My name is Elizabeth (prefer Beth) and I am one of JewishGen's recent members.
Diligently researching my family history for about three years, I have
successfully used JewishGen to add names and statistics to my family tree
and have been reunited with cousins >from New York and Texas.
Why am I telling you this? Because I know how you feel - overwhelmed and
unsure of a good starting point. In addition, I want you to know that there
is a light at the end of the tunnel.
After I paid my $100 membership, I opened JewishGen's pages to begin my research.
I was pumped to find my roots. I was confident that I could do this; and like
most Americans, I am busy with a lot of "stuff" and have time constraints. So,
I wanted what every person wants - the possibility of a quick, successful research.
Isn't that what I am accustomed to? Isn't JewishGen like Google? When I enter
a surname (last name), shouldn't I expect hundreds of options to explore? I wish
it was that easy.
It was tougher than I expected. Trying to grasp JewishGen's methodologies
and research tips, I encountered tons of printed instructions in a hard-to-read
small font. This was brutal. I had to learn how to research before I could
research. How utterly frustrating !!! However, I took a big breath and dived
Stephen,I have learned a few things over the years. The most important piece
of education was understanding our group's complexity and its impact on
ancestral research. I am sure there are a plethora of reasons for this c
omplexity and I am not smart enough to delineate nor explain all these reasons.
However, I do know that our group's nomadic traits and insatiable desire to
collect a boatload of first names means we have to dig deep and wide to find
our loved ones. We are never sure which name our relative chose or gave for
documentation purposes? Who knows which name they used for the birth record
or the marriage record? Who knows which name they gave to the census taker?
Each member of my family had a closet full of names. Did the person use
his/her Hebrew-given first name followed by his/her father's first name?
Perhaps the person's first name was followed by the mother's first name
because the baby's daddy was unknown. Did he/she use his/her Yiddish
first name- the one he/she wore for social occasions? Or perhaps the
person selected his/her legally enforced German first and last name for
his/her documents. Or maybe the person used the German first and last
name for his 1895 documents, but used his voluntarily selected first
and last name for assimilation purposes on his/her 1915 documents.
I know this sounds like goobledry, but that is the point. I am
emphasizing the complexity. To make our research more difficult,
our relatives changed their neighborhoods as quickly as they changed
their names (I think my family was always looking for new scenery).
Stephen, also, the villages or shtetls' (aka shtetlekh) names changed.
Due to the ongoing rivalry amongst the European and Asian countries, areas
of land and its accompanying villages were quickly changed ; and, thus,
changed names. If Belarus owned The village's selected name changed often,
just like our relatives' names. As the ruling country of the many areas
switched hands, so did the So, Stephen, our complexities
To sum it up, it takes time to figure things out. And we ARE listening.
I am like u, a paid member who is researching familial roots. But, there
are tons of knowledgeable people in this group who are dedicated JewishGen
volunteers who will guide you and help you. However, you have to speak up
and ask questions so they can help you.
What villages or shtetls are u researching?