Thursday, July 23, 2009

High Tech Sparked Genealogy Buzz


Three years ago, David Mink began volunteering at the Philadelphia Jewish Archives Center, helping to index its microfilmed collection of ledgers from the city's long-defunct Rosenbaum, Blitzstein, Lipschutz and Rosenbluth banks. The early 20th-century banks doubled as agencies to facilitate immigrants' money transfers to relatives in Europe to book ship passage here. 
A fellow volunteer eventually pointed out some interesting information to Mink: A March 26, 1923 entry had been made for $98 that Mink's grandfather, Jacob Pseny, had paid to bring over a cousin, Fraitel Szklarz of Moselle, France. Another entry showed Pseny's transfer of $104 to his grandmother's brother, Avrum Gruber, of Siemiatis, Poland. Neither relative bought the ticket -- probably because of U.S. immigration restrictions, Mink speculated -- and Pseny received a refund.
"I was absolutely flabbergasted," Mink said of the discoveries.
Thanks to the Internet, Jews today can experience such Eureka! moments from the comfort of home. Most of the Philadelphia bank records are available on the popular Web site JewishGen.org -- just one example of improvements in Jewish genealogy in the digital age.

Such technological advancements will be front and center at the International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies conference, to be held Aug. 2-7 at the Sheraton Philadelphia Center City Hotel. At last year's Chicago conference, a session on maximizing one's research on Google proved so popular that three such talks are scheduled this time, with other sessions covering the capabilities of Google Earth in plotting important family sites in a shtetl, and of Google Translate in searching and e-mailing abroad, said Philadelphia conference program chair Mark Halpern. (Jewish Exponent)

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