Connecting the ancestral dots 

Connecting the ancestral dots

Genealogy Search
'These people are removed from me one or two generations, and I don't even know them,?she said.

The realization spurred Seibel Liebowitz to research further, utilizing archives and court ledgers. Eventually, she found her grandfather's naturalization papers and her grandmother's birth name and town.

Since then, she has become deeply involved in tracking her family's story, in particular, and in Jewish genealogy in general. She is not alone. When she attends the 26th International Conference on Jewish Genealogy, hosted by the Jewish Genealogical Society at the New York Marriott Marquis hotel this Aug. 13-18, Seibel Liebowitz will be joined by some 1,500 people from as far a field as Venezuela, Argentina, Lithuania, Switzerland and Uzbekistan.

The conference, designed for the amateur and professional genealogist alike, will feature more than 175 sessions on subjects ranging from how to utilize technology for genealogical research to how to preserve cemeteries in Eastern Europe.

The opening speaker is U.S. Archivist Dr. Allen Weinstein; Samuel G. Freedman, a professor and author of 'Who She Was: My Search for My Mother's Life,?will deliver the keynote address at a banquet on Aug. 17.

This year, technology will play a major role in the conference. At a state-of-the-art computer lab participants can learn about online genealogy resources, such as and Experts will also teach participants how to use Excel databases to organize research and how to search pre-war phone books, business directories and town records that have been transcribed and preserved for online searching.

Some 15 sessions will be devoted to Sephardic Jewry, a group that has been typically overlooked at previous genealogy conferences.

Jeffrey Malka, author of 'Sephardic Genealogy: Discovering Your Sephardic Ancestors and Their World,?will lead these workshops which will explore the genealogy of Greek Jews from the time of the Byzantine empire as well as Sephardic names. According to Malka, many Sephardic names date back more than 1,000 years because Sephardic Jews lived in the Muslim world where they retained their names. In contrast, many Ashkenazi Jews have surnames that date back only 200 years.

There will be a walking tour of the Sephardic Lower East Side. Although Sephardic Jews came to America in the same wave of immigration as those from Eastern Europe, they were often separated by language ?unlike their Yiddish-speaking counterparts, the Sephardic Jews spoke Ladino.

Among many other topics, the conference will also focus on the latest in DNA research, including the study led by Doron Behar, a population geneticist and senior physician at the Rambam Medical Center in Haifa, Israel, who determined that 40 percent of all Ashkenazi Jews can trace their roots back to one of four women (see story on page 11).

'Years ago, genealogy was a popular hobby for people over 65,?said Hadassah Lipsius, one of the event co-chairs. 'Even though there are still a lot of retirees, there are also people from all different generations,?involved.

Susan Gordon, an amateur genealogy enthusiast who has tracked down information about an absent grandfather and found cousins both in Israel and near her Westchester home, talked about her experience with genealogy as a process that has helped her answer questions about her family history. 'I think you go through stages where it's all-consuming,?she said. 'There's a need in all of us at different times to find out where we fit in the whole family tree.?br />

Seibel Liebowitz agreed. She said she enjoys attending annual genealogy conferences so she can observe when family members meet for the first time, and when people wearing nametags from Eastern European shtetls recognize a potential friend or relative in each other.

'It's something about feeling connected with all the generations that went before and all that come after,?that's so rewarding, she said. 'There's something very powerful about it, that sense of belonging.?n

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