Thursday, July 31, 2014

More IAJGS Conference: Days 3 and 4

I'm still here at the IAJGS conference, and I am happy to report that I had much better luck starting on Tuesday with the sessions I attended.  There were still a couple of duds, but nothing like the disasters of the beginning of the conference.

Some of the presentations have been particularly good.  The standout for me on Tuesday was Jane Neff Rollins, who spoke about finding and using labor union documents for genealogy research.  My great-grandfather was in unions and supported them, plus my aunt's uncle (I do research for family members also) was prominent in his union.  Rollins gave an excellent overview of several types of records that possibly could be found, but it will depend on the specific union and what records it saved.  I would be thrilled to find my great-grandfather in union membership lists, meeting minutes, photographs, or a conference agenda, which are just some of the items that were suggested.  Of course, one of the difficult things is finding where these records might be held, but the University of Connecticut has a page with links to several labor archives around the country.  Those are not the only places union documents might be, but they're good places to start.

Another interesting talk on Tuesday was the story of a Jewish man in Russian Latvia who helped fight for Latvian independence but ended up dying in a Latvian prison during World War II.  Not only did the speaker, Eric Benjaminson, explain several of the more unusual documents that he obtained regarding his cousin's history, he also tried to present a plausible perspective of the Latvians who helped this process along its way.  While that part of his talk was obviously conjecture, I have not seen that included in a presentation before.  He was trying to give a broader view of the history.  His ability to look at the other side's perspective might be related to his thirty years of experience as a diplomat.

I also heard a great talk from Vivian Kahn about 2,000 years of Jewish history in Hungary.  The only disappointment on Tuesday was a lecture by someone whose point seemed to be less to transmit information than to share his anger.  I decided I didn't want to be angry all day also and left early.

Wednesday was not quite at the same level as Tuesday but still informative.  The most useful presentation was about researching Canadian family from outside Canada.  Marion Werle talked a little about the history of Jewish immigration into Canada and then covered a broad range of records that exist, including all the normal ones plus some others, such as colonization records and 1940 national registrations.  Not all of them are actually available to people outside Canada (unless they are Canadian citizens), but she even suggested some ways to deal with that restriction.  She also listed sites on which many records can be found.

It wasn't a presentation, but I led a very productive meeting of Jewish genealogical society newsletter editors.  One of my volunteer positions is IAJGS communications chairman, and the main responsibility is working with the newsletter editors.  This past year I unfortunately was not able to keep up with that as well as I would have liked, but I was really inspired by some of the ideas suggested at the meeting.  One idea I hope to implement is making sure that all newsletters and journals have an index of articles published over the publication's history, possibly hosted on the IAJGS Web site.  Too many genealogy articles don't get enough publicity and disappear too soon, and an article index would help prevent that wealth of information from being forgotten.

I spent a few hours in the resource room on Wednesday searching in ProQuest historical and newspaper databases.  On one day of the conference ProQuest allows access to the databases, most of which are not available as personal subscriptions.  The resource room is usually packed on ProQuest day, with a line waiting at the door.  I don't know what happened, but I never saw a line and the room was never full.  On the other hand, I found very few articles, so maybe I'm not the only who has mined those databases pretty thoroughly already.  But it's still great that we have access for a day.

The other presentation I heard on Wednesday was by Rose Feldman of the Israel Genealogy Research Association.  She spoke about the Jewish Legion and other Jews in Eretz Israel (Palestine) during World War I and a little later.  IGRA researchers have been trying to locate as many documents as possible that document the participation of Jews in Palestine during the war.  They are still discovering documents in unexpected archives but hope to find even more,

Looking forward to two more days of conference, and then some research at the Family History Library before I head back to California!

Earlier commentary on the conference:
Days 1 and 2


  1. Hi Janice,

    Thanks for the shout out -- I'm glad you enjoyed my presentation "Stickin' to the Union."


    1. Hi, Jane,

      You're welcome! Yours was one of the presentations I was particularly looking forward to when I came to the conference, and I was not disappointed!



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