Discovering Stored Treasures

Discovering Genealogy, One Ancestor at a Time.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Highlights from IAJGS International Conference of Jewish Genealogy

This week, I'm attending my first genealogy conference (not counting RootsTech which I attended from home). The 33rd IAJGS International Conference on Jewish Genealogy is here in Boston this week, and I just couldn't pass it up! I've come to admire all those official bloggers from who blog daily while attending a conference! Personally, I can't barely find time for lunch or a bathroom break, let alone blog.

My Badge!
For those who are interested in what's going on in the conference but could not attend, there are a few ways you can take part in the action. For the first time in it's history, the IAJGS is transmitting live. If you couldn't make the conference, you can visit and register to view on-line. There are two feeds every session which will be available for three months. For a more extensive audio recording of the conference and the complete DVD, visit

Here are some of my highlights of the conference:
1. Keynote: Aaron Lansky of the  Yiddish Book Center gave an inspirational talk titled: Emerging Tools for Jewish Genealogical Research. Lansky, told the incredible story of how he saved one million Yiddish books, which the center is rapidly making available on-line for free. Thanks to this amazing project at the +Yiddish Book Center, Yiddish literature, almost extinct thirty years ago, is about to become the first fully available and searchable literature online. Great news for the Jewish people in general and for Jewish genealogist in particular!
2. Ava Cohn, also known as Sherlock Cohn, is a photo genealogist who gave a great titled: Clued-In: The Stories are in the Details. I was lucky to get a seat in the overflowing conference room. As most of you know, I love learning the stories and behind the photos, so this talk was a highlight for me!
3. JRI-Poland sponsored a Luncheon where Andrzej Folwarczny spoke about The Current State of Polish-Jewish Relations. Andrzej Folwarczny heads a non-profit Forum for Dialogue Among Nations Foundation, working to foment Polish-Jewish dialogue, eradicate anti-Semitism and teach tolerance through education. He presented their education program, The School of Dialog which teaches polish students from rural villages about the Jewish history of the former shtetl and bringing them together with Jewish families researching their roots in the shtetl. The high school students, help research the ancestors and present them to the descendants when they visit the village on the ancestral trip.
4. Andrew Zalewski author is the author of a book called, Galician Trails. I attended this talk, because my paternal grandparents are both from Galicia. The session was an absolute delight. Zalewski personal family history research, took him all throughout Galicia. His book provides an incredible window into the regions history. I can't wait to read my signed copy!
5. Calling All Readers: A Literary Trove for Jewish Genealogists by Ellen Cassedy and Lois Rosen certainly called my attention. I love to read, and I devour genealogy related books, both novels, memoirs and non fiction. We all walked out of a huge recommended reading list, which they will post on their websites and include suggestions made during the conference. If you enjoy these kinds of books, I highly recommend you check out the list.
6. One of the best presentations I attended was +Emily Garber's, Beyond the Manifest: Confirming One's Ancestral Origins Using Alternative Sources. Emily, whose blog, the ExtraYad I've been following for some time, used her family as a case study and manage to make a fairly technical presentation, full of informative tips of how to discover an ancestral town in a very fun and clear fashion. Meeting Emily in person was a true highlight. Her exhaustive and extensive research inspired me to believe that one day be able to find some of the ancestral towns I'm after including the Bloomfield's evasive ancestral home.
7. Lastly, I'd like to highlight Zack Wilske talks about Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) Citizenship Records. I actually attended two of his presentations which were jam packed with valuable information. I now feel confident that those illusive naturalization records are within my reach at the website. I highly recommend studying the site an requesting an index search for your ancestors!

That's all folks for now! More highlights, at the end of the conference!