Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Jewish Pirates: Ahoy Vey!

Repost with slight changes

Today is International Talk Like a Pirate Day. The Jewish New Year begins tomorrow night at sundown.

What would be an appropriate topic, albeit perhaps a little afield from the subject of genealogy, for a blog post combining the two?

How about Jean Lafitte, the possibly Jewish Pirate?




[image - late 19th century artist's conception. [source]

The facts of his origins, and those of his demise as well, depend upon whether you believe the "Journal of Jean Lafitte" is a forgery or not. Discovered in the possession of a claimed descendant.
"My grandmother was a Spanish-Israelite. ... Grandmother told me repeatedly of the trials and tribulations her ancestors had endured at the time of the Spanish Inquisition. ... Grandmother's teachings ... inspired in me a hatred of the Spanish Crown and all the persecutions for which it was responsible -- not only against Jews." [source]
According to one account, Jean Lafitte was killed upon the General Santander, an armed private vessel in the service of Columbia, on Feb. 5, 1823, at the age of 41. In the Gulf of Honduras, the General Santander encountered two Spanish privateers or warships, and was mortally wounded in a brief battle with the vessels and buried at sea ...  
According to Lafitte's Journal ( which many believe to be a hoax, claimed to have been found by a great grand son of Lafitte) written by Lafitte himself in 1851, he took the name John Lafflin and died in St. Louis in his 70s. [source]
As a St. Louisan, this last definitely interests me. Though I have been unable to determine where John Lafflin (whether or not in reality Jean Lafitte) is supposed to be buried. Mysteries tend to surround pirates, don't they?

However, while the origins of Jean Lafitte are controversial, in Jewish Pirates of the Caribbean, author Edward Kritzler makes the claim for several others. Some of the earlier ones are said to have gone into the piracy business as revenge against the inquisition.
One such pirate was Moses Cohen Henriques, who helped plan one of history's largest heists against Spain. In 1628, Henriques set sail with Dutch West India Co. Admiral Piet Hein, whose own hatred of Spain was fueled by four years spent as a galley slave aboard a Spanish ship. Henriques and Hein boarded Spanish ships off Cuba and seized shipments of New World gold and silver worth in today's dollars about the same as Disney's total box office for "Dead Man's Chest." [source]
Of course, pirates tend to break a few commandments in their daily routine. Ends rarely justify the means, and revenge isn't generally considered a morally appropriate explanation for deeds. One wonders if the above Jewish pirates recited the Al Chet (confession of sins) yearly on Yom Kippur.

Friday, September 1, 2017

Labor Day Weekend - 2017

Happy Labor Day Weekend

As you light up your barbecues this weekend and enjoy your day off from work Monday (those who have the day off) - take some part of the day to consider the advancements we have made in workers' rights over the last century - Many of us may have ancestors who worked in the coal mines or sweatshops.

Also, consider in what ways the struggles aren't over.

Here's a playlist of songs which may help.



A Pict Song - Rudyard Kipling (1917)

Rome never looks where she treads,
Always her heavy hooves fall,
On our stomachs, our hearts or our heads;
And Rome never heeds when we bawl.
Her sentries pass on—that is all,
And we gather behind them in hordes,
And plot to reconquer the Wall,
With only our tongues for our swords.

We are the Little Folk—we !
Too little to love or to hate.
Leave us alone and you'll see
How we can drag down the Great!
We are the worm in the wood !
We are the rot at the root!
We are the germ in the blood !
We are the thorn in the foot !

Mistletoe killing an oak—
Rats gnawing cables in two—
Moths making holes in a cloak—
How they must love what they do!
Yes,—and we Little Folk too,
We are as busy as they—
Working our works out of view—
Watch, and you'll see it some day!

No indeed ! We are not strong,
But we know Peoples that are.
Yes, and we'll guide them along,
To smash and destroy you in War!
We shall be slaves just the same ?
Yes, we have always been slaves;
But you—you will die of the shame,
And then we shall dance on your graves.

We are the Little Folk, we ! etc.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Poem: Cause of Death

Below is the poem which won 3rd place in the Poetry & Song category of the 2017 ISFHWE Excellence-in-Writing Competition. Last year, I finished 2nd with The Genetic and Synthetic.

Cause of Death

A dozen distant cousins
in Prienai, Lithuania
died on the same day
all with the same cause of death.

If my cousin who researched the family
had written down ‘Auschwitz,’
“Treblinka,’ or ‘Bergen Belsen,’
I think I would have nodded
and kept on reading.

It’s what I expect happened
to most of my relatives
who didn’t get out of Europe
before the war.

I wasn’t ready for
"townspeople with axes" -
Neither were my cousins.

"Townspeople with axes"
could be the name
of a b-grade horror movie
with vampires and zombies.

"Townspeople with axes"
should not appear
in my genealogy database.

Press Release: 2017 ISFHWE Excellence-In-Writing Competition Winners Announced

Yesterday I received the below press release from Tina Sansone, Competition Coordinator at The International Society of Family History Writers and Editors. However, the information was going to be officially announced today at the FGS Conference, so she asked that it not be shared until this morning. I have added links where I could find them. 


Congratulations to all winners!

The International Society of Family History Writers and Editors is proud to announce the winners of the Excellence-in-Writing Competition. All entries were exceptional this year. Submission details for 2018 will be announced soon. For any questions on the competition, email competition@isfhwe.org.

Category 1 – Columns
1st Place – Elaine Thomas: “For the Love of Dinah”
2nd Place – Carolyn Schott: “Welcome Back to Osthofen”
3rd Place - Maureen Wlodarczyk: “More Than (Immediately) Meets the Eye”
HM – Valerie LaRobardier: “Do You Have an ‘Indian Princess’?”

Category 2 – Articles
1st Place – Martin Fischer: “How the Gogolinsky Family of Warsaw Became the Barney Family of St. Louis, Missouri”
2nd Place – Joseph F. Martin: “Apolonia Lewicka and the Priest”
3rd Place - Mari Margaret McLean, PhD: “Unintended Family History: Thomas Scholfield’s Letter to His Brother”
HM - Fred Delcomyn: “A Danish Lad in America”
HM - Karen Brattesani: “A Soldier's Stories of World War II as Told to his Daughter”
HM - Sherri Panchaud Onorati: “Lucky to Be Here”

Category 3 – Newsletters
1st Place – Michelle D. Novak: “Genealogical Society of Bergen County, NJ -  The Archivist”
2nd Place – Patricia Mansfield Phelan: “Newsletter of the Irish Family History Forum”

Category 4 – Unpublished Material, Unpublished Authors
1st Place – Joan F. Vitale: “The Messenger”
2nd Place – Bonnie Dodge: “Getting to Know Grandmother, A Step Back in Time”
3rd Place – Robbin M. Smith: “I Have an Aunt Alice?”
HM - Linda D. Fritz-Langston: “Grandpa & His Puzzle”

Category 5 - Unpublished Material – Published Authors
1st Place – Dave Strausfeld: “Gus Cloepfil and his Migration Westward”
2nd Place – Wevonneda Minis: “DNA Decision”
3rd Place – Elaine Thomas: “Boyhood Tales from the Great Depression”
HM - Wendy Wilson Spooner, Lic. G, LCoT: “The Relevance of Genetic Knowledge to Genealogical Research
HM - Andrea Butler Ramsey: “ The Nickel Man”
HM - Emilee Marks: “The Tale of Two Wilhelmina Gogollas”

Category 6 – Poetry & Song
1st Place – Kavya Srikanth: “An Ode to Time Lost”
2nd Place – Lori Lynn Price: “Virden, New Mexico”
3rd Place – John Newmark: “Cause of Death”
HM - Anthony Proctor – “The Great Wave”


Saturday, August 19, 2017

On the towns of Krūvandai and Čekiškė, as well as the Lithuanian Language

It is almost a certainty that the surnames Cruvant/Kruvant/Kruvand/Kruvant come from the Lithuanian town of Krūvandai. We have traced ancestors back to the nearby (5.5 km) town of Čekiškė. One cousin told me that his family lore said the Lithuanian town got its name from the family. Regardless of whether the chicken or egg came first, there is still the unanswered question: What does it mean?

I decided to ask on a Lithuanian Genealogy Facebook group.

I've learned Krūvandai was founded in the 1600s, and named after a particularly bloody battle in the Polish-Swedish wars (1600-1629). 'Kraujas' means 'blood.' 'Kruvinas' means 'bloody.' This information pretty much sets to rest any question of which came first. Jewish family surnames were uncommon in 17th century Eastern Europe. They weren't required by law until the late 18th, early 19th century, depending upon the area.

My query on FB did result in an enthusiastic contact fluent in both Lithuanian and English, with current relatives in Krūvandai. In addition to providing me with the information above, he translated from a recent book a chapter on the history of the Jewish community in Čekiškė. A handful of 20th-century cousins of mine were named in the chapter. Sept 4, 1941 marked the violent end of the Jewish community.

I also learned that in the Lithuanian language, surnames are gendered. That is, a male cousin might be referred to in documents with the surname 'Kruvandas,' a female cousin either as 'Kruvandaite' or 'Kruvandiene' depending on whether unmarried or married, respectively.

The images are of a synagogue in Čekiškė that still stands. An older synagogue was destroyed in an 1887 fire, and rebuilt. My second great grandfather and his family left in approximately 1886-1887. While they would never have seen the current synagogue, the cousins who remained would have worshipped there for fifty years.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Amanuensis Monday: Robbie Cruvant - age 6 - on the cover of Sports Illustrated - 1957

Amanuensis: A person employed to write what another dictates or to copy what has been written by another.

I continue my project to transcribe family letters, journals, newspaper articles, audiotapes, and other historical artifacts. Not only do the documents contain genealogical information, the words breathe life into kin - some I never met - others I see a time in their life before I knew them.

One can't always predict where a photograph of a relative will appear.

The newspaper clipping below comes from, The Times, Shreveport, Louisiana, May 21, 1957. I found it at Newspapers.com, and then found the cover in the Sports Illustrated Vault. Robbie Cruvant, a second cousin once removed, died in a car accident in 1967.



Magazine Cover Shows Local Boy

The photo of a Shreveport boy, Robbie Cruvant, 6, appears on the cover of the current issue of a national magazine, Sports Illustrated.

Robbie, the son of Mr. and Mrs. M. Leslie Cruvant, 6227 Gilbert Dr., is seated on a four-in-hand coach witnessing the Bridal and Spur Horse Show in St. Louis Mo., in the photograph. The horse show is featured in the magazine.

The picturesque four-horse coach is owned by Robbie's grandfather, Robert Baskowitz, of St. Louis. Among others seated on the coach is August A Busch, Jr., president of Anheuser-Busch, Inc., the makers of Budweiser beer.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

MyHeritage and Legacy Family Tree

Last week I mentioned that I had switched genealogy database software to MyHeritage's FamilyTreeBuilder. Thursday, MyHeritage announced, they had acquired Legacy Family Tree.

There has been a lot of discussion about the acquisition on genealogy blogs in the past few days. As is the case with all mergers and acquisitions that impact the things we care about, there are those with fearful pessimism, and those with hopeful optimism.

I've been surprised by those who have implied MyHeritage didn't already have a software program of its own. Or have implied their software program was entirely online. My FamilyTreeBuilder database is on my computer, and isn't synched with any MyHeritage account. (I have a free account, but my database isn't online.)

Legacy Family Tree doesn't have a Mac version of their software, so I can only base any opinion on the tutorial and help screens on their website, but at first glance, I am confident MyHeritage will not simply develop a Mac version of Legacy Family Tree, as it is lacking in adaptability to MyHeritage's international consumer-base. Whereas I was surprised to see MyHeritage only accommodated the Gregorian, Hebrew, and French Revolutionary calendars, and not Julian, I saw no references to date conversion at all in Legacy's help pages. (Possibly I missed it.) No references to multiple language interfaces, either. Hopefully the software team will combine the best features of both programs and create something both sets of users will see as an improvement.

Both Legacy Family Tree and MyHeritage use the Freemium marketing technique where they offer free basic services, and offer additional benefits for paid users. So that's unlikely to change. (I've seen some bloggers imply Legacy Family Tree didn't, but they do have a free standard version of their software. I just can't download it to test it since I don't have a PC.)

I'll admit in my first interaction with MyHeritage a decade ago, I didn't consider them a very serious website. It appeared they were focused primarily on games, such as their Face Recognition Software. I had fun with that software, but the company has grown tremendously since then. They are still growing, and I am in the set of people with hopeful optimism.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

How to Pronounce the "G"

There is a huge debate over how to pronounce the letter “G” in the acronym "GIF." GIF stands for Graphics Interchange Format, and is the filetype for many images on your computer. (Other common image filetypes are JPEG - Joint Photographic Experts Group, and TIFF - Tagged Image File Format.)

Since GIF is an acronym for Graphics Interchange Format, #TeamGiff argues the “G” should be hard like the “G” in "Graphics."

Members of #TeamJiff follow the advice of Steve Wilhite, the engineering Lead of the team that developed the format. He says it is supposed to be pronounced with a soft "G" – to mirror the peanut butter brand, "Jif." (“Choosy developers choose GIF.”)

#TeamGiff responds that once a word or acronym enters the language, the inventor has no say in the matter. And a hard "G" makes more sense linguistically.

I say, computer images aren't only used by speakers of English. In Spanish, when the letter "G" is followed by an "I," it is pronounced with the hard “Ch” sound, as in the German composer's name, "Bach." This is also the case for the Spanish, "J."

1) I am a big supporter of this phoneme in whatever language it appears in.
2) Furthermore, since in Spanish "Gif" and "Jif" would be pronounced identically, this should satisfy the peanut butter fans in #TeamJiff, as well as the linguistic purists in #TeamGiff. So I am in #TeamKhiff

***

In the Genealogy world, I have heard there is some discussion on how to pronounce GEDCOM. GEDCOM is an acronym for Genealogical Data Communication and is used for the file format for genealogy databases.

#TeamJedcom argues that the "G" is for "Genealogical," so should be a soft "J."

#TeamGedcom prefers a hard "G" for some reason. [Members of #TeamGedcom are welcome to leave their explanation in the comments.]

I do not know how the developers of the GEDCOM pronounce it. This may be a closely held secret of the LDS church.

As you might have guessed, once again I fall back upon Spanish pronunciation, because, why not? In Spanish, when the letter "G" is followed by an "e" it is also pronounced with the hard “Ch” sound. I am in #TeamKhedcom

***

Hopefully, this post has been helpful. It's time for me to find a tall glass of iced chai.