Category Archives: Conferences

JGSLA 2010 – Day 3 Recap

Tuesday started early for me. After waking up in time to wait for the pathetic little beep-de-beep from the in-room alarm, I went to the Professional Genealogists Birds of a Feather (BOF) meeting. This used to be an active group and just barely started up again two years ago. It sounds like this year might have the chance to be the beginning of a good group again. All we need are some people to… yeah, I kind of volunteered to help get that going.

I had a few hours of a break after that and got a few things done unrelated to the conference. I had offered to volunteer some time in the Resource Room, and that was one time I meant to go, but I was tired. Sorry to Barbara Algaze for not finding time in my schedule to hang out and help people. I really did mean to, but this conference just has a lot going on that I’m interested in doing; seems like there’s more than some other years have had. I did stop in and sign up for time with the USHMM person and their database. While in there, Steve Luxenberg came in and I bought Annie’s Ghosts from him, having previously exited after his session quickly to escape the crowd.

After lunch with Mark, Kathy, Bob, and Michael Goldstein, I headed to Ilene Schneider’s Yiddish: A Fun Look at the Language of our Ancestors. I bought her book a couple days ago. The only problem I had with this session was the lack of translation. Most of the audience understood the few things she didn’t translate, but I never learned Yiddish and only knew the most basic words. However, I was able to figure out what one of the phrases was by saying it in my head a couple times.

I headed over to You Can Go Home Again: … Ancestral Visit to Eastern Europe (they must not have had word limits to titles this year) with Sol Sylvan and Alexander Dunai. Sol lost my attention very quickly, did a commercial for a bag they were auctioning, and showed a film. Alex gave a bit of advice for traveling to Europe, and then it was over. I was not impressed. I would have preferred to hear a lot more from Alex.

My second session for the week, Newsletter Editors BOF, was next. Kahlile Mehr was really leading it but had been putting my name on the session so I could help him. This group had also met for the previous two conferences and the discussion had been interesting. This year, I think we accomplished a few things, especially by getting the IAJGS Board more involved.

I skipped the JewishGen presentation for dinner with roommate Judi and six other people, returning for The Bialy Eaters: The Story of Bread and a Lost World. It was interesting, but I was getting tired, so I might have enjoyed it a little more if not for that. However, I now realize I should try a bialy. We were bagel people and I’ve never had one before.

JGSLA 2010 – Day 2 Recap

The second day of this conference began for me with the last session before lunch. I presented a computer lab called Publish or Perish Using Microsoft Publisher. The person who was supposed to assist or introduce me did not show, but my roommate, Judi Missel, was kind enough to volunteer and she arrived a few minutes after I had begun. I received a lot of questions about the benefits of Publisher over Word and was glad when some benefits revealed themselves during the session. I don’t use Word, so I couldn’t really tell them the true benefits other than what I thought they were. Judi was extremely helpful to the point where I stayed in front of the class teaching while she ran between the few people that needed the most help. Usually I have had to do that in previous years. I had a small class of only nine people, but at least a few came away saying that they liked the program and would not be afraid to use it.

I initially thought I might do beginner and intermediate levels of the class after last year, but with the small attendance, I won’t repeat that lab again without at least one year’s break. Mark Heckman gave me a great idea for a lecture for next year and I’m already thinking about what to put in it.

After lunch with Judi, I continued the day at A Different Memory: Poles, Jews, and What We Think We Know About Them with Anna Przybyszewska Drozd. The session didn’t quite match up with the title. She had some interesting stories to tell, and convinced a couple other people to tell their stories. I think her presentation could use some improvement. I don’t think she was quite confident in her English, but other than asking for help with a few words, it sounded pretty good to me. After all, these people who learn English as a second or more language, no matter how bad they think their English is, it’s usually better than most of the rest of can speak any other language.

Steve Luxenerg presented Genealogy From the Inside Out: Pursuing the Elusive and Unknown, sharing the genealogical view of his writing of Annie’s Ghosts. I thought he led a great session. It was standing room only.

I volunteered to assist with Daniel Horowitz’s computer lab, but found Elise Friedman was there for the same reason. I found a film on the schedule that I wanted to see, but when I went to the room, saw that the schedule was wrong. There have been a few scheduling issues this year.

I sat in for a bit of Lisa Louise Cooke’s Solving Family History Mysteries with Google Earth, and visited with Gary Mokotoff briefly, and a few others, in the Vendor Room on my way out with my roommate. We went to the concierge lounge and had a nice dinner snack of hors d’oeuvres.

After setting up briefly in the hallway with my computer before going to that film, a private screening for five people of The Legacy of Jedwabne, I finished the day watching the Jewpardy game, arriving a bit late because the film started late.

JGSLA 2010 – Day 1 Recap

Sunday started a bit slowly for the conference as it usually does, but just for me. Things were already in full swing in terms of sessions for attendees. Usually Sunday has a couple of meetings, lunches, and beginner sessions, but there was a lot more to do this year.

Missing the early session that interested me, I visited the Resource Room, the Vendor Room, and the Market Square, which was new this year. I wandered around a bit talking with people. There are always plenty of people at this conference that I know and others that are happy to talk about their genealogy with complete strangers.

I spoke with Eileen Polakoff for a bit where she was sitting at the APG table in the Market Square, along with the people at the Washington DC and France tables, where we spoke about upcoming conferences. I even stopped at one table and bought a book. I had her session marked for another day and I’ll likely still go.

I went to lunch with Mark and Kathy and Bob Wascou, who had just arrived to register before we saw him.

A little more schmoozing time and I went to the first IAJGS Management Seminar which was led by Thomas MacEntee teaching about 21st Century Marketing. He went through the usual suspects of Facebook, Twitter, web sites, blogs, newsletters, email marketing. He said a lot of things I knew but also threw in some things I hadn’t thought of. Watching the time, he basically skipped over LinkedIn, and that’s one site I haven’t really used yet but was curious about.

From there, I went to the President’s Reception where I schmoozed some more. There’s a lot of schmoozing at these conferences.

I spent some time talking with Barbara Hershey from Portland, Oregon, until it was time for the opening ceremony.

The conference co-chairs were introduced and it was explained that outside is not fog but the “marine layer”. They got very detailed announcing who was already registered, giving counts by country and by US state. Eleven people are here from Utah. I know seven, are they counting the vendors from Ancestry for the rest? So far, 1016 people were registered for this conference.

The winning poster for Jewish Genealogy Month was revealed and it was a nice one. I never much paid attention to those, but I don’t think they’d ever been that classy looking.

We were treated to a comedy film that probably ran a little longer than it needed to, a parody called Who Cares Who Do You Think You Are? which added a new episode into the series featuring Jordan Auslander. Eileen Polakoff, Ron Arons, and Karen Franklin also appeared in the episode.

Steven Smith (or Stephen?) introduced himself and then the keynote speaker, Daniel Mendelsohn.

Daniel is the author of two books, the second called The Lost. His speech started out by talking about errors in records while doing genealogy research, but it turned into a story about the difference between family history and genealogy. He didn’t call it that, but that’s how I refer to it. In genealogy, we collect records to learn the facts about people’s lives. In family history, we collect the stories. Unfortunately, some of us can’t get any stories, so we are missing the narratives of the lives of the people who came before us. He shared some incredible stories from his family, including the one about a record he found on which he knew everything was a lie except for the person’s name. It makes you wonder how much you can rely on some of these records, but most of us have no choice but to believe them since we have nothing to contradict them and no narratives to go along with them.

Then the crowds headed out to the dessert tables. I got out pretty quickly and grabbed something, then went back into the ballroom, where it was less crowded. Pamela Weisberger was working her way out of the room and she introduced me to Daniel. He stood around talking to me and a few others for a few minutes. It’s good to know the people in charge. :-)

I eventually talked to a few other people, grabbed a few more snacks, then headed up to my room where I was too tired to blog and went to bed pretty quickly.

And that was just the first and usually slowest day. Today, I present my computer lab just before lunch and I have a few other things in the schedule that I want to attend.

JGSLA 2010 – 0.3 – Registration

I am now registered for the IAJGS conference.

Getting here wasn’t as smooth as that registration. I didn’t get much sleep so I was tired during the drive.

Registration for the hotel could have gone smoother. I saw a few familiar faces in the lobby while dealing with the front desk. I found my way up to the room with my roommate. The rooms here are quite spacious and I like the decor. It’s kind of retro and I really like the look. Usually I think hotel decor is tacky. Our room looks out over the Staples Center.

Roommate Judi Missel went to the pre-conference banquet and I went out to dinner with Mark Heckman and Kathy, Ron Arons, and Jonina Duker. Returning to the hotel and jumping in line for registration, I talked to far too many people to list here.

The day ended on a high note and now it’s late am I’m heading to sleep. I think I’ll try to blog more this week before midnight.

JGSLA 2010 – 0.2 – Preparations And Glitches

I finished up all my client work and even did some of my own genealogy organizing. I got my family newsletter sent out, finally, and updated the book just a smidge. I am teaching a computer lab on using Microsoft Publisher and that book is my example, so I thought I’d get reacquainted with it again before the conference.

This Friday morning, I woke up early and packed and cleaned a bit around my house. The garbage had a very late pick-up which I had to wait for, but I wasn’t quite ready to leave yet. And then finally, off I went.

An hour later, when I got to the Springville exit, my car died. This car is 19 years old and she’s never had something break that actually stopped her from working before. Looks like it was the transmission. But Murphy and his laws didn’t get me completely. If I’d gone past two more exits, I would have been in the middle of nowhere and completely stranded. This way, at least I was in Spanish Fork. So I left my car at a repair shop without even asking him to fix her and Enterprise came and picked me up.

And so I was finally on my way again. I must say, cruise control is a wonderful thing and I don’t know how I survived so many drives across the country or across multiple states before without it.

And now I’m in Mesquite. I was hoping to make it to Las Vegas for the night. I even got half an invitation from a friend, and I called her, but I didn’t really feel like driving anymore and it was already dark. She went online for me and found an obscure little motel with free Internet included and here I am writing this blog entry. In the morning, I’ll stop in Las Vegas for breakfast with her and then I’ll be in Los Angeles in the afternoon for the IAJGS Conference.

JGSLA 2010 – 0.1 – Before I Leave

I had a bit of a blogging black hole in there where I made no entries. I’ll try to be better. In the meantime, it’s time to prepare for the IAJGS conference. Actually, it’s probably past time to prepare, but I’m just getting started.

I plan to drive down to Los Angeles in advance of the conference, but the time to get there in advance is shrinking. I want to meet some more of my relatives; I have a few in the area that I’ve never met.

I’m teaching a computer lab and still need to make preparations for it. I gave the same lab last year, but wanted to improve on what I did and part of that improvement will take me some time working at home.

I will be helping in the Resource Room and introducing a couple of other computer labs that I volunteered for. This will be my first time as introducer. I was just curious about a couple labs and there I went volunteering again.

In the meantime, I’ve been flattening the weeds in my yard and it’s just slightly possible that someone will give them a serious death spray while I’m gone. I also fixed an old leak in my swamp cooler, so I shouldn’t have to worry about turning off the water to that while I’m gone.

NGS 2010 – Part 2

It was quite unfortunate that I missed the third day of NGS. I only had one session highlighted in my schedule, but that didn’t mean I wouldn’t have gone to any others. It was just the lack of sleep all week that caught up to me. So I really had to make the most of Saturday.

I got started a little later than I meant to so I missed the first lecture I had planned to go to. As I was about to head to the next lecture session, Beau Sharbrough came around and I got to talking to him, was introduced by him to a few people including his wife, and missed another lecture.

Lectures

By the afternoon, I’d had enough vendor room socializing and found a new addition to the schedule: J.H. Fonkert’s Anatomy of a Genealogy Research Report. I followed that with Maureen Taylor’s Every Picture Tells a Story: Dating Family Photographs. Both research report lectures I attended were filled with good information. Photo dating is a weakness of my genealogy skills, so those lectures are always helpful. Maybe someday I’ll pick up some of the books on the subject and really learn something.

I missed all the evening events during the week like the concert at the conference center (I really wanted to go to that) and the group watch of Who Do You Think You Are?.

Social Networking

This conference further reinstated to me that when I attend IAJGS conferences, I go for the social networking more than attending lectures. At my first IAJGS, I attended as many lectures as I could, but found that I didn’t learn very much because I already knew so much. I viewed the NGS lectures about the same way. I’ve chatted with many Twitterers and bloggers online, but many of the ones I talk to the most weren’t there. I did get to briefly meet several of them including Dick Eastman, Randy Seaver, Ancestry Insider, Lisa Alvo, and Kathryn Doyle. I was upset that Megan Smolenyak only attended the day that I missed. I was really thankful that I had some friends tethered to their vendor booths so I could visit with them often. (I hope I didn’t drive them nuts.) I stopped at many other vendor booths just to chat a bit, which I rarely did at IAJGS.

Conclusion

I was really hoping to really meet the bloggers and spend more time with them, but we didn’t know each other so I didn’t get invited to their impromptu get-togethers. I know I judged some of the conference a bit unfairly due to my IAJGS experience. For instance, I know everyone who runs those conferences and many of the regular attendees, so there’s no lack of people to socialize with all week. Also, there were several times when I couldn’t decide what lectures to attend because I had no interest in any of them. At IAJGS, there’s usually something that I have at least a mild interest in learning about because it’s all on-topic for Jewish genealogy.

All in all, I enjoyed the conference. I will definitely consider attending future NGS and FGS conferences.

Ron Arons – The Jews of Sing Sing

I met Ron Arons in New York at the 2006 IAJGS conference. I’ve been to a few of his presentations and they are always thoroughly entertaining as well as educational. When he spoke about his upcoming book (this book) I was especially impressed and intrigued.

At the 2005 conference, I was in the room next door to where he was giving a lecture about Bugsy Siegel and Meyer Lansky, two of the characters who appear in this book, and that crowd was quite disruptive with bursts of laughter.

Jews of Sing SingI purchased “The Jews of Sing Sing: Gotham Gangsters and Gonuvim” from Ron at the 2008 IAJGS conference in Chicago. He signed it, “Stay away from this place!”, more evidence of his sense of humor.

The book started as a memoir to his great-grandfather, Isaac Spier, but when no one wanted to publish another personal memoir, his research took him much further into the histories of many Jewish criminals who spent time in Sing Sing Prison in New York.

Ron goes into great detail about their histories, sometimes a bit too much. I’m the kind of person who reads every word and every number in a book, so it got a bit tedious to read all the dates, addresses, census information, and other details. There are parts of the book where Ron fills in details about who was in each household in each census, their address, ages, professions, and such. While important to the research and to genealogy in general, it made it a little harder for me to read.

I’m also a bit of a casual reader, enjoying stories where I don’t have to concentrate much, and some chapters he introduced a plethora of characters. The stories were good, but I couldn’t keep all the characters straight.

My favorite chapters were the ones about Ron’s own family. Providing those same kinds of details, he also seemed to delve more into the narrative of the people, as well as giving more details about his quest for the information, mentioning each time he found a new clue or hit a brick wall. It seemed more casual and more personal, which better suited my reading style preference. Plus, I enjoy the hunt in genealogy, so reading about Ron’s research process was enthralling.

I found the last two chapters to be most enjoyable — the only time I read more than one chapter at a time. He wrote three chapters about Isaac Spier, including the penultimate one. The final chapter was about Ron’s visit to Sing Sing.

Lots of families have tales about the black sheep relative, the criminal, the person in the mafia — including mine — but Ron researched and learned the truth about his ancestors as well as many others. Once I got through the paragraphs of census facts, I enjoyed reading the stories. I look forward to checking out his second book, “Wanted: U.S. Criminal Records”, so I can research my own family mafia story.

Ron’s books can be purchased on his web site at http://ronarons.com/.

Disclaimer: Apparently there was some stuff going on before I started blogging whereas people were paid to write good reviews about products and such and didn’t tell their readers that is was moreĀ  of a paid advertisement than a personal opinion. Well, I wasn’t paid for this. If I was, I probably would have skipped over the less-than-favorable comments, don’t you think?

Hello World.

Welcome to my blog. I am Banai. That’s pronounced like B’nai Brith, or B’nai Israel, or B’nai Torah, or if you haven’t heard of any of those or don’t know of any synagogues with those names, it rhymes with Renee.

I have been a genealogist since birth, but I got serious in 1998, moved to Salt Lake City in 2003, and soon became a professional.

I had been debating starting a blog for years. What would I write? Would anyone read it? Would I make the time to keep it up? What would I call it?

Well, the last question was answered first. I came up with the title somewhere in the middle of watching British TV shows last year. Even more recently (like, while editing this post) I added on the third word of my title, from the Ginger Jew to the Ginger Jewish Genealogist. I thought that might be going a bit too far, but I’ve decided to go with it for now. Any comments about that?

I finally decided to just go ahead and try it. So on New Years Eve, between the ball drop and midnight (’cause the ball drops in NYC two hours before midnight in SLC), I installed the blog, adjusted the design, and figured out how to use it. I have blogged every day this year so far. No, you can’t read what I wrote because I marked all the entries private. I was kind of testing the waters.

But now I’ve decided to go public with my blog. So here it is!

Just like my Twitter account, this will likely end up to be about more than just genealogy, but since that’s my profession and my hobby, I expect it to show up a lot. Other topics that will appear often will include UJGS, the Utah Jewish Genealogical Society (I am the president, newsletter editor, and webmaster); IAJGS and each annual conference; David Tennant, Doctor Who, and anyone else associated with the show; Hugh Laurie, House, and any other corresponding shows or people; any other TV show or celebrity that suits my fancy over time (those are just the current ones); and any home improvement projects that may be happening.

Let the fun begin.