25 February 2012

Saturday Night Genealogy Fun - FamilySearch Indexing

Randy Seaver, prolific blogger of Genea-Musings, suggests amusing activities for "Saturday Night Genealogy Fun" every weekend.  Today he suggested signing up and preparing for indexing the 1940 Census (set to be available after 72 years on 2 April 2012). I've never participated in his Saturday activities before but, I'd been thinking it was time to prepare for learning how to index on FamilySearch.  There's no time like the present!

FamilySearch Indexing: Piece of Cake!
I signed on, downloaded the software to my Mac, watched the video and set to it. After indexing three records from the "US, Arkansas - Second Registration Draft Cards" record set, I tackled the test for 40 records from the "US - 1940 Federal Census." Piece of cake [hmmm time to take a few minutes off to bake some brownies]!

[After the brownies were in the oven] I completed 10 more records from the "US, Texas - Deaths, 1890-1976." Then, finished off with a new challenge to me (since I never have to look at UK census records in my own research) and selected "UK, England and Wales - 1871 Census," 25 records [brownies are done]

I've done a bunch of indexing for the Italian Genealogy Group, which specializes in New York City records. For that, my indexing skills only required basic facility with Microsoft Excel spreadsheets (as well as eye-crossing copies of photocopied records). I found the FamilySearch indexing program easy to use and master. The Quality Checker (which kicks in after one has finished one's batch) and pull down menus are slick features and definitely helped when I was working on UK records and wasn't entirely familiar with some of the town names.

In all (including the US Census test) I completed 78 names and garnered 98 points (whatever) [and one brownie and a glass of milk.]

Thank you, Randy, for getting me moving on indexing [bon appetit!].

My next challenge is to get ready for the 2 April unveiling of the unindexed 1940 Federal Census. Estimates are that it will take about six months before we volunteers have finished indexing the Census records.  During that time and during the hours I reserve for my own research, I plan to locate as many relatives as possible in the Census. To do that without an index will require making a good calculation, based on my prior research, of where each family was residing in about 1940 and applying the tools developed and posted on SteveMorse.org to determine the 1940 Federal Census Enumeration Districts (ED). I'll be posting about the 1940 address/ED database I am building for my relatives.

The URL for this post is: http://extrayad.blogspot.com/2012/02/saturday-night-genealogy-fun.html

19 February 2012

Gen Podcasts: Geneabloggers Radio

An occasional blog series identifying online locations of genealogical knowledge in both audio and video podcasts with an emphasis on Jewish genealogy.  

Geneabloggers RadioThomas MacEntee, host

Update: Thomas MacEntee put this Blog Talk Radio show on indefinite hiatus. His last episode was 13 April 2012. One may still access episodes via the Blog Talk Radio website or iTunes.

Format:  This weekly live podcast began in February 2011 with the start of season 2 of Who Do You Think You Are?  The first episodes were tied in theme to the topic of each WDYTYA broadcast.  Each week, Thomas MacEntee, summarizes family history news, entertains those on an associated chat board, and interviews knowledgeable genealogists and other experts regarding the selected topic for the evening.  The show started with a 2-hour live show format, but then was reduced to a more manageable 90 minutes. Lately, Thomas has been joined by a guest co-host. This has definitely made the show flow more smoothly.

Episodes with Jewish Genealogy content: 
Episode # 9 (1 Apr 2011) “Jewish Genealogy – How to Get Started Searching Your Roots.” This is the show immediately following the Gwyneth Paltrow WDYTYA broadcast. Thomas interviews: 
  • Stanley Diamond, Executive Director of JRI-Poland about the indexing project and his involvement with the Paltrow WDYTYA episode. 
  •  Schelly Talalay Dardashti of the Tracing the Tribe and My Heritage blogs, who explains the special complications of doing Jewish genealogy.  
  • Dr. Steve Morse who talks about the origins of his One-Step website.  
  • Elise Friedman who discusses genetic genealogy.

Episode # 49 (7 Jan 2012) “Genealogy New Year’s Resolutions for 2012” 
At about 1:07 into the show, Thomas interviews Jan Meisels Allen, Vice President of the International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies (IAJGS) and a member of the “Records Preservation and Access Committee” of the Federation of Genealogical Societies (FGS). She shares information on the preservation of and threats to access to vital records, especially the Social Security Death Index.

Episode # 54 (11 Feb 2012) "Genealogy and Technology in a Post-RootsTech World"
Brooke Scheier Ganz, Vice President of Gesher Galicia is interviewed starting about 1:05:00 into the show about her efforts developing LeafSeek, the search engine currently being beta tested on the Gesher Galicia database website.

The Episode #55 (18 Feb 2012) "Give Me Your Tired, Your Poor: 19th Century US Immigration"
Pat Richley-Erickson (aka Dear Myrtle) serves as guest host during this episode.  Highlights:
  • Marian Smith, Chief, Historic Research Branch, US Citizenship & Immigration Service. All genealogists who use immigrant manifest records should be familiar with Marian who is the main author of the excellent InfoFile "Manifest Markings: A Guide to Interpreting Passenger List Annotations" that may be found on JewishGen.
  • Unfortunately, technical difficulties made it impossible for Audrey Collins, Family Historian the UK National Archives, to be on the show. The otherwise dead air (that starts about 26 minutes into the podcast) was filled by Blogtalk radio with some insipid music.  Scroll forward to about 36:30 when Myrt gets back on the air and welcomes the next guest.
  • Angela Walton-Raji, genealogist, talks about African American migrations (not Jewish genealogy, but interesting, nonetheless).
  • Judy G. Russell, the Legal Genealogist, talks about legislation pending in the House of Representatives that, if signed into law, will have far-reaching effects on access to the Social Security Death Index.
Special Feature: One may participate in the chat board during the live podcast on Friday nights (I am usually otherwise engaged on Fridays, so I listen to the recorded version the next day).  There have, at times, been more than 60 people on the chat board discussing the show, giving Thomas feedback and posing questions for guests.  Links mentioned in the discussion are often posted on the chat board. So, one misses those if one does not listen live. One may access the chat board by logging in with an account set up on Blog Talk Radio or via FaceBook. Every episode opens with directions for accessing the chat board.

  • via Blog Talk Radio (live or recorded) - Every Friday night in the USA (9 pm Eastern; 8 pm Central; 7 pm Mountain; 6 pm Pacific; 2 am London; 1 pm Sydney, Australia) : http://www.blogtalkradio.com/geneabloggers
  • via iTunes: search for Geneabloggers. One may download individual episodes or subscribe to the show.  The most recent show is usually available immediately after the live show airs. If you subscribe, new episodes will automatically be delivered to your iTunes podcast folder. 
  • Show Notes: http://www.geneabloggers.com/tag/geneabloggers-radio

18 February 2012

Gen Podcasts: Shpatseer!

Introducing an occasional blog series identifying online locations of genealogical knowledge in both audio and video podcasts with an emphasis on Jewish genealogy. 

A few weeks ago there was quite a bit of traffic on the JewishGen Discussion Group (a Jewish genealogy online moderated forum) about remote access to Jewish genealogical society presentations.  There are some recorded online, but they are hard to locate. 

This got me to thinking about my past year of genealogy education: I’ve spent innumerable hours with my iPod listening to audio podcasts about genealogy. Truth be told, many of the skills that Jewish genealogists need to be successful may be found on podcasts that do not necessarily cater to the Jewish population. Why I’ve even found things of interest listening to genealogy podcasts about Black slaves and slave holders, and 18th Century New Englanders [none of my ancestors were even thinking of coming to America until the 1880s, so my family is blameless – and also mostly clueless!] – but I digress.

I listen only occasionally to video podcasts. When I do listen, I tend to select them to acquire knowledge about a particular subject or skill. Video podcasts require that I sit in front of my computer rather than traipse around the neighborhood, as I usually do with audio podcasts. Sitting in front of my computer is, indeed, a hardship. I prefer traipsing (shpatseering): exercising the body and the mind – one cannot get more healthful! But, there are just some things that one cannot absorb while pursuing one’s target heart rate. And, after all, I do consider myself to be a visual learner. 

I think every genealogist who wishes to learn more should be exploring the web. And explore one must, because while audio podcasts are easy to locate through the wonders of iTunes, one cannot say the same for pre-recorded video podcasts.  There are many providers and no comprehensive directory.

A podcast is essentially an audio (like a radio show) or video file downloaded to and stored on one's computer.  One may be listen to or watch some of them as they are "broadcast" or streamed.  But the one's I will be discussing are available for storage and easy retrieval at one's leisure on one's computer. Most podcasts are grouped into shows or series with a host. New episodes are available fairly regularly.

The retrieval or download process involves a podcatcher: software (e.g., iTunes, Juice) that allows one to download media files and, if desired, transfer them to portable media players (iPods or any mp3 player). 

Those who create podcasts usually have associated webpages or blogs where one may find show notes: information about each episode that may include the episode summary, guests resumes and links to topic-related websites.

There are thousands of recorded podcasts available on just about any topic imaginable and new ones are coming online every day. In genealogy, there are podcasts to suit most tastes and a variety of ethnic and geographic interests. There are none, at this point, solely dedicated to Jewish genealogy, but many have episodes that would be of interest to those researching their Jewish ancestors. In addition, more and more societies, organizations and commercial enterprises are offering individual audio and video podcasts of live seminars or lectures  or online seminars (called webinars) for free, for a fee or for a paid membership.   

The royalty of podcatchers, iTunes, is also probably the most effective directory for recorded podcasts. If you don't already have it on your PC or Mac, download it at the Apple iTunes website. Once it is on your computer, you may go into iTunes, enter the iTunes Store, and search on a subject, say, "genealogy" or "family history."   The initial results will be general to the iTunes inventory of music, videos, books, podcasts, etc., so be sure to click on "podcasts" under the filter option to focus the results. Experiment with "iTunesU," as well - there may be some interesting more academically-oriented shows. 

Search results will indicate both shows and individual episodes. One may download individual episodes or subscribe (for free) to the shows.  By clicking subscribe, one has access to all episodes of a show. If the show is still producing new episodes, one will be guaranteed to receive new episodes as they become available. You'll find that there are many defunct shows stored and available on iTunes. Be sure to check these out, as well.  The fact that they are no longer in production, does not necessarily reflect on quality.

Other options for finding podcasts include (the old standby) Google search,  Podcast Alley, Podcast Directory and Podbean. And don't forget YouTube.com. Individual videos and YouTube Channels (groupings of episodes by one provider) relevant to family history are numerous. A recent search on "genealogy" filtered by channels showed 563 channels.

Geneawebinars is an excellent blog for upcoming online live (slide/video) seminars in genealogy. Unfortunately, many of these are offered mid-week and mid-day, making it difficult for those of us who are unavailable during the work-week to listen or watch. A few are available for download after the live presentation. And while iTunes seems to have nearly cornered the market as an audio podcast directory and does include some video offerings, there are many video podcasts on the web that are not listed on iTunes. The Learning Center, for example, at FamilySearch.org, has several hundred lessons in audio and video formats. These are, for the most part, not loaded on YouTube or available via iTunes.

In posts to follow, my intention is to identify pre-recorded genealogy educational opportunities from a variety of sources available for download to ones computer and portable player. If you know of or your organization offers recorded online audio or video podcasts (free or behind a membership wall) that would be of interest to readers, please let me know.

In the meantime, find and download some family history podcasts on your computer.  You may listen to the shows while sitting at your computer or transfer the show to your iPod (or other MP3 player) and shpatseer.

11 February 2012

Identifying Isidore: The Myers' Manifest Connection

Jack Garber & Isidore Morris
Sometimes one needs to look close to home (and backwards).  Isidore Morris (ca. 1874-1947) had been giving me fits. I just could not find his Ellis Island manifest. I had located the manifests of all of my other great grandparents including Isidore's wife (my great grandmother Sarah Morris).  She'd arrived from Lubin (Volhynia Gubernia, Russian Empire - today's Ukraine) with their 5 children on 7 June 1910 as Sure Morris, bound for Isidore's home on E. 105th Street in New York City. So, I knew that Isidore, a glazier who, according Sure's manifest was in NYC waiting for his family, had purchased the family's tickets and had adopted the Morris surname by 1910. [1]

In 1914, Isidore and Sarah's eldest daughter (my grandmother Dora) married her first cousin (my grandfather Jack or Jacob Garber).  Jack's late mother (Isidore's sister) was identified on Jack and Dora's marriage certificate as "Anna Matziwitzka." The Mazewitsky name was confirmed by my cousin and my uncle. [2]

I checked for people on manifests with the surname Morris - nothing. I checked manifests via the Ellis Island search function, the Steve Morse One-Step Gold Form (Ellis Island records), and Ancestry (New York City immigration records), using exact and soundex searches and various combinations of factors for anyone vaguely or exactly named Mazewitsky.  Results showed that there were people with similar names, but they were either too young or not from Lubin or any of the nearby towns.  I checked Isidore's tombstone for clues to how his name (Yitzchak Leib) might have appeared in on his manifest (it could have been Itzchak or Izak or any variation of the name) - nothing. Finally, the prospect of locating Isidore's manifest went onto the genealogy wish list as something I'd probably find eventually - when the clouds parted and the heavens roared - some other time. [3]

I began work on my Malzmann (Myers) family.  While Isidore had, according to my cousin Hal Blatt and my uncle Lenny Garber, no close family Mazewitskys who came to this country, his wife Sarah Malzmann Morris had scads.  All four of Sarah's brothers (Myer, Louis, Harry and Joseph), one sister (Rebecca Sotskess), her parents (David and Chaye Sarah) and several collateral relations (uncles, cousins, etc.) came to the USA between 1902 and 1921 and settled in NYC as glaziers. Before 1910, most of them headed to 210 or 212 Grand Street in Lower Manhattan where a Malzmann or newly minted Myers family member lived. Sometimes even before they'd left Europe, they'd changed their last name to Myers. All of them were from the Lubin area.

I'd already found quite a few of the Myers family members but there were a few holes. In one of those cast-a-wide-net kind of things one attempts too late in the evening, I'd decided to look up all Malzmanns and any relevant Myers and variations in manifest records. In Steve Morse's Gold Form, I entered the last name (starts with or is) "Meyer," the town name (starts with or is) "Lub," and specified ethnicity as Polish and Russian. There were two indexed results and one showed "Meyer, Malczmann" from Lublin - a glazier going to his brother (crossed out on the manifest and replaced with "sister") Louis Meyers at 210 Grand Street, New York, NY. He was accompanied by two other males from "Lublin": Endlmann Leyser, a glazier, and MacZevicki Jezik, a mason. All were 32 years old on their arrival at Ellis Island on the Carpathia on 3 January 1906. MacZevicki (definitely not an Irishman!) was meeting his uncle Avram Malzmann also of 210 Grand. [4]
A comparison of the records and indices at Ellis Island, Ancestry, and Family Search illuminates several mistakes between manifest creation and transcription: [5]
  1. The manifest image showed that the town had been incorrectly transcribed  for the Ellis Island database. Family Search's indexers correctly transcribed the town name as Lubin.
  2. Whomever wrote the names on the original manifest wrote surname first until they got to the three 32 year old males from Lubin whose first names were written in the surname location. Ancestry indexed the names in the order they appear: Endlmann Leyser, MacZevicki Jezik and Malermann Meyer. Both Ellis Island and Family Search indices correct the transposed names for two of the males (Leyser Endlmann and Jczik Maczeviaki), but not for Meyer Malczmann.
  3. Ancestry transcribers misinterpreted script letter "z" as letter "r" and the "c" as an "e." in Malczmann. Looking at the handwriting and other names on the manifest, the Ellis Island and Family Search interpretation is clearly correct.
One thing important to note is that the Carpathia left Europe from Fiume, today called Rijeka and located on the coast of Croatia. Croatian is written in the Roman alphabet and the letter "c" is pronounced as "ts" would be pronounced in English. Since we know that manifests were created in Europe by shipping companies, we can expect that local officials might spell names as they heard them. Thus, the name Maczevicki would be pronounced similarly to Mazewitsky. [6]
So, my search for a Myers relative resulted in finding Isidore Morris' manifest.  Interestingly, this may very well be the second US arrival for Myer Myers who also appears on a manifest in 1902. [7]

Bottom line? If at first one doesn't succeed, keep looking for those collateral relatives or landsmen (countrymen). Look upside down and backwards, if one must. If one can, look at different indices for the same database. Recognize that while some different search engines take you to the same digital images (both Steve Morse and Family Search take one to digitized images on the Ellis Island website), their indexing projects may have been independent. Look at the context for the record's creation. But keep looking.
1. "New York Passenger Lists, 1820-1957," digital images, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com: accessed 11 January 2012), manifest, Vaderland, Antwerp to New York, arriving 7 June 1910, p. 1, Sure Morris; citing National Archives Microfilm Serial T715.
2. New York County, New York, Certificate and Record of Marriage no. 19588 (12 August 1916), Jacob Garber and Dora Morris, New York City Municipal Archives, New York.
3. Montefiore Cemetery (Queens County, New York), Isidore Morris marker, block 89, gate 156N; personally read, 2008.
4. "Passenger Record." database, Statue of Liberty - Ellis Island Foundation (http://www.ellisisland.org : accessed 11 February 2012), entry for Malczmann Meyer, 32, arrived 3 January 1906 on the Carpathia.
5. Manifest, Carpathia, 3 January 1906, Page 61, Lines 17-19, for Leyser Endlmann, Iczik Maczevicki and Meyer Malczmann, digital images, Statue of Liberty - Ellis Island Foundation (http://www.ellisisland.org : accessed 11 February 2012); (https://www.familysearch.org : accessed 11 February 2012); and "New York Passenger Lists, 1820-1957," digital images, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 11 February 2012), citing National Archives Microfilm Serial T715.
6. Sally Amdur Sack-Pikus, "Just How Were Passenger Manifests Created?" AVOTAYNU, Vol. XXV, No. 1 (Spring 2009), 7-12.
7. "Border Crossings: From Canada to U.S., 1895-1956," digital images, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com ; accessed 11 February 2012), manifest, Quebec, Montreal, Canada to St, Albans, Vermont, USA, arriving 8 August 1902, p. 1, line 29, Meyer Myer, citing National Archives Microfilm Serial M1464.

05 February 2012

Avraham: son of Mordechai, grandson of Yitzchak Leib

Since most Jewish people have at least two names (their Hebrew name, which includes their father’s name, i.e. son of/daughter of _______ , and their common/legal name) their tombstones can be a fount of good genealogical information.  In Ashkenazi (European) Judaism, the common custom (it is not a religious rule) is to name after someone who is deceased.  Thus, using tombstone information, one may tell not only the name, Hebrew name and father’s name, but also, if one has some information about prior generations, the fact that whomever they were named after had passed on before their namesake was born.  But my great grandfather’s tombstone went a step further.

I am not proficient in Hebrew, so I posted a photograph of my great grandfather's tombstone on ViewMate, JewishGen's amazingly helpful application that allows people to post documents and photographs and others to view and respond to those posts. Both David Rosen and Dena Yellin, individually, were kind enough to respond to my post with translations and interpretations [1]. In addition, Rachel Wilson and Israel Pikholz both noticed an error and corrected the Hebrew date of death.

Our dear father
Here lies
Peace loving, charitable, benevolent
Avraham Aba son of Mordechai, of blessed memory,
grandson of Yitzchak Leib, of blessed memory,
the great rabbi, called by the name magid.
Died the 11th day in the month of Tevet 5688 [4 January 1928].
May his soul be bound up in the bond of (everlasting) life.

The gravestone of my great grandfather Abraham Garber is unusual in that it provides not only his father's name (Mordechai), but also his grandfather's name (Yitzchak Leib).  And while I have little information about Mordechai - except that Mordechai must have passed on before Abraham's second son, Max (aka Mordechai), was born in 1889 - Abraham's tombstone provides a tantalizing clue about Yitzchak Leib that may explain why he was included on the tombstone: he was a highly respected person.

A magid (pronounced mahGEED) in Eastern Europe in the 19th Century was an itinerant Jewish preacher, a skilled, respected story-teller and persuasive speaker of well-known impeccable moral behavior and judgement. Magids were distinct from "darshans," scholars employed as rabbis in communities. Some of the maggids became quite prominent. In about the middle of the 19th Century, there was an increase in the number of these preachers who were involved in championing Hasidism [2].

Dena pointed out that the wording is subtle: the gravestone does not say that Yitzchak was a magid. It says he was called Magid. She goes on the suggest that perhaps he was ". . . a magid who was called not by his last name (if he even had one) but as Yitzchak Leib Magid, after his occupation . . ."

There are many tantalizing unknowns:
  • How was Abraham descended from Yitzchak: on his mother's or father's side? I would think it is more likely on the father's side as these things tended to be passed down patrilineally, but I do not know.  
  • Many Jewish people in Eastern Europe did not have surnames until well into the 19th Century. I have never heard that I have any relative with the last name of Magid.  But, this is something I will have to consider.
  • What was the religious bent of the family while in Europe? There were a number of interesting movements in the Volhynia province of Ukraine during the Russian Empire period. With which one were they affiliated?
1. David Rosen and Dena Yellin, Responses to ViewMate Post # 21509, JewishGen.org, ViewMate (http://www.jewishgen.org/viewmate: accessed 29 January 2012).

2. Jewish Encyclopedia. "Maggid," article, JewishEncyclopedia.com  (http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/10259-maggid : accessed 5 February 2012).

Hundert, Gershon David, editor. The YIVO Encyclopedia of Jews in Eastern Europe, vol. 2, (New Haven, Connecticutt and London, United Kingdom: Yale University Press, 2008), 1450-1453.
Post Script (10 February 2012): I have received two emails correcting the translation &/or offering additional insight.  Israel Pikholz pointed out that the word "neched" [the first word on the fifth full line] means grandson, but could also mean descendant.  Magid could very well be meant as a family name.

04 February 2012

LeafSeek: Share the forest . . . as well as the trees

Brooke Schreier Ganz likes to share.  And we should all be happy she does. On Friday, 3 February 2012, her LeafSeek application was awarded second place in the Developer Challenge at RootsTech 2012. LeafSeek is the engine underlying the new Gesher Galicia search page. On Saturday in Salt Lake City, Utah, I listened to Brooke’s RootsTech presentation and then sat down with her for further conversation. 

Brooke Schreier Ganz at RootsTech
Brooke’s web development pedigree is impressive: she has worked at IBM, Disney Consumer Products division, and Bravo cable television. She now works part time from home so she can spend time with and care for her two little “start-ups.”

True to her nature, it was a database and its useful search engine (Jewish Roots Indexing-Poland) that first got Brooke interested in tracing her family history. Her family hails mostly from the Ukrainian portion of Galicia, as well as Poland and Moldova. Her husband’s family, which she is also tracing, has Polish, Romanian (Hungarian) and Sephardic (from the Isle of Rhodes) roots.

Gesher Galicia has been acquiring a variety of data sets including vital records, tax lists, landsmanshaften lists, industrial permit lists, and school and government yearbooks and wanted to put these 192,268 (and counting) records online in one database for Jewish genealogists’ use. Enter Brooke. While awake late at night with her baby, she’d sometimes use her iPhone to research the problem. Later, after much needed sleep, she’d work on the coding. In designing LeafSeek, Brooke sought to address the complexity of developing an effective search for multiple data sets with diversities of language, political boundaries and subdivisions, types of information, spelling, etc. all in one database. These are the issues with which all genealogists studying families from Eastern Europe have to contend. The Gesher Galicia database is proving to be fertile ground for beta testing the tool.

If you had Jewish relatives from Galicia, try a search.  One of the most valuable features on the Search Gesher Galicia website in the unlimited wildcard search in both the given name and surname fields.  There are no minimums for the number of letters required or maximums for the number of asterisks.  In your results, click on the + to expand the information in the record.  If information is provided on the current town name, click on that to see a map of its location.

Before heading to Salt Lake City I’d searched the Gesher Galicia database by entering one of my Galitzianer surnames (Liebross) in the search box and received one result. Mene Liebross of Okopy died in 1873.  The information in the result included the Family History Library (FHL) microfilm number.  How slick it that!?! I located the record on Wednesday at the FHL.

Facets on the left side of the results page allow easy sorting through results.  They include information on types and number of records, top surnames and given names, locations, years, etc. In the future expect to see the addition of hierarchical facets so that in addition to town names, one may also select parameters such as country, province, or district. 

Second Place Award for LeafSeek
Some time soon, Brooke plans to add the Beider-Morse Phonetic Matching (BMPM) system for names. She is also quite taken by the example set by Steve Morse’s One-Step website: “Steve Morse is incredible and inspiring not only for his work but also because he made his work open source – for everyone’s benefit.” Open source means that LeafSeek’s code is available free for anyone’s use.  Brooke visualizes LeafSeek as “a genealogy search engine in a box,” available to those who have need of its features.  She has plans for further features and improvements and hopes that others will use it and add to it. In fact, if you notice things that need correction or have suggestions for additional features, contact Brooke via the "contact us" button at the bottom of the Gesher Galicia webpage. She's always happy to make improvements.

I believe that LeafSeek will provide the opportunity to put databases such as JRI-Poland on steroids.  Imagine the JRI-Poland database with enhanced pattern recognition to better understand the connections among records and the people in them. Right now to do that, one would have to design and laboriously populate a spreadsheet with all the data elements found in one's JRI-Poland results. Only then, could one manipulate the data to see the patterns. LeafSeek has the potential to do much of that for us. 

So, congratulations to Brooke and thanks for sharing.

02 February 2012

It's snowing in Mecca

I overcame the usual stress of getting ready for a trip: doing the basics to get things tucked away at work, anticipating clothing needs in a foreign climate (all places where there is actually winter weather are foreign), and packing (I acknowledged to myself and to my husband my embarrassment at being a technology dinosaur – why, I don’t even have an iPad or a smart phone! The closest I come is my iPod Touch. I still have favorite pens and pencils – maybe I shouldn’t go to RootsTech…) And then, I put the finishing touches on my plans for searching at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah.  There is never enough time to prepare, but finally, at about 9 P.M. the night before my flight, I sang que sera, sera and resisted the urge to stay up till the wee hours searching through online indices for previously unsecured remnants of great great uncle whatshisname.

On Wednesday, I arrived about 11 A.M., shuttled to the hotel and when they told me it was too early to check in, I knew just what to do: out the back door, down the alley and around the corner to the Family History Library (FHL).  As I’ve come to expect of any LDS-sponsored genealogical venture, the FHL is fantastically organized and was ready for the onslaught of more than 4200 eager (read rabid) RootsTech genealogists. The place seems filled with books about and microfilm from every corner of the earth.  For many, including me, this was our first foray in the FHL – although I now know that my time spent in the Mesa Regional Family History Center was good preparation for this place, albeit on a smaller scale.

It’s a thrill to be able to locate an appropriate microfilm number and immediately get ones hands on the film.  Truth be told, for Jewish genealogy the FHL is a mixed bag.  They do have some things from Galicia in the areas where my mother’s mother’s family was located.  I found the one Liebross record from Okopy I’d identified in Gesher Galicia's All Galicia Database.  I do not yet know if or how this Mene might be related to my Liebross family, but it’s nice to acquire a record without having to wait months for the Polish Archives to locate and send it.  Beyond that, for me at least, the relevant Eastern European records are scant.  But that is not because the FHL hasn’t tried.  A couple of years ago at the International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies (IAJGS) conference in Los Angeles, CA I heard Kahlile Mehr, the Manager of the Slavic Collection Management & Cataloging Dept at the FHL, say that he’d been trying for more than ten years to get an agreement with the Zhytomyr archives in Ukraine.  Ach!  He also didn’t have access to Khmelnytskyy or Zalishchyky archives in Ukraine (triple ach!) – all places I need.

Anyway, the FHL is great for New York City records.  And I decided to do a vacuum-like search (look at everything in sight) for one of my hiding relatives: Moses/Morris Epstein (my great grandmother Hoda Wilson Epstein’s brother). Before I left home I queried Italian Genealogical Group Vital Records index of NYC death records for all Moses and Morris Epsteins and, list in hand, used Steve Morse’s One-Step tool for finding FHL film numbers for NYC vital records (why hadn’t I found that before).  After one day of maniacal searching at the FHL, I’ve gone through about ¾ of my list of likely films.  Haven’t found him yet.

Thursday I was busy with the conference.  I’ll get back to my research Friday night when the FHL stays open for RootsTech until midnight.  Then I'll probably get into their considerable collection of books.  For now, out through the snow and across the street to the Convention Center.