A personal quest led Judi Gyori Missel into the field of genealogy and now she is taking the skills she has learned to help others fill in their family trees.
Starting March 6, Missel will teach a four-week course at the East Valley JCC called “Learn About Jewish Genealogy.”
Missel ventured into genealogy as a way to discover her family’s fate during and after the Shoah.
“My parents were both born in Budapest, Hungary,” Missel said. “My mother survived Auschwitz and my father survived slave labor in the Hungarian Battalions. All of my grandparents were murdered in the camps. About 30 years ago, I discovered that looking into the records left by my ancestors could provide me with the details of their lives that my parents either forgot or never knew. I needed to find these answers for myself and genealogy provided me the means to get them.”
This is the first time Missel has taught a course on genealogy, but she has mentored and taught individuals and one-time classes about Jewish genealogy for years. She has also done research for a range of Jewish and non-Jewish clients, from Mayflower families to Native Americans. She recently spoke at the International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies Conference in Warsaw.
Over her years of helping others, Missel has found that Jewish interest in genealogy often has its roots in the Holocaust.
“Jews are looking to learn what small town their families came from and when that first family member arrived in America,” she said “Also, often they are looking for relatives that might have survived the Shoah, but no one knows what happened to them. In my own family, I found a third cousin I never knew existed by using DNA results. Her family left Hungary for Australia in 1939 and my father never knew about that part of his family. Finding living relatives is an wonderful bonus.”
The EVJCC decided to hold the course after seeing how popular the genealogy sessions were at its Klezmer Fest in January, said EVJCC CEO Rabbi Michael Beyo.
His goal is to offer a
step-by-step guide to those interested in researching their family’s history.
“With more genealogy databases and records becoming available online in recent years, this class is geared to help people navigate this information,” Beyo said. “When a person learns about their own family’s history, it strengthens their connection to the past and the world around them. We look forward to help facilitate these connections.”
Missel said there are three main areas of focus in genealogy studies. The first requires a person to think about the questions they have about their family. Second, a person has to learn how to use the many resources available both online and in person to look for the answers to their questions. And third, they must learn a software program to help keep track of all the information they have uncovered.
“I have always felt that genealogy is really a gigantic jigsaw puzzle and the genealogist’s job is to fit the right pieces into your family’s puzzle,” she said. “Everything from family stories that seem improbable to odd records in an archive might be relevant; you just never know. You must discard your preconceived notions of how your family spelled their name and where they told you they were from. You must be open to all possibilities.
“So keep records of everything you find, because someday it may be just the puzzle piece you need.” JN
For more information or to register for classes, call 480-897-0588 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.