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Devera and Michael Witkin recall

By Devera Witkin, April 2018

My husband Michael and I started our genealogical research soon after we retired in mid-1997. When we discovered later on that year that IAJGS would be hosting its 1998 conference in LA, we decided it would be easy (we lived in San Francisco at the time) beneficial for us to attend this conference, since we really knew bubkas about how all the groups we were looking at online interacted, and really, very little about how to do the research in the first place.

What a world we entered the summer of 1998 in LA! We sought out our fellow Litvaks, and found Howard Margol, David Hoffman, Davida Handler, Carol Baker, Harold Rhode, and Judy Baston (who turned out to be our neighbor in San Francisco), among others, all eager for our entry into their world. Because we are Litvaks, there were little disputes everywhere. We never felt more like Litvaks than at that conference. We loved the conference and learned how to actually do our research.

Quickly, not necessarily in this order, Michael and I became District Coordinators of the Panevezys Uyezd Research Group for several years, and I was on the LitvakSIG board. Michael doesn’t remember if he was on the board too! I do remember soon after becoming active that an ALD committee was formed which I joined. I along with other members spent some serious hours organizing data for the ALD, which turned out to be a major feat of LitvakSIG, to the point that we actually won an award at the 2000 Salt Lake City conference, Outstanding Contribution to Jewish Genealogy via the Internet: Litvak SIG for creating the All Lithuania Database. Now, that was a very proud moment for LitvakSIG.

Eventually we moved to NYC, and needed more time to enjoy our new location, so we gradually relinquished our "jobs." We of course still read the LitvakSIG Digest every single day, Michael’s still doing research (I stopped several years ago).

We are honored to have been a part of LitvakSIG from its earlier times. I do wish we had been in on the very earliest times as I remember hearing magnificent stories about the VERY early days of contact with the archivists in Lithuania, when some of the people I mentioned at the beginning actually went to Lithuania for the first time. May the memories of those early Litvaks who have since died be for a blessing.  

about the author
Devera Witkin