14 August 2016

IAJGS 2016, Day 2

I was busy much of the day completing my presentation set for Thursday and reviewing my presentation for 3 P.M. this afternoon: "When it Takes a Village: Applying Cluster Research Techniques."

Emily Garber - "When it Takes a Village: Applying Cluster Research Techniques"

I shan't review my own presentation, but after delivering this several times and up-grading it a few times, I am gratified that several audience members told me they felt it was well-structured and presented.

This talk covers the genealogy technique "cluster research" - broadening one's research beyond ancestors to include co-lateral relatives, friends, acquaintances and neighbors. The technique is applied to complex problems because it has the advantage of helping us find additional information that may be applicable to our ancestors' lives, when our ancestors' own records are silent.

Typically, the results of application of cluster research provide us with indirect evidence for our ancestors' particulars. So, in the case I discussed, we could deduce that Feiga was my great grandfather Avrum's niece only once we'd established that her father was Avrum's brother. There was no one record that said, directly, Feiga was Avrum's niece.

Interestingly, since so many of us come to genealogy from other disciplines, some people have been confused by use of "cluster," which has other meanings in other fields. More well-known perhaps, because it is applied in many fields, cluster analysis is a statistical technique for identifying homogeneous groups within larger data sets. So, one genealogist cum retired scientist in our midst, told me she was initially quite amazed to think that a genealogist was going to conduct statistical analysis.

But, alas, no. The sample size is much too small.  ;-)

My presentation included using cluster research within the context of a research plan: formulating a focused research question; identifying what was already known; identifying types of records to be searched; researching and evaluating what had been found; determining whether the problem had been solved and, if not, refocusing to continue in a productive manner.

I don't know that anyone else at the conference really discussed research planning in this way, so I hope it was useful.

Warren Blatt, Avraham Groll, and Michael Tobias - JewishGen 2016

JewishGen's presentation was a review of their year and accomplishments and a foreshadowing of what's to come.

The website currently has 150,000 webpages and boasts a database listing 20 million records.

This year:
  • the Yizkor Book project added 27 new book translations;
  • Yizkor Book in Print: 8 books published this year
  • Kehilalinks: 31 new communities this year (almost 900 communities online)
  • JewishGen's Education program - now has 15 courses, including Basic 1,2,3,4; screen cast videos.
  • ViewMate: Between 2015 and 2016, 500 images submitted. The archives has nearly 40,000 images.
  • Family tree of the Jewish People - lineage linked database of, now, 6,000 GEDcom trees.
  • JewishGen Online Worldwide Burial Registry: 438,000 records added from 964 cemeteries. Now has more than 2.8 million records from 6,000+ cemeteries and 500,000 photos.
  • Memorial plaques: this year 46,000 records added; it now has 128,000 records from 204 synagogues
  • JewishGen Family Finder (JGFF) - 1/2 million ancestral towns and surnames (107,000 researchers worldwide).

When I teach beginners - and even some people who are beyond beginning Jewish genealogy - I always ask if they have put their family surnames on JGFF. If they haven't, I encourage them to do so. Seeing the numbers, above, I am even more convinced that listing one's research interests in JGFF is critical (!).

Last year, JewishGen introduced an option in their search forms for fuzzy matching. Using that I immediately found records I'd not located before within the linked Jewish Records Indexing-Poland (JRI-P) database. As Michael Tobias aptly described it, fuzzy matching compensates for transcription errors.

For many years, JewishGen has been our Jewish genealogy portal - a one-stop shop for Jewish genealogy. But, proliferation of new databases on a variety of Jewish genealogy websites in the last few years, has made research a bit more challenging (I love the fact that I can access JRI-P's database either via their website or via JewishGen). This year, JewishGen offered some exciting news: they have started data-sharing with Gesher Galicia. One will be able to see results from Gesher Galicia's database when searching either in JewishGen's All Poland or All Ukraine databases.

JewishGen is also in the process of linking to Family History Library microfilm images relevant to our Jewish research.

JewishGen recognized Susana Leistner Bloch as Volunteer of the Year. She has been, among other things, a mainstay (and mover and shaker) of the Kehilalinks project on JewishGen.

Ukraine SIG was recognized for the progress they have been making on acquiring and indexing records from Ukrainian archives. This year an index with 56,000 Odessa birth records was added to JewishGen.

Samuel Kassow - JGSLA Pamela Weisberger Memorial Lecture: "History and Catastrophe: The Secret Warsaw Ghetto Archive of Emanuel Ringelblum"

Dr. Samuel Kassow is a distinguished historian and professor of history at Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut.My familiarity with him comes from his recent association with YIVO, teaching their first offered online course this past spring: "Discovering Ashkenaz: Jewish Life in Eastern Europe."

Kassow noted that in his opinion both Pamela Weisberger and Emanuel Ringelblum were characterized by their deep concern for the community, by energy, and enthusiasm. Their lives both attest that if one throws oneself into a cause, one can make a real difference. 

Emmanuel Ringelblum (1900- March 1944), political and community organizer and historian, created a secret archive in Warsaw to document the lives of those Jews living under Nazi occupation. This was the largest documentation of underground resistance in Europe. To protect the archive, the records were buried in three caches. Of the 60 or so people in the collective, Oneg Shabbat, organized by Ringelblum who knew about the archive and where it was buried, only three survived the War. 

Warsaw had been leveled and it was very difficult to relocate the burial locations. On Sept 18, 1946 a shovel hit the first of ten tin boxes. Many documents and photographs had been ruined by water. In December 1950, Polish construction workers found two aluminum milk cans with records.The third archive cache was never found

Ultimately, the caches yielded 25,000-30,000 usable documents. The collected saw themselves in the footsteps of YIVO. They collected essays, diaries, menus from restaurants, theater posters, children's essays (in Polish, Hebrew and Yiddish). They started a study project of Jews under Nazi occupation. Ringelblum insisted on getting the final voices of the Jewish Ghetto. He wanted to tell the whole story - the good and the bad, including Jewish police corruption. To him, the objectivity of the archive needed to be trusted to to be seen as the true history of Polish Jews. He wanted people to see Jews as people doing the best they could in difficult times.

Roberta Grossman and Nancy Spielberg are currently working on a documentary film based upon Kassow's book about the Ringelblum archive: Who Will Write Our History.

This was a very moving and educational lecture. I am so glad that JGSLA presented such a wonderful talk in Pamela's honor.

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