Genealogy Gems Hidden in the Polish Archives -Tips and Search Strategies for Persistent Family Historians

  • Speaker: Jakub Czupryński
  • Lecture Date: 04-10-2022


This lecture is dedicated to researchers with Polish roots who would like to expand their searches to less popular archival resources kept in Poland. Answers to some of the most burning family history questions we all have lie hidden in sources accessed by very few. In this lecture Jakub Czupryński will give practical guidelines on how to search for additional family information not covered in the obvious sources, such as vital or census records. He will discuss how we can break through some of the brick walls we all face using such resources as notary and court records and municipal, tax and property documents.

Patronymic Naming and Cemetery Records - Their Importance in Jewish Genealogy

  • Speaker: Nolan Altman
  • Lecture Date: 03-20-2022


Headstone inscriptions provide one of the most important tools for those researching their Jewish genealogical history, patronymic naming. This presentation will familiarize attendees with the evolution of family surnames and the practice of patronymic naming. Recognizing the components of patronymic naming, participants will learn how to take advantage of these clues to link their family through generations.  Nolan will go through an actual case study using headstone inscriptions and will show participants online resources to help find headstone information worldwide.

The next part of the presentation will show examples of headstones and what one will find if one takes a trip to the cemetery. Nolan will explain the meaning of symbols found on stones. He will explain how to understand the inscriptions, even if one can’t read Hebrew. He will also show many examples of inscription trends, some odd inscriptions, and errors in inscriptions…even well-known ones. With a presentation on cemetery records, you wouldn’t expect to leave laughing, but Nolan guarantees you will.

Cypora's Echo: Mothers, Daughters, and A Holocaust Legacy

  • Speaker: Judith Greenberg
  • Lecture Date: 12-19-2021


Judith Greenberg had been writing and teaching about trauma, literature, and women’s acts of resistance for years before she discovered that the history of the last days of the Jews of Siedlce, Poland, her family’s ancestral hometown, was recorded by her own relative, Cypora Jablon Zonszajn, her grandfather’s first cousin. In the fall of 1942, having survived an Aktion that killed over 80% of Siedlce’s Jews, Cypora understood that the only chance for her baby daughter, Rachel, lay outside the ghetto. They escaped and Cypora gave Rachel to her Catholic friends from childhood. She returned to the ghetto, wrote her testimony, and, to resist boarding a train to Treblinka, took poison. Cypora’s friends raised Rachel and buried their friend’s written pages, which are now held at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.

Judith grew up knowing Rachel for most of her life; her mother was Rachel’s second cousin and close friend. But it was only in 2002, when Judith read Cypora’s testimony and saw a photo of Cypora holding baby Rachel, that she began to ask questions about her cousin’s history as a hidden child, her mother’s past, and the intergenerational process of transmission of this story. How did these pages and this photo survive? Who were the Catholic women who risked their lives to save Rachel and how had they become so close to Cypora? Judith, who was then a mother of young children, was gripped by Cypora’s descriptions of trying to nurse Rachel during the Aktion, of guilt for failing to save her parents, and of the Jewish police, in which her husband was a part.

Over the next twelve years, Judith traveled to Poland, with her mother, her daughter, and other relatives. She met Cypora’s friends who saved Rachel, discovered a vast archive of prewar and wartime photos of Cypora and Rachel, and forged a friendship with the granddaughter of one of Rachel’s rescuers, a prominent human rights lawyer. Relying on her background analyzing trauma writing, Judith conjoins her research of the history with an analysis of Cypora’s writing and with a contemplation of her postmemories and the many roles of mothers, daughters, and shared parenting in this story.

Getting Your ACGT Together: Organizational Strategies for DNA Analysis

  • Speaker: Paul Woodbury
  • Lecture Date: 10-06-2021


DNA test results are constantly changing, so trying to organize them can feel like aiming for a moving target. In this webinar, learn to organize your results around clear research objectives in order to isolate, prioritize, analyze and correlate the genetic data most pertinent to your research.

Scandals, Shandehs, and Lies: The Stories Families Don't Tell

  • Speaker: Renee Steinig
  • Lecture Date: 06-13-2021


In the course of decades of genealogical research for family, friends, clients, and, occasionally, complete strangers, Renee Steinig has uncovered many a "skeleton in the closet" -- cases of mental illness, illegitimate birth, infidelity, abandonment, and even murder, all hushed up for decades. A Viennese refugee whose baby was born in a New York State psychiatric hospital; a suburban businessman who led two lives; a Romanian immigrant hanged -- or so his family thought -- for "stealing horses;" a Jewish GI's love affair in Belgium during World War II; a young woman who married, had a baby, then vanished.... Renee will talk to us about these family secrets and others, the research tools that uncovered them, and the reunions and reconciliations that followed many of her discoveries.

Researching US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Records

  • Speaker: Marian Smith
  • Lecture Date: 05-23-2021


Marian Smith will present an overview of three historical eras (1820-Present) of US immigration and naturalization records, illustrated with documents of Jewish immigrants. Using a timeline tool (included in the handout), she will demonstrate how plotting an immigrant’s life events can identify what records may exist for that particular immigrant and where these records can be found. A question and answer session will follow the presentation.

Fragments That Remain: The Search for My Mother's Lost Family

  • Speaker: Jennie Milne
  • Lecture Date: 03-21-2021


In this presentation, Jennie Milne will describe her extraordinary journey to understand her mother’s mysterious background. Elizabeth Lis, Jennie's mother, was born to a Polish woman in London in 1943 and placed in a wartime babies' home in Devon, England. Elizabeth's mother, known only by the name on her daughter’s birth certificate as ‘Ellen Lis,’ did not return to collect her baby after the war ended as she had promised, and Elizabeth was subsequently raised by the matron of the Home and her surname changed.

Elizabeth’s father was a highly decorated Polish Officer under British command. Ellen had also been serving in the Polish army at the time of Elizabeth’s birth, and was reputedly Jewish, although these details were unknown at the time. Despite finding and meeting briefly with her parents, individually, in the mid-1960s, Elizabeth lost contact soon after and was unable to find them later in life.

In March 2014 Jennie began searching in earnest for her grandparents. With the assistance of expert researchers and genealogists at JewishGen, JRI-Poland and Tracing the Tribe, as well as through DNA analysis, Jennie was able to break the silence of years. In this talk Jennie will take us through the extensive research that led to her understanding as well as to her discovery of previously unknown cousins.

Out of the Whirlwind: Finding the Family You Lost in the Holocaust

  • Speaker: Deborah H. Long
  • Lecture Date: 01-24-2021


The daughter of two Holocaust survivors, Deborah Long has been researching her family history and looking for family members for more than 50 years. She has found surviving cousins in Sweden, Hungary, Canada and Israel. Deborah will review the best (as well as some of the more obscure) resources and methods for determining the fate of those caught up in the Holocaust, survivors as well as victims. She will use examples from her own research to present the documents and artifacts she has discovered.

The Sugihara Refugee Story: Survivors and Those without Whom This Story Would Not Be Told

  • Speaker: Mark Halpern
  • Lecture Date: 01-26-2020


Most Jewish genealogists know the story of Chiune Sugihara, known as the Japanese Schindler. Sugihara issued over 2,000 Japanese transit visas that enabled many Jews to escape war torn Europe in the summer of 1940. But there is so much more to the story. There were many people – Europeans, Americans, Japanese – who helped to save these people. We will identify some of them and talk about their exploits. We will trace one Polish Jewish woman’s journey from Kalwaria Zebrzydowska, Poland to Santa Monica, California using her Sugihara transit visa to ultimately obtain US citizenship. Her journey started in Poland and included stops in Lithuania; Moscow and Vladivostok, Russia; Tsuruga and Kobe Japan; Shanghai, China; Windsor, Canada; and Chicago and Los Angeles over 15 years mostly as a Stateless person. We will document her journey using genealogical methods and records.

Mismatched Mishpocha: Strategies to Analyze Endogamous DNA

  • Speaker: Alec Ferretti
  • Lecture Date: 12-15-2019


This lecture will discuss how best to weed out false-positive DNA Matches that Jewish test-takers face daily. Alec will outline the data that demonstrates the unique ways in which endogamous populations match each other. Then, by using visualization tools such as DNA Painter, he will illustrate webs of interrelationships of endogamous test-takers and identify genetic pile-up regions (or multiple shared autosomal DNA segments stacked up on top of each other) that may not indicate shared ancestors. Although there is no surefire method as of yet to remove false matches, by having a more thorough understanding of endogamous results, we can better analyze our match data.

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