Sunday, October 25, 2015

Digital Genealogy and Privacy Issues

For anyone in genealogy who has invited relatives to view their tree online it is likely they have run across a few relatives who were less than pleased with family information being published online. I once had a cousin actually threaten to sue me if I didn't take the tree down (referring to For genealogists who are constantly reaching out to new found relatives this can be even more prevalent, especially if the family being contacted have had identity theft problems.

This summer at the 35th Annual Conference of the International Association for Jewish Genealogical Societies in Jerusalem, Randy Schoenberg presented his lecture "Privacy Issues with Online Family Trees" in which he discusses why there is little to fear when it comes to digital genealogy. He methodically and logically breaks-down the idea of privacy rights and how they apply to genealogy just as they do in every day life. In his introduction Schoenberg states -

"The right to privacy is a relatively recent legal construction, and one that is still evolving. As genealogists, people whose goal is to learn and write about personal details of other people, we often hear complaints about invasion of privacy. So it is worth exploring the issue in some detail to understand what rights exist at present and what might evolve in the future. Since much of our work is done online, I will also address privacy issues related to online trees on various platforms."

Click here for the published version of the lecture

Thursday, October 15, 2015

First Relative Found Through DNA

Just over 2 years ago I ordered the Full Genome Kit from Family Tree DNA. This included a Y-DNA 67 Test, a Full Mt-DNA test, and an Autosmal DNA test (known as Family Finder). My main goal with these DNA tests was to learn about my paternal ancestry, something that I knew little about, as well as locating relatives. When I finally received my results I was stunned at the amount of matches I had in Family Finder and every surname in my Y-DNA matches had completely different surnames, both being quite common results for those with Jewish ancestry.

I found a handful of relatives who I had already found through the paper-trail but it was nice to have DNA confirm what old documents told us. I couldn't find anyone linking into my tree otherwise and throughout the years have contacted different matches in hopes of finding the link. The big hope was to find someone who not only linked into my tree but had more information than I did on the family. I expected the first person I would find to be a 3rd-5th cousin because I've known a lot of about my 1st and 2nd cousins (assuming no one has hidden an illegitimate child).

Finally after 2 years I found a match who had a not so common Jewish surname which was also in my tree. As well they had listed that family being from the UK and Holland, which basically confirmed it for me there because I have yet to find any families in Holland with the same surname. After contacting the relative and explaining what I knew she responded and told me that her sister had focused on researching that side of their family but she knew there was little information of where their side came from. After looking up the names she sent me for their most distant ancestors on that line I was able to find her great-grandfather in my tree. 

After adding her in and doing some quick calculations I realized that she was my 8th cousin exactly. I would have never imagined that the first relative I found through DNA would be so distant in relation. Our most recent shared ancestors were born in 17th century Amsterdam. Although I should also mention her sister had taken a DNA test but we did not match. Either way, it's great to finally have found a relative through the use of DNA and hope that I find more success in the near future.

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Sunday, October 4, 2015

Origins of the Nunes Vaz Family of Amsterdam

The Nunes Vaz family of Amsterdam traces it's documented roots back to Livorno, Italy in the late 17th century. Jacob Nunes Vaz is the patriarch of the Nunes Vaz family of Amsterdam and was born in 1697 in Livorno, Italy to Abraham Nunes Vaz. Jacob's father Abraham was born around 1670 but there have been no records found on Abraham. It is believed the family originally hailed from Portugal and there is even a family story that there were originally 4 Nunes Vaz brothers who left Portugal and all went to different parts of the World.
Marriage Record for Jacob Nunes Vaz (1697-1746)
and Judith Falcao (1703-????) - Dec 23rd, 1723

Back in Italy the name also was spelled as Nunes Vais and some records in Amsterdam even spell it as Nunes Vaes. It doesn't seem like anyone else from the Nunes Vaz family came with Jacob to Amsterdam, although there is a possible sister named Lea who is listed in the cemetery records at Beth Haim as Lea Nunes Vaes of Esther and died in 1748, 2 years after Jacob. I haven't found any records of an Esther but I suspect it's possible Esther is the wife of Abraham Nunes Vaz, which if so would make Lea the sister of Jacob and Esther his mother. The family left back in Italy became quite prominent with many Rabbis and famous artists including Italo Nunes Vais and Mario Nunes Vais. The patriarch of the branch that stayed in Livorno is Isaac Joseph Nunes Vais who died in 1768 and was most likely born around the same time as our Jacob Nunes Vaz. It is my belief that Isaac Nunes Vais and Jacob Nunes Vaz were 1st cousins who shared Nunes Vaz grandparents, making their fathers brothers (but this is all speculation). Even more interesting is the fact that both Isaac and Jacob were printers, making it possible that printing was a family trade.
Record for Raphael Nunes Vaz (1734-1802) at
Beth Haim of Ouderkerk aan de Amstel

Jacob Nunes Vaz married Judith Falcao on December 23rd, 1723 in Amsterdam and they had two known sons; Aaron (1733-1745) and Raphael Nunes Vaz (1734-1802). Jacob worked as a printer and it is believed his father also worked as printer, most likely gaining their skills in Livorno which was considered the center of Hebrew printing in Italy. Jacob died in 1746 at the age of 49. Jacob's son Raphael Married Simcha Querido on November 10th, 1758 and had a lot of children but because Jacob's other son Aaron died at the age of 12 all members of the Amsterdam Nunes Vaz family trace their roots back to Raphael.

Of Raphael's descendants all of them come from two of his son's; Jacob Nunes Vaz (1759-1813) or Abraham Nunes Vaz (1769-1832), both of whom marred women from the Senior Coronel family. Between these two brothers there are more than 3000 known direct descendants with about 1000 living descendants scattered all over the World. The number seems to constantly go up as more descendants are found but because of the horrors of the Holocaust, especially in Amsterdam, many branches in the Nunes Vaz tree end in the 1940s.

A portrait of Jaap Nunes Vaz
painted by his friend Meijer Bleekrode
One famous figure in the family is Jaap Nunes Vaz, a co-founder of the newspaper Het Parool and a member of the Dutch resistance. He was arrested by the Gestapo on October 25th, 1942 and deported via Westerbork to Sobibor where he was murdered on March 13th, 1943. He has a street named after him in Amsterdam.