06 July 2015

IAJGS 2015, Jerusalem: Day 1

After a whirl-wind few days of sight-seeing (more about that in future posts) in Israel I've settled in for several days of teaching and listening. I limited the sessions I attended today in final preparation for my beginning Jewish genealogy talk at 3:00 P.M.

"Footnotes, Side notes and Remarks in European Vital Records"

Dr. Yohai Ben-Ghedalia, Rony Golan and Orit Lavi team taught a class regarding usual and some unusual notations that may be found on records. These are frequently difficult to read and infrequently indexed.

Prior to 1877 metrical records were not standardized. After that, a columnar format was adopted and all had remarks columns. Usually the remarks were used to note changes in status regarding subjects of records. This could involve correcting minor mistakes to legitimizing marriages via civil marriage ceremonies. Understanding the context of such changes can add to our understanding of our ancestors' lives.

Ben-Ghedalia, Golan and Lavi presented several interesting cases from several locations in eastern Europe, including Congress Poland, Hungary, Lithuania, Austrian Empire and Russian Empire.

There was quite a bit of discussion among the three presenters and the audience regarding indexing projects including information on notations. Few indexed records include the information included in metrical records.

The take away from this talk is that a notation may point the researcher toward addition records, sometimes in far off locales. It behooves us to follow the path provided.

"Evacuatzia - Searching for Documentation on Those Evacuated to the Depths of the USSR during WWII"

I was very interested in this talk by Serafima Velkovich of Yad Vashem because my grandfather's sister Sarah Garber Giller and her family were among those evacuated from Starokonstyaniv, Soviet Union (now Ukraine) in advance of Nazi occupation. 

My family members were sent to Chelyabinsk in the interior of the Soviet Union during the war and chose to remain in that area for the rest of their lives. Some of their descendants still live there.

There were essentially three types of migrations from this part of Ukraine. The Stalin distrusted Jews in eastern Europe and deported those whose loyalty he questioned. Many people, Jewish and non-Jewish were evacuated from the area by the government. And, finally, there were those who decided to flee themselves  and head into the USSR interior.

The movement started in June of 1941 and by 2 July 1941 210 trains had already left heading east. Ultimately, 17 million people evacuated to the Soviet interior. People were settled among local populations in a variety of regions. About 53 percent of the evacuees were Russian and 24 percent were Jewish. 

I tend to think of Yad Vashem's "Shoah Names Database" as solely relating to those who perished during the war, but it also includes more than 600,000 evacuee names taken from State Archive of the Russian Federation record group M.46 and almost 20,000 from record group M.33 of The Extraordinary State Commission to Investigate German-Fascist Crimes Committed on Soviet Territory.

Thus far, I have not located my family among the records. I will have to think of some different database search strategies. 

Jewish Genealogy - How to Start, Where to Look and the Breadth of What's Available"

I won't be reviewing my own talk, but I do think it went well. It has been taped for distribution via On Demand! The biggest challenge was limiting the talk and questions to 45 minutes. Usually IAJGS talks are 60 minutes plus 15 for questions. As it turns out I was not able to keep the talk short enough to include questions in the 45 minute schedule. However, I did go into the hallway after my talk to answer questions.

I offered five genealogical research best practices:
  1. Begin at home
  2. Organize to anticipate growth in your collections 
  3. Work backwards from what is known 
  4. Use all records and information relevant to your research questions 
  5. Share your success with others 
The remainder of the talk focused on U.S. records one might use to research one's family's post-immigration lives, their migration from the old country to the new (i.e., naturalization records and manifests), and their lives in the old country.

We ended with suggestions for further education, such as this conference, JewishGen online courses, blogs, discussion groups and podcasts.


  1. I will enjoy the conference vicariously through your blog posts - thanks for sharing!

    1. Thank you, Elizabeth. Hope to see you next year in Seattle!

  2. Emily: Who is the expert on pre 1877 metrical records and the remarks column? I talked about the same thing in my Galician talk on Monday. Would like to compare notes.

  3. Dear Emily,
    Thank you for your feetback!
    You can apply us, and we'll try to check more about your relatives.
    Serafima Velkovich

  4. Serafima:
    Thank you for your comment. I certainly will consider your offer from Yad Vashem.


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