08 February 2017


Rumors of Jewishness?  Maybe you're pretty sure this cannot be true because you were not raised in Judaism and you don't know of a living relative who is. 

Some time ago I met a woman who told me a heartbreaking story.  She had become ill.  She had two children.  Her marriage wasn't working out.  She was forced to put her children in foster care.  She was telling me this because she wanted me to know that she had been diagnosed and if she ever collapsed onto the floor, I should not hesitate to call 911.  She said if she collapsed there was a very limited period of time in which she could be saved.  Eventually, her children were adopted.  She felt bad about this but had no choice. Her illness had remained both documented and a mystery for two long for her to get well enough to care for them.  She had endured a lot of medical tests, a lot of questions, long term hospitalization and nursing care.  And she was in her twenties!   She explained to me that she had been raised Presbyterian.  Her aunt was a major donor to a wealthy Presbyterian church.  It wasn't until she was near death that this aunt showed up at the hospital and revealed to the doctors that actually their family was Jewish.  This was the clue that lead them to a diagnosis.  She could have died!  When I looked at this women I never thought, "Oh she looks Jewish!"

There is a special kind of genealogy myopia that happens when an American is looking to prove or disprove rumors of Jewishness in the family.  That is that Americans tend to think that Jews have "Jewish surnames."  That they mean is commonly known names, like Cohen or Levi, or the German Jewish names, like Rothschild!  But, in fact, Jewish people have changed their names to fit the culture they are living in, or shortened them, or made them into an English equivalent, like an associate I had whose family turned Zukor to Sugar.

So don't get hung up on the surname.  Or the given name.

As for given names, as I understand it, observant Jews have their special Jewish names, but their legal names may or may not seem Jewish.  Again we need to be careful not to assume that names like Rebecca or Noah, mean the person is Jewish.  In fact, names that appear in the Bible - New and Old Testament - have long been used by Christians and Jews alike.  For instance, Michael, Raphael, Gabriel, are names rooted in Hebrew.   Any name of an apostle of Jesus Christ, including John and Phillip and Peter, could be Jewish. 

At one point I was researching a family in the south who seemed to have one possibly given name that could be Jewish in every family.  There was a Sarah among women called Dixie on the census.  They had Jewish rumors, but I went back generations and never found anyone buried in a Jewish cemetery, or any other evidence.  Some of the surnames in this family fit into some of those considered to be Melungion.  Some of the given names were those of Greek or Roman gods.  Of course, there's the question of How Jewish?  Seems to me that for some people, ten generations ago is as good as now, for others, not so much.

There are families who kept their conversions a secret, or who are many generations away from a single, clearly Jewish ancestor.  So what a researcher needs to do is start looking at burials.  There used to be rather strict rules about who gets buried in a cemetery, and looking at burials, as well as death certificates, is a good clue.  You might want to look at obituaries.  Mention of a temple or rabbi officiating is a clue.  Likewise, marriages, and birth records reveal those who were recognized to be Jewish at birth or united in marriage in Jewish tradition.  There are also so many converts to Judaism,  Ivanka Trump being a noteworthy individual who did so before marrying her husband, Jared Kushner.  As I understand it, in America there are a great many marriages between Jewish and Not Jewish individuals.

Today there are many secular or non-practicing Jews, people who do not belong to a temple, follow special dietary laws, or respect the tradition of Sabbath.  So DNA testing may help you get to meet some Jewish relations, or you may just have to realize that being Jewish is also sometimes a choice.

Check with your local Jewish Genealogy Society for information that may be more particular to your quest!

C 2017  Ancestry Worship Genealogy BlogSpot  All Rights Reserved including International and Internet Rights

09 January 2017


It's true that Queen Victoria and her husband Prince Albert wished to see their many offspring intermarried with many of the royal houses of Europe and so it was.  And so I was curious to find out more by watching QUEEN VICTORIA'S Children, a three part film series put out by BBC AMERICA.  I thought I might like this queen, even though I dislike Victorian houses and interiors of her era (all that excess), in part because I'd heard that she smoked pot to ease her female troubles of which she had many and that she and her husband were true soul mates. 

Dispatch such silly sentimental ideas immediately!

According to this series, not only did Albert become a dominating husband, but other than sex, the two of them fought a while lot, and worse, the two of them were not all that crazy about all those children they begot.  In fact, Victoria thought children were awful.

Victoria and Albert were demanding and hypercritical.  Albert died young and then Victoria amped up being a a pain in the you know what, pitying herself and pretty much expecting her younger daughters to live around her demands instead of moving into lives of their own.  There was a lot of bullying and emotional blackmail going on, and it did not help that there were so many protocols, rules, policies, traditions, and such to prevent the children from disobeying and being noncompliant with their parents, in particular their mother, because she was Queen.  Of course such environments often create some rebellions, some rogues.  Like Bertie, Prince of Wales.

What a disaster!  What a mess!

Oh, how we see parenting so differently now! 

Today's Prince William and Princess Kate, their attitudes and philosophies about raising the future King of England and his siblings, would get Victoria and Albert really angry.  There are times when you do not think, "God Save the Queen."

C 2017  Ancestry Worship Genealogy BlogSpot

05 January 2017


I'm lucky to live in a place where Christmas continues on for a few more days, through the feast of the Three Kings (or Wise men or Magi or Magicians or Astrologers) on January 6th, when these men, likely merchants who traveled the trade routes around the Mediterranean, followed a bright star in the sky that lead them to finding the baby Jesus and presenting their finest gifts.  This means that many of my neighbors of the Eastern churches still have their holiday lights up outside and inside.  So while others have thrown their live spent trees out for pick up to be turned (sans fake snow or flocking) into wood chips, I've kept mine up because of the children nearby who expect these lights to help their slightly delayed gifts arrive to the right homes.

It's been raining and the weather people say this is the wettest season in years, and that's a good thing because of the terrible drought we've been having.  But I lived in Southern California for years without using an air conditioner or a heater, and the leaves changing color and falling from the trees is rather new too.  My fairy lights have continued to twinkle in the dark and the rain, and I think they are safe, because I took care to wrap the electrical connections in plastic.

This year I met some Russians and Armenians, as well as Ukrainians, who are celebrating their traditional Christmas season, and who have not been here long enough to know that what they are experiencing is exceptional weather for Southern California. Coming from colder climates they seem quite happy for the relief of too high temperatures and dryness that characterized another rather insufferable summer.  Also, they are quite happy when they go out of the city to smaller towns that are not so expensive, congested, or where the crime is so high.  I completely understand.

For the first time in years, I decided to bake gifts.  I toyed with a few recipes to make them my own and the results were quite pleasing.  I hand delivered on the Winter solstice.

My dog is also very into the holidays.  I'm sure that the smells of the earth and the leaves have changed as they became wet and fell and those trees waiting pick up have been interesting for her to do her business near too.  My precious little one, who likes to stay under the warm covers when its cold outside!  She is such a California girl that she does not know how to deal with the rain and thunder scares her.  I get her out onto the front lawn, but she wants to make it fast, and run back into the house!

The Rose Bowl Parade is interesting to me (while football is not) because of all the creativity and hard work involved.  I must say it was great fun to see that Lucy Pet Foundation surfing dogs float!  What a talented surfer that one bulldog was, in particular.

So, slowly, I am gearing up for another year of challenging and rewarding genealogy research, so very slowly, for I too like to spend some extra hours under warm covers when it's cold and wet outside.  I watched some films that I think would be of interest to my readers as well, so I think I'll start out this year's ANCESTRY GENEALOGY BLOG by covering some of them.

Happy New Year 2017!

22 December 2016


Here in Southern California, few people actually have the appropriate outer wear for cold, rain, or snow.  So it's kind of funny to be having coffee at a coffee house near a transportation hub, nice and warm inside, see the rain pouring down outside, and watch all the people who have used plastic trash bags to fashion rain-coats of sorts or who are holding plastic bags over their heads, racing down the streets. 

Umbrellas are sold here, particularly by enterprising street venders who buy some wholesale downtown and head out.  They are mostly made in China and good for one storm, one blast of cold air.  Then they turn inside out or break off and go into the trash bins.

It's been raining off and on for a couple days, and I'm seeing men outside without hats or  umbrellas, without sweaters or jackets.  I'm seeing women who have matching hats and scarves; they must have them stored away for years for the opportunity to wear them!

Maybe you can appreciate that we endured weeks of above average temperatures - in the nineties and the hundreds - this past summer, and that means that when it goes down into the forties or fifties we've experienced a temperature crash.  I'm OK with the outside temperature in the 60's but one recent morning at five, I needed to take my very patient dog outside already, and it was thirty seven degrees and windy.  There was black ice on the street.  I was creaking.  Steam came up from under the dog as she went.


But I promised I wouldn't complain about the cold when it was too hot out.

On the news, the POLAR VORTEX, the reason for this FREEZE.  I looked at the map and long underwear sales must be fierce in much of the United States.

I think of our ancestors who came to the states from the cold and remained living in the cold, as if cold was their heritage and their inheritance.  Seems like many of these people were bodily acclimated to cold weather.  Did they really not notice it?  Not mind it?  Were they just sturdier people?  I think of Native Americans.  I think of Colonials.  I think of dwellings without insulation or central heating.  Hovering near a fire place.

For me, this stretch of rain and cold just makes me want to burrow in.  If I could, I'd be cabin bound.  Instead I'm doing a little more decorating, baking, sewing, and crocheting, than usual.

Happy Holidays to All My Readers!

07 December 2016


It's been a while, nearer 20 years than 10, since, around this time of year, when I was first trying to attract some pay for my genealogy research skills, that I met a woman who taught me a lesson.  Never ever, for any reason, take on a client who suddenly has a "rush order" for genealogy services.

I met the woman at a lecture about searching through the Ellis Island Databases, and she had, she said, spent years compiling research for a book.  A family reunion was coming up, and she was missing some information on a relative who had gotten lost in Texas.  She hoped to have the book published and ready to hand out at the reunion. Actually, the relative had married outside her faith and the family disowned and shunned her.  Now, decades later, this woman felt it was only right to include this once disowned person in the book. She hired me to find "Bertha" and provide some information which might be easy to get to.

I knew what I needed to do, but there was one big issue.  "Bertha" had a given name that had undoubtedly been changed, and this family had even forgotten what her married surname was.  There had apparently been absolutely no contact with her once she married. It was said that despite them the marriage had succeeded and that there had been property, a ranch.  They were sure she had died.  They couldn't even remember what the given name of her husband was. They also only knew it was in Texas, a big state with lots of counties.

Based on the information this researcher gave me as a starting point, I did historical research about how immigrants from Europe got to Texas in the days when Ellis Island was a frequent drop off point for steerage (sometimes called 3rd class) passengers.   Had Bertha come in steerage? People are so sure because they don't know that passengers with better tickets skipped the Ellis Island routine.   Had she taken a train from New York?  What trains ran to Texas?  After finding that there was a way to Texas mostly by train, from New York to Chicago and then going south, I decided that Bertha had possibly come into New York, but as she didn't appear on any of the New York Ship Records Databases, to try other ports.  The one I focused upon first was the one in Galveston, Texas.

One could travel by ship down the coast, around Florida, and through the Gulf of Mexico.  Or one could travel by land to Florida.  I found a woman with a surname that was probably a variation on the original surname coming into Galveston.

I wondered why she had gone to Texas?  I suspected that there was land to be had free or inexpensive, some lure to settlement in a place so different than Germany.  But maybe it wasn't that she chose Texas and went and then met the man.  Maybe she met the man and he said, "New York City is not for us."

I lost the trail.  Meanwhile my client started calling me too much and inappropriately, such as at ten at night and on Sundays.  I figured she was lonely and trying to make a friend but she also was in error thinking that all the time spent on the phone was pushing me to work harder.  I was already working smart and efficiently and started to feel hounded and resentful. 

I called historical societies and archives in Texas, starting with the Galveston area, to learn about local resources.  I talked to an "expert."  Was there, for instance, a particular settlement where people from Germany who spoke German wanted to live?  Had there been a call out from ranchers who needed wives?

Again using databases, I searched for this woman using several known variations of her maiden surname and given name.  Nothing came up.  That didn't mean she wasn't in Texas when she should have been, just that the information wasn't on databases.

I set up an in person appointment at this client's home to go over all that I had done and what I had found.  Was it possible that this might help her or one of her relatives remember more about Bertha? I wrote up a few paragraphs about Bertha that summed up what was known about her life before she left the family, careful to call what was speculation, speculation, and not fact.

I got there and my client suggested that she was a poor senior citizen and asked for a senior citizen discount.  Meanwhile, maybe it was only a condo in Beverly Hills, but the interior was lux.

I've never done this since, but I stopped working for her, stopped taking her calls, sent her the work I had done in the mail, and never billed her.
I heard she took all my work, claiming it was hers, down to a local LDS where she asked the missionaries for help.  They know what all I had done and told her they didn't know anyone who could.  I appreciated that.

C 2016 All Rights Reserved.  This post is a section of a book I will someday publish.
Please honor it accordingly. 

02 December 2016



Hi there.  I'm trying to trace a line of ancestors that came from Galicia, Poland, and am not Jewish.  I joined Jewish Gen and have looked at their databases but wasn't actually expecting anything to come up for me.  Latter Day Saints doesn't have anything useful.  Should I hire someone in Poland to do the research for me?  Any advice would be appreciated.   Anna


As I understand it there are reliable people in that part of Poland who can walk into archives and do research for you.  Before you hire someone though, at least research what archives you can expect the information to be in. Be prepared to hand over - by mail - the research you've done that would lead the researcher to these people, some documentation that you deserve to have the information, such as an explanation in a letter - preferably translated into Polish - on how you are related to them. Present any researcher with a list of the goals you want to achieve and have focused upon. Have a clear idea about how much you can afford and how much time you want to allow for the research to be done. As you know, sometimes information is found very easily and sometimes you have to dig.  There is no such thing as a "rush order" genealogy.
What you are hoping for is someone who knows their way around and has developed a personal relationship with some of the people who work in the state run and church run archives that hold documents.  You can always reassess as the project goes on.  Have the person mail you copies of what documents they find, even if this can all be done by e-mail, uploading photos and so on.  Be sure that they are checking in with you and giving a progress report at least every other week.

As for how to hire someone who does this professionally and what their background might be, for this I think I would make some phone calls and other inquires based on the region and town where you expect they lived before immigration.  JewishGen might be a useful tool for you, since they have groups based on towns and regions and people reporting in when they do heritage tours.  However, consider contacting the priest at the local church for a referral.  Call heritage tour operators, even if you have no plan to go soon yourself, and ask them who they might know there.  Also the Polish Genealogical Society in Chicago might have some leads.  See if you can talk to the people who have hired someone on the phone to get a feel for how it went. 
Yes there are some areas of Poland, some areas all over the world where the Latter Day Saint Missionaries have not been allowed to copy or film.  We are spoiled by the ease of renting films from them instead of traveling ourselves or hiring others.

Wishing you the best on this, Anne!