Meet Janette Silverman

JanetteDr. Janette Silverman, has been active in genealogical research for over three decades.  She began her genealogical journey by researching her own family.  She began searching for her family’s roots with absolute certainty that there would be no way to find any data on her family prior to their arrival in the United States. She quickly learned that when it comes to genealogical research preconceived assumptions or received family lore are often wrong, an approach which has become the polestar of her historically approach to genealogy.  Not only did she find her family roots in Europe, she actually located  and traced documentary proof of the families of her four grandparents in Eastern Europe.

Janette’s doctoral dissertation focused on genealogy and was entitled “In Living Memory.  Professionally, Janette is a Senior Genealogist and Research Team Manager at AncestryProGenealogists® the division of Ancestry.com that does private client research. Her research specialties include Eastern European, Jewish and holocaust era research.  She has travelled extensively in Eastern Europe, doing research in archives onsite in Poland, Lithuania, Ukraine, Romania and Moldova, and taken clients on personalized tours of their ancestral towns.

She has been an active volunteer in the genealogical research community, serving as President of the Phoenix Jewish Genealogy Society, a volunteer for JewishGen as the Ukraine Special Interest Group (SIG) Coordinator, and moderator for the JewishGen Discussion Group, worked on transcription projects for  the Long Island, New York Italian Genealogy Group (IGG), and  served on the Board of the International Association of Jewish Genealogy Societies (IAJGS). In 2016 Janette was Lead Chair of the IAJGS conference in Seattle Washington, and in 2017 was named  JewishGen Volunteer of the year.

Janette teaches beginner and intermediate level genealogy classes and speaks to groups worldwide. During the current pandemic, rather than speaking in person, she has been part of many virtual conferences. Her presentations include Myths and Mysteries of Immigration; Research and Travel in Ukraine; What’s Jewish about Jewish Genealogy; In Search of the French Connection; A Rose by any other Name: Call Me What?; The Blumenthals of the Upper Lower Peninsula; Making History Relevant and Personal; The History of the Nashville Jewish Community; It Started With a Box; Challenges of Jewish Genealogy: Names, Dates, Places; Written in Stone: When Gravestones Lie; Who Were They: A Case Study of Holocaust Survivors; Ancestry.com for Beginners;  Ancestry.com: Beyond the Basics; and more.

Janette views the researching of family history as akin to writing a book.  She does not limit her research to the  immediate nuclear family since therelativatreey constitute but one chapter of a much larger saga.  Researching extended family, and frequently finding connections in surprising places, often brings to light fascinating stories as part of elaborating the larger tale.  For example, imagine her delight when she discovered that a woman on her own family tree was related to both her brother-in-law’s and her mother’s families through marriage, thereby tying two sides of the family together!

In researching her own family and in doing work for her clients, she has examined historical records from many places including Romania, Ukraine, Moldova, Belarus, England, Canada, Germany, Italy, Holland, Belgium, Israel, France, and the United States. The historical records she and her team work with are in English, Hebrew, Yiddish, Ukrainian, Russian, Polish, French and German. Members of her research team read documents in almost every conceivable language used all over Europe.

The central lesson that Janette  learned from her long experience in genealogy is that  families are integrally linked to the history of the places from which they came and vice-versa.  As our families take on major roles as historical players in the records that illuminate their personal stories, it becomes harder to view history strictly as a third party observer.  Genealogical research places our family in the context of the world and times in which they lived.

Her current personal research project focuses on displaced persons traveling from Hamburg, Germany to Boston, Massachusetts on the March 3, 1949 sailing of the SS Marine Jumper. She is looking to connect with people who traveled on that particular sailing or whose parents or grandparents were on that sailing.