14 August 2016

IAJGS 2016, Day 4

This morning I presented my second conference talk:

"Beyond the Manifest: Applying the Genealogical Proof Standard to Confirm One's Ancestral Origins"

In this talk I address a situation common to Jewish genealogists researching families from Eastern Europe: there are several similarly-named communities from which one's ancestors may have come. How does one determine which one was the community of origin?

When facing this situation, knowing my family's Yiddish name for the community - a name not found on any map or gazetteer of the area - and finding several conflicting notions, I chose to research exhaustively in line with the precepts of the Genealogical Proof Standard:

·      Conduct reasonably exhaustive search for information;
·      Cite sources of all information;
·      Analyze information & assess quality as evidence;
·      Resolve conflicts in evidence; and
·      Develop soundly reasoned, written conclusion.

The journey took me from manifests, to gazetteers. In the gazetteers (compiled sources), I drilled down to find the sources the authors' used to build their gazetteer. This took me to a 1912 work now digitized and online and a 1902 work found in the Jewish Theological Seminary's library. While this research did not provide the answer I sought, it did provide information that, combined with other findings eventually added to my evidence.

Landsmanshaft cemetery plots full of burials of immigrant families associated with the same town, provided a population of 60 immigrants for whom I was able to locate immigration records (manifests and, often, naturalization papers). I thought that a study of records from these associated individuals might provide additional information about the location of their town of origin.

Overwhelmingly, the immigrants identified one town name that is easily located on a map of the Russian Empire and another that matched the Yiddish community name used by my family. In six cases, different, independently-derived records for the same individuals yielded examples of both community names. Further analysis showed that it was likely that people from this town used both town names interchangeably.

The final study included records from the American Joint Distribution Committee's Archives. These eight letters were created in 1923 when the Joint completed a landsmanshaft-funded project in the community. My great great uncle, Myer Myers, was secretary of the landsmanshaft project organization and was recipient of one of the letters from the Joint. In addition there were letters and reports about the status of Jewish community in the town that used both terms to identify the town name.

Further confirmation was provided by comparing names of townspeople identified in the Joint's papers with Yad Vashem's Pages of Testimony for those killed in the Holocaust.

I published an earlier version of this study in Avotaynu: "Using Landsmanshaft Burial Plots to Discover and Confirm the Location of a Family Shtetl," Avotaynu 27 (Spring 2011): 1:3-9.

IAJGS 2016 Annual Meeting

I had a couple conflicts this afternoon (actually, three conflicts if one counts the fact that I could not attend the Board for Certification of Genealogists Workshop - something to which I had been looking forward). So, as Chair of the Phoenix Jewish Genealogy Group, I attended the first part of the IAJGS meeting. I had to leave mid-way to introduce another talk.

The IAJGS has been concentrating on promoting their member societies. They are working on branding and developing a consistent look and feel to their promotional material. They had a presence at most of the major genealogy conferences this year, including five Genealogy Road Show venues.

They plan to continue their branding efforts during the next year and are developing "Conference in a Box" to help societies create their own small events, outreach tools, website templates and recorded presentations from the IAJGS conference that may be shared with societies in their regular meetings in lieu of invited speakers.

Ekkehard Hübschmann - "Buried Treasures: Hardly Known Files of Genealogical Significance in German Archives - 19th Century"

Ekkehard was, unfortunately, ailing, but he soldiered on and presented information of interest to those conducting research on German ancestors.

He first explained the organization and locations of archives in Germany - not small task consider how many there are. This is partially a function of the diverse and complex history of the area now included as Germany.

Judenmatrikel records were created as a result of partial emancipation of Jews in 1813. Jews, at that point had to have inheritable surnames. They could then own land and had access to more career opportunities, but still were limited to where they could live. The registers kept track of and limited the number of Jews in each community. No one could be added to a town list for residents unless someone else was taken off the list.

For most of the 19th Century vital records for te Jewish community were kept with Parish records. In 1876 Civil registry Offices were started. Residency and marriage required approval and inheritance depended upon those approvals. These files contain good genealogical information, including inheritance, marriage, house numbers. For residency, men had to prove they had completed military service.

The 1828 Royal Bavarian Property Tax Cadaster was created as a base for land taxes. Historical maps are accessible online and include the ability to switch among modern, old and aerial views - great for locating ancestors' homes in today's communities.

Hübschmann also spoke of several additonal record types including emigration files.

Lara Diamond: "Your Ancestral Town May Not Have Been So Ancestral!"

Lara's mission in this talk? show that our ancestors sometimes moved a great deal more than we tend to think. She used her awesome family research as her as examples.

Part of her family Lived in Shpikov for a small time (although none had been born there). They were registered in Kuna. Before Kuna, they had lived in Uman. Shpikov is 30 miles from Kuna and Kuna is 40 miles from Uman.

She located six generations of one family and every generation was born in a different village.

At the same time, there were people who stayed in the same locale over several generations.

Why did people move? To take advantage of job prospects, avoid the military draft, respond to government incentives, avoid taxes, escape persecution, and marry.

In Lara's work it seems to her that it was about 50-50 as to whether a wife move to her husband's town or vice versa.


  1. Emily, I really appreciate reading your "beyond the manifest" wisdom and experience. Plus since I couldn't be at the conference, your summary of some sessions gives me new ideas. Thank you!

  2. Thank you, Marian! I am glad my articles have been helpful to you. Plan for next year's IAJGS in Orlando!


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