Category Archives: Genealogy


Most genealogists get to the point where they realize that they have a lot of information and it’s not well organized. We start out trying to be organized, or we don’t really know what we’re doing. And then one day, the idea of how to get better organized hits us.

Then we have to actually make it happen. After a lot of years of research, that gets even harder. I have long put off my own research in favor of my clients’ research, as rightly I should, but I still often snuck in some work on my own family. The problem is, while I’ve gathered records over the years, I haven’t been adding information into my database.

I have a folder on my computer called “Documents To Do” inside of my genealogy folder. It has over 3,000 files in.

OK, so about 1,000 of them are Chicago birth records that I began indexing. But then Cook County went and indexed them all, so I didn’t have to do that anymore. Maybe I should delete those, because I didn’t find my cousins’ records until that other index showed up.

I also have some other records that I’ve meant to index, or do something with. I have been collecting Feldstein records for a one name study that I haven’t really started. I have about 300 census images, but I only finished gathering those up to 1910.

That still leaves at least 2,000 files. So how am I going to go about organizing that?

One file at a time.

And that’s what I’ve been doing this month, instead of blogging. I’ve been meaning to blog. I found someone in a census seven years after she died and thought that might make for an interesting short blog post. I got to work on my 1940 census entries and found two in a row that had the supplemental question — I hadn’t noticed that I had any before. And I just keep digging away, slowly, at the records. I even added a new person to the database, when I found an uncle in someone’s household.

I actually started this bout of organizing last year, or was it the year before, so I have to figure out where I left off and continue that part also. I was working on replacing my paper files with digital copies; where they came from the Family History Library, I am scanning from the microfilm again instead of just scanning the old paper copy.

I’ll be doing this for a very long time but hopefully I’ll make a serious dent. I’m trying to avoid finding any more records until I’ve gotten all the old ones straightened out. So far this month, I’ve been pretty good about that. But I have no doubt that I will be adding new documents as I find them. I just have to make sure they go straight into my database so I don’t have to revisit them to figure them out again.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have more organizing to do in my own database, right after I deliver some things to my clients.

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Genealogy Goals for 2013

Just as I hit my first goal last year, it seems I forgot to blog about my goal progress. Maybe this year I’ll remember a little better. It also seems, even before I’ve written this post, that my goals this year will be very much similar to last year’s. I did, however, create a new goal during that down time of my goal reviews, and I finished it too.

So a quick review of last year’s goals. I went to Europe! I think I blogged more. Business related, I think I did a little better on both emails and invoicing, but better on the former. I didn’t get pictures on my family web site, nor did I get back to organizing my documents since Europe (I did a lot before the trip). I haven’t indexed much lately either. An added goal never blogged about that I did finish was posting pictures from my Europe trip; I created one page for every city/town/village.

So here goes… my genealogy goals for 2013.

1. Go back to Europe (and let the clients pay). I’m already trading emails with a few people. I don’t know if they’re serious enough to realize the added costs of the trip versus paying for me to do research locally, but I’ll stay hopeful.

2. Organize my genealogy documents. I have been scanning papers like crazy, creating a stack of recycling about one foot high. Just a few folders are left unscanned, then onto all the genealogy files.

3. Blog more genealogy. This will be easy. I didn’t count posts in previous years to know if I really blogged more last year, but I can definitely blog more about genealogy. I will soon begin analyzing the documents from Europe, in addition to the previous goal.

4. Publish a family newsletter. This should be a relatively easy goal, but I didn’t make it last year. First I have to figure out how to email all of my relatives. Was I using the mailing list program?

5. Keep up with business. The new computer should make this one a little easier. Now that QuickBooks doesn’t take so long to start up, and it can run in the background easily, I should be able to invoice more often. I’ve been doing pretty well with keeping my email inbox to reasonable levels too.

6. Keep up with UJGS. I’ve slacked off a little. I need to meet individually with my board members to get them to work. When I have less that I have to do, I’ll probably do more that I’m supposed to.

7. Learn Russian. Last summer, I had a working knowledge of Polish, enough to get by in the country. I barely got started on Russian and felt quite lost in Ukraine. (Yes, they use Ukrainian there, but everyone also knows Russian, and it will be useful in more countries.) The great thing about this goal is that I just got started again on my Russian lessons in the last week, so already off and running.

Yep, very similar to last year. I do have a few specific projects I’d like to work on also. Maybe listing them here will get me to work.

8. Create research reports for everyone. I mean this for the people in my own database. While writing reports for clients, I always find things that I missed and have to go back for them. It could be very useful to do for my own family.

9. Begin my Feldstein one name study. I have been collecting Feldstein records and indexes for years but I haven’t actually done anything with them. I’d like to.

Those last two will be the harder ones to get done because they’re big. I already have the organizing to do.

I think I got more work done when I first moved my office into the living room. And now with a new desk, I’ve been inspired to get a lot of things done again. I sometimes forget how much I require change. If I start to slow down, maybe I’ll paint the room a different color to get me going again.

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Paris, France

The long stay in Uzhhorod was unexpected, but the end excitement to see the record books was worth it. I only wish I had more time because my next intended visit was Moldova. Instead, I conveniently found a well priced flight from L’viv to Paris via Warsaw.

I took a few walks outside of the hotel during the conference, sometimes for a meal with friends, other times just to take a walk. I escaped the conference one day for a little local sightseeing, then I had one day after the conference to see Paris.

Many Parisians spoke English, but even when they didn’t, my public school French, along with a recent vocabulary refresher, made the language feel much less foreign.

A lovely surprise awaited me at the Eiffel Tower, my first stop, when my cousin was standing in line at just the right moment. I easily convinced him to give up on the multi-hour wait and we toured the city together. I had marked out the places I most wanted to see and it was much more fun to have the company.

My photos here begin at the Ukraine airport, because I didn’t think to put them into an earlier post. This was the final part of my European trip. The next related blog posts will be sorting through all of the records I acquired.

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All photos and content Copyright 2012 by Banai Lynn Feldstein.

Mukachevo, Ukraine

On another outing from Uzhhorod, I visited Mukachevo. This is my Rosenthal and Schwimmer ancestral city. They all lived in or nearby to the large city. I had nothing specific to look for, so we just visited the usual places.

We began at the synagogue. My driver’s uncle worked there and we waited until someone let us into the building. Then we headed for the two Jewish cemeteries. Again, my driver stopped to ask directions instead of knowing where he was going. It made the trip a little more interesting. We visited the main downtown square where the synagogue used to be, and saw at a distance a renovated synagogue building. Apparently, there are now two synagogues in Mukachevo, though everyone refers to “the” synagogue as if there’s only one. And finally, we stopped at Palanok Castle. My driver stayed with the car to stave off the gypsy kids, so I walked through myself. There was no information in English, so I didn’t learn any of the history or stories behind things.

I did have a moment at the castle. Two people were talking to each other in English, mentioning they wanted to ask me to take a photo of them. Then they asked me, probably in Ukrainian.

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All photos and content Copyright 2012 by Banai Lynn Feldstein.

Kopinovtsi, Ukraine

This entry is for my Rosenthal family. Kopinovtsi is a small village northwest of Mukachevo. It is our Rosenthal ancestral village.

My driver didn’t like using the GPS that he had in his car, opting instead to stop and ask for directions every few people we saw. We were doing fine until we ran out of people. By the time we saw another, we had already driven past the village and off of the paved road. Kopinovtsi sits on a kind of side street to the main road, and we drove past both entrances. Neither had a sign with the village name, as every other village seemed to have.

After a quick stop, and asking more directions, we stopped at the Village Council building. Several people were soon on their cell phones to help. A cousin told me that our house was somewhat recently half post office, so I didn’t think it would be too hard to find. They knew that a Jewish family had once lived in the house directly across the street, but were able to verify it was my family. Down the street, a woman remembered Hershie and his family, while another spoke on the phone to a relative of her husband’s who knew them also.

The house turns out to be one third post office, one third library, and one third in ruins. The people in the village even offered to sell it to me. The post office was locked up, but I walked through the other sections. The back yard was pretty big with a mikveh at the back. It had its own private bridge over a picturesque stream; the water used to be suitable for drinking.

In all my excitement, I didn’t take any pictures of the village, just looking down the street, to get a feel for the area. Maybe on a future visit to the country, I’ll swing by there again.

This was the most personal part of my trip, where I visited the house my grandfather was born and raised in.

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All photos and content Copyright 2012 by Banai Lynn Feldstein.

Uzhhorod, Ukraine

I had trouble when I got to Ukraine. I had put a lot of work into building a working knowledge of Polish, but I hadn’t tackled Russian. I started learning and intended to do more, but I really didn’t. I tried to hire a genealogist to help me when I got there, but that didn’t work out. I felt more lost than ever. As time passed, I started getting used to it. I still don’t know if I got used to all the Cyrillic or if I just got used to not understanding.

In my time of need, I was glad to be Jewish. I’ve read stories of how Jews always help each other, but I’ve never really used such kind of help. I contacted Hesed Shpira, a Jewish Welfare Center. At the time, I didn’t know what they did, but they were in Uzhhorod and some of them spoke English. They were a huge help, connecting me with guides and translators that made my stay in Ukraine interesting and fruitful.

My driver took me out of the city to Mukachevo and Kopinovtsi on different days. His English wasn’t terrific, especially when people in my ancestral village were recalling stories about my family and he had trouble translating, but it was enough.

My other helper came with me to the Uzhhorod Archive and spoke to the director for me. We sat to fill out the record request forms while the director went out, so we had some time to chat about genealogy and how research works, and why those forms were of little use. We waited a week for him to get back to us. We finally called him on my last day in the country. I wish we’d called sooner, because we went back to the archive and were able to look through all of the books of birth records for Mukachevo, but didn’t have time for marriages and deaths. I need to go back and finish.

While waiting for that call, I spent quite a few unexpected days in Uzhhorod. Without any planning, I ended up in a hotel in the city center. I slowly learned this, as well as how many things were in walking distance. The coolest find was when I was just wandering around and spotted a building around the corner and off in the distance, and I recognized it from pictures as the former synagogue. I also visited the Uzhhorod Castle, the botanical garden, and the Zakarpattia Museum of Folk Architecture and Life. Many days I just wandered around the city center.

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All photos and content Copyright 2012 by Banai Lynn Feldstein.

Poland to Ukraine

Crossing the border between Poland and Ukraine was an adventure in itself. The train I boarded in Kraków was about ten cars long, but only three went all the way through to L’viv. I had to buy a ticket on a sleeper car, though I had no intention to sleep before arrival. One cabin mate spoke a little English, the other did not.

The map didn’t make the trip out to be as long as it was scheduled for, but I soon learned that there were two stops along the way, at Przemyśl to leave Poland, and just over the border to enter Ukraine. Each stop was about two hours long. In Poland, we were pushed around a bit as they switched engines and adjusted the wheels beneath us, then we were pushed backwards into the station for customs. An agent came through the train and stamped our passports.

We then slowly headed for the border. In Ukraine, they took away our passports while we waited, still not leaving the train. And they even brought dogs through each cabin. Eventually, we headed off to L’viv, arriving after midnight, where I had to quickly buy another train ticket for Uzhgorod.

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All photos and content Copyright 2012 by Banai Lynn Feldstein.

December Goals Review

It seems that, until yesterday, I completely forgot about blogging my goals review since I went to Europe — but that was a goal. So here is my review after all these months.

1. Go to Europe. Done! I can’t wait to go back and would like to next year. Anyone want to hire me for Eastern European research?

2. Organize my documents. Well, that stalled out again, but I’ll get back to it. I’m still posting the photos from my Europe trip to this blog, then I’ll get to the documents, and I’m sure I’ll get back to organizing some of the older ones around that time too.

3. Get pictures on the family web site. Oops. I’ve been posting Europe trip pictures on the blog at least.

4. Blog more. I slowed a bit in November for NaNoWriMo, but I should be picking that up more now, especially since I have a new computer and everything is faster. When I add a second monitor eventually, it will be even better.

5. Don’t procrastinate emails. I’ve done much better with this, save for between computers when running my email program on the six year old back-up computer often crashed it.

6. Invoice better. I should do this. Even QuickBooks runs faster now.

7. Index more. Not so much lately, but when I get to organizing the records I brought home from Europe, I’ve got quite a bit to index for one group.

In addition, the new computer and new desk have brought new life to my productivity on the computer. I needed a change of scenery and this was enough. I have been backing up old backup CDs and DVDs to my hard drive and scanning old papers to eliminate more files. I even got more reading done while doing these.

I have a month left of 2013 to try to do better on a few of these goals. I predict a couple will improve more and at least one won’t change. So is life.

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Auschwitz, Poland

On my last day in Kraków, I finally made it out to Auschwitz. I went out with a small, late tour in slightly rainy weather, which just made the trip seem more depressing. I thought it was appropriate. As we arrived, crowds of people were leaving, making the camps very desolate during our tours.

Our guide didn’t even want to walk us around the second camp for a fear of lightning. In the end, some of us insisted so she walked us out, and the rain eventually stopped. However, I thought that one of our goals was to see the big memorial at the end of the camp, and we still missed it.

I’ve heard some people complain about their tours of the camps, where the guides try to change the story and make the Poles seem more like victims. Our guide was not like that. She was unapologetic and simply told us what she knew. Some of the story that stuck with me was their restoration efforts. We saw evidence of this at both camps, scaffolding and tape that we weren’t supposed to cross. Not only were costs prohibitive, but they couldn’t be sure what condition to restore the buildings to, since some had been altered after the war.

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All photos and content Copyright 2012 by Banai Lynn Feldstein.


Kazimierz is the old Jewish Quarter. When Jews were forced out of Kraków, that’s where they went. It is south of the old town, Stare Miasto. Wawel Castle is between the two.

There have been at least seven synagogues, all of which are still standing, three are still active, one is now a museum.

My hotel was in the corner of Kazimierz nearest to Wawel and Stare Miasto. I walked around the area quite a bit. Unfortunately, I didn’t cross the river to see Schindler’s Factory and the ghetto. I was in Kraków during the Jewish Heritage Festival, and I could tell from the crowds I saw a few times.

More about the synagogues and Kazimierz can be found at:

Wikipedia has individual pages for the main synagogues, and a long list of others that I didn’t visit.

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All photos and content Copyright 2012 by Banai Lynn Feldstein.