Sunday, December 30, 2012

"Bad Indians" at California Historical Society

The California Historical Society will host another interesting speaker on Thursday, January 17, 2013, at 6:00 p.m.  Deborah A. Miranda is an associate professor of English at Washington and Lee University.  She is an enrolled member of the Ohlone Costanoan Esselen Nation of California and also has Chumash, French, and Jewish ancestry.  Her new book, Bad Indians:  A Tribal Memoir (Heyday Books, 2012), the focus of the evening, is about her Ohlone family and the experience of California Indians as told through oral histories, newspaper stories, anthropological recordings, and more.  Miranda has published two poetry collections and has a forthcoming collection of essays.

"An Evening with Deborah Miranda" will take place at the California Historical Society, 678 Mission Street, San Francisco.  Make your reservation at

New Volunteer Position

The official announcement has been made, so I can now say that I have been elected to a two-year term as a board member at large for the California State Genealogical Alliance.  The purpose of CSGA is to serve as an information and communication source for the genealogical community in California, to preserve state genealogical sources, and to promote genealogy.  One thing I particularly hope to focus on is being a liaison to the ethnic genealogical societies we have here.  I think they are a great resource that more people need to know about.  I'm looking forward to working with the other board members during the next two years.  It should be an interesting and educational adventure!

Audio Tour of London Cemetery

Hampstead Graveyard
A cemetery in London now has an Internet supplement -- audio recordings of stories related to several of the people buried there.  The Hampstead Parish Churchyard in Camden is the oldest surviving original churchyard in the center of Greater London.  Saint-John-at-Hampstead has burials dating from about 1745 to at least World War II.  The "Life and Death in Hampstead Sound Trail", conceived of as a way to interest people in local history, has extracts from 44 interviews with descendants, family members, academics, and experts.  There are transcripts of the recordings and an additional 21 texts with information about other burials and topics.

Some of the more famous burials in the churchyard are painter John Constable, comedian Peter Cook, and George and Gerald Du Maurier (grandfather and father of Daphne Du Maurier).  The Web site includes interviews about Constable and the Du Mauriers.  An article about the Sound Trail is available on the BBC Web site.

My thanks to Jeremy Frankel for telling me about this interesting story.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Learn How to Use the Bilingual Search Engine for IGRA's Database

The Israel Genealogy Research Association (IGRA) has an All Israel Database (AID) section of its site with information from the Ottoman, British, and Israeli administrations.  Most databases are in Hebrew, some are in English, and a few are in other languages.  Records are presented in their original languages.

In July, at the IAJGS International Conference in Paris, IGRA was awarded a Stern Grant to develop a bilingual search engine for its Web site to improve access to the databases.  The new search engine was announced on December 15.  The search engine can understand both English and Hebrew and will show matches in both languages even if you enter the name in only one language.  All material has been transliterated so that the search engine can identify results.  There is even a virtual keyboard if you do not have a Hebrew keyboard.

The search has several filter options, including record type, database, source, repository, and administration era.  The default language for the page is Hebrew, but you can click on the "English" button at the top right and it is immediately translated.  Different databases have different permission levels.  Some are available to everyone, while some are only for paid IGRA members.  More records are still being digitized and added to the databases.

Obviously, there's a lot to learn here.  Luckily, IGRA is offering a free Webinar, "Navigating the All Israel Database Search Engine", in English (which is good for me, because I don't understand Hebrew!).  The Webinar will be broadcast January 13, 2013 at 10:00 a.m. PST/1:00 p.m. EST/8:00 p.m. Israel.  Register at

My thanks to Garri Regev, IGRA president, for posting this information.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Another Issue of The Galitzianer

Whew!  I'm finally back on schedule . . . well, mostly.  I finished this issue of The Galitzianer on time, and it's ready for the printer, but it has to wait to go out until some administrative paperwork has been taken care of.  That's a huge improvement, though, and I think the March issue will actually come out in March!

So what's in this issue?  There's somewhat of a "black gold" theme going on.  The main article (a translation of a French article) discusses the history of oil exploration in Galicia, which had the first oil refinery in the world.  A short article about Neudorf and a review of a book about East Galicia and Bukovina also discuss the oil industry in Galicia and how it affected residents.  Then a memoir by one of the co-authors of Our Bodies, Ourselves, who is a Holocaust survivor born in Przemyślany, relates her life journey.  And almost 30,000 names from 269 Viennese families have been entered into

The Galitzianer is sent to members of Gesher Galicia, a nonprofit organization focused on researching Jews and Jewish life in the former Austro-Hungarian province of Galicia.  Articles are accepted from both members and nonmembers.  If you submit an article that is published, you will receive a copy of the issue with your article even if you are not a member.  Submissions may be articles and/or graphics, both original and previously published, and must be relevant to Galician Jewish genealogical research:  articles about recent trips to Galicia, reports on your own research, historical and recent pictures relevant to these matters, etc.  Electronic submissions are preferred, though not required.

If you wish to submit material for consideration, please contact me at  We accept submissions year-round, but the deadline for the March 2013 issue is February 15.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

New Links on Online Newspaper Archives Page

I am a huge fan of newspapers for family history research.  Newspapers can give you information on births, marriages, divorces, deaths, jobs, military service, court cases, and more.  I have been teaching classes on using online newspapers for a few years now, and one of my favorite resources to tell people about is the Wikipedia page for online newspaper archives.  This page is a portal with links to other sites with digitized newspapers, abstracts, and indices.  The links are sorted by country (and in some cases are broken down further by state or province), and there are also links to multicountry and informational sites.  And most of the sites are free!  This is one of the first places you should look when you are checking to see if newspapers in a given area are available online.

Because the page is on Wikipedia, everyone can contribute links to new resources when you find them.  I add information on a regular basis.  The latest links I added are:
• Australia: Police Gazette of Western Australia from 1876-1900
• Cyprus: American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee archive of newspapers published between 1947-1949 by Holocaust survivors detained on Cyprus
• Scotland: Word on the Street, broadsides from 1650-1910
• Worldwide: Newspaper Abstracts, abstracts and extracts from eight countries

Check for the area you're researching and see what's available online!

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Seeking Passengers on the SS Marine Jumper

On March 3, 1949, the SS Marine Jumper left Hamburg for the United States with European refugees, primarily Jewish survivors from displaced persons (DP) camps.  Janette Silverman is looking for people who were on that specific sailing, or their descendants, for research on a new book project.  If you or your ancestors were on the Marine Jumper, please contact Janette directly at  If you know someone who was on that sailing, please give them her e-mail address and ask them to contact her.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Genetic Voiceprints?

BBC has posted an audio file of a discussion on forensic phonetics, the science of studying voices in relation to legal proceedings.  While voiceprints are not unique in the way that fingerprints are, phonetics scientists work on identifying distinctive characteristics in speech so as to identify specific speakers.

So this made me wonder how much of a genetic component there is to what our voices sound like and what can be passed down in a family.  I know that I have always sounded like my mother (which definitely caused some problems after she passed away).  People often got us confused on the phone.

Twins often sound very much alike.  For example, if you've ever watched Antiques Roadshow and seen Leigh and Leslie Keno, they sound almost exactly like each other.  I used to practice listening to them without looking at the screen to see if I could figure out which brother was which.  But then one day I heard someone who sounded a lot like them, but not quite the same.  It took a while for the camera to show the appraiser, and it wasn't either one of them!  When they finally showed the person's name, it was Mitchell Keno, their older brother.  So there's something in their family that's come down through all three men's voices.

Wouldn't it be cool to find out that you sounded like your great-great-grandmother (or -grandfather)?  Unfortunately, I suspect very, very few of us have recordings of our ancestors beyond (maybe) our parents and grandparents.  But making digital recordings is so easy now, you can record your own voice so your descendants can hear you.  Or make a video!  Then maybe your great-great-granddaughter (or -grandson) will find out that she sounds just like you.

If you had an ancestor who was a performer of some sort, you might be able to find movies, albums, or some other sort of recordings of the person's voice.  I've even heard of people tracking down old radio recordings.  Hunt around and see what you can come up with.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Family History in Unexpected Places

Even though I think about family history a lot, and it has become such a popular pastime, I am sometimes surprised where I see it pop up.  Recently a friend gave me a copy of The Illustrated London News from Christmas of 1956.  My friend gave it to me because of a painting showing the heraldry of the opposing sides at the Battle of Crécy in 1346.  While it was a fascinating painting, what caught my eye more was a page titled "Outcasts--Social and Melodramatic:  Family Problems of a Century Ago", which shows two mid-19th-century paintings focused on families.

The Emigration Scheme
The first painting is The Emigration Scheme (c. 1850), by James Collinson.  Migration from one country to another was not only a significant event in the lives of many people's ancestors, it often becomes a major focus of research, trying to trace immigrants back to their countries and cities of origin.  Emigration was considered a viable solution to unemployment, urban overcrowding, and rural poverty in England in the early 19th century.  The Petworth Emigration Scheme is an example of one such plan.  But many records from this period have not survived, and it can be difficult to determine when and from where someone traveled.

The Outcast
The second painting is The Outcast (1851), by Richard Redgrave.  Here the subject appears to be a daughter who has had an illegitimate baby.  She is being turned out of the house by her father while other family members look on in sorrow.  Beyond the sadness of the situation, one of the first things I thought was, "This is a brick wall in the making."  Perhaps the shamed daughter gives her baby to a childless couple, or marries quickly and never talks about her own family again.  It can take creative and time-consuming research techniques to reconnect such a woman to her family.

The other unexpected place I ran into family history was Sports Illustrated magazine!  In the December 3, 2012 issue, writer Tim Layden has a wonderful article about his great-uncle Johnny Evers, of the famed double-play combo Tinker to Evers to Chance.  Apparently Layden has been tossing his great-uncle's name around for years as a well known calling card but didn't really know much about the man himself.  He finally got around to doing real research on Evers' life after a comment by a colleague.  The article is a good mix of the facts he was able to find and the stories he wasn't able to verify, and has a nice twist at the end.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Auction of Book Listing Prostitutes Sent to Australia

Sotheby's will be auctioning an unusual item on December 12:  a gaol [jail] book from 1790 listing English prostitutes who were transported to Australia on the ship Lady Juliana.  This ship brought the first large group of female British settlers to Australia and is apparently well known in Australian lore, not least for its reputation as a floating brothel.  Several of the women must have descendants who are alive today; it's suggested that one of the women might have tens of thousands of living descendants.  I really hope that one of them will be the lucky winning bidder.

The Sotheby's description of the lot says that it is the property of the Law Society of England and Wales, which sounds like a fairly serious group.  The Daily Mail has an article about the book, which states that the book "has come to light" but doesn't explain just how that happened.  C'mon, guys, how does someone just come across a book like that?  Where has it been hiding for the past 200+ years?

And please tell me that the names will be transcribed and entered into a database?

Wordless Wednesday

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Genealogy Journal Issues Published

My timing is a little off, but all I have to say is that it wasn't all my fault!  The latest issues of the two journals for which I am the editor have gone out, one a little late and one somewhat more.

The November issue of ZichronNote is just now going out to members of the San Francisco Bay Area Jewish Genealogical Society.  I'm very proud to be publishing an article about graphic artist Arthur Szyk, written by the official genealogist of the Arthur Szyk Society.  Other articles are a discussion of the "widow's portion" of inheritances, a review of the book Bread to Eat and Clothes to Wear, and information about a new series of translated yizkor books being printed by

Three articles in the September issue of The Galitzianer, which was sent to members of Gesher Galicia in early November (yes, really!), focus on the Holocaust:  a memoir of the events in the city of Stanisławów, the part the airfield in Krosno played during World War II, and tracking down what actually happened to a convicted Nazi criminal.  A more scholarly article looks at how Beth Din records can not only shed light on the daily activities of a town but can also help researchers reconstruct family relationships.  In the final article a woman retraces the life of her great-great-aunt in Poland.

You can receive ZichronNote and The Galitzianer if you join the respective organizations.  Each journal is published quarterly.  I try to publish interesting articles that help broaden our knowledge of the places and times in which our ancestors lived.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

The Irish in Brooklyn

If you are in Brooklyn this Saturday, December 1, you may want to join a free walking tour of "The Irish in Brooklyn Heights."  The New York Irish History Roundtable is conducting the walking tour of Brooklyn Heights and Cobble Hill.  John Ridge, the Roundtable president and a local historian, will lead the tour, which will focus on the impact the Irish had in the development of the two historic neighborhoods.

The tour begins promptly at 2:00 p.m.  Meet the group in front of Brooklyn Borough Hall, on Court Street, near Remsen Street.  To get to Borough Hall, take the 2, 3, 4, or 5 train to Borough Hall Station.

I wish I could go!  My half-sister's mother's family is all Irish, all day long, and they were all over New York City.

Wordless Wednesday

Monday, November 26, 2012

One Minute Every Day

It is often said that genealogists can spend so much time researching the past that they forget to save the present.  Someone recently told me the simple but brilliant (to me, at least!) way he has been preserving memories of his children growing up.  Every day since they were born, he has filmed them for one minute.  During that minute they could be doing anything -- sleeping, eating, singing, playing, whatever.  But he films them every day for one minute.  Can you imagine the incredible archive he has?  He and his family can look back over the years of videos and watch the day-to-day changes as his children have grown older.

And it's so easy to do!  Just one minute, every day.  Hardly any time at all.  You don't need to set up anything elaborate.  And you don't even have to have a video camera.  Most mobile phones nowadays can record video.  (But you will need to download regularly.)

So what's stopping you?  Start creating memories for tomorrow!

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Celebrating the "Borscht Belt"

Grossinger's Hotel
The "Borscht Belt" was a nickname for the summer resorts in the Catskill Mountains of upstate New York that were frequented by Jewish vacationers coming primarily from New York City.  Its heyday was the 1940's through the 1960's.  Many well known comedians either got their starts or performed regularly in the Borscht Belt hotels, including Mel Brooks, Jerry Lewis, Carl Reiner, Don Rickles, and Jerry Stiller, names I grew up listening to.  I was also told that one of my grandfather's brothers used to work in the hotels during the summer and met his lifelong sweetheart there.  So even though I am too young to have actually gone to the Borscht Belt, it was something I grew up hearing a lot about.

Next Saturday, December 1, at 7:00 p.m. I'll be attending a free screening of Rise and Fall of the Borscht Belt, a 1986 documentary by Peter Davis, at Congregation Beth-Israel Judea, 625 Brotherhood Way, San Francisco.  Though there is no admission fee, donations are welcome.  Havdallah and refreshments will be provided.

Monday, November 19, 2012

British World War I Pension Records Saved

The Western Front Association (WFA), a group whose purpose is to educate the public about the history of the Great War with particular emphasis on the Western Front, announced on November 8 that it had preserved an archive of 6.5 million British pension cards and related records from World War I.  The Ministry of Defence was no longer able to maintain the archive, and the possibility existed that the records would be destroyed for lack of a caretaker.  The WFA was able to step in, and the archive has been transferred to its premises.

Pension cards were created for each British soldier, sailor, airman, and nurse who was wounded and survived the war, and for dependents of those who were killed.  A card can have information such as birthdate and location, date of death, names and birthdates of children, service number and regiment, wounds suffered during the war, and more.  Some of this information might not be available otherwise, as many World War I records were destroyed during the Blitz of World War II.

The WFA plans to digitize the cards and create a searchable database.  It is looking at potential partnerships, so it is possible the database may appear on an already existing subscription site.  As it will take a while for the records to be digitized, there are plans to offer manual look-ups in the near future.  Check the Web site for updates.

More British Newspapers Now Online!

As a self-proclaimed newspaper queen, I am always excited when more newspapers are digitized and put online, because I think they are so important in family history research.  Yes, I know, not everything is online (nor will it ever be!), but it is convenient to have lots of stuff available from your computer keyboard.  The latest database is the addition of the British Newspaper Archive to the material available on  Currently about 6 million pages, covering 1710-1950, are in the database, with more to be added.  A list of the newspapers and years available can be downloaded in a PDF file.

I have to admit, I am still somewhat ambivalent about this particular collection.  The archive was created from newspapers that the British Library required publishers to provide, and now the papers have been digitized and the library is the one making money from them.  James Murdoch (son of media mogul Rupert Murdoch and at the time the CEO of News Corporation) came out against the plan when it was first publicized, but that had no effect on the digitization.  That said, I will be using the database, but it feels just a little "tainted" to me.

And don't forget -- you can use FindMyPast at Family SearchLibraries (formerly Family History Centers) for free!

Friday, November 16, 2012

Reception to Celebrate New Emma Goldman Book

Emma Goldman c. 1911
Emma Goldman (1869-1940) was an important anarchist well known for her political activism and writing.  She was born into an Orthodox Jewish family in Russia but became a committed atheist.  The Emma Goldman Papers Project at the University of California at Berkeley has collected, organized, and edited thousands of papers by and about Goldman since 1980.  This Sunday, November 18, the Magnes Collection of Jewish Art and Life will host a reception to honor the project's publication of the third volume in the four-part series Emma Goldman: A Documentary History of the American Years, 1890-1919 (Stanford University Press, November 2012).  There will be readings of Goldman's work.  The reception is open to the public.

The reception will be held from 2:00-4:00 p.m. at the Magnes Collection of Jewish Art and Life, 2121 Allston Way, Berkeley, California.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Two New Time-Life Online Photograph Collections

Children at Ellis Island
Time-Life recently added two photograph collections to its online holdings.  "Gateway to a New World:  Rare Photos from Ellis Island" was posted on the anniversary of the closing of Ellis Island in November 1954.  It consists of 30 photographs by Alfred Eisenstadt, one of Life's best known photographers and an immigrant himself.  Eisenstadt went to Ellis Island in 1950, when American laws had again put heavy restrictions on immigration.  Some of the photos appeared in the November 13, 1950 issue of Life, accompanying a story about the new immigration laws; many have not been published before.

The second collection is "The Brink of Oblivion:  Inside Nazi-occupied Poland, 1939-1940."  These are photos taken by Hugo Jaeger, a German and dedicated Nazi who traveled with and photographed Hitler in the late 1930's and early 1940's.  On the anniversary of the official establishment of the Warsaw ghetto in October 1940, Time-Life posted this collection of 22 of Jaeger's photographs of Warsaw and Kutno (a small town about 75 miles west of Warsaw) from 1939 and 1940.  There is also a link to the story of how Time-Life acquired Jaeger's photo archive.

My thanks to Jan Meisels Allen for sharing information about these photographs.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Two DNA Studies for Holocaust Survivors

During World War II thousands of Jewish children were separated from their families, often placed with non-Jewish families to hide them.  Many of these children who survived were very young and had little to no information about their birth families.  Two DNA projects are trying to remedy that and reunite child survivors with relatives.

The DNA Shoah Project is building a database of DNA from Holocaust survivors and their descendants to try to reunite families separated by the Holocaust (Shoah in Hebrew).  The project's aims are to match relatives, provide Shoah children with information about their biological families, and eventually assist in the forensic identification of Holocaust-era remains.  The project also teaches about the Holocaust in schools.  The DNA Shoah Project seeks DNA submissions from prewar immigrants, survivors, and second- and third-generation family members.  There is no cost to participate.

The second project is a collaboration between Identifinders International, 23andMe, and  Their pilot study is using autosomal DNA testing to try to help Holocaust child survivors recover their birth identities.  They are starting with a focus on two individuals who have little chance otherwise of learning about their birth families.

Though their approaches are different -- creating a general database of information versus focusing on specific individuals searching for family -- each of these projects is extremely important.  Holocaust survivors are at a minimum 67 years old, and many are significantly older.  Many of them pass away without ever finding that missing piece of information that could connect them with other relatives who survived.  These studies have the potential to help them find information about the families they were separated from in World War II and connect with living relatives.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Honoring the Veterans in My Family

The earliest veteran I know of in my family is Moses Mulliner, my seventh great-grandfather, who served during the American Revolution as a drummer for a New Jersey unit.  I spoke about him recently to a local DAR chapter.  As far as I know he was a practicing Quaker, and that is probably why he chose to support the revolution as a drummer instead of fighting.  He was one of many veterans who found themselves in dire financial circumstances late in life, and he had to work his way through government bureaucracy for a pension that finally arrived the year before he died.

After Moses I move forward almost 100 years to the American Civil War.  My great-great-grandfather Cornelius Gottschalk Sellers volunteered to serve in another New Jersey unit.  Cornelius was underage, so his father Franklin had to sign a note granting him permission to volunteer.  His unit was at Fredericksburg and Gettysburg, and even at Appomattox for Lee's surrender, and he was in the hospital twice.  He did not survive long after the end of the war, passing away in 1877 at a young age.

On a collateral line are the only career military men I know of in my family.  Edwin Elias Sellers served in the U.S. Army.  He fought in the Civil War and was one of the Guard of Honor over the remains of President Lincoln while his body lay in state in Philadelphia from April 22-24, 1865, en route to Springfield, Illinois for burial.  I don't know if he was miffed when his son David Foote Sellers joined the Navy, but David had a long career there.  He participated in the Spanish-American and Philippine-American wars and World War I, and served as Commander in Chief of the United States Fleet and later as Superintendent of the U.S. Naval Academy.

Neither of my grandfathers was able to serve in the military.  My paternal grandfather had a leg amputated when he was 13 years old, and my maternal grandfather had flat feet.  But my maternal uncles were both in the armed forces, one in the Army and one in the Air Force.  And my stepfather was in the Air Force during the Vietnam War.

My stepson served in the U.S. Army for nine years, which included three tours in Iraq.  My daughter-in-law was also in the Army.

These are the veterans who are particularly dear to me, but everyone who serves has earned our thanks today.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Butchers, Babushkas, and Consumer Activism: The 1902 Kosher Meat Boycott

On November 18 the Jewish Women's Archive is presenting a Webinar on an early and little-known story of Jewish immigrant activism.  In 1902 in New York City the price of kosher beef jumped 50% overnight, and immigrant Jewish women organized a boycott against the butcher shops.  Dr. Judith Rosenbaum, Director of Public History, and Etta King, Education Program Manager, will host this inaugural program in the Jewish Women’s Archive 2012-2013 education Webinar series.  The Webinar is being offered at two times, 1:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m. Eastern time.  Registration is free.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Contest for Premium Subscription to Saving Memories Forever

First, what is Saving Memories Forever?

It's an Internet-based service that allows people to record, share, and save family stories.  It uses an iPhone app, and the recording and uploading processes are easy to use.  The company's site is; you can find the app on iTunes listed as Saving Memories Forever.  There's a demo on the Saving Memories Forever home page that you can try out.

Recordings are focused stories with short (5-10 minute) respones.  They are organized on the site by question and date and are designed to be easy to retrieve and share.  They are maintained in a secure location and remain private.  The premium service allows you to have unlimited stories and storytellers, a search-by-tag feature, and the ability to upload photographs and documents such as recipes.

So what's the contest?

I have a one-year premium subscription to give away to one of my readers.  I want to know what the farthest is that you've gone to get original data for your research.  This could be something like obtaining records from a repository, taking a photo of a tombstone, or visiting a town named for a family member.  To enter, reply to this post with a short description of your journey, including both endpoints of the trip.  If you wish to keep any specific information private, please let me know in the reply so the post can be edited before it is made public.  The deadline is November 14, 2012.  Distance will be judged by Google Maps.  I will make the final decision.

I'm looking forward to some good stories!

Saturday, November 3, 2012

"I See Beauty in This Life"

The current exhibit at the California Historical Society (CHS) in San Francisco is I See Beauty in This Life:  A Photographer Looks at 100 Years of Rural California.  The exhibit was curated by photographer Lisa M. Hamilton under the auspices of Curating California, a new program that encourages researchers to explore the collections of the society.  The photographs on display are a combination of ones taken by Hamilton during the past two years as part of her own work, Real Rural, and of ones she chose from the CHS collections.  The CHS photographs are from the 1880's through the 1960's and even the 1970's.

The exhibit shows an interesting variety of almost 150 images from many definitions of "rural."  Not only are there photos of operating farms and 4H events, but also logging, rodeos, wilderness, and simply people from rural areas.  Hamilton's modern images are fully identified (and I recognized several, which have appeared on the BART trains I operate), but unfortunately most of the historical photos from the CHS collections are not.  For many even the photographer's name is not known.

There are wonderful photos of so many people who are not named.  To me, each of those photos represents someone's family history that has been lost.  Every photo I saw that was unidentified made me wish that by some chance a descendant who would recognize the image comes to see the exhibit.  I know the odds aren't good, but I can hope, can't I?

The exhibit opened October 28 and will run through March 24, 2013.  On Friday, November 16, CHS will host Poetry and Photography:  Five Poets on "I See Beauty in This Life".  There will be a walkthrough with curator Lisa Hamilton on Thursday, December 13.  And on Saturday, January 12, I plan to attend Rural California in Farm Records, Letters, and Ephemera, which will probably draw on more material from CHS' collections.

The California Historical Society is at 678 Mission Street, San Francisco, CA 94105.  The gallery is open Tuesday–Sunday from 12:00 noon to 5:00 p.m.  The library, from which the historic images came, is open Wednesday–Friday from 12:00 noon to 5:00 p.m.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Two Upcoming Jewish Presentations in San Francisco Bay Area

A couple of interesting things are coming up around here.  On Friday, November 2, a limited release of the film The Flat will begin in San Francisco and Berkeley.  The Flat (Hadira) is an award-winning Israeli documentary.  The synopsis sounds intriguing and describes the movie as a puzzle and a mystery:

At age 98, director Arnon Goldfinger's grandmother passed away, leaving him the task of clearing out the Tel Aviv flat that she and her husband shared for decades after immigrating from Nazi Germany in the 1930's.  Sifting through a mountain of photos, letters, files, and objects, Goldfinger undertook the complex process of making sense of the accumulated ephemera of a lifetime.  In the process, he began to uncover clues pointing to a complicated and shocking story:  a chronicle of the unexpected yet inevitable ethical ambiguities and repressed emotions that arise when everyday friendships suddenly cross enemy lines.  He follows the hints his grandparents left behind to investigate long-buried family secrets and unravel the mystery of their painful past.  The result is a moving family portrait and an insightful look at the ways different generations deal with the memory of the Holocaust.

The Flat will be playing at the Clay Theatre, 2261 Fillmore Street, San Francisco, (415) 346-1124; and at Shattuck Cinemas, 2230 Shattuck Avenue, Berkeley, (510) 644-2992.  The information I received does not specify whether the movie is subtitled or dubbed, but the promotional poster shows the title in Hebrew, so I'm guessing subtitles (which is better anyway), but I could be wrong.

The other event is a presentation at 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, November 7, at Temple Sinai in Oakland.  In his talk "Greek Jewry and the Little Shul That Could", Jim Mavrikios will discuss the history of Greek Jewry and of Kehila Kadosha Janina, the Greek Romaniote synagogue in New York City.  Romaniote Jews were neither Ashkenazic or Sephardic.  Mavrikios has spoken about Kehila Kadosha Janina previously but has made new discoveries.  Information about Greek Jews is especially significant because most Greek Jews (more than 80%) were killed during the Holocaust.  And they'll be serving ouzo!

Monday, October 29, 2012

Descendant of HMS Bounty's Fletcher Christian Perishes in Hurricane

Claudene Christian, a fifth great-granddaughter of Fletcher Christian, who led the famous mutiny against Captain William Bligh on the HMS Bounty in 1789, perished today when the replica Bounty was damaged in Hurricane Sandy.  Claudene was a member of the crew aboard the replica Bounty that was constructed for the 1962 movie Mutiny on the Bounty.  She had always been interested in the ship because of her ancestry and joined the crew in May of this year.

The Bounty left Connecticut last week headed to St. Petersburg, Florida.  It was caught in Hurricane Sandy on Monday afternoon and heavily damaged.  Fourteen of the sixteen crew members were saved by a U.S. Coast Guard rescue team.  Claudene was found unresponsive in the water and passed away in an Elizabeth City, North Carolina hospital this evening.

I knew Claudene from when I was in the USC Marching Band.  She became a song girl (cheerleader) in her freshman year, which was my last year in the band.  My deepest sympathies to her family and to the greater USC family on her passing.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Genealogy Served on a Silver Platter

Ever wonder what it would feel like to just be handed all the information on your family?  You know, kind of like what happened on episodes of Who Do You Think You Are? and Finding Your Roots:  family trees, death certificates, photographs, military discharge papers, what have you.  But that never really happens, right?

Meet my friend Carol.

Over the years it has become a running joke between us.  Every so often, a family member contacts her and says, "Oh, I'd like to send you a copy of all the research I've done."  Then she receives another well put together and well documented part of her family tree, often with supporting materials.  She already has several copies of different trees and boxes of original letters and documents from both sides of her family.

She was just given another bonanza.

She received two large envelopes full of documents and a USPS Medium Flat Rate box of photo albums and loose photos.  Most of the photos are even labeled!

Among the documents are:
• eight family trees for various lines
• a typed transcript of her great-uncle interviewing her great-grandmother, including the story of how her family was instrumental in the founding of a town in Iowa
• two copies of a treatise on one of her family names
• two copies of a book about the church her ancestor established in the 1600's
• a photo of her grandfather's high school graduating class from 1917
• her grandfather's entire probate file, including correspondence
• original documents from when a relative legally changed his name
• her grandmother's college diploma and teaching certificate
• an original copy of her grandmother's death certificate from Spain (which probably would have been difficult to replace)
• original U.S. Army discharge papers
• a "whole pile" of family letters
• newspaper clippings
• church bulletins
• visitor books from funeral services

Carol's aunt (her mother's sister) collected all of this information.  She has moved to assisted living, and the aunt's daughter had to clean out the home.  This cousin talked with her brothers and her own children, but no one wanted all of the genealogical stuff.  Rather than just throw everything out, she asked around the family to find someone who did want it (hooray!).  Carol got all of this because, unlike her friend, when these items needed a home, she recognized their value.

Of course, now everything needs to be taken care of -- sorted out, put in archival boxes, separated with nonreactive paper.  And some of this is duplicates of what she already has.  But I know that Carol is up to the task.  Now if she were only more interested in genealogy ....

What was that?  No, of course I'm not jealous.  Whatever made you think so?

An Uncommon Reason for Family History Research

Sometimes different parts of my life cross over.  One of my coworkers at BART, where I am a part-time train operator, met someone I know from genealogy while they were shopping at a grocery store.  The genealogy acquaintance saw my coworker's uniform and commented that she knew a genealogist who worked at BART.  So the next time my coworker saw me he asked if it was true.  When I confirmed it, he said he wanted to show me a family tree he had created.  The next day he brought in an eight-page hand-drawn tree showing fourteen generations of descendants from one ancestor in England, a Mr. Clap.

He had obviously put a lot of work into his research, and what was particularly interesting to me was the reason he had created the tree.  His son had applied to Harvard University, and at some point in the application process they were asked if they had any relatives who had graduated from Harvard.  Apparently this would make his son eligible for some financial aid as a "legacy."  So off dad went to find out the answer.

He ended up identifying more than fifty descendants of his son's 11th great-grandfather who were Harvard graduates!  Surprisingly, only seven of those people were legacies themselves.  Among the alumni were the first president of Yale University and a man who created a pear cultivar which was named after him.  Even though all of the graduates were men, one female descendant is said to be the first woman who attended all of the required classes for a degree, albeit at a time when women were not permitted to matriculate.  Because of the specific focus he had while creating this tree, he only listed descendants with the family name, but he also included some Harvard alums who married Clap women.  And not a single one of the Harvard graduates was a direct ancestor.  But the effort was good enough to earn the financial aid.

I was happy to hear that now that the financial aid is wrapped up, he says he's going to go back and research all the other relatives in the family tree.  I hope he publishes it some day, because he's doing an amazing amount of work.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Workshop: The Present and Future of Public History in New York State

Currently this conference is free, including lunch, but you must make a reservation.  If they are swamped with reservations, they may decide to charge a small fee for lunch.  This sounds very interesting, and I wish I could attend.

Conversations in the Disciplines: The Present and Future of Public History in New York State
November 17, 2012
University of Albany (State University of New York at Albany)

The History Department and the Public History Program at the University of Albany will host a workshop, The Present and Future of Public History in New York State on Saturday, November 17, 2012. The workshop will bring together public historians and SUNY faculty from around the state to exchange ideas, build networks, and reflect on that will shape the practice of public history in future years.

This free workshop is sponsored by the Conversations in the Disciplines Program of the State University of New York, the New York State Council for the Humanities, and the M. E. Grenander Department of Special Collections and Archives. It immediately follows the Researching New York conference on November 15 and 16. For more details and to register, contact David Hochfelder at

The purpose of the workshop is to foster discussion and debate about the role and purpose of public history in New York. The format of the workshop will be a series of roundtable discussions with no moderator in order to encourage dialogue between presenters and audience. The workshop will be held on the University of Albany campus and will use breakout areas to facilitate small group conversations.  Panels will include Public History in New York: A Wide Angle View, What Local Historians Do,  Grants to Fund Public History Projects, Training Future Public Historians, and The Future of Public History in New York.


9:30 a.m., Public History in New York: A Wide Angle View
Robert Weible, New York State Historian
Anne Ackerson, Executive Director, Museum Association of New York
Gerald Smith, President, Association of Public Historians of New York State

10:15 a.m., What Local Historians Do
Christine Ridarsky, Rochester City Historian and Director of Historical Projects
Carolyn Vacca, St. John Fisher College and Monroe County Historian
Don Rittner, Schenectady County and City Historian

11:00 a.m., Coffee Break

11:15 a.m., Grants to Fund Public History Projects
Jose Torre, SUNY Brockport
Karen Markoe, SUNY Maritime
Ralph Blasting, New York State Council for the Humanities and Siena College
Ken O’Brien, SUNY Brockport

12:00 noon, Lunch

1:00 p.m., Training Future Public Historians
Ellen Litwicki, SUNY Fredonia
Bruce Leslie, SUNY Brockport
Gretchen Sorin, Cooperstown Graduate Program, SUNY Oneonta
Ivan Steen, University of Albany (emeritus)

2:00 p.m., Breakout Sessions

3:45 p.m., The Future of Public History in New York
James Chung, Reach Advisors
Cynthia Koch, Office of Presidential Libraries, National Archives

4:30 p.m., Workshop Ends.
Participants are encouraged to continue conversation informally over dinner.

Wordless Wednesday

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Death in Chicago

"Homicide in Chicago 1870-1930" is the fascinating Web site of the Chicago Historical Homicide Project, which began with the discovery of Chicago Police Department records of more than 11,000 homicides occurring in Chicago between 1870-1930.  Some additional deaths by misadventure are included, such as auto accident, suicide, and accidental poisoning.  The main feature of the Web site is a database of all the deaths from the logs.  The database may be searched by name, age, sex, or occupation of the victim or defendant, date, circumstances of the death, outcome of a trial, and several other variables.  The database may also be downloaded in several formats.  The site includes information about the historical and legal contexts of the homicides, several articles that can be downloaded, synoposes of about two dozen "crimes of the century", and more.  The graphics on the links at the top of the page change as you go back and forth between pages.  Warning:  Some links don't work from some of the pages.

The site says that the records run without interruption for the sixty years that they cover, so the inference is that they should be complete.  They probably are for homicides, but apparently not for all other deaths.  I looked for a suicide I know occurred on March 1, 1930 (I even have the death certificate), and it isn't there.  There is a comment on the site about how the homicides in the records became cases, so maybe this suicide didn't become a case, however that might be defined.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Chinatown Sketches

Chinese Reception
I am indeed a glutton for punishment.  Even with my already packed schedule, I couldn't resist the opportunity to attend a reception Friday evening at the California Historical Society to promote the soon-to-be-released book Paul Frenzeny's Chinatown Sketches: An Artist's Fascination with San Francisco's Chinese Quarter, 1874-1882, by Dr. Claudine Chalmers.  The event was cosponsored by the Book Club of California, which is publishing Dr. Chalmers' book.

Dr. Chalmers' 1991 dissertation was on L'aventure française à San Francisco pendant la ruée vers l'or ("The French Adventure in Gold Rush San Francisco, 1849-1854").  While conducting her research she became particularly interested in the work of Paul Frenzeny, an expatriate who had been posted to Mexico as a soldier to fight with the French army.  When he was released from the army, he did not return to France but instead went to New York to learn art.  In 1873 he and another artist, Jules Tavernier, were hired by Harper's Weekly for a year-long sketching tour of the western frontier.  After the tour, between 1874-1882, Frenzeny sketched seventeen illustrations of San Francisco's Chinatown, which were also published by Harper's.  In contrast to most media depictions of the Chinese during that time, Frenzey's illustrations were largely sympathetic and showed several scenes of everyday life and of celebration.

Chalmers' new book will discuss in detail Frenzeny's Chinatown sketches.  Several pages from the book were on display last night, showing clearly that it is being produced in very high quality.  For anyone researching the Chinese in San Francisco in this period, it would be a worthy addition to a library, albeit at a steep price ($125).  Though the book does not yet appear on the Book Club of California's Web site, I was told that they are currently accepting preorders.

There were also flyers last night for a lecture and slide presentation by Philip P. Choy, who wrote the forward to Chalmers' new book.  Mr. Choy will be speaking on "An Insider's Guide to the History of San Francisco's Chinatown" from 11:00 a..m-12:30 p.m. on Saturday, October 27, at the San Francisco Public Library Latino/Hispanic Community Meeting Room, on the lower level of the main library.  The address is 100 Larkin Street, San Francisco.  The presentation is free and open to the public.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

San Francisco Special Interest Group

Researchers in the San Francisco Bay Area who actually had relatives in San Francisco now have a new resource.  A San Francisco special interest group (SIG) was formed in August at the California Genealogical Society (CGS).  The group will look at records and research strategies for San Francisco city and county, both prior to and after the 1906 earthquake and fire.  The primary research guide is Raking the Ashes: Genealogical Strategies for Pre-1906 San Francisco, by Nancy Peterson.

The group meets on the third Saturday of every month, so the next meeting is this coming Saturday, October 20.  Meetings are held at the CGS library, 2201 Broadway Suite LL2, Oakland, California from 10:00-11:30 a.m.  Though CGS charges nonmembers a $5 fee to use the library, the SIG meeting is free to all attendees.  Anyone wishing to stay after the meeting and use the library will be subject to the nonmember fee.

Sandra Britt-Huber is the coordinator of the San Francisco SIG.  If you have questions about the group or want to let her know you will be coming to a meeting, send her a message at

Wordless Wednesday

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Family History Month? How about Family History *Week*?

Hmm, I'm not quite sure how I did this to myself.  Somehow I am scheduled for nine genealogy events in nine days, starting today (Saturday).  I mean, I love genealogy as much as the next person (okay, probably more than the next person!), but I may have gone a bit overboard this time.

Saturday was our fourth Black Family History Day, held at the Oakland FamilySearch Library (formerly the Family History Center) and coordinated by the African American Genealogical Society of Northern California.  We had about 55 attendees and a dozen and a half volunteers.  As usual, I was helping people with one-on-one consultations, where we sit down and actually look for records relating to the family.  I worked with five people today and was able to find at least one record for each person.  One man's ancestor was a free person of color living in Virginia who rendered assistance to the Confederate government.  We found several documents relating to the ancestor on, showing what he sold to the government and how much he was paid.  My only disappointment was that none of the friends I invited came today.  Maybe they'll be at the next one, in February!

Sunday morning I will teach my genealogy class at the Jewish community high school in Berkeley, and then drive to Davis to give a presentation to the Davis Genealogy Club on how even when you start with very little information, you can still methodically build on what you have step by step and learn more about your family.  Tuesday I will give my new talk about vital records (which was originally going to be in September; boy, I wish that had worked out) at the Oakland FamilySearch Library, for the California Genealogical Society.  Thursday I will be at the Napa Valley Genealogical Society with my overview of how helpful online newspapers can be in family history research.  Saturday is the Concord FamilySearch Library's annual Digging for Your Roots one-day conference, and I will teach the online newspapers class and the class I am teaching in Davis.  And I will wrap up my family history marathon the next day, when I will be at my high school genealogy class in the morning, and then preside over the San Francisco Bay Area Jewish Genealogical Society meeting in the afternoon (where Steve Danko will explain how the scientific method can be applied to genealogy problem-solving).

Oh, and I'm doing all that while maintaining my regular work and research schedule.

Oy!  I better stock up on Mountain Dew!