Washington Conference Day 5

It is hard to believe that we are now at day 5 of the conference and that all that is left is the Friday morning sessions tomorrow.  We have already started to say goodbye to our old and new friends who are leaving tonight.  The time has flown by and so much has been done in so little time.  We managed to get some photos taken of most of the UK-SIG people together, and we hope to post them and other pictures for people to see somewhere.

Today was a lot less strenuous than the first few days and has been much more relaxed.  My first session today was on Google Earth and using it for genealogy.  Jay Sage gave the talk and showed how Google Earth worked and also how it could be used to improve the presentation of genealogical location information.  Some of the presentation was technical, well most of it was, but not that difficult we shouldn’t all be able to use it to some extent.    The really interesting parts were about being able to overlay old maps onto Google Earth images and then to see how places had changed over time.  This is really useful for finding the true locations of streets that had changed names or had been removed.  It was possible to create and record a journey around the world or a country or a town based on life events.  A person’s birth place, where they lived at different ages, where they married, where they died and where they were buried could be a timeline transformed into a journey.  Images can be associated with different locations, and also text can be added.  The possibilities are enormous with the technology, such as being able to clearly identify cemeteries or being able to work out the exact position where an old photo had been taken.  It was even possible to associate Google Earth images with family tree software.  I really want to have a go at this when we get back.  Maybe, we will even be able to do some things with it on the JGSGB website to add a wow factor!

Our next activity was a meeting with Neville Lamdan of the International Institute fo Jewish Genealogy, who I wrote about earlier in the week.  Jeanette and I had the chance to talk to Neville about the possible involvement of JGSGB and our members in an academic project.  This was the Scottish Jewry project and helping with finding the England-based records needed for it.  Neville will be providing us with the details of the project so that we can decide if we want to get involved.  Jeanette and I think it is a really good project and hope to see JGSGB involved in it.

The next session was on Jewish DNA research and was a very popular session.  When I got there a few minutes after the due starting time there were no seats and I had to sit on the floor.  It was worth it to learn about the use of DNA as a tool to ascertain Jewish lineages.  The first part was about research that had been done into the Cohen lineage.  For those that don’t know, the Kohanim or Cohanim (depending on you spelling preference) are the priestly line descended from Aaron about 3,300 years ago.  The DNA analysis of the Y chromosome of Kohanim published in 1997 showed that there was a definite difference between them and non-Kohanim going back at least 106 generations.  This would take the lineage back between 2,500 and 3,100 years depending on the years per generation.  The difference was seen in both Ashkenazi and Sephardi populations.

The DNA talk also confirmed that the Jews of the Diaspora were descended from middle-eastern populations going back over 2000 years ago.  This was despite there being some non-Jewish DNA entering the lineage through marriage.  Work on the Ashkenazi DNA lineage had shown that around half of the Ashkenazi population in the world were descended from four women who lived about 1000 years ago.  This was a bottleneck in the Jewish population that had lead to a number of genetic diseases coming about.  The talk confirmed some things that I had heard before but also provided new and interesting information.  There had been tests on Ethiopian Jews, which showed that they did not have middle-east lineage, so they had probably adopted Judaism sometime in the past.  The Lemba of southern Africa on the other hand had markers for middle-east descent.

Before I could go to lunch there was another meeting to go to.  This was about a new committee of IAJGS to look at supporting struggling genealogy societies and also to get non-affiliated societies, historical societies and so on to join with IAJGS.  We had a short chance to through around some ideas for supporting societies and also for increasing membership participation.  Tomorrow we will learn if the IAJGS Board will approve the committee.  I really feel that there has to be a support network for fellow societies that means they don’t feel they are on their own.  This will also help us in JGSGB to get ideas for making sure we continue to grow and deliver relevant services to members.  The meeting went on a little longer than expected, so that I arrived at lunch after Jeanette had eaten.  Jeanette’s lunch was also a meeting about planning for the International Jewish Genealogy month in November.

My plans to attend an afternoon session were sidetracked by responding to e-mails, so I spent the rest of the afternoon hanging out with other people.  We had arranged to have the UK people together briefly at 3.30 p.m. for a photo, which we did.

The final thing this afternoon was to help a fellow delegate to find the details of a family in England.  He had some basic details about them up to the late 19th century but needed to find marriages and deaths for them.  So, after a week at a genealogy conference, I finally got to do some.  It felt really great to find the information on FreeBMD (http://freebmd.rootsweb.com/)  and findmypast (www.findmypast.co.uk/) and to be able to show how straightforward it could be.

Tonight, most people will be at the Gala Dinner but we had not booked beforehand so won’t be there.  In the past we have avoided these dinners as we haven’t really known that many people who go to them.  Maybe next time we might just go – especially as it will be French cuisine!

So after a rest we will be off out to eat at a local restaurant.  Then one more morning to go.

Mark N

Chairman JGSGB



Washington Conference Day 4

The main part of the UK and German parts of the conference are now over and we can think seriously about getting some time in at other sessions.  The morning started off with a GerSig breakfast Q&A session run by Jeanette and Roger Lustig.  I didn’t stay long at the breakfast for two reasons, one was that I was helping Laurence Harris set up for his talk on UK records 1870-1930, the other as that I forgot I was going to the breakfast part and had breakfast in the restaurant as usual.  The exhausting schedule from yesterday was obviously taking its toll.  Laurence’s talk was very good and he covered all sorts of civil and Jewish records that could be used to trace many of the people who stayed in the UK or transmigrated.  The talk was held in the Independence Ballroom, a massive room so that the 60+ people who turned up were very thinly-spread out.  Laurence’s talk was very well received and there were many questions about individual research needs.  Laurence had covered record sets ranging from the standard ones of birth, marriages and deaths through to Jewish communal records.

At this point I would like to say thank you to all the people who had helped out with UK-SIG events.  Michael Hoffman, Jeanette Rosenberg, Laurence Harris, Todd Knowles, Michael Tobias and Jackye Sullins

I then went on to the talk about Village Jews in the Pale of Settlement.  It was very useful to learn about the differences between the Jews living in towns and villages and how the records could differ about them.  Neville Lamdan explained that between 25 and 33 per cent of Jews in the Pale were living in villages but had been rarely studied to the degree of town Jews.  This is was because the villagers were not in positions where they left extensive paper trails.  The Jews in villages were more likely to interact with the local landowner than were town Jews.  They would often be tax collectors or run different aspects of the landowners lands such as forests.  Village Jews ran small businesses such as inns, flour mills, blacksmith forges and so on.  Initially, when Jews took surnames after 1804, the villagers would often take the name of their village.  Later on they would change to different names to fit in with town Jews.  Many of the Jews in villages did not appear on early censuses to try and avoid being recorded officially.  There were many reasons for this, such as avoiding conscription and taxes.  However, the village Jews were more proportionally likely to appear in tax records than town Jews.  This was because they were more likely to be working and earning enough to qualify for taxation.  Neville explained that all Jews had to register in the place that they were born and had to return there to pay taxes, no matter where they had moved to in the Pale.  Overall, it was a fascinating insight into the different aspects of Jewish existence in the Pale of Settlement.

My next session was one on Germany again, which meant that I got to meet up with Jeanette again.  The talk was another one by Gerhard Buck, this time about his research into the Jewish families in Nassau in Germany – not Nassau in Bermuda or elsewhere.  Gerhard had started his research mainly due to the poor quality of existing histories of Jews in the area where he lived.   One of the projects he had been involved in was to show how long an old synagogue in the town of Camberg had been owned by Jewish people.  This was very important in the process of ensuring the building was preserved and restored.  The research showed that it had been owned by the same family going back to 1773.  Gerhard was able to use many different documents in other research such as a Schutzjuden register of 1665, which had details of the family of Mayer & Guetel and their children Seligman age 6, Perle age 6 months, Bele 12, Hebe 10 and Hegel age 8.  There were other books such as tax records and civil registers.  Unfortunately, I did not get to hear all of Gerhard’s talk as I must confess that I fell asleep a little, as did Jeanette.  Definitely, a case of yesterday’s schedule catching up.

Lunch was definitely in order now to get the energy to face the rest of the day.  We had been invited to lunch in the posher restaurant in the hotel by Allan Hirsch, a long-standing member of GerSig and now a member of JGSGB once I enter his details into the database.  Allan is an amazing person, as he is now 91 years old and still going strong with his family history research.  We had a really nice chat about our research and life in general.  Allan recounted the time the family got its first radio set – way back in 1927 – long before most of the conference delegates were born.

After lunch, Jeanette and I split up again to go to different events.  I went to the IAJGS Annual Meeting to represent JGSGB and the UK.  This was my first IAJGS Annual Meeting, so I wasn’t sure what to expect.  It was a good meeting, with a lot of humour going on throughout, as well as talking about serious issues.  The election of the IAJGS Officers meant that a position had now become vacant for a Director on the IAJGS Board.  The situation with the 2014 conference was explained, which was that the Israel Jewish Genealogical Society had been unable to submit a confirmed contract for a conference hotel by 14 August.  IAJGS wanted other societies to come forward with bids for holding the conference from 2015 onwards.  Various issues around the hosting of conferences were discussed and there were many things that had to be considered by anyone taking on a conference.  There were suggestions that an Eastern European conference might be held in somewhere like Warsaw, which would be very different.  There were concerns about the cost to delegates of attending conferences and ideas were sought for ways of reducing he cost.

Alisa Fishbein a younger member of a JGS put forward a proposal for involving younger people in genealogy and in JGSes.  This included setting up a youth division of IAJGS and inviting young people to training sessions in places such as archives but this would be based in the USA.  So there would be issues for how the UK and other countries could take part.

The winning design for the International Jewish Month poster was announced.  The winning design came from a member of the Long Island Jewish Genealogical Society.  The task now is to promote Jewish Genealogy month in November this year.

The final important issue discussed was the way that budget cuts and legislative changes were affecting access to records.  There were many bills being passed in the USA to restrict access to vital records because of fear over identity theft.  JGSes were encouraged to oppose restrictions, as identity theft did not tend to come out of vital records access.  I spoke about the problems with access being restricted to archives in the UK through budget cuts and that JGSGB would be doing its best to try to ensure there was sufficient access to records.

So, that was the end of business for the day and we have now spent the evening sitting around with friends and having dinner.  It has been a quieter end to the day in terms of activities but not necessarily in terms of laughter.  Tomorrow will be the last full day of the conference and I hope that we will get to go out in the evening with as many of our friends as possible.

Washington Conference Day 3 part 2

I should now explain that I am writing this part of the blog at 11.50 p.m., as we moved from the discussion on involving younger people to a social event being run by JewishGen. More on this later.  Please read the previous post first, as this post will not make that much sense (do any of them I wonder).

So, the UK-SIG meeting continued with information about the revamped JGSGB website and the various new and updated sections on it. Again, I showed two new databases in the members area on the website. These were the Colney Hatch Asylum Records and the The Royal London Hospital (Endowments) databases. The first database is a transcription of the records from an asylum that many Jewish people were sent to due to mental health problems. The records show the name, age and location the patient lived at and also the basic details of the illness. This database will be put on JCR-UK in a few month’s time for public use, as will the Royal London Hospital records.  The full details of any patient’s record will only be available on application to JGSGB, as the information in them can be very distressing.  The other database showed a different side of Jewish communal life, with details of the people who provided financial and active support for a hospital.

The rest of the UK-SIG meeting involved a run through of the many different sorts of records and websites available to do research in the UK.  The website addresses will be sent to people who asked for them, along with any that Laurence Harris will mention in his talk tomorrow morning (now actually this morning).  I think that the audience got some useful information to take away from the SIG meeting, and I hope that some will join JGSGB having seen what we do.

So a very busy morning was over but much more had yet to happen.  First, Jeanette and I went to lunch in the Grand Slam bar in the hotel.  This is a sports bar with a burger and bar food menu.  The quality of the food is quite good and the service is excellent.  We have now eaten there three or so times.  The Manager of the bar is called Eric and is a nice guy.  Today, Eric paid for our lunch, which was really unexpected and very welcomed.  After lunch we went back down to the conference area to get ready for the afternoon’s events.  However, I felt really tired at this point and decided to go back to the room for an hour’s sleep.  This was a good move given the rest of the day that was to follow.

The reason for only having an hour’s sleep was that at 3.45 p.m. it was Jeanette’s really big moment at the conference.  Jeanette was to deliver her first full presentation on German Jewish genealogy at an IAJGS conference.  The topic was about what was changing in German archives and how the changes impacted on genealogy.  I cannot really go into detail about the presentation as it involved a lot of German words and many of them far too long for a inclusion in a blog, even as long as this one.  The room was packed, with some people having to stand up throughout.  Lots of the people there knew Jeanette well, others were experts in their own right.  The whole thing must have been very daunting for Jeanette, given the audience but she did not show it and delivered probably the best talk that I have ever seen her do.  The subject was technical and complicated but she pulled it off brilliantly.  So far everyone I have spoken to has been impressed by what Jeanette did.

No sooner had Jeanette delivered her talk than we were off to do the next thing.  This was a reception for the donors to the GerSig speaker fund.  We had to go and get the food and drink from our room where it was being stored, take it to a suite on the first floor and set up ready to receive the guests who had contributed to bringing Gerhard Buck to the USA.  I was the barman and photographer for this event.  Now I had a chance to relax and have a drink as well – very much needed to keep going.  Jeanette also had a chance to simply socialise with her fellow GerSiggers, including her GerSig “sister” Nancy Adelson, with whom she had been working for months on preparing the SIG’s events at the conference.  So then we finished the reception and cleared up before moving back to the conference floors for the JewishGen presentation – see part 1 of today’s blog.  Sorry if it is confusing time wise – just think how confused we are.

So, now more on the JewishGen social event.  This was a chance for those that contribute to the JewishGen website in many ways to meet and to talk about genealogy issues and also to get to know each other that little bit better.  I was able to talk with some of the JewishGen and IAJGS key people about issues that affect JGSGB and also to find out more about them personally.  So now another 50 minutes has elapsed and it approaching 12.45 a.m. so I have to go to bed.  After all there is yet another early start this morning – a GerSig breakfast and Q&A session – luckily, I can sit back a bit during the Q&A, Jeanette on the other hand has to answer all those questions…….

Here’s to this morning.

And they say that this is just a hobby!

Mark N

Chairman JGSGB

Washington Conference Day 3 part 1

Today I am writing the blog during an evening session on the generational issues in genealogy, which started at 8.00 p.m.  Young genealogists are talking about how they have got involved in family history research ad also suggesting ways in which younger people can be involved.  These include getting children or young adults to help with the technology side of doing research or setting up a Facebook page to draw in the younger generation.

The session before was all about JewishGen developments, which included news about additions to the JewishGen records and also about changes to databases – www.jewishgen.org.  The biggest news was that Shtetllinks was being renamed to KehilaLinks.  Kehila is Hebrew for community and the decision was taken to use this rather than shtetl because shtetl had mainly Eastern European connotations, but the dataset included communities in places like the USA, UK, Germany and so on.  The JewishGen education offering was increasing, including a course on navigating the JewishGen website.  Screencast videos about JewishGen were also now available.  The JewishGen databases now included 20 million records.  The JewishGen Family Finder (JGFF) has 90,000 researchers looking at 119,000 different family names.  We were told that JewishGen was doing more to unify the spelling of place names, including changing Vashincktin DeSea to Washington DC.

The JewishGen ShtetlLinks database was being renamed the JewishGen Gazetter, for the same reasons the Shtetlseeker was being renamed.  The number of countries covered would be moving from 45 to 54 and encompass over 1 million places.  The JewishGen resource mapping facility for each community with Jewish people in it had also been improved.  There were many other facts and information provided in the presentation which I haven’t the space to include here.  I will make a more detailed report separately to JGSGB Members.

I have started with the end of the day, rather than the beginning because it has been the longest, busiest and most exhausting day so far.  We started at 7.30 a.m. preparing for the UK-SIG Q&A session that started at 8.00 a.m.  This was a chance for people to ask our UK experts direct questions about their research problems.  We had seven experts who helped about thirty people with resolving problems.  We also had the chance to promote JGSGB publications and events.

Immediately after the Q&A we had to get the room ready for the GerSig meeting that Jeanette was chairing and I was taking the note of.  The GerSig meeting had a very large audience and they heard about many developments in the world of German Jewish genealogy, including the launch of the Name Adoption database, which records the details from name adoption lists where Jews in Germany were required to take last names instead of patronymic names.  There were also other research projects discussed and volunteers were signed up for transcribing and organising the projects.  Taking the note reminded me of my previous occupation as Head of Secretariat taking notes of board meetings – I thought I had left all that behind.

Once the GerSig meeting finished there had to be yet another quick changeover in the meeting room to get ready for the UK-SIG meeting.  Thank you to the conference organisers for putting all the meetings in the same room!  The UK-SIG meeting had fewer attendees than the GerSig meeting but that reflects the different nature of migration from Europe to the USA and the UK.  Few people in the USA, Canada and many other countries have family in the UK and if they did they may have only stopped off here for a few years.  Even so we had a reasonable audience for my presentation on the JCR-UK and JGSGB websites and new developments.  I explained that there were a few new databases on JCR-UK, including the Gorbals Public School database and the Wolverhampton community records.  The Gorbals Public School database is based on the pupil admissions to the school between 1885 and 1905 and has details of most of the Jewish pupils in that period.  The details of the pupils included their names, dates of birth, parent or guardian, address, date of entry to the school, their last school and date of leaving plus the reason for leaving.  I showed how the information could be used to fill in information about migration, birth in another country, reconstruct families and so on.  There are many of these registers in archives around the UK and some others are on-line such as one from Hull on the JCR-UK website.

More in the next posting……

Mark N

Chairman JGSGB


Washington Conference Day 2

The conference is now well and truly underway with the back to back sessions on almost any genealogical topic you can think of.  The start of the day for me was a session on the US National Archives, their record holdings and how to use the archives.  The US National Archives contains federal records and the collections date back to around 1780.  The archives are very similar to the UK National Archives at Kew in the way that records are organised, however, the system for accessing records does differ from Kew, with less on-line material and no on-line ordering system.  The history of the archives was fascinating, as they were only set up in the early 1930s and had to acquire records from all over the federal government.  This meant going to places like the White House garage to retrieve files that were on shelves in the walls of the ramps between garage levels.  There are around 9 billion records held by the US National Archives – a lot of research there I think!

The next session was on reading old German script, which is very important to Jeanette’s research when we go to Germany to look at records.  The speaker was Gerhard Buck, who had been brought over from Germany by GerSig, explained how the old script had developed into a different form from the rest of Europe.  His explanations of how to read individual letters were really useful, as so many of the letters look the same.  The talk was packed out, with people having to find seats from other rooms to join the meeting.  The 19th century script was actually easier to read than that of the earlier centuries, which is better for looking at vital records but from experience still very difficult to read.

The German theme continued with the GerSig luncheon.  This is a regular event at all the International Conferences and involves, obviously, a meal plus a talk from someone.  The talk this time was given by Henry Morgenthau III.  Henry is the son and grandson of two other Henry Morgenthaus, which in Jewish Ashkenazi naming terms is very unusual.  His father and grandfather both played important roles in the US government and diplomatic services.  There were stories about the links with Franklyn D Roosevelt, Eleanor Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson.  It was a very fascinating talk and was well received by the audience.  The only downside was that the meal was a buffet rather than a set meal as in previous years.

My next session was on Polish Court Records.  This was a very educational session, as it pointed to another really useful source of information for genealogy research.  The speaker, Ania Wiernicka from the Warsaw archives, showed how detailed personal data was included in the records, such as names, dates and places of birth, parents, education level, physical characteristics, as well as the details of each court case.  Records were about crimes but also about employment claims and reconstruction of birth, marriage and death records following World War II.  Ania explained that the types of records from different parts of Poland were affected by what administration was in power at the time.  Some records, such as those from Bialystok, were poor due to having been taken away by the Russians and when they were returned in the 1960s most were missing.  The records that do exist for other places, which are many, are not indexed by name but by place.  They seem to be a really good place to look.  The website http://www.archiwa.gov.pl/en/state-archives.html is available in English but the record types are in Polish, so you need to be able to read some Polish to understand what you are looking for.

Talking about Poland, there was news from the JRI-Poland What’s New session that an agreement was expected to be signed within a month or so that people will be able to order birth, marriage and death certificates on-line, with payment by credit card.  There will also be access to further records for indexing through the agreement.

I didn’t get to go to my next planned session, as I got involved with trying to help a delegate with finding the records for her grandmother, who had lived in London from the age of 7 to 17 before going to Montreal to get married in 1903.  We explored the various ways of trying to find the grandmother on the Internet, including immigration records.  Although we could not find the records we wanted, the delegate said that she would join JGSGB there and then.  So, a great success for us and I hope for her.

The final session we attended on Monday was an update on the work being done by the International Institute for Jewish Genealogy based in Israel.  The IIJG has been pressing for Jewish genealogy to become an academic degree-level course but as yet no university has been able to set up such a course.  IIJG has now set out guidelines for the running of BA and MA courses.  The Institute has funded several research projects, which are helping to develop the academic level of research.  There is going to be a project which will aim to record and document the Jewish population of Scotland over the last 200 years, tracing the development of the Jewish population over that time to see how families inter-link and have changed.  Hopefully, JGSGB members will be able to assist with their fruits of their own research to help the project build up the data.

After a long day, we finally got to go and have dinner in the hotel.  As usual, we had an eclectic mix of people joining us, including an American and an Australian.  Tiredness, finally overtook us and we retired to our room.  Jeanette fell asleep fairly quickly and I started writing this latest installment of the blog.

Tomorrow is the really big day for the UK-SIG.  We have our Q&A session at 8.00 a.m. and then our main UK-SIG meeting at 11.00 a.m.  I hope we get a lot of people turning up and that we make a good impression.

Now for my beauty sleep before a stressful day.


Mark N

Chairman JGSGB


Washington Conference Day 1

So here I am almost at the end of the first day of the 31st IAJGS Conference activity.  It is 9.30 p.m. in Washington and we have been busy since early afternoon with genealogy activities.  The SIG/BoF Fair was a great success, Michael Hoffman and I dealt with a lot of enquiries about UK genealogy and managed to explain many of the available resources to beginners and the more experienced enquirers.  We told people about the JGSGB and JCR-UK websites, census records, birth, marriage and death records, the Poor Jews Temporary Shelter, and lots of other useful resources.  There were several enquiries about records in Scotland and we were able to give people details of the Scottish Jewish Archives Centre in Glasgow – http://www.sjac.org.uk/.  So there may be a few enquiries directed towards them in the coming weeks.  There was a great deal of interest in our publications and in the UK-SIG sessions on Tuesday.  Hopefully, we will have a good turnout for the meetings.

Following the SIG/BoF Fair, I went to the IAJGS Presidents’ Reception to meet other leaders of the various Jewish Genealogical Societies present at the conference.  It was a chance to talk to each other about family history as much as about JGS business.  In talking to the IAJGS Treasurer, I found that he was related to the wife of my wife’s cousin in Toronto, Canada.  These are the sorts of things that happen almost all the time at IAJGS conferences; seemingly unrelated people find that they have relatives or even in-laws in common.

The Presidents’ Reception was followed by the Keynote Address in the Independence room.  This year’s address was on the subject of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.  This was a very moving address by Sara J Bloomfield, Director of the museum.  She explained about the ethos of the museum and the work that it was doing to encourage the memory of the Holocaust.  The talk also included details of the World Memory Project, which is about bringing millions of records about the Holocaust on-line, and Sara reported that the first set of records were now on-line.  The project is a collaborative project with Ancestry.com and is being undertaken by volunteers worldwide – see http://www.worldmemoryproject.org/.  The talk received a standing ovation.

There was also an important announcement made by the IAJGS Chairman, Michael Goldstein, about the 2014 conference.  The planned conference in Jerusalem had been withdrawn due to issues and was being replaced with a conference in Salt Lake City, Utah.  More on this, I hope, during the week.

On the social side of the conference, things are beginning to happen, as more of the other delegates that we know arrive.  Because of Jeanette’s involvement in the GerSig (German SIG at JewishGen), this involves hanging around with a lot of people from that group.  I have got to know a lot of them over the years and have enjoyed their company enormously.  There is always a lot of laughter, politicking (if that is the right word) and discussion.  Many decisions are reached in the process, which is often the way things happen in running organisations.  This time though we have one or two UK-SIG people joining in, so it will be very interesting to see how UK-SIG and GerSig relations develop during the week.

Tomorrow will be the first full day of the education sessions, which means splitting up and getting in to as many talks as possible.  Lots to learn and take back with us to the UK to help other people.

Now back to the fun with the other delegates.

Good night.

Mark N

Chairman JGSGB


What the JGSGB is all about

The Jewish Genealogical Society of Great Britain (JGSGB) promotes and encourages the study of Jewish genealogy. We assist all those tracing the family history of their Jewish ancestors. We encourage Jewish genealogical education and research and promote the indexing, transcription and preservation of old records.
We are a non profit making, non-denominational charity, and our members include both beginners and experienced genealogists.
The membership subscription allows the Society to purchase books and periodicals for its library, subscribe to Ancestry for research on the computers in the library, maintain the website and purchase IT equipment and other resources necessary to help in family history research. It also entitles its members to

  • attend members’ MEETINGS on a wide variety of family history topics, plus local “Regional Group” meetings and Special Interest Group Meetings (for example Eastern Europe, Anglo-Jewish, Sephardi etc.)
  • use the LIBRARY & RESOURCE CENTRE with more that 1,000 books and periodicals, computers, Data CDs and access to major genealogical online databases, family tree collections and a unique collection of Yizkor (community remembrance books)
  • SHEMOT – our journal published 3/4 times per year
  • Priority places at our LONDON and MANCHESTER CONFERENCES and on our training courses
  • Members Corner with access to unique genealogical databases (available only to members
  • Participation in our online discussion group

Tony Benson – Blog Editor

Washington Minus 1 day

The conference is nearly on us.  Registration begins tonight at 9.00 p.m. and we will then get our conference bags, badges and documents.  Registration will be very busy to start with, as so many people will get there early to start the queue.  Once we have our conference material it will definitely feel as if the event has finally started.  During the day we have been keeping busy with preparation work.  The flyers for the UK-SIG and JGSGB Guides arrived and we now have all of the Guides, Shemots and Newsletters in our room ready to take to the SIG/BoF Fair tomorrow afternoon.  The SIG/BoF Fair is a chance for each of the JewishGen Special Interest Groups and the Birds of a Feather Groups to show off what they have to offer conference delegates.  This will entail showing people our publications and also telling them about the UK-SIG events on Tuesday and also about the talk being given by Laurence Harris on Wednesday about UK Records 1870-1930.  There will be questions asked about UK genealogy, which we will do our best to answer on the spot but if we can’t we will ask people to come to the Tuesday Q&A session, where more experts will be on hand to help out.  To find out more about JewishGen SIGs go to http://www.jewishgen.org/JewishGen/sigs.htm there you will find the list and details of all the SIGs.

During the afternoon, Jeanette, Michael Hoffman (JGSGB Newsletter Editor) and I, sat on the pre-registration desk as helpers.  We were also joined by other delegates who we knew.  The pre-registration is to provide badges to vendors who were coming in to set up stalls and also for people booked in for the end of Shabbat dinner.  The badges allowed people to get past the security and go down to the main conference area.  If you had no badge then no going down, security is strict at the event.  Being at the desk also allowed us to talk to delegates who were getting the feel for the layout as we had done on Thursday.  Between us all, we even helped one lady who was just on holiday and going back to New York tomorrow!  Now that is genealogical service.

So, tomorrow everything starts in earnest.  It will be Conference Day 1.  The programme for tomorrow means that the blog will have to be written on the hoof as we move from event to event.  There will be the SIG/BoF Fair, the IAJGS Presidents reception, the keynote speech and the dessert buffet afterwards.  The lots of chatting to colleagues.  So a good night’s sleep is needed to be able to cope with it all.

Now off to get our evening meal before joining the registration queue.

Mark N

Chairman JGSGB

Washington Minus 2 days

We have had a chance to explore the hotel and the conference space a little now and it still looks as if it is going to be a good place for the conference.  There are two main floors of conference rooms and lots of rooms on each floor.  The mingling space looks reasonable but we understand that 1200 people have booked to come to the conference, which means it could be a tight squeeze at times.  We had a good breakfast in the hotel before venturing out to the printers to get our publicity material ordered.  These are flyers to advertise the JGSGB “Jewish Ancestors?” Guides and also to advertise JGSGB and JCR-UK.  For those of you that are not familiar with it, JCR-UK is the website – http://www.jgsgb.org.uk/jcr-uk - where we place most of our publicly available Jewish records for the UK.  These include thousands of burial, marriage, school, census and other records for different places around the UK.  We have also been collecting data about each Jewish Community that has existed in the UK.  The flyers are being delivered to our hotel and we will be using them at the SIG/BoF Fair and during the week.  The printer was based in an old shopping mall in Georgetown.  The manager, Jean, told us that he had lived in the UK before coming to the US, 3 years in Cardiff and about a year in London in the Elephant and Castle area.  Not a hint of a Welsh or London accent though.  The shopping mall was not very full of people and there were signs that a lot of the businesses there were struggling, with many not open or closing down.  Possibly a sign of the economic times.  We have had lunch and an afternoon rest in preparation for hopefully meeting up with the first wave of conference delegates booking in.

Mark N

Chairman JGSGB

Washington Minus 3 days

Well here we are in Washington DC at the hotel and getting settled in.  The trip was very uneventful, we got to Heathrow in good time, checked in, boarded in good order and had a really smooth and comfortable flight.  Travelling BA Traveller Plus meant that we had a bit more space and more comfortable seats (thanks to air miles and our savings), which meant we have arrived here without feeling shattered.  The in-flight entertainment also meant that the flight seemed not to take that long.  A comedy film, music, and TV shows plus a bit of sleep.  The hotel is extremely nice and friendly.  The conference organisers have certainly found a terrific hotel for the event, it is really central in Washington and Jeanette is really happy that it has a Starbucks inside to feed her cappuccino addiction.  We haven’t yet had the chance to explore the hotel but will do so tonight.  Tomorrow morning we will need to go and find the print-shop to get the flyers and notices done ready for Sunday.  Hopefully, jet-lag won’t catch up with us.

More tomorrow.

Mark N

Chairman JGSGB

Washington Minus 4 days

Well today has been extremely busy with final preparations before travelling to Washington tomorrow morning.  Last minute household tasks, paperwork for JGSGB to complete, sorting out the packing, picking vegetables from the garden before they grow into enormous mutant things.  The packing ended up being ok, thanks to British Airways baggage allowance of two bags each, otherwise some of the clothes really would have had to stay here.

The final job is to check through all the papers needed for the conference and get them into the hand luggage.  There has also been a lot of sorting out of the electronic files to make sure we can access them in Washington.  These will be very important to promoting JGSGB and the UK-SIG.  Hopefully, when we get to the hotel we will be able to access files.

The hotel we will be staying at is where the conference is being held, so we won’t have problems with getting to the early sessions.  Some start as early as 7.30 a.m. with preparations in advance of meetings we will be involved starting even earlier.  There are sessions throughout the day up until 10 p.m.  As I have said earlier the variety of topics is amazing.  The programme for the conference can be seen at the following we address: http://dc2011.org/images/stories/programjuly30.pdf.

The next posting from me will, hopefully, be from the conference hotel tomorrow afternoon Washington time.

Mark N

Chairman JGSGB


Blogs – Comments – Discussions

For those of you who haven’t used blogs before, the use of “comments” is meant as a facility for the reader to leave a comment on the blog they are reading.

It is not meant to be used as a place to discuss the reader’s family searches or as a discussion between readers.

For JGSGB members the best place for help on your family history searches is through JGSGB Discuss. You can join this by writing to moderator@jgsgb.org.uk.

Full information on how to use JGSGB Discuss can be found on the Society’s website under Resources.

Tony Benson – Editor



Washington Minus 5 days

You may wonder what happended to Washington minus 6 days.  Well it involved some finalising of papers and the presentation for the UK-SIG meeting but mainly it was a day of general JGSGB activities.  JGSGB’s internal matters keep me very busy most of the time and the last few days have been busier than usual.  It has helped keep my mind off worrying about the conference too much, which is a good thing but meant that I didn’t get round to adding to the Blog.

Today continued very much the same as yesterday with JGSGB business dominating things.  So once again not much got done on the Conference front.  Tonight, there were some errands to run, getting copies of the JGSGB UK Guide to another member who is going to the conference and then off to the JGSGB Secretary’s home to get a form signed.  There were, of course, all of the household and garden chores to get through in preparation for going to Washington.

All of the papers and electronic files are being pulled together by Jeanette and me ready to put into our luggage.  The pile of material and its weight means that we will probably be wearing the same clothes the whole week.  Time to check the baggage allowances I think!  One of the things we will be doing to help our luggage situation will be to get flyers and other material printed in Washington DC.  IAJGS have recommended a local printer who will provide a cheap service.  Once we have everything ready in Washington, we will be taking part in the SIG/BOF Fair on the Sunday before the conference.  For those that don’t know yet SIG stands for Special Interest Group and BOF for Birds of a Feather.  This will be an opportunity to promote the UK-SIG and JGSGB and show people what we have to offer.  More on the SIG/BOF Fair nearer the time.

Mark N

Chairman JGSGB


Washington Minus 7 days

Well, we are one day nearer to the start of the IAJGS Washington conference and things are moving forward steadily.  The presentation for the UK-SIG meeting has been almost completed and has reminded me of the many useful resources that are available on the JGSGB and JCR-UK websites.  I suppose we are also blessed in the UK with many centralised records and a lot of on-line records but we also have lots of fragmented records, which can often only be researched in person.  JGSGB wants to see these records preserved above all and also, if possible, made available on-line to people who would benefit from them.

Tomorrow will bring the start of the panic about ensuring we have everything we need to go to Washington with.  The papers, the timetable – so very important to anyone attending a conference – the knowledge of who will be there and when we can see them, when will we get to eat given all the things we have to go to.  The timetable already means that Jeanette and I will have to split off most of the time to cover the very varied selection of events and presentations.  The subjects of the talks are all enticing and there are massive problems with choosing which ones to attend, given so many interesting subjects.  I hope that we will choose wisely.

As this is my first international conference as JGSGB Chairman, this will be a very different experience from the last two conferences I attended.  At those I was an ordinary delegate, now I will be representing UK Jewish genealogy at very important meetings.  I hope not to let the UK down.  I want to promote what is good about JGSGB and the UK at every opportunity at the conference.

From my experience of these conferences, I would always say be there and learn so much more than you can anywhere else and alo meet so many terrific people.

So now for tomorrow and the next steps towards Washington.

Mark N

Chairman JGSGB

Washington Minus 8 Days

Well for my first post on the new JGSGB Blog – Jewish Ancestors? – I am starting a countdown
to attending the 31st IAJGS Conference in Washington DC.  For those of you who don’t know,
the International Association of Jewish Genealogy Societies runs a major genealogy conference
every year.  The conferences are mainly held in the USA but have also been held in countries
such as Canada, Israel and the UK (last time in 2001) and next year in France (Paris).
These conferences are really exciting to be at, as you can discover so much about Jewish genealogy
in one spot and also meet and make friends with hundreds of other genealogists.  I have been to
two other conferences in the States and they taught me an awful lot, including take a jumper with
you as the hotel air-conditioning can be fiercely cold!

Jeanette Rosenberg, who is my wife, and I have been preparing for the conference for several months
and we are only just over a week away from the conference official start date.  There are now
all the last minute things to do, including preparing a presentation for the UK Special Interest
Group meeting on Tuesday 16 August.  We also have to get together all the material we are taking
with us, such as copies of JGSGB Guides, Shemot, Newsletters, flyers for events and lots of other
stuff.  Maybe we might even be able to get some clothes in our suitcases as well!  There will be
other JGSGB Members attending the conference and they will also be taking material to the conference.

We will have a special UK-SIG logo on sticky labels to help people identify fellow UK researchers.
These have been prepared and will travel with us.

So, now to get on with the final preparations.

Mark Nicholls
Chairman JGSGB

A New Dawn

Welcome to this the first blog of the Jewish Genealogical Society of
Great Britain.

We hope that you will enjoy it’s content and that you will will contiue to read future

As the blog title suggests, it’s all about your Jewish Ancestors from the UK and
how to trace them.

Many people  living in Australia, Canada, New Zealand, South Africa, USA as
well as many other parts of the World have Jewish Ancestors who originated in Great Britain.

The Society is in a unique position to point people, trying to trace Jewish Ancestors
from Great Britain, to the relevant records, many of which are available on the Society’s website.

Over the coming months we will highlight resources available and how to access them.

Tony Benson – Editor