Thursday, September 27, 2012

eBay Score: 1929 Atlas from USSR

I have to admit, I'm a geek about maps.  I learned how to read them when I was young.  I collect them.  I have lots of old maps from the early 20th century and several atlases.  And let's face it, old maps are very useful when you're trying to find places whose names have changed.

But I think this one is especially cool.  It's a 1929 world atlas published in Moscow.  So it has the Soviet/Russian names of places from that era, in Russian, which will help make them easier to recognize in documents.  And they're typeset, which makes it easier for me to read them!  (I can read handwritten Russian, but printed is so much better.)  But it also has that lovely "Soviet" perspective on the world that you can find only in period documents.

When it arrived in the mail, I opened it up to a random page and found ... California!  The scan above shows (starting in the upper left and going clockwise) orange groves in California, picking cotton in Georgia, and an agricultural area in Belgium.

Oh yeah, and when it was new, it cost 4 rubles and 50 kopecks.  The price is printed on the back cover.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Preserving American War Memorials Overseas

A small nonprofit organization, American War Memorials Overseas, was organized in 2008 to help document, promote, care for, and preserve overseas war memorials and gravesites that honor Americans and that do not receive support from the U.S. government.  The Web site includes a database of overseas war memorials, for which they welcome additional entries.  They publish a (roughly) quarterly one-page newsletter which includes information about war memorials and short vignettes about Americans who are buried or who died overseas.  One feature is their stories about "isolated burials", where only one or a few people are buried in a particular location.  There is also an informative FAQ about how war memorials are supported, and a list of resources, including how to maintain headstones and memorials.  I'm not sure how much of this might be duplicative of other groups' efforts, but it appears to be a well meaning organization, and the newsletter has interesting stories.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Stories of the Marketplace

Fictional stories can often be used to learn more about social conditions in the times and places in which they were written.  In the 19th and early 20th centuries Jews, Russians, Ukrainians, and Poles lived together in what was known as the Pale of Settlement, the area of Eastern Europe that belonged to the Russian Empire and that now encompasses parts of Poland, Belarus, Ukraine, and the Baltic states.  Amelia Glaser has authored a book -- Jews and Ukrainians in Russia's Literary Borderlands:  From the Shtetl Fair to the Petersburg Bookshop -- about how stories that Jewish, Russian, and Ukrainian authors told about these different communities meeting and interacting in the marketplace can give insight into their history of coexistence.  This insight can give a small glimpse into the world that some of our ancestors lived in.  Prof. Glaser will give a presentation based on her book on Monday, October 15, at 7:00 p.m. at the San Francisco Jewish Community Library, 1835 Ellis Street, San Francisco, CA 94115.  The presentation is free and open to the public.  For more information, contact Alison Greene at or (415) 567-3327 x703.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Black Family History Day, October 13, 2012

The African American Genealogical Society of Northern California and the Oakland FamilySearch Library are presenting the fourth Black Family History Day, this one timed for Family History Month.  It will run from 1:00-5:00 p.m.  The event is free, but you are encouraged to register for a free consultation, either through the Web site or by calling (877) 884-2843.  If we follow the same procedure we used in February, attendees will register, then go to a short introductory workshop for beginners, to assistance in filling out a basic four-generation family chart, to one-on-one assistance in research and looking for information on their families.

At the February 2012 event we had about 125 attendees and 35 volunteer researchers.  The October 2011 Family History Day drew fewer people, but we volunteers were able to give more assistance to each attendee.  We almost always manage to find records for each person who comes.  This year I've invited several friends to come.  I'm looking forward to another great day of introducing people to family history!

Monday, September 17, 2012

Town Hall Meeting about New York City Vital Records

There will be a "town hall" meeting with Elizabeth Begier, Assistant Commissioner, New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, Bureau of Vital Statistics, on Tuesday, September 25, 2012 from 11:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. at the Department of Records Visitor Center, 31 Chamber Street, Room 112 - Lobby.  Ms. Begier will answer questions and concerns about New York City vital records.

To attend you must register beforehand at  Walk-ins will not be permitted.

If anyone goes, please tell us what was discussed!

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Photo Bonanza

After a false start occasioned by her computer crashing, I have connected in earnest with the cousin who found me because I posted the family names I am researching.  She has lots of family photos and has been generously scanning and sending them to me.  I am so excited to have faces to put to so many of the names in my family, and I was able to send her a photo of her great-great-grandmother, which she did not have.  She has also identified some of the photos I have without names.  I need to start scanning more and see who else she can recognize!  I already posted one of the photos she sent me for this past Wordless Wednesday, but wanted to share more.  These are some of my favorites. **doing the happy dance**

A Good and Bad Day for Genealogy

Saturday it was all genealogy, all day long.  First I drove to San Mateo to give a talk to the San Mateo County Genealogical Society:  "Following a Family's History for More than 100 Years through Newspaper Articles."  This was the first time I was giving the talk, and I always worry whether I've prepared enough, are they going to understand my points, are they going to enjoy it.  I was particularly concerned this time because I was taking a different tack with my approach on the talk.  I went a little long (what, me like to talk?), but other than that it went fine.  The attendees followed along quite enthusiastically and asked several interesting questions, giving me some new research ideas.

Then I prepared my lesson for the high school genealogy class I teach on Sunday.  That went smoothly, and I made copies of the lesson and handouts for everyone.  I'm all prepared for Sunday morning.

Then I had a little time for my own research, so I decided to try to find my father and his family in the 1940 census.  Boom!  Straight into a brick wall.  I really wanted to be able to show my dad himself as a four-year-old in the census, but it looks as though it just isn't going to happen.

In theory (theory being a wonderful thing), I should be able to find my dad, his two sisters, their father, and my grandmother together.  I did say in theory, right?  I have tried searching every way I can think of on both and, and they're just not there.  I've tried with names, without names, partial names, birth information, no birth information.  Can't find them.

Apparently the family moved a lot at that time.  My grandfather created a list of all the places he had lived during his life; there were three (!) for 1940, but no specific dates.  (He worked for the Civil Service, and they moved him around a lot.)  I've verified with my 87-year-old aunt that the locations my grandfather wrote are correct.  I used Steve Morse's "Unified 1940 Census ED Finder" (because my grandfather listed streets) and manually searched the enumeration districts.  And what did I find?  Zip.  Zilch.  Zero.  The big bagel.  My guess is that with all their moving around they simply were missed by the census takers in whichever city they were living in April.

So I decided to settle for finding my great-grandmother in 1940.  She was supposed to be living in the same house the family had owned for several decades.  I had the complete street address.  Piece of cake, right?

Nope.  I couldn't find her by searching, either.  I tried multiple approaches again, and nothing.  I went back to Steve's site, found the possible enumeration districts for her address, and went through them page by page.  And I found ... that her house address does not appear, not even on the "I missed them on the first go round, but got them again later" pages.

Maybe I should stick to doing genealogy for other people for a while.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Reappearance of the War Bride

Last December, I posted about the story of a war bride who disappeared, which was published in The Oregonian.  Yesterday, The Oregonian published the epilog to the story:  The fate of the war bride has finally been learned.  Esther escaped her abusive relationship and made a new life on the other side of the country.  Lilly Oddsdottir, who helped piece the information together previously, found her family.

I have to admit I didn't think Esther had survived her relationship in Oregon.  I'm so glad to read that this story had a happier ending.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Search for Children Born to Jewish Refugees in Cyprus

Yitzhak Teutsch, director of the Joint Distribution Committee's archives in Jerusalem, is trying to document more than 2,000 babies born to Jewish refugees in camps in Cyprus between 1946 and 1949.  He is researching in many archives to try to create a full list of names.

Between 1946 and 1949, several thousand Jews who tried to immigrate to Israel were deported to twelve detention camps in Cyprus.  Almost all were survivors of Nazi death camps.  Many children were born in the detention camps, but complete records of these births seem not to exist.  Teutsch has taken it upon himself to create a comprehensive list of the births.  He is also making contact with many of the Cyprus-born children.

The story of Teutsch's research is available in Hebrew and in English.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

New Study for Children and Grandchildren of Holocaust Survivors

Dr. Yael Danieli, co-founder and director of the Group Project for Holocaust Survivors and Their Children in New York City, has developed a new comprehensive questionnaire that attempts to help better understand how families have been affected by the Holocaust.  Children and grandchildren of survivors who are at least 18 years old are invited to participate in this important study by completing the questionnaire.  The questionnaire is available in English and in Hebrew.  For more information and to participate in the study, please go to

This research project is supported by grants from the Conference of Jewish Material Claims Against Germany and from the Anti-Defamation League.

Publication about Black Builders in Ohio

Planned for Fall 2014 is a publication titled Undiscovered Builders:  The Work of African American Visionaries in Ohio.  It will focus on the historical context of these individuals' careers as architects, contractors, stone artisans, engineers, and developers and their contributions to their communities. Many were not formally educated and may have received only local or in some cases no recognition of their work.

If you have materials within your collection or if you are a researcher and have identified someone relative to this project, you are invited to submit a one-page synopsis about those materials and the subject of any potential research you are conducting.  The submitter would write the article and receive credit in the finished work.  The deadline for submissions is September 7, 2012.

If you have any questions, or if you wish to send a submission, contact:
Jacky Johnson, Archivist
Miami University
Western College Memorial Archives
Oxford, OH 45056