19 July 2015

IAJGS 2015, Jerusalem: Day 5

I am an avid Friday (last day of conference) presentation attender. One, I feel badly that anyone has to be scheduled the last day - and risk having few in the audience; two, some of the best presentations are given on the last day; and three, the audiences are always at rapt attention - they really want to be there to hear what is said. It always seems that these last-day presentations - even when well-attended - wind up being a bit more informal with a great deal of fairly intelligent give and take with the audience.

"Teaching Jewish Genealogy to Teenagers"

I applaud anyone trying to teach anything to teenagers. Arnon Hershovitz and Rony Golan not only took the challenge but prepared a creative and fascinating elective course for their teenage audience: 12-13 year old gifted students.

The course was thirteen sessions of 1.5 hours each. They designed it with what they described as a spiral curriculum: designed to revisit core material at periodic intervals and build on previously introduced material. 

Herskovitz and Golan described each of the 13 sessions. This course was amazing and took vast amounts of teacher preparation. The children prepared genealogy charts for television and cartoon families, did interviewing with video recording, visited a cemetery (the teachers visited the cemetery before-hand to note interesting stones), listened to guest speakers, and met with the deputy mayor (whose genealogy the children prepared in advance).

Not surprisingly (considering the teacher time commitment), this course has only been taught once. Although it is clear that it had a great effect on many of the students.

"Yad Vashem Resources for Advanced Level"

I had attended the full-day pre-conference tour/research opportunity at Yad Vashem, so I was interested in hearing what else Zvi Bernhardt would offer.

The Shoah Names Database is not just pages of testimony about people killed in the Holocaust. POTs are only about 40% of the database. It also includes information from the Soviet Extraordinary Commission; post-war Jewish memorial projects (tombstones and plaques); records about anyone who did not survive WWII, and information about those who were evacuated from Eastern Europe in advance of the Nazi occupation.

One of the frustrations with searching broadly in the database is that it will not return results in excess of 1000 records. They do this to avoid stressing their computer system. To overcome this difficulty, Bernhardt recommends that researchers use the updates fields - updated since. . .up-dated until - to search smaller chunks of the database and, therefore, return fewer results for each search.

Other online resources include:
  • The Untold Stories
  • Transports to Extinction database - includes deportations, maps and testimonies
  • Righteous Among Nations - one may search by righteous or rescued person 
  • Online photo archive and documents archive - only a small percentage of collections are online yet

"Search as an Art" 

Banai Feldstein, my hotel roomie during the conference provided, I think, a much-needed summary of the issues one should consider when searching in a variety of genealogy websites. Unfortunately, she was a victim of the last-day-of-conference syndrome and the conference did not provide anyone to introduce her. So, I jumped up to do so. Luckily, I knew enough about her background to provide an adequate introduction. 

Banai said we should not assume that particular websites use American Soundex. In fact, Ancestry and FamilySearch have their own name search parameters. JewishGen, of course, uses Daitch-Mokotoff and Beider-Morse Soundex. [And, as I know from previous Crista Cowan talks, Ancestry will apply Daitch-Mokotoff if one specifies "Jewish" under the Collection Focus drop down menu at the lower part of their search boxes.]

Banai covered the tried and true search strategies that beginners don't always appreciate: search without a surname, use a child's name to locate the family, add or remove details when there are too many of too few results. She also shared that genealogy databases often present their results in weighted lists. So, for example, Ancestry's results list may be ordered by most popular data collect (such as the 1940 census). Page through the results to locate the records you may find more interesting. 


  1. Thank you for the wonderful summaries of lectures you attended. It sounds like it was, once again, a great conference with a wide variety of lectures.

    1. Thanks for the comment and compliment, Elizabeth! And I hope you'll make it Seattle next year. We'll definitely do a bloggers get-together.

  2. I've been following along with your conference summaries and really appreciate the "highlights" hints. The next best thing to being there!

  3. Thank you, Marian! Hope we'll see you in Seattle next August for both the conference and the blogger get-together.


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