Wednesday, January 24, 2018

7 Steps to Begin Jewish Genealogical Research

Your Jewish Ancestry. 
Recently I was named a founding board member of the Jewish Genealogical Society of Greater Kansas City (JGSGKC). This is an interim board position and we just had our first General Meeting. The group was enthusiastic, and filled with questions.  I'll will try to answer some of them over the next few weeks.  Where to begin? How to read script?  Where are the resources? A big question was on DNA interpretations. 

Over the past 10 years with a3Genealogy we have built a lot of expertise in this area.  It all began with Dual Citizenships applications and research from the far corners of Russia to South America.  In 1990's when I worked in Tel-Aviv, as a contractor for Bezeq, there were questions about records.  Where were they? There were also a plethora of questions on Operation Solomon and Operation Moses with the Falasha. But, mostly the questions were based on how to take oral history and have it proven, shared, and distributed to family far away? How to connect to those who were not living in Israel? How to trace correspondence.  

So I'm here to tell American Jewish descendants, it's time to get started.  The others are looking for you. 

7 Steps to Begin Your Jewish Research
1)    Create a family tree.  You will need this to properly connect with your Jewish cousin matches. And don’t expect familiar Jewish surnames.  One of our a3Genealogy clients was overcome with laughter when he realized that both Uncle Harry Morris was Jewish and Aunt Mollie Bell - she was Jewish too!
2)     Pull as many death records as possible.  Especially on the lines that match with Jewish cousins.  The key is cemetery names, informants, and information as to where the body went after death. Be sure to visit the Jewish Gen Online Worldwide Burial RegistryUncle Harry was buried at the Golden Hill Cemetery, in Colorado according to his death certificate.  Let’s research that cemetery:
Golden Hill Cemetery was established over 100 years ago on West Colfax Avenue for the Jewish population. It is a historic location listed on the National Register of Historic Places. -

3)    Get an image of the tombstone and know the endonyms. Well what do you say…Uncle Harry, who was born abt. 1890,  has a Star of David right on his tombstone. Wonder why the family never mentioned that? (Image from JewishGen Online Worldwide Burial Registry.)
4)     Pull marriage records.  You are now looking for a Rabbi and Temple name.  Remember we are still just in the gathering phase of your research.
5)     Analyze the census.  Much information is in plain sight on the census records. This is always an overlooked strategy for researchers, but the town and neighborhood histories can offer a treasure trove of hints and tips.  One client’s family was rooted in Bastrop Louisiana.  Here’s a bit of its history:
Bastrop had a small Jewish community that blossomed around 1892. “By the turn of the twentieth century, Jews in Bastrop had formed a congregation, erected a synagogue, and operated some of the most successful businesses in Morehouse Parish.” “…between ten and twelve families still resided in Bastrop after the end of the Second World War. They had all joined B’nai Israel in Monroe, but they also organized an informal Sunday school and held an occasional Friday night service either at their homes or in the Bastrop courthouse. Charles Snyder and Ferdinand Wolff cared for the cemetery, now a handsome and verdant two-acre property with approximately fifty burials. - Encyclopedia of Southern Jewish Communities - Alexandria, Louisiana.
6)     The website must not be ignored.  Be sure to visit community repositories also.
7)     Seek out online and local collections. In tracing a Hungarian Jewish family from Ohio to Kansas City research landed us with the Western Reserve Historical Society at the Cleveland Jewish Archive. 

Other Resources


Not every Jewish DNA result will lead you to Eastern European Ashkenazi Jewish ancestry.  
  • Sephardic Jewish Research: You may have just joined a large global community that has recently uncovered that they too have Sephardic Jewish ancestry. Be sure to visit SephardicGen.comHere is a listing of a few Sephardic Surnames.
  • A recent a3Genealogy client was traced to thIraq (Mizrahim) and Turkey and Middle East.  We have found that patience will be the key as additional DNA testing is needed in these areas. 
Reprint 2016
Kathleen Brandt
Accurate, accessible answers

Saturday, January 6, 2018

From Norway to North Dakota

Hvem va du Helene? (Who Were You, Helene?)
Today a surprise package came in the mail.  When I saw the envelope was mailed from Norway, I knew it was from  longterm client Stein.

I have not heard from him in a year. Matter of fact, I got family pics from him the last time he was in North Dakota and knew he was doing another family tour in America.

The a3Genealogy crew connects clients to overseas cousins.  We usually do a genealogy booklet, verification with DNA, and we collect as many pics and artifacts as we can for the client. Many of our clients are looking for "off-the-internet documents. They have come to dead-ends on the internet, but know there's a lot more information floating around, or "archived."

This is not the first time, I have been mentioned in a client's personal family book, but it's special every time! One of my presentations is called Sharing Your Ancestors.  Any long-term client of ours, (and we have several) knows that I want them to write and share about their family.  It started with my Napa Valley vintner in 2008. He has connected with dozens of Stice cousins he never knew. One was a significant scientist in the cloning of Dolly the Sheep. (Remember that?)

a3Genealogy is now known for creating travel guides, and even setting up meetings for cousins. It's our off-the-TV version of Who Do You Think You Are, but just as exciting. There's the Australian South Pacific client who connected with her biological family from WWII in the Ohio.  Then there's Mary Ellen of Effingham, IL who brings her ancestors alive in books, on stage, and in historical presentations.  And the descendant of a WWI - WWII soldier who we traced and mapped throughout Iceland and Europe so he could follow the footsteps of his ancestor and the troops.

There are so many reasons to do genealogy, but to create a space for your ancestors to have life, is so special.  We also find out a little about ourselves by meeting these distant cousins. So when I opened Stein's book, and found this compilation of his genealogical research of Helene, I melted.

Helene Fauske was most fascinating as she worked for Rockefeller, Standard Oil, and was working in their Asia offices for the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions (ABCM). Read the section about Women in the Mission to get research tips: Ancestors Who Joined Missions. In addition to vital records we uncovered business and personal correspondence, photos and newspaper articles on her movements.

"Søkene Etter Helene" 

 a3Genealogi gjorde en søkejobb, og fant Helene Fauske. de fant de to pleiehjemmene hun bodde på, og kan bekrefte at hun døde på. Dokumentene fra begravelsen viser at Helene aldri giftet set. a3genealogi bekrefter at hun mottok en pensjon fra standard oil pa 2500 i maneden.
Translation: The Search for Helene 
a3genealogy did research and found Helene Fauske. They found the two nursing homes she was living in and confirmed her death date.  The documents from the funeral  home showed that Helene never got married. a3genealogi confirmed that she received a pension from standard oil at $2500 a month." [This was based on the nursing home/court papers].
We connected Stein to his unknown North Dakota cousins. They had the other half of the story.  Family pics, the letters from Asia and NY, and so much more were just waiting for Stein in North Dakota.

An Excerpt from Chapter Profesjonell Hjelp

Translation: Professional Help
Well I returned home, and continued the work, but I was forced to realize that I needed help from someone who could do genealogy... I needed help! Kathleen Brandt is a professional genealogist and owner of a3Genealogy. She was hired to do this easy job, and to systematize all my loose threads. Most of all, I hoped it would be possible to find relatives alive. Kathleen started searching at multiple sites and sent reports back to me by email. This worked perfectly 
[Kathleen] had found some of her [Helene’s] descendants in Grand Forks. The lady I should be related to was Inez S. Drake. I was in doubt... Yet, her maiden name was Kjelsberg.. This name was known from previous research. I asked Kathleen to call Inez to see if she knew anything about Helene Fauske. [...] Inez was Helen's niece. Kathleen called me back with an invitation from Inez [to contact her]. It was just amazing... Thus I could start planning trip number two, but first a little more background material was needed.
Note: Translations were done by me. I haven't been to Norway since the 1980's and I used Google Translate to assist in this loose translation.

The Take Away
Share Your Ancestors!
I just asked Stein if he was willing to make this book more widely available in America.  I'll let you know his answer.

Kathleen Brandt
Accurate, available answers

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

No More Microfilm - No Problem

Finding FamilySearch Images?
The a3Genealogy research team decided to welcome 2018 by responding to some of our most pressing questions of 2017.  We are still getting quite a few questions/inquiries and shared frustrations via phone and email on the FamilySearch "no microfilm distribution policy" of 2017.  So we turned to the a3Genealogy FamilySearch expert, Lauri Jean Swett to unscramble what's possible and what's not. Lauri Jean shares tips, hints and suggestions on how to succeed at retrieving our ancestor related images and documents. Let us know if you have other questions on this topic that may help with your genealogy project. 
Kathleen Brandt, a3Genealogy 

Digitizing the Collections
FamilySearch shocked the genealogical community with its announcement this summer that it was discontinuing microfilm distribution to local family history centers and affiliate libraries.  Why would FamilySearch make this change after 80 years? The primary reason for the change is that most of its microfilm collection has been digitized and is available online. Additionally, digital cameras are now used for record preservation not film.  According to FamilySearch, their entire collection will be digitized by 2020.[i]   With the ‘why’ out of the way, the next question is: if most of the collection is already digitized and available online, how do we access the images? 

Images Attached to Indexes
Sample Icons from FamilySearch Search Results
The easiest way to locate images in FamilySearch is to follow those attached to indexes.  To do this, search the historical records here, with an ancestor’s name.  The entries in the list of search results will have icons on the far right.  The camera icon means an image is available.  Click on this icon to view the digital image.  Does the camera icon include a webpage behind it?  This means the image is available on another website such as or Click this icon and you have the option to visit the partner website to see the image.

Indexes without Images with Film or Digital Folder Numbers
This option requires a few more steps. First, open the index entry. The microfilm number may be in two locations. To the right of the entry details may be a section that includes the index name, GS Film Number, Digital Folder Number and Image Number. GS stand for Genealogical Society of Utah, the precursor to FamilySearch.  Take note of these numbers as you will use them when searching the FamilySearch catalog. Clicking on the film or digital folder number will not take you to the images but an alphabetical listing of the index entries. If the film or folder number is not listed to the right, read through the “Citing this Record” section below the indexed information. Make note of film number, volume numbers, certificate numbers and other information to more easily find the image of interest.
Family Search Catalog
Using the Film/Folder Number to View the Image
From the index entry, scroll to the top of the webpage and click on the catalog tab which takes you to Family Search CatalogUnder “Search for:” click on “Film/Fiche Number” and enter the microfilm number or digital folder number and click “Search.” This takes you to the simple catalog entry.  Clicking on the record’s name reveals the details of author, format, language, and publication information, followed by notes and subject headings for the catalog. Below this information is the microfilm information. Scroll down to locate the film or folder of interest and look to its right for a camera icon.  Clicking on this icon opens the digital images. If the image number was included in the index entry, replace image "1" with that number and press enter. Double clicking on the highlighted image allows the user to view the record of interest.

Microfilm Tips
If the index entry did not include an image number, look at the beginning and end of the film for an index or directions on using it.  Is the film strip divided by county, organized by certificate number or by date? It may take a while to locate the exact record sought. These same steps that helped us find our record on microfilm helps us find it among the online images.

Catalog Icons
Each microfilm in the catalog will also have icons to the right.  The magnifying glass allows us to search the index.  The camera means digital images are available. The camera with a key above it means the images cannot be viewed from home. 
Sample Icons from FamilySearch Catalog
A trip to your local family history center, affiliate library such as the Midwest Genealogy Center, or the FamilySearchLibrary in Salt Lake City, UT may be necessary.  A microfilm icon means that digital images are not available from FamilySearch.  Search online to see if another provider has the images online. The microfilm may be part of the collection at a local family history center, or an affiliate library.  Scroll to the top of the microfilm details and look for the location drop down box.  This box shows locations that have at least one of the microfilms in that record group.  Changing to a different location will show only the films available at that location.

Unindexed Records and Indexes without Film or Folder Number
A word of caution. not all FamilySearch indexes include film or folder numbers, and not all microfilm records have been indexed.  With such records, the old school approach is necessary. Do a catalog search by location, author or subject to find the record of interest.  Once we have identified the catalog entry we wish to pursue, we look for the icons to determine how to access that record.

Happy hunting!
Lauri Jean Swett
An a3Genealogy Researcher

[i] FamilySearch Digital Records Access Replacing Microfilm,” FamilySearch, posted 26 June 2017 ( : accessed 28 June 2017)