Tag Archive for Pale of Settlement

The oldest family tree in the world

From the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, October 24, 2004 You may not find Dr. Neil Rosenstein’s new book listed on national best-seller lists, but the noted genealogist — with his tongue halfway in his cheek — compares it to the popular thriller “The Da Vinci Code.” Both books, the noted American genealogist and surgeon said, deal in…

An 1839 travelogue through the Jewish world

In the year 1839, had you been a traveller along the road from Rzeszov to Cracow, you would have been obliged to show a passport in Podgorze, the suburb of Cracow on the Austrian side of the Vistula (“Weichsel”) River. After submitting to a cursory inspection from Austrian officials, your vehicle would have crossed the…

Orchestrating the American dream

Family Matters: Sam, Jennie and the Kids, by Burton Bernstein, was first published in 1982, and remains, 30 years later, one of the most interesting family histories this reviewer has read. The reason is not so much that Burton Bernstein was the brother of a celebrity, the great composer-conductor Leonard Bernstein, but because he treated…

Photos capture ‘the Way We Were’

A photograph, the old saying goes, is worth a thousand words. Sometimes, however, a photograph’s worth cannot be measured in words. By capturing an ephemeral moment in exquisite detail, a photograph can be far more articulate than language. Irreplaceable images of our culture from days past can be infinitely instructive as to how we lived.…

Postcards from the past

A picture, according to proverb, is worth a thousand words, but sometimes the power of a photograph to illuminate a setting seems to go well beyond the descriptive abilities of language. Genealogists are often keen, therefore, to find good generic photographs, illustrations and other visual materials to enhance their family tree research. As defined by…

“Why I left the Old Country”

In 1942 the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research, which had only recently relocated from Vilna to New York City, sponsored a contest for the best autobiography by a Jewish immigrant on the theme, “Why I Left the Old Country and What I Have Accomplished in America.” More than 200 autobiographical essays were submitted, written mostly…

Dubnow’s classic History of the Jews in Poland and Russia

Born in Belarussia, and later a resident of St. Petersburg, Odessa, Kovno and Riga, Simon Dubnow (1860-1941) published his first essay about the Jews of Russia in 1880, and understood at a relatively early age that the subject would always be of particular significance for him. He wrote in his diary in 1892, “My life’s…

Kurzweil’s classic ‘From Generation to Generation’

It has been almost 25 years since novice Jewish genealogist Arthur Kurzweil wandered into the Jewish Division of the New York Public Library to search the card catalog for references to the Galician shtetl of Dobromil, where his father and numerous ancestors had lived. Kurzweil had heard enough family legends and stories about the town…

Hundert’s study of 18th-century Opatow, Poland

Professor Gershon Hundert, the distinguished historian and chair of the Department of Jewish Studies at McGill University, beguiled an audience of Jewish genealogists last summer in New York with midrash-like tales of early Jewish history in Poland. For centuries, the Jews felt very comfortable in Poland, Hundert said, referring to stories that even the name…