Genealogy Update

Skip to first unread message

Susanne Levitsky

Mar 30, 2021, 8:02:53 PMMar 30

Jewish Genealogical Society of Sacramento

March 21, 2021 Zoom Meeting



Upcoming Meetings:

Sunday, April 18, Jim Rader -- "DNA Research Beyond Genealogy: Health Information"

Sunday, May 16, Ron Arons -- Updated version of "Sex, Lies and Genealogical Tape."

These Zoom meetings are held from 10 a.m. to noon.


Boston’s Jewish Family Businesses: The Colonial Era to the Present   -- Tuesday, April 6 at 1 p.m. PDT -- free  via the Wyner Family Jewish Heritage Center


From the Hays-Touro family in the 1770s, to Filene's and Stop & Shop in the 20th century, to today's fourth- and fifth-generation Jewish family enterprises, Boston and its environs have been home to notable multi-generational Jewish family businesses. Michael Feldberg, Ph.D., head of the George Washington Institute for Religious Freedom, discusses notable family businesses in Greater Boston and explores the role that Jewish values and tradition may have played.


To register, contact the Wyner Family Jewish Heritage Center: 


From Gary Mokotoff's "Nu? What's Nu" March 27

Auschwitz-Birkenau Museum Project With Details About Prisoners
Archivists at the Auschwitz-Birkenau Museum in association with their counterparts at Arolsen Archives have been analyzing the remnant of the camp’s documentation and have uncovered the previously unknown identities of an estimated 4,000 camp inmates as well as information about 26,000 others. Ninety percent of the camp’s files were destroyed by its guards.

Currently, the identities of about 300,000 inmates out of the 400,000 estimated to have been held at the camp are known. The Arolsen Archives contain millions of documents about individuals persecuted by the Nazis, including the archives of the SS, Gestapo and records from the concentration camps.

A total of 120,000 documents relating to Auschwitz inmates have been digitized as part of the project. Among the discoveries were many records of Hungarian Jews who were transported to Auschwitz after May 1944 and whose names do not appear in any other archive.

The complete announcement cab be found at .

MyHeritage Plans 24-Hour Genealogy Webinar Marathon
MyHeritage has teamed up for a second year with Legacy Family Tree Webinars to host a 24-hour genealogy webinar marathon. It will occur on April 8–9 starting at 5 p.m. Eastern Time. The event is free and open to all.

There are a total of 26 lectures. One specifically targets the Jewish audience: Finding Jewish Records in the MyHeritage Search Engine.

The announcement can be found at Because some lectures may be in the middle of the night in your time zone, all the lectures will be available for free viewing on the Legacy Family Tree Webinars website for a week after the event.  Additional details, including how to register can be found at


March 21, 2021 JGSS Meeting

President Mort Rumberg called the March 21 meeting to order. Thanks to Mark Heckman for hosting the Zoom meeting today. Mort mentioned some upcoming events, including the IAJGS annual conference, this year in Philadelphia from August 2-5.  Early-bird registration is now open.

Mort noted that many groups have free Zoom meetings posted, and also free webinars from My Heritage, Gesher Galicia.

Teven Laxer, head of the Sacramento Jewish Film Festival, said there is less than a week to go, with a cast party today for Tango Shalom. Well-known cast members include Karina Smirnoff, Renee Taylor and Laine Kazan. The Film Festival features 36 films over three weeks.

Rootstech, the world's largest genealogy conference, recently had more than 30,000 registrants at its February conference. Lectures will be available for free for the coming year.

Sherri Venezia highlighted upcoming JGSS Zoom meetings (see top of page).


March 21 Program -- Ellen Kowitt

"Why Would a Genealogist Return to Ukraine for the Third Time?"

Ellen is the director of the USA Research Division for JewishGen and national vice chair of the Jewish Task Force for the Daughters of the American Revolution. She first travelled to Ukraine in 1997 and has since returned twice, most recently in 2019. (See her handout, attached for detailed list of resources.)

Ellen noted 10 good reasons for visiting Ukraine, including

-- it has westernized, joined the European Union in 2016

-- there are online language tools to help you navigate foreign language materials

-- the access to records has increased

-- JewishGen is not the only source of information

-- former Soviets are now talking and documenting history

-- travel is more comfortable

-- Jewish and gentile locals want to help you

-- crowdfunding for various town groups is succeeding to digitize records, etc.


Ellen said Ukraine means "borderland" and the term was first used in the 12th century, with maps dating to the 16th century. She said there was a good set of maps published by Gene Thorpe in the Washington Post showing at least seven border changes.

The first Jews came from 850 to 1250, with more recent migrations due to pogroms, forced starvation, the Russian-Japanese War of 1904-5. two Russian revolutions in 1905 and 1917.

In 1941 and through the war, Ellen said there were many Jews killed and many mass graves.

In 1991 came Ukrainian independence and in 2019 the first Jewish president elected in the country.

Languages of Ukraine -- records are in a variety of languages -- mostly in Hebrew, Yiddish and Russian. Today, Ellen said, all of the streets are signed in Ukrainian, which is the spoken language. In schools, students use English, Ukrainian and German.

How to navigate websites in the modern day?

-- Ellen said many web pages are in multiple languages (on the Polish state archives page, click on the American flag for English).

-- Google Translate for those with a Chrome browser, phone apps. (Ellen said she could take a photo of menus, bathroom doors, for quick translation.)

-- Steve Morse's one-step pages.

--UBER --"don't be afraid of it, you can now communicate with others."


Ellen said she went to Ukraine in 1997 and 1999 and in the 1990s, there was a sense of fear, silence (left over from the Soviet days), poverty, no restaurants, Russian language

In 2019, she found feasts on the table, full bar, pizza and Chinese restaurants.

She said travelling with her family was different from going with genealogists who are always asking where are the records, the cemeteries.

The Christian cemeteries were in as bad if not worse conditions than the Jewish cemeteries. Lots of wooden markers, many of which had eroded.

In the 90s, she didn’t find the Jewish sections.


Lyubar, Ukraine -- In the 1990s, Ellen found no synagogue, records would in regional archives, not locally. She didn't learn anything, people didn't trust Americans, "I was never going to go back."

Ellen did create a KehilaLinks page on JewishGen you can check out.

"I put everything on my page in 2002 and people find me on this website all the time."

In 2018, someone contacted Ellen through this page, interested in putting up a memorial in Lyubar and asked if I could help. Through the "Protecting Memory Project" a marker was put up with several dozen more being paid for through the German government. "How could I not go?"

A press conference was set up at the marker site, with a tent, chairs, the memorial, and this was done in several towns via a bus tour from Kiev. "And they put a photo of my family on the memorial," Ellen said. There was lots of publicity -- they did a fantastic job."

"I was there to show them that we survived and thrived."

Languages used were Hebrew, Ukrainian and English.

Ellen learned of a second mass grave in the area of murdered partisans, killed to stop political protests.

Ellen said the technological advances since the 1990s are great -- internet, power lines, cell phones, and visible collaborations. Kiev is a vibrant European city with a youthful vibe and good signage, including in English. -- "not the only game in town."  But there are research divisions, an all-Ukraine database, Kehila links (might be one for your town), Yizkor books (with little towns in the bigger books), the JewishGen Online Worldwide Burial Registry, Family Finder and resource maps.

Ellen said "always start at JewishGen, but keep going."

pra. -- 1650-1920 database of Ukrainian residents, version in English:


Also, discussion groups --


J-Roots Portal and Forum in Russian

Berdichev website and mailing list

Justingrad mailing list

UKR-Chernigov website and mailing list (1802-1929/32)

Odessa mailing list


Finding aids and overview --

Miriam Weiner, "Roots to Roots"


added surname database


Archive Documents Database


Genealogical Resources in Ukraine Archive:

            List of Harkary Collections of Pinkassim, Vernadskiy in Kiev library

Ukrainian Archives 2021 --

Regional archives started to put own pages up

"If you're going to hire someone, see what you want them to search."


Ellen made use of Alex Krakosky's research talents in Ukraine. He has successfully filed court cases to get access to records and happens to be a distant cousin of Brooke Schrier Ganz.  Ellen sent him a Facebook message (his preferred method of communication) saying she was coming to Kiev and asking the best way to purchase records (revisionist lists from 1800-1900). She received no answer, asked again when she was in Kiev, and he said "I'm free, I'll go with you."

The revisionist lists often list all members of a household, their ages and if they died since the last revision. They may also be occupational information and if someone had been sent to Siberia.

Alex doesn't take any money and you can't hire him, but his presence allowed Ellen access to records she never would have found otherwise

Ellen noted that there was a law in the 1800s that only permitted one surname per town --"we could see where the names changed." Often one letter changed -- Carder became Carger.

Ellen said the archive director she met wants the business of Americans to digitize material. Ellen obtained 11 or 12 books which she gave back to Alex and which are now available for free.

She noted that JewishGen has a way to donate to a project and it is tax-deductible for Americans. Ellen also set up her own private GoFundMe page.

Other resources:

FamilySearch used to be in Ukraine and filming records -- this past year they signed an agreement to digitize them. They can turn around digitized material in 2-3 days --"keep an eye on them," Ellen said.

Vera Miller's "Finding Lost Russian and Ukrainian Family Blog" is one of Ellen's favorite blogs. It is free; Miller is not Jewish. She reports on material in Russian and Ukrainian for an English audience.

Deborah Glassman has an interest in Ostropol.  You can pay her to look for your own family records.

Tsal Kaplun Foundation -- free

Vitaly Buryak, History of Jewish communities in Ukraine

Nadia Lipes Genealogy Database

Marshall Katz -- Sub-Carpathia genealogy

Internet Archive --

            Russian empire genealogy resources -- free, out of San Francisco

Genealogy Indexer -- added Yizkor (memorial) books

Libraria -- Ukrainian Online Periodical Archives


World Cat

            Searching by title, subject or key word

            Search for your family name or town.

Maps -- David Rumsey collection at Stanford


Cemetery resources -- see Ellen's links on her handout

Israel -- Jewish historical press -- 39 Ukraine newspapers, plan to digitize every newspaper

And many more suggested sites, see handout attached.

Ellen concluded her talk by showing a surprise school exhibit on local Jews she saw for the first time, as she toured the town.  This exhibit, which she spent several hours photographing, was apparently there on her previous visits, she just never saw it.

Update your research plan, she said -- there are new resources, projects, contacts.

Reflecting on her last trip, she said she was so relieved -- "There were so many people who wanted to help -- I let serendipity guide me.  It was life-changing and gave me so much hope."

Ellen's website is


Along with her work in Ukraine, Ellen is the national vice chair for the Daughters of the American Revolution's Jewish Task Force. "We know how many Jewish families there were in the 1700s and around the time of the American revolution -- we're hoping to educate and people on what the records are, direct them to those records, or register a patriot."


Next JGSS Meeting: Sunday, April 18

Reply all
Reply to author
0 new messages