Missing Records, Missing Connections

As a genealogist, I recognize the importance of going back to databases I’ve previously reviewed. If the database is digital, online, there’s always the possibility that there will be additions made to it, or that transcriptions have been updated and corrected. It’s always possible that a name or place was transcribed incorrectly and thus indexed wrong, and thus not findable, and thus and thus….use your imagination to figure out all the things that can go wrong.  Digital databases are not the only ones that can change. Sometimes we notice that the indexed cards in an archive seem to be missing parts of the alphabet or that groups of names are simply not in the index.  We look through books of records and find the ones from 1858-1861, but 1862-1863 are just not there.

If we return to those same archives 6 months or a year later, perhaps the missing books or cards will have returned to their proper place. Perhaps they were misfiled or were packed away somewhere or being held at a different archive and were returned to their proper place.  Research is full of surprises and hidden places.  DSC01435.JPGDSC01536.JPG

Without paging through all of the papers gathered together in one of these “books” you wouldn’t be able to tell if a page is out of order or even missing.

It’s not only revisiting repositories onsite or digitally that often provide new answers to old questions.  In 2009 I visited Ukraine for the first time, and started a blog, https://unknowntravels.wordpress.com/   to document the trip and its planning.  This week, I received an email from a cousin I had never met, who, in an idle moment of web-surfing, decided to google the name of one of her grandparents, and found me! What an absolute delight.

The takeaway? If you keep at it long enough, even the seemingly unsolvable might be resolved.

Posted in Eastern European Travel, Genealogy, Jewish Genealogy, piecing the puzzle together, research tips

Looking Ahead, Reviewing the Past

Purim Clip Art FreeIn just a few days, it will be Purim. Every year, I order a box of hamentaschen to share with my colleagues in my office, and think about all the years I made dozens and dozens of them with all sorts of filling. The recipe I used was the one I grew up with – the one my mother always made.  It’s made of the thinnest possible dough, and she always used a glass to cut out the circles before they were filled with lekvar (prune butter).  I added other flavors to the ones I made, and my favorites became those with chocolate chips.

The noise makers I used for Purim, were not the typical groggers (noise makers), but remnants, I think, from some long ago new years eve – they look like small metal cans with wooden sticks and make a lot of noise.  There was also a copper cow bell.  They are all on a shelf somewhere.  For this Purim, I bought something special. I won’t be using it – I left it with my dad to use at his Orthodox synagogue which is possibly a closer service to the service at which it was last used, over 70 years ago.

If you are a reader of this blog, you may recollect that last summer, my team and I had an incredible adventure, driving through Eastern Europe. On August 15 we were in Augustów, Poland where at a flea market on the site of what used to be the central market place, I saw cases of items that once, before the Shoah, belonged to a Jewish family. I bought one of the items in the case, and I felt like I was redeeming it from its captors.  It was, as you’ve probably guessed, a grogger. My intent was for it to be used in the proper context once again. So, I asked my dad to please use it for this Purim, and then next year, I will use it at my own synagogue, which is less traditional.DSC01986.JPG

This spring, I’ll be going back to Poland, in two trips, and thinking about that day in the market in Augustów, and keeping my eyes open for other remnants of the community that was, and perhaps bringing back something else that can once again be used in its proper place, at the proper time.

If you observe Purim, I wish you a joy-filled holiday and a celebration of life and freedom.

חג פורים שמח  / א פרייליכן פורים

Posted in Eastern European Travel, Jewish Genealogy

25 October – Research and Tears

DISCLOSURE: I am trying to update this blog a day or couple of  days at a time but am often doing it several days after the fact due to internet connections

On Thursday, 25 October, we had planned for a very full day that I was hoping would not be too full. We started the day at the amazing Central Zionist Archives in Jerusalem. Actually, that’s backwards, since we are still in Tel Aviv until tomorrow, Friday morning. We drove from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and I was very excited not only to be going to the CZA but also since neither Lindsay not Brian had been to Jerusalem before, I was happy to be with them. It’s a city I first visited as a teenager, and although I’d love to speak  about that trip, it will have to wait for another day and time. I know I have to talk about what happened earlier today.181025 Outside the CZA.jpeg

As many times as I’ve visited Israel, somehow, I’ve never gone to the CZA.  The archivist was very gracious and spent considerable time with us describing the holdings and the history of the archives. Because so many of my clients have ancestors that lived in Israel either after Statehood, during the Mandate period or even during the Ottoman period, these archives are very important to our research. Although I have never been to the CZA before, I have used many of their resources that are available digitally, and relied on the indexing of many of their resources that’s been done by IGRA – the Israel Genealogy Research Association.

101825 CZA Jerusalem

Jerusalem, unlike the eclectic appearance of Tel Aviv, is all one color. That doesn’t make it blank. It is soothing, inspiring, and tugs at my heart. The CZA with its wide scope of material dedicated to the state from almost a century before it’s creation until the present was the perfect beginning to the day. Like the archives in Europe that Lindsay and I had explored in August, the treasures to be found here are beyond valuable. I have no trouble speaking of this part of the day or the ending, it’s the middle that is an issue.

Our next stop was a place that rips at the heart.  Mount Herzl. Mt. Herzl is also known as Har ha-Zikaron (mountain of remembrance). It is the site of the National Cemetery.  Five mornings each week (Sunday through Thursday) at 11 AM there is a memorial service for those soldiers who fell on that date. Herzl is buried at the pinnacle of the mountain, Golda Me’ir and other luminaries are also buried at Mt. Herzl.  The tens of thousands of people, mostly young, buried in these graves, when considered against the total population 1s Israel is shocking. Walking these grounds brings a sense of holiness and the layout of the graves, neatly marked with the name of the deceased, the place of birth, parents’ names, place of death and age at death, at least means that anyone visiting and reading with have at least momentarily remembered that soldier.

181025 Memorial Service Mount Herzl

The bricks on the walls behind us during the ceremony have the name of the soldier who died, the date and year. This was the hall in which the ceremony was held.  From there, we went with Dorit and Steven, members of a volunteer organization called “Faces of the Fallen” into the cemetery.

181025 Mount Herzl with Steven and Dorit from Fallen Soldiers

They described the cemetery and its layout and  told us of the important work in which they are engaged.  Many soldiers fell about whom little or nothing is known.  More can be read about the organization at https://www.yadvashem.org/blog/faces-of-the-fallen.html

There are several mass graves in which the bodies of those who fell are buried individually.  Their names are known, but what is not known is which name belongs to which of the dead.

181025 Mt Herzl mass grave

As genealogists, we work tirelessly to identify and connect people whose names have faded from memory. Identifying them and finding details of their lives restores them to memory. Most of the people for whom we search died long ago. Some of these soldiers died relatively recently, and yet they have not been connected to their family. They gave their lives for the establishment of Medinat Yisrael (the State of Israel) or in her defense in a relatively recent time period. It’s astonishing how quickly details of some of their lives have been lost, and how difficult it is to restore those details and even connect them to living family members.  As I said, it rips at the heart.

There was more to the day, but it’s beyond my ability to discuss the rest right now.

Posted in Israel, Jewish Genealogy

JFNA-GA in Tel Aviv Oct 22-24, 2018

What, you might ask is that jumble of letters? The Jewish Federation of North America has an annual conference called a General Assembly. Although it has been in Israel before, it’s previously only been in Jerusalem. I was last at a GA in Jerusalem in 2003, and was very excited to be at this year’s GA in Tel Aviv, with Lindsay Levine, who had been part of the team that did the epic Eastern European odyssey with me a couple of months ago. Lindsay was also with me in LA last fall at the GA.

I haven’t been taking many photos for the last few days since our focus has been in the exhibit hall where ancestryProGenealogists has a booth.  We’ve been taking cabs to the convention hall at the fair ground in Tel Aviv, the site of this year’s GA, since we need to be onsite by about 7:30 AM and it’s about 3.2 miles from our hotel. We did however, walk back in the late afternoon when the exhibit hall closed, at around 4:30 on Monday, and 4 on Tuesday.  Today, Netanyahu was speaking at the morning plenary, and we left a little after 10 . I had an appointment with the 92 year old aunt of a client in Ramat Gan, to interview her and see what memories she had of the family.

Mornings, before we leave for the conference, our hotel breakfast space overlooks the Mediterranean and the amazing beaches. Surfers are out as well as bicyclists, runners and volleyball enthusiasts, as soon as the sun rises.  At least that’s when I think they come out – the breakfast room opens at 6:30, just after sunrise and the tayellet and beach is already crowded by then!

I was thrilled to meet with past and present clients who are involved in their community’s Federation, and in Israel for the GA. Among those clients was Sue Schlichter. Sue and I have been working together for a while finding new information about her ancestors, and refining the information she already knew.DSC04933.JPG

Tomorrow, Lindsay and I are off to the Central Zionist Archives in Jerusalem followed by a visit to Mount Herzl, and then late in the day, a ballet performance.

I received a message from a friend a little while ago telling me not to forget that daylight savings time ends this Sunday. That’s great – I really and truly appreciated this. I couldn’t have forgotten, since I had no idea it ended this weekend and we have a 9 AM appointment at an archive.  So glad we can get an extra hour of sleep!


Posted in Uncategorized

Shabbat in Tel Aviv

Whether you are religious or not, Shabbat in Israel is a special experience. Tel Aviv, where we are right now, is very different from Shabbat in Jerusalem where we will be next week. On Shabbat, although in Tel Aviv, many restaurants are open, very few shops, with the exception of supermarkets are open. The beach is packed and beach volleyball courts are jammed. We took a long walk to see where the Tel Aviv fairgrounds were in relationship to the hotel, since the JFNA GA will be held there, and Sunday we will go over to set up our booth.  I wanted to walk. If you know me, that shouldn’t come as a surprise. In fact, until the conference changed the exhibit hall opening time to 7:15 AM from 9, I had expected to walk there every day. If you track your steps, you can relate to the 22,494 steps I took on our “little” walk.

We had options for walking to the fair grounds, and I wanted to take a route alongside  HaYarkon, along the Israel National Trail. The park, since it was Shabbat, was packed with families picnicking on the grassy areas. Children were playing soccer, the rock wall had lots of climbers. A perfect Shabbat.


Israel is a small country, and the many wars affected every family here, whether directly or because the injured or killed were friends or children of friends. In the park are memorial stones with the names of the fallen. The stones are grouped by wars. The largest group of course is the group of stones with the names of those killed from 1947-1949.


We made a new acquaintance during our stroll – the hoopoe bird. It’s the national bird of Israel and I don’t remember ever seeing one before. It seems to be all dressed up in stripes. Kinda cute, right?


Posted in Uncategorized

Tel Aviv – the Beach and Friends

My first trip to Israel was in 1966. That trip remains fixed in my memory, with parts of it as vivid as if it was yesterday, not 52 years ago. There is so much here that seems to have not changed, which is of course shocking after all, so much time has passed. But like any other wonderful city, the old is balanced by the new, the new doesn’t completely replace what was.  Many of the places I visited on the first trip, I have gone back to time after time, but there are still places I haven’t revisited since then. This morning took me back in time as I had the opportunity to walk on streets I haven’t seen in decades.

Our good friends, Rony and Edna took us on a trip (for me) back in time. Tel Aviv over the last 50 years has become a booming metropolis, and when looking at the huge hotes on the street and the glass and metal office buildings, it’s easy to forget the streets with spices, fabrics, fresh pastries and more that were a central focus of the vibrancy of the city long ago.


I’m well aware that the fabrics gently stirred by an almost non-existent breeze were not part of my long ago memories, although they did speak to the history and future, and make some political statements as well. This was part of an art installation which could be seen on the old streets. It brought us into the Levinsky market area in south Tel Aviv, and our walk through the streets of this area, followed by a quick ride to the Shapira area was terrific.





A Soda and Conversation

My only regret was that before we left the hotel, we’d eaten a large breakfast and couldn’t sample any of these delicious pastries or some of the other gems we looked at. Of course these weren’t the only shops. We commented not only on the decorations remaining from Sukkot which was over several weeks ago, but dreidels on the shelves for Hanukka which isn’t for another 6 weeks.


The morning was a great lead in to the rest of the day (BTW, the total excursion of the day resulted in a total step count that was over 23,000 steps!!!  From the market, we went back to the beach and wandered down to the seaport in Jaffa.  I know that the large number of tourists has to be a delight for the economy, but is sure did make walking the narrow streets a little hazardous. Unlike in years past, walkers on the tayellet now share the area with runners, bicycles, scooters, skate boards and more!Of course this is typical of many cities today. The beach was crowded with beach volleyball and other games.



The weather is exquisite – mid 80’s, a little overcast, and although humid, perfect for being at the beach.

The crowning touch of the day was meeting one of my sisters’ friends from high school and her now grown-up son. He’s 21 now and the last time I saw him and his mom, he was 2 years old, and we met at the zoo in Jerusalem on a Shabbat. This time we went to a wonderful vegetarian restaurant and sampled some wonderful food with incredible ingredients.


Posted in Israel

Oct 18, 2018 – Arrival in Israel

It’s a really long way to travel – from Salt Lake City to Israel.  Yes, I know that there are places further away, but the issue isn’t really the distance, it’s how long it takes to travel that distance.  There was the Salt Lake City flight to New York, which seems to have involved not only the 4 hour flight but also an hour on the plane on the ground, then a 5 hour layover in NY followed by the 10 hour flight.  Finally, we arrived in Tel Aviv, late afternoon, and by the time our cab had battled traffic from the airport to our hotel, it must have been about 7 PM Thursday.  We had left Salt Lake City (9 hours earlier than Israel, 2 hours earlier than NY) at 11:23 AM on Wednesday.

Checking into our hotel right on the beach made the hours spent en route seem like absolutely nothing!

Tel Aviv Beach 2.jpg

A long walk on the tayellet (promenade) called to me, and I listened. After a couple of weeks of near freezing temperatures in Salt Lake City, the warm air was certainly a welcome change.


Posted in Uncategorized