The Journal Gazette
Monday, February 17, 2020 1:00 am

Jewish genealogists hear tricks, tips

An online service helps reluctant relatives talk

ASHLEY SLOBODA | The Journal Gazette

Marlis Humphrey understands it can be difficult to capture family stories.

The genealogist listed common excuses Sunday: Relatives don't want to talk to a recording device. Some want time to think and remember, and the right time to share the tales never comes. Others promise to put the memories in writing but never do.

Judging by their smiles, Humphrey's audience – members of the Northeast Indiana Jewish Genealogy Society – could relate.

Humphrey, who discussed hidden gems of Jewish genealogy, suggested using StoryWorth to collect family stories. The online service regularly emails the family member a question for a year, and responses are bound in a book.

“It makes this task easier,” Humphrey said to about two dozen people at the Allen County Public Library's Genealogy Center.

The discussion was part of the genealogy society's presentation programs, which feature speakers on topics related to Jewish genealogical research. A talk in May will focus on Jewish gravestones.

The organization is dedicated to collecting, preserving and disseminating genealogical information, techniques and research tools to those interested in Jewish genealogy and family history. Members have a broad range of genealogical skills and knowledge.

“We welcome anybody to join,” President Irv Adler said.

Humphrey highlighted 10 lesser-known resources for researching family history, including the language lessons offered through FamilySearch. This can help with deciphering handwritten records, she said.

“There's not another resource like this,” Humphrey said, noting they are offered for multiple languages.

Those seeking photographs of their ancestors should explore Yad Vashem's digital photo archive, which is often overlooked, Humphrey said. Yad Vashem offers Holocaust education, documentation and research.

Humphrey found a photograph of a prewar boot factory, a discovery important to her because her great-grandfather's occupation was listed as bootmaker.

“He may have worked in a boot factory just like this one or possibly even in this particular boot factory,” Humphrey said. “Only on Yad Vashem's digital archive, through it, was I able to find photos that provide this type of context to my family history.”

Humphrey also encouraged attendees to seek out digital ethnic newspaper collections because the articles can provide invaluable family history context.

Such was the case for a client whose ancestor was orphaned as a child when both parents died in a fire, Humphrey said. Through the newspapers, she learned the boy became a respected student and served on the orphanage's board of directors as an adult.

“This significantly altered the view that my client had of the tragic and sorrowful story of their ancestor,” Humphrey said. “They now knew, as tragic as the story was, it had somewhat of a happy ending or happy elements to it.”

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