Tuesday, May 18, 2010

A question of online accessibility of Pennsylvania death certificates

Below is an excerpt of an e-mail I received today that some of you might be interested in:

"Here is the link to the website about the grassroots effort to have Pennsylvania make its older state death certificates much more accessible and also available online similar to what they have already done in other states: http://users.rcn.com/timarg/PaHR-Access.htm. We hope you will join in on this effort and if you would pass this information onto anyone you know who is into Pennsylvania genealogy and history including out-of-state residents. Every letter, phone call or email helps and you can write more than once.

This effort will only succeed with your help. Otherwise we could be stuck with the same old archaic and restricted system in Pennsylvania forever. It will not happen by itself. There are millions and millions of people who are into genealogy, but unless we speak up we are allowing those who don't care about genealogy decide what records we may or may not have access to.

By the way there are now fourteen states that have scanned images of their older state death certificates available online: Arizona, Delaware, Georgia, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, North Carolina, Ohio, South Carolina, Texas, Vermont, Utah and West Virginia.

Six other states have extracted data available online: Washington, Alabama, Louisiana, New Mexico, Idaho and Florida. Arizona, Delaware, Vermont, Washington and West Virginia now have scanned images of their older state birth records online. The links to the various states (except Delaware and Vermont) can be found on the 'Death Certificate Databases for Other States, Etc.' section of our website."

Friday, May 14, 2010

Seven New Films for You from Tomek Wisniewski of Bialystok

There are now a total of ten short films of Tomek Wisniewski being shown at the Museum of Family History. I have announced three so far, and seven new ones are ready for you to view. Most of them have interesting instrumental music to go along with the film's scenes.

These new films include:

1. Of Bialystok, Poland:
--"Once Upon a Time in Bialystok," a very interesting film that takes you back to the Bialystok of the interwar period. Thirty minutes long.

--"The Kaufman Brothers", one of whom was Boris Kaufman, the cinematographer for "Twelve Angry Men" and others. The brothers were all natives of Bialystok.

--"A Yiddish Song in Bialystok." A large group gathers in Bialystok in 1940 to hear a couple sing what seems to be a Yiddish song. Can anyone identify the song by name? If so, please contact me privately. More films of Bialystok are to come, including a film about the Warner Brothers (also from Bialystok).

2. Of Zabludow, Poland:
--Two films of the Zabludow Synagogue, scans of photos of the interior and exterior of the synagogue, cir 1927.

3. Of Kossovo, Belarus (pre-1939, Kosow Poleski, Poland):
--"Berteza Kartuzka: The Street That is No More, 1916"

4. Of Minsk, Belarus:
--"Jewish Minsk." While watching this film, you can imagine you are walking or in a horse and buggy down the streets of Minsk as Tomek scans across a few of his very old photographs of Minsk. Also photographs of the synagogue complex and the Choral Synagogue.

You can access these films, as well as the previous films announced, on the webpage I've created listing Tomek Wisniewski's films at www.museumoffamilyhistory.com/tomek/films.htm .

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Three Short Films, Courtesy of Tomek Wisniewski

The Museum of Family History now presents to you, with permission, three short films created by Tomek Wisniewski of Bialystok, Poland. He has created a great many such films, and the Museum hopes to present many of them to you in the coming months. These first three films will be shown within the Museum's Film Series until May 29th; more will be added along the way. Best to check this Museum's blog from time to time to learn when new films are available for viewing.

Here are the titles of the first three, all with an instrumental background, at least one with vocal music and Polish dialogue:

--Bialystok, Poland: Rabbi Gedaliah Rozenman (once the Chief Rabbi of Bialystok);
--Tykocin, Poland: The Tykocin (Tiktin) Synagogue, 1929;
--Suwalki, Poland: Suwalki 1937 (That Which is No More.)

The links to these web pages/films can be found by clicking here. The links are at the top of the film listings.

Additionally, if you would like to learn more about the history of the Great Synagogue in Bialystok, read the memoirs of Rose Schachner, a granddaughter of the builder of the synagogue, Solomon Rabinovitch. You can find her short biography by clicking here.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

The Landsmanshaftn Collections at the Center for Jewish History, New York City

For those of you with more than a passing interest in a particular landsmanshaftn (mutual aid societies established by many of our ancestors to assist their fellow Jews from the same hometown who came to live in such countries as the U.S.), you should consider visiting the Lillian Goldman Reading Room, found within the Center for Jewish History (CJH), which is located within the YIVO building in New York City. Whether it be AJHS's collection entitled "Landsmanshaftn and other town and country-related organizations incorporated in New York County, 1848-1920" which can be found at http://www.jgsny.org/landsmanshaft/ajhs.htm), or YIVO's catalogued landsmanshaftn collection (found at http://www.jgsny.org/landsmanshaft/yivo.htm), you might be surprised by some of the material you may find.

First, search the tables on these pages (there are also some other worthwhile collections to peruse at http://www.jgsny.org/ to see if the European town you're interested in, or the landsmanshaft itself, is listed. If so, and if it is possible for you to go there yourself, visit the Reading Room between most any Monday through Thursday and the friendly and helpful staff will help you find what you need.

When I visited the Reading Room a few weeks ago in search of historical information about the society to which I belong to, i.e. the United Zembrover Society, I was pleased to find plenty of interesting material, and you might too for your own town or society of interest. Of course, there might also be very little there for you even if a folder for your society exists, but you never know until you check.

The AJHS (The American Jewish Historical Society) has many incorporation papers on microfilm, and you are permitted to copy by yourself any of the pages of interest you find for a quarter per page.

As to incorporation papers, you will probably find the date the society was incorporated, the names of the officers and their official positions (and even their home addresses); the "purpose" of their society being formed, and more.

On YIVO's landsmanshaftn papers, you may find hard copies of many papers, ledgers, photographs, names and addresses of members, and even souvenir journals. Sometimes, of course, papers or journals may be solely or mostly in Yiddish, but not always. What also is of interest are the maps they sometimes have of the society's burial plots. They may also have copies of contracts made between a society and a cemetery for a purchased plot that the society wished to use to bury their members when the time came. The helpful staff that works within the Reading Room will charge you thirty-five cents per page to copy the materials they hold, but they will do the copying for you.

So why not check out at least the two aforementioned webpages when you can? By doing so, and then perusing either the microfilm or society's papers, you may learn when a society was formed, who the officers were, maybe when a particular cemetery plot was purchased (on how much space for how much money), or when the society gate was erected, etc. You may also find other interesting items within these collections, but you'll have to check what each folder or microfilm contains.

If you don't live in the NYC area but discover that records are available for your society, you may want to contact the Center for Jewish History by e-mail or phone and ask them what you're options are for getting copies of these materials. The URL for the Lillian Goldman Reading Room is http://www.cjh.org/collections/readingroom.php.

Best of luck!

Monday, May 3, 2010

New "Walk in My Shoes: Collected Memories of the Holocaust" Entry for Kaunas, Lithuania

Ed (Ephraim) Gruzin was born in 1927 in Kaunas (Kovno), and is a survivor of the Kovno Ghetto and Kaufering concentration camp number one near Landsberg, Germany. He has written a biography of his life and has graciously given permission to the Museum to make his story available to all museum "visitors."

You can read his story, as well as see some of his family pictures, by clicking here.

This is the Museum's first WIMS entry for Lithuania. More such stories are welcome, no matter from what country the Survivor comes from.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Time Travelling to Coney Island, 1905 to 1952

Now that summer is fast approaching here in the U.S. (it begins at the end of June), thoughts of past years of frolic at the beach come to mind. So to get a head start on summer and the inevitable thoughts of Brooklyn's Coney Island come to mind (especially among those who once visited there), I have put once again online the five videos about Coney Island that once graced the Museum of Family History's Film Series. You can now watch them at your leisure.

These short films include:

--A group of young women from a boarding school spending the day at Coney Island in 1905.

--A film of Fatty Arbuckle at Coney Island, 1917, which includes visions of Luna Park.

--Coney Island of the 1940s.

--Coney Island Freaks, B-Girls, and a Touch of Tatooing.

--Coney Island in 1952.

So you can now spend nearly an hour getting a whiff of sea air and yesteryear watching these five short films which cover a span of nearly fifty years of the once great Coney Island. Now it is a mere shell of what it was with perhaps large buildings filled with condominiums and a shopping mall in its future, but we can still keep alive the memory of Coney Island in our own minds as long as we can travel back in time through the magic of film. Enjoy--and don't forget the sunscreen!

The videos can be found by clicking here.

The rest of the Coney Island exhibition begins here and consists of the introductory page and a short history of early Coney Island. You can find the first page here.

Publication of “Skala on the River Zbrucz,” a translation of the Skala Yizkor Book

In 1978, the Skala Benevolent Society (SBS) published a Yizkor [memorial] book called Skala. The book was written by the town’s (shtetl’s) former Jewish residents who either had survived the Holocaust or had been born in Skala and previously had emigrated. Its purpose was to honor Skala’s Jewish community, which had been annihilated by the Nazis and their cohorts. Most of the contributors to the original book were the survivors themselves, who felt a deep inner compulsion and moral obligation to those who perished, to tell the story of Jewish Skala and to share with their children and future generations their memories of suffering, struggle and loss. The Yizkor book was written primarily in Yiddish and Hebrew and was largely inaccessible to many modern researchers, most of whose families came from this shtetl. Skala on the River Zbrucz, a translation of the entire Yizkor book into English, now has been published by the Skala Research Group (whose members are investigating their roots in Skala) and the SBS.

Situated in eastern Galicia and once ruled by Austro-Hungary, the town of Skala was part of Poland during World War II. It now is called Skala Podil’ska and is part of Ukraine. The Skala Yizkor book includes articles, photographs, and documents on the history of the town’s Jews from the 15th century up to and including the Holocaust, when the Jewish community was completely destroyed. This material recalls a once vibrant shtetl, its people, the environment in which they lived, their hopes, dreams and struggles for survival. The Yizkor book also describes the tragic events of the Holocaust, stories of those who survived and provides a list of Skala’s Holocaust victims and survivors. The English translation contains a new chapter about the town’s righteous gentiles who saved Jews during the Holocaust, as well as photographs showing Skala as it is today. It is a precious legacy that deserves to be preserved.

For copies, please contact Tony Hausner, thausner@gmail.com .

The book will be distributed to contributors at a luncheon to be held on May 16, at 12 p.m. at the Darna Restaurant , 600 Columbus Avenue (89th St.), New York, NY 10025.