Friday, August 21, 2009

Old treasures offer insight into Jewish ancestry

Participants at the Aug. 5 meeting of the Jewish Genealogy Society of Cleveland entitled “What Was That in Bubbe’s Attic?” got the chance to find out. The meeting, located at Menorah Park, allowed residents, Jewish Genealogy Society members, and guests the opportunity to share and discuss their family history through ancestors’ books, documents and photographs.
Sean Martin, associate curator for Jewish history at The Western Reserve Historical Society, welcomed the small crowd of about 25 people as he shared some of his family’s historical archives. He brought a copy of the novel Ivanhoe with his grandfather’s name written inside and a photo taken in 1939 outside of Monongahela System Garage.
Martin explained that while archives like newspaper articles are interesting, they are easily found and duplicated. Items such as a brochure for a community synagogue will reveal more about how deceased relatives lived.

“I am concerned with the content of the materials,” Martin said. “Full-faced portraits should be saved, but that portrait is really only for the family who knows that person. But if there is a photo of someone standing outside of a store in Glenville, they have the kind of work they did, what the block looked like, the entire setting.”

Janet Gold of Lyndhurst had never attended a meeting for the Jewish Genealogy Society of Cleveland, but family archives sparked her curiosity. Her artifacts consisted of a photograph of her father, a young music conductor, and another photo of her parents during their courting years. The piece Gold brought that told the most compelling story, however, was a graphic poster that advertised her father’s band “Old Gold and his Radio Orchestra” playing at the Coliseum in Mansfield on June 9, 1935.

Gold, along with the other meeting attendees, learned that documents and photos that hold sentimental value can lead to information about how their ancestors lived. Naturalization and immigration papers, along with any photo or poster, should be stored in acid-free folders or boxes to best preserve the archives.

Jewish Genealogy Society of Cleveland meetings are usually held on the first Wednesday of each month at 7:30 p.m. at Menorah Park. (CJN)
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