IAJGS: My take on three SIG meetings

IAJGS: My take on three SIG meetings

One of the best things about these Jewish genealogy conferences are the special interest group (SIG) meetings. They are based on geographies, and families being what they are, most attendees are interested in multiple SIGs. I am looking forward to the Belarus, French and German SIG meetings later in the week, but already I’ve attended the Latvia, Danzig and Galicia meetings. 

Of these, Gesher Galicia is the biggest and most influential, but its meeting was the least interesting—just an overview of the group and resources that are available. Galicia was a region of the former Austria-Hungary that is now part in Poland and part Ukraine. Gesher is from the Yiddish meaning ‘bridge.’ 

The Latvia group drew about 25 people and had a lot of energy, having recently been revived under a new leadership team. One of the highlights was a presentation by a representative of FamilySearch.com, who shed light on the complex web of relationships between companies, organizations and countries involved in records scanning and indexing. Because of these collaborations, a lot of new records are likely available for my family from Rezekne since I last worked on that branch.

The Danzig/Gdansk SIG meeting was even better. Here there were just four of us along with the SIG leader Logan Kleinwaks, who is a minor celebrity in the Jewish gen world. He heads numerous projects across a wide range of subjects, and has run the Danzig group for some time. Logan was a fount of fast-talking, quick-witted information for 45 minutes. Then he had to rush off to give another presentation. After today he isn’t attending the conference, but is holed up at an archive across town. Last week in Berlin, he negotiated a deal for a new batch of Danzig records.  

Gdansk rates having a SIG of its own due its unique history of changing national affiliations, including the interwar years as an independent city-state, and as the birthplace of the Solidarity movement that brought about the end of Communist rule in Poland. I am going to Gdansk after the conference to learn more about my family history there in the early 20th century, when it was called Danzig and was a part of the recently unified German Empire.

Logan’s many research suggestions give me several new leads for my on-the-ground research beyond the family business and residential addresses that I already have.