All posts by Banai Lynn Feldstein

Banai is the President and Webmaster of UJGS. She is a professional genealogist living in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Knowles Collection Surpasses One Million Entries

Todd Knowles
Todd Knowles

The Knowles Collection, a quickly growing, free online Jewish genealogy database linking generations of Jewish families from all over the world, recently reached its one millionth record milestone. The database was begun seven years about by UJGS’s Todd Knowles, the Jewish genealogy specialist at the Family History Library.

“My search for my great-great-grandfather Morris David Rosenbaum, a Polish Jew, eventually led me to begin compiling the genealogical records of the Jewish people,” recounted Knowles.

Todd began by following Rosenbaum from Poland through England to the United States. He discovered the Mordy Collection in England, which had been compiled by Isobel Mordy, containing information about 150 individual pedigrees with over 7500 records. Mordy didn’t have the Internet and other current resources, so Todd used and records at the Family History Library to digitize, organize, and research, to publish more than 10,000 Jewish names from the British Isles. The collection has since grown to six databases for Jews of the British Isles; North America; Europe; South America and the Caribbean; Africa, the Orient, and the Middle East; and the South Pacific.

The Knowles Collection was recently moved on the FamilySearch web site so it’s easier to find, under the Search > Genealogies section at

Todd continues to add to the database via research and indexing as well as receiving donations of data. He regularly writes about new collections that are added to the Knowles Collection on his blog.

This information was provided to us via FamilySearch. The entire press release is online. If our members want to know more, Todd attends most of our meetings and he would be happy to answer any questions you may have about the Knowles Collection.

Yom HaShoah – Holocaust Remembrance Day

yom.hashoahTomorrow is Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Memorial Day or Holocaust Remembrance Day.

To mark the occasion, the Salt Lake City JCC is holding an event on Thursday, April 16th, from 1-3pm.

The keynote speaker will be Dr Noemi Mattis, whose parents were leaders of the Belgian Jewish resistance movement. She will share her story of being a hidden child to protect her from the Nazis in World War II.

The event is free and open to the public, sponsored by the JCC and the United Jewish Federation of Utah.

Call to Meeting – April 21

It’s time for another meeting of UJGS. Our meeting will take place next week, April 21st, at 6pm, at the Family History Library in the main floor classroom.

The theme for this month is Census Records. Everyone has some ancestors in census records and we’ll be helping you learn how to find yours. Then stick around for a while at the FHL and get some research done.

Announcing Avotaynu Online

Avotaynu Inc. is pleased to announce the creation of Avotaynu Online, an exciting new venture intended to stimulate collaboration among Jewish genealogists in all its forms. Leading participants in the various areas of genealogical research will provide in-depth articles on events and discoveries on a regular basis.

10305596_1539206903017646_1156350738497498646_nAs a bonus, all articles from 2007-2011 published in Avotaynu are available at no charge at the Avotaynu Online web site.

Readers can subscribe by email at the Avotaynu Online site or by RSS reader, or follow the public commentary on the official Facebook page, as well as Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and other social media outlets.

By virtue of its focus on the in-depth reporting of specific subjects, Avotaynu Online is intended to be entirely distinct from the existing print journal, Avotaynu.

Avotaynu Online aims to promote conversation within the genealogical community on the subject it covers. Unlike print, which is a one-way medium, readers of articles will be encouraged to respond to the authors directly from the web site and to engage them in developing new lines of thinking.

In the past, Avotaynu was limited by available space in the quarterly journal, but with virtually unlimited space online, the web site will free them from that limitation.

The managing editor of Avotaynu Online will be Adam Brown, who has been a curator for the collaborative online family tree hosted by Geni/MyHeritage and is the founder of the Jewish DNA Project at FamilyTreeDNA. Sallyann Amdur Sack-Pikus will be Editor-in-Chief and Gary Mokotoff will be Publisher.

Your Family Name Wasn’t Changed at Ellis Island

IAJGS Vice President Ken Bravo was recently interviewed by Bernice Bennett on blogtalkradio.

The topic was Why the New York Times is Wrong: Using Basic Genealogy Tools and Methods to Show that Your Family Name Was Not Changed At Ellis Island

After seeing an obituary in the New York Times claiming that someone’s name was changed at Ellis Island, Ken researched the family and proved the myth to be false. With little response from the Times, he found more obituaries perpetuating the same myth, researching each of them to prove them wrong.

Listen to the podcast below or visit the original page.

Check Out History Podcasts at Blog Talk Radio with BerniceBennett

Announcements and Call to Meeting – 17 March

Hey there genealogists. Have you been wondering what’s going on with UJGS? Well, we’ve been working on some things. Much is still in progress actually, but it’s time for us to get started on our 2015 plans.

A few new things about our meetings this year.

1. All meetings will be the third Tuesday of the month. Every month. Except for December when the FHL won’t be open late. We want you to get used to being at the Library at least once a month. So often, other genealogists tell me I’m so lucky to live in SLC where I have access to the FHL. It saddens me when my local society members are not familiar with using the Library. So we want you to be there more often and to use the amazing genealogical resource it offers.

2. Meetings will begin at 6pm. This is new for 2015. Most presentations will last around an hour, so we want you to use the time afterwards to get some research done. Other UJGS members will be happy to help you when they can. If we find that many members can’t be on time for the earlier start, we will adjust.

3. Our July and September meetings will not have any presentations; we just want you to continue the habit of third Tuesdays at the FHL. July is after the IAJGS conference and the officers may not yet be back. September is the second day of Rosh Hashanah. It’s the tail end of the holiday, but we don’t want any observant Jewish members to miss anything important.

4. We are doing a theme this year. Each meeting will focus on a record type that every genealogist should be using for their research. We want you to know how to do your research. Again referencing the resources we have available at the FHL, you should know how to use them.

Srul Feldstein ship List
Immigration record of Srul Feldstein, Banai’s grandfather, listed at #5

We begin in March with Immigration Records. Come hear from Todd Knowles as he teaches you how to find your immigrant ancestors in the records and what else those records might tell you.

We had about a year of pre-conference discussions at our meetings, so you might not remember that we also broadcast our meetings as webinars. If you can’t make it in person, you can register and watch from home.

One more announcement. If you haven’t checked it out lately, we have a new web site design. Head on over to and have a look around. There is a new member login section, where you can pay your dues via Paypal.

And don’t forget to mark you calendars with the dates of our meetings this year:

  • 17 March
  • 21 April
  • 19 May
  • 16 June
  • 21 July
  • 18 August
  • 15 September
  • 20 October
  • 17 November

See you soon.

RootsTech 2015

RootsTech_logoIt’s time again for RootsTech, the genealogy conference brought to us by FamilySearch, at the Salt Palace Convention Center. RootsTech takes place this week, February 12-14. This year, it runs in conjunction with the Federation of Genealogical Societies (FGS) conference, so expect more people and more sessions.

There will be some sessions streamed live over the Internet. A few have been mentioned in various articles and blog posts, but no official and complete list has been posted yet. Watch the RootsTech home page for that. In previous years, all of the morning keynote sessions were live streamed, and other sessions that occurred in the same large room.

As in previous years, the Expo Hall will be a focal point of the conference, open each day at 10am until, 6, 7, and 4pm. While not specifically stated again this year, it is likely to be open to the public. IAJGS will again have a booth so come on by and visit, while also seeing what else is going on in genealogy and technology.

Are any UJGS members planning to go to RootsTech?

FindMyPast Free Weekend

In honor of Veteran’s Day, FindMyPast is offering free access to their collections this weekend, November 7th through November 10th. Their collections include US, UK, and Irish records, US and UK historical newspapers, military records, passenger lists, and more.

You will need to be signed in to access the records, but you can register for free if you don’t already have an account.

Visit their web site to learn more about the records they have to prepare your search queries for this weekend.

BCG Brings Speakers to the FHL

If you’re not busy this Saturday, you might want to spend the day at the Family History Library.

On October 11th, from 9am to 4:45pm in the B2 classroom, some of the best known speakers in genealogy will be presenting a day of genealogy education, free and open to the public, sponsored by the Board for Certification of Genealogists (BCG).

Everyone is welcome to attend any lecture or to stay for all six.

The schedule is as follows:

  • 9am
    BCG Certificate Seminar
    Elissa Scalise Powell, CG, CGL
  • 9:45am
    Shootout at the Rhododendron Lodge: Reconstructing Life-Changing Events
    Judy G. Russell, JD, CG, CGL
  • 11am
    From the White Lion to the Emancipation Proclamation – Slavery and the Law before the Civil War
  • 1:15pm
    Using Evidence Creatively: Spotting Clues in Run-of-the-Mill Records
    Elizabeth Shown Mills, CG, CGL, FASG, FNGS, FUGA
  • 2:30pm
    Oh, The Things You Can Map: Mapping Data, Memory, and Historical Context
    Stefani Evans, CG
  • 3:45pm
    Trousers, Black Domestic, Tracks & Housekeeping Bills: Trivial Details Can Solve Research Problems

Remember that Saturday parking is free in the lot behind the museum.

Call to Meeting – September 9

Hello genealogists. It’s time for another meeting of UJGS. We will meet from 7-9pm on September 9th at the Family History Library in the main floor classroom.

I know a few new people have been added to our mailing list recently. Please visit our web site for directions to the free parking lot behind the museum.

We have two topics for our next meeting.

1. What did you learn at the IAJGS conference?

Did you meet anyone researching the same shtetl? Did you learn something new about available records? Was there a lecture about methodology that you can’t wait to try out on your own research? Or did you learn something about how the conference runs or maybe should be improved in the future? We want to know what you learned at the conference.

2. The future of UJGS.

You joined this society for a reason. What was it? What do you want to get from your society membership? Are we meeting your genealogical educational needs? Have we helped you with your research? Do we have a good variety of lectures that include topics of interest to you? (Think back to before we were engulfed in conference preparations for this one.) What educational opportunities do you want us to provide?

What do you think we should be doing going forward? And what would you be willing to volunteer to do for the society to help that happen?

Please bring your ideas to our meeting next week. See you then.