Past Events

March 2016 meeting

jewishmigrations The 'Wandering: How history drove Jewish migration patterns by Pat Johnson
Pat Johnson has served on the editorial board of the Jewish Independent for over 20 years and has written numerous articles on Jewish topics. In this presentation, Pat will provide an overview of the migrations that have most affected Jewish life through the last several centuries and try to comprehend some of their historical causes.

April 2016 meeting

lipton district jewish settlers from romania c 1903Earl Lesk will discuss the immigration of both sets of his grandparents from Russia to Canada at the turn of the Twentieth Century. The talk will focus on the genealogical resources used to glean the information about Earl’s family history. Earl will cover the time period from their lives in the Pale of Settlement (within the Russian Empire), their immigration to Western Canada, and their new home on the Jewish Agriculture Colonies in Saskatchewan and in Winnipeg. Each set of grandparents experienced a very different Canada as the three Lesk brothers and their families settled in Winnipeg in 1904 and set up their first businesses while the Goorevitch family became farmers.

May 2016 meeting

codename_rafiachTzipi Mann will give a talk and present the film Codename: Rafiach.

The Rafiach, an 'illegal' ship transporting 785 Holocaust survivors from Yugoslavia to Palestine, foundered during a storm off the rocky coast of the Greek island of Syrina. While many survived under heroic circumstances, an unknown number were lost. The film, part animation, is the story of the voyage, the members of the Jewish Underground who risked their lives to smuggle people into Palestine and how some of the survivors made their way in the world.

Tzipi Mann is the daughter of two of the survivors and was a driving force behind the making of this film.

June 2016 meeting

House of Wives
Simon Johnston will present a talk on the historical background of his book "House of Wives"

Simon has just published his historical novel The House of Wives, inspired by the lives of his Jewish ancestors. His book follows the life of a young Indian Jew who leaves his wife behind in Calcutta as he goes to Hong Kong to make his fortune in the early opium trade. He remains there, falls in love and starts a relationship with a young Chinese beauty, the daughter of his business partner. Then his wife arrives from Calcutta. This is the story of two remarkable women determined to secure a dynasty for their children in the tumultuous world of 19th century Hong Kong.

Simon is a playwright, director and now novelist and lives in the Vancouver area; for more information about Simon see his website or his FaceBook author's page.

September 2016 meeting

Report back from the IAJGS conference

The 36th meeting of the International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies has just taken place in Seattle. Those who attended will share what we heard and what we learnt.


October 2016 Meeting

leib_jacobson_in-_1922Discovering Secrets and Unraveling a Mystery - a story in 2 parts by Coral Grant

Coral is visiting us from the Island to tell about her research into her family's history. She writes: "Initially, all I had was a piece of paper with a few names and huge gaps in what was a pathetic looking family tree. My first step in filling in the blanks was to send off information requests, to various family members. When my Dad received his request, he was prompted to tell me what he thought was a family 'bombshell' - A secret my Grandmother thought she had forever concealed, but was eventually revealed but not without a major road block and several twists and turns. The magic of genetic DNA testing ultimately revealed the answer and so much more. A genealogical adventure my Grandmother would never have imagined."

Part 1 of this story focuses on Canada, while part 2 (coming in Spring 2017) focuses on Latvia and the Ukraine and Crimea.

Special Event


JGSBC, the BC Genealogical Society, Klahanie Research and the West Vancouver Memorial Library will be running a Genealogy Fair on Nov 18 in the Main Hall of the library. Experts from these groups will be there to help you with your research and teach you about the wide range of online and print resources available. This is your chance to dig into topics such as English, Scottish, Irish, First Nations, Eastern European and Jewish genealogy as well as BC archival research and DNA genealogy.

Dec 2016 meeting


Michael Schwartz, our speaker this month, is Coordinator of Programs and Development at the Jewish Museum and Archives of BC. The JAMBC actively pursues innovative ways of making Jewish community history come alive. Through online exhibits, walking tours, and frequent special events, the organization has undergone a period of reinvention over the past three years. In this talk, Michael will share reflections on this period of transformation and previews of further innovations the JMABC plans to introduce in the coming years.

Jan 2017 meeting

Discoveries and Brickwalls

In our first meeting of the New Year we'll share some of the discoveries and brickwalls of the year past. Bring your computers.

Mar 2017 meeting

Why Did Our Ancestors Leave a Nice Place Like the Pale?
by Hal Bookbinder

Jews in the Russian Empire were mostly restricted to Poland and the Pale, which initially consisted of the vice-regencies of Belorussia, Bessarabia, Lithuania, New Russia, and Ukraine with Poland being incorporated by the 1870s. Hal's presentation will cover the history of the Pale from its creation in 1791 to its dissolution in 1917 and how the many phases of its existence such as confinement, repression, enlightenment and the progroms affected the lives of the Jewish population.

Hal Bookbinder is a former president of IAJGS and currently serves on the Board of JewishGen. His areas of interest include Jewish history, finding missing relatives, European border changes, immigration, citizenship and safe computing.

Open to the Public

April 2017 meeting

A Genealogical Tryptych

Three members will each present a short talk on genealogical and resources they discovered in 2016.

Earl Lesk will talk about Naturalization papers and Canada Census records. David Scriven will talk about a branch of his mother's family he found in newly-released records and how some unusual annotations confirmed their fate. Stephen Falk will reveal why Rosa, the sister of his great great great grand mother Babette SILBERSTEIN was identified in early 19th century birth records with the maiden name BLÜHDORN.

May 2017 meeting

Discovering Secrets, Unraveling a Mystery and a Trip to Canada - Part 2 of Coral Grant's story

Coral is visiting us from the Island to continue her story that she began in October last year. Her discoveries began with a family 'bombshell' - A secret her Grandmother thought she had forever concealed, but was eventually revealed but not without a major road block and several twists and turns. The magic of genetic DNA testing ultimately revealed the answer and so much more. A genealogical adventure her Grandmother would never have imagined.

The second part her story focuses on the struggles of her family to come to Canada, how they left Latvia and the tragedy that followed as well as a bit of added history. Don't worry if you missed the first part, there will be a quick recap to get you caught up on the family mysteries and more!

June 2017 meeting

Tracing People Through Time and Space
Using Timelines
by Mary Katherine Kozy

Most people are familiar with timelines from taking history in high school. Genealogists, however, can utilize this seemingly commonplace tool to very good effect in their research. Need to know how your ancestor got from one place to another? Trying to sort out several different individuals with the same name? Wanting to understand how your ancestor fit in with major and minor historical events? Come learn how timelines can help answer these and a number of other family history research questions!

Mary Kathryn Kozy has been working on her own family history for over 35 years. She currently serves on the board of the Jewish Genealogical Society of Washington State, maintains two USGenWeb sites, indexes for FamilySearch Indexing, and speaks to many groups in the area. She holds bachelor’s degrees from UW in both Zoology and Information Technology & Systems and has completed the ProGen program with an eye toward certification as a professional genealogist.

September 2017 meeting

Breakthroughs and Brickwalls

An open discussion of genealogical road blocks as well as recent breakthroughs.

We'll attempt to provide useful suggestions to get past those research obstacles. We'll also hear about some interesting discoveries.

October 2017 meeting

"Manifest Destiny": Names at Ellis Island
by Joel Weintraub

Joel Weintraub, emeritus Biology Professor at California State University, long-time genealogist and volunteer at the National Archives and Records Administration, will present his latest talk.

Ellis Island, the main immigration station into the U.S., was most active from 1892 through 1924, with about 70% of immigrants to the U.S. passing through there. Prof. Weintraub will discuss the history of the Island including the Wall of Honor, and show the Ship Manifest forms of the US Immigration Service. The pressures of the "Great Migration" eventually led to immigration quotas and he will talk about how this affected the Island. He will debunk the persistent myth of name changes at Ellis Island. Twenty percent of immigrants ended up on detention sheets, and he will reveal where those can be found. Finally, with case studies, he will show us how to use all five of the ship name indexes.

November 2017 meeting

The Cemetery Project

For the November JGSBC meeting, we will be discussing a new cemetery project. Schara Tzedeck Cemetery is undertaking a project similar to the last one, to trace the families of people who bought or reserved grave plots and then moved away or for other reasons never used them -- could just be an outbreak of immortality! If we get information in time, we can dig in (as it were) at the meeting -- bring your laptop, if you have one.

We can also discuss ongoing genealogy puzzles, if time permits.

Annual General Meeting - December 2017

Notice to All Members:

The JGSBC will hold its annual General Meeting on December 5, 2017 at 7:30 pm at Temple Sholom, 7190 Oak Street, Vancouver, BC. All members in good-standing (dues paid for 2017/2018) will be eligible to vote.

The meeting will be followed by our annual Channukah party.

January 2018 meeting

The CAROs of Chodziesen, Newcastle, Melbourne and Auschwitz
Stephen Falk

Stephen will give a presentation about a tracking down a lost branch of his father's CARO family from Chodziesen, a town in Prussia, with diversions to mid 19th century England and Australia, and with a particular focus on the compelling story of a new "half" second cousin twice removed caught up in the Shoah.

February 2018 meeting

Maximizing the Treasures of the JRI-Poland Database
How One genealogist prepared for trips to Poland, Ukraine and Belarus using the Website.
by Robinn Magid

Come learn about the best ways to use the database at to expand your research for Polish, Galicianer and even Belarussian research from a veteran user of this special collection of information. This presentation will feature stories and examples from 23 years of experience volunteering to help others with the vital records found in the Polish State Archives today. Examples will include Robinn's recent experiences at a Reunion in Poland for the descendants of the Jews of Lublin, and suggestions for preparation for a trip to this year's IAJGS Warsaw Conference.

Robinn Magid is a long-time board member of JRI-Poland and an active member of the San Francisco Bay Area JGS. Robinn serves as the lead co-chair of the forthcoming IAJGS conference.

Robinn recently received a medal from the mayor of Lublin, Poland, her grandmother's hometown, for her work to develop and inspire the cultural identity of the city upon the occasion of its 700th birthday. She has traced her family in Lublin into the early 1700's so far.

April 2018 meeting

Online Doesn’t Mean Free: Copyright Issues for Genealogy
Janice M. Sellers
Ancestral Discoveries

Janice Sellers, a cousin of member Esther Weinstein, will give a presentation on the effect of copyright law (and abiding by it) on genealogy research -- issues to watch out for, and how to do it right.

Janice Sellers is a professional genealogist (, who specializes in Jewish, black and forensic genealogy, and the use of archival newspapers for genealogy research. She edits two genealogy publications: "ZichronNote", the journal of the San Francisco Bay Area Jewish Genealogical Society (SFBAJGS); and "The California Nugget" from the California Genealogical Society. She is the programming and publicity director for SFBAJGS, and a board member of AAGSNC and the California State Genealogical Alliance. She has been on the staff of an LDS Family History Center since 2000; currently at the FHC in Gresham, Oregon.