Category Archives: Genealogy

Genealogy for NaNoWriMo

NaNoWriMo 2014November is about to begin and that means National Novel Writing Month. I’ve participated in NaNoWriMo since 2003. In fact, I discovered the event just before moving to Utah and that was my first year. A few years later, I volunteered to be ML, Municipal Liaison, for Salt Lake City. So I’m not just participating, I’m also in charge of organizing for the area.

I win every year. My OCD requires it. Even when my story idea is a failure, I still somehow write 50,000 words in the month, which is the goal of NaNoWriMo.

A few years ago, I tried to make it a genealogy year. I didn’t have a story idea so I decided to get my genealogy books written. It didn’t go well. Yes, I wrote enough words, but I didn’t get the writing done that I wanted to do.

This year, my genealogy goal is different. I’ve already been working on it for a while, but I want to do more faster. I plan to get all of my genealogy organized. My own research always takes a back seat to client work, but it needs to get done. I have files sitting on my computer of records I found years ago that haven’t been added into my database. I still have records that I printed from microfilm that need to be digitized (I usually rescan from the film rather than scanning the paper). I was cleaning up my old sources and putting them into different formats and writing better source citations, and I never finished.

I’ve also fallen horribly behind with my family newsletters. The last couple of years, I’ve gone back and forth about doing one big issue or individual ones for each year. I’ve decided that I’m going to do individual ones, and I plan to get them done in November. Well, I usually take longer than that on a newsletter, so if I can get two of them done, I’m doing good.

I also have a more goofy idea that will hopefully turn into a few short stories, so I have something to do at the write-ins. I can’t really do the genealogy work at those; maybe a little, but not really.

I will have to measure my words differently since there won’t be quite as much typing in my organizing. Being a rebel for NaNoWriMo sometimes means setting a different goal and a unique word counter. Since I can type 85 wpm, that’s over 5,000 words an hour. I will count an uninterrupted hour of organizing work as 2,000 words. Any interruptions will make it count as 1,000. I think that’s fair.

With this word count, dedicating at least one hour per day should work out. I hope to go well over the 50k words by counting this way. At the same time, I still need to get client work done, show up to a lot of write-ins, take care of my house, and do whatever else comes along in a month.

My true goal is to get through all of the records on my computer. This often means doing more research as I’m going, so that takes up even more time. But then I’ll be ready for the next batch of research. I know there’s plenty more for me to do just from the FHL, but I’ve been putting it off with all of this stuff unfinished.

Anyone else writing for NaNoWriMo? I know a lot of other genealogists talk about it. Anyone else ever tried to do genealogy for the month?

What is FamilySearch searching?

According to FamilySearch, nobody was born in England and Wales between 1888 and 1890.

In an effort to broaden my search for Peter Bernstein, born in England about 1889, I removed one detail after another in the hopes of getting some kind of search result. I was finally fed up and removed everything except the birth year range.

Was nobody born in two countries for three years preceding the census?

If the search algorithm doesn’t use those fields, then maybe it should completely ignore them rather than remove all possible results based on the rest of the information.

On the other hand, when I remove the birth years and get some search results, and FamilySearch tells me to visit the partner site, then FindMyPast tells me:

So, is someone in England scanning it right now so it’ll be there if I try again in 30 minutes?

IAJGS 2014

IAJGS 2014 is finally over. What a busy time it’s been. As co-chair of the conference, I had a lot of work to do, from overseeing all of my local volunteers in addition to some non-locals, covering for people who didn’t get their job done well, and taking care of a huge job that we didn’t think we’d have to do at all. And most of that took place in the last month.

All in all, the conference went really well. I was impressed by how much some of my local people stepped up. I had already seen some evidence of it, and seen some evidence of problems, but some came through much more than I had expected.

Many people told me how great they thought the conference was going, many thought there were no problems at all. Of course, from behind the scenes, I knew about the problems.

I especially appreciated how many times my co-chair, Hal Bookbinder, and the IAJGS president, Marlis Humphrey, thanked me for all the work I put into it. I’m glad they noticed. That last month before the conference, I got no client work done; too busy with the conference preparations.

I’m not complaining. I was the one who bid on the conference coming to SLC. I volunteered to be co-chair. I put my name on the conference and I had to make sure things were done well. And so I did. I learned a lot about how the IAJGS conference comes about and plenty about where improvements are needed.

I only attended four sessions and I dropped in on a few SIG meetings but never stayed long. Of course, I was in both of my sessions and one that I facilitated. My facilitating job came on Friday. Sadly, the speaker just read her slides, and they had lots of text. She had a great story and it could have been a fantastic presentation, but she skipped past all the genealogy parts of it too quickly, just barely letting us glance at the records she found. I also sat in on Josh Taylor’s session about attracting the younger generation to our societies. It reminded me of things I’ve heard him say before, or I’ve heard elsewhere, or thought of myself, and how much work it will be for me to try to do that without any help from my society members.

I’m really hoping that after all the work they did for this conference, my UJGS members will be willing to step up for our society. So far, they have done little to nothing for the society. But it gets tiring to run a society by yourself, especially after helping to run a whole conference. I hope they aren’t volunteered-out and we can make our society greater than it is. Now that I know they can put in the effort, I really hope they do.

And I look forward to getting back to my normal routine, getting some client work done, blogging more, etc. I have a lot of catching up to do.

Indexing Gone Wrong, 1

I have seen some pretty bad indexing work lately. I’ve decided to make my blog a little more active by sharing some really terrible indexing examples. Maybe it will help other people find records they are having trouble finding by showing how badly things get indexed sometimes and giving them alternate ideas to search for their own missing relatives.

Today’s find was from a marriage register. It is indexed by FamilySearch as Rabruowitz. Really? Rabruowitz? I hadn’t even looked at how this name was indexed (I was looking for the groom’s name) and at the first glance I knew it said Rabinowitz.

FamilySearch is indexed by two people and then arbitrated. Is this really the best they could come up with for this name? Rabruowitz? I’ll grant them that the I is not so clear, but come on.

Rootstech 2014, My Thoughts

RootsTech just finished it’s fourth year. I’ve gone to the conference every year. This year, I had a different perspective. So here are my critiques.

Hal Bookbinder in the IAJGS booth

1. I went over to the media center a few times to pick up my blogger beads and chat with a few bloggers. I didn’t see RootsTech doing anything different with their official bloggers than any other year, nor was there a noticeable change in who was chosen.

2. Security was kind of iffy. I went to a session on the first day before registering and nobody cared about my lack of a badge. (Apparently, registration wasn’t even open for most hours of that day anyway, so maybe they knew that and thus didn’t care.) I was only registered for the Expo Hall, but nobody checked my badge other days either. I only went to one or two sessions a day, but I shouldn’t have been allowed. The only time someone checked was when I was going back to the Expo Hall the first evening to continue setting up the booth, with bags of supplies in hand.

3. The app went downhill. RootsTech used another vendor. Now, that in itself isn’t necessarily a bad thing. But now, it required a login to add items to the schedule, so I couldn’t even speculate, via the app, what sessions I might go to. That sure discouraged me from upgrading my registration. I don’t know what else changed, since I didn’t bother much with it after that.

4. RootsTech’s theme has definitely switched to storytelling. How to use technology to tell stories, rather than technology’s use in genealogy. But I knew that last year. Maybe they should change the name. StoryRoots?

5. IAJGS had a table in the Expo Hall. This was a first. I was there to help set it up and man the booth during the conference. I was not impressed with RootsTech’s inability to spell “genealogical” on our sign. Good thing we had a banner to replace it. But it was an interesting experience overall, talking to so many people who came by to tell us there was a Jew somewhere in their family. We gave out an awful lot of flyers about our UJGS meeting the next week. I was pretty disappointed at the turn-out; only two new people attended. (I was glad to have them, but we gave out about 150 flyers…)

Thanks RootsTech

And thus concludes another year of RootsTech. Back to working on this year’s IAJGS conference.

Genealogy Goals for 2014

My 2013 goals kind of fell apart the second half of the year. Busy with client work (where I’m still behind) and planning for the conference next summer, I don’t think I kept up with any of my 2013 goals. My goals for 2014 are probably going to look similar. The one successful goal was organizing my documents. I got quite a way through sorting the records I had collected over the years. There are some left, some that need more research to verify I have the right people, some that I’m not sure what to do with, and there are still some on paper that didn’t get finished with, but I made a huge dent into those in the first half of the year that the remainder don’t feel overwhelming. Unfortunately, the IAJGS conferences got in the way.

So, what are my goals for 2014?

1. IAJGS 2014. The 2014 IAJGS Conference is going to take up the first half of the year. Plans are already underway. I have been gathering information and writing for the blog (my charge) and working with a couple of my locals. The first half of the year will see an increase in what my Utah people have to do, thus an increase in my job as well. It all culminates at the end of July. I’ll be free of it in August, when I can work on my other goals better. (This isn’t really a goal, more like a reality. But it will put a delay on the goals.)

2. Newsletters. Publish the family newsletters. The backlog. I now have to do three issues. I won’t be combining them. I was working on it a couple months ago and need to get back to it. I’d like them all done… well, I’d like them done in the past, but I’m not getting that. Can I finish one a month?

3. Russian. Continue with my Russian learning. I was doing well and just stopped. I need to get started again. It will be most interesting to see how much I’ve retained without practicing.

4. Hebrew. Learn Hebrew. I can already read the alphabet and I know a smattering of vocabulary, but the 2015 conference is in Israel. I’ll begin after the SLC conference. If my return trip to Europe comes up soon enough after the conference, I might delay until after that, since I should still be working on Russian.

5. Europe. Go back to Europe. It is definitely going to happen in 2014. After the summer. I have Trans-Carpathian work to do. And I’d like to get to Moldova this time.

6. Blogging. I’d love to keep up my blogging here better, but that might not happen until after the summer either. Catching up on my WDYTYA Nitpicker’s Guides would be a nice thing to do before that, since another season begins just before the conference. The Boston conference was badly timed at the beginning of the previous season. This may be a problem every year. My active blogging until the summer will take place over at

7. Clients. Catch up and keep up with my client work. I’ve been lagging behind since the summer and it might be more frustrating for me than some of my clients who have been patiently waiting for research. I’ve been putting off any new clients for a few months, except for quick jobs. If I can get just certain work finished, I will feel better about taking on new work. Once the FHL hours are back to normal, it will be easier.

8. Research. My own research goals still stand, but they will likely continue to be on hold until August. I still have more records on paper than I’d like. I was going to digitize directly from the microfilm but did not finish. I want to write a research report for each ancestor and many other relatives. I want to do a Feldstein one name study. I want to do more research of FHL-filmed records. I keep a list of things to do, but I haven’t touched them in months.

I don’t expect to write a monthly blog post for my goals this year. Maybe I’ll return to these in August and see how I’ve done. Hopefully I’ll have finished three things (1, 2, 7) by then. Those are the most important ones to get done.

October Genealogy Goals

It seems that I’ve forgotten about my goal posts for a few months. I was keeping them private for a little while, but I haven’t blogged in a bit, so I’ll go public with this one.

Time to see where I stand.

1. Go back to Europe. I hit a snag in my return trip this year. My main goal was to re-visit Uzhgorod and continue that research. But it seems the archivist got arrested and my contact in the city said she’d tell me when they’d arranged for me to gain access again by whoever new might take his place. I haven’t heard back.

2. Organize my documents. I did really well with this one. I got quite a ways through my files. There are lots more, but they’re harder to get through. And much more research to do to fill in the blanks. I stalled out a bit, probably just before the Boston conference, but I did get really far.

3. Blog more. Oops. I didn’t even get my Nitpicker’s Guides to WDYTYA written this year. I had the first one mostly written and flew off to the Boston conference. By the time I got back, I was half the season behind already. I still want to do these, and some other things. I’ve been busy.

4. Publish the family newsletter. I finally decided not to do a double issue. It would be too big. I’m going to do an issue for every year. I need to get those put together. I gathered the data already, enough for the first one, and got part way through my emails for the second.

5. Keep up with business. Well, kind of. I’ve fallen behind in getting the research done for business, but I think my invoicing has been better.

6. Keep up with UJGS. I have more to do now with the upcoming conference, so I’m getting everyone to work. Maybe we’ll come off this conference with people realizing that a little volunteering isn’t so hard after all.

7. Learn Russian. Da, no nie bystra. (Yes, but not quickly.) And no, I don’t know how to type in Russian. I had a previous computer set up for that, but this one isn’t.

8. Research reports for all. Nope, not even started.

9. Feldstein one name study. Ditto. This may not be the year (summer to summer) for these new, large things to happen.)

They come in waves, when I get some of these done. I think next year’s goals are going to look different. But the change will be good.

IAJGS 2013 – All Done

I blew off the one session I might have gone to on Friday and headed out to Boston. It was raining. The first weekend, I walked the Freedom Trail, save for one of the earliest stops. (Some years ago, for NaNoWriMo, I had written my characters walking the Freedom Trail, so I knew I had to do that.) I visited an interesting book store with Hal Bookbinder where we flipped through some old atlases, had lunch, then finished the Trail at the Massachusetts State House, where we took the tour. I especially remember some of the fun things, like where we get the expressions “costs an arm and a leg” and “red tape”. I also liked the stories about the Sacred Cod and the Holy Mackerel. Hal and I walked along to visit the Cheers bar, then through the Boston Common back to the hotel. It rained the whole time.

My last 24 hours in Boston included a walk-by of the New England Historic and Genealogical Society (when it was closed). I visited the Mapparium and walked through the Boston Public Library. The BPL has one architectural tour per day and I had missed it, so I just walked around a bit.

Thus ends another year of IAJGS conference. Next year is my conference. We will be in Salt Lake City and I am one of the co-chairs. I have a lot of work to do this coming year.

I leave you with some pictures.

IAJGS 2013 – Thursday

I began Thursday by showing up a little late to David Kleiman’s Early American Jewish Research. It was kind of what I expected, telling me to use the kind of records the non-Jewish researchers usually use for US research.

The next session I had chosen was a full room and became a closed session. They should have known, with a title like Life In Ukrainian Jewish Shtetlach, they’d need a bigger room. I only saw two instances of full rooms, but I wasn’t checking up on the whole conference.

After lunch, the Webmasters’ Roundtable, though listed as Society Webmaster BOF, was held. It was a small group where we sat around a table and discussed issues with web sites. I stuck around to have an extended chat with two people and missed the next sessions.

The gala banquet was that evening. I hadn’t even bought a ticket in advance, but someone offered me one for half price. I was a little disappointed that I didn’t get to sit with the people I have in the past, so I met some new people at a table that ended up in the back of the room. This year, the banquet was organized┬ámuch better than Paris, with the entertainment, the Zamir Chorale of Boston, and the awards not overlapping with any of the meal service. The Chorale was pretty good, but I preferred the Wednesday entertainment. However, I was also pre-biased.

IAJGS 2013 – Wednesday

Wednesday was my big day. I moved up in the world this year. My lecture was not only put in the big room, but it was broadcast live for the inaugural IAJGS Conference LIVE. I skipped the morning sessions I had marked.

I was early and killing the last half hour or so before my session when I ran into Michael Goldstein. He was still trying to reach my cousins in Israel and suggested we try calling again. He finally got through. I spoke briefly to my cousin, but we were both in bad locations on cell phones. I got her email address and happily went to my lecture.

Rehearsing several times in advance, trying to find bits to cut, every practice run of my lecture went for an hour and 20 minutes. I warned people. Not the audience, but the facilitators. I did not have a clock to watch while I spoke. I sped through a few things faster than usual because I knew I would go over time. I started the stopwatch on my phone, set it down, and couldn’t figure out where it was during he session. When I got to the last slide, I finally spotted it on the podium and noticed that it said… 46 minutes. What the heck happened to the other half hour of stuff I had to say?

I heard from plenty of people after that I did a good job, I just wonder what I did so differently. I quickly figured out something I meant to say and forgot, but that would only add a couple minutes. I must speak even faster when I have a large audience. I guess I need to practice at lightning speeds from now on to make the lectures longer.

The twitterers were trying plan a tweet-up after. Several of them were there and commented. Eventually I ended up in an informal Tech BOF apparently, so not quite the group I thought it was going to be.

I was later told that one guy stood up within the first ten minutes to ask a question. At least one person was silently cheering me on to ignore him. I didn’t even see him. I felt a little bad about it after, but he did have kind of a rude question. Did he really stand there for that long? I look out on a sea of faces and don’t notice much of anything specific. In a smaller room another year, I remember noticing some people come in late and being told a few left early that I hadn’t even noticed.

The ever-exciting Annual Meeting followed. Unfortunately, my joke during roll call fell completely flat. Coming from Utah, by the time it gets to me, it’s already stale. We elected some new officers, there was some interesting debate over a bylaw change.

Daniel Horowitz then did Conducting Webinars, which he required me to be at, as one of the webinar masters. He passed me the room’s computer (using his own to present), but had two attendees online in the webinar to do what he wanted from me. I actually learned more about the webinars. I had missed the entire section about sending reminder and follow-up emails.

The first evening session was Zvi Gittelman talking about The Litvak-Galitsianer Wars. I was late and sat in the back where I couldn’t see the map he had on screen. He did a lot of talking and didn’t change the slide very often when I was there. I stayed for a little while, but not very long. I did learn, interestingly enough, that I am, in fact, a Litvak, since he said that encompassed the Lomza area of Poland. Who knew? I figured someday I might find I’m a Galitsianer, since Trans-Carpathian Jews usually came from that region. Maybe I’m both.

The later entertainment, I had requested even before there was a committee for this conference. Safam was awesome. I had seen them a couple times as a kid at our synagogue. I was a little worried since the guys are getting older, but they all sounded great. They infused some great humor into the show. They started with two favorites of mine, Just Another Foreigner and World of our Fathers. I was disappointed that they didn’t do Jerusalem, but instead a newer song, Home to Jerusalem. I think the highlight was their top ten worst melodies for Adon Olam. The melodies included Amazing Grace, Danny Boy, a Christmas song (I can’t remember now which one), a couple songs from the 50s including Breaking Up is Hard To Do, and the Macarena. They even did the dance.