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Watching my Rootstech Session

I’d like to thank the hundreds of people who viewed my session (Using the B&F Compendium of Jewish Genealogy) during the three-day Rootstech Connect Conference. The session will be available until next year’s conference, so if you missed it you can still watch it. As the conference itself is over now, I am directly linking to the video here. If you do like the video, you can still go to the Rootstech session page and like it by clicking the thumbs up button. You can watch the video on this page, or click on the title to load it in YouTube, where it should show up larger.

Thank you to Rootstech for accepting my presentation, and for including it in the General Jewish Genealogy Overview series.

Speaking at Rootstech Connect

I am speaking at Rootstech Connect (February 25-27), the online conference sponsored by FamilySearch, that has over 500,000 registered attendees. Rootstech started out as a conference focused on the convergence of genealogy and technology, but over the past ten years has become the largest genealogy conference of any kind worldwide. This year’s conference is only online, and will be by far the biggest genealogy conference ever held.

I will be speaking about how best to utilize this site , in particular the B&F Compendium of Jewish Genealogy (the link is available now: Using the B&F Compendium of Jewish Genealogy). Like most of the lectures, mine will be available as video-on-demand, so you can watch it anytime during the 3-day conference, and should also be available for the next year online.

There is a speaker chat on the Rootstech site where I will be available to answer questions, although I don’t know when exactly I will be on the chat. If you’re signed in to the site, you can get into my session’s chat using this invite link or simply go to my session’s page and click the Join Chat Room button there.

Update: The full list of presenters in English at Rootstech Connect has been published. I’ve put together a list of those lectures in English that are of interest to Jewish researchers. Of course many of the lectures will be of interest to all genealogists, but these are the ones dealing with specifically Jewish topics. As I’ve been able to collect new information I’ve been adding to the below, including lectures in Spanish and Portuguese, as well as a slate of lectures provided by the IAJGS and Jewish at their virtual expo booths. Here are the Rootstech lectures with a Jewish connection, in English (not including the IAJGS or JewishGen ones):

Doing Jewish Research in Poland RecordsStanley Diamond
Finding Jewish Ancestors in the Russian EmpireEllie Vance
Food as a Clue for Crypto-Jewish FamiliesGenie Milgrom
How Crypto-Jewish Genealogy is DifferentGenie Milgrom
How I found My Crypto-Jewish GrandmothersGenie Milgrom
How I Found My Jewish American Family – A Genealogy Research SuccessDaniel Horowitz
Intro to JewishGen.org and Jewish GenealogyAvraham Groll
Jewish Genealogy Alphabet SoupNolan Altman
Jews of the CaribbeanW. Todd Knowles
The Knowles Collection – What Is It and How Do I Use ItW. Todd Knowles
Mexican Genealogy: Jewish Origin of three Families in JaliscoNefi Arenas Salazar
Secrets of Jewish Genealogy Revealed, Part I: OverviewEllen Kowitt
Secrets of Jewish Genealogy Revealed, Part II: NamesEllen Kowitt
Secrets of Jewish Genealogy Revealed, Part III: Jewish GeographyEllen Kowitt
Sephardic Resources: What’s New for 2021, Part 1Schelly Talalay Dardashti
Sephardic Resources: What’s New for 2021, Part 2Schelly Talalay Dardashti
Sephardic Resources: What’s New for 2021, Part 3Schelly Talalay Dardashti
The Schoenwald Family: Victims and Survivors of the HolocaustSimon Fowler
Tracing the Sephardic RootsJordan Gendra Molina
Using FamilySearch for Jewish ResearchW. Todd Knowles
Using the B&F Compendium of Jewish GenealogyPhilip Trauring

There are many other lectures that will be of interest to Jewish researchers. Daniel Horowitz must be giving the most lectures of anyone at the conference, covering a range of MyHeritage features (beyond his more personal lecture above). Janette Silverman is speaking about researching off the beaten path, which will probably be helpful to Jewish researchers. Greg Nelson from FamilySearch will be lecturing about Eastern European and Former Soviet records. Kinga Urbańska will be speaking about Galician and Polish resources. Any number of more general topics will be helpful as well.

There are also non-English lectures during Rootstech Connect. The following are those I’m aware of with a Jewish connection:

Comidas Ancestrales: Indicadores de Raices JudiasSpanishGenie Milgrom
Como Encontre a mis abuelas Cripto-JudiasSpanishGenie Milgrom
Cómo Encontré Mi Familia Americana, Un Éxito de Investigación FamiliarSpanishDaniel Horowitz
Dicionário de Sobrenomes SefarditasPortugueseGuilherme Faiguenboim
Examinar las raíces sefardíesSpanishJordan Gendra Molina
Las Diferencias en Genealogias Cripto-JudiasSpanishGenie Milgrom
Los apellidos semíticosSpanishMaría del Carmen Hernández López
Siguiendo los pasos de los sefardiesSpanishJordan Gendra Molina
Sociedade Genealógica Judaica de São PauloPortugueseRoberto Mayer

In addition to the above, the IAJGS has a number of lectures they have provided. You can go to the IAJGS Booth, although the lectures are also searchable along with the other sessions at the conference. The IAJGS lectures are:

Congregation Kol Tikvah’s Remember Us: Holocaust Bnai Mitzvah ProjectKen Cutler
Crossing the Ocean: Finding Your European Jewish HistorySusan Weinberg
Finding the Zimblers with LitvakSIG’s “All Lithuania Database”Jill Anderson
IAJGS 2020: Genealogy Death MatchJarrett Ross, Jordan Auslander,
E. Randol Schoenberg
Genealogy: A Work in ProgressIna Getzoff, Eric Sharenow
IGRA Resources Show and Tell SessionGarri Regev
Explore Jewish Genealogical SocietiesMarlis Humphrey
Discover 5 Ways to Uncover Jewish RecordsMarlis Humphrey
Explore Yad Vashem Digital Collections Photo ArchiveMarlis Humphrey
Discover FamilySearch Language LessonsMarlis Humphrey
Discover Jewish Genealogy on Social MediaMarlis Humphrey
Landsmanshaft: What Are They and How Can They Help My Research?Nolan Altman
8 Ways to Get the Most Out of JewishGen’s Communities DatabaseNolan Altman
Polish Ancestral Tourism: Wolf Hunting in WomjaLeigh Dworkin
Shining a Light on Jewish GenealogyLiba Casson-Nudell
The Soil from Which They Grew: The Alliance ColonyJarrett Ross
Basic Tools of French Genealogical ResearchAllan M. Huss
Hebrew Naming and How To Read Hebrew HeadstonesNolan Altman
8 Reasons You Should Consider Joining a Local Genealogical SocietyNolan Altman

There is also a JewishGen Booth, with the following lectures:

Finding Family on the JewishGen Family FinderPhyllis Kramer
Locating Your Ancestral TownPhyllis Kramer
Using the JewishGen Discussion Group and Jewish Genealogy PortalAvraham Groll
Searching the JewishGen Archival CollectionsAvraham Groll

Which lectures are you planning to watch? If you watched them, which were your favorites? If you watched mine, what did you think?

Ten Year Site Anniversary

Ten years ago today, I posted my first article on this site, then a blog on Google’s Blogger platform. The post itself was thinking aloud about whether to switch genealogy programs from Reunion 9 to Family Tree Maker, which had just been introduced on the Mac for the first time (in case you’re wondering what I decided back then, I’m using Reunion 13 now).

How the first post on this site looked back then (more or less)

Roughly three years later, in 2013, I made the move over to WordPress, where the site took on its current appearance:

The transition from Blogger to WordPress in October 2013

Continuing this slightly technical thread, the site was moved off a shared hosting site in 2018 onto an Amazon Lightsail server, and upgraded to a larger server in 2020. I only point these out since people don’t always think about what goes on behind the scenes to keep sites like this running.

Looking back, I’ve written about 250 articles. There are also about a dozen article drafts I started but were never completed. The reason I call this is a site anniversary, and don’t use the term ‘Blogiversary’ which I used after the first year (1st Blogiversary: The Year in Review) is that this site has grown well beyond just being a blog. The B&F Compendium of Jewish Genealogy, which was added in 2016, currently has over 25,000 pages of resources for Jewish genealogy.

Some of my favorite articles include:

Preserving Photographic Prints, Slides and Negatives2011
What DPI should I scan my photos, and in what format do I save them?2015
Photos handed down through different family branches2020
Finding Information on US Immigrants2011
Getting Started in Jewish Genealogy2018
Variations in Jewish Given Names2011
Animals and Name Pairs in Jewish Given Names2011
Jewish Gravestone Symbols2011
Deciphering Jewish Gravestones2020
Learning from Okopawa St.2018
Communities tied to Rzeszów (Reisha), Poland via marriage2018
Tracking down a couple that disappeared during the Holocaust2017
Food as Genealogy – Iraqi Kubbe2012
When my grandfather traveled to Nazi Germany to save his family2017

These articles stand out to me for very different reasons. The first few deal with photographs, and the importance of collecting them and properly preserving them. I grew up with a dark room in my attic, and a love of photography, so it’s no wonder I believe photographs are so important. Finding Information on US Immigrants is my go-to article to share when people are first getting started and want to figure out where their families came from before reaching the US. While I wrote that almost ten years ago, I try to update it from time to time to make sure the links all work and everything still makes sense. Getting Started in Jewish Genealogy is my overview of the resources on this site and others across the world that people getting started in Jewish genealogy should know about. My gravestone symbols article has been popular since I published it back in 2011 (even Billiongraves cites it in their article on Jewish gravestones), and I’ve supplemented that with my article on understanding the inscriptions as well, Deciphering Jewish Gravestones, which at over 30 pages has a lot of useful information. My post on communities tied to Rzeszow is a look at how you can extract patterns in old records beyond just looking for specific records. I looked at marriage records, and figured out which towns spouses of those in Rzeszow came from, and showed the community stamps, as well as those of local Rabbis. This kind of research can help you figure out where to look for records when you’ve exhausted the obvious places. Food as Genealogy is just a fun article with a great recipe that my mother-in-law showed my wife how to cook. This kind of passing on of oral tradition is also important, and sometimes overlooked as part of genealogy – it’s not all BMD records. The last article on my grandfather, is great because it shows how the significance of a simple piece of information might be overlooked, if you don’t understand the context. A visa stamp (with a swastika) on November 11, 1938 might not seem especially significant, until you realize he was entering Nazi Germany the day after Kristallnacht, a pogrom where hundreds of synagogues were burned to the ground, thousands of Jewish businesses were destroyed, and tens of thousands of Jews were rounded up and sent to concentration camps. The day after. So always try to understand the context of what you’re looking at and if you are scanning documents, scan all the pages (what if I had only scanned the photo page of the passport?).

Beyond this site, in the past ten years I’ve spoken at various genealogy conferences (remember those?), written articles for journals, and helped found the Israel Genealogy Research Association (IGRA) where I started by building their web site, and later served four years as President (which ended this past June). I’m proud that during that time IGRA became the largest of the over 80 member societies of the IAJGS. I’m next speaking at Rootstech Connect, the massive (I’ve heard there will be over 100,000 participants) virtual genealogy conference taking place next year.

While this year has been difficult, with four kids at home trying to zoom into their various schools, I did have time to post several great lists of Jewish names published in books dating back 150 years, which were prepared while I worked on a major article (over 30 pages) on Deciphering Jewish Gravestones. I also posted the 2019 lists of Jewish boys and girls names from Israel, a very popular series of articles on this site. To see all the articles on names, see the Names page which collects the various lists and articles I’ve posted over the years related to names.

I also finally updated my US Immigration Census Form, adding the 1940 US Census to it.

While this site has long had a presence on Facebook (facebook.com/jewishgenealogy) and Twitter (twitter.com/bloodandfrogs), this past August I added Instagram (instagram.com/bloodandfrogs):

While that photo collage was posted to Instagram in August, I didn’t actually write an article about those photos until just recently (Photos handed down through different family branches). If you click on the link in my Instagram profile, you will actually see all the Instagram images, each of which now links to an article on this site. This gets around the restriction on Instagram preventing links for individual images. While there are services that automate that type of linking, I’ve managed to develop something on my own site that does the same thing. Follow me on Instagram, and let me know what you think of the link system. I’ve added a bunch of images connected to past articles, and moving forward I hope each new article will get a post to Instagram.

I imagine I’m not alone among writers wondering why certain articles become more popular than others. I have an idea of how many people visit my site, and which articles they read, but it’s always nice to hear from readers about what they like, and what they’ve learned from on the site. If you have a favorite article or feature on this site, please let me know in the comments.

Photos handed down through different family branches

One of the first things I always recommend to those getting started in genealogy is to collect as many family photographs as possible, from the oldest relatives you know, and try to identify everyone in the photographs. There may be a time that you won’t be able to ask who the people in your family photos are, and if you don’t find out who has old family photos, they may end up being thrown out at some point. If you do have a photo, but no way to identify the person or person in the photo, there is an approach you can take that may help you to figure it out.

In one of my earliest posts (Genealogy Basics: Up, Down and Sideways) I describe why it’s important to track down collateral relatives, such as finding all the descendants of your oldest known ancestor. Besides building out your tree, these people may end up knowing more about your common ancestors than you do. Even a small piece of information, such as the town someone was born in, can help break down genealogical brick walls. Similarly, those distant relatives may actually have the same photograph you have, and they may know who is in it.

When I started collecting family photos, my grandfather gave me a set of three large glass slides that his uncle had given him. One slide had two photos on it, of the same family, one with them wearing hats, and one without hats. I had an idea of who was in those family photos, and later confirm it. The other two slides were individual portraits of a man and a woman. I did not know who they were, and neither did my grandfather. This is what the negatives looked like:

The glass negatives
Continue reading Photos handed down through different family branches

Updated Immigrant Census Form (1940 added)

For those unaware, this site has a set of genealogy forms that you can fill out on a computer, or print out to be filled out by hand. I find this is a great way to get started with genealogy, and these forms are also helpful for sending out to relatives to be filled out and returned. These forms are designed to work together in useful ways. One form that is particularly useful is the US Immigrant Census Form, which was released all the way back in 2011. This form has fields for the useful genealogy information that you can extract from US Census records during the critical turn-of-the-century period of mass immigration to the US. When the original form was created, the 1940 Census had not yet been released, so it only covered the censuses between 1880 and 1930. This updated form adds a column for 1940.

B&F US Immigrant Census Form v2
B&F US Immigrant Census Form v2
Continue reading Updated Immigrant Census Form (1940 added)