Discovering Stored Treasures

Discovering Genealogy, One Ancestor at a Time.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Genealogy on Vacation

Last week this blog: Past-Present-Future took a hiatus while I went on vacation. Along with millions of Americans, we took advantage of February break and headed south for some warm rays of sunshine. Disconnecting from the future, was easy. We concentrated on the present: pool, exercise, movies, board games and food! Vowing to set the past aside, I promised the family not touch genealogy on this trip, if only for a few days. Yet the past has mysterious ways of resurfacing.

Though this trip, very much focused on the here and now, it turned out to also be about my late father-in-law, Robert Belkind. Roberto, affectionally dubbed Lito Beto (lito being short of abuelito or grandfather in Spanish), passed away ten years ago tomorrow. He was only fifty-seven years old. To my oldest son, who was six at the time, this beloved grandfather is now only a faint memory. Though we did not plan the trip with the anniversary of his death in mind, he was ever present with us. We stayed at his vacation home, surrounded by photos, his photos. We visited with Beto's siblings and their families. We also spend time with my husband's sister and kids. We breakfasted at one of Beto's favorite Delicatessens, we checked out the race track he frequented and we even spotted an old cadillac, very much reminiscent of the one he used to drive. Beto was a warm, loving, teddy bear of a man. He loved and enjoyed life to it's fullest. His absence has left a void in many people's lives. My sons were hungry for stories about their grandfather. Little did they realize that they were doing a little of their own family history research.

As we shared stories about the Belkind family, my youngest son remarked that I only investigate my own family's history, not dads. I argued to the contrary, but had to admit that researching my husband's family is a challenge. I know much less about them and I must depend on information others share with me. To complicate matters, my husband's parents were divorced when he was very young. He did not grow-up with his father and therefore knows relatively little about his Belkind roots. On my side, I inherited a treasure map of sorts—a detailed family tree prepared by my grandmother's cousins. I even received a key to unlock the treasure chest—my great-grandmother's manuscript. Conversely, investigating my husband's side is more like piecing together a puzzle  without the cover photo on the box.

Beto at his wedding with his mother
Bertha Belkind (Katz)
One afternoon, as we enjoyed a delicious family lunch, my husband's aunt offered me a few jigsaw pieces, and despite my oath—genealogist in me could not resist and accept the invitation to view some old family photos. As lunch was winding down, we excused ourselves and she lead me to a drawer full of old snapshots. In no time, the rest of the family gathered around us for a peek at these forgotten relics. We found long lost portraits from my husband's parents wedding. Photos documenting a short lived marriage rarely survive, but here was Beto, full of pride, holding his young bride. In the pile, we found photos of my husband's grandparents, great-grandparents and second great-grandmother. At that moment, I truly regretted not having invested in a high quality portable scanners. Luckily, I was allowed to have my pick and take photos home to scan. No one seemed to mind that I broke my genealogy abstinence promise. For once, this was fun, not genealogy to my kids. Everyone became my helpers as we sorted through the stash.

Jaime David Belkind and Dora Volozin
with their daughter Mira and son Jose.
(My husband's great-grandparents,
grandfather and great-aunt).
Same phone taken with the iphone
but cropped and retouched.
The following day, we visited Beto's brother. Hanging on his wall, were some great portraits we had never seen. This time, I could not take them home with me. Instead, I took out my iphone and snapped a couple of shots of the pictures directly in their frames. Years of experience taught me not wait for a better opportunity to scan photos. A low quality, snapshot, is better than nothing. Cropped and retouched, I must admit that the iphone did a remarkable job. This is the oldest photo I came across during this vacation. My husband's grandfather couldn't be more than two or three years old, dating the photo to 1914-1915. Before I began my genealogy quest, my husband did not know much about his great-grandfather, Jaime David Belkind, for whom he was named. Jaime David's fascinating story and his immigration to Mexico belongs in another post.

Finally, our vacation came to an end and my son was reassured that I am interested in his father's family. As it always does, the past wove itself into our present and we honored Lito Beto's anniversary with a bit of Belkind Genealogy. In the future, I plan to study the Belkind DNA and possibly link to the famous Israeli Belkind family, who were pioneer land owners and came from the same region our family did.

This is my message to all of you budding and professional genealogist alike. Go ahead, take a vacation. We all need it! But don't forget your note pad to write down stories and your digital camera to record photos or documents which must be left behind. What else do you travel with? Do any of you have a recommendations about a portable scanner?  I'd love to know.


  1. There's no stopping family history from creeping in! Wonderful post!

  2. I always travel with my pocket digital voice recorder. Even if I'm just making notes for myself to look into later, after I get home, it is invaluable in just about any situation.
    Love the post, thanks for sharing!

    1. What a great idea. I will probably stick to the iphone memo feature when I'm on vacation with the kids (only so much one can carry), but certainly a better digital recorder is very valuable to have when visiting relatives! I like the canvas bag you take to your cemetery trips. Can come in handy on all genealogy expeditions!

  3. What a wonderful turn that while you gave up something you love (genealogy) in order to prefer the wishes of others (your loving family), it ended up that you got to have both--and instill a love of family history in the next generation. There is no better way to pass that along!

    I've recently been loaned the Flip Pal Scanner and found it useful for such unexpected opportunities. It is small and can travel easily--although I'd buy a cover to protect it, even though kept in my carry-on luggage. I'm impressed and plan on getting one when the time is right for me.

    Though I do have to say that, in a pinch, your iPhone did an excellent job capturing the essence of the photograph.

    In "doing genealogy" that way, an added benefit is that relatives will begin to respect your respect of their past. You may find yourself with photos and documents coming out of the woodwork when your reputation spreads to distant family. In one way or another, everyone wants their story told somehow, and when people see they can trust you with the valuables that help tell their story, they will entrust you with those gems.

    1. Thanks Jacqi. You do have to be careful not to shove genealogy down people's throats don't you. It's something we all struggle with I guess. How to explain this passion it's importance to those around us.

      I'm glad to hear you like the Flip Pal Scanner. I hear it's pretty fast as well. How do you like the quality?

      I'm happy with photos and documents coming out of the woodwork. One has to be very patient though. I have certainly built that reputation in the family, and every time I'm amazed at how much stuff is still out there!

    2. I think the quality is okay for our purposes. If I were a graphics artist, photographer or printer, I might be discerning enough to want higher quality. Unless you want to enlarge your picture, though, the results on the Flip Pal look just fine. And it takes no longer to do the scans than it would on my desk-top scanner--with the added bonus of being able to scan items that would be difficult to handle on a desk-top scanner.

      It also has a "stitch" capability to help scan larger objects and then piece them together, which came in handy for a few of my projects. I wrote about handling a long photo using the Flip Pal on my blog at

      I've used it for plat maps, too. Does a good job!

    3. Great post and very informative! I told my husband to put in on my birthday list (which is in October), but he was so moved by this post that he is ready to buy one now.

  4. I recently bought a Flip-Pal scanner and it will be ideal for taking when I travel. As Jacqi says, you will need a protective cover. The scanner fits perfectly into a Netbook computer case that I bought for $15.

    1. Good to know Judy. What is your experience with the speed and quality?

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