First things first, my name is Banai, like in B’nai Brith, B’nai Israel, B’nai Torah, or any other synagogue name you may know like that. If you’ve never heard of any of those, it rhymes with Renee.
My interest in genealogy and family history began in fourth grade, after a family tree school assignment. I interviewed my three living grandparents for more information, and filed it away. (Actually, it probably started right around my birth, but that’s a stranger story.)
I graduated from Florida Atlantic University in 1996 with a BS in Computer Science with a focus on computer programming and Artificial Intelligence. I’ve strayed a bit from that subject. I still enjoy programming, but I now focus on web sites.
In 1998, my interest in genealogy was again piqued. I began a more serious and more informed search for my family history. I have learned about ancestors whose names were unknown and located and visited countless cousins that were previously unknown to anyone in my immediate family. I have attended weddings and bat mitzvahs of cousins I didn’t know existed a decade earlier.
I took my first trip to Eastern Europe in 2012 where I visited half of my ancestral towns and villages along with the archives to do more research. I even stepped inside the house where one grandfather was born and raised.
My database grew from a few hundred names to over 2,000 in a few short years, with all details thoroughly documented, more recently surpassing 6,000 names. I not only research my ancestors and my cousins, but any connected lines get enhanced when I can relatively easily find and access the records.
I relocated to Salt Lake City in 2003 in the hopes of not only expanding my own family research, but also in assisting others with their research efforts. I spend a lot of time at my downtown second home, the Family History Library.
In 2004, I joined the Utah Jewish Genealogical Society, in 2006 took over the duties of Newsletter Editor and Webmaster, and in 2009 was elected President. In 2015, I traded positions with the Treasurer. I have written many articles for the UJGS newsletter, been published in a few others, and was even asked to write for Avotaynu.
Since 2005, I have attended the annual IAJGS International Conference on Jewish Genealogy, presenting lectures and computer labs almost every year since 2008, volunteered for the committee in 2007, and stepped up even more to be co-chair of the 2014 conference that took place in Salt Lake City. I next volunteered to be the IAJGS Webmaster, as well as continuing to help with web site programming at the conferences, helping with the Israel site, and volunteering as Webmaster for the Seattle and Orlando conferences.