Sunday, September 7, 2014

IAJGS 2014 - Friday, August 1 - A tour of

The woman on the right is Crista Cowan from
She accompanied us on the bus trip from
Salt Lake City, sharing little "tidbits" of info
as we drove along
My last day in Salt Lake City was Friday August 1. Arrangements had been made for a bus trip to Provo, Utah where has its headquarters. I was eager to see what my annual $300 subscription was paying for! By the way, I recently learned that AARP members can get a 30% discount on their Ancestry subscription - good deal! It's only for a 6 month membership, but the rep said I could renew it again for another 6 months.

We were allowed to take pictures throughout the facility so long as we didn't photograph any specific records. However we were not allowed to use any writing implements! Since it's been over a  month since this visit I can't remember exactly why.

I hope you enjoy this "trip" through the facility!

When we entered the guide told us that Ancestry employs 1400 employees, not including contractors in 10 offices worldwide. The company originally was founded in 1983 as Ancestry Publishing and focused on publishing typed books.

The tour guide said some of the oldest indexed collections date back to the 11th century.  We were informed that there are approximately 75 million searches done per day and that , since going online in 1996, Ancestry has accumulated over 1 billion records from 67 countries.

The Inventory room is shown behind our guide.

We started our tour in the DPS area - Document Preservation Services area. I'm pretty sure this is where we couldn't use pencils as the graphite might affect the materials stored there.

I had never thought about all the steps (translate that to costs) involved in getting images online.

Items waiting to be inventoried.

First, of course, is the cost of obtaining the original material. Once obtained, the material is inventoried. Each item is given a bar code. The code is crucial in keeping track of the multitude of items that arrive each day.

 Next, the images are cleaned and prepared for imaging.

Imaging Services

Close-up of computer screen

Imaging books that can't be taken apart is quite time-consuming. To speed up the process only the odd number pages are scanned, then the book is flipped around and all the even number pages are scanned. The computer then re-paginates the book correctly. I plan to use this tip when scanning material myself in the future!

The process of imaging a book is quite tedious.
Following imaging is indexing - the process of recording the information so it becomes easily searchable by keywords. The indexing area was a huge room filled with (mostly) young people each sitting in front of two computer monitors. On one screen was the image (record) and on the other was the form to complete with the information from the record. Watching this work, all I could think of was how tedious it must be to do that for 6-8 hours day.

Another area was "Content Management." Here we learned about the process used in obtaining records. I never realized how difficult it could be to acquire some of the material. We just take for granted that "they" get the content, "they" put it online and we enjoy the fruits of their labor.

There may be many roadblocks (again, translate to costs) to obtaining original records. Ancestry works with archives in many countries to obtain records. Sometimes, the archive is encouraged to participate because Ancestry's teams are able to preserve and save their treasured information. However there are often difficulties encountered along the way. Some documents are so fragile they literally fall apart as they are being imaged. Some governments flat out refuse to cooperate, making access to their archives impossible. We, the everyday genealogist, have no idea of the work being done behind the scenes to gain access to these important documents.

According to our guide, a trained archivist can process 20,000 - 40,000 documents a week. Amazing!

I really enjoyed the next portion of our tour where we learned about Ancestry's products. Yes, I know. It is rather self-serving of them. The more you learn about a product, the more likely you are to buy it. It's business. It's what businesses do. It works. I bought the $29.99 Family Tree Maker even though I have RootsMagic and love it!

After hearing about all the "bell and whistles" in Family Tree Maker
I ended up buying a copy. Maybe I'll use it.......

Interesting point by tour guide, " Product managers try to understand and solve problems genealogists are having and create products to help them.

Some of the recently acquired and newly created Ancestry products.

Our visit with Kenny Freestone of AncestryDNA was pretty interesting as well. I finally did get a DNA test while at the conference. Haven't gotten the results back yet.

He suggested people test with multiple companies as each company uses its own procedures each producing different results. Smart idea or sales pitch? Not sure. I loved his quote: ".....turning spit into information."

The final product we learned about was the Shoebox app. The Shoebox app allows you to take a picture with your phone and instantly upload it to your Ancestry tree. I used this product a couple years ago but recently deleted it as I needed space on my phone! After hearing more about it, I may re-install it.

We ended our tour in a large room where we had some tasty treats. Before we left we each were handed a "goody bag." Thanks Ancestry! One can never have enough pens and thumb-drives.

I am really glad I decided to go on the Ancestry tour. I have a new appreciation for all the work that happens in order for me to sit at my computer at 11:00 at night, in my pjs, finding records of my ancestors all over the world.

This is my final blog entry about my trip to the 34th IAJGS conference in Salt City. Considering I am 17 weeks behind on the 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks Challenge maybe I'd better get back to work on that!! 

Saturday, September 6, 2014

IAJGS 2014 - Thursday, July 31

Whoops! Thought I would have finished blogging about my trip by now. Guess I got distracted. I have good reasons though. (Have you noticed I always have a good reason?)
1) I was helping plan and hold my daughter's bridal shower
2) I attended my retirement party (yay!)
3) I started my part-time jobs (all 3 of them!)

This is the latest in my series of posts about my recent trip to the 34th IAJGS Conference.


My plan for Thursday was to do some sightseeing and then spend a good chunk of the day doing research at the Family History Library.

I started the morning by going to the UK SIG meeting (United Kingdom Special Interest Group.) I almost didn't go because I wanted to hear Roger Lustig's presentation on "A Hundred Germanies." But, considering I am really struggling trying to find information on my father's family in England, previous to 1795, I thought it best to chat with those in the know about English genealogy. Glad I went. Rather than being a lecture or a discussion of the group's research projects or financial woes (as I've experienced at other SIG meetings) this was truly an opportunity to network.

There were at least four major SIG members in attendance who introduced themselves and described their area of expertise. Then we, members of the audience, found the person who best suited our research needs and sat down with them to chat. After sitting with Jeanette Rosenberg (she is an amazing font of ideas), I had several leads: Review the British-Jewry website, check the Old Bailey website for court records, and review the archives of the Jewish Chronicle. Laurence Harris suggested I look at the Sun Insurance policies. Since Lazarus Samuel (my fourth-great-grandfather) was a watchmaker according to the 1841 UK Census, he might have something listed there.

This 1841 UK Census shows Lazarus Samuel, age 26 living at No. 9 Marmon Street,
born in England, working as a watchmaker. He has four children living in the home.
No wife is listed. Son Aaron, would leave England for America in 1859.
I also met a very interesting guy who lives part-time in CA and part-time in NY. Originally from the UK, he now works at a non-profit(?) dedicated to finding and restoring (when possible) old canal lines. He even knew about the Farmington Canal in CT now being used for recreational purposes. Who even knew there were people doing jobs like that?

I stayed in the room for next session "Latest Developments in UK Jewish History", which was presented by several members of the UK SIG (Special Interest Group.) Laurence Harris spoke about the London Registered Insurance Policies as a good resource for information as well as the Jewish Chronicle newspaper, the British Jewry Book of Honour and the use of wills to obtain family information. He also mentioned that the National Archives site is newly redesigned and has a new "discovery service."

Mark Nicholls (Jeanette Rosenberg's husband) discussed the use of the JGSGB website (Great Britain - not Greater Boston!) as well as the resources at JCR-UK (Jewish Communities and Records) which is hosted on JewishGen. He specifically mentioned scanning the Bibliography section for books of interest.

View of  computer banks at the FHL

After a tasty lunch at JB's Family Restaurant (tasty and inexpensive, basically next door to the library) I headed off to the Family History Library.                    

I had attended several talks last year about the Family History Library (FHL) so I felt fairly well prepared. I sat down to use the computer on the International Floor and located the microfilm numbers of some images I wanted. I also found two books about the Great Synagogue in London that sounded promising. Just like those ads on TV, nothing is as good in real-life. One book could not be located, even though the volunteer looked for 30 minutes. The other listed information about a marriage I already had. No luck. On to the microfilm.

I was a bit intimidated by the microfilm machines at first. My last encounter with such equipment was in 1974 when I took a college course AV (Audio-Visual) for Teachers!

All the microfilms are kept
in banks of cabinets

There was no need for concern. It was pretty easy to locate the films I needed. You copy down the film number from the record found online. Then go to the correct section where that film would be found. All the films are in drawers labeled numerically. The most difficult part for me was accessing the films in the uppermost drawers. Luckily they have those rolling stools everywhere - see picture!

The woman in the photo probably thought I was pretty weird. She asked me (in an annoyed voice) why I had left that drawer open. I told her I was taking a picture for my blog to illustrate how the microfilms were organized. She then nicely agreed to being in the photo.

I had a bit more luck with the films. I located several birth certificates for my father's family.
Birth Certificate for my paternal grandmother, Hortense Kesner

To the left is the 1878 marriage certificate of Hortense's paternal grandparents, my paternal second great grandparents. I was pleased to find this as I have conflicting information about G.R. Kesner's birthplace. I also had incorrect information about his mother's last name.

I also located a card from the Mordy Collection referencing my third great grandfather, Aaron L. Samuel. The Mordy collection is an amazing source of information. As described on the Family Search Wiki:

The Mordy Collection is a collection of microfilms containing pedigree information and indexes that deal with the Jews of the British Isles. The information was compiled by Isobel Mordy of Middlesex, England. The original material consisted of individual slips of paper, which have now been placed on microfilm.(

Card from the Mordy Collection

This collection has now been incorporated into the Knowles Collection. I already had the information found on the card, but it was really cool to see an image of the actual card. Imagine the amount of work accomplished by Isobel Mordy without the aid of a computer! To read more about her work see this article written by Todd Knowles on the Family Search website.

Another great find was the birth certificate for my paternal grandfather. Years ago his daughter Jessica (my father's sister) told me that my Pop-Pop had reversed his first and middle names. She said he never gave reason for doing so except that he liked it better. It was terrific to find proof of this story.

1905 Birth Certificate. This is the only reference I have found showing my grandfather's name as Aaron Edgar Samuel. 

But perhaps the best find was the 1815 marriage record of Lazarus Samuel and Sara Nathan. I have been unable to determine Lazarus' mother name nor find any more on his father other than his name.

Image of the actual page from the  1815 Marriage record book

Unfortunately I can't read Hebrew but I plan to post this image to JewishGen's Viewmate page. More than likely one of the wonderful members of JewishGen will provide me with a translation that may assist me in breaking through one of my toughest "brick walls."

Snip of the record pertaining to Lazarus and Sarah's 1815 marriage

Overall, I did enjoy my visit to the Family History Library. But, to be completely honest, I think I could have found the same information accessing the site and ordering the films to be sent to my local Family History Library. I'm lucky enough to live within a 45 minute drive of the Godfrey Library in Middletown, CT. 

Nothing could replace the valuable help of the volunteers at the FHL however. I hope to return to Salt Lake City in the future!

My next post will describe my visit to the campus of

Monday, August 11, 2014

IAJGS 2014 - Wednesday - July 30

Wednesday at the 34th IAJGS Conference was by far my busiest day. I had something scheduled from 7:30 straight through the evening.

I started my day by attending"I Couldn't Put it Down Series: Flipboard Your Family History" presented by Marlis Humphrey. Flipboard is a digital application used to create your own personal digital magazine. You glean information from online sources and "flip" it into the magazine you created. You can use it (as I have) to collect articles so you can read them later or you can share your magazine for others to read. I have been using Flipboard for awhile now to gather genealogy articles. I created the two magazines shown below.

I use this magazine to collect articles of general interest.

This magazine focuses on articles geared to sharing genealogy with kids and teens.
The focus of Marlis' talk was how to use Flipboard to create a family history magazine. Rather than using content created by others, Marlis described how to create a magazine using your genealogical information; stories, pictures,data, maps etc.

It does seem like a fun way to share family history with others. The look and feel is just like a print magazine including the ability to "turn" or "flip" pages (hence the name.) However, the drawback is that people have to know where to find you, be willing to install the app and remember to subscribe or follow in order to keep up with your new "issue."

I do really like the idea, but it would take a real commitment to continually organize and upload new content. For now, I'll continue writing my blog posts while planning the completion of the first two volumes of "Who We Are and How We Got This Way."

Next I joined Israel Pickholtz as he shared his research wisdom through "Beyond a Doubt: What We Know vs. What We Can Prove." I totally enjoyed this presentation. Israel presented his information in a clear, easy to understand manner. His use of animated PowerPoint slides to illustrate his points was a perfect match for this auditorially-impaired visual learner.

As I mentioned in a previous post, one of my goals is to improve my methodology. One issue I have is a tendency to take information at face-value and not do the research necessary to prove the fact is correct. Therefore, I really appreciate Israel's Rule:
" prevent jumping to conclusions, 
when you don't have full documentation....
even when you are sure you know, 
don't record it until you have one more piece of evidence."

Israel walked us through the process he uses to determine whether he has sufficient evidence to prove his research is correct. He offered a list of questions to ask oneself in order to make this determination. My favorite question has to be, "Am I engaging in wishful thinking?" It is often tempting to take information that "seems" to fit and "jam" it into your database in order to fill in the missing piece. (I've been known to break off edges of a jigsaw puzzle piece to make it fit because I got bored and wanted to finish!)

An idea occurred to me during this talk. I think it might be very helpful to use Israels' questions in conjunction with the mind-mapping technique Ron Arons has been speaking about. As a visual person, I find it easier to organize information presented graphically instead of a narrative or even table form. For those of you who are or have been teachers, you may remember the software program Inspiration which used graphic organizers and "clouds" to help kids improve their writing. Mind-mapping is a lot like that. (For my pals in Hamden, Thinking Maps is along the same lines.)  

Israel also spoke about the 22/25 rule, something I was not aware of. If you do not know the age of a person's parents:
  • assume the father was 25
  • assume the mother was 22

While this, of course, is not completely accurate, it may give you a range with which you can work.

I chose to forgo Ron Arons talk, "Our Families, Ourselves" in favor of attending the BOF meeting of  newsletter editors for Jewish Genealogy Societies. (BOF means "Birds of a Feather" - a group of people with the same purpose or interest.) I'm really glad I attended this meeting. As a new co-editor of our society's newsletter (Quest), I hoped to gain some insight into what makes a newsletter a success.

As it turns out, this is a burning question for several societies. Some groups have disbanded their newsletter in favor of Facebook postings. Others have gone completely digital. Some do nothing, as they see no benefit to having a newsletter.

The BOF JGS Newsletter Editors Meeting (Thank you, Cindy Potter Taylor for the picture!)
Back Row (L-to-R): Ed Flax-JGS Philadelphia, Mike Kalk-Triangle JGS-North Carolina, Janice Sellers-JGSSFBA-San Francisco Bay Area, Shelly Weiner-JGS-Southern Nevada

Front Row (L-to-R): Susan Wolf Turnbull-JGS Greater Washington, DC, Michelle Sandler -JGS Orange County, CA, Me (Deborah Samuel Holman) - JGS Connecticut, Debbie Korman- JGS Portland, OR
The meeting was organized by Janice Sellers of Ancestral Discoveries. I had met Janice earlier at the bloggers dinner. The issue of citing sources correctly continued at this meeting. It is a hot button issue. Everyone shared their experiences and then contributed suggestions. One particularly good idea was to have a specific focus for each issue, say Austria. Another idea which may get followed up on was to develop a bank of articles which could be hosted by IAJGS on their site. I'm really glad I attended this meeting. It was reassuring to hear other editors struggling with the same issues.

For lunch, I attended  the Austrian-Czech SIG Luncheon. Quite enjoyable. Seated on my left was a gentleman whose mother, like mine, was born in Vienna in 1932. On my right was a lovely woman from Australia who was friendly with my cousin, Ian Samuel. Ian and I share the same fifth-great-grandfather, Moshe Jacob Samuel. Moshe had at least two sons. Ian descends from son Godfrey, born in England in 1789. My father's family descends from the other son, Lazarus, born in 1795, also in England. Ian and I, along with a few other "found on the internet" cousins have been trying to trying to break through the "brick wall" to determine a) who Moshe's wife was and b) where Moshe was born.

Following the luncheon, I went to quick workshop on using ProQuest, a vast website containing links to journal articles, newspapers and more. There is so much to be found on this site, that I am frequently overwhelmed and end up kind of wandering aimlessly around it. The presenter gave us a few handouts outlining some good search tips. You should definite;y find out if your local library has a subscription to this great service. In Hamden, I can access the site from home using my library bar code.

"How Did Jews Get to Europe?" presented by Avraham Groll was my next session. Avraham is the director of business operations for JewishGen. He began by saying he was not an expert in this area, however he certainly had a wealth of information. Kind of "crash course" in Jewish history, Avraham followed the passage of Jews from the Assyrian empire to decline of Babylonia followed by the exodus of Jews to Spain and elsewhere.

From the website:

After dinner I went to "A Culinary History of Jews in America based on the Astrological Signs of the Delicatessen" delivered by comedian Seth Front. Described in the program as "...both a culinary history of the delicatessen and a cultural history of four generations of American Jews and Judaism...", I wasn't sure what I was going to hear. In addition to lecturing about Jewish culinary history, Seth also has created the “Jewish Zodiac” ® , a parody of the Chinese zodiac.

Apparently I am "Chicken Soup", having been born in 1955. I must say I do agree with his description, "...a healer, nourishing all whom you encounter."

Through his presentation, which had many historical photos, we learned the origins of the deli and many of our beloved foods. An interesting point to consider was his analogy of the food-cart peddler to today's food trucks.

Partial picture of the “Jewish Zodiac” ® placemat.
Of course, I had to buy a placemat describing the zodiac signs. If you're interested visit the website at:

After his presentation, Seth requested stories from the audience. I gathered my courage and stood up to tell one of my favorite family legends: the origin of the pizza bagel. My step-dad, Al Falcone had gone to college with Murray Lender, son of Harry Lender, perhaps the most famous bagel-maker of all. (According to Wikipedia their company became the world's biggest bagel producer.) Anyway, according to my step-dad, who is Italian, he and Murray were chatting one day and Al casually suggested that Lender's needed to make a pizza-bagel.  Within a relatively short period of time guess what appeared on the menu? You know it! A bagel topped with sauce and cheese. The Pizza Bagel was born! To his dying day, my step-dad was mad that he never got the credit  for that. Perhaps if Wikipedia was available back then, Al would have thought differently. An entry on Wikipedia, states the pizza bagel may have been around since the early 20th century. Don't worry Alfie, I'll keep your legend alive!

My next post will describe my visits to the Family History Library and the campus of

Saturday, August 9, 2014

IAJGS 2014 - Tuesday- July 29

In this post I continue to share my experience at the 34th Conference on International Jewish Genealogy in Salt Lake City, Utah.

At 7:30 a.m., I attended the "Breakfast with the Experts - Discovering the Jewish Resources at the Family History Library" presented by Heidi Sudgen of the Family History LibraryHeidi gave a great overview of the resources available and some hints on how best to search for what you're looking for. Of most interest to me was how to find records in Vienna by searching the Jewish Registers of Austria (1784-1911), the Trauugsbucher (Wedding Books), and the Vienna Population Cards (1850-1896).

1929 print ad for my great-grandfather's
business in Vienna. The copy translates to:
"The Perfect Finish"

Heidi shared that the Family History Library (FHL) has many Jewish records from Hungary, Germany, and England. She suggested using FHL records in conjunction with those found on the JRI-Poland website, a large database of indexes to Jewish records in Poland.

A great piece of information was about FHL's Photo Duplication Service. This service allows you to request up to 5 records per month and have them emailed to you at no charge! Fabulous! Saves a trip to your local Family History Library.

I met Heidi again later in the week when she assisted me during my visit to the FHL. Heidi suggested I visit the website  to help in my search for information about my great-grandfather's hat business. I had used this site before, but never really explored it in depth. Once at the website, I clicked on Lehmann, which brought me to the Vienna address books (1859-1942). Within a few minutes I had located a 1929 print ad for the store! This site will be very helpful in the future as I map the locations of my family's businesses and residences.

Following that talk, I went to "Evaluating Evidence: Ask a mini-Minnie Question" presented by Ron Arons. (I'll go to anything with the word "mini" in it! No, this had nothing to do with my other hobby, dollhouses...) Two of my goals at this conference were:

  1. Learn techniques so I can cite sources correctly 
  2. Learn about GPS (Genealogical Proof Standard - strategies to employ to assure you have the correct information)
Example of a Genogram template from:

The information from this presentation will help me meet both those goals. Ron described the 5 steps of GPS as well as the basic concepts. Using the story of his great-grandfather, Issac Spier, a bigamist, Ron shows how he used the GPS to evaluate evidence and answer the question, "Did Isaac have children with his second wife, Minnie?" He also demonstrated how to use a genogram to show relationships as well as a great suggestion to use a table in order to sort out discrepencies.

I had a lunch date with Doris Nabel, the president of our Connecticut genealogical society, the JGSCT. Poor Doris had experienced some health problems which delayed her arrival. I was really looking forward to spending some time with her during the week, getting to know her a little better and, of course, to network with her. We had an enjoyable lunch then went our separate ways. That was the last time I saw Doris as her health problem forced her to leave two days later. Hopefully, we'll catch up as soon as she's feeling better.

My next session was "Jewish Genealogy in Romania" presented by Daniel Jurca of JewishGen. Daniel has, single-handedly I believe, photographed many records in Transylvania and Moldova. Of greatest interest to me was the information about Iasi, Romania where my second-great-grandfather, Josef Spiegel lived at the time of his death in 1908 (aged 105).

Daniel also gave some pointers on how to do research if you are lucky enough to travel to Romania. He listed the following steps:
  1. Identify what collections are available (before you go on the trip!)
  2. Order the books
  3. Do the actual research (photograph the records on the spot and do the research later in order to save time)
Hopefully, Daniel will be able to get his records transcribed and available online in the near future. That work depends on the generosity of volunteers who read the original record and transcribe the information onto a simple form that then becomes the basis of a searchable database. It's actually not that hard to do if one is able to read the handwriting. You don't even need to understand the language most of the time as the information is usually names and places. (Yes, I volunteered!)

Next, I went to Ekkehard Huebschmmann's talk entitled "From Germany to North America in the 19th Century - The Bavarian Example." Unfortunately this lecture was in the same hall as the one for the keynote. (See previous post about my hearing difficulties.) The presenter certainly appeared knowledgeable about the push/pull factors that affected the emigration patterns of German Jews but his presentation style, reading straight from his notes,  made it all the more difficult to follow.

The Joseph Smith Memorial Building
Dinner that night was organized by the Hospitality Committee. It's a great chance to meet new people and is geared towards those attending the Conference alone. We went to The Garden Restaurant on the 10th floor of the Joseph Smith Building. What a gorgeous building! Formerly the Hotel Utah, it is now an office building. The view from the windows at sunset was beautiful. My lousy photography doesn't do it justice. The inside of the building is as impressive as the outside. Oh, yes. The food was good too, as was the company. Maybe the company was a little too good. Apparently, my natural charm and wit was misunderstood as I had to explain to one dinner companion that I was married and not interested in any after-dinner activity. Awkward.

Lobby ceiling in the Joseph Smith Memorial Building

View from the 10th floor of the
Joseph Smith Building.
Overlooking Temple Square

My final activity for the evening was a talk given by Ron Arons, "What's in a Name." Presenting in his usual humorous way, Ron shared strategies he used when researching his great-grandfather, Issac Spier. He found at least four men with the same name and explained the methodology he used in order to determine which one was actually his relative. This is a common problem in genealogy and I found it interesting to follow the process Ron used to assure he had the right man.

Next post: My busiest day of the week.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

IAJGS 2014 - Salt Lake City - Sunday and Monday

Finally sitting down to review my notes from the IAJGS conference. It was a very busy week. Here are some of the highlights:

Hilton Salt Lake City Center
-from their website
Arrived at the Hilton Salt Lake City Center about 2 p.m. If you ever stay there be sure to make use of the transportation service they use, Haroon Transportation. Just $12.00 from airport to hotel door. Excellent!

After checking into my room, I attended "Using the Website for Jewish Research." W.Todd Knowles gave this talk. I heard him present last year in Boston. Amazingly, when his family arrived in London, England they were befriended by a Samuel family. Todd has no idea of which particular Samuel his ancestor was referring to. We both chatted for awhile and hope to find the answer to this question someday. My guess is it wasn't our Samuels. Pretty sure our English ancestors didn't have resources to help themselves much, never mind another family. But, you never know!

The website is totally free and managed by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons.) In case you don't know, Family Searc is a genealogy organization operated by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It is the largest genealogy organization in the world. (Thanks, Wikipedia for that info!) Todd gave us some good tips on using the website, particularly about the Books Collection and the Research Wiki. He also suggested starting out at the Map, choosing the area you are researching and then accessing the Catalog references. This is opposed to beginning your search with a specific name, which is what I was doing and getting nowhere!

Squatters - from the their website
I found Squatters, a great restaurant, just a block away and got a huge sandwich for dinner. Good choice. Saved half for the lunch the next day

The keynote speech that evening was my first hint that my hearing is getting worse!! It was held in a large room with two speakers in the front and no visuals to help me focus. Honestly, I can't tell you one thing the speaker, David Laskin said about how World War I affected the lives of Jewish people.

Kind of glad I didn't get a roommate. It was very relaxing just hanging out later in my room, not worrying about making any small talk.

Each attendee gets a badge with names
and countries of interest listed on it.
This was my first full day. I started my day (and most days!) attending a session at 7:30 a.m. The first presentation I attended was "Finding Live People on the Internet." The presenter, Ron Arons, is a funny guy whom I saw once before in Boston. His lectures are sprinkled with bits of humor and he is very easy to listen to. Ron shared many sites to use when attempting to locate living people. Although he denied it, I do think he may have a bit of "stalker" in him!

I had chatted with Ron the previous evening at the Reception held after the Keynote speech. He looked at my badge and said, "I know where Hamden is." Turns out his aunt is Tobi Gillman, a substitute at our school!! Small world. BTW - I was surprised at the number of people who knew where Hamden was - at least 5 people!

I next attended the annual ROM-SIG meeting. SIGs are special interest groups for specific geographical areas, in this case Romania. There are many of these groups which run discussion boards hosted on JewishGen, a completely free website chock-full of resources specific to Jewish genealogy. The groups also maintain their own pages on JewishGen and share their research databases on JewishGen as well. At this annual meeting, the main discussion was how to encourage people to volunteer so the research work that had been started could continue.

I next attended a presentation by Ava "Sherlock" Cohen, "Clued-In: Petticoats and Puttees: Identifying the Clothing in World War I Family Photographs." In this talk, I learned many terms for clothing worn during this period as well as tips to use in identifying and dating photos taken during that time.

What I learned helped me understand this photo of my uncle, Paul Nevins (formerly Nebenzahl)
Paul Nevins (Nebenzahl) in circle. Photo from my family collection.

I learned that since Paul was born (1894) and living in Poland , one can not automatically assume the country he fought for. Since Poland was not actually a country during this time, he could have fought for any of several countries in the region. I also learned that due to shortages, uniforms may have been "cobbled together" from bits and pieces of previous uniforms which may account for soldiers in the pictures wearing different uniforms. Sometimes soldiers even had to supply their own uniform!

My last meeting of the day was the Gesher-Galicia SIG meeting. They have a terrific website and loads of great information. This group covers the area formerly called Galicia, which was a province of the former Austro-Hungarian Empire. Today that area is part of eastern Poland and southwestern Ukraine. I can remember my mother telling stories about her paternal grandfather, Sigmund Lichtenthal. He would state vehemently, "Ich bin ein Galitizianer!!"

I had dinner with several bloggers. (See previous post.) That was really enjoyable. Some were profilic bloggers like James Tanner (Genealogy's Star) and others were people like myself, either fairly new to blogging or trying to get back into it. The dinner was organized by Emily Garber of (Going) The Extra Yad
It was a nice opportunity to put faces to names I had heard before as well as learning several new blogs I had not been aware of previously.
Me (in gray sweater) chatting with Jane Neff Rollins of Kitchen Sink Genealogy.
Thanks to Rose Feldman (IGRA) for pic!

To see who was there as well as links to their blogs and Facebook pages, see Emily's post on her blog.

Then it was off to bed as I had a 7:30 a.m. breakfast meeting!

Monday, July 28, 2014

IAJGS Conference - Bloggers dinner

First, a note of apology for the lack of posts. If you're family (or good at noticing details) you will note that my last blog post coincides with the birth of my new grandson, Jack. He's not really the entire reason for my temporary abandonment, but I figure everyone understands how all-consuming newborns are. (To be completely honest, I've only been with Jack 4 of the last 11 weeks, but he's "with me" 24/7 in spirit.)

But now I'm back. Hopefully. I've just come from an inspiring dinner meeting with a group of bloggers. The meeting was set up by Emily Garber of (going) The Extra Yad. There were maybe 10-12 people, of varying blogging experience. I'm not going to list them  now because I can't remember them all and I don't want to offend anyone by forgetting them!

Speaking of offending brings me to the most interesting discussion of the evening (at least to me.) I'm relatively new to the blogging experience and a new co-editor of the newsletter for JGSCT (Jewish Genealogy Society of Connecticut.) I have mortal fear of offending people. I can't bear it if I feel I have upset someone, or even worse, someone is upset with me. I don't like to do the wrong thing. (Actually, I'm okay doing the wrong thing - I just don't like to be called on it.) The discussion of copyright has set me spinning. Yikes, I may have used pictures on my blog without proper citation! Worse, I may have not used the proper procedure to credit images from other websites! It never occurred to me that someone may take a photo I have posted and use it for some other purpose. Imagine one day finding my Great-grandmother Sophie's face on a bag of flour or a box of cleanser!! As the short discussion continued, I began to panic a bit. I will need to be more mindful of how I credit and cite my sources. I may need to get prior permission to use a certain image. I will have to plan ahead. This is sounds like work.

That is why I am sitting on my hotel bed right now, writing this post. I fear if I don't get right back to posting, I will allow myself to become paralyzed. So, in the spirit of supporting a "newbie" blogger, I am asking my readers (all 13 of you) to point out any copyright transgressions I have made, or may make in the future.

I will also subscribe to the same philosophy that served me so well during my 38+ years as a special education teacher: Do what you want and apologize later.

I have been in Salt Lake City attending the 34th IAJGS Conference since yesterday. I hope to post more about my experience here in the coming days.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

52 Ancestors - #18 -The Winchester tradition continues

My three-week hiatus from posting is due to several things; one not-so-great, one sad, and one MARVELOUS!!

First, my husband Scott came down with the flu. Not the “I feel gross - I think I have the flu.” flu but “The doctor says people die from this.” kind of flu. Considering our daughter was due to deliver her first baby 1700 miles away from us within the next few weeks, this was a HUGE concern. Happily, after 15 days out of commission, he has recovered.

Second, just after we cancelled my husband’s plane tickets (for the flight to see the baby), his wonderful sister Peggy passed away. Peggy had been battling cancer for two and a half years. By this time my husband was feeling better so he decided to travel to his sister’s service. My next post will honor this fabulous woman. (Update: I have decided to wait before posting about Peggy. Scott lost his older brother, Bill on Memorial Day and it's just too much, too soon I feel.)

Third, and most wonderful, our first grandchild was born! Jack Winchester Hardy arrived three weeks early but healthy and happy! I quickly wrapped up things at work and flew west to meet him. 

Jack (or more accurately, his name) is the subject of today’s post.

Monday, April 28, 2014

52 Ancestors #17 - Benjamin Edward Ostermann

Benjamin Edward Ostermann was my great-grand uncle on my father’s side. He was born on April 28, 1880 in Brooklyn, New York. His parents, both German immigrants, were Edouard Ostermann and the former Hanshon (Hannah) Goldschmidt. 

The 1880 US Census finds Bennie living with his parents at 389 Fifth Avenue in Brooklyn, New York. He "just" made it into the census, listed as 1/12 years old.

1880 US Census

Monday, April 21, 2014

52 Ancestors - #16 - Memento Monday - Sophie's Shoes

My great-grandmother,
Sophie Weiss Spiegel
My great-grandmother's slippers

As I am a bit crunched for time this week, I thought I would post a "quickie" about the importance of mementos in our family history.

I am quite lucky to be from a family of quasi-hoarders. Thanks Mom!! Not everyone recognizes the importance of keeping their grandmother's slippers. Or the letters from their high school sweater. Or their father's urologist report from 1938. (Okay, I'm pretty sure my mother had no idea that was in her father's papers....)

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks: #15 - Kathryn Winchester Holman

418 Oakdale Avenue Chicago, Illinois
(google maps)

Kathryn Winchester Holman was born on April17, 1902 at 418 Oakdale Avenue Chicago, Illinois. Kathryn was the eldest of three children born to John “Jack” Winchester Holman and Katherine Pearl Seeley. Her brother John was born in 1904 and her youngest brother, William, nicknamed “Bill”, was born in 1910. Bill would later become my husband’s father, making Kathryn his aunt.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

52 Ancestors- #14 - Brick Wall #1 Moshe Jacob Samuel

Moshe Jacob Samuel is my 5th great-grandfather on my father's side. I know I should be pleased that I have managed to trace the family back to 1795 England but I want to know more! Where did Moshe come from?  My search to prove (or disprove, which is more likely) that I have some Irish heritage is what propelled me into the world of genealogy. Was Moshe Irish? Probably not. He may have come to England from Germany.

Monday, March 31, 2014

52 Ancestors - #13 - Family Loss - Jessica Samuel Gray

Alan and Jessica Samuel
Probably 1935 or 1936

Today was a sad day. My Aunt Jessica was laid to rest after nearly 79 years on this earth. But this post is not really about her - it's about maintaining family connections. Jessica was my father's sister. After many years of being estranged, she and my father rekindled their relationship a year or so before he passed away in 2008.

At his mother's service today, my cousin Lowell reminded us of the importance of family. It seems the smaller our family becomes, the more we work to stay connected. Our respective parents would be happy to see that their re-connection has extended to my generation and hopefully beyond.

Monday, March 24, 2014

52 Ancestors- Week #12 - A Genealogist's “Theory of Relativity” – Am I related to Albert Einstein?

This week’s post doesn't focus on a specific relative but instead considers the concept of what actually constitutes a "relative". Who do we include in our family tree?

Albert Einstein
I get periodic emails from updating me about the progress other people have made on “our” family tree. Usually I pay them little attention as most updates concern some obscure collateral relative. Today’s email caught my eye. According to my fifth cousin, Mark Alan Goldsmith, is related to Albert Einstein. Hey! Wait a minute! If my relative is related to Einstein, then it stands to reason I am too.

I logged on to my account, then clicked on the name “Albert Einstein” in the email message. 

Within minutes I received an email from

Saturday, March 15, 2014

52 Ancestors - #11 Redux - A Genealogical Goose Chase

Sheldon Leonard
Famous writer, actor and producer
Dad- you did it again!! Yet another one of your stories has sent me on a wild goose chase. This time, it might have been embarrassing. Last week I posted #11 in the 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks challenge. I didn't have a lot of time, so I chose someone I knew almost nothing about: the famous actor/writer/producer Sheldon Leonard.

My father, Alan Edouard Samuel
Born July 24, 1932
This picture was taken in 1954 during Dad's Navy service.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

52 Ancestors - #10 - Miniatures, My Mom and Me - Doris Lichtenthal Falcone

This is post is a departure from my usual family history posts. March 5, 2014 would have been my mother’s 82nd birthday. Mom’s legacy lives on in many ways in our family; her cooking, her humor (well….WE think it’s funny), her incessant picture-taking (very much appreciated by this genealogist daughter!) But there was one special thing Mom passed on to me that was not really shared with my siblings (except for maybe my youngest sister…) - her love of dollhouse miniatures.

Today’s post focuses on one of my mother’s favorite hobbies. Warning – it’s a long one!!

Saturday, February 22, 2014

52 Ancestors - #9 - Hortense Kesner Samuel - My Nana

My paternal grandmother, Hortense Kesner was the first daughter of Harry George Kesner and Estelle Byk. She was born in New York on February 22, 1907. Her sister, Constance, was born in 1911. 

The date on the back of this photo says " Feb. 22, 1907" which was Hortense's birthdate.
It's tough to date this but I would say she's anywhere from 5- 10 months old here.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

52 Ancestors- #8: Josef Spiegel - Another brick wall!

Josef Spiegel was born on February 2, 1803 in what was then Galacia. His generation is as far back as I have gotten on my mother's maternal line. 

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

52 Ancestors - #7 - Fannie Woolf Samuel

My second great-grandmother, on my father's side, Francis (Fannie) Woolf was born on January 14, 1862 in New York to Barnett Woolf and the former Kate Cohen. Both her parents came to the United States from England.

In 1870, Fannie was living in Brooklyn with her parents and 6 siblings.
1870 US Cenus

Monday, January 27, 2014

52 Ancestors: #6 -In recognition of Holocaust Remembrance Day and to honor the memory of my maternal grandfather, Paul Lichtenthal.

In May of 1938, my family changed forever. I realize that we were blessed that no one in my mother’s immediate family was murdered. We fared so much better than millions of others. I get that. While ours is not a story of horrifying proportions, it still is worthy of being told. It should never have happened. It should never be forgotten.

Paul - probably early 1901

My grandfather, Paul Lichtenthal, was born on December 1, 1900 to hard-working people. His father, Sigmund Lichtenthal was a hat-maker who had come from Tarnopol, Poland to Vienna, Austria. His mother, the former Rosa Berger was from Budapest, Hungary. His younger sister Valerie was born in 1902.

The family business, Lital grew to include 5 men’s hat stores, 3 shoe stores, and a small men’s hat factory.
Paul trained as a hat-maker himself and worked in the family business. On August 12, 1930 he married Rose Spiegel. His parents weren't fond of Rose and her family, feeling they were “elitists” and not of the working class. On March 5, 1932, Paul and Rose had their only child, a daughter (my mother) Doris.
Undated - Paul is standing in the doorway to the right

Saturday, January 25, 2014

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks–#5 Claire Theresia Spiegel

Here is my 5th post for 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks, a challenge posed by Amy Johnson Crow.

I love this undated picture!

I don’t know a lot about my Aunt Claire. I remember her as glamorous and funny. Her accent was thicker than her sister’s (my grandmother) and she always appeared so fashionable to me – so maybe that’s where the “glamorous” image came from. I also remember her freckles - I figured that's where my extremely freckled face came from!

She once told me a funny story about walking around in town (Vienna, Austria) and ‘slipping in the violets.” It took me some time to realize “violets” was a euphemism for “horse doo-doo”!! Tante Claire was too ‘genteel” to use the everyday term, I guess!!