26    Jul 20102 comments

Librarians meet MyHeritage

Schelly and Daniel prepare to meet the librarians in Seattle!

Researchers often dream of being locked up in a library, where we would have all the time in the world to enjoy those resources.

Since we don't usually get the chance to have unlimited access to such facilities, another interesting activity is to be at a conference attended by several hundred librarians.

Daniel Horowitz - Genealogy and Translation Manager at MyHeritage.com - and I were at the Association of Jewish Libraries conference in Seattle, Washington.

On the first day, we met with people from around the US and those who had traveled from other countries. Attendees were from public libraries, universities, schools, archives and many other organizations and institutions. Continue reading "Librarians meet MyHeritage" »

13    Jul 20103 comments

MyHeritage and JewishGen grow trees together

MyHeritage.com and JewishGen.org have partnered to increase the Family Tree of the Jewish People database.

MyHeritage JewishGen

Here's the official press release:

Tel Aviv, Israel; London, UK and Los Angeles, US – July 10, 2010 – MyHeritage.com and JewishGen.org are now working together to invigorate the Family Tree of the Jewish People (FTJP) project.

Under this collaboration, family trees built with a special version of MyHeritage.com available at http://www.myheritage.com/jewishgen, with the consent of the tree creators, will be transferred periodically to the FTJP for digital safekeeping. Privacy controls, using the MyHeritage.com tools, can be set according to the wishes of the tree creator. Data of existing MyHeritage.com users will not be transferred.

JewishGen is a non-profit organization created to help researchers interested in Jewish genealogy around the world connect to each other, research their families and ancestral geographic locations, participate in research projects and store Jewish family trees safely. The mission of JewishGen is to obtain records and information that will be valuable to those with Jewish ancestry and place them on the JewishGen website, at no cost, in an easy to understand and searchable format.

The Family Tree of the Jewish People is a project of JewishGen to bring together family historians around the world who research Jewish family branches. The project offers a central resource for Jewish family trees and helps re-connect Jewish families.

MyHeritage.com is a genealogical social networking site with more than 50 million members and 590 million profiles worldwide. It currently holds some 15 million family trees. It operates in 36 languages including English and Hebrew, making it ideal for Jewish families around the world to connect, as it offers easy and fun tools to enable sharing of information, photos, documents and videos among far-flung relatives, with complete and secure privacy controls that can be set by tree creators.

“JewishGen is committed to ensuring Jewish continuity for present generations and generations yet to come,” says JewishGen managing director Warren Blatt. “Our free, easy-to-use website features thousands of databases, research tools and other resources to help those with Jewish ancestry research and find family members. The vision of JewishGen is to connect Jews throughout the world with their relatives and provide them with the ability to learn about their family history and heritage.”

“MyHeritage.com – a site used all over the world and by all religions – is among the most popular genealogy websites in the Jewish world, making it a natural partner for JewishGen”, said Blatt. “The benefit of this partnership is to offer the free website tools from MyHeritage.com to create and research family trees, with the option to share those trees with the thousands of JewishGen users via the FTJP. Under the new partnership, the FTJP will be invigorated and constantly updated, resulting in an accurate, up-to-date and constantly growing Jewish family tree database for JewishGen.”

“We are excited to join forces with JewishGen,” said Gilad Japhet, founder and CEO of MyHeritage.com, himself an avid genealogist and a member of JewishGen since August 2000. “We see it as a privilege to cooperate with JewishGen and help it preserve family trees of people who wish to discover, and be discovered by, fellow researchers and relatives," Japhet added. "Our Smart Matching technology will provide genealogists the added benefit of discovering additional relatives through the large databases on MyHeritage.com. This will fulfill the mutual objective of MyHeritage.com and JewishGen to reunite families whose ties have been lost through time and fate."

About MyHeritage.com:

MyHeritage.com was founded by a team of people who combine their passion for family history with the development of innovative technology. Since launching in November 2005 MyHeritage.com has become the world’s leading international online network for families and the second largest family history website. The fastest growth rates in the industry combined with the acquisitions of Pearl Street Software (2007), Kindo.com (2008) and OSN (2009) have made MyHeritage.com the home for 50 million family members and 590 million profiles. The company has offices in London, UK; Hamburg, Germany; Boulder, Colorado, USA and Tel Aviv, Israel. MyHeritage.com has received funding by Accel Partners and Index Ventures. For more information, visit http://www.myheritage.com/jewishgen

About JewishGen:

JewishGen, a non-profit organization affiliated with the Museum of Jewish Heritage – A Living Memorial to the Holocaust, was founded in 1987 as a bulletin board with only 150 users who were interested in Jewish genealogy. Primarily driven by volunteers, there are over 700 active volunteers throughout the world who actively contribute to its ever growing collection of databases, resources and search tools. Currently, JewishGen hosts more than 14 million records, and provides a myriad of resources and search tools designed to assist those researching their Jewish ancestry. JewishGen provides its resources online as a public service.

30    Jun 20100 comments

Genealogists gone wild!

Genealogists are not normally a wild bunch. 

Our "happy dances" tend to accompany the discovery of new records for elusive ancestors.

Our "wild and crazy" moments happen as we help others find answers to their family history questions or help them locate hard-to-find records. We enjoy discovering the clues and pointers  in both unusual and ordinary places.

This week produced two interesting developments.

I'm in northern California - Silicon Valley - at the home of friends, as I rest from one conference and rest up for three more in quick succession with only a day between each, beginning this coming weekend.

So, along with continuing prep work for my presentations - and blogging - it's nice to get in some fun. Fun, to those of us who pursue our roots, can mean many things.

My friend Rosanne is a semi-retired reference librarian - and an accomplished genealogist. I went with her to her library one day last week. As we parked, I noticed this great license plate on the adjacent car. We agreed that the vehicle MUST belong to a genealogist.

A genealogist's license plate?

Who else but a genealogist would have the abbreviations (BMD) - for birth, marriage and death records - on their license? Continue reading "Genealogists gone wild!" »

28    Jun 20102 comments

Family legends: Shaking the tree

Genealogy conferences present opportunities to learn more about topics with which we are familiar, as well as new, not yet investigated subjects.

The recently concluded Southern California Genealogical Society's 41st Jamboree presented numerous such sessions.

Sometimes there are sessions at which the proverbial lightbulb switches on. Such essential knowledge is transmitted that the participants then find it difficut to look at their own individual family histories in quite the same way as before.

All of us have family stories that might be termed myths. How can we determine whether a story may be fact or fiction?

A fascinating session on just this topic was given by Jean Wilcox Hibben. With a PhD in folkore, an MA in speech communication, and a Certified Genealogist, Jean is president of both the Corona (California) Genealogical Society and the Southern California chapter of the Association of Professional Genealogists, Genealogical Speakers Guild secretary and much more.

"Shaking the Myth: Proving and Disproving Family Legends" demonstrated the challenges faced by genealogists and family historians. Continue reading "Family legends: Shaking the tree" »

20    Jun 20103 comments

Prevent loss: Save your history

You've researched your family extensively over many years. What will happen to all that material in the future?

I have to admit that some of my own recent research is not as organized as it could be, due to lack of time. There are notes on loose papers not yet in the correct folder or binder. There are photographs waiting to be sorted. There are miscellaneous printed emails that I understand - would anyone else? 

Although beginning researchers might not think about this important topic, it is essential to address at every stage of research.

What will happen to your research if you become ill or worse? Will it be just thrown away? Will close family or other relatives understand what your work represents and its value?

This is a very personal topic for me as our family lost a 300-year-old family tree brought by one of the last family members to arrive from Belarus to the US in the early 1900s. He died in Florida in the 1950s and neither of his children were there. Everything in the house, including our priceless family history, was simply thrown away.

No matter how much research I do, the information contained in that tree will be impossible to replace in its entirety. It was compiled by those who lived that history and who knew much more than I can ever learn. Continue reading "Prevent loss: Save your history" »

13    Jun 20100 comments

Jamboree 2010: Exciting!

Exhilarating, exciting and stimulating are the most descriptive terms for Jamboree 2010 - the 41st annual Southern California Genealogical Society's conference.

Jamboree 2010 Geneabloggers

Some of the 50 attending geneabloggers at Jamboree 2010

This is the fourth time I've attended this conference - the largest regional genealogy conference in the US - and each year it gets better and better. The planning committee, led by Paula Hinkel and Leo Myers, does a really excellent job.

The networking has been non-stop with some 50 geneabloggers Facebooking and Tweeting about the great speakers and programs.

Daniel Horowitz, our MyHeritage genealogy and translation manager, presented several very well-received programs on various aspects of our features - one session had more than 100 attendees, while another was standing-room-only.

I participated on the advanced bloggers' panel and also provided a session on creating a DNA project (how to set goals, objectives, letting people know about it, persuading them to participate, etc.).

Jamboree 2010's advanced bloggers panel

From left: Thomas MacEntee, Craig Manson, Schelly Talalay Dardashti, Lisa Louise Cooke, Kathryn Doyle.

Between attending presentations, networking with my colleagues and assisting at the busy MyHeritage booth, it has been a very busy conference. We've been giving out orange family tree hugger ribbons and chocolate kisses - "hugs and kisses." It's great to see so many people with the orange labels on their conference badges.

Many visitors have been dropping by. On Saturday, Chris Haley, nephew of Alex Haley, author of "Roots" came by and spent some time with us.

I have notes on many sessions and will be organizing and posting them over the next few days.

We're already looking forward to next year's edition!

27    May 20100 comments

Language: Speaking in tongues

Can't read Cyrillic? Problems with Persian? Trouble with Turkish?

Find help with free online language courses.

When Research Buzz mentioned several sites for free online language courses, I wondered how this could help linguistically-challenged researchers - including me.

I clicked here for the Foreign Service Institute (FSI) Language Courses and found an extensive list of languages - from Amharic to Yoruba - with texts and audio tapes.

Since most of my personal research involves records written in Russian Empire Cyrillic, I wanted to see if I could brush up on my reading skills. Continue reading "Language: Speaking in tongues" »

20    May 20100 comments

Success: The London Connection

Traveling to other countries provides an opportunity to reconnect with family.

In February, that's exactly what our genealogy and translation manager Daniel Horowitz experienced. He had traveled to London to represent MyHeritage at the Who Do You Think You Are? LIVE family history fair.

His visit enabled several SINGER branches to meet once again. The family has its roots in Czernovits, which was in Austro-Hungary and is today in Ukraine.

The SINGER Family (c1930)

Daniel, born and raised in Caracas, Venezuela, knew there were branches in London but didn't know much about them, except that they didn't talk to each other! Continue reading "Success: The London Connection" »

13    May 20100 comments

Do you have the time?

MyHeritage has the time - a TimeLine and a TimeBook.

Not sure what these are? Read on for quick descriptions and video links to provide more information. I'm focusing on TimeLine in this post.

Timeline is an interactive feature demonstrating the relationship of history's main events to your family's important dates.

This is an important feature because each person's unique family history has always been impacted by worldwide historical events that caused very local effects.

One example might be an early 19th-century cholera epidemic, quite common at the time around the world and frequently fatal for young children and the elderly. Such epidemics may be responsible for many deaths noticed in historical vital records.

And, while regional and world wars covered a wide swath of territory, local events may have "encouraged" your ancestors to move somewhere less chaotic and more safe.

To truly understand the lives of our ancestors, we need to learn about historical events that may have effected them.

When I began my quest, I noticed that my great-grandmother's brother, Chatzkel Bank, had arrived in New York City in January 1913 and began working to bring over his wife, son and infant daughter. Continue reading "Do you have the time?" »

4    May 20104 comments

Maps: Learning about your community

What do breweries and a local Chinatown have to do with family history?

Students in a free genealogy class at a Sacramento, California library used historic fire insurance maps to walk through their community's 19th-century history without leaving the classroom, according to this story in the Sacramento Bee.

Instructor Melinda Kashuba said these maps are "obscure resource that can let a person's mind wander down the streets of their forebears," and that researchers can learn a lot about the lives of their ancestors.

Here's an example, above left; for the larger image, see below.

These maps indicate schools, churches, businesses and more. All provide additional leads for researchers, according to Kashuba.

An 1898 map of North Bloomfield shows that the area between Main Street and a nearby creek was where Chinese workers lived.

A map of Truckee from the late 19th century said the area between a hillside and West Main Street was lined with "female boarding houses," or brothels, Kashuba said.

Mapmakers had noted that a brewery in Mokelumne Hill was lit by candles and had no night watchman, making it a poor insurance risk, she said.

What makes me even happier - in addition to teaching beginners how to use these maps - is that the class was part of the library's free genealogy program. Future classes will focus on finding New England ancestors and researching church records

The fire insurance maps - a main publisher was the Sanborn Map Co. (Pelham, New York) - were printed 1860-1940, and provided insurance companies data to determine fire risks of  buildings and neighborhoods, without having to send an underwriter on a personal visit. The maps were the equivalent of today's Google views.
Continue reading "Maps: Learning about your community" »

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