IAJGS 2019

Up to this point, I have had high aspirations of being a Jewish genealogist and blogger but very little to show in the way of accomplishments. But, this past week, while attending the International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies annual conference, I was able to meet up with some notable Jewish genealogy bloggers, such as Emily Graber, Janice Sellers and Lara Diamond and they all assure me that this conference makes for a perfect opportunity to jump-start my blogging activity and contribute to Emily Garber’s (going) The Extra Yad IAJGS 2019 Blogger Compendium.   
I am not going to try to summarize all the sessions I have attended, but I do want to outline those that have made an impact on me. 

Let me start with conference activities that impact my efforts to blog. Not only did I attend the meet-up of Jewish Genealogy bloggers, but I attended Mary-Jane Roth’s presentation, My Family History Blog: A Multi-purpose Tool. Roth uses Blogger as her blogging platform, the platform I choose in 2017 and fortunately, not much has changed. I was also able to take advantage of a mentoring session with her. While she was not able to help me with OpenLive Writer, the blogging software I try to use, she did look over my first attempt and pronounce it to be adequate. (Hope she likes this one as well). My take-away from Roth and the bloggers' group: Keep blogging (I will get better at it) and read other bloggers’ posts.

Next, I would like to mention Nolan Altman, speaking on patronymic naming patterns among Jews. Altman is an excellent speaker, referencing JewishGen’s JOWBR (JewishGen’s Online Worldwide Burial Registry) where he is the JOWBR data coordinator. Altman’s presentation had me one step away from volunteering to submit burial records from southeastern Michigan until I realized that JOWBR accepts only files that represent entire cemeteries, and this would be a task (I must admit) that I probably would not be able to complete. My take-away from this presentation: Consider what will be written on my own tombstone!! My husband and I will meet with our rabbi to figure out in advance our patronymics and how we want them to be expressed when it comes time for those things to be written in stone!

Actually, among conference speakers, JewishGen was well represented, with Avraham Groll, JewishGen’s executive director, giving an excellent overview of JewishGen’s recent activities, including a long-anticipated update to their website and Phyllis Kramer, Jewish Gen’s Vice President of Education, presenting her preferred version of a research log. Warren Blatt, Managing Director of JewishGen presented on Jewish given names. I think I kind of stumped him when I asked about my great-grandfather’s “Shem Ha-Kodesh” (religious name), Hovash, as written on his tombstone.  Blatt had never heard of this given name. My take-away: JewishGen is an organization that deserves my (financial) support and I will be donating to them.

 And what would a genealogy conference be these days without presentations about DNA?? Adam Brown is the administrator of the Avotaynu DNA Project, a worldwide academic collaboration of scientists, historians, genealogists and community leaders that utilizes DNA to illuminate the origins and migrations of the Jewish People. His presentations border on the scientific and I always wish I had a deeper understanding of the DNA principles he tries to explain, but the truth is, I don’t. My take-away from Adam Brown: The Ashkenazi community started very small, but they had demographic success; there are many more Sephardic DNA lineages, but they did not enjoy the same population growth that was seen in the Ashkenazi community. Also, according to Brown, the root language of Yiddish is French!!  Lara Diamond, the well-respected Jewish genealogist and blogger, as well as Jewish DNA expert, spoke on how to interpret DNA matches when we (Ashkenazi Jews) are all related to each other.  Diamond advises not to get caught up with matches who only share small segments, because those are probably not genealogically relevant and to be sure to compliment with traditional genealogy and well-documented tree. My take-away: Instead of the 20-10 rule (at least 1 shared segment of 20 cMs or more and at least 1 segment of at least 10 cMs or more), I am going to concentrate on individuals who share a segment of at least 30 cMs or more AND at least 100 cMs total.

There were several other presentations that I found very useful and interesting as well, but in the interest of attention span (mine) I will not try to summarize them here. Needless to say, it was a very good week. If you have found this post in a search for Jewish ancestors, I will leave you with a hearty endorsement of the IAJGS annual conference.

Thank you for reading! Comments, criticism, and correction of fact always welcome. 


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