Genealogy group to celebrate 40th anniversary
CARTERVILLE — In celebration of the 40th anniversary of Genealogy Society of Southern Illinois, the group is planning a special Family History Conference with national speaker Thomas W. Jones. Jones is a certified genealogist and genealogical lecturer.
June 16th, 2013
June 16th, 2013
‘Tis graduation season — or for rabbinical school, ordination season — and my family welcomes my sister-in-law Dahlia as the first female rabbi in our tree. So it’s a tad jarring that the family member whom I want to talk to most says, and I quote, “It’s against my religion.”
As a writer and researcher, I’ve picked up the mantle of family historian. My great-aunt Gloria holds the last living secrets to my family’s Hungarian heritage. She’s the youngest child of Ignatz Amsel, my great-grandfather and namesake, and the first one of the family to make it to America.
Most American Jewish families have similar stories, but I am genuinely proud to be a descendent of Ignatz. He fought in WWI, was in a Siberian POW camp for seven years, then walked (yes, walked) back home to his wife and kids in Hungary. When he immigrated to the States, he worked as a cloth cutter for years before he could send for his family. From all counts, Ignatz remained a hard-working but light-hearted man. He’s an emblem of courage, defiance and love.
Gloria, who turns 80 this September, moved to Israel 20 years ago and lives in an ultra-Orthodox enclave in the shadow of the Western Wall. She used to be secular; now she covers her hair at all times. “I became religious in ’67 after we got Jerusalem,” she says, under her snood.
For the five female rabbis ordained at the Jewish Theological Seminary this spring, religiosity is in the eye of the beholder. They each represent a slightly different branch of the religion, from Open-Sexuality Judaism, to Orthodox-in-all-but-penis. Yet they all have the same basic tenets in common, which emphasize tolerance and acceptance for all people. (You’ll be hard-pressed to find a homophobic female rabbi.) For centuries, the word rebetzin was defined as “rabbi’s wife.” Now my brother Aaron proudly emblazons it on his baseball cap.
Female rabbis are a young institution, and change in the status quo terrifies those who cling to the past. After learning about Ignatz, I can’t blame past-clingers. There exists a profound respect for those who came before us and set our stage. We want to connect to these people as closely as we can – that might be why we bestow their names unto our children. Personally, I want to connect to Ignatz’s incredible courage and willpower. I assume the ultra-Orthodox yearn to connect to something meaningful in their history, too.
The problem, as Gloria illustrates, is the cognitive dissonance among the ultra-Orthodox. She doesn’t hold with Torah-literate females, but she’s proud that her grandfather was the rabbi and cantor of his village. She basks in the mythos that we’re related to the rabbi who built the Golem.
I’m fascinated by family stories like these. Piecing the puzzle together, we can better understand where we came from and who we have grown to be. Entire human lives have been lived from beginning to end, and while some have been recorded in detail, others have left nothing but a single anecdote and a faded photograph. This is why I research family history.
We look toward our ancestors with a longing, a sort of admiration of their trials. We wonder, “If I were in that situation, would I have been able to do the same?” Survival seems so easy now, and maybe a part of us regrets that whatever made our ancestors strong and empowered has diminished over time.
I observe these female rabbis (or rabbot), and I listen to their stories. These are women who sing their prayers at the Western Wall with full expectation that men will throw chairs to silence them. Some women are arrested, clutching Torah scrolls, and are taken in police cars away from the Jerusalem center. The ultra-Orthodox are admonishing them for their act of social change, for straying from a heritage of female complacency. Each of the five women experienced this first-hand, and expect to in the future.
Generally, the Jewish population enjoys great liberties between America and Israel. These women are the vestiges of the remaining struggle for modern Jews — a struggle at the hands of the past-clingers, no less.
But the joke is on Aunt Gloria. The ultra-Orthodox, in their insistence to honor the past, are creating the perfect conditions in which to cultivate new trail-blazers. For these female rabbis, their Serbia is cold ignorance, and they’re slowly walking home to the embrace of acceptance. They are setting the stage for those who come after them, living not for the past, but for a future of tolerance. Like my great-grandfather, these women are nothing if not emblems of courage, defiance and love.
And tomorrow’s historians will shake their own heads in wonder.
Jake Friedman is a writer, professor and the authorized biographer of Art Babbitt.
June 14th, 2013
The Bartlesville Genealogical Society will present the popular short course “Genealogy 101” at the Bartlesville Public Library, Conference Room A (upstairs). The class will meet from 2 to 4 p.m. on Saturday.
The instructor will be Barbara Fulton, an experienced genealogist who has taught a number of classes locally. The class will include tips for how to begin the search for one’s ancestors and how to organize the information that is found.
The class is open to all and is free, however, there will be a fee of $3 to cover the cost of the handout (which will be very useful to researchers).
Registration is required to ensure that enough handouts will be available. To register, sign up at the library’s Local Family History Room or call 918-331-2757 or 918-338-4167 by Friday.
During the hours of 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. on Saturday, an experienced genealogist will be on duty in the Bartlesville Public Library’s Local Family History Room to guide beginning family history researchers or to assist anyone requesting help to get past “brick walls” in their ancestral search.
This free service is provided by Bartlesville Genealogical Society.
June 13th, 2013
African-American Genealogy Group meeting Saturday at Clark Library
Central Kentucky News
Looking into your family's history can be a large task to tackle. But digging into African-American ancestry can be an even more difficult task because of inadequate record-keeping, genealogists said. Questions about your great-grandparents, slavery, …
June 12th, 2013
Looking into your family’s history can be a large task to tackle. But digging into African-American ancestry can be an even more difficult task because of inadequate record-keeping, genealogists said.
Questions about your great-grandparents, slavery, segregated schools and restaurants can pose challenges.
The African-American Genealogy Group of Kentucky (AAGGKY) will be meeting this weekend at Clark County Public Library in an attempt to help some of the residents of Clark County answer some of those very questions.
Resources available include African-American marriage records, church lists, newspapers and cemetery records, said Andy Gary, senior reference librarian at the Clark County Public Library.
“Family researchers face challenges in finding good resources and then being able to verify the accuracy of information,” Gary said. “But African-American family researchers are particularly challenged by the dearth of resources available compared to the majority of the population. Many African-Americans are descended, in one or both parents’ lines, from enslaved people.”
Sharyn Mitchell, president of AAGGKY, said the group is about building a sense of community.
“It helps for community awareness,” she said. “It gives people the chance to tell their story. Every story has two sides to it and a lot of the time that information on American-American history needs to be told.”
The group meets the third Saturday of each month at different locations across the state. This month’s meeting will have a presentation session. The meeting will be 1 p.m. Saturday at the Clark County Public Library.
“This one we’re going to invite older black citizens of Winchester to come and talk about their experience growing up in Winchester and see if there’s any connections,” Mitchell said. “Most likely, there will be.”
Mitchell said the group holds workshops about research methods or how to utilize ancestry search tools. She said the group asks those in attendance to donate as much history as possible.
“We’d like for them to bring any family history they’ve done over time or photo albums they’d like to share,” she said.
Mitchell said she also plans to discuss the 1940 Census, which just became available in Kentucky this year. She said it will help delve deeper into the history of African-Americans in the state.
Lindrell Blackwell, who is a Winchester charter member of AAGGKY, said people always have different reasons for attending the meetings.
“Some people want to learn how to research their own family history,” Blackwell said. “It’s all according to what people might have an interest in.”
Recently, Blackwell said he has helped connected a woman in Pennsylvania to her uncle, who she believed had already died.
“I called her and said ‘You won’t find a death certificate because he’s still alive,’” he said. “They’re trying to figure out a way to meet some time this year.”
Blackwell said the woman had been estranged from her uncle for 40 years.
“You get to see some nice stuff like that and it’s very unexpected,” he said.
Blackwell said his initial interest in genealogy came following his mother’s stroke in 2006. After she made it through, he began exploring some of his past.
“After going through her documents and checking some things, I started coming across documents about me as a kid,” he said.
Blackwell became so enraptured he eventually discovered his family’s origin.
“I still track down family stuff,” he said. “I went as far as to do DNA testing (through ancestory.com) and found out my family is from West Africa.”
But Blackwell said he really wants to get the new generation into the world of genealogy.
“I hope it will inspire people to look into their history and open doors for young people,” he said. “If you get a young person interested in family history, you get them interested in other things as well. They can go out and explore things and expand their minds.”
Mitchell said this meeting is especially important to her because her family comes from Winchester.
“We’re losing the history,” Mitchell said. “We want to be able to present and show the history and contributions of black Americans from the community and the state.”
Blackwell said he appreciates the feeling of fulfillment from understanding your history.
“It gives me a sense of history,” he said. “There’s more about you than you think. There’s a long history you have here and you need to understand where you come from.”
For more information, visit the organization’s website at www.aaggky.org.