Genealogy Update

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Susanne Levitsky

May 31, 2021, 7:45:55 PMMay 31


Jewish Genealogical Society of Sacramento

May 31, 2021


Upcoming Meetings:

Sunday, June 13 -- Jim Baker, "Google, the Genealogist's Best Friend"

Sunday, July 18 -- Reem Awad-Rashmawi, "Recording Your Family Stories"

No August meeting due to IAJGS Conference

Sunday, September 19 -- Zoom Participants, "Sharing Our Family Treasures"

Meetings take place from 10 a.m. to noon on Zoom.



Jim Baker, "Google, the Genealogist's Best Friend"

For our June meeting, Jim returns to the JGSS to demonstrate Google’s unique capability to find ancestral data that is lost to the more traditional genealogy sites. Several Google apps will be discussed, including Google Images; Alerts; Books; Translate; You Tube; Maps; and Search, as well as Google’s connection to Wikipedia.

Jim is an active genealogist and German research expert and was an officer of the Sacramento German Genealogy Society.


Zoom info for June 13 to come shortly.



Washington Post Article -- Using Genealogy for Holocaust Research dna/2021/05/27/af8d21b8-be8d-11eb-b26e-53663e6be6ff_story.html


From last week in the Washington Post, an article about the value of genealogy in tracking down relatives impacted by the Holocaust.


Article attached. The writer is the sister of "The Lost" author Daniel Mendelsohn.



Jews of the Gold Rush -- Webinar Next Week, June 9


The Sacramento Federation will host a free Zoom meeting next week from 2 to 3 p.m.: Birth of a Community -- Jews and the Gold Rush


Ava Kahn, a past JGSS speaker, will discuss Jewish pioneers of the Gold Rush. You'll learn their reasons for coming, and their way of life once they arrived.  She will touch on the history of early Jewish settlements in San Francisco and Sacramento, and in Gold Rush mining communities.


Ava is a historian, author, teacher and speaker from the Bay Area. She holds a PhD in history from UC Santa Barbara and taught at UC Davis, Mills College, SFSU and served as a researcher at the Western Jewish History Center. Ava has authored many publications that highlight Jewish history and Jewish life in California and the American West.


To join the Zoom meeting:


 Meeting ID: 851 4439 7262

 Passcode: 936224



Meeting Notes: May 16, 2021


President Mort Rumberg noted that this year's conference International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies will be held virtually, in Philadelphia, August 2-5.


Our May speaker was Ron Arons, who noted he is included as secretary in the slate for the upcoming election of IAJGS officers.


His presentation was "Sex, Lies, and Genealogical Tape: The Naked Truth About My Great-Grandfather, Unplugged and Exposed." Ron said he has given the talk for 20 years but continues to find more documentation about his great-grandfather, Isaac Spier, who spent time in New York's Sing Sing prison for bigamy.


He said there is:

          -- a wide range of documents to look for

          --individual-focused genealogy can take you a different type of journey

          -- never ever give up --"I'm still finding new documents."


In looking at Isaac's birth certificate, he is listed as being born in New York. But other documents mention him being born in Staffordshire, in the UK.


In looking at the marriage certificate for his great-grandparents, for November 18, 1894, his birthplace is listed at London, England.  A card from the 1900 U.S. census says Pennsylvania (the fourth birthplace Ron has documented).  So where exactly was he born.  Ron found a similar situation in terms of his first name -- listed as Joseph on his death certificate.


Ron went on a quest to determine where exactly his great-grandfather was born.

He said Isaac Spier was a bigamist, and he found his marriage certificate to "the other woman." There were also newspaper articles about a case where both wives showed up at the courthouse.  Another article, when Isaac was 24 years old, told of reports of at least four wives -- "I've proven two," Ron said.


Ron found a 100-page file in the New York City Municipal Archives -- "no Isaac, but there was a Joseph Spier," facing an extortion charge in 1925.


His death certificate, named "his last wife, Rose" and his tombstone in Hebrew indicated his name was Isaac Nathan bar Abraham." Ron said he never found a birth certificate.


"The Rosetta Stone," Ron said, was the 1881 British Census. It noted that Abraham Spier's first child was born in London.  A younger brother was born in Staffordshire. And Ron discovered his great-great-grandfather was a rabbi at the Plymouth Synagogue.


The 1891 British Census showed the family in Plymouth, but did not list Isaac, "so I don't know when he left," Ron said. Ron did a story on the rabbi and his family, who later moved to Manchester, and heard from what turned out to be a cousin. One new cousin lived in New York, and Jerry in Newport Beach, California. From them, Ron was able to get a photo of rabbi Abraham and his wife (but never has found a photo of the infamous Isaac.)


The rabbi's naturalization papers confirmed he was from Poland, and the parents listed took Ron back another generation.


More recent finds Ron cited:


-- admission document for Isaac in a London elementary school

-- discharge record from Sing Sing prison

-- Two World War I draft registration cards with different names

-- A record of his passing a tax consultant civil service exam for NY state

-- A marriage license to an Anna for his third marriage


Ron said the 1925 New York census showed Isaac twice -- once in Brooklyn with Ida, and once in Brooklyn with Anna.


He also found two Social Security applications -- Isaac had two numbers.


Another unresolved question -- when did Isaac immigrate to the U.S.?


-- Ron found in 1888 the record of an Isaac Spir -- perhaps him?

-- In 1904, one more child, Evelyn, was listed for the Spier family -- Ron has no information on what happened to her, she just disappeared.


"I've done a DNA test," he said, "but so far no results." Ron has also analyzed his handwriting.


"I've found three different first names," Ron said. "So he's made it challenging, but also a lot of fun."


Lessons Learned

-- ask questions beyond who, where, when

-- Don't necessarily disregard records of discrepancies

--Multiplier effect of having more documents

--Unintended benefits of having more documents (new cousins)

-- Keep going back, there are new records all the time


Q and A


What was the typical sentence for bigamy? Three to five years, and you go to Sing Sing.


How common was the name Spier? Very uncommon.


Ron cited the book: "New York City Municipal Archives, Authorized Guide for Family Historians," published in 2016.  $40


Did Isaac have children with any of the other wives (besides Ron's great-grandmother)?

I don't think so. He said one of the others, Minnie, had three husbands.


Ron is the author of several books, including "The Jews of Sing Sing," which has an index of prisoners. 


Mort noted that he and Ron visited the small museum at Folsom Prison.



See you on Zoom for the June 13 Meeting.

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