RootsTech 2014

Some people eat, sleep and chew gum, I do genealogy and write...

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

What are Crypto-Judaic Studies?

I am back at the International Association of Jewish Genealogy Societies (IAJGS) Conference in Salt Lake City, Utah for the second day. Most of my day will be spent helping out at the Utah Genealogical Association table in the Exhibitors Section of the Conference. Before the Exhibit floor opens, I have an opportunity to attend one class since the classes begin at 7:30 am. The class is entitled, "Crypto-Judaic Studies Panel, Part 1." It looks like I will miss part two. I must admit, I choose this presentation because I wanted to find out about the topic. So, what are crypto-Judaic studies? The presentation is being moderated by my fellow blogger, Schelly Talalay Dardashti. Here is the class description from the Conference:
This panel will bring together leaders in the field, as it raises awareness of specific issues. Panelists will include moderator Schelly Talalay Dardashti (Society for CryptoJudaic Studies board member), Genie Milgrom (JGS of Miami president Society for CryptoJudaic Studies vice president), Art Benveniste (JGSLA, Society for CryptoJudaic Studies treasurer), and Bennett Greenspan ( CEO/president). Other panel participants will be added as confirmed.
Essentially, as I found out, the Cryto-Jews are explained as follows from the presentation handout:
While most crypto-Jewish communities are generally related to the Iberian Inquisition and the terrible events of 1391 and 1492, there are groups in other countries with no connection to Spain, such as the Mashadi community of Iran.
Part of the explanation also comes from the Society for Crypto Judaic Studies which states:
The Society for Crypto-Judaic Studies (SCJS) fosters the research of the historical and contemporary development of crypto-Jews of Iberian origin. Additionally, it provides a venue for the descendants of crypto-Jews, scholars, and other interested parties to network and discuss pertinent issues. The society was founded 1991 by Rabbi Joshua Stampfer of Portland, Oregon; Dr. Stanley Hordes of Santa Fe, New Mexico; and playright Rena Down of New York City.
These are Jews of sephardic origin who have practiced their religion and culture in secret due to persecution. Wikipedia defines crypto-judaism as follows:
Crypto-Judaism is the secret adherence to Judaism while publicly professing to be of another faith; practitioners are referred to as "crypto-Jews" (origin from Greek kryptos - κρυπτός, 'hidden'). The term crypto-Jew is also used to describe descendants who maintain some Jewish traditions of their ancestors while publicly adhering to other faiths. The term is especially applied historically to European Jews who professed Catholicism.[1][2][3][4][5] The phenomenon is especially associated with early modern Spain, following the expulsion of the Jews in 1492.[6] 
I left in all of the links to the sources.

Genealogical research in this community is difficult due to its secretive nature. The Sephardim are defined in a blog post entitled, "What do we mean by the term, "Sephardim." Here is the explanation:
Spanish Jews are called Sephardim; the singular is "Sephardi." The Hebrew "sephardi" or "sepharadi" refers either to a single Spanish Jew, or is used as an adjective meaning pertaining to the Sephardim. For example, Moses Maimonides (1135-1204) called himself Moses… the Sephardi. "Sephardic" is used in English as an adjective, not a noun: someone may be Sephardic, but the people should be called "Sephardim" rather than "Sephardics;" 
Up to the fifteenth century, "Sephardi" was used primarily to refer to the Jewish community in the Iberian peninsula itself, or to someone who was born there. Thus Maimonides called himself "the Sephardi," but his son Abraham, born in Egypt, did not. This changed in the fifteenth and especially sixteenth centuries, primarily as a result of the expulsion of the Jews from the Iberian Peninsula.
If you are interested in pursuing this subject, you should begin by subscribing to the JewishGen website.  If you suspect that you have a Crypto-Jewish heritage, you also might want to investigate the JewishGen Sephardic SIG. See also

Monday, July 28, 2014

Online Digital Newspaper Collections by State -- The Lists by State

Thanks for your patience with this post. I had a trip to Canada and Alaska in the middle of writing this series and then a move to Provo, Utah and got behind. Now to the list of online digital newspaper collections by states. Here is the list (finally) bear in mind that this list is not intended to be comprehensive. I am still working on the list, but here it is through New Hampshire. I will continue to update the list until it is finished, so check back.

Anyway, I doubt that a comprehensive list could be accurate because of the constant changes. The longer I looked for content the more I found. Some of the websites still had microfilm content, but if there was no other digital online content, I listed the microfilm repositories.

Remember that there may be collections of newspapers from any particular state in the general links I had in my previous post introducing the links to the state collections. See Online Digital Newspaper Collections by State -- The Lists Introduced. I suggest that most of the states are in the midst of finishing paper collections, expanding microfilm collections or digitizing existing collections. I have included some statewide efforts even though there is no evidence that the newspapers in question are available online as yet. There may be more than one link to the digital collections since I found that there were other valuable resources listed in different places.

By the way, here are a few more national or regional sources for newspapers online:
American Samoa
District of Columbia
New Hampshire
New Jersey
New Mexico
New York
North Carolina
North Dakota
Northern Marianas Islands
Puerto Rico

Rhode Island
South Carolina
South Dakota
Virgin Islands
West Virginia

Sharing genealogy online with family trees

In continuing the presentations at the International Association of Jewish Genealogy Societies Conference in Salt Lake City, Utah concluded on Monday, 28 July, 2014 with a panel discussion entitled, "Internet Collaboration: How Do We Share Our Family Trees Online?" This presentation was described as follows:
Genealogists learn most when we collaborate and share information with others. At the start of organized Jewish genealogy, Gary Mokotoff created the Family Finder and the Family Tree of the Jewish People, and we shared our family trees via photocopies. A little later, we exchanged GEDCOM files on floppy disks. Today, we primarily share online either via or on countless stand-alone, family-managed and moderated websites. This panel assembles three experience genealogists who have written widely, and often intently, discussed articles on the topic over the past year, with the goal of developing ideas to bridge the gap between the collaborative and the family-website models. Adam Brown will discuss the collaborative model; Israel Pickholtz will present the family-managed and moderated model; Gary Mokotoff will ofter a plan that combines the advantages of each model. Sallyann Amdur Sack-Pikus will moderate. Audience participation will be encouraged.
If you read my blog posts regularly, you probably recognize that I am clearly in the collaborative camp and I am advocate of Family Tree. None of the panelists suggested using FamilySearch Family Tree. All of the participants were well versed in genealogy and in the nature and use of online family trees. I reviewed the handouts and listened carefully to the presentations from each of the participants.

Israel Pickholtz summarizes each of the positions in his blog post "Genealogy as a Quilting Bee, Maintaining the Integrity of the Database."

There were three different viewpoints expressed:

  • Traditional Genealogy Model
  • Collaborative Family Tree Model
  • Family-managed Family Tree
It appears to me that there were some basic assumptions made about how online family trees function in the genealogical community and how a unified family tree should or does function. I agree with much of what each side of this issue has to say. But I believe there is a fourth possibility, I would add a unified family tree based on the moderated wiki model. I think the differences in the approach to online family trees stems primarily from different expectations and goals of the researchers and contributors. 

As much as any other genealogist, I have been aggravated by sloppy, poorly documented, copied without review, multiple family trees in a variety of websites. It further seemed to me that some of the concerns with a unified family tree model arise from actual or imagined issues with conflicts and controversies between family members. 

Because I will be here at the Conference for the rest of the week. I will take an opportunity after the Conference to elaborate on this subject. If you have a strong opinion on this subject, one way or another, you are welcome to write you opinion in a comment or in your own blog and comment on the link to your post. I will then considered all of the information received in my more in depth blog post.

IAJGS Conference -- A Short Course in Hebrew

It never hurts to learn a little bit more than you already know. I took a couple of years of Hebrew language while at the University of Utah. So, I was interested in getting the genealogical perspective on my rusty old Hebrew. So I decided to go to the class entitled, "A Very Short Course in Hebrew for Family Researchers" by Vivian Kahn and Rony Golan. I used to verify book orders in Hebrew for the University of Utah Library when I worked as a bibliographer. OK, so there is a connection and now I am doing genealogy and may have the need to look into records that are in Hebrew characters or script. I am privileged to have the opportunity to expand my research capabilities and go back to my early linguistic roots.

There are two basic kinds of Hebrew letters: DFUS and KTAV. DFUS are the printed or block letters on headstones and formal documents. KTAV is the cursive or handwritten letters. I have only the briefest knowledge of Hebrew cursive since my studies primarily were focused on Biblical Hebrew. If you need more information see the following:

IAJGS Conference -- Day One (for me)

The International Association of Jewish Genealogy Societies Conference starts for me on Monday morning at 4:40 am as I get ready to go on the FrontRunner Train from Provo to Salt Lake City. Actually, this process goes extremely well and I am able to use the WiFi on the train to work during the trip to Salt Lake. This is much better than sitting in traffic on the Freeway. Also, no parking problems or cost. Double benefit.

The first class of the day is my friend, Daniel Horowitz, from His presentation is entitled, "The Jews who left Spain and their genealogy." Now, why am I here. I frequently do Latin American and Spanish research. I also speak Spanish fluently. That alone is enough to be here. Here is a description of Daniel's presentation from the IAJGS website:
Since the destruction of the second temple in Jerusalem in the year 70 d.e.c., Jews have moved all across the world chased by the enemy. In every place they were forced to embrace local customs and behave according to other people laws. This was not different for Jews expelled from Spain in 1492. This lecture will take us on a virtual journey in time and space looking at Jewish names and how they changed as Jews moved from place to place. Come and learn the origin of your relatives’ last names, the reasons for these names and in many cases, the trips and clues they can provide for your family research.
 This is a very good review of Jewish surnames and the history of the Jews in Spain. Here is one question, why would you want to know this information assuming your family did not come from Spain? Or were Jewish? The answer to this question is not simple. As I have said many times before, genealogy is genealogy. There is always the possibility that something I learn will help with the research I have in some entirely seemingly unrelated area.

Back to Daniel's presentation. Very interesting to find out the number of Jewish surnames of the crews of the three ships taken by Columbus to America. It is interesting, as Daniel points out, that Columbus left Spain exactly at the time the Jews were ordered out of Spain by the Spanish rulers. The story of the movement of the Jews is shown by the changing surnames as they moved from country to country.

Take a lesson from this. Showing the history of Jewish surnames is similar to the same history of surnames in general throughout Europe and elsewhere. This is important history to understanding early genealogy. It is interesting to see the earliest dates that surnames began to be used or were mandated by the ruler or rulers in any given country. See Wikipedia: Family name for an introduction and some links. For Jewish surnames see How the Jews Got Their Last Names see also Wikipedia: Jewish surname.

Web Basics for Genealogists -- String Searches

A string, in computer language, is a sequence of characters. If you need an example of this, try searching for random sets of characters on Google. You will soon see that the Google search engine (as do many others) will find any set of characters in any text online. For a further example, here is a screenshot of a search on "xyz123:"

This result should suggest that using Google to do searches for names and places for genealogical research would be profitable. In fact, it is. I usually suggest that people look for names and places and any other information about their ancestors. Since the number of websites for any given search is effectively infinite (no one has the time to look at every single results of a general search), you never know what you will find. You search for names by putting the search terms in quotation marks, like this: "John Doe." You can add qualifying terms such as a location, occupation etc. There is no need to put in a "+" sign between terms. Google assumes concatenation.

In a previous post, I discussed searching in a catalog. The differences between a catalog search and a string search are significant. A catalog is an arbitrary scheme of organization into categories. Further organization is usually accomplished by organizing the items in alphanumeric order. Online catalogs are usually a hybrid between a string search and subject headings. It is sometimes difficult to tell whether or not the string search applies to the entire catalog or only to the presently selected catalog area.

Some people assume that a string search is automatically superior to any possible catalog system. Unfortunately, this is not the case. Successful string searches depend entirely on ability of the researcher to "guess" words or character strings (mixtures of words and numbers) that can be found in the target document. In addition, general searches, such as searching for a very common name, can return an overwhelming number of results. The ability to guess the right search terms is a skill that is acquired by searching over an over again.

To illustrate the difference between a string search and a catalog search, I will use a hypothetical search for an ancestor with with a relatively common name. Let's assume that you have identified at least one place where an event occurred in your ancestor's life. This step is necessary because otherwise either type of search, a string search or a catalog search, will be unproductive. Without the anchor of a geographic location, it is nearly impossible to distinguish between individuals of the same or very similar name. OK. so now you start your search. The catalog search will likely produce a series of documents or collections of documents that relate to the place you identified. You will then search in the individual collections for your ancestor.

Now, let's suppose that you simple use a string search, without the benefit of the organization of documents imposed by a cataloging system. You are at the mercy of the documents. If the any document has the name of the individual you are searching for and the place, then it could be found by a string search. You should also remember that the string search will not find the content of images, whereas a catalog system may identify documents that are only available as images. Are all the contents of the catalogs subject to string searches? Unfortunately, not. Most entities such as libraries, do not allow access to their data storage to Google or anyone else.

Is this an either/or situation? Not really. A reasonably comprehensive search or exhaustive search would require a search online with a search engine such as Google, but would also require a search of the contents of any relevant repositories. Sometimes neither method is adequate and it is necessary to do a physical or manual search of the contents of any given repository. For example, if I am researching at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah, I will commonly go to the shelves and look at every single item on the shelves for an entire state to make sure I am not missing something that may contain the information I am seeking.

It is also important to remember that much of the world's genealogical information is not yet online or is still locked up in images and that there is no substitute for pursuing research on location.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Off to the IAJGS Conference in Salt Lake City, Utah

As I mentioned in previous posts, courtesy of the IAJGS, I will be attending the Conference the next five days in Salt Lake City, Utah. I plan to travel to Salt Lake from Provo on the FrontRunner train. I will see how that works out. If I drive, it takes about an hour or so with parking and all, I can ride the train and not have a parking issue and work while I am on the train (hopefully). I am not really aware of some of the logistics of the Conference so that part of the experience will probably be an adventure. One thing in my favor is that I very well acquainted with downtown Salt Lake and should have no trouble in that regard.

I am certainly looking forward to saying hello to friends at the Conference and making some new ones. If any of you were wondering if I would get involved in genealogy after my move to Utah and particularly to Provo, I can set your minds at ease, I will be just as busy or busier here in Utah than I was in Arizona.

I hope to blog regularly about the Conference. Depending on the WiFi availability, I may be writing at the conference and then posting when I get a connection.

A Short Note on Spam Comments

Comments are, for the most part, very helpful to bloggers and especially to genealogy bloggers. I read an think about every comment. If there is an issue, I try to respond, at least with an acknowledgement that I saw the comment. But recently, we are getting a whole new category of comments, "spam comments." These comments are purposely deceptively complimentary. They usually tell how wonderful the post is and then leave a long or short link or mention of an unrelated business entity. It is getting to the point that if I see anything complimentary that is not very specific about a post, I immediately assume it is spam. I try to delete all of these before they are published, but some are harder to detect than others. Many times the effusive nature of these spam comments does not match the content of the post at all.

My suggestion is that we unitedly, as bloggers, delete all such comments before they are published. We can use any number of systems for reviewing all comments before they are published and making those who comment prove they are human, but what it comes down to is that the comments should not be allowed to go online.

It is my nature, in an event, when someone starts complementing me, I immediately suspect something. This is probably a conditioned reflex from practicing law for nearly 40 years, but it keeps me from getting too carried away with my own importance. As I get effusive and complimentary comments, I always remind myself, being thought important in genealogy is like being the Mayor of Nutrioso, Arizona, a title and not much more (my apologies to the real mayor of Nutrioso, Arizona if there is one).

Where does the antagonism against the big genealogy websites come from?

I suppose this should really be a post on psychology not genealogy, but I am the one stuck with the brunt of the antagonism against the large online genealogy websites. If I am out and about, teaching classes and helping people with their genealogy, I get an almost constant negative stream of comments about the larger genealogy companies. It would not be so noticeable if it were not so constantly repetitious.  The complaints seem to fall into categories, so I will discuss the main categories I detect. Some of the criticism is so contradictory as to be ridiculous, but some of the comments reflect some of my own feelings (maybe I need the psychology also).

Complaints about the inability to "find" what researchers are looking for are the most common. There seems to be an underlying assumption here that because they are big, they should have every record. If the researcher fails to find the specific record they are searching for, it is not their own fault for failing to search properly, but the fault of the website for "not having the record." It never seems to occur to the complainers that the record may be missing or never applied to their ancestor. This common complaint seems to be consistent with a general societal feeling of entitlement. It is as if they feel they have a right to find the record and the failure of the website to instantly provide what they want at that moment is a violation of their right to entitlement. How dare the websites make them think and search further!

This complaint of entitlement blends into a complaint that the websites change too frequently. I still get comments to old blog posts complaining about the demise of the old, old, website or the loss of the old search engine used by This would seem to come with the demographics of the genealogy community of an older, very conservative group. But the desire to go back to an old search engine or a very limited old website verge on something more than merely being uncomfortable with change. This complaint brings up the next one, complaints about having to learn yet another program.

It is interesting to me how many negative comments I get about change in general and new programs in particular. Every time there is a round of upgrades, I get the same round of comments. I don't have a clear view of what other countries experience in this regard, but our society seems resistant to change in any form. Genealogists seem to look at changes to websites and programs as threats rather than opportunities. It is as if the need to learn is an imposition. These complaints are focused on the large genealogy companies because this is where the researchers see the most changes. They use these programs the most and therefore are most upset when they change. It is as if they blame the large companies for the changes.

Another dimension of the complaints comes from the size of the big companies. This is especially true of and I find that even if genealogists are familiar with and, they do not see either as being a prominent or big company. In fact, when I teach about for example, those in my class are always very surprised to learn how large and influential this company really is. I got an interesting comment about this past week, when one of the class participants asked why they did not have saturation advertising on TV like if they were so big? It was almost as if the questioner equated advertising with validation.

Then, of course, there are the conspiracists. They think there is a conspiracy around every corner and under every rock. The most common comments I get involve the purchase of one or the other of the large companies. I might say, that this may be one area where anything is possible. I usually get this question about whether is going to buy or the opposite, whether FamilySearch is going to by Ancestry. In that same class this week, I got the question as to whether was going to buy I am not sure where these types of questions come from, but the endless series of acquisitions by the three commercial companies I am sure contributes to this viewpoint.

Among genealogists who use each of the big websites frequently, there are a whole different class of negative comments. These always seem to revolve around one or more features of the programs. The complainers always seem to want some other feature or do not like some feature or another. Sometimes in begin to feel like the cartoon character Lucy, with her booth saying Psychiatric Help 5 cents, and the sign that the doctor is in.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Web Basics for Genealogists -- Catalog Searches

This post is an expansion of some topics I introduced in an earlier post entitled, "Web Basics for Genealogists -- Part Two: Beginning our Understanding of Searches." I decided that each of the different types of searches warranted its own post. This particular post will focus on catalogs and catalog searches. The other two types of searches, wiki and string search, will follow shortly.

Important to know. Most online catalogs are not accessible by a Google search. For example, the entries in the FamilySearch Catalog are searchable by the catalog search, not by Google. This is why this article was written.

If you are old enough, you probably remember working with a "card catalog" made up of drawers of 3x5 or so inch cards in long pull-out drawers. I vaguely remember sitting in the library during high school while the librarian gave us instruction about how to find things in the library. By that time, I had been looking for books in the card catalog since I was about 8 or 9 years old and already knew the subject areas I was interested in reading about. I guess it would make a good story if I could tell about how I was inspired to read and research by a dedicated librarian, but the reality was that they tolerated me and I mostly ignored them. Most of my early library experiences were in the Phoenix Public Library on hot summer days when it was one of the few air conditioned buildings that I could visit on my own without a parent in tow.

Two things about the catalog were easily understood and very apparent, books and other materials were organized by subject and and also alphanumerically. Many years later, I began a job as a bibliographer at the University of Utah Library in Salt Lake City, Utah. As I worked at the library over the next four years, I learned a lot more about library organization and cataloging. I realized that cataloging was partially a science but more of an art. I also found that in a large library, it was easy to discover that books with exactly the same subject matter were cataloged and therefore located physically in different parts of the library. If you really wanted to find books on a specific topic, you "walked the shelves." Walking the shelves consisted of walking slowly along the stacks of books and looking up and down to identify every subject covered and then randomly pulling out books of interest. Since my job was to find books ordered by professors and others, and verify whether or not the books were in the library before they were ordered, we spent a whole lot of time looking at catalogs and books.

I probably spent 20 hours a week or more for years, looking at the library's huge card catalog and other catalog sources such as the National Union Catalog. Here is the description of the NUC from the Library of Congress:
The National Union Catalog (NUC) is a record of publications held in more than eleven hundred libraries in the United States and Canada, including the Library of Congress. Major portions of the NUC are published in two principal series: one covering post-1955 publications and the other pre-1956 imprints. Since 1983, the NUC has been issued on microfiche. The NUC, an author catalog, contains some entries for works in the Library's collections that are not listed in its own general catalogs; consequently, it should be consulted in any thorough examination of the Library's resources.
Now, don't be discouraged. Learning to use catalogs does not involve a lifetime of experience, but it does help to have some experience. I relate my background so you will understand why I would be writing about this kind of subject.

The idea of a catalog is that a collection of information (historically books, manuscripts, periodicals etc.) is organized in some fashion to allow researchers to find what they are searching for. The Dewey Decimal System is one such type of classification. It began back in 1876 and was invented by Melvil Dewey. See Wikipedia: Dewey Decimal Classification.  Now, learning about libraries and cataloging systems is not likely on many people's must learn list, but as genealogists, we actually live and die with catalogs whether we realize their importance or not.

Now fast forward to the present. Many libraries still use the Dewey Decimal classification system. In addition, however, larger libraries are converting to computer-based classification and searching systems. The most prominent of these is the Online Computer Library Center, Inc. or the OCLC. Founded back in 1967, OCLC now operates the online catalog, easiest the largest catalog in the world.

Think for a minute. How many books about genealogy or containing genealogically valuable information have the words "genealogy" or "family history" in their title? Would you be able to identify a valuable genealogy book by the name of its author? How do you know if a book or other publication contains information about your family? In answering all of these questions, we rely on catalogers or people who look at books and tell us what they are about. If you want to know how complicated this can become, you can start by looking at the Library of Congress Classification Outline and then trying to find how genealogy is classified by the Library of Congress. Just so you don't get frustrated, genealogy is classified as "C -- Auxiliary Sciences of History" and the further as "CS -- Genealogy."

When you go to, for example, and then click on the Search link, you will find a further link to the FamilySearch Catalog. You will also see the follow link to the OCLC catalog and the Archive Grid.

Under the explanation about the contents, you will see the link that says, "Learn more about the catalog and how to access materials." How many times have you taken the time to read what they say? The link goes to an article in the FamilySearch Research Wiki entitled, "Introduction to the FamilySearch Catalog." Before you dive in and do another frustrating catalog search, I suggest you read about how the catalog works and what you can expect. The important thing to know about catalogs of all types, is that they require a lot of work from the user before they become very useful.

Every time you go to a website or actually visit a research repository, you are probably depending on some type of catalog to locate what you are searching for. Do you know how each of these catalogs work? Do you usually take some time figuring out how the catalog works before you start searching? How many times do you abandon your search because you can't find anything you think will help your with your research?

Remember, a catalog is an arbitrary organization of its contents. You may or may not find what you are looking for unless you understand how the particular catalog you are searching is organized and how it works. Every time you click on a website and it refers to "search the catalog" you are entering this world of catalogs. Unfortunately, almost every catalog is unique and requires you to learn about how best to use its resources.

The promise is as you keep working with catalogs and searches, the process becomes more familiar, never really easy, but manageable.

First Annual SLIG Colloquium to be Held in January 2015

A colloquium is an academic conference or seminar. SLIG is the Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy sponsored by the Utah Genealogical Association.  The announcement is as follows:
The first annual SLIG Colloquium will be held in January 2015.

This colloquium will consist of the reading and discussion of four papers meant to advance our profession. For example, anything that puts forward a new theory, a new analysis tool, or a new way to look at a genealogical problem. 
The colloquium will be held January 10, 2015, the Saturday before the Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy in Salt Lake City. The event will consist of a networking lunch (prices to be determined) and an evening banquet. The evening banquet will be open to the public and will include a brief overview of the papers presented. 
The papers will be edited and combined into a publication available for purchase through the Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy. This will be an annual event and hope that it aids the genealogy profession by creating a body of advanced literature.

Paper submissions are due to Christy Fillerup no later than October 1st. They will be reviewed by a selection committee and four papers will be chosen for presentation. More than four papers may be chosen for publication.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Old and archaic family relationship terms

The blog had a post entitled "Avuncles and Niblings: Unusual words for the family." The post was taken from another post in the mental_floss blog with the further title of "11 Little-Known Words for Specific Family Members." You might want to test your knowledge on the following words and then go to the articles for the answers:

  • Patruel
  • Avuncle
  • Niblings
  • Fadu
  • Modrige
  • FŒdra
  • Eam
  • Brother-uterine
  • Brother-German
  • Double cousin
  • Machetonim

The post with the longer list makes the observation, more than once, that the words are "not in the dictionary." All of the words except, patruel, do show up in the dictionary. I began to wonder what dictionary they were referring to. The simplest way to to find the meaning of any strange word is to do a Google search using the format: "define [enter the unusual word]." This means if I wanted to know the meaning of patruel, I would type in "define patruel." Doing this takes me to an earlier blog post in blog entitled, Words Gone Wild, with an extensive definition. Other results from this simple search give references to the Oxford English Dictionary (OED), which, by the way is what I would call, The Dictionary. The official OED website is a subscription site, but it is possible that your library subscribes. I don't really think the OED wants individual subscriptions, the price is very high for a dictionary website. By the way, even the Old English term was found instantly by Google. 

If you like books, you can also used two that I found interesting. 

Evans, Barbara Jean. A to Zax: A Comprehensive Dictionary for Genealogists & Historians. Alexandria, VA: Hearthside Press, 1995.


FitzHugh, Terrick V. H. The Dictionary of Genealogy. Totowa, N.J.: Barnes & Noble, 1985.

Oh, the reason the words may not "show up in the dictionary" you might be using is because some of them are really in Latin or Yiddish or Old English or whatever.