Jewish Genealogical Society of Illinois

"Stories about Things I've Learned from Doing Genealogy" by Zalman Usiskin

  • 16 Dec 2018
  • 12:30 PM - 4:00 PM
  • Temple Beth El


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Amateur genealogist Zalman Usiskin will share “Stories about Things I’ve Learned from Doing Genealogy” at the Sunday, Dec. 16, 2018, special luncheon meeting of the Jewish Genealogical Society of Illinois at Temple Beth-El, 3610 Dundee Road, Northbrook, Ill. His presentation starts at 2 p.m.

To order the $10 kosher lunch, either click on the Register button in the box or email us at or call 312-666-0100. Choose from kosher veggie wrap, or tuna salad or turkey sandwiches. Lunch orders are due by Wednesday, Dec. 12, at noon.

Participants are welcome to attend the free presentation without joining the group for lunch. The sandwiches and the JGSI research library and genealogy help desk will be available starting at 12:30 p.m.

Zalman Usiskin, our luncheon speaker, has been interested in the genealogy of the various branches of his family since he was a teenager. Over the years, he has compiled trees on three of his four grandparents with a total of more than 4,800 named relatives. On his paternal great-grandfather’s line he has names of more than 1,000 descendants of Usiskins all over the world but has never been able to definitively verify that any are blood relatives.

Usiskin, born in Chicago, is an emeritus professor of mathematics education at the University of Chicago. In his field, he has given talks in all 50 states and 27 foreign countries and been a major speaker at national and international conferences. This will mark the third time that he has spoken at a JGSI meeting. In 2002, he spoke about writing and distributing a family tree book. In 2015, he gave three examples about putting together genealogical information into a coffee table book for distribution to relatives.

This time, Usiskin will tell a variety of stories that relate to almost anyone doing Jewish genealogy and he will raise interesting questions. Some (not all) of the questions: What original documents can be trusted? How might a person today find cousins from the Pale of Settlement who survived World War II? Can you marry your cousin and, if so, where can you do that? Do we really have as many 3rd and 4th cousins as the DNA companies and their websites suggest? Particularly for us in Illinois, why did so many of our ancestors come to Chicago? Along the way in his talk will be interesting and sometimes poignant stories that underscore why so many of us delve into the genealogy of our families.

While this program is free, those who join the Jewish Genealogical Society of Illinois have access to several valuable members-only resources on the JGSI website. They include video recordings of more than 30 presentations from past JGSI events, valuable informational handouts from past speakers, and access to past Morasha newsletters containing informative articles about Jewish genealogy. To learn more about the benefits of joining the Jewish Genealogical Society of Illinois, go to

At each regular JGSI monthly meeting, a genealogy “help desk” will operate prior to the main program. Member volunteers will access online databases and answer genealogical questions one-on-one for members and visitors as time allows.

The JGSI library has more than 800 volumes of interest to Jewish family historians. Many are available for borrowing by JGSI members for a limited time. All are available for perusing at each regular monthly meeting before the main program begins.

For more information about the Jewish Genealogical Society of Illinois or the JGSI schedule of future events, visit or phone 312-666-0100.

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