Posted on January 6th, 2014 by Rachel
Edie Shlian has been volunteering in the genealogy department at the JMM since summer 2013. She was interested in researching her own family history and once she learned that we no longer had staff on hand to assist with her pursuit, she determined it was something she could help others with. She is a member of the Jewish Genealogical Society of Maryland and is hoping to bring some co-members in as volunteers as well. In her position, she takes requests from people who are interested in finding out more information about their families – the history of their family in Baltimore. She was surprised that people think we would know everything about family histories, when basically we cover Baltimore Jewish history records.
Before she began volunteering, she was a registered nurse. She began in medical-surgical nursing then switched to cardiology. She worked as a critical care nurse at Union Memorial Hospital, in the cardiac catheterization lab at Sinai Hospital, and in cardiac research at St. Joseph’s Hospital. She became interested in nursing as a result of her father passing away at a young age, due to heart disease. Edie is the mother of three children and grandmother of six. Her youngest daughter and two of her grandchildren live in Seattle, her other daughter, son and grandchildren live in the Baltimore area. She loves to travel, some of her favorite destinations have been Israel, Greece, the Caribbean Islands and across the United States. She’s now at a point where she enjoys returning to a destination, rent an apartment, and live amongst the locals. She has plans in the next year to do this in Florence and Venice.
She sees helping preserve family history as an important mission and looks forward to continuing to do so while at the JMM.
A blog post by Volunteer Coordinator Ilene Cohen. The first Monday of every month she will be highlighting one of our fantastic JMM volunteers. If you are interested in volunteering with the JMM, drop her an email at email@example.com or call 410-732-6402 x217! You can also get more information about volunteering at the Museum here.
Posted on December 4th, 2013 by Rachel
People sometimes ask me, “What is the use of Jewish history?” And “why do you study and write about that so much?” Author and historian, Lucy Davidowitz, wrote a book on this subject.
2007.054.027 Book cover, The Hoffburger Journey in America: 1882-2005, compiled primarily by Lois Hoffberger Blum Feinblatt.
Others take their concern and doubt to an annoying level, saying, “History is not important.” Perhaps not, for them, compared with the latest Hollywood gossip, the score of Sunday’s football game or newest technological toy. Their view is short sighted, to say the least.
For me, researching and writing about Jewish history is akin to raising a memorial to departed relatives, ancestors and – yes – to strangers. Some may be famous community or congregational leaders while others served their families quietly with love and dedication.
Only two of my relatives served the community in public ways – one was a Hershfield who served as secretary of a synagogue in New Jersey. The shul is now defunct, and I have no documentation about this except for Oral History tapes of my mother.
Another Hershfield in the same family in Jersey City served on the public School Board. But this branch of the family are notorious for not answering letters, and we have been out of touch with them since the 1960s, so no documentation has been found to verify the anecdote.
(As for yichus, that is, genealogical status, I sometimes imagine that I am descended from a 2nd Century Sage or a Levitical priest. But this may be ego on my part!)
Every time we quest for our family’s history, read an article in a Jewish History periodical or visit the JMM, we are raising a memorial to the whole Jewish people. It is like placing rocks on the top of tombstones when we visit cemeteries. The purpose is to make the marker-stone larger, thereby, increasing the honor of those who have passed away. Saying Kaddish for one’s father is another example. Sharing our genealogies with living relatives is a third example of zichron – remembering our ancestors. And from where we came.
1973.008.001 Collage of Galitzianer gravestones (1903) from Gruft family collection. Artist unknown.]
The value of learning, teaching and celebrating our many-faceted history becomes more apparent when we consider how often in history that the Jewish people have faced extreme adversity. Even if our immigrant-ancestors lived a life of obscurity, toiling in the moderate Garment Industry of Jonestown or peddling as an arabisher, there is eternal value to our interest, care and memory of them. We need the Eternal One’s eyes to perceive the value of Jewish history.
1997.149.003 Button sewing machine (1930s), made by Singer, from D. Schwartz and Sons Garment Machinery Co., of Baltimore Street and later, Gay Street.
A blog post by Collections Volunteer Robert Siegel. To read more posts by and about JMM volunteers, click here.
Posted on October 11th, 2013 by Rachel
With our newest exhibition, Passages through the Fire: Jews and the Civil War opening this weekend, we have heard from many Marylanders who have family connections to the Civil War. Through extensive research, some have assembled detailed family trees and fascinating documents that highlight their ancestors’ roles during the war. This week’s issue of JMM Insights focuses on genealogy and the variety of resources available at the JMM to assist individuals as they embark on family history research.
Each month the JMM receives dozens of requests by phone and email from individuals looking for all kinds of information about their families. The most common requests come from individuals from all over the country seeking the location of a relative’s (who lived in Baltimore) gravesite or date of birth or death. Sometimes people have detailed information about the relative in question but need just one final piece of information to complete their family tree. Other requests involve more extensive research when they have limited information but hope that we can help steer them in the right path towards learning more about their family’s history. Genealogical research is very much like trying to solve a mystery and it is often fascinating following the trail of clues from one source to another. Unfortunately we are not always able to find the specific information that the researcher is seeking but more often than not, we are able to provide them some assistance or to refer them somewhere else where they might be able to find what they are looking for.
Family History Resource Page
Thanks to the assistance of many JMM staff and volunteers who have worked for years compiling valuable databases that are essential for genealogy, the JMM has a variety of resources available for researchers. Many of these are available on our website (jewishmuseummd.org/collections-research/genealogy/). For example, indexed databases for cemeteries located throughout the state include the names of individuals buried at that site, along with the date of death of the individual in question, and the section in the cemetery in which the person is buried. This information is essential for people looking to find specific gravesites as so many cemeteries are large and encompass multiple congregational plots. Other records that are used frequently to assist individuals looking for information about dates of death and location of burial are the Jack Lewis Funeral Home records (1924-1939 and 1956-1965)and the Baltimore Jewish Times obituaries.
People who want to conduct more extensive genealogical research can make an appointment to visit our library to look through our resources which also include bound editions of the Baltimore Jewish Times, census records, city directories and passenger manifest lists of ships from Europe that brought immigrants to the Port of Baltimore. We also serve as a repository for people who have compiled family trees and these are available for researchers, as well. Further resources include a database of Baltimore’s religious personnel, Yizkhor (Memorial) books of East European towns, and circumcision, midwife, and marriage records of individual Baltimore-area mohels, midwives and rabbis.
The JMM also maintains a list of referrals for researchers when we do not have the resources that they need to complete their searches.
As many of you are aware, several months ago, in order to balance the JMM budget, we made some difficult decisions that resulted in the elimination of two full-time staff positions, both of which provided valuable assistance to researchers. While other members of the JMM staff have stepped up to ensure that we are still able to provide access to our collections for researchers, we have also found two outstanding new volunteers who have taken on the task of working directly with researchers.
Edie speaking to a group from the Jewish Genealogical Society of MD.
Edie Shlian began volunteering in July. Edie has extensive experience conducting research into her own family’s history and in the few months that she has been here, she has provided invaluable assistance handling genealogy-related requests. Edie has become quite familiar with our resources and has had some wonderful successes tracking down vital information for researchers. Genealogy is truly a passion for Edie and we are fortunate to have found someone so dedicated to providing assistance on behalf of the JMM.
John Sondheim is a member of the JMM Collections Committee. A retired librarian from the Enoch Pratt Library John has extensive knowledge about local Jewish history. John is working with senior collections manager Jobi Zink to provide assistance to students, scholars and museum professionals who are interested in conducting research in our collections. Thanks to John’s hard work and dedication, we have been able to keep our library open regularly for research appointments.
We are most appreciative of the work that Edie, John, and the many other volunteers who work in our library perform as they compile genealogical databases, scan photographs, identify people in photographs, organize our vertical files, transcribe oral histories and memoirs, and process archival and photographic collections by creating new folders and boxes for materials. It is through their collective efforts that we are able to make our collections accessible to the public and to perform such a valuable service in connecting people to their past.
How To Make Use of JMM Resources
If you are interested in conducting research at the JMM, the first place to start is with our website. As mentioned above, many of our genealogical databases can be downloaded directly from our website. In addition, our collections database is available online (jmm.pastperfect-online.com/) and is the first place to start if you are looking to see if we have objects, photographs or documents that are of interest to your particular area of research.
Past Perfect Search Screen
Once you have searched through our online resources and determine that you would like to come in to research materials further, it is necessary to make an advanced appointment. Appointments can be made through the following means:
- For collections research, call (410) 732-6400 x213 / firstname.lastname@example.org. It is helpful to provide the catalog number of particular items from the database you would like to see and a good description of the project you are working on.
- For family history research, call (410) 732-6400 x224 / email@example.com
- For photograph reproductions, call (410)732-6400 x219 / firstname.lastname@example.org. Again, please note the catalog number and description of the photograph you would like reproduced.
Please note that messages left on by phone or email are checked by staff one-time per week and it is not always possible for someone to return your message immediately. Please try to give ample notice when you wish to make an appointment as it can take several weeks before we can accommodate your request.
One of the wonderful benefits of JMM membership is that there is no charge to make an appointment for research. For non-members there is an $8 daily fee.
Jewish Genealogical Society of Maryland
We are pleased to report that the Jewish Genealogical Society of Maryland has recently begun holding regular meetings for its members and that the JMM is proud to partner with this organization to make our genealogical records more accessible. The JGS of Maryland is an association of individuals in our community who are searching for their roots and growing their family trees. The group meets on a regular basis to share information, overcome “brick walls”, and to enhance knowledge and skills. The JGS of Maryland recognizes the importance of web based research and helps members identify and use the most valuable sites for Jewish genealogy. Members of the society regularly offer lectures and workshops regarding Jewish genealogy to the community and help others interested in discovering their ancestors and their places of origin. For more information, check out their website at www.jewishgen.org/jgs-maryland.
Be sure to stop by the JMM this weekend as we open Passages through the Fire: Jews and the Civil War. Our members opening takes place on Saturday, October 12 at 7:30pm followed by our opening to the public on Sunday, October 13. For more details, visit our website, jewishmuseummd.org/calendar-event/upcoming/.