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.