IAJGS 2014 report by Leigh, part 2 of 3

Day 3 – Tue 29th July

A slightly late start had me starting the day giving Jeanette moral support in her “Tracing Jewish relatives in the UK after WW2” talk. However she didn’t really need me, as there were a lot of heavy hitters in the audience such as Todd Knowles, Warren Blatt, Michael Tobias and Mark Nicholls of course. Jeanette bravely showed off her baby pictures in the JC and her wedding certificate as examples of our unique UK records. It was very well received and the intelligent questions were dealt with succinctly.

I’m afraid I selfishly offered no more support to our UK speakers, missing both Saul Issroffs talk on Jews and the Commonwealth War Graves Commission and Laurence Harris’s tracing WW1 ancestors talk, in favour of furthering my own research. Given how I am lost in Lithuania, I attended the excellent session by Emily Garber on how to pinpoint your Ancestral Origins. A session on writing your own Kehila page was rather disappointing but Steve Morse was great on explaining DNA to the masses of non-biologists. Daniel Horowitz of MyHeritage (and IAJGS webmaster) hosted a lunch for JGS webmasters covering technical matters and also webinars, and then gave a talk on the details of hosting a GotoMeeting Webinar. Both will be useful for the JGSGB.

The evening entertainment was a Jewishgen annual awards ceremony compered by Warren Blatt with demonstrations of future improvements to Jewishgen and JRI-Poland database performance by Michael Tobias. The final session was a really entertaining case study by Ron Arons, who managed to disambiguate the five Isaac Spiers he had researched using a mind mapping technique, to reveal the one Isaac Spiers who was his great-grandfather. It was particularly challenging because 4 of them turned out to be bigamists, including his ggf who spent 4 years in Sing Sing because of it!

Day 4 – Wed 30th July

Two presentations by Avrohom Krauss on Landsmanshaftn records and Jewish Social Services records were simply stunning, even though the first started at 7.30am after a late night on Tuesday. His obvious enthusiasm, expertise and passion for hunting down these less than mainstream records shone through and could shatter many of my brick walls.

A session on Litvak research by Judy Baston was informative, but topped by the fact that I met someone else researching the same Lithuanian town as me (Kavarskas). I had almost convinced myself that I was the only one! We share similar problems of lack of success finding our people due to the non-survival of all but a small percentage of vital records. However we both have found a strange connection between Kavarskas and Riga in Latvia that needs to be explored more.

Ron Arons was back on with his multiple Isaac Spiers conveniently recapping the short section I missed yesterday, but mostly talking about Family Systems Theory and genograms (family trees which display emotional relationships amongst relatives) to predict and explain behaviour such as criminality and divorce.

The evening entertainment was Pamela Weisenberger researching the reinventions of our ancestors, but as she intertwined three separate case studies and spoke incredibly quickly through what must have been 100+ slides with videos, I must confess to getting a bit lost! The final entertainment was open mic night, where the audience were invited to tell their genealogical stories in less than 3 minutes. Quite good fun, but just like karaoke I chose to leave it to the others to embarrass themselves…

Your roving reporter,

Leigh Dworkin

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