Free Access Databases is offering free access to some of its 2012 collections until December 29th.

Just a few of the databases in the free collection include:

  • 1940 US Federal Census
  • 1892 New York State Census
  • Massachusetts Town and Vital Records 1620-1988
  • Galveston, Texas Jewish Immigration Records 1901-1917
  • London, England Land Tax Records 1692-1932
  • Canada Voters Lists 1935-1980
  • Washington Marriage Records 1865-2004
  • Border Crossings from Canada to US 1895-1954
  • New York Naturalization Records 1897-1944

You can visit their web site to see a list of all of the free collections available until Saturday to search them specifically. Click on “See What’s Free” on the right side for the complete list.

Board Meeting This Saturday

Attention UJGS members, this Saturday we are having a board meeting. No, we don’t mean for all of you to come, but if anyone wants to volunteer to contribute more to the society, we’d love to have you bring your ideas and join the board. We still have some positions that are available. Don’t worry if you don’t have any specific experience for helping to run a genealogy society, because we’re all still figuring it out as we go along. Let me know and I’ll send you the meeting details.

If you don’t want to volunteer but you have some suggestions, please send them in. This society is here for your benefit. So what is it that you want from the society? What were you hoping to learn from the society? What were you hoping the society would do, or do for you? We want to know so we can try to make that happen. We know that we have all levels of skills among our members, from beginners to professionals, and we want to try to address everyone’s needs.

I’ll also use this post to send out a Happy Hanukkah to everyone!
(Sorry, I forgot to do a blog entry for this holiday.)

Call to Meeting – November 2012

As International Jewish Genealogy Month comes to a close, UJGS is having another meeting on Tuesday, November 13th from 7-9pm at the Family History Library.

Our presenter will be Heidi Sugden, a Research Consultant at the Family History Library and a native of Vienna, Austria. She will be speaking about Jewish Research in Vienna and its surroundings.

This meeting will be broadcast as a webinar for anyone who cannot attend in person. Registration is required.

If you’re unfamiliar with the GoToWebinar software, we recommend watching this video so you can understand more about how a webinar works.

We’ll see you next week!

Library Research Night – October 16

Library Research Night is just around the corner.

To help kick off International Jewish Genealogy Month, we will meet at the Family History Library on Tuesday night, October 16th, from 5-9pm.

(We’ll leave a sign at the information desk so you know where to find us.)

Anyone is welcome to join us, both members and non-members. Come join us and work on your genealogy research. Ask our society experts for help. Want to bust down a brick wall and need new advice? Want to venture into new territory in your research by way of a new country or a new language? Are you just starting out in your family history quest and want help getting started? We will do our best to help you.

Please let us know by comment on the blog or by email (just reply if you get this by email) if you are going to come and what you would like help with so we can be better prepared for you.

So, will we see you on Tuesday?

Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah

As we come to the end of the High Holidays, we have two days left. Of course, as you might expect, in Israel, both of these days are celebrated on a single day.

Shemini Atzeret means the Assembly of the Eighth [Day]. It occurs the day after the seventh day of Sukkot. While its name might imply that it is part of Sukkot, it is a separate holiday. However, because of the tradition of adding a day to many observances outside of Israel, it can be thought of as coinciding with the last day of Sukkot. Certain practices of Sukkot are not carried over for Shemini Atzeret, like sleeping in the Sukkah and saying the prayer with the lulav and etrog.

Rabbinic tradition tells us that Shemini Atzeret is when the world is judged for rainfall, which is of special concern in Israel, and we recite prayers for rain on the day. It is also understood as a day highlighting the relationship between the Jewish people and G-d.

Simchat Torah is a celebration of the Torah. Each year, the Torah (the five books of Moses) is read in the synagogue in portions. On Simchat Torah, the last portion is read immediately followed by the very beginning of Genesis. As many people as possible are called for an aliyah, to recite a blessing for the Torah reading. It is a joyous celebration accompanied by dancing and singing when the ark is opened and the Torahs are revealed and marched around the synagogue.

In reformed synagogues, the Torah portions are often divided up so the entire Torah is read every three years. Nevertheless, the holiday is also celebrated each year.

Both holidays begin at sundown and last until nightfall of the next day, Shemini Atzeret on October 7th and Simchat Torah on October 8th.

More information about some of the practices of these holidays can be read online at our sources of Judaism 101, Wikipedia (and Wikipedia), and

International Jewish Genealogy Month is Coming

Cheshvan is approaching, and that means International Jewish Genealogy Month (IJGM) will soon be here. This year, IJGM is from October 17th to November 14th.

UJGS will be kicking off the month with a Library Research Night on October 16th and ending with a meeting on November 13th. Both events are at the Family History Library in downtown Salt Lake City.

This Library Research Night (LRN) will be open to anyone, members and non-members. From 5-9pm, we will find a place at the FHL to do our research together. Our more advanced members have volunteered to help the others to do their research. Have a brick wall you need help busting down? Need to move into new research territory — a new country, a new language? Are you a beginner and need to know where to start your family history? We want to help.

If you plan to be there for LRN, we’d prefer to hear from you in advance. Let us know what you want help with so we have a chance to prepare, and so we know how many people to expect.

See you at the library!

Free MyHeritage Webinar

MyHeritage recently introduced Record Matches on their web site. If you’ve uploaded your family tree to their web site, it will automatically search for records related to the people in your family.

With help from its acquisition of WorldVitalRecords, MyHeritage has a growing collection of more than four billion historical records including census, birth and death records, newspaper articles, books, and more.

Even if you have only the free account, some of the record matches are still accessible, while others require you to have a data subscription.

This Wednesday, October 3rd, at 10am Utah time, MyHeritage is hosting a webinar to introduce Record Matches, show you how to check the matches, and how to use the information to discover more relatives.

The webinar is free but advanced registration is required.

Happy Sukkot!

Sukkot, the Feast of Booths or the Feast of Tabernacles, begins Sunday evening. After the most solemn holiday of the year, we follow it with a week of one of the most festive.

Work is not allowed for the first two days of Sukkot, the first day only in Israel, followed by Chol HaMoed, the remaining of the seven days of the holiday.

Two of the main practices of Sukkot include the Arba Minim and the Sukkah.

The Arba Minim, the Four Species, are the lulav and etrog. The etrog is a citrus fruit, called a citron in English. The lulav consists of a palm branch, two willow branches, and three myrtle branches, all bound together. These items are held in both hands and waved in six directions while a prayer is said, symbolizing that G-d is everywhere.

Part of Sukkot is to remember when the Jews wandered in the desert for 40 years. In this way, we build a Sukkah, a temporary structure with a covering made from something that grew from the ground (in Miami, we used palm fronds), placed sparsely enough so the stars can be seen. Meals should be eaten in the Sukkah to fulfill the mitzvah of “dwelling” in it. However, as much time as possible should be spent in the Sukkah, including sleeping in it, if the weather and one’s health allows. Erecting the Sukkah usually involves the whole family, with children often creating decorations to hang on the walls.

More details about these practices can be found at Judaism 101, our favorite source for Jewish holiday information. Wikipedia has additional information.

Yom Kippur

Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, is the holiest day of the year for the Jewish people. This year it begins on Tuesday night, September 25th, and ends at nightfall on the 26th.

Many Jews will spend most of Yom Kippur at the synagogue in prayer, which begins with the traditional Kol Nidre and ends in a final sounding of the shofar. The observance includes fasting from before sundown until nightfall, for 25 hours. Even drinking water is not allowed. Other practices include not bathing, not wearing leather, not using perfumes or lotions, and no marital relations. It is customary to wear white, which symbolizes purity.

It is important to note that, while Jews pray for forgiveness on Yom Kippur, they can only pray for forgiveness for sins against G-d. Atonement for sins against other people must be sought from those people.

Yom Kippur is preceded by a festive meal the afternoon before the fast begins and followed by another meal, the break fast.

In Israel, there are no radio or TV broadcasts, airports and public transportation shut down, and businesses are closed.

For anyone observing Yom Kippur, UJGS wishes you an easy fast.

Happy Rosh Hashanah!

Sunday night begins Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. L’Shana Tovah! (For a good year!) Chag Samech! (Happy Holiday!) It’s the beginning of 5773.

Rosh Hashanah occurs on the first of Tishrei. As usual with Jewish holidays, it begins at sunset. It is celebrated for two days everywhere. An earlier article here mentioned why we often celebrate holidays for one day in Israel and two in the Diaspora. Because the Sanhedrin had to declare the new month by the moon phases, and as our ancestors spread out from Israel, it was too distant to get the message out fast enough, so they often observed holidays for two days to be sure they got it right for one of them. For Rosh Hashanah, messengers were not dispatched even in Israel, thus they also celebrate for two days.

Much of the holiday is spent at the synagogue, where we listen to the blowing of the shofar. There are 100 notes sounded each day in specific patterns.

Another tradition is to have apples dipped in honey, signifying our wish for a sweet new year. Challah is usually baked in a round shape, instead of the usual braid. Many people also dip the challah in honey.

Rosh Hashanah is the beginning of the High Holidays, a series of holidays that extend for almost a month.

You can read more about the holiday at Judaism 101, the source for most of this article, or on Wikipedia.