08 July 2015

IAJGS 2015, Jerusalem: Day 2

Tuesday at the IAJGS conference was Ukraine Special Interest Group (SIG) day and the middle of my day was booked for a Ukraine SIG meeting, lunch and then another meeting. I did, however, attend two good sessions before the Ukraine SIG festivities began.

"Finding Your Immigrant Ancestors on Ancestry.com"

Attending a talk by Crista Cowan of Ancestry is always worthwhile. Crista has an experts knowledge for making most out of Ancestry database searches and, even in her more beginning-level presentations, an experienced genealogist may learn something.

Crista structured her talk by using the elements of the Genealogical Proof Standard, especially conducting a reasonably exhaustive search, analysis and correlation and resolution of conflicts.

Ancestry now has about 16 billion records and uploads 1-2 million records each day. Crista prefers to access records via the Ancestry Card Catalog. She drills down through that to find particular collections of interest. She noted that one advantage of this strategy is that search boxes are tailored to particular collections. By searching one collection with its particular search box (as opposed to the generic one on the Ancestry home page) one may reap some advantages.

Those who have some understanding of the development of soundex systems in the United States know that American Soundex (which Ancestry uses) is not very good for finding central and eastern European names often found in our Jewish families. Daitch-Mokotoff Soundex was developed to for the address the short-comings of American Soundex. On Ancestry one may change the default American Soundex to Daitch-Mokotoff Soundex by selecting the Jewish Collection focus on the bottom of the search box.

"Reconstructing Small-Town Jewish Communities in America" 

Tammy Hepps has taken on Homestead, Pennsylvania - putting her relatives and the Jewish community, in general, in context.

While we tend to think of eastern European immigrants as big-city dwellers, there were also Jewish communities in small-town America. Jewish lives, unlike those in big cities, were not dominated by Yiddish culture,  or radical socialists. The Jewish families in these small town tended to keep their heads down. They maintained their culture as best they could in a foreign environment, not necessarily conducive to keeping the faith. 

Tammy suggested studying the organizations with which one's relatives may have interacted: synagogues, fraternal organizations, and social clubs (to name a few). In addition, seek out local records and histories and search in archives for manuscripts. Put people in context by studying the non-Jewish neighboring populations and regional Jewish populations.

Tammy's presentation was well structured and presented.  My time was well-spent.

Ukraine SIG meetings and luncheon

The Ukraine SIG meetings featured Janette Silverman providing a tour of the Ukraine SIG webpage; Phyllis Grossman providing advice on touring and archive experiences in Ukraine; and several reports on a variety of Ukraine SIG projects.

Ukraine SIG continues to collect records and collections at an astounding rate. The SIG has been working closely with the Central Archives for the History of the Jewish People (CAHJP) to acquire records from eastern Europe. 

In addition, volunteers continue to collect records on information FamilySearch Library microfilm for indexing. 

The main limitation at this point is volunteers and money: getting volunteer project leaders and raising money to pay translators for their indexing work. 

Expect the fruits of some of these labors to be available on JewishGen in the next few months.


  1. Emily, I'm following your IAJGS adventures with interest...Thanks for sharing, and enjoy the conference!

  2. Thank you, Marian! Hope you'll consider attending in Seattle next year.

  3. Thanks Emily,
    A reminder that Homestead, Pennsylvania is actually a suburb of Pittsburgh, PA.
    Marilyn Newman

    1. Thank you for your comment, Marilyn. Apparently, Homestead is a borough of Pittsburgh.


Comments on posts are always welcome but will be approved before posting. I actually prefer to just let people comment without going through this rigmarole, but I've recently had to delete some posts that I had not vetted before publication. So, please don't be offended. I love to hear from you!