The Museum of Family History
Comes to Bialystok, Poland
Thomas Jefferson High School Yearbook Project
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The Museum of Family History Comes to Bialystok,
The Museum of Family
History will be making a special appearance in
Bialystok, Poland beginning September 4, 2009. At
this time an exhibition will open, the first in a
series entitled "Prominent Artists--Our Neighbors.
Max Weber was a well-known Jewish artist (born in
Bialystok) who studied under Henris Matisse and
Rousseau. Weber painted in a variety of styles; at
times he painted wonderful works with a variety
Jewish themes, usually religious.
Currently, the English version of this exhibition is
available for viewing at the Museum of Family
History as part of the "Great Artists Series," which
is designed to honor "Jewish artists whose
contribution to the world were extraordinary in
terms of both the scope and quality of their work."
Also, the Series features exhibitions about other
Jewish "artists" such as the immortal Al Jolson
(highly recommended), tenor and chazzan Richard
Tucker (hear Tucker sing "Nessun Dorma" and "Vesti
la giubba", Yiddish playwright Dovid Pinski, and
Yiddish acting great Maurice Schwartz.
What will be shown to those who attend the Bialystok
exhibition will most likely be the same online
exhibition currently available on the Museum's
website, the only difference being that the text on
each page will be in Polish and not in English.
It should also be noted that the current English
version has sound clips on every page, i.e. you will
have the option to either listen to the text on each
of the exhibition's web pages, or read the text.
This won't be the case at the Bialystok exhibition
where only the Polish text will be available.
The English version of the Max Weber exhibition
(entitled "Max Weber: Reflections of Jewish Memory
in Modern American Art") can be found at
The Museum's Great Artists Series can be found at
From this link you can access the other
aforementioned exhibitions in this series.
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Family History Floor Maps
The Museum's four floor maps are not
available for viewing online. Remember that they are
works-in-progress, and there will be more or less material
within each section or room, but it is there for your
perusal nevertheless. Please take the time to enjoy the
interactivity of the maps and follow the Museum's blog for
the most current updates on what's new at the Museum.
The virtual (Internet-only) Museum of Family
History is not a museum simply because it calls itself one.
Though it’s not a museum in the physical sense, its aim is
to create an illusion that gives one the feeling of being in
a "real" museum. It importantly must stir the imagination of
the museum “visitor”! The idea of having a museum dedicated
to our Jewish families and culture is quite an appealing
one, especially since it is a museum that is uniquely
inclusive. To be most successful, its development must
involve many others who wish to do their part to preserve
the history of our Jewish families and traditions.
To locate material of interest to you within
the Museum’s website, you may simply use the Museum’s
Google-powered search engine, located at the top of many of
the Museum's web pages. In this way, one can find most
anything that is available within the Museum. To this point,
most “visitors” navigate the Museum’s website simply by
visiting its Site Map page. However, there is now yet
another way to travel about and discover what the Museum has
Have you ever visited a museum website and
seen its floor plans? These plans are most often interactive
maps that show you graphics of their museum's different
floors and the rooms located on each of them. You will be
able to click on any of the rooms or groups of rooms,
and by doing so learn a bit about what is displayed within
these rooms, so that when you visit the museum you will know
ahead of time some of what you wish to see.
At the Museum of Family History, even though
there is not an actual physical site to visit, within the
next few months, there will be several floor plans for
you to use. I am delighted from time to time when someone
writes to me, saying they will be in New York City at such
and such a time and would like to visit my museum and how
can they join, where is it located and what are its hours?
Don’t I wish!
The Museum floor plans are always evolving
and will change from time to time as the content
increases or changes. Currently there are three floors to
the virtual Museum of Family History, as well as an outdoor
Much of the first (main) floor is devoted to
Jewish life in Europe at any time before, during or
immediately after World War II, as well as the subject of
immigration. There are also a number of exhibitions, a
lecture hall and the Museum's Education and Research Center.
There are two foot bridges that span a small body of water
(symbolizing the crossing of the Atlantic Ocean from Europe
to one's foreign destination). There is the Family History
Theatre where one may ascend a spiraling ramp within a
darkened space and see and hear samplings of audio and video
that one can experience more fully within a specified
location within the Museum. The ramp extends through three
floors, ending at the Museum's Roof Garden.
On the first floor, one
may also board a "people mover" that simulates a tram as it
passes through the city, perhaps even through the Warsaw
ghetto. One looks out onto the facades of some typical
buildings, e.g. a Yiddish theatre, a synagogue, apartment
and office buildings, and shops. One can view film clips of
pre-war Europe or see photographs of pre-war buildings, or
perhaps even hear the sounds of the city through the use of
earphones and digital devices. One can then descend this
tram, to see and hear more through the use of touch screens,
even wander through the rest of the Museum. Lastly, there is
the Virtual Market Square, where one may hear the voices of
people talking in their native language, both among each
other or perhaps with shopkeepers. The first floor even
contains a restaurant where delicious kosher dinners are
served. What is actually available to the Museum visitor are
a series of dinner menus that one may peruse and imagine
that one is actually in the restaurant, wishing to order a
delicious kosher meal.
(upper) floor is devoted mostly to Jewish life in America.
There are many exhibitions on display here for the museum
visitor to view. Instead of the Warsaw tram, the people
mover takes the form of an "elevated subway," passing
buildings that may have existed on the Lower East Side of
Manhattan, or within nearby Brooklyn, New York. These
buildings include a synagogue, a tenement, a sweat shop, a
public school, and a movie theatre. Instead of a virtual
market square, there is the Jewish neighborhood where one
may listen once again to neighbors talking, to people doing
business, to families sitting down for a holiday or Shabbos
dinner. The restaurant on the upper floor is the "Gut Essen
Delicatessen," where one may order from a wide assortment of
lunch and dessert items. Between divisions of this floor
lies an art gallery and promenade, where selected Jewish
artists may display their works of art (not to sell, just to
show). Many of the exhibitions on this floor have to do with
pre-war Europe and will be most interesting to visit.
(middle) floor is devoted to the “Yiddish world.” Its
content deals mostly with the creative and cultural
contributions Jews have made to the world over the past two
hundred years and the once vibrant Second Avenue of the
Lower East Side of New York.
outside the Museum and adjoining it is a music pavilion
where video clips of performances in English, Yiddish and
other languages, will be made available. These performances
will appear to originate from the Music Pavilion stage under
the stars. Currently you can see and hear the immortal Al
Jolson performing four songs (from 1948 during his audition
for “Jolson Sings Again”). There is, of course, a floor plan
for the Pavilion too, replete with a seating chart and
is so much to see at the Museum of Family History. When you
use these interact floor maps you must have an open mind.
Most of all, you must come with your imagination ready to
You can access all floor
plans from any of the floor plans themselves. Please begin
with the Main Floor map by clicking
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Thomas Jefferson High School Yearbook Project
Why could yearbooks be a
useful to you as a genealogical tool? Now that data entry
has been done for more than sixty yearbooks and forty
thousand Seniors/graduates from Thomas Jefferson High School
in Brooklyn, New York, I can make some suggestions.
First, let me say that the type of data that is available
within a yearbook may vary from school to school or at a
single school from year to year. These yearbooks not only
have photos of most all the Seniors for that graduating
class, but also they have photos and text of the school's
activities, sports programs and participants, and may even
have student literature within their pages. One may even
derive a sense of the mindset of the high school student (as
well as the principal and faculty) during these mostly
interesting years of the twentieth century. There may be
discussions relating to the Great Depression, the second
World War (and some of the students who enlisted in the
Service), and even about the nifty sixties.
So genealogically speaking, what information may be
available? Generally, the least useful information to us
should be what clubs or organizations or sports the graduate
was involved in, but it still might be interesting if you
find a family member among the grads. Every bit of
information is simply a piece of the puzzle. Not only may
one use the searchable database to find the photograph of
the graduate, but one can even browse any yearbook from
front to back.
Obviously finding a surname of interest is important. You
might know that a family member lived somewhere in the New
York City area at a certain time, but have no idea where.
You cannot find the surname in a census report, a city
directory, don't have access to a city telephone book, etc.,
so having a yearbook, or better yet, a searchable database
where one can search for a name, could be a wonderful
What many of you probably are unaware of is that many of the
yearbooks have the home addresses of the Senior listed with
their name, next to their Senior photo. Out of the sixty-two
books I've scanned for Thomas Jefferson High School in
Brooklyn, New York, there are addresses for the students who
graduated from 1931 to 1936 and from 1946 to 1960. This
amounts to more than 22,000 names with home addresses.
Just imagine that you find a name of interest that has a
home address attached to it. By using the address found on
the searchable database, you could then look up the address
in whatever city or federal censuses are available to you
online, and if successful you can learn then more about the
family, etc. My Thomas Jefferson High School database starts
with the 1927 (the first graduating class) yearbook. So one
could use an address found in one of these yearbooks to
search a 1925, 1935 or the eventual 1945 Federal Censuses,
not to mention any city censuses , directories, phone books,
or other address-based online records that are available.
Also listed alongside the Senior's/graduate's name, besides
their home address and photo, may be their "ambition." Also,
there may be a listing of what college they were planning on
attending. This then offers up even more possibilities for
Another good aspect of this type of database is that one can conduct a search
simply by last name or by home address or just the street.
Maybe you know that your great uncle's family once lived on
Hinsdale Street in Brooklyn. You can simply search under
"Hinsdale Street" without entering any other info, or you
can add a surname. You will then be able to see the names
all the Seniors who lived on that street during that time
(and probably before that time and perhaps after their
graduation) with a certain surname. This is, of course, only
for those graduates whose home addresses are listed.
More yearbooks from Thomas Jefferson High School will be
added in the near future. I hope you will find the database
You will find the
introductory page to the Thomas Jefferson High School
Yearbook Project at
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The Museum of Family History Becomes a Member of the
Association of Holocaust Organizations (AHO):
The Museum of Family History is pleased to
announce that it has been accepted as a member of the AHO, i.e. the Association
of Holocaust Organizations. The AHO has, as its members, over two hundred and
eighty organizations, including the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and
the Museum of Jewish Heritage.
According to the AHO, The Association of Holocaust Organizations was established
in 1985 to serve as an international network of organizations and individuals
for the advancement of Holocaust education, remembrance and research.
The AHO website can be found at www.ahoinfo.org.
Founder and Director
Museum of Family History