21 November 2014

Beware of Black Friday, 5 December 2014

I've a new definition for Black Friday: FamilySearch.org is discontinuing photoduplication services on Friday, 5 December 2014.* They say that with digitization going full-force and new partnerships forming, they no longer need to provide this service. I am crushed.

I will admit that not only have I been an excellent customer - ordering lots of copies even when they used to cost me the princely sum of $2/document - I probably was also a one-woman marketing team for them when I posted in January 2013 about the advent of free document photoduplication. [Well, perhaps they didn't really want that type of marketing.  :-/ ]

One personal research project, for which I am quite proud, involved acquiring many (read: "oodles" of) vital records to document and solve some problems regarding the First Lubiner Progressive Benevolent Association landsmanshaft and burial society community in Montefiore Cemetery in Queens and Beth Moses Cemetery on Long Island, New York. Without FamilySearch I would not have been able to acquire all the records needed to analyze 66 immigrants (Friends, Acquaintances and Neighbors) interred in the cemetery plots. I have published this research in Avotaynu and presented on it at the International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies conferences in Boston (2013) and Salt Lake City (2014). I am beholden to FamilySearch.

FamilySearch does so much for so many that I do not like to criticize. I think, however that this decision is a bit premature. While they have made huge strides in digitization in the last few years and have positioned themselves to complete their digitization effort in about ten years, that's still ten years (!). I don't usually look for conspiracies, but I wonder if this wasn't a decision included as part of some of the recent partnership agreements. Surely, these types of completely free resources could not sit well with those partners who make money from providing records.

I suppose I might feel better (at least temporarily) if my nearby Mesa FamilySearch Library was going to be open during the next month or so, but they have their own plans for completely closing from 24 November through 3 January for renovations. What's an intrepid genealogist to do? Shop?!

Goodbye, Photoduplication Department! It was sweet while it lasted.
* Special thanks to Sheryl Stern Levin who brought this to my attention when she posted about this on the Jewish Genealogical Society of Greater Philadelphia FaceBook page.

04 November 2014

Tombstone Tuesday: Khana Genendel Reznik, Labun Jewish cemetery

In June of 2013 I had the pleasure of visiting Ukraine and Labun (now Yurovshchina; once called Lubin in Yiddish), my paternal grandparents' community. We were able to visit the old Jewish cemetery, which I discussed in an earlier post. Over the next several Tuesdays I will post photos and translations (as I am able to decipher) of tombstones from that cemetery. Most do not feature surnames.

This is one of the few tombstones in this cemetery that includes a surname. The name K.G. Reznik is rendered in Cyrillic text. The remainder of the tombstone is in Hebrew characters. 
Died 19 Sivan 5695
an elderly innocent woman
Khana Genendel
daughter of Tsvi
K.G. Reznik
May her soul be bound in eternal life 

This is an interesting case where comparing the Hebrew year and the year written in our Hindu-Arabic numeral system can help with interpretation of inscriptions that are difficult to read. I had been unsure of whether the year written under K.G. Reznik was 1925 or 1935. But, the first three numbers of the year written in Hebrew on the uppermost (curved line) are clearly 569[?]. This would convert to 193[?] in the Gregorian calendar. So, the year of death was 1935. 

In addition, I could not determine whether the last numeral in the Hebrew year was a daled (indicating ד ,4) or a hay (5, ה). Since 5 is clearly the last numeral in the Hindu-Arabic written year, we can be assured that the last letter of the Hebrew year is hay (5). 

So, the Hebrew date on the tombstone is 19 Sivan 5695. The date converts to 20 June 1935 in the Gregorian calendar.

Once again my work on translating/transliterating/interpreting a tombstone has benefited from several generous researchers who posted responses to my query on Tracing the Tribe FaceBook page: Deb Morgen Stern, Elan Caspi, Lara Diamond, Phyllis Werlin, Sally Mizroch, Ira Leviton and Mandy Blumstein Van Ostran.

02 November 2014

Join me for "The Jewish Connection: Myth or Reality," 12 Nov 2014

I am excited about my next genealogy research public speaking opportunity. I will be speaking at the Mesa FamilySearch Training Center (464 E. 1st Avenue, Mesa, AZ) at 7 P.M. (Arizona time) on Wednesday, 12 November 2014, giving a talk called, "The Jewish Connection: Myth or Reality." This family history  presentation will be geared for those who may not be Jewish, but who believe they might have some Jewish ancestry. 

For me, the exciting part, aside from creating a new presentation and reaching out to a new audience, is that this presentation will be offered simultaneously as a webinar (for those of you who cannot attend in person) and also recorded for later viewing as a webcast.

If you wish to attend in person (I'd like to meet you!), note that the venue (464 E. 1st Avenue, Mesa, AZ) is in a building one block west of the Mesa Arizona FamilySearch Library.

If you wish to watch live, check out this link: http://www.mesarfhc.org/Webinar.html

If you cannot clear your schedule for this event, consider watching later when the recorded presentation is loaded onto the webcast page.

And while you on that page, note that the Mesa FamilySearch Library has been recording knowledgeable genealogists' presentations for a couple of years and has a nice selection available for your learning pleasure.

30 October 2014

Treasure Chest Thursday: Esther Morris & Robert Blatt Marriage Certificate

Esther Morris, my great aunt and youngest sister of my paternal grandmother Dora, married Robert Blatt in 1929.
New York County, New York, Certificate and Record of Marriage no. 24784 (29 September 1929), Robert Blatt and Esther Morris, Municipal Archives, New York.

Items in red will be discussed further, below. 

[1st page]
Groom: Robert Blatt
Residence: 61 E. 108th Street
Age: 32
Color: White
Single, Widowed or Divorced: single
Occupation: Sheet Metal
Birthplace: Russia
Father's Name: Joseph
Mother's Maiden Name: Leah Levine
Number of Groom's Marriage: First

Bride: Esther Morris
239 E. 105th St.
Age: 23
Color: White
Single, Widowed or Divorced: single
Maiden Name, if a Widow: [blank]
Birthplace: Russia
Father's Name: Isidore
Mother's Maiden Name: Sarah Meyers
Number of Bride's Marriage: First

I hearby certify that the above-named groom and bride were joined in Marriage by me, in accordance with the laws of the State of New York, at 50 Delancey Street, in the borough of Man, City of New York, this 29th of Sept, 1929.

Signature of person performing the ceremony:
                                                        /s/ Rev. I. Kirschner

Official Station: 1835 University Ave
Residence: 1905 Loring Rd, Bx.

Witnesses to }  David Kirschner
the Marriage }  F[?] H[?] Richter

[2nd page]  
WE hereby certify that we are the Groom and Bride named in this Certificate, and that the information given therein is correct, to the best of our knowledge and belief.
                              /s/ Robert Blatt  Groom
                              /s/ Esther Morris Bride  

Signed in the presence of  /s/ David Kirschner
                                                /s/         Richter
Esther and Robert Blatt were married at 50 Delancey Street, which today, is a restaurant supply company (photo from Google Maps, below). I have searched several online New York City directories, but have not determined what was on this corner in 1929.

Isaac Kirschner was a Cantor (and Rabbi) who served at the Hebrew Institute of University Heights, at that time located at 1835 University Avenue. The synagogue building today is occupied by the Kips Bay Boys and Girls Club, shown below.

I am do not know anything about the witnesses who signed the certificate. According to the 1930 U.S. Census, Isaac Kirschner had a son named David, but he would have only been about 9 years old at the time of the wedding, so I doubt that the signature belonged to him. Interestingly, I have a copy of Esther and Robert's ketubah (Jewish marriage record) and the witness on that was Max Garber (my great uncle - and Esther's first cousin).

28 October 2014

Tombstone Tuesday: Unknown who died 5 October 1900, Labun Jewish cemetery

In June of 2013 I had the pleasure of visiting Ukraine and Labun (now Yurovshchina; once called Lubin in Yiddish), my paternal grandparents' community. We were able to visit the old Jewish cemetery, which I discussed in an earlier post. Over the next several Tuesdays I will post photos and translations (as I am able to decipher) of tombstones from that cemetery. Most do not feature surnames.

In this photo one may get an idea of the clay slope on which much of this cemetery lies. It is no wonder that many of the stones have fallen.

On this tombstone the name of the deceased is completely worn away. The date however is visible starting at the end of the first readable line (I cannot make out the first two words of the line).
..... 12
Tishri 5661
May his/her soul be bound in eternal life 

The twelfth day of the month of Tishri, year 5661 translates to 5 October 1900 in our Gregorian calendar and 22 September 1900 in the Julian calendar.

This is the earliest stone I've found in the Labun Jewish cemetery thus far. Jewish people have been noted in Labun since 1705. And by 1847 the Jewish population was reportedly 1,192.[1] I wonder if early markers were wood and, therefore, long gone.

It's certainly unfortunate that the name is no longer available.

1. Shmuel Spector and Geoffrey Wigoder, editors, The Encyclopedia of Jewish Life Before and During the Holocaust, vol. 2 (New York University Press and Yad Vashem: New York and Jerusalem, 2001), p. 698.