Thursday, August 30, 2012

Was Your Relative a Comic Book Hero?

Comic book heroes aren't real, right?  Well, they might be if they were Jewish and fought in a World War.  The Canadian Jewish Congress published at least two comic books of Jewish war heroes, and they are available for download.  Issue 1 has features on men who fought in World War I and II and general information about WWII.  The men were from several countries, including Canada and the U.S.  Issue 2 is all about World War II and profiles men from the U.S., U.K., and Netherlands.

The scans of the issues aren't perfect.  Issue 1 seems to have pages out of order, and Issue 2 has one page upside-down.  But the information is great, and they're free (though you do need to register at the site to download, and you have to wait five minutes between downloads).  Family names featured are Brenner, Cohen, Fisanovitch, Frijda, Kisch, Levin, Levy, Ross, Shulemson, and Wigram.

The Web site has only the two issues and lists both as being in the public domain.  I found one site that said there were three issues, but I can't find any evidence of the third issue so far.

Tell us if you are related to any of these heroes!

Monday, August 27, 2012

Effort to Return Passports to Owners

The Central Zionist Archives and the World Zionist Organization have in their holdings original passports from several countries and continents.  They and the Jewish Agency for Israel are now trying to return those passports to the original owners or their descendants.  The site is in Hebrew. If you do not read Hebrew (like me!), you can use Google Translate to read it (here it is in English) and the lists of names, which are downloadable PDF files.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Hong Kong, HongKou, and Kaifeng, oh my!

Jews of Kaifeng
Last October I wrote about Xiaoming, who was recently told that her great-great-grandfather was Jewish.  She started working on how to research that and find out if the claim is true, and then decided to go to graduate school in Hong Kong.  While she is in China, she's looking for local background information about Chinese Jews, and she's doing a whirlwind tour.  In February she went to a shabbat service and attended a lecture on why the Chinese are so interested in Jewish people.  In March she visited several Jewish sites in Hong Kong.  Earlier this month she visited HongKou, Shanghai's former World War II Jewish ghetto.  And now she is off to Kaifeng to research the historical Jewish community there.  She promised to blog in real time, and I'm hoping to see a post soon.

I am really impressed with how Xiaoming is throwing herself into her search for information.  I don't know how likely it is that she'll find anything specifically about her family, but I'm sure she will learn a lot about the history of Jews in China, which will still help her with her research.

I wish I could make that kind of research trip!  How far have you traveled for your research?

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Telling Family Stories

memorial kiddush cup
Michigan State University currently has an online exhibit called "Telling Family Stories:  Jews, Genealogy & History."  The exhibit draws on the university archives' holdings in cookbooks and children's books to illustrate several themes related to genealogy and family history.  The themes reflect a more academic approach than is often applied to family history, such as gender and religion in family stories, and the international and multilingual nature of Jewish families.  The section "Doing Genealogy, Doing History" discusses how genealogists and social historians can use the same resources and tools in their work.  There is a link to a talk on immigrant children in America between 1880-1925.  Also included is a bibliography.

The exhibit compares and contrasts differences in time periods.  For example, a 2006 community cookbook noted that "going to Grandma's may mean stopping off for a quick lunch at her office", reflecting the changing roles of women in society.  The site also poses questions to encourage viewers to relate the material to their own lives, such as comparing the family stories presented to the ones from their own families.

I enjoyed the focus of this exhibit because family stories are what sparked my interest in genealogy so many years ago.  It's interesting to think about those same stories from an academic perspective and consider how that changes my perception of them.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Effort to Identify Holocaust Survivors in Archival Material

Harbor of Hope (Hoppets hamn in Swedish) is a documentary about the lives of three people who were among the survivors rescued from German concentration camps in 1945 and taken to Malmö, Sweden.  Along with screening the film internationally, the production team has begun to document additional Holocaust survivors who went to Malmö in 1945.  They are particularly looking for survivors (and those who knew them) who arrived on 28 April 1945, and then those who arrived between March and May, but are hoping to identify any survivors who arrived in Malmö.  Swedish National Television filmed survivors arriving in Malmö and still has the archival footage; some photos are posted on the Harbor of Hope Web site.  Anyone who has information is urged to contact the team at

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

DNA Analysis Shows North African Jews Originated in Biblical-era Israel

A DNA study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences indicates that North African Jews are more closely related to other Jews than they are to non-Jewish North Africans.  Jews from Tunisia and Libya (and Georgia) are more closely related to Jews from the Middle East, while Jews from Morocco and Algeria are more closely related to Jews from Europe.  This new study supports the idea of a biological basis for "Jewishness."

The Washington Post has a short article about the study's results.

Wordless Wednesday

Monday, August 6, 2012

I'm an Aunt Again!

My brother and his wife have wasted no time in adding to the family tree.  They were married last November, and today my new nephew was born.  Adam Escher arrived at 5:16 p.m. Eastern time and weighed 6 pounds, 10 ounces.  (Escher is because my sister-in-law and brother are both mathematicians.)  He was a little earlier than the doctor had anticipated but from what I hear is totally healthy.

Welcome to the family, Adam!

The Hurrier I Go, the Behinder I Get

Once you get behind on your schedule, it just gets harder and harder to catch up.  I thought I was making headway with the schedule of The Galitzianer, but then a column was late, and people I needed feedback from were at the IAJGS International Conference on Jewish Genealogy (in Paris!! and I wasn't there), and some of my co-volunteers were busy with their real lives, and thus things have slipped again.  So the June 2012 issue of The G should be mailed this week to Gesher Galicia members.  Articles in this issue include a transcription of birth records records from Nowy Zmigrod, Poland; memories of being in Lwów during World War II; the discovery of tombstones and human remains in Rohatyn, Ukraine; and an Australian woman's family history research trip through Galicia.

The Galitzianer is sent to members of Gesher Galicia, a nonprofit organization focused on researching Jews in the former Austro-Hungarian province of Galicia.  If you join you receive a subscription to the journal and help fund research projects, and you help support something you enjoy.

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 September 2012 issue is August 31.