Last month I had the pleasure of attending the International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies Conference 2013 (IAJGS 2013) for the first time, held in Boston, Massachusetts, this year, very close to where I live. My most recent post discusses my Day 1 as well as some of the ways in which it was different from American genealogy events I’ve attended to date. On Day 2, Monday, August 5th, the first session began at 8:15, the way the schedule would start for the rest of the six-day conference. Overall Monday was what I think of in retrospect as “My New England Track Day.”
But I started my day with a second lecture by Megan Lewis, a staff member at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. I had seen a talk by her the previous afternoon, as I mentioned in my most recent blog post. This one was titled “U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum’s New Collections Catalog and Holocaust Research.” Some of the material was repeated from the previous day’s lecture, but there was also a good amount of different material. Most important to note is that their main catalog does not cover everything. Major things she Lewis noted as not being in the catalog include ITS (which is on its own separate system and software), most of the Photo Archives (for permissions reasons), some historical film clips (again, for permissions reasons), and archives/manuscripts/books/etc. that are still being processed.
In my Day 1 post, I didn’t explain what ITS was, so I should do so here. “ITS” stands for “International Tracing Service.” Here is the (English-language) homepage of the ITS at Bad Arolsen, Germany. Here is the main U. S. Holocaust Memorial Museum’s page on their ITS Archive, including a link to an online form where survivors and their families can request information from the ITS Archive. (Requests of survivors and their immediate families are given priority.) As you can see at the U. S. Holocaust Memorial Museum’s page, they received tons of archival materials from the formerly closed records of the ITS starting in 2007 and opened the materials to researchers. The Tracing Services of the Allies was started in 1943. It went to a variety of other organizations from there, till it became the organization it still is today in 1955. I imagine that the name is at least somewhat self-explanatory, so I will simply quote from the Museum’s ITS FAQ:
The archive was established by the Allied powers after World War II to help reunite families separated during the war and to trace missing family members. The Allies placed in the ITS millions of pages of documentation that they captured during the war. Since then, the archive has continued to grow as new records, both originals and copies, have been deposited there. [. . .]
The archive contains more than 150 million digital images of documentation on approximately 17.5 million victims of Nazism—people arrested, deported, killed, put to forced labor and slave labor, or displaced from their homes and unable to return at the end of the war. Sixteen linear miles of shelving are required to hold all the files.
[From "International Tracing Service Archive | FAQs"]
As an aside, when I was studying abroad in Greece I saw artifacts showing a thriving Jewish community during Antiquity. My professors said that the Nazis had killed 99% of Greece’s Jewish population during the Holocaust, and that the Greek Resistance had worked from the mountains of Arkadia during the Nazi occupation of Greece. I thought of those moments in writing this post because I saw on the sites I linked that Greece is one of the participating countries making the ITS’s archives available to the public.
Lewis closed her lecture with a number of points and tips for those visiting in-person. They have brand new ScanPro 2000 microfilm readers; she said, “They have made some of our unreadable microfilms readable.” You can use a flash/USB drive to save microfilm. You can take non-flash photos. They also have scanning photocopiers, so you can scan book pages to a USB drive instead of making a hard copy. When visiting, you need to keep large bags (such as backpacks), food, water, and other drinks outside of the research area, but you can bring your own notebook into the research area, unlike at NARA. Lewis strongly advised the audience that the best time to visit was mid-September to February. The Museum is closed on federal holidays and Yom Kippur. And as at her lecture the previous day, Lewis stressed it is important to contact the Museum at least a week before you visit in person.
Lewis’s lecture was over quite early, with the explicit reason of allowing a lot of time for questions. After listening to a few questions, I decided to leave the lecture hall. I’d been considering going to the end of a nearby lecture, but instead, I ran into a friend who introduced me to someone else who lives locally and we ended up chatting in the hall. By the time we stopped chatting, it was close enough to the end of the time slot that I decided to look around the vendor hall again while it was less crowded.
There were only 15 minute breaks between most lectures. Next up, I attended “Looking at Boston Resources for Genealogists, 1850 to 1950,” by David Allen Lambert, whom I’ve heard lecture several times before. This lecture was sponsored by the New England Historic Genealogical Society (NEHGS), which is in Boston near the conference venue and is where Lambert works. The syllabus was very bare, so I wasn’t really sure what to expect at this one. It turned out to be more of a broad, basic overview than what I’d hoped.
The biggest nugget I got from the lecture was that if you are researching on NEHGS’s website, inputting a woman’s maiden name into their database search form in the given name field is a way to search for married women whose maiden name is included in their death record. [A bracketed further explanation for anyone who doesn't understand what I'm talking about: For anyone who doesn't already know, NEHGS's website has scans of the Massachusetts state copies of death records from 1850 to 1915. (1916 to 1920 are on FamilySearch.) In Massachusetts, starting in 1850, towns sent copies of their vital records to the state; you can also request the town's copy from the town, and a number of towns' records are online at FamilySearch and/or Ancestry and/or Fold3.] Lambert also mentioned that early death records in Boston typically listed the cemetery where the person was buried, while the state copy typically did not list it until the 1930′s. Lambert also praised the Boston Public Library’s Microtext Department’s newspaper microfilm and microfiche collection, “the largest collection of Boston and Massachusetts newspapers in the world,” many of which have not been digitized.
Next, I decided to go to the lecture I’d been told about at the SHARE Fair the previous day, “Burlington [Vermont]‘s Jewish Community: ‘Little Jerusalem’ 1880-1940,” a collaborative lecture given jointly by Jeff Potash, Ph.D., and Aaron Goldberg, J.D., who are Ohavi Zedek Synagogue Archivists in Burlington, Vermont. Most of the Jewish settlers in Burlington came from a single town, Lekiskes (Tsaykeshik in Yiddish) in Latvia. That was the only note I made at this presentation, but the presentation was an excellent one. Potash and Goldberg had used records, maps, and oral history interviews to reconstruct the Burlington Jewish community, and they showed us many maps of the area and read a number of quotes from their oral history interviews on a variety of subjects. Over time a number of the Jewish families had come to own businesses in the non-Jewish section of Burlington, with a large percentage of their clientele being non-Jews. Eventually the community fell apart and most of the families moved on by around 1940.
An old mural has been rediscovered at the former shul and is now part of a project called The Lost Shul Mural, where they are hoping to restore the mural, and they briefly mentioned the mural and the project at the end. The documentary about it was run on Vermont Public Television last year as a fundraiser for the project, and the woman who talked with me at the SHARE Fair said it was the most successful fundraiser Vermont Public Television had ever run; I said that I thought part of it was that Vermonters generally seem interested in the all-encompassing history of Vermont, regardless of whether it was their own family’s history, and she agreed that this seemed true.
There were several questions and comments from the audience at the end of the presentation, including whether the Jewish families that owned businesses in the non-Jewish section had faced antisemitism (yes and no: whatever people felt privately, these families owned businesses providing unique services in the area and most non-Jews in the town appear to have shopped there regardless of personal opinions), that an audience member’s ancestor had been recruited from New York state to move to Burlington to be a part of the Jewish community there, and whether there were connections between the Burlington community and the Jewish community in the Montreal area (yes, so much so that many of the families moved to Quebec when they left Burlington).
There were pay-to-attend lunches each day, but some days there was also a “brown bag lunch,” a session scheduled over lunchtime where you didn’t have to pay to attend it but had to supply your own food. Monday’s was the only one I attended, “Ask the Boston Experts,” and it was next up on my agenda. The experts were Marta Crilly, on staff at the City of Boston Archives; Meredith Hoffman, a professional genealogist specializing in Jewish genealogy, a fellow Bay Stater (Massachusetts resident), and a fellow alumna of Boston University Center for Professional Education’s Certificate in Genealogical Research; David Lambert, whom as I mentioned, is on staff at NEHGS; and an expert from the Jewish Genealogical Society of Greater Boston whose name I didn’t write down and unfortunately don’t recall. The panel sat at a table and we audience members sat below, many of us with lunches in our laps, and the moderator called on audience members to ask questions of the panel. The questions were a nice mix, from fairly basic to very specialized or very specific, and many of the questions were answered by at least two people on the panel. I didn’t take any notes on this session, but I enjoyed it.
Afterwards I went up to Marta Crilly to ask a question in private. I’m researching a collateral line who lived in Boston in the late 1800′s through early 1900′s, and was wondering whether a tax record set she had discussed at the panel would be applicable to my research subject. It turned out that the tax in question was only for men, regardless of a woman’s income, though she said the woman might be in the Archives’ (separate) personal tax records. We talked for a bit and she told me about Married Women’s Business Certificates, which sounded fascinating but which don’t apply to my research subject as she wasn’t married. Crilly also asked if this woman’s work as a nurse was for the city of Boston (it wasn’t). Crilly mentioned that she would be giving a talk on the resources at the City of Boston Archives later that afternoon, and that she would be discussing more about the tax records, the Married Women’s Business Certificates, and other records they hold there. I’m glad she did as for some reason I thought it had already happened, and I ran into a number of other New Englanders between talking to Crilly and the time of Crilly’s talk and mentioned it to them as well.
With a brown bag lunch (or a pay-to-attend lunch, for that matter), you didn’t get much of a break before the first afternoon session, which started 15 minutes after the panel officially ended and less than that after I finished talking to Crilly. I was headed to one of the large rooms so I wasn’t particularly worried about finding a seat for this session despite the conference facility’s odd lack of middle-sized rooms. Next up on my agenda was “DNA Identification of Missing-Identity Children from the Holocaust” by Colleen Fitzpatrick, whom I’d heard speak on using background information to identify and date photos at New England Regional Genealogical Conference 2013 (NERGC 2013) [see my posts about NERGC if you are interested] and who had taught several people I know in the 2012 Forensic Genealogy course at Boston University Center for Professional Education and would be teaching two more people I know later that week, as the course and the conference were running concurrently this year.
I thought this lecture was really interesting, but I didn’t take many notes on it. It focused on two case studies of using DNA testing with people whose birth identity had been lost when they were young children via dislocation from family due to the Holocaust. Colleen Fitzpatrick recommended a book, Don’t Wave Goodbye: The Children’s Flight from Nazi Persecution to American Freedom, about the (sigh) only 1,400 children that the United States allowed to enter during the time period 1934-1945. The children had to be unaccompanied; had to be under 16 years (the youngest was 4 months); and had to come directly from Europe. A bill in Congress in 1938 would have allowed tens of thousands of children to enter the United States, but it did not pass. The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum has a program called “Remember Me?” for former children who knew their birth identity and are trying to locate people who knew them as children, and there is a website called Missing Identity for former children who are Holocaust survivors, don’t know their birth identity, and are trying to find out what it is.
The above paragraph comprises most of my notes from this talk, but the bulk of the talk itself was after these initial remarks, focusing on the case studies. Fitzpatrick used mapping techniques to map the known locations of the ancestors of the people whose DNA test results matched those with unknown identities, trying to see where the matches were geographically located; she used different symbols for each match’s ancestor. She is working on developing software that will let her narrow it down to specific time periods so that she isn’t defaulted to seeing all matches’ known ancestors and locations throughout all eras, and which will allow her to filter results to only a certain level of match (say, 3rd cousins), and when Jennifer Shoer (@ScrappyGen) and I stopped at her table in the author’s corner later that day, Jennifer asked her if she’d be willing to let us (researchers) buy the mapping software if she’s able to successfully develop it and Fitzpatrick said sure.
I had run into Jennifer at the end of Fitzpatrick’s lecture, and from that lecture Jennifer and I headed to “Jewish Refugee Travel Across the North Atlantic on the Eve of the Shoah,” by Dr. Nicholas Evans of the University of Hull in England, sponsored by Latvia SIG. I confess that this lecture was not exactly what I was expecting from the title, but it was fascinating regardless. I’m recounting this in a different order than the order Evans used in his talk, grouping points thematically and relatively chronologically.
During the period 1921-24, the United States government decided that Eastern Europeans were “undesirable,” and thousands en route were left stranded at Easterly (near Southampton, England), in an encampment called Atlantic Park. The United States government’s decision had a big effect, causing the relative “demise” (to quote Evans) of passenger shipping lines. After this, UK ports shifted to the south, especially to Southampton. Lines also picked up some people in Le Havre in northern France. Polish lines generally sailed out of Gdansk. Movement of emigrants eastward was generally done overland, not by sea, and it was especially common to go to Shanghai.
“Paper walls” is a term used for using laws to limit immigration, particularly of certain groups. By 1930, “paper walls” had been introduced, in order of passing, in: Britain, the United States, Canada, and South Africa, all with a focus on limiting immigration of Jews and other Eastern Europeans. In response, shipping operations reduced the number of routes, further limiting the ability of people to move long distances. In the 1930′s in the United Kingdom, there was a period of increased right-wing politics; as a result, documentation for immigrants became more and more detailed. Unfortunately much of this detailed documentation has since been destroyed. Meanwhile, the 1930′s was “The Golden Age of Cruising” for those that could afford long-distance travel for leisure.
Starting from 1885 and especially so from 1894, Germans had overwhelming control over the Jewish ocean-travel market, particularly through the line known first as Hapag and later as Hapag-Lloyd. Hapag-Lloyd was based out of Hamburg, Germany. But within six months of Hitler’s rise to power, the Nazi government combined Hapag-Lloyd with the NDL and nationalized it. Hapag-Lloyd’s chairman was replaced by a pro-Hitler figure, and not surprisingly, immediately there was a vacuum in the market.
In 1936 the Queen Mary was launched by the Cunard-Star Line, with a full kosher kitchen (though many observant travelers were suspicious of just how kosher it was and chose to eat vegetarian to be safe) and other amenities to woo Jewish travelers. Many other lines quickly followed suit. Many British, French, and Polish registered lines equipped both their aging and new vessels with kosher facilities by the end of 1936. The Jewish Chronicle assisted travelers by weekly telling them which lines had “the green flag,” meaning they were safe for Jewish emigrants to travel on.
Evans made the point that the lines could see there would be a demand – to wit, a big wave of Jewish emigrants and other emigrants/refugees fleeing Europe – and took this as an opportunity to make money by catering to the clientele. There were a number of ships, such as the St. Louis, that only allowed first-class passengers, and on those liners, only the richest could afford to flee Europe. The policies of British ships in the 1930′s showed who those lines expected to be in each class: First class had exclusively Anglican services; second class focused on Roman Catholic services; and third class focused on Jewish services.
During World War II, emigrants left atypical ports, NOT what we tend to think of as “typical” ports. Most refugees were listed as “stateless” on World-War-II-era passenger lists.
The University of Liverpool holds archives of the Cunard-White Star Line; the University of Glasgow holds archives of the Allan Line and the Anchor Line; and the National Maritime Museum [UK] holds archives of the Union Castle Line. Evans stressed that if you contact them for research, ask them a very specific question, not a generic one. On the National Archives [UK] site, you can search the shipping lists (what we usually call passenger lists here in the States) by name, ship, or date of departure. The University of Bremen has a lot of 1930′s information related to emigration from Germany. Lloyd’s Register of Shipping has been digitized.
Evans said: “Finding the individual stories is more difficult than illustrating the general experience.”
As a final note, many of the former Hapag-Lloyd liners, once the major way that European Jews traveled by ocean, became part of the Nazi “Work for Joy” program after the Nazis nationalized the line. This part of the “Work for Joy” program was where strong Nazi supporters were given “pleasure cruises” as a way to reward them for their support.
Next up – if you’re not keeping track, this was my seventh session of the day – I attended “Jewish History and Genealogy at the City of Boston Archives” by the aforementioned Marta Crilly. There was a large regional contingent in the audience at this lecture, including a number of people I know. The lecture was unfortunately held in one of the tiny rooms and was packed, so many people who tried to come in late simply left again instead of standing. The person who introduced Crilly said that he goes to a lot of conferences and that this was by far the most crowded he had ever seen a 5:00 pm lecture, and he gave kudos to us all for attending one.
The City of Boston Archives has gotten a National Historical Publications & Records Commission (NHPRC) grant from the grant wing of the National Archives and Records Administration [US] (current grants being offered are listed here). The grant is to give a summary and a guide to all of their holdings. Fantastic!
After noting their grant, Crilly opened her main talk with a basic summary of Boston’s historical Jewish communities. In 1649, Solomon Franco arrived in Boston, its first known Jew. In 1796, only one (recorded) Jewish family was living in Boston. In 1840, there were 40 (recorded) Jewish individuals in Boston, with a community forming in Roxbury (one of the towns that was originally independent but has been gobbled up by the City of Boston; more on that shortly). In 1843, they organized as a congregation in Roxbury. In 1844, they requested a Jewish burial ground, which was denied. Later in 1844, they bought land and got approval to use the land they had bought as a burial ground. In 1852, Congregation Ohabei Shalom moved into their first building in Boston’s South End. By 1895, the North End was home to 7,700 Italians and 6,200 European Jews, many from Russia and Lithuania. In the West End there were 6,300 Jews by 1895 and around 40,000 by 1910. The Jewish communities began to shift to Dorchester and back to Roxbury by around 1910. Most Jewish emigres were under thirty and single when they arrived, but most seem to have married quickly after arriving in Boston.
After this introduction, Crilly spent the rest of her talk detailing a variety of records held by the City of Boston Archives that are likely to be of interest to genealogists and local historians. The Archives holds a lot of Tax Records, including Real Estate Valuations, Street Books, Assessor’s Records, Personal and Property Tax Records (which go to 1962), and a Poll Tax on males over 18 (regardless of citizenship status) that was collected from 1822 to 1918. Tax Records are usually organized by Ward, so it is helpful to know the Ward at the time before you begin searching, as well as the street address if possible. They also have Tax Records for most of the City of Boston’s annexed towns prior to annexation. Roxbury and Dorchester, mentioned in the previous paragraph, are two of the several towns that were annexed by the City of Boston. Crilly mentioned during her talk that most of the annexed towns also deposited their other records with Boston upon annexation.
The Archives holds Naturalized Voter Indexes, for people who became citizens and needed to provide details of their achieving citizenship to be allowed to vote in the City of Boston. They also hold Voter Registers, which contain names of men only; some register books just list the country of birth, but others are more detailed. The register books also list the person’s age, height, and weight. They also hold separate Women’s Voter Registers that start in 1884, as women were allowed to vote in school elections (only). While the Voter Registers (of men) are indexed, the Women’s Voter Registers are not.
The Archives holds Business Certificates from 1907 to the present; earlier business records are in the tax records. They also have “DBAs,” which are “Doing Business As” Certificates, which include the owner’s name and address as well as the business name and address. They also hold Married Women’s Business Certificates from 1862 to 1974; they include the woman’s name, her husband’s name, the nature of her business, and the location of her business, and these are indexed. Crilly noted that a large proportion of the Married Women’s Business Certificates are for Jewish women.
The Archives holds a number of institutions’ records, including (?’s are where I didn’t take notes fast enough):
- Almshouse 1853-1914
- House of Correction 1848-1979
- House of Industry 1858-1904
- Marcella Street Home 1877-1898
- Children’s Institutions Department 1898-?
- Lunatic Hospital ?-?
- Temporary Home for Women and Children ?-?
They also hold a collection of atlases, including Bromley Atlases of Boston from the late 1800′s into the 1900′s; the exact dates they hold vary by neighborhood.
The Archives also holds an extensive photograph collection, including (but not limited to):
- Traffic and Parking Photos – 1948-49
- ISD Takedown Photos – 1908-84 – the records of individual buildings that were taken down
- Urban Renewal Photographs – starting in the 1950′s – photos of neighborhoods that were destroyed for urban renewal, including the West End and the “New York Streets Area” of the South End.
- Landmark Commission Photos – begin late 1800′s and run through the 1900′s – already-digitized holdings include the North End and South Boston; their Roxbury collection will be going online starting this autumn.
The Archives has digitized over 3,000 images and placed them on the photo website Flickr.
The Archives holds a variety of School Records, including a wide variety of Student Records as well as a number of Teacher Records and Administrative & Building Records. Their School Records are only for public schools and only for Boston. The majority of the records are from the late 1800′s to the present, as well as a small collection from the early 1800′s. To access School Records, you have to fill out a form certifying you area descendant of the person whose records you are requesting, unless they are in the oldest portion of the record set, in which case the archivists may choose to allow you to view them regardless of whether you are a descendant. The Administration & Building Records include Manuals from 1869-1973 (with gaps), Building Photos, circa 1920-1960, and Publications.
The Archives also holds records of City Employees, 1905-1966 (plus one list from 1888).
Crilly then took numerous questions from the audience. Here are some of her answers: Yes, Poll Taxes included residents at hotels. Their website has a number of Finding Aids already on it, including for many of their institution records. They also have a separate website of “Web Exhibits.” On Tumblr the Archives posts a new document or image every single day. The Archives keeps all of their digitized photos on Flickr, and you can keyword-search their photos. They have two Ward maps from the 1840′s and 1850′s; the later Bromley Atlases also show Wards. Scott Andrew Bartley also did a list of the wards and how they changed, which Crilly said has been digitized. She didn’t know the URL offhand and to date I have not located it, though perhaps I have used the wrong web searches or perhaps it is digitized somewhere where search engines do not easily find it.
The City of Boston Archives section of the City of Boston website is here. The City of Boston Archives is also very active on social media, including a Tumblr account, a Twitter account (@ArchivesBoston), and a Facebook fan page, in addition to their aforementioned collection of digitized images on Flickr. For visiting in person to research, Crilly stressed to call in advance and make an appointment, as though they technically have hours of operation, the archivists sometimes go off-site to do things like take custody of records or advise other locations on record management. She also said that it is by far easiest to reach them by car, but that the 36 bus goes past their Roxbury building if that is one’s only option.
After the 5:00 pm lecture slot, some of us in attendance at the conference who had completed BU’s genealogical research program gathered in the hallway to chat and take a group photo. Some couldn’t make it to dinner, but others of us went out to eat together. Those of us that ate together then headed back to hear the evening klezmer music program, “Taking Extreme Measures: The Ongoing Rescue of Jewish Music,” with a few of us who were commuting in every day planning to leave the long evening program early. The auditorium was already packed when we got there, though the program had yet to begin.
The program was much more lecture-leaning than I expected from a music program which had been called a “concert” by some other attendees in advance, though the background information was interesting. The main speaker, Hankus Netsky, talked about some possible strategies for reintroducing rescued klezmer songs, one of which was possibly introducing them in schools. I thought of how, long ago, I had spent a semester of college living on a Reservation and I had been told about how someone had done all the work on compiling their native language 20 years before I was there, but no one taught it; it was just sitting in a cupboard in the Reservation school, and everyone on the Reservation spoke English. There are two steps to rescuing anything cultural – one is the vital task of ensuring that it is preserved, since there can be no further steps without that step having been done, but then there is also the important step of passing on what has been preserved so that it will continue to be a part of the culture or be reintroduced as a nearly lost part of the culture. Each culture has to choose for itself what the best way(s) is(are) to do that. My phrasing may make it sound like culture is passive – something that happens to people – but of course a culture is comprised of individuals, and in the end the individuals making up the culture are the ones who need to determine how to preserve and pass on their heritage.
When I noted that one of us had gotten so tired they had stopped being alert enough to clap, I suggested that those of us that were planning an early exit do so. I arrived home around 9:30 pm, needing to be back in time for the next day’s 8:15 lecture. Commuting to a multi-day conference is not for the faint of heart or, I suspect, for those that don’t drink copious amounts of morning coffee. Or maybe that last part is just me.