"Roots Shmoots Who wants to know and how to find out".

Ester Czaky Talks on Jewish Genealogy

On Sunday 23rd February (our first meeting for the year) Ester Czaky, member of the Victorian Branch of the Australian Jewish Genealogy Society spoke to a fascinated audience of about 40 people.

Ester took us on the amazing journey of how she traced her family tree and what motivated her. This was done with use of anecdotes, records she discovered and even microfilm. She also took the audience through a list of tips, hints and available resources you can use in your own search for your family tree (see list).

Due to her mothers near fatal illness in 1991, Ester vowed that if her mother survived she would learn something about her family history, without delay. Eventually she got her mother to write her own stories by hand and also to speak onto tape. Being aware that time was not on her side, she even resorted to virtually typing while her mother spoke.

Ester questioned why was a family history so important but felt that event hough most of our families were ordinary people, their memories/history should not fade into oblivion and should also be there to provide the next generation with a sense of their history.

Some of the stories her mother had told her seemed hard to believe but by a stroke of luck Ester discovered that her mother had kept a diary during the war. Two exercise books written in 1943, over a six month period when her mother was living in Lublin as a Polish woman were found in her mothers possession. These diaries confirmed all the stories her mother had recounted.

As she went on, Ester became inspired to dig deeper but how, since we are all told that "there are no records, they were all destroyed". Actually there are more records that we realise (see list). With her mothers help, Ester was able to draw up at least four generations with at least 80 names by the fifth draft. She was also hoping to discover if any family had survived the Holocaust.

Eventually, Ester and her mother went to Lublin (where her family comes from) to see for herself the places that her mother had talked about. This trip was extremely rewarding and fulfilling, event hough that Jewish life her mother experienced is no longer there. She returned to Lublin in 1995 with her mother for the unveiling of the memorial of 28 Jews (including her own grandparents) who were all murdered. This cemetery, through the efforts of Ester and her mother, has been reclaimed from the Polish Government as a Jewish Cemetery.

In 1994 Ester help found the Melbourne Branch of the Australian Jewish Genealogy Society. The Society is at present collecting the indexes from the Mormon Church for inclusion in a Jewish Database of names to assist others in their search. "How To" workshops are held from time to time (the next one will be in May 1997). The Society also has speakers and provides advice and support in searching for ones family history.

Finally, although Ester is still searching her family tree, she knows that now her daughters have a tangible sense of their own history and looks forward to the publication of the family history book.

Many thanks again to Ester for her fascinating and inspiring talk and also her mother who attended.

Tips, Hints & Resources:

  • Try to find an documents that relate to your family.

  • If you have the "box of old photos" - start labelling them with date, place, who and reason for photo.

  • A family tree should be able to go back at least four generations.

  • You may find family members are unwilling to be involved or are disinterested as it may not be important to them. Remember it takes time.

Family Tree Computer Package:

  • Reunion - draws up family tree.

  • Contact your parents' Landsmanshaten - often they can identify people in your photos.

  • Remember when mounting photos to use acid-free paper only.

Contact the Mormon Church in Springvale, Melbourne and Utah, USA, as they have a comprehensive historical library of Jewish names from all over the world on microfiche. Their records start as early as 1826. IGI - International Genealogical Index. Jewish names should not have an IGI as it indicates a person baptised by the Mormons. All microfilms can be ordered from Salt Lake City, Utah. Be prepared to wait up to six months for ordered microfilm.

Contact Holocaust News groups on the Internet where, for example, Ester obtained a 12 page bibliography on Lublin.

Yad Vashem has an Internet site with a large database of names of Holocaust Survivors.

Contact the Red Cross Database.

The words "Kora Zarconi" means person of the Old Testament - a Jew.

Remember, genealogy is not a cheap hobby and can take a lot of your time and patience. When it comes to researching your family you cannot think only in a straight line, you have to think laterally.

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