Heritage Florida Jewish News - Central Florida's Independent Jewish Voice

Making a personal connection with past generations


September 1, 2017

Janette Silverman

A beginner in the Jewish genealogy search, Jane Edelstein recently attended the International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies conference held in Orlando. This is the second article about her experience finding her roots.

If you're building your family tree online, you may be tired of reviewing old historical documents that aren't even in English. It's one thing to focus on relatives that you or your parents had once met, but once you've gone back two or more generations, how do you increase your personal connection to the past?

"You want to make history more personal and meaningful," noted Janette Silverman, senior genealogist research manager at AncestryProGenealogists, speaking at the recent International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies (IAJGS) conference in Orlando. "It helps tremendously if you can link a historical event to an ancestor."

Silverman related how she once tied a historical date to a relative who she knew was aligned with that event. "Sometimes you have to integrate information from two or more different sources-and only then does a connection become clear," she said.

Here are some other tips that Silverman shared to help make your genealogical search more personal:

• Pay extra attention to old ketubas (wedding contracts) you may find. "They often conveyed the place where they were written," Silverman said. This could help link a person to a town.

• Consider that a gravestone is more than just the writing that's on it. "What kind of stone is it? How is the stone constructed?" Silverman queried, explaining additional types of information that can be obtained.

• Consider a source of information that is relatively new in terms of categorization-individual synagogue yahrzeit (anniversary of death) plaques and memorial records. "A plaque can connect a person to a place that may not be documented elsewhere," Silverman noted.

Indeed, JewishGen.com has just within the past couple of years begun indexing and categorizing yahrzeit plaques in a searchable database. "As of December of last year, we had 136,000 memorial records from 225 synagogues," noted Avraham Groll, director, JewishGen. The database is growing rapidly. (The database may be viewed at JewishGen.com; click on the link to Memorial Plaques Database.).


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