Saturday, September 23, 2017

Saturday Night Genealogy Fun: Carrie Ann's Meme

This week for Saturday Night Genealogy Fun, Randy Seaver has found another Facebook meme that looked interesting.  So today we're playing 20 questions.

Your mission this week, should you decide to accept it, is:

(1) On Facebook, Carrie Ann Smith posted a meme earlier this week and I thought it might be fun for SNGF (thank you, Carrie Ann!).

(2) Copy the questions below, delete my answers, and put your own answers in.

(3) Post the questions and answers on your own blog, in a comment to this blog, or in a Facebook or Google+ post.  Be sure to leave a link to your blog post in my blog post.

So here is my contribution.

1.  Who are you named after?  I was named Janice Marie after the initials of my maternal great-grandparents, Joyne (Gorodetsky) and Moishe (Meckler).

2.  Last time you cried?  The morning of August 31, when I woke up and found one of my cats was missing because the man who bought my house had broken in during the night and left a window open.  I am thankful that the cat was found quickly. 

3.  Soda or water?  Water most of the time, although I do enjoy an occasional Mountain Dew.

4.  What's your favorite kind of pizza?  Italian sauage and jalapenos on thin crust. 

5.  Favorite flower?  Red roses.  After my grandfather died, I learned from my mother that he had always given red roses to my grandmother for Mother's Day, so I picked up the tradition and continued it until my grandmother passed away.

6.  Roller coaster?  I enjoy them, but I don't go often.

7.  Favorite ice cream?  Mint chocolate chip, with Ben & Jerry's Coffee Coffee Buzz Buzz Buzz a close second.  

8.  Favorite book?  Encyclopedia Brittanica.

9.  Shorts or jeans?   Jeans.  I practically live in them.

10.  What are you listening to right now?  The washing machine.

11.  Favorite color?  Blue.

12.  Tattoos?  One, a Western-style dragon on my upper right arm.

13.  Favorite thing to eat?  Shrimp.

14.  Android or iPhone?  Neither.  I have a flip phone.

15.  Favorite holiday?  Chanukah, because I get to make latkes for everyone.

16.  Night owl or mornings?  I used to be an early bird, but I've been a night owl for the past few years.  I'm currently trying to retrain myself to mornings. 

17.  Fave day of the week?  I can do genealogy every day.  But maybe Tuesday, because that's the night for Chopped!, NCIS, and NCIS:  NOLA

18.  Favorite season?  Fall, for football season and cooler weather.

19.  Favorite sport?  Football, hands down.  

20.  Mountains, beach, forest, or snow?  Maybe forest, although I've never lived in any of the four.  I used to live near beaches when I was younger, but most of my life has been spent in cities.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Back to California — For Genealogy, of Course!

I haven't even been in Portland for three entire weeks, but I've already taken two day trips to California.  What could make me do that?  Genealogy!

Both trips were to give talks that had been scheduled before my move out of state.  The first was a presentation to the Contra Costa County Genealogical Society (CCCGS) last week on Thursday.  I flew to Oakland (via Ontario!) and took BART out to Concord, where Martha Whittaker graciously picked me up and took me to the premeeting group dinner, and from there Lisa Gorrell drove me to the meeting.  It was gratifying to see that the room was full for my presentation about using resources compiled for Jewish research to help research non-Jewish ancestors.  I was very glad that everyone appeared to enjoy the talk and several people came up to say they learned a lot.

The second trip was today (Tuesday), to the Santa Clara County Historical and Genealogical Society (SCCHGS).  This time I flew into San Jose, where Linda Sanders met me and took me to the Santa Clara City Library.  The topic was immigration and naturalization records, and the room was again full of genealogists.  I took up all the time allotted and had to leave a couple of questions unanswered because librarian Mary Boyle wanted to make sure I got to the airport on time for my return flight.  This talk also went well, and Mary said everyone appreciated the information.

I am grateful to CCCGS and SCCHGS for inviting me to be a speaker and then keeping me on the schedule after I moved.  Thank you both for your support, and I really enjoyed both presentations.  I hope I'm able to visit again soon.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Saturday Night Genealogy Fun: Where Were My Ancestors 100 Years Ago?

For this week's edition of Saturday Night Genealogy Fun, Randy Seaver is doing a variation on a theme he used a couple of years ago.  Whereas that time he asked us where our ancestors were 150 years ago, this time we're moving into the 20th century and not looking back as far.

Your mission this week, should you decide to accept it, is to:

(1) Determine where your ancestral families were on 16 September 1917:  100 years ago.

(2) List them, their family members, their birth years, and their residence locations (as close as possible).  Do you have a photograph of their residence from about that time, and does the residence still exist?

(3) Tell us all about it in your own blog post, in a comment to this post, or in a Facebook Status or Google+ Stream post.


This is going to be a much shorter list for me than the 1865 version, because I won't be including any of the Sellers ancestor lines.  I still don't have addresses for my relatives, particularly for those living in Europe.

My 2nd-great-grandfather Joel Armstrong (1849) was living in Burlington County, New Jersey.

My great-grandparents Cornelius Elmer Sellers (1877) and Laura (Armstrong) Sellers (1882) were living in Mount Holly, New Jersey.  Elmer's World War I draft registration card, dated September 12, 1918, has the address 115 Clover Street, so that might be where they were in 1917.  (Elmer died two days after he filled out that draft card.)  My paternal grandfather, Bertram Lynn (Sr.) (1903), was also in the household, as were his siblings Catherine Marie (abt. 1907), George Moore "Dickie" (1908), and Nellie Elizabeth (1912).  It's possible that Herman J. (about 1914) and Amelia (after 1904) were still alive and in the household; I only know that both children died before 1920.

My great-grandparents Thomas Kirkland Gauntt (1870) and Jane (Dunstan) Gauntt (1871) were living in Burlington County, New Jersey, although I don't know if they were in Mount Holly or Burlington.  Children living with them were Edna May (1902), James Kirkland (1905), and Thomas Franklin (1908).

My paternal grandmother, Anna Gauntt (1893), was almost definitely living in Mount Holly, New Jersey with her husband, Charles Cooper Stradling (1895).  I don't think they divorced until the 1920's.  Also in the home would have been their daughter, my aunt Ruth Carrie (1914).

My 2nd-great-grandmother Bela (unknown maiden name) Mekler (unknown birth year) might have been alive.  I know she had died by 1924, but that's it.  If she was alive in 1917, she was probably living in the area of Kamenets Litovsk, Russian Empire (now Kameniec, Belarus).  I don't know who she might have been living with.

My 2nd-great-grandparents Gershon Itzhak Nowicki (about 1858) and Dora (Yelsky) Nowicki (about 1858) were still in Europe, probably in Porozowo, Russian Empire (now Porozovo, Belarus).  Chldren living with them might have included Louis, Chaim, Harry, and Mirke.  I don't know when Louis and Harry immigrated, and I don't know when Mirke married (she did not immigrate).  Chaim is said to have died in 1918 and no Anglicizied name was ever used for him, so he probably stayed in Europe also.

My great-grandparents Morris Meckler (about 1882) and Minnie Zelda (Nowicki) Meckler (about 1880) were living in Brooklyn, New York with all of their surviving children:  Sarah (about 1900; Sam (about 1903); Harry (about 1905); my maternal grandfather, Abraham (1912); Florence (1915); and Elsie (1919).

My 2nd-great-grandfather Isaac/Victor Gorodetsky (about 1866) was living in Brooklyn, New York, having immigrated in 1914.  I don't know with whom he might have been living; I suspect he was not living by himself.

My 2nd-great-grandparents Morris Brainin (about 1861) and Rose Dorothy (Jaffe) Brainin (about 1868) were living in Manhattan, New York.  Living with them were their children Lena (about 1884) and Benjamin (about 1896).  It's possible their son William (about 1892) was at home with them, but he enlisted in the U.S. Army for World War I, so he already might have been in the service.

My great-grandparents Joe Gordon (about 1892) and Sarah Libby (Brainin) Gordon (about 1890) were also living in Manhattan, New York.  At home with them were their sons Sidney (1915) and Alexander (1917), the latter of whom was a mere five months old.

None of my ancestors was living in the only home of which I have a photograph.  In 1930 my great-grandmother Laura (Armstrong) Sellers Ireland and my grandfather Bertram Lynn Sellers were living in the Armstrong home at 343 Broad Street, Mount Holly, but in 1917 Laura's great-uncle and -aunt were living there.

I have seventeen ancestors who were alive 100 years ago, and possibly eighteen.

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Saturday Night Genealogy Fun: Research Grief

I missed last week's Saturday Night Genealogy Fun because I moved from Oakland, California to Portland, Oregon the day before, and I didn't get Internet until the Monday after.  Since this week's challenge is a repeat of the one from October 17, 2015, which I posted about at the time, I'm going to answer last week's question instead.

Your mission this [last] week, should you decide to accept it, is:

(1) The Family History Hound listed 20 Questions about Your Ancestor, and I'm going to use some of them in the next few months.

(2) Please answer the question,
"Which ancestor gives you the most researching grief?"

(3) Write your own blog post, make a comment on this post, or post your answer on Facebook or Google+.   Please leave a link to your answer in comments on this post.


The ancestor who has been giving me the most research grief of late is my paternal grandfather's biological father.  I used Y-DNA testing to prove that this man was not the husband of my great-grandmother, the man my grandfather grew up with as his father.  Since that time I have been working on trying to determine who the mystery man is.  My grandfather's original birth record did not list a father's name at all.

My father matches two men on 107 of 111 markers based on their Y-DNA test results.  Both of these men have the same last name, Mundy, which I have interpreted to mean it is the likely last name of my mystery great-grandfather.

I started looking for Mundys in and around Burlington County, New Jersey, where my great-grandmother lived.  As she did not have much money, I don't believe she could have traveled much, so my hypothesis has been that Mr. Mundy probably came to her area.  I have focused on Burlington County and Philadelphia, which is close by (just across the river) and the nearest big city.

I did find a Mundy family in New Jersey, but they were in the northern part of the state, so I noted them but put them aside.  I began to look at them more closely when a generous soul named Suzanne McClendon dug up several newspaper articles on Bert Mundy, a member of that northern Jersey family.  Good old Bert apparently was a traveling salesman and a philanderer, making him a decent possibility for someone who might have traveled to the southern end of the state and had a short fling.  Another thing that makes him a good candidate is that my grandfather's name was Bertram and he was said to have been named after a "close family friend."

I've done a lot of research on Bert's family, hoping to find some living not-too-distant cousins who might be willing to do autosomal DNA testing and compare results.  So far I've gone back two generations and brought everyone forward, but none of the lines has any surviving individuals.  Taking it back one more generation is getting to be a little too far to easily determine connections, but it's the most promising path right now.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Brother, Can You Spare an Hour (or Two)?

It's time for another round-up of projects that are looking for volunteer help, whether in the form of transcriptions, information, or time.  If you have an hour or two a week to spare or some specialized knowledge, maybe you're just the person for one of these requests.

Flooding in Montreal’s Bonaventure Depot in
1886.  Photo: George Charles Arless. Source:
McCord Museum, Montreal, Quebec, MP-1999.6.1
As is becoming more and more common, several of the projects are asking volunteers to transcribe digitized information.  McGill University in Montreal, Québec is hoping people will be interested in working on 150 years of meterological observations from the McGill Observatory.  The focus of the Data Rescue:  Archives and Weather (DRAW) project is studying the historical weather data to identify patterns and trends, but an article notes, “The Observatory ledgers are also full of interesting little notes about the daily lives of our ancestors."  So if you had relatives living in Montreal, you can learn more about what their weather was like and how it affected them.  The project site is still in a beta testing stage, but interested participants can sign up now and practice using the transcription tools.

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Yale University's recent foray into crowd-sourced transcription work is all about the drama — Yale's School of Drama, that is, along with the Yale Repertory Theatre Ephemera Collection.  The aim of the Ensemble @ Yale project is to create a database of Yale theatrical history.  Volunteers can browse digitized programs spanning more than 90 years and transcribe play titles, production dates, and names of directors, cast, and crew.  Once the first two collections have been transcribed and put into a searchable database, more Yale theater-related collections will be considered as additions.  If you had a family member at Yale or are into theater history, this may be the project for you.

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Ukrainian family from Tyshkivtsi,
Galicia, Austro-Hungarian Empire, 1890
A transcription project more directly related to family history research is the one connected to the recently launched database of genealogical records for Ukrainians born between 1650 and 1920.  The database is said to include information on more than two and a half million people, with plans to increase the total to between four and five million people by 2019.  Documents used as data sources originated with the Tsardom of Muscovy, Russian and Habsburg empires, Poland, and the Soviet Union.  The index is currently searchable only in Cyrillic, but a Roman alphabet search is planned for the future.  (Remember, Google Translate understands Ukrainian and is your friend.)

If you register on the project site you can create a family tree.  The transcription site provides instructions on how to do the transcription work, and lists locations and whether documents have been finished or are waiting to be worked on.  Something I didn't find on the site is a list of what documents are being used, which would be useful for determining whether Jewish individuals might be included in the database.

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There are enough volunteer transcription projects now that someone has created a page to aggregate them.  It's on an education-oriented blog, and the focus is on students working with historical texts, but it's a nice collection of links conveniently grouped together.

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1903 Vacaville Reporter front page
A local request for assistance comes from the Vacaville (Calfornia) Heritage Council, which is looking for volunteers to take on projects such as scanning photo negatives, researching local history, organizing donated historical material, and various computer tasks.  Some of the historical items that scream to be cared for are the Vacaville Reporter's newspaper collection from 1930–2006, microfilm of newspapers going back to 1883, and photo negatives.  Interested individuals can contact council president Doug Rodgers at the e-mail address given in the article.

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Three more local requests, these from museums in eastern Contra Costa County, California, were featured in a recent newspaper article.  The Antioch Historical Museum, East County Historical Museum, and Pittsburg Historical Museum and Society have each received healthy donations of newspapers, microfilm, and other historical items that now need to be sorted and prepared for access.  Contact information for each of the groups is in the article, if you have the time to help.

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Dr. Kimberly Jensen, a professor at Western Oregon University, is trying to find more information about The People's Bulletin, a black community newspaper published in Portland, Oregon.  The only known surviving issue, from June 7, 1917, is Volume 1, Number 34, and is held at the University of California at Santa Barbara's Special Research Collections, as part of its “Portland [Oregon] African-American Collection, circa 1900–1970.”  So far all documentation for the newspaper indicates only the year 1917, although June 7 was in the 23rd week of 1917, so the first issues should have come out in 1916.  It's obviously a very rare paper; it isn't even listed in the Chronicling America directory.  Anyone who can provide information about The People's Bulletin is asked to contact Dr. Jensen at the e-mail address given in the article linked above.

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There are always lots of Irish projects going on.  A releatively new one is Epic Journeys - Ellis Island, which aims to document the Irish experience going through Ellis Island.  The project began in 2015 with a focus on the parish of Tulla, County Clare but has now expanded to other departure points in Ireland, including locations in the counties of Cavan, Cork, Galway, and Tipperary.  The Web site is currently going through an upgrade, so contributions cannot be made through it directly, but they can be sent via an e-mail address on the site.

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The Edmonds Historical Museum (in Snohomish County, Washington State) is asking its area residents, whether military veterans, current service members, or civilians, to come forward and share their wartime memories, from World War II through to the recent War on Terror.  All interviews will be shared with repositories for permanent preservation, and participants will each be given a copy of the oral history interview to keep and to share with family members if desired.  After November 2017, the interview project will expand to general memories of Edmonds and south Snohomish County.  Details and contact information are in an online article about the project.

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This one isn't directly genealogy-related, but identifying the person should help one family.  Authorities from Orange County, California have put out a public request for help with their oldest cold case, who is a Jane Doe.  "Jane" was found dead on March 14, 1968 in Hungtington Beach, California.  She was estimated to be 20–30 years old, 5'2"–5'3", and about 130–140 pounds.  More information about her case, including the clothing and items found with her, is on the Defrosting Cold Cases blog.

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Detail from The Book of Magical Charms
The last project I'll mention today has nothing to do with genealogy, but it just sounds really cool, so I want to share it.  How would you like to transcribe magical manuscripts?  The Newberry Library in Chicago is giving you that opportunity.  The Book of Magical Charms describes how to care for toothaches, cheat at dice, complete a conjuring, and speak with spirits.  How can you possibly pass that up?  Atlas Obscura has an interesting article about the project, and you can visit the transcription project site to get started.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Treasure Chest Thursday: John Schafer Buys Property of the Late John Smith


This sheet, and each of the three that follows, measures 8 1/2" x 14", the standard for legal size.  This first sheet is slightly yellowed but appears to have originally been a creamy off-white.  It's a heavy bond, possibly more than 20#, with a very sturdy feel.  It has a watermark that is difficult to read, but I can make out "Byron / –eston Co / —n Recor— / 1918."  I think the first two lines might be "Byron Weston Company", but I'm stuck on the next word.

This is a sheet of letterhead for the St. Louis County Land Title Company.  Everything is typed on the page except for a check mark in pencil on the left and one sentence in pencil at the bottom:  "Where does the eastern boundary come in?"




These three pages are of a lesser stock than the first.  They're all a muted yellow-orange with stronger color at the top.  Everything on each is typed except for a penciled check mark to the left of each transaction.

The first page tells us that the set of documents is a chain of title to lots 9 and 10, which are the land at the center of the dispute between Jean and Emma La Forêt and Emma's three Curdt siblings.  The receipt posted last week says that the order was for lots 9 to 16; we'll have to wait until we go through all the pages to see which is correct.

It's clear that Jean copied the information from these entries to create his abbreviated version, which did not include all the details for every transaction.  But he wasn't perfect with his copying — the first mistake comes in the first entry, with the name Solomon, which Jean typed as Salomon.

From these four pages, Jean copied the first entry in its entirety.  On the second page, he took highlights of the first three listings and then copied the fourth completely.  He seems to have copied everything from the third and fourth pages.

One question this resolves is why the land was referred to as a subdivision of John Smith's estate in the legal waiver that Louis Curdt signed.  John Smith's heirs sold lot 10 to John Schafer.  Apparently Mr. Smith wanted to make sure his children's names stood out a little more than his:  Louisiana Smith and Doddridge Smith are decidedly less common.

John Schafer purchased lot 10 directly from Smith's heirs in 1856, but he didn't acquire lot 9 until 1864, almost ten years later.  He purchased that land from Rufus and Mary Lackland, who do not appear to have been Smith's heirs.  Since the chain of title was concerned with the properties from the time that Schafer had them, we don't get information on when the Lacklands bought lot 9, but the description mentions 182-116 and that is was part of Smith's estate.  Schafer's purchase of lot 10 was 183-316, so it was probably not long after the Lacklands bought lot 9.

Comparing the descriptions of the two pieces of land, one finds a lot more detail in that for lot 10, which uses landmarks ("a black oak, 5 inches in diameter"), degrees of direction, chain measurements, and roads to define the plot.  The description of lot 9, on the other hand, is distinctly less precise — "32.49 arpens, more or less" — refers to a file in the surveyor's office instead of giving details, and has spelling errors ("noreth" for north, "be" for by).  Maybe the two transactions were processed by different clerks.

I can see some logic to Elizabeth's letters of administration being listed here, as her appointment meant that she was in control of the land, but I'm surprised that information about the family's marriages and divorces appears in the chain of title.  I don't think they're normally registered at the same county office as land transactions.  When I looked at Jean's compilation, I figured he had obtained documents from multiple sources.  But the chain of title refers to the marriage records; why?

Here's another confusing thing about these documents:  Why are some letters and numbers underlined?  On the first page, we see "0.43 1/2" and "page 141".  On the second page, there are "Smith's" and "plat".  The third page has "Miss" Elizabeth Schafer, but that might have been underlined to emphasize the error, as a widow should be Mrs.  But why does the last entry have "Schafer" twice and "Kink"?  Happily, the fourth page has no strange underlines.

It appears that the check marks on these pages might simply have indicated that Jean had copied what he wanted from the entries, since he checked every one.  I don't know why someone wrote the question on the first page, though.  The description of lot 10 says it is bounded on the east by lot 9.  (That information is confirmed in the description of lot 9, which says it is bounded on the west by lot 10.)  So if the eastern boundary is defined, why would someone ask where it comes in?

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Saturday Night Genealogy Fun: A Family Heirloom

This week for Saturday Night Genealogy Fun, Randy Seaver is following up on another question on the Family History Hound's list.

Your mission this week, should you decide to accept it, is:

(1) The Family History Hound listed 20 Questions about Your Ancestor, and I'm going to use some of them in the next few months.

(2) Please answer the question, "
What heirloom do you have that has been handed down through the generations?" 

(3) Write your own blog post, make a comment on this post, or post your answer on Facebook or Google+.  Please leave a link to your answer in comments on this post.


I'm a little short on heirlooms in my family.  On my father's side, my grandfather's father died young and the family was poor.  (In fact, my great-grandfather's mother paid for the funeral.)  If there were any heirlooms or family items, I haven't heard about them.  My grandmother's family were farmers in southern New Jersey, again without a lot of money.  Perhaps there was a family bible on one side, but if so it went to a different line in the family.

My mother's grandparents on both sides came to the United States as poor immigrants with not much more than the clothes on their backs.  I don't know of any significant items they brought with them from Europe.  That said, the closest thing I can describe as an "heirloom" is the set of silver-plated flatware that my great-grandmother Sarah Libby (Brainin) Gordon owned.

Definitely obtained here in the United States, it's a service for twelve in one of those cases that has cut-outs where you stack the forks, spoons, and some serving implements and bands on the inside of the lid where you slide the knives.  My mother kept it, apparently for several years, and gave it to me before she passed away.  She's the one who told me it belonged to my great-grandmother.  I believe my grandmother held the set for a while before giving it to my mother,

The utensils don't have a monogram or family initial and the set isn't anything really fancy, but I guess I'm now the fourth generation to have it.  I used the set every year when I held my annual Passover seder (dinner), for about thirteen years or so, but I haven't been able to do that for the past four or five years.  I'm hoping to be able to start again next year.

I don't have any description of the history of the flatware in the box to explain that this is a family item.  I should print a copy of this blog post and include it to document the history,

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Treasure Chest Thursday: The Chain of Deeds for the Schafer Property


This sheet of paper is 8 1/2" x 14" and is dark orange.  It is the last page of a packet of documents held together with two large brads and appears to be the "cover" page.  At some point in the past the pages were probably folded in half and this was on the outside.  The stain in the lower right corner looks as though it might be from grease.  The page is labeled as coming from the St. Louis County Land Title Company.  The title on the page, "Abstract of Title", describes reasonably well the contents of the packet.


This half sheet measures 8 1/4" x 4 1/2".  It is the last page in the set of documents, appearing just before the above file "cover."  It is a receipt from the St. Louis County Land Title Company, addressed to Jean L. "LaForest" of Overland, Missouri and shows an order for the chain of deeds for lots 9 through 16 in Belt's Subdivision.  The dates on it appear to indicate that Jean placed his order on January 6, 1920 and paid $10, probably a deposit against the total copying to be done.  He might have mailed his order, because the top of the receipt is dated January 17, 1920; it's also possible that it simply took a week for a clerk to register the request as #8855 with a charge of $25.  When the job was finished, the balance due was $15, although no date is entered for that.  The "PAID" stamp shows the bill was paid off February 4, 1920, and Jean's note in the upper left records that he received the documents the next day, on February 5.



This sheet also measures 8 1/2" x 14".  The hand-drawn map was attached to the front of the complete packet from the title company.  The blank page (from a different land title company) is the reverse side of the map.  Judging by the handwriting on the map, I suspect that Jean La Forêt is the person who created it.

The large packet of papers between these sheets consists of abstracts of land transactions for the lots mentioned on the receipt.  These abstracts appear to be the source of the information that Jean used to reconstruct the history of the sales of the land purchased by John Schafer, lots 9 and 10, the focus of the dispute between Emma (Schafer) La Forêt and her three Curdt siblings.  So Jean didn't go to the county recorder or assessor and research all this himself; he ordered copies and let the county office do the research for him.  Then he pulled out the information relevant to his search and apparently retyped all of it.  There are more than 20 pages in the packet, so I will be posting only a few each week.

I find it interesting that Jean's last name was misspelled "LaForest" on the receipt.  As a French language major, I learned that a word containing a vowel with a circonflexe (circumflex in English) over it often appears in English with an "s" after the vowel.  So, for example, the word "forêt" translates as "forest."  I doubt that the clerk in Missouri in 1920 knew this, and yet Jean's last name became Forest.  Just how did that happen?

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Saturday Night Genealogy Fun: My Genealogy Database Statistics

For Saturday Night Genealogy Fun this week, we're looking at the statistics in our family tree databases:

Your mission this week, should you decide to accept it, is:

(1) If you have your family tree research in a genealogy management program (GMP), whether a computer software program or an online family tree, figure out how to find how many persons, places, sources, etc. are in your database.  (Hint:  The Help button is your friend!)

(2) Tell us which GMP you use, and how many persons, places, sources, etc. are in your database(s) today in a blog post of your own, in a comment to this blog post, or in a Facebook status or Google+ stream comment.

NOTE:  We last did this in June 2016.


Even though Randy uses Roots Magic, I'm glad he was nice enough to include the instructions for other programs again, because I had already forgotten how to get the information in Family Tree Maker.  And this time I remembered to make a screen capture of the little pop-up that FTM provided:


So the statistics this year for my family file are:

• Size:  6,940 kb
• Total number of individuals:  7,971
• Total number of marriages:  2,659
• Average lifespan:  57 years 7 months
• Earliest birth:  1540, Ebert Mack (from my adoptive Sellers line)
• Text records:  73,002 (I still don't know what this means)
• Total number of generations:  18
• Total number of different surnames:  2,003

For comparison, here's my post from last year.

During the past year I have added 87 individuals, 37 marriages (most gained from the release of the New York City marriage index, I think), and 33 surnames.  The average lifespan has gone up by 3 months.  The earliest birth and the number of generations have remained the same.  The text records have increased by 1,237, but since I don't know what those are (notes, maybe?), I don't really know what to think about it.  The file size increased by 105 kb.

I added some information this past year, but I have a lot more I haven't gotten to.  I really need to find some free time!

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Treasure Chest Thursday: A Short Synopsis of the Beginning of the Schafer Property


This sheet of paper is 8 1/2" x 10 7/8".  It is off-white in color, perhaps a light cream.  It is 20# bond with no watermark.  Everything on it is typed.  The outline of a rusted paper clip is visible at the top of the page.  (I removed the paper clip and disposed of it.)

This page was clipped to two others that are carbon copies of it.  Unlike many of the carbons I have looked at while ploughing through the reams of paperwork that Jean La Forêt created (and I'm pretty sure he typed this one also), none of these three pages has been amended in a way to make it different from the others, which is why I decided not to post the other two copies.  They're all exactly the same in content.

As mentioned above, everything is typed on the paper, so no transcription is required.  Only two changes were made to what was originally typed.  First, near the top, in the section that begins "May ...... 1865", at the end of the second line, the word beginning with "Novb" had the letters "er" typed over whatevrer was there to begin with, which is no longer visible.  Second, at the bottom of the page, at the end of the last paragraph, "Was he then abetted" was typed and then erased on all three copies.

Most of the facts presented here have been seen in previous documents from Jean.  The new piece of information is in the last section, which points out that when the widow Elizabeth (Walz) Schafer married Louis Curdt, her powers as administratrix of her late husband's estate and any position she may have had as guardian of the property for her daughter, Emma Margaret Schafer, would have passed to her new husband.  The document also states that Louis and Elizabeth Curdt never reported an accounting of the estate.

Since John Schafer died intestate, the disposition of his property would have relied on the existing laws at the time in Missouri.  While Jean did quote from The Revised Statutes of the State of Missouri, 1899, an important section that did not appear on that sheet was the actual order of distribution of property when there was no will.

On page 739 in the edition of the Statutes which I found previously, Section 2908, "Real and personal estate descends, to whom", states that after debts are paid and the widow receives her dower, the estate goes "[f]irst, to his children."  That would have made Emma the sole heir after her mother had received her share as widow.  As Emma was a minor when her father died, a guardian would have been appointed to oversee the property that was to come to Emma when she reached adulthood.

I find it significant that nowhere in all the papers I received when I was talked into taking this on is there a copy of any documents having to do with John Schafer's estate:  no appointment of administratrix, no inventory, no list of debts, no distribution, no guardian report, no nothin'.  Considering how diligent Jean appears to have been with other aspects of documentation and saving paper, that's rather surprising.  Perhaps he did acquire a copy, which is what led him to say that the the Curdts never "rendered an account."  So now I have to wonder if those documents were among the others and were removed by an unknown person at some point in the past.

After I've gone through the remaining papers in my little treasure chest (there's still quite a pile left), obtaining a copy of John Schafer's probate file may have just moved to the top of my to-do list.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Identifying Esther Leah (Schneiderman) Gorodetsky

Avigdor, Etta, and Esther Leah Gorodetsky, circa 1890, Kamenets Podolsky, Russian Empire

The path to the discovery had begun two years previously, in 2000.  I had visited my grandmother in south Florida, and we had eaten lunch with cousins on her father's side of the family.  During conversation, Bubbie (Yiddish for "grandmother") had made comments to various of the cousins there:  "I have a photograph of your parents on their wedding day."  "I have a photo of your brother when he was a baby."  "I have a photo of your mother."  And she promised to give them the photos.

When Bubbie and I returned to her apartment, she instructed me to pull out four big boxes of photographs.  We went through them, not focusing much on the photos in general but searching only for those to be given to the aforementioned cousins.  I was not permitted to label any of the other photos.  We ended up with a small pile of about seven photographs, which she would make sure got to the appropriate cousins.

Fast forward two years to 2004.  My grandmother's memory had started to slip a little.  In conversation, she began to repeat statements and questions four or five times.  I was already planning on a trip to the Orlando area for Thanksgiving to visit a cousin on my father's side.  I remembered those four boxes of photographs, all unlabeled and unidentified beyond my grandmother's memory, and worried about identifying them before it was too late.  So I made a spur-of-the-moment decision.  I called Bubbie and asked if she would like me to visit for a few days.  I added a round-trip ticket from Orlando to Ft. Lauderdale to the front end of my existing trip.

When I arrived at Bubbie's apartment, I asked if we could look through the boxes of photographs again, and this time could I label them, please?  I was surprised and elated when she said yes.  I had prepared by bringing a large supply of sticky notes.  I brought out the boxes again, and every time Bubbie identified a photo — "This is my grandparents, Mendel Herz and Ruchel Dvojre."  "This is my parents' engagement photo."  "This is Uncle Willie in his Army uniform." — I wrote a short note on a sticky and put it on the back of the photo.

Bubbie looked at one photo and announced, "I have no idea who these people are," then tossed it aside.  I picked it up to check it out.  The photo was of three people:  a man seated on a chair on the left, a young child on a column in the middle, and a woman standing on the right.  The printing on the card was in Cyrillic and gave the photographer's name and location, Kamenets Podolsky, Russia.  I knew that's where Bubbie's father and grandfather were supposed to have been from, so I thought the people might be relatives.  I asked if I could take the photo with me, and Bubbie said, "Sure."

After working through all four boxes, almost everything was put away again and I had far fewer sticky notes remaining.  The photos for the cousins which had been pulled out two years ago were still sitting around, never having been delivered, so I was allowed to take them (and accept responsibility for mailing them), in addition to the unidentified photo of three people in Kamenets Podolsky.

When my visit with Bubbie was over, I flew to Orlando to spend Thanksgiving with my cousin and his family.  While I was there, I talked about the photographs my grandmother and I had pored over and the few I had been permitted to take away with me.  My cousin's wife was interested in seeing the photos, so I brought them out.  We looked at the ones destined to be sent to cousins and then came to the one from Kamenets Podolsky.  Fern declared, "We've seen her before!"  My response:  "We have?"  We went slowly through the photographs and came to the one Fern was talking about.

The photo was one that my grandmother had identified as being of Sarah (Gordon) Millstein, a younger sister of my great-grandfather Joe Gordon.  She was the spitting image of the woman in the photo.  They looked so much alike, one might easily think they were of the same person, or that the two women were twins.  The giveaways were the clothing and the photographer locations.  The woman in the Russian photograph is wearing a lovely Victorian dress, whereas the photo of Sarah shows her in a stylish 1920's dress, a moment captured by a photographer in New York City.

So if the Russian photograph wasn't of Sarah, who could it be?  Given the clues of time and place, I realized it was probably my great-great-grandmother Esther Leah (Schneiderman) Gorodetsky, Sarah's mother, and also mother of my great-grandfather.  She died in Kishinev (now in Moldova) in late 1908, a month after the birth of her eighth surviving child.  Early the next year my great-grandfather began the chain migration of the family to the United States.

I was very excited but not quite willing to commit.  When I returned home I compared the man in the photo to a known photo of my great-great-grandfather Victor Gordon (formerly Gorodetsky).  It looked like the same person!  Furthermore, I could date the photo, to approximately 1890.  The child in the photograph appears to be a little girl.  The oldest child in the family, my great-grandfather's older sister, was Etta, who was born about 1890.  All the pieces were fitting!

Because Esther Leah died in Russia, any photos of her had to have been taken there.  So far this is the only one that has surfaced.  I thought it was such an important discovery that I had the photo digitally cleaned up and then mailed prints to all the cousins on that side of the family, so everyone would know what Esther Leah looked like.  I did not want her to be forgotten again, tossed aside with a comment of "I have no idea who these people are."

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Saturday Night Genealogy Fun: 100-Word Genealogy Challenge

It's Saturday, so it must be time for more Saturday Night Genealogy Fun with Randy Seaver!  This was another easy choice for me.

Your mission this week, should you decide to accept it, is:

(1) This SNGF is based on the 100 Word Challenge (
https://100wc.net/) that school children are participating in around the world.  They are given a word or phrase to write a story about in one hundred words.

(2) Write a short 100-word story using the phrase
"the most interesting ancestor I have . . ." in 100 words.  [Hint:  If you write it in a word processor, you can use Tools > Word Count (or similar) to count words.]

(3) Share the story with all of us by writing your own blog post, writing a comment on this blog post, or putting it in a Google+ Stream or Facebook Status or Note.  Please leave a comment on this post so others can find it.


Here's mine:

The most interesting ancestor I have is my 6x-great-grandmother Ann Ridgway, who was born October 10, 1710 and married Hananiah Gaunt August 8, 1730.  Even before her marriage, she was a well known Quaker minister from Little Egg Harbor, New Jersey.  She began preaching when a young girl and traveled extensively on preaching excursions from then until she reached an advanced age.  She was a minister for more than 60 years.  When she was very old and could no longer stand to preach, she instead would pray on her knees for hours.  And people listened.  She died February 6, 1794.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Treasure Chest Thursday: It's a Conspiracy!


There wasn't a Treasure Chest Thursday post last week, partly because I was at the IAJGS International Conference on Jewish Genealogy, and partly because the large flatbed scanner I have been using was out of commission.  When I returned from Florida, however, I discovered that the scanner had been repaired, so I started scanning the oversize pages regarding the property/inheritance dispute between Emma (Schafer) La Forêt and her Curdt siblings.

While I was scanning, this little scrap of paper jumped out, begging for attention.  I have to admit, I laughed when I first saw it, but I thought it was a fine way to get back into the spirit of Jean's feelings regarding the entire situation with the Curdts.

The paper is 5" x 3 13/16".  It's a grayish off-white with lines lightly printed in blue (I think), columns in red, and a border in red and blue.  It was neatly torn off of a larger piece of paper.  It looks as though it might have come from an accounting ledger or something similar.

The only words on it are "Conspiracy / Curdt — Schaefer", in what appears to be Jean La Forêt's handwriting.  We have seen the word "conspiracy" used previously in the documents connected to this story.  In fact, it was at the very beginning of my posts, in the typed history of Emma Schafer:

"From this time on, there existed a Conspiracy to defraud and despoil EMMA M. SCHAFER of her property."

and

"Thus Elizabeth Curdt disclosed her partnership in the CONSPIRACY, and stuck to her criminal husband against her first child."

So it's very clear what Jean thought of the goings-on.  Maybe this little note was the first time he had put it in writing.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

IAJGS Conference, Days 5 and 6 and Going Home

The IAJGS conference runs longer than most genealogy conferences, so as you get toward the end you might not have quite as much energy as at the beginning.  On Thursday morning, the fifth day, I wanted to go to the Leadership Series session on membership database solutions, as the topic has come up at our board meetings for the past couple of years.  I really did.  But it was at 7:00 a.m., and I was up until 6:00 a.m. working on that day's presentation.

See, on Wednesday night I was going over the PowerPoint file for my Thursday talk, and then the computer rebelled.  It said it couldn't save the file.  I tried save as.  I tried again to save it directly.  The computer was adamant — nope, not happening; sorry, unable to comply.  After trying everything in my rather limited arsenal, I finally had to concede defeat.  And then I had to reconstruct the presentation from scratch, without the benefit of the graphics that were on my home computer.  I tried to remember what the original slides had said and made do with what I could download from Ancestry and other sites.  Around 6:00 I was too bleary-eyed to focus, so I gave up and fell asleep.

I knew I wouldn't make it to the database session (I hope they make the information available to societies later), and being awake in time for the 8:15 talk about Jewish settlement in the Caribbean didn't sound realistic, but I thought I had a chance of going to the Professional Genealogists Birds of a Feather get-together at 9:45.  I slept through my alarm.  So much for that idea.

I finally did wake up, in time to go to Dana Cohen Sprott's session on the "Lost Jews of St. Maarten."  She first gave a broad overview of Jewish settlement on several Caribbean islands (after pointing out multiple times that the correct pronunciation has the emphasis on the third, not the second, syllable) and then focused a little more on St. Maarten (where she lives) and on the "dead man found behind the Radio Shack."  Apparently a body was discovered behind what was at the time a Radio Shack but what previously was a Jewish burial ground (see page 10 of the "WeekEnder" section of the October 30, 2010 issue of The Daily Herald for more details).  Dana has been researching the Jewish presence in the Caribbean for several years.  It was an entertaining and informative talk.

For lunch Mark Fearer and I had a very small ProGen get-together (if any other ProGen alumni were at the conference, they didn't own up to it).  We had a lively discussion covering many professional genealogy topics, which helped make up for the fact that I missed the BoF meeting.

The first session of the afternoon was the reconstructed presentation, which was about my research on two Colonial Jews, Daniel Joseph of Virginia and Israel Joseph of South Carolina (the first Colonial research I ever did!).  I told everyone up front what had happened to the file and apologized for the situation, then gamely went on to give the talk.  Lucky for me, everyone was very understanding.  My most recent research results (learned only a couple of weeks before the conference) actually ended up running contrary to my original hypothesis, so I opened it up to suggestions from the audience on possible future avenues to pursue.  I received some very helpful ideas I'll be looking at, including checking with the American Jewish Archives to see if there might be original research notes from when Rabbi Malcolm Stern wrote his book on First American Jewish Families.

Since Thursday was the last day the ProQuest databases would be available, I bypassed the rest of the afternoon sessions and spent the next two hours looking for articles about family members in newspapers.  I was particularly successful with Schumeister cousins appearing in the Minneapolis Star and Tribune collection.  I have about 40 articles with lots of information on those relatives.  And I have copies of my cousin's and my sister-in-law's doctoral dissertations thanks to ProQuest!

I rounded out the afternoon with a mentor session that someone had even signed up for ahead of time.  The same woman who solved a brick wall because of information in my Sunday talk came back for more.  She's trying to determine where an ancestor came from.  I gave her lots of homework and resources to check out.  After that I hung around to enjoy the prebanquet reception (all vegetarian, but probably not kosher) and socialized with several friends before heading back to my room to collapse.

Friday is always the "afterthought" day of the conference.  It's only half a day, and a lot of attendees leave late Thursday or early Friday.  Given that, I was pleasantly surprised to see a good turnout for my 8:15 talk (someone really had it in for me at this conference with early time slots), which was on immigration and naturalization records.  Even the illustrious Hal Bookbinder was there (I think he enjoyed it).  The bad news was that the air conditioning appeared to be off, either because the conference organizers had decided to economize or the hotel saw fit to cut it off early.  I was not amused.

The same a/c problem reared its ugly head when I tried to enjoy Mark Fearer's talk on Jewish immigration to Texas.  While I didn't have a choice about staying in the room for my own talk, I did for Mark's, and sadly I had to abandon it in favor of the resource room, where the air condioning was still going strong.  Since I was there, I took advantage of the databases still available and focused on JewishData.com.  I found photographs of several tombstones for my friend's family.  I also tried to search on the Israel Genealogy Research Association site, but the entire site was down, which was very disappointing.

And that was it!  Poof, the conference was over!  Then it was just a matter of checking out of the hotel, waiting for the airport shuttle, and flying home.  As usual, overall it was a good conference, and I learned lots of new things.  There are always some duds, but they were definitely outweighed by the many informative talks, and it was great to see so many of my genealogy friends and colleagues in person.  Plus I had the opportunity to participate in the first annual membership recruitment drive of the Antarctica Jewish Genealogical Society!  I'm glad I was able to attend this year.  I wish I could go to Warsaw in 2018, but I suspect that won't be practical for me, so I'll focus on Cleveland in 2019 instead.

Representatives of the Antarctica Jewish Genealogical Society,
just before the keynote presentation on Sunday, July 23, 2017

My commentary on days 1 and 2 of the conference is here, and that for days 3 and 4 is here.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Saturday Night Genealogy Fun: Your Genea-Bucket List

Wish lists are always fun to create, because you can really go nuts with what you would like to do.  And that's what Randy Seaver is asking us to do for this week's Saturday Night Genealogy Fun:

For this week's mission (should you decide to accept it), I challenge you:

Knowing that a "Bucket List" is a wish list of things to do before death:

(1) What is on your Genealogy Bucket List?  What research locations do you want to visit?  Are there genea-people that you want to meet and share with?  What do you want to accomplish with your genealogy research?  List a minimum of three items, more if you want!

(2) Tell us about it in a blog post of your own (please give me a link in Comments), a comment to this post in Comments, or a status line or comment on Facebook.

Think big!  Have fun!  Life is short - do genealogy first!


Ok, here's mine:

1.  Locations I want to visit:
• Burlington County, New Jersey for an extended research visit, because that's where most of my father's family was from:  Armstrong, Gauntt, Gibson, Sellers, Stackhouse, and other families
• Trenton, New Jersey, because it's the location of the New Jersey State Archives
• Research repositories in New York City and extended area, because that's where most of my mother's ancestors lived after they immigrated to the United States
• Kamenets Litovsk (now Kamyanyets), Porozowo, and Kobrin (minimum), Belarus, all locations from which members of the Meckler and Nowicki branches of my family came
• Kreuzburg (now Krustpils, Latvia), the (claimed) origin of my Brainin family line
• Kamenets Podolsky (now Kamyenets Podilskiiy, Ukraine) and Kishinev (now Chisinau, Modolva), where Gorodetsky family members were born and lived
• Khotin, now in Ukraine (I think), where one branch of the Gorodetsky-Kardish family lived
• Manchester, England, home to my Dunstan line for several generations
• County Cork, Ireland, particularly Ballyvourney, home to my stepsons' paternal ancestors on the mother's side
• Punjab, India, particularly Khatkar Kolan and Patiala, home to my stepsons' paternal ancestors on the father's side

That's the short list.  I can come up with even more if I try.

2.  People I want to meet and share information with:
• Any relatives I can find in the above-mentioned locations :)
• Relatives with whom I am in electronic contact but whom I have not yet met
• Relatives whose names I have from previous research but whom I have not yet met
• Anyone else I find I'm related to
• After I determine who my grandfather's biological father was (see below), people from that branch of the family

3.  What I want to accomplish with my genealogy research:
• Determine who my grandfather's biological father was
• Meet as many relatives as possible
• Collect photographs of as many ancestors as possible
• Learn as much as possible about my ancestors and other relatives as individuals
• Create books or other collections to share with family members
• Document family members who perished in the Holocaust for Yad Vashem
• Find someone else in the family to carry on my work after I'm gone, because I'm going to assume I can't resolve all the questions before I go

Thursday, July 27, 2017

IAJGS Conference, Days 3 and 4

It really is amazing how much you can cram into a conference schedule when you try.  Between speaker sessions, volunteer activities, and networking, I've been going steadily all day long every day.  But oh!, the things I'm learning!

Tuesday began with a Jewish bloggers brown bag breakfast.  It's a pleasure to meet people whose words you read in cyberspace and put faces to names.  I had a lovely time chatting with Lara Diamond (Lara's Jewnealogy), Emily Garber ([going] The Extra Yad), Israel Pickholtz (All My Foreparents), Ann Rabinowitz (JewishGen blog), Mary-Jane Roth (Memory Keeper's Notebook), Marian Wood (Climbing My Family Tree), and Barbara Zabitz (blog in progress).  Then it was off to learn more!

Well, it should have been.  In the first session I headed to, the speaker kept his head down and read directly from prepared notes, without looking up at the audience.  He also wasn't making any great revelations, so I quickly moved on and instead spent some research time in the resource room.  The second session was much better, though.  Alexander Beider spoke about the origins of Jews from North Africa.  His discussion covered the same types of linguistic and naming clues that he discussed in Monday evening's presentation, indicating origins from multiple locations in Europe and elsewhere.

From there I gave my third presentation of the conference, on where to find and how to access online Jewish historical newspapers.  I was really happy to let people know that there are now two free online OCR programs for Yiddish and that Google Translate handles Yiddish.  That makes a lot more historical Jewish newspapers much more accessible than they used to be.

On Tuesday IAJGS held a Tech Lunch, where people with technical and computer skills are asked to volunteer their skills in helping IAJGS.  It sounds as though there are plans for a Web site redesign and a desire to offer assistance to societies.  Something was said about encouraging everyone to be on Facebook also, but I still don't think that's a substitute for a good Web site.  Facebook is great for short term, but legacy material is lost.

The afternoon brought some interesting subjects.  Nicolas Coiffait has been researching the soldiers in Napoléon's armies and has identified more than 2,000 men he believes are Jewish.  He is continuing the research and trying to learn more about each man.  Eugenio Alonso spoke on how to research conversos and Anusim in the Caribbean by using documents from the National Historical Archive of Spain, many of which are available online for free.  He showed several examples that identified individuals as "judaizing", meaning that they were following Jewish practices.  He pointed out that he had even found two documents that specified the judaizers were black.  And that was the end of the day for me, because I had to head back to my room to reconstruct a presentation for later in the week (more on that in my next post).

On Wednesday I finally had the opportunity to "sleep in":  My first session didn't begin until 8:15!  (Hooray!)  And I had to be there, because I was the one speaking, on the subject of copyright and how it affects genealogy.  Unfortunately, far too many genealogists are still woefully undereducated on this subject, with significant numbers believing that if it's online it's ok to copy.  It was gratifying to have one person in the audience who understood already, but it was also good that people asked lots of questions, because that indicated they wanted to learn what they should be doing.  I'm very happy that the program committee accepted that talk for the conference.

We had a small but dedicated number who came to the JGS Newsletter Editors meeting.  Five people, including me, were there, representing four society publications.  Mostly it was another opportunity for networking, but we also did some brainstorming.  It's interesting that one group still has only a print publication, with no electronic version.

A session on the Yad Vashem Web site was supposed to show advanced ways to use other record sets besides the central database.  It didn't really deliver, but as a sample photograph the speaker used a wedding photo that accompanied a recent article in ZichronNote.  The photo is notable because even though it was for a wedding, the bride and groom, and in fact the entire wedding party, were wearing the cloth yellow Stars of David mandated by the German government.  Surprisingly, the speaker did not mention that.

Squeezed in between the end of the third morning session and the beginning of the group lunches, most of the SFBAJGS members here met for a quick photo to celebrate being at the conference.  While we had almost 50 members last year at the Seattle conference, this year we are a more modest thirteen, ten of whom came for the photo.  That isn't too bad!

San Francisco Bay Area Jewish Genealogical Society members in Florida

After lunch, my afternoon was spent at the IAJGS Annual Meeting.  I was the representative for my society this year, as the president was at home in California.  I've never been to the meeting before, so I wasn't sure what to expect.  I should have known — it was a standard bureaucratic meeting, including lots of reports, delays, and minor tiffs.  We did accomplish what we needed to, voting on bylaws and the next set of officers, and only ran about 15 minutes overtime.  It's unlikely that I'll be attending next year's conference in Warsaw, so someone else will have the pleasure of attending the meeting.

My day ended with one of the best parts of family history:  actually getting together with family.  I don't come out to the east coast often, so I always try to see family when I'm here.  I have cousins who live relatively nearby (75 miles away), in Daytona.  They drove out to the hotel, and we had a nice dinner together.  I even updated them on the latest research I'm doing on our grandfather.  They're as interested as I am in finding out who his biological father was.

My commentary on days 1 and 2 of the conference is here, and that for days 5 and 6 is here.

Monday, July 24, 2017

IAJGS International Conference on Jewish Genealogy in Florida (in July!)

Here I am at the 37th IAJGS International Conference on Jewish Genealogy, in Orlando, Florida.  (Who schedules a conference in Orlando in July?)  As expected, it's miserably humid, but the air conditioning in the hotel is working perfectly.  (Some attendees think it's too cold, but I'm very comfortable.)  As I told everyone before the conference started, people in Florida take their air conditioning seriously.

The conference started bright and early Sunday morning.  The first session I attended was "Outreach for Societies and Organization Leaders", one of a series of eleven, running through the conference, aimed at genealogical societies.  Outreach has been one of the issues lately for my society, so I headed over there.  I got some good ideas and a handy worksheet to take home and discuss with my board.

I'm giving five talks here at the conference, the most I've ever been scheduled for.  I'm very happy to say that they are spread out over the conference, with only one on a given day.  The first one was "Jewish Genealogy:  How Is This Research Different from All Other Research?", on Sunday.  After two time changes, it ended up at 4:30 in the afternoon (which was much better than the original 7:30!).  I'm happy to say it went very well, with several good questions from attendees.  One woman found me on Monday to let me know that the talk helped her knock down a brick wall!

Talks by Mark Fearer, on immigration laws and documentation, and Banai Lynn Feldstein, on her new Crowd Sourced Indexing, rounded out the afternoon for me.  Then, before the evening keynote, I attended the IAJGS presidents' reception for the first time, standing in for the real SFBAJGS president, who had decided he didn't want to go to Florida in July.  It was great to network with everyone, but I was very surprised to discover that the light snacks provided were not kosher and that there was no kosher option for observant attendees.  That seemed to be a significant oversight (or blunder, depending on your perspective).

The keynote was great.  Robert Watson of Lynn University gave an entertaining, informative talk about Alexander Hamilton and his relationship to Jews and the American Revolution.  Apparently Hamilton has been a favorite historical subject of Watson's for some years, and now I know a lot more about the "bastard orphaned son of a whore and a drunken Scotsman."  Since I have not seen the musical Hamilton, I learned on Sunday that Hamilton was taken in by the Jewish community of Nevis after he was orphaned for the second (or was it third?) time.  There he learned to speak Hebrew, to add to the seven languages he already knew.  Apparently Hamilton, who was incredibly intelligent and a prodigy when he was young, wrote a significant number of George Washington's speeches and letters, including many of the latter sent to Jewish congregations around the United States.  Watson was a wonderful speaker; it was easy to see why he was twice named Teacher of the Year by students at Lynn.

Monday started out far too early (7:00 a.m.!) at a breakfast hosted by FamilySearch, which is working on finding and digitizing ever more records.  The meeting was held to reach out to researchers in the Jewish genealogical community to help identify records of interest.  I'm hoping something can be worked out for records from the Jewish Cuban community.

I tried going to some talks in the morning, but I abandoned one after the speaker spent the first 15 minutes talking about personal reminiscences rather than the stated topic, and another when the speaker used words of one syllable and enunciated everything as though he were talking to kindergarteners.  (I know, I'm so fussy.)  Then I headed off to the IAJGS Media Lunch, where several bloggers, tweeters, and others discussed ways to help publicize next year's IAJGS conference in Warsaw, how Jewish genealogical societies can take advantage of social media, and how International Jewish Genealogy Month can be updated to become a more effective outreach tool.

In the afternoon I learned about finding Israeli burial data from Daniel Horowitz, then went to a talk purported to be about one thing but that actually ended up promoting a Web site.  That was . . . disappointing.  I left early and spent the rest of the afternoon in the new "mentoring" area, helping people who came by looking for research advice.

The evening wrapped up with two presentations.  Dr. Alexander Beider, who is well known in Jewish genealogy for the many books he has written on Jewish names, spoke about the historical, linguistic, and onomastic facts supporting the commonly accepted theory that Eastern European Jews migrated there from Western Europe.  That talk was followed by Dr. Harry Ostrer discussing the genetic evidence that supports the same theory.  It was quite an interesting evening, and I think I'm going to somehow find the money to buy Dr. Beider's book about Yiddish dialects.  Once a language geek, always a language geek.

My commentary on days 3 and 4 of the conference is here, and that for days 5 and 6 is here.