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!