When my grandmother passed away in 1994 aged 94 my brothers and I realised that we actually knew very little about our family history and origins – and of course it was now too late to ask questions! However we DID start to research and this coincided with the start of the Internet and the soon-to-be explosion of genealogy online which interested me with my IT background.
What are your specialist areas of interest and why have you chosen them?
My main specialist area is Jewish Genealogy – both Scottish and International. It was an obvious choice as my grandparents and great-grandparents were Jewish immigrants to England and Scotland at the end of the 19th and start of the 20th centuries. For the past 5 years I have been working on a huge project to document every Jew who has ever lived in Scotland. Another specialist area is genealogical online database development – that is my main paid job – I have been developing such databases for over 20 years and indeed developed one of the first if not THE first ever online searchable genealogical database back in 1995.
Your most exciting discovery, either personal or professional?
As well as ‘typical’ genealogical research I also get involved in helping people prove their Jewish ancestry and I also have done a lot of work trying to re-unite families ripped apart by the Holocaust. My most exciting and rewarding experience was in August 2007 when I had a brief chat with a retired Physics Professor from Glasgow University who told me he had lost all of his family in the Holocaust. 12 hours later, after a sleepless night, I arranged for him to speak with his 1st cousin in Israel. Both had in fact survived the War and believed they were the only survivors. This was the first time they had spoken for over 67 years and they met up in person in November 2007 for a family re-union. Sadly the cousin in Israel passed away a few years later but the renewed family connections remain and I am so happy that I managed to help the way I did.
A typical day’s work?
Most days include:
- Ongoing systems monitoring and maintenance
- Development of new searchable databases
- Answering large numbers of emails
- Continuing my Scottish-Jewish research
- Helping researchers with their Jewish Research