Midwest Jewish Genealogical Conference

Conference Schedule and Syllabus

Click name of speaker for biography; click title of presentation for description.

8:00-9:00am Registration -- "Coffee and . . . "
9:00-9:20am Opening Remarks
9:20-10:20am Keynote: "JEWISHGEN® - THE KEY TO DISCOVERY - "
Warren Blatt
10:30-11:25am A-1: Beginner's Genealogy Workshop-- Part 1
Judith R. Frazin
B-1: Organization
Beverly Levine Smallwood
C-1: Research on the Internet
Harriet Rudnit
11:30am-12:20pm A-2: Beginner's Genealogy Workshop-- Part 2
Judith R. Frazin
B-2: Polish Jewish Genealogical Research
Warren Blatt
C-2: Write Your Family History NOW!
Mike Karsen
12:40-1:40pm Luncheon
A kosher box lunch will be provided.
1:50-2:45pm A-3: Researching Chicago's Jewish History
Norma Spungen
B-3: A Holocaust Survivor Finds His Ancestors
Walter Reed
C-3: Morse Code: Ellis Island
Scott E. Meyer
2:55-3:50pm A-4: Chicago Area Libraries & Archives
Jack Simpson
B-4: Jewish Genetic Disorders
Dania D'Achille
C-4: Comparing Software for Jewish Genealogy Panel Discussion
4:00-4:55pm A-5: Cook County Archival Records
Philip J. Costello
B-5: Getting the "Mishpoche" Together
Milton Fields
C-5: Ask the Experts
5:00-5:15pm Wrapup
Go to
Jewish Genealogical Society of Illinois home page.

Descriptions of Presentations

You can click the name of the speaker for a biography.

An overview of the most popular databases on "The Home of Jewish Genealogy"—including “All Country” databases, up-to-date additions, and future development plans.
-- Warren Blatt

A-1, A-2 Beginner’s Genealogical Workshop -
Learn how to research your family's history step by step.  Begin the process by discovering how to find out the information which individual family members know and then broaden your search by learning which documents might mention your relatives. After an introduction that explains how to get started, the workshop will focus on which records are available, where they can be accessed and what information they may contain about your family.
-- Judith R. Frazin

B-1 Organizing and Filing Your Genealogical Research Data
Haven’t I done This before? Or, I know it’s here somewhere: Genealogists are seldom born with the skills we need to keep our family research in order. Even brand new researchers soon find themselves overwhelmed with the accumulated notes, photocopies, pictures, letters, books, recordings, and more. We will discuss the various filing systems, research logs, correspondence calendars, to-do lists, and source citation cross-referencing. -- Beverly Levine Smallwood

C-1 Funny You Should Ask! Some Helpful Free and Subscription Internet Sites:
As time passes, more internet sites can help the genealogist begin, organize, and further his/her search for family information. Relevant search engines, programs to record one’s information, as well as some “must see” sites, such as Cyndi’s List, JewishGen, and Ancestry, will be discussed. Additional sites, listed by categories, will be provided in the handout.
-- Harriet Rudnit

B-2 Polish Jewish Genealogical Research:
An overview and introduction, including locating ancestral shtetls, finding and translating birth, marriage, and death records, as well as using Mormon microfilms and Special Interest Groups (SIGS) for research in Poland.
-- Warren Blatt

C-2 Write Your Family History NOW!
Genealogists are very good at doing research and collecting many facts about their families, but often delay publishing the results of this research. Learn how to publish your findings NOW!
-- Mike Karsen

A-3 Researching Chicago's Jeewish History:
Discussion of 19th and 20th century resources covering the growth and development of Chicago's Jewish community.
-- Norma Spungen

B-3 A Holocaust Survivor Finds His Ancestors:
Hear how this survivor, through research in Bavaria, networking, and amazing circumstances, obtained birth, marriage, and death records of his family.
-- Walter Reed

C-3 Receiving the Right Nessage with Morse Code -- Getting the Most from Ellis Island and the 1930 Census:
Explore tricks and secrets of obtaining this much sought after information using Stephen Morse’s web-based tools.
-- Scott E. Meyer

A-4 Genealogical Resdearch in Chicago Area Libraries and Archives:
Researchers are guided through major genealogical repositories in the Chicago area and taught how to get the most out of a research trip.
-- Jack Simpson

B-4 Jewish Genetic Disorders:
A discussion of genetic disorders common to Jews around the world. Use medical pedigrees to better understand the origins and transmission of Jewish genetic disorders through the generations.
-- Dania D'Achille

C-4 Comparing Software for Jewish Genealogy -- Panel Discussion:
Which program should I use? We address the concerns of Jewish Genealogy researchers, looking at various features of several popular programs.

A-5 Circuit Court of Cook County:
Presentation focuses on Cook County Court Records dating back to the Chicago Fire, October 1871. Special emphasis is placed on court records that are of particular interest to family historians. Discover how to find a potential goldmine of ancestral data in naturalization records, probate estates, and divorce proceedings.
-- Philip J. Costello

B-5 Getting the Quot;MIshpoche" Together:
Learn the process involved in locating family, planning and organizing a reunion, and the special experiences of the event.
-- Milton Fields

C-5 Ask The Experts
Where do you go when you “hit a brick wall” in your genealogical research? Come with your questions and ask the experts.
-- Panel of experts

Go to
Jewish Genealogical Society of Illinois home page.

Biographies of Speakers

You can click the title of the presentation for a description.

Warren Blatt
Editor-in-Chief of JewishGen® and our keynote speaker, will make two major presentations. He has been doing genealogical research for over 25 years and is the co-author of "Getting Started in Jewish Genealogy." He is also the author of "Jewish FAQ: Frequently Asked Questions about Jewish Genealogy" located on the Jewishgen® Web site.
presentation: Keynote: JEWISHGEN -- The Key to Discovery, B-2: Polish Jewish Genealogical Research

Philip J. Costello
Mr. Costello received his BA from Marquette University and his MA from Loyola University of Chicago. He has been involved with the Circuit Court of Cook County Archives since its inception in August 1992
presentation: A-5: Circuit Court of Cook County Archival Records

Dania D'Achille

presentation: B-4: Jewish Genetic Disorders

Milton Fields

presentation: B-5: Getting the "Mishpoche" Together

Judith R. Frazin
Ms. Frazin is the author of two editions of A Translation to 19th-Century Polish-Language Civil-Registration Documents (Birth, Marriage and Death Records) and has developed two unique forms for recording genealogical information. The Polish Genealogical Society of America recently recognized her contribution to the field of genealogy by selecting her to receive its Wigilia award for the year 2000. A genealogist for 30 years, she served as president of the J.G.S. of Illinois for two terms in the late 1980's and was recently elected president again. She was program chairperson for the 1984 national seminar on Jewish genealogy, wrote a genealogical column for the newspaper, The Jewish Post and Opinion, has given many lectures and has directed seminars on genealogical topics. She has also completed numerous genealogical research projects for her clients.
presentations: A-1,A-2: Beginners' Workshops

Mike Karsen
A professional genealogy speaker and instructor, Mike Karsen is a member of the National Genealogical Society (NGS) and the Genealogical Speakers Guild. He speaks on genealogy topics locally and nationally, teaches classes in genealogy and is on the faculty of the National Institute for Genealogical Studies. Mike is a member of the Board of Directors of the Jewish Genealogical Society of Illinois and on the faculty of the Dawn Schuman Institute. Mike has presented at state and international conferences and recently spoke at the International Conference on Jewish Genealogy held in Washington, DC. He is an active member of three local genealogy chapters and has published four of his own family histories.
presentation: C-2: Write Your Family History NOW!

Scott E. Meyer
Scott E. Meyer is a past president of the Jewish Genealogical Society of Illinois and currently serves as its recording secretary. He is also a former director of the International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies. Mr. Meyer has spoken throughout the United States and in Canada on the subject of tracing Jewish roots, and from 1982 until 1992 served as associate editor of Search: International Journal for Researchers of Jewish Genealogy. Mr. Meyer was also an editor of the Encyclopedia of Jewish Genealogy (1992) and a consulting editor for another popular reference work which helps the reader find and translate 19th century Polish vital records. In addition to his work as a researcher at his alma mater, Northwestern University, Mr. Meyer has been active in Jewish education for over 30 years. He is a teacher and department coordinator at Beth Tikvah Congregation in Hoffman Estates, Illinois and is a member of the Coalition for the Advancement of Jewish Education.
presentation: C-3: Morse Code -- Ellis Island

Panel of Experts
Many of the speakers at the conference will be joined by other experts in attendance to answer questions from the audience on their genealogical research problems.
presentation: C-5: Ask the Experts

Walter Reed
Holocaust survivor and researcher.
presentation: B-3: A Holocaust Survivor Finds His Ancestors

Harriet Rudnit
A researcher of her family’s Lithuanian roots for four years, has already dispelled many myths. She began her search using the internet and has made several presentations on this subject to various groups. Newly retired from middle school teaching and mentoring, Harriet plans to continue helping herself and others discover important pieces of their family puzzles.
presentation: C-1: Helpful Free and Subscription Internet Sites

Jack Simpson

presentation: A-4: Chicago Area Libraries & Archives

Beverly Levine Smallwood
Ms. Smallwood teaches genealogy for District 214 Community Education (NW Cook County). She is active in the Northwest Suburban Council of Genealogists, Computer Assisted Genealogy Group of Northern Illinois (CAGG-NI), and The Master Genealogist (TMG) User Group, where she is a frequent presenter and has presented talks on 'Swedish Research' and on 'Planning a trip to Salt Lake City.'
presentation: B-1: Organization

Norma Spungen

presentation: A-3: Researching Chicago's Jewish History

For additional information and registration call (312)666-0100 or email jgsi2004@yahoo.com. The registration form is available as hard copy (and online). You can join our e-mailing list by sending a message to jgsi2004@yahoo.com.

Click here for map and directions.
Click here for registration form (print out and mail it in).

Click here for hotel information.

Go to
Jewish Genealogical Society of Illinois home page.

comments to mplager@alum.mit.edu (Max Plager)