Events 2013

Jan 6
Do You Have German Roots? A Question For All Ashkenazi Jews Michael Marx
This event will start at 1:30 pm at Temple Emanuel, Adelson Hall 385 Ward Street, Newton Centre, MA

Michael MarxJews have been living in Germany since Roman times, and Ashkenazi Jews are descended from these early Jewish communities along the Rhine in Germany. Many Ashkenazi Jews later migrated, largely eastward, forming communities in non German-speaking areas, including Hungary, Poland, Belarus, Russia, Ukraine, Lithuania, Romania and elsewhere between the 11th and 19th centuries. Why, for example, does Yiddish sound so much like German? So you very likely have German roots.

In this program, Mr. Marx will show how the modern country of Germany has evolved, what distinguishes German Jewish genealogy, and how to research German ancestry. Germany has excellent records that are readily accessible, and the majority of German records are now available via the Internet. Come learn about German Jewish genealogy and how you might find your own German Jewish ancestry.

Mr. Marx is a past treasurer and board member of JGSGB. He has been a frequent presenter of genealogical programs at international and regional genealogy conferences and various genealogy societies. He has been researching his German roots since 2001 and can now trace his ancestors back to the mid-1600s. Much of his success has come from searching the World Wide Web. He holds degrees from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, retiring in 2000 after a 33-year career in corporate management and management consulting.

Slides from today’s presentation

Websites referenced in today’s presentation

Spotlight Talk: My Nathan Family: From Hamburg to London and Back – Cary Aufseeser

Cary will talk about the many internet resources he used in tracing his Nathan family from Hamburg, Germany back to 17th century London.

When Cary Aufseeser first began researching his family in 2002, he didn’t even know the names of all his great-grandparents. Today, through extensive use of the internet, he can trace his roots back to the Middle Ages and has found humdreds of distant relatives all over the world.

Cary is a former member of the JGSGB board where he worked on membership development. When not researching his genealogy, Cary is a statistical analyst and programmer.

March 17
Help Day: Research and Translation Assistance JGSGB Volunteers
This event will start at 1:30 pm at Temple Emanuel, 385 Ward Street, Newton.

Problem-solve with others who can help show you the way. Learn how to get started or get over that “brick wall” in your family research. Members will be able to consult with those more experienced for help with their family research.

A limited number of computer stations will be available, or bring your own laptops for online research.

Roundtables will be dedicated to topics such as:

  • Country and region-specific research (e.g., Polish, Lithuanian, Galician, Ukrainian, Belarussian, Romanian, Moldovan, Bessarabian, German)
  • Finding your ancestors using immigration, naturalization, and vital records
  • Getting started with Jewish genealogy (e.g., using the JewishGen and Steve Morse web sites)
  • Holocaust research (e.g., using the Internet, Yizkor books, Yad Vashem)
  • Translation of foreign-language documents (Yiddish, Russian, German, French, Polish, Hebrew, Hungarian, Romanian)

Genealogical reference materials will be available for perusal.

Bring in your research questions and your foreign documents for translation.

April 7
“Who the Heck is Ida Gerskill? The Challenges of Researching Jewish Names” Meredith Hoffman
This event will start at 1:30 pm at Temple Emanuel, 385 Ward Street, Newton.

Meredith Hoffman How can we make sense of our ancestors’ names and places as they moved through communities and eras? How do we deal with surnames that changed as they moved from the old country to the new? Can we figure out what name Uncle Louie used when he travelled to America? or who we might look for in the 1920 census when we’re told that great-grandma’s sister Rivkele changed her name but no one knows what she changed it to? And is there a way to sort out the name of the town that has come down in our family lore as something like “Vasakamosevyetz”?

Using an abundance of real examples, Meredith Hoffman explores the pitfalls and difficulties we are confronted with when working with Jewish personal, family, and place names as they morphed through time and space. She provides strategies for puzzling them out using linguistic and commonsense clues and cues and surveys some helpful online resources that can come to our aid.

Meredith Hoffman is a professional genealogist who specializes in researching 19th/early 20th century Jewish immigrant ancestors and particularly enjoys solving difficult Jewish name problems. She is Publicity Chair of the JGSGB and teaches and speaks at regional and national conferences and many local venues. She holds degrees in Linguistics from the University of California, Berkeley, and is a graduate of Boston University’s Genealogical Research Program. She retired from her long career as a technical writer, editor, and publishing consultant to devote most of her time to genealogy research.

Meredith’s presentation handout.

April 21

Research in Lithuania – Online & On Site Peggy Freedman
This event will start at 1:30 pm at Temple Emanuel, 385 Ward Street, Newton.


Peggy FreedmanBetween 1880 and 1914, more than 90,000 Jews told US immigration officials that they were immigrating to Massachusetts.  Many of them were leaving Lithuania, then a part of Russia.  If one of these Lithuanian Jewish immigrants was your ancestor, join us as we explore the tools to use when tracing your Lithuanian family tree.

Peggy Mosinger Freedman will discuss on-line resources available to Jewish genealogical researchers including the LitvakSIG database, the LitvakSIG Research Groups, and the translation process that LitvakSIG uses.  Peggy works closely with the archivists in the Kaunas Regional Archives, the Vilnius State Historical Archives, and the Lithuanian Central State Archives.  She will discuss how you can best proceed with your research at these repositories.

Peggy Mosinger Freedman has been tracing her family tree since she was a high school student. She is a founding member and past president of the Jewish Genealogical Society of Georgia.  She is the coordinator of the Vilnius District Research Group for LitvakSIG and is webmaster for JewishGen KehilahLinks pages for Jonava and Pandelys. Peggy currently volunteers with the American Fund for Lithuanian and Latvian Jews, leading heritage tours to Lithuania. In 2013 she is planning her seventh trip to Vilnius and Kaunas.

May 19

From Iberia to the Pale: Sephardim in Eastern Europe David Gitlitz
This event will start at 1:30 pm at Temple Emanuel, 385 Ward Street, Newton.

David Gitlitz

In the waning years of the 15th century the Iberian kingdoms forced their Jews to convert to Catholicism or go into exile. Those who left Spain and Portugal in the chaotic 1490s were joined over the next 200 years by a steady trickle of conversos, converted Jews and their descendents, who hoped to escape the traumatic secrecy of crypto-Judiasm in someplace where they could practice their religion openly and safely. The largest segment of the early Sephardic diaspora sought their new homes in the countries of the Mediterranean: Morocco, France, parts of Italy, and Ottoman Turkey. Many in the second, third, and later generations migrated to the commercial centers of Western Europe: Flanders, the Netherlands, England (and the English colonies). While Eastern Europe was never a major magnet for Sephardic immigration, some Spanish and Portuguese Jews and conversos did settle in the countries of the east. This talk will explore why, and when, and by what route they got there, and what has happened to them.

Genealogical detective work in the Iberian world challenges the researcher with some unusual complexities. The second part of this talk will explore the idiosyncrasies of Spanish & Portuguese names, and how the special circumstances of crypto-Judaism established the obfuscation of genealogy as a survival strategy. It will also suggest some approaches to working through these complexities.

Get David’s handout.

June 9
SPECIAL JGSGB PANEL: How to Get the Most Out of the Upcoming International Jewish Genealogy Conference
This event will start at 1:30 pm at Temple Emanuel, 385 Ward Street, Newton.

The annual conference of the International Association of Jewish Genealogy Societies will be here in Boston from August 4 to August 9, the first time it will be in Boston since 1996.  A large group of JGSGB members has been hard at work for more than a year planning to make this conference the best ever.

Expecting that many of our members will be attending the conference, we are planning a program to give them a head start in getting the most they can out of the conference.  This program will feature a panel of conference planners and experienced  conference-goers, who will provide an overview of the conference and its programs, workshops and research tools.  They will also offer many  tips on ways to prepare for the conference and to enjoy and benefit most from it. There will be ample time for questions and answers.

Sep 29

Building a Family Tree through Circumstantial Evidence:
Breaking through the Immigrant Brickwall
Judy G. Russell
“The Legal Genealogist”
This event will start at 1:30 pm at Temple Emanuel, Adelson Hall 385 Ward Street, Newton Centre, MA

This talk will be preceded by a short slideshow about the Boston (IAJGS) Conference.

Judy Russell

When our immigrant ancestors leave behind not just their homes but any direct evidence of family relationships, what’s a genealogist to do? Most genealogists learn very quickly that it’s a rare family where direct evidence supplies all the proof needed to connect one generation to another and tie brothers and sisters to each other. In most cases, it’s necessary to build the case for family relationships from bits and pieces and hints and clues gathered from a wide variety of sources. Judy Russell, The Legal Genealogist, presents resources and strategies to show us how to build a family tree from circumstantial evidence.

Judy G. Russell is a Certified GenealogistSM and Certified Genealogical LecturerSM who blogs as The Legal Genealogist. She is a member of the Board of Trustees of the Board for Certification of Genealogists and on the faculty at several genealogical institutes. She holds a law degree from Rutgers Law School. Her popular blog at is a useful resource for all researchers. In a recent poll of genealogists around the world, Russell was voted one of the three American “rockstar genealogists,” those “who give ‘must attend’ presentations at family history conferences or as webinars .”

Oct. 20

Audio Recording
Introduction to the Search Engine Logan Kleinwaks
This event will start at 1:30 pm at Temple Emanuel, 385 Ward Street, Newton Centre, MA

Logan Kleinwaks Logan Kleinwaks, creator of, will explain how to use the Genealogy Indexer to search historical directories, yizkor books, and other resources and present an update on newly added and expanded sources. is a free website that offers full-text searching of more than 400,000 pages of historical directories primarily from central and eastern Europe (business, address, telephone), yizkor books, Polish and Russian military documents, community and personal histories, Galician secondary school reports, and more. These sources contain millions of personal names—often with towns of residence, street addresses, and occupations, and sometimes with vital dates or patronymics. This huge and growing collection mostly comprises data from central and eastern European records not searchable elsewhere.

LoganJosephKleinwaksis the creator of free genealogy websites including GenealogyIndexer.organd, which uses Page of Testimony research to reunite families separated by the Shoah, and the coordinator of the JewishGen Danzig/Gdansk SIG. He has a research background in physics. For creating and maintaining, Kleinwaks received the Award for Outstanding Contribution to Jewish Genealogy via the Internet, Print or Electronic Product from the International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies in 2012.

Nov. 3
9 am – 12 noon
Special Program on Polish Records Research — Members Only
Workshop on Jewish Records Indexing-Poland – Learn & Ask
Stanley Diamond
Founder & Director
of JRI-Poland
Newton (specific location will be sent to registrants)

Stanley Diamond

The JRI-Poland Learn and Ask workshop will provide an opportunity to get deep inside the workings of Jewish Records Indexing – Poland, an award winning international project to create an Internet-searchable index of all surviving Jewish vital records of Poland. JRI-Poland’s founder and director, Stanley Diamond, will present an update on the current status of various indexing projects, the latest news on scanning of Jewish records in the Polish State Archives, and an overview of the not-yet-announced projects for which hundreds of thousands of records have already been indexed.

Both new and more experienced researchers will be able to ask questions directly related to their research and learn what records of interest may be available now and what might be expected in the near and foreseeable future. Diamond will also field questions about preparing for and visiting Poland and how to find the best guides and researchers.

Stanley M. Diamond is the founder and Executive Director of Jewish Records Indexing – Poland ( He also researches a novel mutation of the beta-thalassemia genetic trait and documents the rare incidence of the trait in Ashkenazi Jewish families of the Diaspora. Diamond is a graduate of McGill University in Montreal and holds an MBA from Harvard. He is Founding President of the Jewish Genealogical Society of Montreal and the winner of the 2002 Lifetime Achievement Award from the International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies.

Nov. 17
Laskin      icons-audio
From Genealogy to History: Exploring the Jewish 20th Century through One Family’s Story David Laskin
This event will start at 1:30 pm at Temple Emanuel 385 Ward Street, Newton Centre, MA

David LaskinIn his new book, The Family: Three Journeys into the Heart of the 20th Century, David Laskin tells the story of his mother’s family— eastern European Jews who split into three branches at the turn of the last century. Laskin will describe his genealogical research, which involved archives and resources on three continents—eastern Europe, the United States, and Israel—and how he used insights from family letters and memoirs and historical documents to enrich the family stories and understand the family history in the broader historical context of the Jewish 20th century.

Among other resources, he will discuss using archives in Israel; hiring researchers and guides in Belarus and Lithuania; using JewishGen, the US Holocaust Memorial Museum, the US Citizenship and Immigration Services; and employing Facebook and Twitter to help find a “lost” branch of the family.

David Laskin is an award-winning author who writes about the intersection between ordinary people and the seismic upheavals of our time . He holds a degree in history and literature from Harvard and an MA in English from New College, Oxford. The Family: Three Journeys into the Heart of the 20 th Century is a book that reads like a novel, but is a work of history with every detail grounded in fact. “The Family is as rich and poignant as any novel, only all true and impeccably researched.”
—Erik Larson, New York Times Bestselling Author

For more information, see