morris Lederman in the USA, I wasn't sure where this new information would lead. Nevertheless, I had him send me some of them.

It appears Morris, early in his USA experience, was in New York City with relatives surnamed Simberg (his mother's maiden name), Boston with the Berger family and Lexington, Kentucky with Harry Greenfield (whom we had chronicled earlier in this research). Sheldon and I could read the addresses, but the text was in excruciatingly minute Yiddish script.

I hired a translator to work on one of the Boston postcards Sheldon had initially sent me. It did not tell me much of interest, although it did confirm that Morris and Fannie had a brother who'd stayed in Europe. Then somehow in our conversations Sheldon agreed to send me copies of all the post cards and letters.

With a good-size package in hand, I scanned through the postmarks to find the earliest message for translation.

3 7 10. 3 July 1910! I transliterated the postmark. Annopol, Vol. Annopol, Volhynia Gubernia, Russian Empire. This was not a community I'd dealt with previously in my research.

And then I looked at the text on the back of the card and was astounded. Toward the end of the Yiddish message there were letters in the Latin alphabet.

B. Mester for N. Garber, 266 Manopes Street

I recalled that my great uncle Nathan (aka Nuchum) Garber arrived in the United States in 1910, more than two years after his younger brother Max (aka Motel). Where was my grandfather's brother Nathan in July 1910? I located the digital copy of his manifest on my computer.[1] Nuchum had arrived in New York City on 18 June 1910, so this letter was sent only a couple of weeks after he'd landed in New York.

And whom did he say he was going to meet in the USA? 
Brother-in-law A. Schophel [or Schojchet]
266 Monroe Str New York

I had never successfully located anyone of that name at that address. But now I had the name "B. Mester." I located Benjamin Master and his family at 266 Monroe Street, Manhattan, NY in the 1910 U.S. Census.[2]

I had to get this postcard translated!
June 30, 1910

Dear Mr. Yakov Eisenberg:

The story about it is now over. The tide has turned for us, and thank G-d we are in good health in such a situation. We are sending our unmarried son Moshele to America. We don’t even have what to live on ever since there was a [illegible] the 6th year. Ever since we ran into this situation, we don’t have the strength for it. Zeidel is already a 23-year-old young man.  G-d helped me out on the issue of the army conscription and they rejected him.

The result is that I haven’t got the ability to [illegible] him and there is absolutely no future here for him in Russia. The same thing goes for Sarahle, who is at the age for [illegible], and she is a girl for whom it is already the time to get married. And more than anything else is the need to get a job which makes [illegible] your only sister, and we have decided to send Moshele off to America. So now let me tell you that your only sister [illegible] live and be well is asking all you children to fulfill it. At the present time thank G-d he doesn’t forget to provide assistance. However, I gave him money for the expenses of the eldest, and especially when the time comes to leave on a safe journey to America.

He intends to travel with a company, and apparently he will start using their name. They are going somewhere not far from New York which costs one dollar to go from New York. But we are telling him that he should eventually contact you, [and?] Yisrael –Yoelka. There are already two children in New York – my brother Avraham Abba’s eldest son whose name is Nochum, and the younger one whose name is Mordechai, who has already been in America for 2 years in New York.

The eldest has just been there for 2 months and is there. My Moshele will leave for Castle Garden, which is where he will arrive.  I just wrote a card to Yisrael-Yoelka, the uncle and requested that when they summon Moshele Yisrael should get there to get him.  My two nephews will of course come out. [illegible]  I also ask that the children come together right away for sure and some advice [illegible words]. My nephew’s address is:

B. Mester, for N. Garber  266  Manopes Street

[The last three crowded lines and the writing along the right edge are illegible]

translation by David Goldman, New York City
2 Feb 2015

Oh, wow! I'm sure you noted the high-lighted section (that's me jumping up and down in the background). That Y-DNA and autosomal testing put us on the right track! Levi Yitzchak was my great grandfather's brother. Wow!

The information from this letter fits well with the range of relationships suggested by Family Tree DNA - 1st to 3rd cousins.

Mel and Sheldon are 2nd cousins and the next generation are 2nd cousins once removed from Sheldon. As a result of merging our trees, Sheldon now will know that his great grandfather was Mordechai and his great great grandfather was Yitzchak Leib.

The letter was addressed to J. Simberg (who, I am sure, was Jacob Simberg), but my translator assured me the salutation on the letter, itself, is to Yakov Eisenberg. This letter was not sent to Morris, but to Yakov Eisenberg in advance of Morris' (Moshe's) travel to the United States. 

While I was most anxious to translate the part nearest "N. Garber" I was struck by the tone of this letter. Surely this was a man beaten by the odds against him. He had given up hope and was sending his youngest son away to the new land. His eldest son, Zeidel [or possibly "Zanvel" in the letter I'd earlier translated], had avoided conscription but the opportunities for him in the Russian Empire were few.

Sarah, the youngest daughter was nearing the age of marriage, but the economic situation mitigated against such unions. When Levi Yitzchak refers his reader to "your only sister," I believe he is speaking of his wife (mother of Zanvel, Fannie Geenfield, Morris Liderman,  Sarah - Frieda Liderman). The recipient of the letter was likely Frieda's brother. I do not yet know the identify of  Yisrael-Yoelka.

There is no doubt that Avraham Abba, identified as Levi Yitzchak's brother, was my great grandfather Avrum. Avraham Abba was his name on his tombstone. His eldest son was Nochim who arrived in the United States in June 1910. Avraham Abba's younger son, Mordechai (Motel/Max), had arrived in the United States two years earlier. 

There is no street in New York called "Manopes." Levi Yitzchak spoke and wrote Yiddish and, highly likely, Russian and Cyrillic. Latin letters may have been unfamiliar to him. The letter that looks like a p in Cyrillic is pronounced with an r sound. So it is possible that Levi Yitzchak mis-wrote "Monroe" as "Manopes."

Pieces have been falling into place. My uncle Leonard I. Garber told me that his Hebrew/Yiddish name was Levi Yitzchak and that he was named after his grandfather Avraham Abba's deceased brother. Lenny was born in December 1923. 

I began this research several years ago with the goal of identifying the relationship of Feiga Grinfeld (aka Fanie Greenfield) of Baranivka to my Garber family of Lubin. I can now add a new Lederman branch to my family tree and an additional community to research: Annopol. Feiga was Levi Yitzchak Lederman's eldest daughter, and Levi Yitzchak was my great grandfather's brother.

There is a great deal in this letter that needs additional research. The first paragraph refers to privation in its 6th year. All of Avraham Abba's sons who were of age left between 1907 and 1912. We know there were pogroms in this area about 1905-6. What more can we learn about this part of Volhynia Gubernia during this period?

How is it that brothers, related to each other on the Y-chromosome have different surnames? In a previous post I mentioned family lore of four brothers in the Russian Empire settling on different surnames to avoid the Russian draft. The fact that the story seems to fit, is not enough to call it proven. There could be other reasons why Levi Yitzchak and Avraham Abba would up with different surnames. In some locations in the Russian Pale of Settlement Jewish families may not have taken surnames at all until after 1850. Possible explanations must be exhaustively researched.

Now that I know the approximate era of this name change (Avraham Abba was born about 1864 and died in 1928) I must learn more about the experience of Jewish people in this area of the Russian Empire during this period. 

Four surnames were identified in the family story: Utchenik, Garber, Reznik and Lehman. It may be that the name Lehman in the story was the result of a "game of telephone." Perhaps Lederman changed to Lehman over time in the retelling. 

I will require additional confirmation of the family lore  - perhaps by linking to another of the surnames. I have arranged an autosomal DNA test for an Utchenik descendant (a male, but one whose surname is not Utchenik, unfortunately) whose test result may prove interesting. I hope to have the result before the end of March. (If any Utchenik males read this, I would like to chat with you about Y-DNA testing.  :-)

I heard this four-brothers story from my late father, my late uncle Lenny and their first cousin Sandra. I called Sandra in the summer of 2014 when Sheldon's Y-DNA test proved a winner to tell her that I felt I was hot on the trail of documenting the family lore. I am sorry to say that Sandra passed away in November 2014 and I will not be able to share this latest find. I feel sure, however, that Lenny and Sandra, who definitely enjoyed hearing tales of my family finds would be doing the genealogy happy dance with me now, if they could. 
Previous posts in this series: 
Avrum's Women, Part 2: Feiga Grinfeld
Avrum's Women, Part 3: Following Feiga (and Raya)
Avrum's Women, Part 4: The Trouble with Harry
Avrum's Women, Part 5: Finding Feiga 
Avrum's Women, Part 6: Added Confirmation
Avrum's Women, Part 7: Feiga's Family
Avrum's Women, Part 8: Fannie's Story 

Avrum's Women, Part 9: Fannie's Brother Morris 
Avrum's Women: Part 10, Morris Lederman - Who's Your Mama? 
Avrum's Women, Part 11: Garber Y-DNA = Lederman Y-DNA
Avrum's Women, Part 12: Finding Family with Family Finder 

1. "New York Passenger Lists, 1820-1957," digital images, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com: accessed 7 February 2009), manifest, Uranium, Rotterdam to New York, arriving 18 June 1910, p. 10, line 30, Nuchim Garber; citing National Archives Microfilm Serial T715, Roll 1501.
2. New York County, New York population schedule, Manhattan, enumeration district 97, sheet 8A, dwelling 9, family 144, Benjamin Master; digital image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 28 February 2015); NARA microfilm publication T624, roll 1008.

Avrum's Women, Part 12: Finding Family with Family Finder

I've been neglecting this series - and it's not for lack of something to share. So, let's continue on!

When we last met, I'd found that Lederman Y-DNA was an exact match at 37 markers for Garber DNA and Sheldon Lederman was definitely related via the (male line) Y chromosome to my brother Jim and my father's first cousin, Mel. In the T-M70 Y-DNA haplogroup there are no other males tested who match them exactly. I awaited results of Family Tree DNA's Family Finder (aka autosomal DNA test) to see what the company would predict for the kinship relationship between Garber and Lederman.

Autosomal testing looks at the 22 chromosomes that are not sex chromosomes (neither Y nor X). Segments of DNA on these chromosomes may come from either mother or father and one cannot tell without further analysis which chromosomes have been inherited from whom. To understand the results of autosomal DNA one should have comparison samples from those for whom one knows the relationship. I have tested myself and four known Garber relatives. The chart immediately below shows how we (those tested are highlighted in yellow) are related to our common ancestor Avrum Garber. I have included Sheldon and his known male ancestors.

Avrum was great grandfather to me, my brother Jim, my first cousin Lynne, and my second cousin Ellen. Avrum was the Mel's grandfather. I know from Avrum's tombstone that his father was Mordechai and his grandfather was Yitzchak Leib. Beyond that I have little information. We do not know how we are related to Sheldon, but we do know that his father was Morris, contemporary of Jack, Feiga and Eddie (who were siblings). Morris' father was Levi Yitzchak.

Family Tree DNA provides some tools for autosomal DNA analysis. This is a comparison of the results for the five Garber relatives to Sheldon's autosomal chromosome results. A color key is inset, below.

Each colored line above represents a specific segment on that chromosome where that person matches Sheldon's DNA. There are matches with Sheldon on every chromosome tested except 16, 18 and 21. On most chromosomes, Sheldon matches more than one Garber in the same location.

Generally, it is considered that the longer the shared segment the closer the relationship. I could have plotted only segments greater than 10 centiMorgans (cM = the measure of segment length) rather than greater than 5 to more clearly show robust relationships. But I noted that there are several locations where segments 10 cM or less for several Garbers match Sheldon in striking unison: especially on chromosome 7, 11 and 15. I thought these were worth sharing.

FamilyTree DNA predicts the following relationships with Sheldon based upon these shared segment results: first to third cousins for me, Jim, Ellen, and Mel and second to third for Lynne. (One would expect that Lynne's predicted relationship with Sheldon should be the same as mine and my brother's - since we'd be related along our shared grandfather's line. But, we are dealing here with probabilities. In theory, autosomal DNA is inherited 50% from each parent. But in reality, we might inherit more material from one side than another and, possibly, more from one grandparent than another. The prediction for Lynne is certainly within the range one would expect considering her known relationship to the rest of the tested Garber clan.)

Now, barring a non-paternal event, we know that Sheldon cannot be our first cousin because we know who our grandparents were and we do not share them with him. We also know that Mel and Sheldon do not share grandfathers (Mel's was Avrum; Sheldon's was Levi Yitzchak), so they could not be first cousins. Unfortunately, we do not know Sheldon's ancestry beyond his grandfather Levi Yitzchak. So, right now, if Family Tree DNA's Family Finder predictions are correct, then Sheldon and Mel could be as close as second cousins.

This is great news, but it still cries out for further research. Unless and until we can provide some documentation, we cannot tell exactly how the Lidermans are related to the Garbers. However, I will leave you with this tidbit: as a result of some new information, I have been doing some happy genealogy dances - more in the next post.

Other posts in this series: 
Avrum's Women, Part 2: Feiga Grinfeld
Avrum's Women, Part 3: Following Feiga (and Raya)
Avrum's Women, Part 4: The Trouble with Harry
Avrum's Women, Part 5: Finding Feiga 
Avrum's Women, Part 6: Added Confirmation
Avrum's Women, Part 7: Feiga's Family
Avrum's Women, Part 8: Fannie's Story 

Avrum's Women, Part 9: Fannie's Brother Morris 
Avrum's Women: Part 10, Morris Lederman - Who's Your Mama? 
Avrum's Women, Part 11: Garber Y-DNA = Lederman Y-DNA
Avrum's Women, Part 13: Bond of Brothers 

26 February 2015

Treasure Chest Thursday: Michael Mikelbank, FLPBA 25th Anniversary publication

Insurance broker Meyer Mikelbank purchased an advertisement in the First Lubiner Progressive Benevolent Association 25th Anniversary publication. I do not believe he was a member of the FLPBA, but perhaps a friend.

Records indicate that Meyer Mikelbank arrived in the United States in 1910.[1] 

Mikelbank left Starokonstyantyniv, Ukraine (20 miles SSW of Labun) to join his father Peretz in New York City. In my research I have noted several Labun/Lubin families with ties to both Lubin and Starokonstyantyniv. It is possible that the larger community of Starokonstyantyniv was seen as offering greater opportunities for successful livelihood than the surrounding smaller villages.

In the 1930 U.S. Census, Meyer (enumerated as Michael) lived with his family (wife Sarah and children Helen and Murray) on East 3rd Street in Brooklyn.[2] In an earlier record from his naturalization in 1923, he and his family resided at 309 Houston Street, Manhattan.[3]

Meyer, his parents, his wife and other family members are buried in the United Old Konstantin Benevolent Society, Inc. landsmanshaft plot in Montefiore Cemetery. I recorded that plot a few years ago because my great great aunt Rebecca Myers Sotskess' husband Abraham was, for some reason, buried there (she, who died a few years earlier is buried in the one of the Lubiner plots in Montefiore). The photographs are online in the JewishGen Online Worldwide Burial Registry. Montefiore Cemetery is one of the NYC cemeteries that includes a burial inventory on its website.

Meyer's stone (Block 20, Gate 397N, Row 5L, Grave 9) reads: 
Meyer son of Peretz
DIED NOV. 16, 1976  AGE 84 YEARS
1.  "New York, Passenger Lists, 1820-1957," digital images, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com ; accessed 25 February 2015), manifest, S.S. Nieuw Amsterdam, Rotterdam to New York, arriving 6 June 1910, p. 51, passenger 9, Meyer Mikelband; citing NARA microfilm publicationT715, roll 1494.
2. 1930 U.S. Census, Kings County, New York, population schedule, Brooklyn, enumeration district 24-1350, sheet 13B, dwelling 148, family 249, Michael Mikelbank; digital image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 25 February 2015), citing NARA microfilm publication T626, roll 1521.
3. Meyer Mickelbank petition of naturalization (February 1923), vol. 584, p. 198, Supreme Court, New York County.

24 February 2015

Tombstone Tuesday: Joseph and Anna Kargman, Montefiore Cemetery, Queens, NY*

Here lies
Yosef son of Mosche
Died 21 Tevet 5691
May his soul be bound in eternal life
Died Jan 10, 1931
Age 73 Years
Here lies
Chana daughter of David
Died 21 Nisan 5701
May her soul be bound in eternal life
Died April 18, 1941
Age 85 Years
Joseph and Chana Kargman, Labun natives, arrived at Ellis Island on 1 August 1921 after a ten-day voyage on the S.S. Zeeland from Antwerp, Belgium.[1] They and their daughters Feiga (age 23) and Sura (18) were held for less than a day (they received supper and breakfast) for special inquiry on the suspicion they were likely to become public charges. Nevertheless, they ultimately joined their son Samuel, who had already been in the United States for more than ten years.[2] 

Less than a year later, Joseph visited the Kings County Supreme Court and declared his intention to become a citizen.[3] He apparently did not finish the process.

As reported in the 1930 U.S. census, Joseph and Anna lived in an apartment at 208 Floyd Street in Brooklyn, New York.[4] While he identified himself as retired in his 1922 declaration of intention to naturalize, in the 1930 he is a Hebrew teacher. 

After Joseph's death, Anna lived until her death with her daughter Sarah, son-in-law Samuel Kopoloff, and grandchildren Albert and Marilyn at 734 Snediker Avenue, Brooklyn.[5] 

1. "New York Passenger Lists, 1820-1957," digital images, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com: accessed 13 Dec 2010), manifest, S.S. Zeeland, Antwerp to New York, arriving 1 August 1921, list 16 (handwritten), lines 5-8, Josef, Chana, Sura and Feiga Kargman, citing NARA microfilm publication T715, roll 3001.
2. "New York Passenger Lists, 1820-1957," digital images, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com: accessed 16 April 2011), manifest, S.S. President Grant, Hamburg to New York, arriving 17 April 1911, list 2, line 11, Simon Kargman [indexed as Liman Kargman], citing NARA microfilm publication T715, roll 1662.
3. Joseph Kargman declaration of intention (1922), declaration volume 286, page 276, number 142776, Kings County Supreme Court, New York. 
4. Kings County, New York, 1930 U.S. Census, population schedule, Brooklyn, enumeration district 320, dwelling 105, family 332, sheet 16A, Joseph and Anna Kargman; digital image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 9 December 2010), NARA microfilm publication T626, roll 1503.  
5. Kings County, New York, 1940 U.S. Census, population schedule, Brooklyn, enumeration district 24-142, household 55, sheet 3A, Hanna Kargman; digital image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 24 February 2015), NARA microfilm publication T626, roll 2550.
*The First Lubiner Progressive Benevolent Association, a New York City landsmanshaft group for immigrants from the town of Lubin (Yiddish name), also known as Labun, Russian Empire, purchased two burial plots in Montefiore Cemetery, Queens, NY and one in Beth Moses Cemetery, Pinelawn, NY.

Because many of these people constituted my Lubin relatives' friends, acquaintances and neighbors, I have recorded these burials and submitted them to JewishGen where they are online in the JewishGen Online Worldwide Burial Registry. In posts about burials in these plots, I will provide additional information about those interred.

19 February 2015

Treasure Chest Thursday: Ladies Auxilliary, First Lubiner Progressive Benevolent Association 25th anniversary

The First Lubiner Progressive Benevolent Association, a community association for former residents of Lubin, Russian Empire (aka Labun or, now Yurovshchina, Ukraine), celebrated the anniversary of their founding in 1911 with a commemorative publication twenty-five years later. I have been sharing a few of the pages of this document.  
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4 
Part 5
A greeting
fun [from] der [the] Ladies Auxiliary fun [from] der [the] First Lubiner
  In the name of the First Lubiner Ladies Auxiliary, we greet you heartily, our brother organization, for the 25 Year Jubilee and we wish you further success in all the noble work that you do. And we should all live long enough to see the 50 Year Jubilee.

Raizel Blumenfeld, Presidentin [President]
   Rivkah Sadkis, Vice-Presidentin [Vice-President]
      Esther Myers, Treasurin [Treasurer]
         Chava Gerstein, Secretarin [Secretary]
            Rosa Myers, 1st Treasurin [Treasurer]
               Pesie Schwartz, 2nd Treasurin [Treasurer]
This message is a gem! If you know the pronunciation of Yiddish/Hebrew letters and can transliterate, this message is very funny. The words I have underlined are not translations of the Yiddish words, but transliterations of what is written in Yiddish text. The ladies used the Yiddish letters to spell out English words with a decided Yiddish accent:
"A greeting fun der Ladies Auxiliary..."
One note on the names: My great great aunt Rivkah (the Vice-Presidentin) wrote her married surname as Sotskess in most records in the United States. He husband's original surname was Czaczkes (in its Polish spelling). Rivkah, unfortunately, did not live to see the 50th Jubilee. She died in 1940.
Special thanks to those who aided my inquiry on Tracing the Tribe FaceBook page: Ira Leviton, Lara Diamond, Zev-Velvel Griner, Esther Chanie Dushinsky, and Neil Kominsky. 

15 February 2015

FGS/RootsTech conference 2015, Day 4

Donny Osmond

For most genealogists of a certain age (and most of of us are of that age), a retrospective of Donny Osmond's career brings back memories. Multi-talented Donny played to a respectful and awed house during the opening session. Seems to me he must be Utah's favorite son - and there were definitely many fans in the audience. I was impressed that the woman next to me knew Donny's wife's name before he mentioned it.

I thought going in that Donny's link to genealogy might be a bit thin. But, in fact, several years ago his mother turned her 40-year family research project over to him, now the family historian. Donny shared some of his family history: linking ancestors whose own stories of perseverance seemed to preordain his own. His message to us? While much of his story is easily told via public record, we all have stories to tell. We need to be recording our lives in ways that we may share with our families and descendants. 

Global Family Tree

A.J. Jacobs is ubiquitous. His Global Family Reunion (to be held June 2015 at the New York Hall of Science on the site of the 1964 World's Fair) has, obviously, struck a chord and garnered a partnerships with FamilySearch, Geni, WikiTree, New York Family, MyHeritage and Family Tree DNA. As far as I can tell, A.J. has already been interviewed on nearly every genealogy podcast and featured in numerous newspaper and magazine articles and radio and television interviews and completed a TED talk (that one may view on his website). 

A.J. is fascinated by Geni-style genealogy and is gathering "cousins" at an amazing rate. His definition of cousin is inclusive and he has stated that the more inclusive the definition of family, the better. He sees this inclusiveness as a method of increasing connectedness. 

Dare I say it? It sounds like he's working for world peace. I'm afraid my genealogical goals are usually far less lofty: who was my great grandfather's brother? I know it was not Albert Einstein, Martin Luther King nor Mahatma Gandhi - no world peace for me!
I am amused when people list relationships that meander across several in-law relationships and over many generations. That is neither blood nor genes. But, I am definitely a cousin: my paternal first cousin and first cousin once-removed are in mitochondrial DNA (maternal) haplogroup H7e - one step in genetic distance from A.J. Jacobs. And I am related to my cousins via their mothers' lines.

I won't be attending the Global Family Reunion in person but, more power to A.J. for generating genealogy buzz. Perhaps some of those newly enthused will stick around to do the difficult work in genealogy research that the basis for all this connectivity.

Regular Sessions

I attended just two sessions during the last day of the conference because the last flight out of Salt Lake City that would get me home Saturday evening was just after 5 P.M. I lucked out, however, in that I took in two of the best talks I'd heard at the conference.

While I am impressed with Donny Osmond's huge talent, I am completely in awe of those who present complex case studies! I find reading a complex case study in the National Genealogical Quarterly exhilarating. The work involved; the brilliance of the solutions.  

Dr. Michael Lacopo's presentation, "She Came From Nowhere: A Case Study Approach to Solving a Difficult Genealogical Problem," was just such an awe-inspiring case study. He has yet to publish it, but I think, once he finds the few original records he has yet to acquire, he'll be ready - and I'll be reading.

Dr. Lacopo studied a Virginia area woman who was mentioned infrequently and incorrectly in records he initially consulted. A reasonably exhaustive search, written histories of the area, and understanding of social history and local naming traditions aided his search. Inspirational! 

I have been doing some client research in German Jewish family history, so I had to take in Warren Bittner's "Meyer's Gazetteer: Gateway to Germany." I have read several articles by Bittner (including award-winning pieces) and heard him speak at the National Genealogical Society conference in Las Vegas a couple of years ago. My impression in Las Vegas was similar to my impression of Dr. Lacopo earlier in the day. So, I knew I could learn something from this excellent researcher. 

Bittner provided a useful hand-out for transliterating German Fraktur typeface letters and a key to understanding the structure of and abbreviations in this early twentieth century German gazetteer. One may find Meyer's Gazetteer online and searchable on Ancestry. It is also available in two parts on FamilySearch, here and here; and on HathiTrust, here and here.

13 February 2015

FGS/RootsTech conference 2015, Day 3 - my conference in context

Past First Lady Laura Bush was the big draw for the Opening Session today, but I decided to spend my time in the Family History Library finishing work I intended to complete during this trip. From about 8:15 am to 9:45, I located and scanned images of ten vital record documents from New York City. My work done, I headed back to the Salt Palace for more genealogy.

The Salt Palace venue is large. I believe that three years ago when I attended the second RootsTech, the entire conference was tucked into the Upper Concourse (Plaza Hotel side of the conference center). Now, RootsTech takes over the other side of the building and FGS fills the Upper Concourse. 

Logistics made for a difficult decision on attending Crista Cowan's (Ancestry.com) 10:20 am Expo Hall Demo Theater presentation of "How to Search Ancestry.com like a Pro." I had hoped to take in the first few minutes of her presentation which overlapped with the 10:30 am start of the next session. But, walking the bazillion (!) miles (OK, several minutes walk - even at my usually quick pace) to the next session I wanted to attend likely would mean missing parts of both talks. So, I chose to see the entire Cluster Genealogy presentation and forgo what I expect was Crista's fine presentation.

Dr. Deborah A. Abbott's talk on "Cluster Genealogy: Finding Your Lost Ancestors" was, indeed, worthwhile. I have been using cluster (or FAN - family, associates and neighbors) principles for some time in my research. And I am already a convert. Dr. Abbott explain the concept: let no clue lie, research everyone (cousins, aunts, siblings, in-laws, out-laws, neighbors, etc.) to answer who, what, when, where and how for each target ancestor. She also made some recommendations for tools to help work through what can become complex analyses.

She provided some nice case studies and enjoined us to use cluster techniques and the context they may provide when we get stuck in our research.

While I'd heard Curt B. Witcher (Allen County Library) on some podcasts before, I don't think I'd heard this engaging speaker in person. Witcher spoke on "Doing the History Eliminates the Mystery." He suggested focusing on an individual or family and exploring the history surrounding this target individual in terms of geography, ethnicity, religion, occupation and historic era. 

Witcher suggested we:
  1. focus on all details of a single ancestor
  2. analyze all documents related to that ancestor 
  3. evaluate specific contexts of the target ancestor 
  4. study all geographic histories of the target individual's area 
  5. study all ethnic histories in the area, and
  6. use FANs to grow one's knowledge
Witcher's talk was actually a fine complement to Abbott's. Abbott's talk was at the micro level; Witcher's a bit more macro. Both covered aspects of developing and using the context of our ancestor's lives as an aid in problem solving. And, of course, understanding context is sure to breathe life into one's family history.

I have been toying with some ideas for articles on various aspects of my research and I have been dreaming that these articles might be accepted in some of the major refereed genealogy journals. Thomas W. Jones ("Writing a Prize-Winning FamilyHistory") provided just what I needed to guide me through the development, writing and self-editing process. 

Dr. Jones acknowledged that good writing hard work. He suggested techniques to overcome the fear of getting started: start with an idea; don't worry if one's first effort is rough; work in chunks; revise, revise, revise. 

The goal is clear writing. Avoid repetition. Eliminate needless words. Every word should have a purpose.

Good genealogy articles have similar overall structures. Dr, Jones identified structural elements. The best teacher may be the content of major journals. The more one writes and reads, the better one's writing will become.

I listened to Elissa Scalise Powell's Demo Theater talk, "Measure Yourself Against the Standards." Her talk was short and provided only the basics - likely because the Board for Certification of Genealogists had already conducted a two-hour workshop on the topic earlier in the conference.

The problem with the Demo Theater, which is located within the Expo Hall, is that audience seating is in large cushy couches and chairs. At the end of the day sitting in one of those is an invitation for napping. Perhaps that is why most Demo Theater presentations are only 20 minutes.

I ended the day on a high note, taking dinner with a new friend in a wonderful Vietnamese restaurant away from FGS/RootsTech, Temple Square and the Salt Palace. A few months ago Donna, a Salt Lake City researcher with interests in Eastern Europe, had contacted me on the recommendation of someone who had heard me speak this past summer at the IAJGS conference in Salt Lake City. Donna has done some excellent research and determined that her grandfather, who was quite closed-mouth about his immigrant origins, was from the same village as my father's family, Labun (today in Ukraine). The difference in our target individuals is that mine were Jewish and hers were not. 

Donna and her mother were quite taken with the photographs of Labun posted on my blog during my 2013 visit to Ukraine. Donna's grandfather arrived in the USA in 1910 (as did several of my relatives) and settled in Philadelphia (mine were in New York City). The differences and similarities in what Donna may ultimately find to be her grandfather's story and what I find as my grandfather's story - stories of members of different ethnic populations from the same community - is sure to be fascinating. After all, as both Dr. Deborah Abbott and Curt Witcher have noted, context will breathe life into our family histories.

FGS/RootsTech conference 2015, Day 2 (the middle)

In my last post I discussed the opening and closing events on Day 2 of the conference. Now, for what I took during the day.


I believe I heard Dr. Thomas W. Jones give his talk, "Getting the Most Out of Genealogical Evidence," at NGS a couple of years ago. But, it is definitely worthwhile and I have found that it is often good to revisit complex topics as one's skills improve and interests expand. 

photo courtesy of Dawn Henry
Jones identified jig saw puzzles as good metaphors for genealogical evidence. Like those working on puzzles, we try to assemble pieces of the past to identify relationships, events and status. We need more than one piece, usually several, to build our picture.

No source is perfectly trustworthy, direct information may be lacking, and record losses or shortages may exist. Even so, no source is too poor that it may be disregarded. When we adopt an evidence orientation, we must evaluate all sources. Evaluate everything - trust nothing.

Jones went on to discuss finding and evaluating evidence, assessing evidence for agreement or conflict and the roles direct, indirect and negative evidence may play in our research.

Expo Hall

Ken Bravo, Michael Goldstein, Banai Feldstein & Mark Nicholls
After the first session, I went to the Expo Hall for help out at the International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies booth. They actually has more volunteers than they needed at that time, so I schmoozed with them a little, chatted with some people who were interested in Jewish genealogy, had lunch and walked a bit of the hall. 

Ron Arons
The hall is overwhelming. There are so many vendors that I could not finish checking out all the options in one visit - and I didn't want to since I started to feel overload. I did stop to see one friend, Ron Arons. He's still counting black sheep, but is now heavily involved in mind maps.

Afternoon sessions

Judy G. Russell spoke on federal court records in "Making a Federal Case Out of It." She outlined the history, structure and authorities of federal courts and the many reasons and ways in which one's ancestors may have become involved in court activities. Federal courts have jurisdiction over cases including copyright, bankruptcy, naturalization (which wasn't exclusively federal until the 1980s), where the federal government is a party, maritime issues, and disputes between states.

She also discussed the types of records that might be created in court proceedings and where one might find them.

For the last session of the day, I took in Cyndi Ingle's "Go West, Young Man: Online Resources for the Western United States." She mentioned sources, such as the Bureau of land Management's GLO site for land patents, sources for western migration routes, Angel Island (San Francisco) immigrants, pioneer and first family sites, and ssites that accessed unusual records such cattle brands and state archive digital collections.

Cyndi is the mind, body and brain behind Cyndi's List and she made sure to include information on where one might find similar links on her website.