29 July 2017

IAJGS 2017, Days 1 and 2: Busy, busy, busy!

I was not as diligent a blogger as I have been in past International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies conferences, but this year in Orlando, was, indeed, chock full of good offerings and opportunities to network.

My disadvantage, in terms of blogging, was that I was responsible for six of the presentations, as well as a few other volunteer obligations. So, by the time I returned to my room each evening, blogging was pretty much the last thing on my mind.

Nevertheless, I did meet with several people and attended some sessions here and there. So, here's my take.


I had studied the schedule and identified some that I very much wanted to attend, but I had one presentation that was not completely prepared. I managed to complete my PowerPoint (phew) by Sunday evening and that freed me up for the rest of the week. But my attendance at sessions on Sunday suffered.

I did lunch with Mary-Jane Roth on the Polonne and environs project that is part of Ukraine Special Interest Group: "Acquisition and Translation of Records of Seven Town in Polonnoye, Ukraine." Images of the records have been acquired. The problem has been finding translators who are not only familiar the foreign languages, but also old script and the peculiarities of verbiage in old records. We still have some ideas on where to head with this but, it has not been easy.

I dd attend the keynote session, "Alexander Hamilton, the Jews and the American Revolution." Professor Robert Watson of Lynn University in Boca Raton, FL, is an engaging speaker and spoke on a topic of interest to many. Hamilton had an interesting and difficult early life. While not Jewish himself, he benefited from his association with Sephardic Jewish people in the community of Nevis who, in recognizing his innate brilliance and talent, took him under their wing. 


Hal Bookbinder - "U.S. Immigration and Naturalization" I always enjoy Hal's presentations and, although at this point I know quite a bit about this topic, I always expect to learn something new from him. I was not as well-versed on early US naturalization law and policy, so I did enjoy that.

Throughout most of our history, naturalization could be achieved within five years of residence. Apparently, due, in part, to political conflict between John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, there was a short period when the time to naturalization was substantially lengthened. The June 18, 1798 Naturalization Act, the first part of the Alien and Sedition Act, increased residency requirement to 14 years.

Here's a short summary I found on Politico.

Marion Werle – “You found the Records – Now What? Records Analysis and the Jewish Genealogist”

I enjoyed Marion’s presentation. For me, it is interesting to see how different researchers approach instruction on evidence analysis and the Genealogical Proof Standard. I had a similar topic scheduled for Wednesday.

Marian presented several different record types and worked with the audience to evaluate the reliability of each based upon source type, informant and character of information provided. I was impressed.

I also think that people benefit from hearing different takes on similar topics. I do not know if many people attended both Marion's and, then, my later talk, but, if they did, they would likely come away with greater understanding.

Nolan Altman – “Patronymic Naming and the Genealogical Value of Jewish Cemetery Records”

Nolan is in charge of one of the largest and most useful searchable databases on JewishGen: the JewishGen Online Worldwide Burial Registry (JOWBR). There are now 3.1 million records in the database. 500,000 include tombstone photographs. There are about 7,100 cemeteries (or cemetery plots) representing 125 countries. Unlike Find A Grave or Billion Graves, JOWBR only includes Jewish burials in Jewish and non-sectarian cemeteries.

Information comes to JOWBR from volunteers, cemetery administrators, societies and synagogues. The data comes from stones, cemetery or burial society registers, published historical material and funeral home records.

JewishGen provides formatted spreadsheets, written instructions and instructional videos explaining how one may record and donate information to the JOWBR database.

I have, thus far, recorded and donated photos and partial translations from three landsmanshaftn plots in Montefiore Cemetery in Queens, New York; one in Beth Moses Cemetery, Pinelawn, NY; one in Baker Street Cemetery outside Boston, MA; and one in South Haven, MI. For my own family, research, this has been the gift that keeps on giving. As I do more and more research, I find more links and more family. I encourage every genealogist to join the effort. Do not just record your own family. Spend a few hours and photograph entire cemetery plots. It’s a mitzvah.

Sack lunch with Sallyann Sack 

Had an interesting lunch with Sallyann Sack-Pikus and several others regarding her concept for a Second Tier records project. I am honored she thought to invite me to participate.

As she stayed in an article in Avotaynu a few months ago, she is interested in pursuing records beyond the usual ones (i.e., vital records and revision lists) most Special Interest Groups collect. There are records such as notary records and land records in Eastern European archives that, while not identified as principally Jewish, are likely to yield many records regarding Jewish people. Identifying, collecting and translating these types of records would be a complex undertaking and will require quite a bit of coordination with a variety of groups currently working in the area.

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