Friday, May 31, 2013

Advancing the Cause of Black Education in the Segregated South

Dunbar High School, Little Rock
Julius Rosenwald was the philanthropist behind the Rosenwald Rural School Building Program, called the "most influential philanthropic force that came to the aid of Negroes at that time."  Booker T. Washington's vision of building a few desperately needed schools for black children in the South during segregation grew into a program that resulted in the construction of almost 5,000 schools in fifteen states.

On Sunday, June 2, the Jewish Historical Society of Napa Valley is hosting a presentation on Rosenwald, given by his great-grandson Dr. Peter Ascoli.  The talk will be at the Goodman Library, 1219 First Street, Napa.  The talk begins at either 2:00 p.m. (as stated in the J) or at 4:00 p.m. (which is what the flyer shows).  For clarification and more information contact   The society has a $5 suggested donation for nonmembers who attend.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Wordless Wednesday

Planned Museum Exhibition on Galician Holocaust Survivors

The Galicia Jewish Museum in Kraków is reaching out to Holocaust survivors from towns that were once in Galicia to tell their stories through an exhibition planned for 2014 at the museum.  The new exhibition will focus on people from historic Galicia who survived World War II and the Holocaust.  The exhibition will present the fates of survivors to show similarities and differences in their stories, and, on a symbolic level, show moments where they did or did not receive help.

The goal of this project is to explore survivors' stories and recollections, presenting different paths and means of survival.  The museum wants to make visitors to the exhibition aware of the many elements and the complicated and dangerous situations that made up the experience of survivors during the Holocaust.  The planned exhibition is also a way of honoring those who survived, as well as recognizing those who aided them.

This exhibition will not be possible without the help of the members of the Jewish community, many of whom are either survivors or are in touch with survivors.  The museum needs your (their) memories and recollections and is counting on your willingness to share your stories of those events with the next generation.  Completing this basic survey, which requires only short answers, will help start the project.  Based on this survey, museum staff will contact you with more detailed questions.

As an alternative to completing the survey online, it may be downloaded in Word format from  Once completed the survey should be sent to the museum via the addresses at the end of the survey.

Those responding to the survey should be from towns in what was "historic Galicia", today towns in Poland and Ukraine.  Museum staff are also interested in hearing from children of survivors from Galicia who are no longer living.

If you know of living survivors who are not online, or don't own a computer, you can assist them with accessing and filling out the survey, and this mitzvah is greatly encouraged. This also extends to outreach at old-age homes in your community, if you know of survivors from Galicia who are residents there, even if they are not your family.  Share the survey everywhere there is a possibility to contact survivors from Galicia.

If you prefer to find out more about the project before filling out the survey, contact the Galicia Jewish Museum's Education Project by postal mail, e-mail, or telephone:

Galicia Jewish Museum Education Project
Ul. Dajwor 18
31-052 Krakow, Poland

Project Coordinator:  Ms. Malgorzata Fus
Telephone: (0048) 12 421 68 42

The Galicia Jewish Museum was established in 2004 with the mission to commemorate victims of the Holocaust and celebrate the 800-year history of Jews in Poland.  Its goal is to impart knowledge, but also encourage reflection.  The museum is located in the heart of Kraków's historic Jewish district.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Genealogy as a "Cool Job"

A few months ago I responded to a request for people with cool jobs to be interviewed for an education site.  The person doing the interviews agreed that genealogy sounded pretty cool (how could she not?).  And I love talking about genealogy!

I just found out that the interview has been posted.  I hope it gets people interested in working in genealogy!

Monday, May 20, 2013

Former Jewish-owned Businesses in Berlin

Jonass & Company, Berlin
Do you have Jewish roots in Berlin?  Before Hitler's rise to power, more than 50,000 Jewish-owned businesses were operating in Berlin, according to an article in Tablet Magazine.  Dr. Christoph Kreutzmüller of Humboldt University in Berlin has been meticulously researching these businesses in an attempt to reconstruct Berlin's earlier life as a center of commerce.  As a result of his research, he has published a book, Final Sale: The End of Jewish Owned Businesses in Nazi Berlin, and has created an online searchable database of (currently) more than 8,000 of those businesses.  The Tablet article includes an audio file of an interview with Dr. Kreutzmüller about his research.

Wikipedia Newspaper Page Additions

Several new links have been added to the Wikipedia newspaper archives page, most of them European.  This time around, all the new links are free.

• Denmark (first link for this country!):  Illustreret Tidende [Illustrated Journal], 1859–1924.  Magazine-style newspaper.  Browsable by volume or year; includes two searchable indices.  Uses DjVu, or you can download PDF's.
• France:  La Gazette de France, 1786.  Downloadable PDF that includes issues 1–104.
• France:  Mercure François, 1605–1643.  Browsable by date, but no search.
• Germany:  Augspurgische Ordinari Postzeitung [Augsburg Post], 1768–1839.  The paper carried national, scholarly, historical, and economic news.  This one has a search function.  Plans are to digitize issues through 1848.
• Ireland:   Free State (1922), Hibernia Magazine and Dublin Monthly Panorama (1810–1811), Leprecaun (1905–1909), and Walker's Hibernian Magazine (1811).  These are part of the Villanova University Digital Library.
• Netherlands:  Koninklijke Bibliotheek, 1618–1995.  Historical Dutch newspapers from the Dutch East Indies, Netherlands Antilles, Suriname, and the United States.  The search allows you to specify distribution location and type of article; currently the options to choose newspaper title and place of publication are not available.
• Sri Lanka (another new country listing!):  Journal of the Dutch Burgher Union, 1908–2005.  This is posted as PDF files with no search.  The site also has many genealogies and information about the Dutch Burgher Union itself.
• Switzerland:  Bande Mataram ("Monthly Organ of Indian Independence"), 1913–1914.  This was published in English.  Three issues are available.
• Alaska:  Petersburg Herald (1924–1926), Petersburg Press (1926–1931), Petersburg Weekly Report (1914–1924), and The Progressive (1913–1914).  These are online at the Petersburg Public Library site, which allows you to search or browse.
• New York:  Fatherland (1914–1917), The Vital Issue/Issues and Events (1914–1919), and World War (1914–1916).  These were German-American publications in English, published in New York City.  World War was a translation of the German publication Weltkrieg.  These are part of the Villanova University Digital Library.
• Pennsylvania:  Clan-na-Gael Journal (13 issues between 1902–1918) and Irish Press (1918–1922).  These were Irish-American newspapers published in Philadelphia.  They are also part of the Villanova University Digital Library.

Monday, May 13, 2013

New Online Database of Arkansas Deaths

The Arkansas History Commission has added a database of Arkansas deaths covering 1819–1920.  The database was designed to supplement the official state vital records, which began recording deaths in 1914.  The results from a search give the source of the information and the date recorded there.  Sources include cemetery records, mortality censuses, newspaper obituaries, church publications, and records from the Arkansas History Commission’s holdings.  Only the name is given for the source; if it isn't something you recognize, I would guess you can e-mail the Commission staff and ask about it.  The database is being created by Commission staff and volunteers, who continue to add new records every month.

I tried some sample searches.    It appears that the search does not support wildcards.  The search is by exact spelling, but it looks for names that match or begin with your search term.  For example, I searched for "robins" and got results for Robins and Robinson.  When I searched for "seller", however, I got all the Sellers results twice.

In addition to the new database, the Arkansas History Commission (which is the state archives) also has search pages for newspapers, military records, photographs, land records, and more.  This is a great resource for Arkansas research.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Things My Mother Taught Me

Most parents teach their children; it's part of the job, after all.  But along with the things they consciously set out to teach you -- potty training, how to dress yourself, the manners you need to get along with others, responsibility, respect for others -- there are the things you learn by observing them and what they do.  Some of those lessons can be profound, while others just help make you the unique individual you are.

I learned a lot about tolerance and acceptance of others from both of my parents, but I think especially from my mother.  When I was about 5 years old, my father's ex-wife and my half-sister came to live with our family (my parents, my brother, my sister, and me).  Not exactly what most women would be willing to do!  But we all got along fine.  My mother worked a graveyard shift, so my dad's ex-wife would get us up in the mornings and ready for school, and my mother would get home in time to see us before we left.  My half-sister and I even went to the same elementary school for a while, and the administrators sometimes got the two different Mrs. Sellerses confused.  Even after they moved out to a place of their own, we visited often.

Long before multiculturalism was talked about, our family had a wide range of friends -- black, Hispanic, Indian (from India), and even gay.  We children were taught open-mindedness and acceptance, and that people are just people.  And I grew up knowing that Rock Hudson, Raymond Burr, and Montgomery Clift were gay, though I've never figured out how my mother knew.

My mother always told me I could do anything I wanted to do and be anything I wanted to be, from the time I was little.  She told me I could succeed on my own and didn't need someone to help me.  I believed her and have carved out my own unique corner of the world, first as an editor and now as a genealogist.  (When I did follow my own path as an editor, though, she couldn't understand why I didn't want to work for the CIA or the UN, and why I wasn't rushing to get married and give her a granddaughter.  So not every lesson is perfect!)

My mother loved to watch movies.  She taught me how to listen to the actors' voices and recognize them, which gives me a nice party trick today.  She explained how to watch actors who were portraying musicians and what to look for to see if they were really playing the instruments.  She also explained that it took someone who really knew what he was doing to portray a character who didn't.

My mother loved to play with words.  She taught me to do crossword puzzles, which I still enjoy.  She would flip words around, like spoonerisms, so we had chublip stamps (Blue Chip Stamps) and chotato pips (potato chips).  I still tell people to have a happy "oneth of the month" when a new month rolls around.  And she taught me an appreciation of foreign languages, which definitely influenced my choice of a major in college.

I don't think my mother met a cuisine she didn't like.  We grew up eating Chinese, Mexican, and Indian food; if Thai and Vietnamese had been available at the time, we probably would have had them also.  My mother used to call us kids the vultures -- there was never any food left on the table after a meal.

Unlike the stereotype that is prevalent even today, both of my parents enjoyed watching sports.  As soon as she walked into the house, my mother would turn on the television, often to sports.  So we watched football, baseball, basketball, golf, boxing, car racing ... if it was on television, my mother would watch it.  I find that I still tend to be a minority among most women I know because I enjoy watching sports and have a good working knowledge of most of them.

If my mother were still alive today, I like to think she'd enjoy my working as a genealogist, since she's the one who started me on that path by telling me stories about my family.  Thanks, Mommy.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Antique and Vintage Maps of India Discovered

1863 Map of Delhi
Last year, an Indian woman who was walking around London and browsing through items on the roadside found a large collection of old maps of India.  Though she originally planned to cut them up and reuse them for other purposes, friends advised her to have someone evaluate what she had found.  What she had thought about turning into placemats and coasters turned out to be some of the Survey of India's first maps of India, ranging from 1871 to 1928.  India was part of the British Empire during this period.

Some of the more significant items are a 1912 map of Delhi (now Old Delhi) and a 1928 map of Mt. Everest.  Also dating from about 1928 are accurately detailed travelers' maps of two UNESCO World Heritage sites, the Ajanta and Ellora caves in the state of Maharashtra.  The earliest maps are for areas that are in or near present-day Bangladesh.  The maps were purchased by the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage, and about 30 of the items were displayed in their offices until the end of April.

Maps are useful in genealogy because they show the development of cities and other areas over time and often include buildings and roads that may be connected to family members.  For example, the Delhi map shows the early British occupation of the city and the areas of the city where the native Indian population lived.

More information about the maps is in a Times of India article.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Skeletons in the Closet: Adoption

This is the second in an occasional series of posts.  The series discusses subjects which are often covered up in family discussions.  The first post discussed divorce.

I have relatives on both sides of my family who were adopted, both into and out of the family.  Most of them I have known about pretty much all my life, because the subject was not taboo.  In fact, it was usually treated in a positive manner, and those relatives were not considered any differently.  It was kind of like saying that someone had brown hair -- just a trait that person had.  My mother's favorite cousin was adopted.

Some family members, however, were not as open about the subject.  One cousin requested I not indicate in the family history that her children were adopted.  Another relative had never told her husband about the son she had given up for adoption, which caused an interesting situation when the son showed up at the house one day.

Adoption has a profound effect on millions of people and on society.  Laura Callen, who is an adopted person, noted the lack of a museum that explores adoption's history and story and decided to change that.  She began and now directs the Adoption Museum Project, which plans to create the first museum about adoption.  The museum will look at the experiences of adoptees, birth parents, adoptive parents, and their families, along with the social phenomenon of adoption.  It will also relate adoption to contemporary social issues.  Following two years of concept development, the project is now working on creating a sustainable organization and advancing its mission.

To help publicize the project, two free events are being held on Saturday, May 11:
• "Our Place at the Table:  Honoring Birthmother Stories", an exhibit at Red Poppy Art House, 2698 Folsom Street, San Francisco, California, from 1:00-4:00 p.m.  Children are welcome.
• "Birthmothers Speak", a solo performance and presentation of material written by birth mothers, at Alley Cat Books, 3036 24th Street, San Francisco, California, from 5:00-7:00 p.m.  This event is intended for an adult audience.

The Adoption Museum Project has a Facebook page with quite a bit of activity, including serious disagreements about terminology, showing how this subject stirs up emotions on both sides.  There is also a WordPress site with some bare-bones information.

From a family history perspective, adoption can be very difficult to research.  Most states in the U.S. have closed adoption records (and some people claim that the real reason for that is to protect the adoption industry, not the rights of the adoptee or either set of parents), and gaining access usually requires a court order.  Often adoptees have had success because they needed to know about their birth parents so they could find information about their families' health histories.  You should always check on what the laws are and were in the area you are researching.  Illinois recently opened adoption records to adoptees; some states had open records into the early and mid-20th century, such as New Jersey, which didn't close its records until 1941.  There are also organizations which help coordinate contact between birth parents and children who were given up for adoption.  Cyndi's List has many helpful links for adoption research.

Adoption is a very sensitive subject.  Be diplomatic when speaking with family members and respectful of their privacy, but also be loving and nonjudgmental.