Happy Shavuot!

Tomorrow evening at sunset, May 26th, begins the holiday of Shavuot.

What is Shavuot? It celebrates the giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai. (Note that it is about the giving, not the receiving, because in Judaism, we are always receiving the Torah.)

Beginning on the second night of Passover, we begin the Counting of the Omer, which leads us to Shavuot 49 days later. Shavuot translates to the Festival of Weeks, in part because of the counting of seven weeks leading up to the holiday.

In Israel, Shavuot is celebrated for one day, while it is celebrated for two in the Diaspora (except for Reform Jews, who celebrate one day). Why is this? Because before the Jewish calendar was fixed by mathematical calculation in 358 CE, new months were determined by witness testimony to the new moon and declared by the Sanhedrin (the ancient Jewish courts). As the diaspora spread, communities became too distant to hear when the new month had been declared. Therefore, a second day was added to insure that they did not risk violating the holiday. The second day remains a celebration to honor the practice.

Shavuot is celebrated with the consumption of dairy products, reading the Book of Ruth, decorating with greenery, and all night Torah study.

Salt Lake County’s two major synagogues are offering “all night” Torah study and Shavuot celebrations. More information can be found on their web sites. Congregation Kol Ami and the Melton School are offering Torah study and a dairy buffet on May 26th (some details on the calendar or page 15 of the newsletter). Bais Menachem (Chabad Lubavitch of Utah) is having Torah study on the 26th, and on the 27th, a reading of the Ten Commandments followed by a Cheesecake and Ice Cream Party.

Information from this article was found on Wikipedia, Judaism 101, and Jewish Treats, as well as the synagogue links above.

1940 US Census – Indexing Update

Indexing continues on the 1940 US Census.

FamilySearch now has 14 states searchable: Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Idaho, Kansas, Nevada, New Hampshire, Oregon, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Wyoming.

Ancestry.com has added Maine to their searchable states, which also include Delaware, Nevada, and Washington DC. (I recommend searching even if you don’t need these states, just to see their new census viewer.)

MyHeritage has been adding to their searchable records. They still list only Rhode Island and New York, and still don’t specify which counties are finished. (It was verified to me that Rhode Island is complete). New York is still incomplete, but they have made progress since the last update. A search today includes results from the Bronx! Also seen in the results were the counties of Erie, Monroe, Chemung, and even a few results for Queens. (I must be searching the wrong names for Queens results, but I did see a few.) Another blog post indicated a couple of counties starting with A were complete, but there were so many Bronx results, I did not see them.

Have you been helping to index the census? It’s still not too late to sign up. Just visit https://the1940census.com/ and click on the Get Started button to download the software, sign up if you don’t already have an account (choose UJGS as your group), and help index. And when the census is finished, you can help index other records too. Remember that every searchable index on FamilySearch.org is contributed by volunteers — more people indexing means more searchable databases.

Who Do You Think You Are? – Cancelled

It was announced today that NBC is cancelling Who Do You Think You Are? This Friday’s episode featuring Paula Deen will be the last new one for the US show on NBC.

In a press release from Ancestry.com, they will be “exploring other avenues of distribution”. In social networking discussions, some genealogists have suggested they look to cable networks, specifically the History Channel, TLC, or Discovery.

Let’s hope Ancestry finds a new home for this show.

The original version of WDYTYA? began in 2004 on the BBC and has had eight series so far. BBC episodes have aired in many countries, sometimes leading to local versions. The international adaptations include the US, Canada (1 season, 2007-8), Australia (3 seasons aired, renewed for 4th and 5th), Israel (2010), Poland (2006-7), Russia, Germany (4 episodes, 2008), Ireland (2 seasons, 2008-9), South Africa, Sweden, Norway, Finland, and the Netherlands.

IJGM Poster Competition

International Jewish Genealogy Month runs from October 17th to November 14th this year, during the Hebrew month of Cheshvan.

As in previous years, IAJGS is holding a poster/flyer competition. Entries are due by June 3rd and must be submitted by a member organization. There is no age requirement and the creator is not required to be a member of the submitting organization.

The winner receives a free registration to the 2012 conference and will be acknowledged at the conference, on the IAJGS web site, and their name can appear on the poster which will be given electronically to all conference participants and used by JGSes around the world.

Previous IJGM posters can be seen at the IAJGS web site.

1940 US Census – Update On Indexing

FamilySearch and it’s partners (findmypast.com and Archives.com) and volunteers (us!) have completed the indexing of six states: Delaware, Colorado, Kansas, Oregon, Virginia, and New Hampshire. They are all searchable by name.

At the time of this blog post, Alaska, Arizona, Florida, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Utah, Vermont, and Wyoming are all showing 100% completion. Sometimes a complete state gets reverted to less than 100% for various reasons, but this group of states should be the next ones available. After the indexing and arbitration is complete, it still takes a bit more time to prepare the indexes for searching; they say about 10-14 days. Currently, about 30% of the census is indexed. At this rate, they are predicting a complete census by July or August.

Ancestry.com has Delaware, Nevada, and Washington DC completed. They have integrated Steve Morse’s one step tool for finding the Enumeration District (ED) into their site for browsing the images.

MyHeritage was the first site to give us a searchable index. Their site says that you can search New York and Rhode Island by name, but a search there clearly reveals that they have not completed all of New York, so it is unclear exactly how much is available. Unlike the other sites that are uploading only by completed states, MyHeritage appears to be uploading each county as it becomes available, but they do not state which counties are finished.

Happy Census Searching!

Call to Meeting Reminder – May 2012

This is a reminder of our upcoming meeting, Tuesday May 8th, 7pm at the Family History Library.

Todd Knowles is presenting The Hidden Treasures of FamilySearch.org.

To register to attend via webinar for this session, please visit this link.

We’d also like to remind everyone who attends the meeting to pay their dues for 2012. The web site is almost ready to accept payments online and the announcement for that should be made at the meeting.

Call to Meeting – May 2012

The next meeting of UJGS will be Tuesday, May 8th, from 7-9pm MDT, at the Family History Library. We will meet in the main floor classroom.

Our speaker will be our very own Todd Knowles, presenting The Hidden Treasures of FamilySearch.

Many times, the search for our ancestors leads us to records we either can’t access or are unavailable. This presentation will help open up the hidden treasures of FamilySearch.org and hopefully bring to light collections where the records of our ancestors can be found.

After a successful test run at our last meeting, this one will be our first live broadcast webinar. Anyone may attend. Register at this link. The session will be recorded and made available to members at a later date.

If you have never attended a webinar, or specifically a gotowebinar session, you may view an introductory video online.

See you there!

Jewish Sites at Arlington National Cemetery

The Jewish Genealogical Society of Greater Washington (JGSGW), in partnership with the Jewish Historical Society of Greater Washington (JHSGW), is raising funds to design, print, and distribute a new brochure about Jewish history in Arlington National Cemetery (ANC). It will include information about prominent Jews buried in the cemetery and discuss Jewish burial rites in relation to the cemetery with touches of the history of Jews in the military. Special monuments like for those for Space Shuttle astronauts, Confederate soldiers, and the new Jewish Chaplains Memorial will be included.

In 2008, JGSGW embarked on a project to index the Jews at rest in Arlington National Cemetery. The team of volunteers walked the grounds of the cemetery and photographed all markers bearing a Magen Dovid (a Jewish star). A database was created and is searchable at http://anc.jgsgw.org/index.htm. The data and photos were also donated to JewishGen Online Worldwide Burial Registry (JOWBR). They currently have entries for 5,219 Jews buried in ANC.

In March 2012, JGSGW donated $3,000 to the effort to create a new brochure about the highlights of the tour the JHSGW has hosted for years of the Jewish sites and history at ANC. They are asking for donations to reach the goal of $10,000.

Donations may be sent to: ANC Fund, c/o JGSGW, PO Box 1614, Rockville, MD 20849.

This message was sent to us last month from JGSGW, with a photo of the new Jewish Chaplains Memorial. That picture can also be seen on their web site here.

RAOGK Is Back

Random Acts of Genealogical Kindness is back!

Begun in 1999, RAOGK was online for just over a decade, providing genealogists a list of volunteers in the US and internationally who could help with things like quick look-ups and cemetery photos. The site grew to have 4300 volunteers all over the world, helping genealogists reach local records that they otherwise could not obtain. Volunteers did the work for free, only asking for reimbursement for actual costs involved, such as photocopies or postage.

RAOGK’s creator, Bridgette Schneider, passed away in November 2011. Shortly before her death, the site experienced some problems and was taken offline. Facebook groups quickly emerged to try to take the place of this powerful resource.

But now it’s back, in the form of a wiki. (A wiki is a user-generated site; anyone can contribute to the content of a wiki, like Wikipedia.) The information from the web site was able to be saved and set up on the new wiki. Unfortunately, all the contact information for the volunteers was not publicly available and therefore is not on the new site.

Those who used the site in the past, or anyone who wants to be a new volunteer, is welcome to sign up for an account and become a RAOGK volunteer.

Yom HaShoah – Holocaust Remembrance Day

April 19th is Yom HaShoah. As with most Jewish holidays, it begins at sundown the evening before.

Yom HaShoah is a new holiday, designated by the Knesset (Israeli Parliament) in 1953, commemorating the victims of the Holocaust. The full name is Yom HaShoah veHagevurah, the Day of Remembrance of the Holocaust and the Heroism. It occurs each year on the 27th of Nisan, except when adjacent to Shabbat, when it moves one day.

In Israel, a ceremony is held at Yad Vashem at sundown. Flags are flown at half mast. The entire day is very solemn. In the morning, sirens are sounded throughout Israel for two minutes when the entire country stops to pay silent tribute. Even on highways, drivers stop their cars and wait in silence. Public entertainment venues are closed by law.

Many Orthodox do not commemorate this date, instead using the 10th of Tevet or Tisha b’Av for remembrance.

Outside of Israel, commemorations range from synagogue services to community vigils and educational programs. Rituals are still being created and vary widely but usually include the lighting of a Yahrzeit (memorial) candle and recitation of the Mourner’s Kaddish.

In 1980, the US Congress designated an eight day period of The Days of Remembrance of the Victims of the Holocaust (DRVH), beginning the Sunday before Yom HaShoah and continuing until the following Sunday. The US Holocaust Memorial Museum designates a theme for each year’s programs. For 2012, the theme is Choosing to Act: Stories of Rescue, and DRVH is from April 15-22.

In 2005, the United Nations also designated an International Holocaust Remembrance Day for the 27th of January.

Most of this information and more can be found at some of the following web sites: Wikipedia, Jewish Virtual Library, and the US Holocaust Memorial Museum.