Tuesday, February 23, 2010

A Surprise Genealogy Gift

Posted By Ann Rabinowitz

I recently received an e-mail message from Mark Jacobson stating that due to my volunteering efforts (along with a number of others), in regard to prior indexing records for Drohobycz, Ukraine, I was being sent the database of the newly translated birth records for 1816-1833. Wow!!! I was terribly pleased and delighted that something I had volunteered for was bringing this unexpected treasure.

As I looked through the records, I found all sorts of connections to my family. I wrote back to Mark and thanked him and asked if any other records had been done for my Schubert family. He responded with several records which blew my mind.

There, in black and white, was a death record for Reisel Schubert, 1768-1842, my great great great grandmother. This was the person who my grandmother Rose had been named after and thereon many of my cousins too had this name. This record also took my family back into the 1700’s in Drohobycz.

That was not all . . . there was a death record for my great great grandmother, Gitel Schubert, 1804-1852, who died of pulmonary consumption (tuberculosis). All of a sudden, the time span between generations was revealed giving me an idea of when my ancestors had actually lived and also what they died of.

A further record, this time a birth, was for Etel Schubert, 1837, who was a daughter of Gitel Schubert. Now, I had a sister for my great grandmother Leah and the person for whom my grandmother’s sister was named. In one fell swoop, I had filled in many of the gaps in my family tree.

The realization that participation in genealogical research as a volunteer had made this all possible was really brought home to me at this point. Many times in the past, I had volunteered for various data input projects with no thought of any reward at all, but because I knew it was important and would help many other people.

I know some researchers say that they cannot afford to participate in obtaining records in any substantial way, but there is no excuse for not volunteering in some manner as that costs nothing, but your time. Perhaps you do not feel you can handle doing data input for a project, then tell the project manager and perhaps there are other chores that need doing that you can help with.

In any event, volunteers are an important and highly valued part of the genealogical research process. Investigate what projects are being worked on in your areas of interest and see how you can help. Sometimes these things can run the gamut of the following:
  • language skills
  • data input skills
  • ability to visit cemeteries and take down info there
  • photographing tombstones
  • contact person skills, i.e., sending out e-mails to participants
  • fundraising skills
  • help with your Jewish Genealogical Society activities
An example of how this can work on a project which is underway is the following. A professor at the University of Pennsylvania, Sol Katz, took photographs of the large cemetery in Rokiskis, Lithuania. As a result, he came to the Rokiskis SIG meeting at the IAJGS Conference in Philadelphia this past summer to network and to determine some means for his photographs to be utilized properly.

At the final banquet of the IAJGS Conference, a fine match was found after I met with two cousins whose ancestors were from Rokiskis where the cemetery was located. After chatting with them, they agree to help with a cemetery project based on Professor Katz’s photographs.

What were they to do? Well, the cousin who lived in New York, Michael Pertain, could take the photographs of the tombstones from Professor Katz and translate the Hebrew into English. The other cousin in Philadelphia, Maxine Blum, would write down what her relative Michael translated and put it into a JOWBR cemetery template on her computer.

So, three separate people, each with their own individual skill, each living in a different place, would be able to work together and do their bit for the project. On their own, they would not have had the complete skill sets needed nor would they have had the time to devote to completing the project either. Perhaps even another person can volunteer to proofread the database before it is submitted to the JOWBR.

And so, another project will get underway and be completed with the goodwill and generosity of volunteer help. As I said before, it was wonderful getting such a wonderful surprise and, I hope, that others can share in such surprises with me all year long by virtue of their volunteering their time and efforts to Jewish genealogy.

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