Monthly Archives: February 2013

Fascinating Headdress – where is this family from?

My post Who’s in that photo? from September received a comment today from Jane, who had a photo she couldn’t figure out as well. She knew the names of the people in the photo (they were her great-grandfather’s sisters), but didn’t understand the significance of the massive bows on their heads. She asked if it was a fashion thing, or perhaps a religious requirement? Someone suggested to her that it might be a Jewish headdress, and thus she was asking here for advice on the photo.

Here’s the photo, one of the more interesting family photos I’ve seen:
Now first let me say, nothing about the bows looked familiar to me. I’m not an expert on Jewish headdress or historical fashion, but I was pretty sure this was not a specifically Jewish headdress.
So what is its significance? Considering all three sisters are wearing the same headdress, my initial guess was that it would not be simply a fleeting fashion choice, but had to have some cultural or religious significance. How many sisters do you know who otherwise would wear the same outfits?
I can’t say for sure that I know the origin of these bows, but I suspect from the research I did that these are in fact Alsatian headdresses called schlupfkàpp (a ‘bow cap’). In the 19th century the region of Alsace-Lorraine developed a unique form of headdress that lasted into the 1940s before mostly disappearing. Early in the 19th century the bows were relatively small, but apparently the bows grew in size until they peaked in size around the turn of the century, exactly when Jane’s photo was taken.
Here are a few examples of the style:
1919 illustration of traditional Alsatian costumes (Wikimedia Commons)
Husband with wife in traditional Alsatian costume, about 1875 (Christ Family)
Three sisters in Alsatian folk dress (Flickr)
Most sources point out that single women wore these bows in specific colors indicating their religion – Protestants wore Black bows, and Catholics wore brightly colored ones, usually Red. Apparently after marriage both Protestants and Catholics would wear black bows. One source I found mentioned that Jews wore Lavender bows, although I haven’t found any other reference for that fact.
I certainly can’t determine the color of the bows in Jane’s photograph since it’s black and white, so even though they seem black to me that might not be the case. I also can’t read the location of the studio where the photograph was taken, although it could have been taken anywhere (although if it is in Alsace-Lorraine that would certainly seem to confirm my guess).
What I would suggest for Jane is to try to contact someone who knows about traditional Alsatian costumes. One other reason to do this, especially if Jane does not know what town her family came from, would be to determine the specific type of headdress her family members were wearing. Apparently the style of the bows varied from village to village, and it might be possible for someone to figure out the region or even the specific town by seeing the style of the bow.
One place to look is the Alsace Tourism web site, which has a section on Alsatian Costume. The web site even has a map showing the origin of specific headdresses in Alsace. The site also links to two different cultural groups and the Alsatian Museum in Strasbourg, all of which might be able to help figure out the specific origin of the bows in Jane’s photo. Another option if Jane doesn’t know where her great-grandfather came from is to track down his origin and seeing if he tracks back to a town in Alsace-Lorraine. If he moved to the US, she can using the techniques I wrote up previously in my article Finding Information on US Immigrants.
Certainly, this is an interesting example of using family photographs to locate the origin of a family. Even if the photo was taken in London or Chicago, it would still point to the family coming from Alsace-Lorraine and may even (with some expert help) point to the specific region or town. Of course, I don’t have a lot of information about the family and could be totally off-base. I’m sure everyone reading this would appreciate if Jane would post in the comments if my guess is right and she confirms the origin of the headdress (and her family) as coming from Alsace-Lorraine.

Trick to use Hebrew and Yiddish in Adobe InDesign

This is the second article in a series on publishing text in Hebrew and Yiddish for genealogy books. The first article looked at Finding Hebrew Fonts. This article looks at using those fonts to publish Hebrew, Yiddish or any Right-to-Left (RTL) language using Adboe InDesign, without having to buy the more expensive Adobe InDesign ME (which has extensive support for RTL languages).

The standard software for professional publishing these days is Adobe InDesign. When publishing genealogy books there are genealogy programs that can output formatted reports and books (such as the  book output options of Heredis and GEDitCOM II mentioned on Tuesday), but if you want a fully customized book that can be published professionally (or through an online publisher/printer like lulu.com) either you or someone else who is helping you will likely need to use InDesign. InDesign itself is not cheap (about $650), but if you want to use RTL languages like Hebrew, Yiddish, or Arabic, it costs hundreds of dollars more for the ME (Middle East) version.

Why would you want to use RTL languages in a genealogy book? Some examples include transcribing Jewish gravestones which in many cases are at least partially (and frequently wholly) in Hebrew, and transcribing handwritten Yiddish letters. You could just put in a translation of the texts, but adding the original text, especially when the orginal may be hard to read, is a nice touch.

Since most people are not going to buy InDesign just to put together one book, they probably will be using a copy at work, or have a friend who has a copy help them out. If that’s the case, however, chances are the copy of InDesign they are using will not be the ME version with support for RTL.

There are actually two InDesign add-ons you can buy that will enable RTL features in standard InDesign, ScribeDOOR from WinSoft International and World Tools from In-Tools. The cheapest solution is still $99. Again, perhaps too expensive, especially if it’s not for a copy of InDesign you own. So what if you could use RTL langauges in InDesign without an expensive plug-in? Well it turns out you can, with a little trick I’m going to show you.

Keep in mind this trick won’t add all the RTL features that the ME version of InDesign offers, but it will let you insert RTL text that will lay out properly. For short texts like gravestone transcriptions, or simple texts like letters, this is more than enough. If you want to format complicated things like forms and complex layouts, chances are you’ll need to spend the extra money and get one of the other solutions.

Technically this has been possible since InDesign CS4, but I believe it may have required some scripting to make it work. I’m using CS6 and there is nothing you need to get it working other than following the steps below.

Open InDesign, and go to the Paragraph settings. You want to select the Adobe World-Ready Paragraph Composer:

Step 1: Select the Adobe World-Ready Paragraph Composer

This is what defines the type of text-box you create when using the Type Tool in InDesign.

Next, select the Type Tool:

Step 2: Select the Type Tool, and create a text box

and with the Type Tool selected, create a text box on the page.

Now, make sure the cursor is flashing in the text box and then, while holding down the Command key on a Mac, or the Control key on Windows, right-click into the text box (right-click on a Mac is either holding down the Control key while clicking, or on a newer trackpad using two fingers to click). That will bring up a menu:
Step 3: Command/Control Click and select ‘Fill with Placeholder Text’ from menu
When you see the menu, select ‘Fill with Placeholder Text’. If you were not holding down the extra key (Command on the Mac, or Control on Windows) then it will just insert placeholder text in English characters. If you were holding down the extra key, you will instead see a window pop up:
Step 4: Select Hebrew from the pop-up menu
In this small window, you need to select Hebrew (or Arabic) in order to get RTL text inserted. When you click OK, you’ll see the placeholder text inserted:
Hebrew Placeholder Text in the text box
Besides having random Hebrew text, you’ll also notice the text box is now in RTL mode and you can edit Hebrew text properly.

Now you just delete the Hebrew text and your cursor will be on the right side of the text box, ready to enter any RTL text, whether Hebrew, Yiddish or Arabic.

Empty Text Box in RTL mode ready for text entry

You can change your font, size, whatever – and it will now all work in this text box. Use any number of Hebrew fonts, like those I mentioned in my recent article Finding Hebrew Fonts.

If you use this tip, let me know. If you’re interested in hearing more about publishing genealogy books, let me know in the comments.

A Major Breakthough for Jewish Polish Records

JRI-Poland and the Polish State Archives have announced a new agreement to expand the availability of Jewish records from Poland. An earlier agreement which was in effect between 1997 and 2006 resulted in the indexing of more than 4 million records which make up the bulk of the JRI-Poland database. The cancellation of that agreement in 2006 was a major blow to Jewish genealogy. There have been ongoing discussions since 2007, but the resumption of cooperation did not materialize until now. This announcement, made on Friday, is much more than most expected, and well worth the wait.

The first major component of the announcement is that JRI-Poland will be able to add an additional million records to its database within the next year. That is in addition to the 4 million existing records already in their database that originate from the Polish State Archives.

JRI-Poland Executive Director Stanley Diamond signing the agreement in the
presence of Polish Consul General Andrzej Szydło in Montreal, Quebec.

The second major component is that JRI-Poland will launch a new Order Processing System, which will allow people searching for records on the site to click on a record they want and order it directly on the JRI-Poland site using a credit card. JRI-Poland will handle the credit card processing and the archives in Poland will copy the records. For anyone who has dealt with ordering records from Polish archives directly, this is a major breakthrough.

While my Finding and getting copies of Jewish records in Poland article is still one of the most popular on this site, and was published in print as well, it is my hope that this announcement means that in the future that article will not be needed.

Polish State Archives General Director Władysław Stępniak signing the agreement,
with JRI-Poland representative 
Krzysztof Malczewski (on left) looking on.

The third major component of the announcement is that the Polish State Archives is starting a major effort to digitize all of their records in all 30 Regional Archives, and make them available for free online. As these digital scans come online, JRI-Poland will link directly to the images from their database search results. As the images come online, the new Order Processing System will be phased out.

The announcement is available on the JRI-Poland site (in English) as well as the Polish State Archives site (in Polish).

I’d like to congratulate Stanley Diamond, the Co-Founder and Executive Director of JRI-Poland, as well as the other JRI-Poland board members, staff and volunteers who made this agreement possible.

I look forward to seeing the different elements of this agreement come to fruition, and will let readers of this blog know about things as they happen.