“How absolutely terrifying.”
“I have found what I was looking for.”
Dr. David B. Goldstein from Duke's Institute for Genome Sciences and Policy talks about tracking the genetic history of the ancient Jewish priesthood (kohanim) and the Lost Tribes of Israel, the focus of his news book, "Jacob's Legacy"
When Cameron Kerry fell in love with Oak Park, Mich., native Kathy Weinman, he chose to convert from Catholicism to Judaism.
Little did he know that he already had a strong Jewish connection. His father's parents were Jewish -- a fact uncovered last year when the Boston Globe hired a genealogist to check into the family roots of his brother, John Kerry, the Democratic presidential frontrunner thought by many to be of Irish background.
The Kerry family was traced back to a small town in the Austrian empire, now part of the Czech Republic. There, the paper discovered that before immigrating to America, the Kerrys changed their name from Kohn and converted from Judaism to Catholicism.
"In this fast-food, fast-fame world, we are like single blades of grass," says Dr. Maya Angelou, the poet, author and historian.
Seven years ago, Montreal businessman Stan Diamond arranged to index the Jewish records of his ancestral town of Ostrow Mazowiecka, Poland, because he wanted to trace the path of a rare genetic condition within his family tree.
They appear on a postcard with the romantic look of a turn-of-the-century Victorian family, although their names are anything but Victorian. Hyman, Manya, Slava, Nathan, Clara and Berra (later Ben) Chernoy all posed for the picture around 1905, looking young and fair and without any realization that their journey from Russia to America would have such lifesaving consequences for the next generation. But they left one strange legacy, an inscription on the back of the postcard which read "When I will die, when I will be no more, when my bones in the earth will crumble, you will remember me. When all people forget me, you will remember me."
It took eight decades for one of their descendants, genealogy enthusiast Lori Miller, to get their poetic declaration translated and another 10 years to track down and spread the news to the rest of the family. Thus on Sunday, May 19, the descendants of those six Chernoy siblings gathered to honor that inscription.
It's virtually "genealogy for dummies."
In a nation of immigrants where more than 35 percent of the population -- or 100 million Americans -- have at least one relative who passed through Ellis Island, officials at that historic entry point to New York have unveiled a new Web site that will enable even the least tech-savvy to mine a mother lode of information on their families' roots.
A name and date in a yellowing ledger. An inscription on a crumbling tombstone. A birth certificate. A walk along a dusty street in an Eastern European village. A faded family photograph. Sometimes a newly discovered relative.