The Lifelong Learning Committee of Temple Judea recently hosted a guest speaker, Nolan Altman, who gave a fascinating report on genealogy through reading gravestones. Altman is an expert in his field having discovered much background information during his quest for a family history in 1996.
During his quest, he discovered that family headstones can be the source of much information, including members of his family that he didn’t even know he had. Jewish headstone inscriptions and burial records can provide crucial information to family historians. Hebrew name inscriptions that are based on patronymics, which is a name derived from the name of a father or ancestor, typically by the addition of a prefix or suffix, can link together two generations of Hebrew names unlike any other source document. He also found that the headstones, with a little research, can present much more information such as the country of birth, sometimes even cities and towns, of long-gone family members. It was at that time that he got “bitten” by the genealogy bug. Altman is now an active member of the Jewish Genealogical Society of Long Island and is its former president.
During his presentation, Altman, using photos and case studies, explained the symbols and details found on headstones and described how this information can provide important data and context for family research. His enthusiasm led many of the congregants to be inspired to try to discover hidden facts about their own families from headstones. It was truly a pleasure to not only hear his fascinating revelations, but to have him explain through slides of actual headstones, how a trove of information can be derived from them.
Temple Judea (Reform) is located at 333 Searingtown Rd., Manhasset, (exit 36 on LIE) and can be reached at 516-621-8049 or www.temple-judea.com. New members are always welcome to participate and enjoy the benefits of a lively and active community temple.
—Submitted by Temple Judea