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Read an article about our president, Fred Blum, run in the Winter 2013 edition of Inside magazine at

New on the Website

Thanks to the generosity of the Ginsburg, Platsis, Pressman & Vederman families, we have a diary of a 16-year old with advertisements from the John Wanamaker department store. The diary includes references to Sunday school and Gratz. The advertisements show items of the day available at Wanamaker's and other Philadelphia businesses. There are other small articles that include items of interest, including some of special interest to Jews, such as the article on page 294 about the Shofar.

This is a large PDF file (346MB) with images of 446 pages. It will take time to download and may not be compatible with all devices.

Click on the image of the cover above to view the document.

Pennsylvania Records News

The initial batch of Pennsylvania state death certificates is now online through (as of April 18th). Remember only birth and death certificates that are open records will be online (50 years for death certificates and 105 years for birth certificates). The overall schedule is:

 • 1906-24 death certificates – April 2014
 • 1925-44 death certificates – June 2014
 • 1945-63 death certificates – November 2014
 • 1906 birth certificates – March 2015

Pennsylvania residents (and only Pennsylvania residents) have free access to this particular database as they do with other Pennsylvania State Archives records already scanned and made available online by Ancestry. Free access for Pennsylvania residents is accomplished by registering online at no cost through this link (please be sure to read the instructions carefully): Click here. Pennsylvania residents that already have a subscription to Ancestry do not need to do anything as long as they continue to have a subscription to Ancestry.

Out of state residents do need a subscription to Ancestry to access these records. However, many libraries and research centers everywhere provide free access to Ancestry. After three years the records will be moved to the Pennsylvania State Archives website and be free to all.

Thank you for your help in getting the PA state law changed that made this possible. Without your help we would still be stuck with the old extremely restricted access to Pennsylvania state birth and death certificates and wishing it were different. For more information please visit Good luck in your searches and keep in mind mistakes in indexing (most especially on Ancestry) and the original certificates are to be expected.

1940 census link

From Recent Meetings...

Click here for Joel Spector's presentation entitled "The Growth of the Russian Jewish Population From Early Historical Data through the 1897 Census".
Click here for Alan Jordan's notes on probate, records, and wills from his talk in November, 2014.

Links From Recent Chronicles...

Click here for ZACHOR – Memories of the Jews of Bialystok by Mark Halpern from Winter 2014 CHRONICLES



Sunday, October 30, 2016, 1:30 pm at Adath Israel, Merion Station, PA

Speaker: Fred Blum, Private Detective and President, JGSGP. In 1988 Fred obtained a Private Detective license. In 1998 he became interested in his family history. He was able to locate ancestors dating back to 1810. To date, Fred has identified over 1200 family members. In 2005, Fred volunteered for the International Red Cross Holocaust Tracing Service, to try to assist the IRC reconnect Jewish, Polish and Ukrainian Holocaust survivors. In 2006, Fred was awarded the local and national "Volunteer of the Year" Award from the IRC. In 2011, he volunteered for the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum to help locate European children that were orphaned during the period 1933-1945.

Topic: How to Locate Individuals Through the Use of Genealogy

Fred will teach us some techniques he uses to locate individuals through genealogy. This information will enable researchers to locate family and uncover distant relatives.

Sunday, November 20, 2016, 1:30 pm at Keneseth Israel

Speaker: Harry Boonin, Author and Founding President of JGSGP, was born and raised in Philadelphia and became involved in Jewish genealogy in 1977. He has written a number of articles for Avotaynu, The International Review of Jewish Genealogy. Harry has co-authored a book about his family with his cousin David J. Goldberg (The Davidows: The Experiences of an Immigrant Family, 1995). It contains a little of the Jewish history of the city of Elizavetgrad (today, in Ukraine, Kirovohrad). He has written and published The Jewish Quarter of Philadelphia: A History and Guide 1881-1930, which was awarded the Ben Franklin Award of Excellence for Educational Books/Directories by Neographics, Graphic Arts Association of Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware. Harry’s next book was The Life and Times of Congregation Kesher Israel: The Story of the Synagogue at 4th & Lombard Streets, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and the Surrounding Neighborhood. This book contains the story of the beginnings of Zionism in Philadelphia. His latest book, Never Tell A Boy Not To Fight, is a collective biography of four Jewish boxers from Philadelphia who fought a century ago, and includes the first full account of the Benny Leonard vs. Lew Tendler lightweight championship fight in Yankee Stadium, attended by over 58,000 fans, in 1923. It is the most famous fight involving two Jews.

Topic: Jewish Boxing in Philadelphia a Century Ago

Genealogical charts are fine, and we all love them, and love to add new members to the charts. But we must realize that the years our Russian Jewish ancestors settled here, say from 1881 to 1924, was one of the most tumultuous periods in American Jewish history. The movies began, newspapers flourished, humans flew in the sky and died in the carnage of WWI, electricity flowed into private homes, the wireless (radio) brought news through the air, Zionism was born, Tin-Pan Alley was a boulevard of dreams, and wonder of wonders, in 1928 there were more Jewish boxers nationally than there were from any other ethnic group in the country, including the Irish and African Americans. These background stories are what made our ancestors lives meaningful. I will talk about four Jewish boxers from Philly, how I researched their lives, and the role Jewish boxers played in immigrant America.

Sunday, December 11, 2016, 12:30 pm (please note earlier time) at Keneseth Israel

Speaker: Rabbi Lance Sussman, Senior Rabbi at Keneseth Israel and Professor of American Jewish History. Lance J. Sussman, Ph.D., the eighth senior Rabbi of Reform Congregation Keneseth Israel, now in Elkins Park, PA, is an affable, scholarly Rabbi who revolutionized worship in his 167 year old Reform synagogue, introducing Visual Tefillot and Illustrated Sermons. For KI children, Sussman created the KI Puppets, Ave. Q sized Jewish themed creatures. Sussman is Torah Turtle while other staff play Shema Sheep, Bracha Bear and Shira Salamander. As Chair of the CCAR Press, Sussman helped launch the Reform movement’s latest prayer books.

Sussman has taught at Princeton, Temple Universities and Hunter College among others. His research on the Trefa Banquet was featured in the PBS series, “God in America.” Sussman’s tours of “Jewish Gettysburg” and “Colonial Jewish Philadelphia” are always filled. He founded the Cheltenham Area Multifaith Council and is involved in Jewish-Muslim Dialogue. For several years, Sussman ran an exchange program for KI teenagers and their counterparts in High Schools in Frankfurt, Germany. He inspires through warmth and inclusiveness.

Topic: The Golden Age of Philadelphia

January 29, 2017, 1:30 pm at Main Line Reform Temple

Israel Pickholtz, author of “Endogamy: One Family, One People.” is a native of Pittsburgh who has been living in Israel since 1973. He began working seriously on his families’ genealogies in 1994. Since 2008, when he took early retirement, he has been accepting genealogy clients from Israel and abroad.

His flagship work is the Pikholz Project which serves to identify and reconnect all Pikholz descendants. He has been involved in genetic genealogy since 2012 and participated in the inaugural Practical Genetic Genealogy course at the Genealogical Research Institute of Pittsburgh.

He blogs on matters genealogical at “All My Foreparents” and is a member of the International Society of Genetic Genealogy and the Guild of One-Name Studies.

He is a member of the Association of Professional Genealogists and its Writers SIG and has written for the APG Quarterly as well as for the IGS quarterly Sharsheret Hadorot, where he served briefly as editor, and for Avotaynu, The Galitzianer and other genealogy publications. His book, Endogamy: One Family, One People, was published in July 2015.

Topic: Jewish Genetic Genealogy – A Study in Endogamy

Are you concerned about understanding and interpreting your DNA test results? DNA results are especially complicated for Jews, who have largely married “within the tribe” for hundreds of years, a practice known as endogamy. In this presentation, Israel Pickholtz will tackle this challenge head on. Since every family is different, rather than taking a “how to” approach, he will demonstrate how he dealt with endogamy in his family and identify general lessons that apply to all DNA research. His goal is to inspire all to say, “I can do this!”

Following the talk, copies of his book, Endogamy: One Family, One People, will be available for purchase and signing.

36th IAJGS International Conference
on Jewish Genealogy

August 7-12, 2016 Seattle, WA

You still can see and hear many of the best presentations of the week by subscribing to the IAJGS 2016 LIVE! video and audio, on-demand, on-line replay service. More than 40 sessions that were live-streamed as they occurred also were recorded and remain available for downloading to your computer until November 10 for a flat fee of $179.

To sign up, go to and complete the form. A confirmation e-mail will contain a link and login information for the LIVE! session download directory.

The sessions available for LIVE! replay are identified in the program schedule at
by the word LIVE! at the beginning of their titles.

Planning is already under way for the conference, to be held July 23 through 28, 2017, at the Walt Disney World Swan Resort in Orlando, Florida. For more information, send an e-mail to

Brooklyn Bridge 1905

Brooklyn Bridge 1905

Zhytomir, Ukraine

Atlantic City, 1904

New York City

New York City, 1913

The JGSGP sadly announces the passing of our Vice President for Programming, trong>Steve Schecter, suddenly on September 30, 2013. Our society will miss the enthusiasm and leadership that he so freely gave us all.


Leonard Markowitz, past president of the JGSGP, passed away on September 29, 2014. Len was instrumental in leading our genealogy society early on when we were very small. He was very knowledgeable and was an effective people-person when he served as President of our genealogy society. He was the husband of the late Sonya, father of Larry Markowitz and Lynn (Alan) Pechinski.


We now have a Speakers Bureau

To volunteer as a speaker or to request a speaker for your event,  click here and

please contact Stan or Shelda Sandler stanshel(at)


JGSGP Beginner and Intermediate Genealogy Workshops

Interested in attending or sponsoring a workshop for your Congregation or Organization? Send an email to Stan or Shelda Sandler stanshel(at) with specifics about your request.


Genealogy Help in New Jersey

James Gross is at the Cherry Hill Family History Center most Tuesday evenings 6:30 to 9:00.  The FHC is located at 252 E. Evesham Road, Cherry Hill, NJ 08003.  Please call ahead to confirm BEFORE visiting at 856-795-8841.


Brick Walls Q&A

A new feature! JGSGP members can ask for help from fellow members with their research challenges. Have an issue? Send a message to  Questions may be published in our quarterly journal Chronicles. Answers will be sent to the question originator only by email.


News from PJAC







An Interactive Website for Exploring

the City of Neighborhoods


The Life and Times of Congregation Kesher Israel

by Harry Boonin

Click HERE for Details




Jewish Studies Courses Online


Click HERE for more information







Tracing the Tribe - The Jewish Genealogy Blog

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Last updated December 30, 2015

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