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ITS Chief to Speak at FEEFHS

August 7, 2014 - Diane Afoumado, PhD., Chief, International Tracing Service (ITS) Research Branch, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum will be speaking on the records and the services offered by the ITS on Wednesday, August 13, 2014 at 7:00 pm at the Plaza Hotel in downtown Salt Lake City. Held in conjunction with the Eastern European Family History Conference sponsored by the Foundation for East European Family History Studies (FEEFHS), the presentation is open to the public and free to attend.

While the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM) in Washington, DC, is the United States’ repository for the International Tracing Service (ITS) collection, the records will be of interest to anyone with ancestors who may have been persecuted or displaced during WWII. Afoumado reports that the ITS collection “contains diverse information about the persecution and murder of (both) Jews and non-Jews—Poles, Ukrainians, Lithuanians, Latvians, Estonians, Soviet prisoners of war, Roma and Sinti, homosexuals, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and persons with disabilities—under Nazi rule.”

Documents such as camp arrival lists, grave locations, transport lists, prisoner cards, forced labor lists, death lists, displaced person applications for assistance, deportation lists, emigration applications or questionnaires, registration and work cards, sometimes with photographs, are contained in the collection. Research services to access those records are provided by ITS to the public at no charge. Afoumado says the collection contains “several millions of documents,” saved by the Holocaust Survivors and Victims’ Resource Center to ensure “that the individual experiences of survivors and victims of the Holocaust and Nazi-era persecution are collected, preserved and disseminated for future generations.

FEEFHS Announces Change in Name and Focus

May 1, 2014 - Thom Edlund, President, recently announced that FEEFHS has changed its name to the Foundation for East European Family History Studies. Formerly called the Federation of East European Family History Societies, FEEFHS was organized in 1992 as an umbrella organization for many organizations that focused their research efforts on areas of East Europe and Transcaucasia. The Federation provided a Web portal and published a journal distributed to members. As technology evolved and member societies grew, these services became less relevant, and FEEFHS discontinued the journal and membership fees in 2009.

With this change, Edlund will "direct the energies of the organization toward indexing and other record discovery projects," expanding the offerings of the FEEFHS Web site as a resource to all East European researchers. As a Foundation, the organization will be able to "coordinate and collaborate its efforts with others wishing to participate with or fund such projects." FEEFHS will continue to place a high level of emphasis on providing educational opportunities to researchers.

Joe Everett appointed to Board of Directors

April 1, 2014 - Joe Everett has recently been appointed to the FEEFHS Board of Directors. A familiar face at recent conferences, Everett first presented at FEEFHS in 1997. He previously served as Managing Editor of the FEEFHS journal and as assistant webmaster.

Everett specializes in Germanic and Slavic research, particularly the countries of former Russian and German Empires. He speaks German and Russian, and enjoys tracing the town of origin for Eastern European immigrants to North America. A former employee of Ancestry.com, Everett presently works with the Family History Library where he manages a team of international consultants in providing patron assistance and online educational tools.

Milan Pohontsch to serve as Secretary

April 1, 2014 - Milan Pohontsch has recently been appointed to serve as Secretary for the Foundation of East European Family History Studies. He is the owner of European Roots Genealogy, specializing in German and Eastern European research and translation of old handwritten records. He additionally works at Brigham Young University as a Germanic and Slavic Cataloging Specialist, and is a frequent presenter at FEEFHS conferences.

Being of Wendish birth and growing up in Germany, Pohontsch continues to communicate in some of the languages he is specialized in. He is the co-author of a Wendish lineage book and author of the Wendish genealogical newsletter. He holds a degree in engineering and a masters degree in economics. He replaces Kahlile Mehr, who recently left to serve an LDS mission in Ukraine. As secretary, Pohontsch will also serve as a member of the FEEFHS Board of Directors. He writes: "I am grateful for the opportunity to serve, and honored to be trusted to this responsibility."

Kahlile Mehr retires as FEEFHS Secretary

March 1, 2014 - Kahlile Bliss Mehr has been a familiar face at FEEFHS conferences and workshops for many years. Not only a popular speaker, he assisted with the planning of the annual FEEFHS conference from 2000 to 2011, working with events held in Milwaukee, Detroit, Pittsburgh, St. Paul, Regina, Winnipeg, and Salt Lake City." Mehr has served on the FEEFHS Board of Directors for over a decade, serving as Secretary for the past several years, wrote articles for the FEEFHS Journal, and guest edited one of the issues.

Until his retirement in 2013, Mehr was employed the the Family History Library. He indicates that "my work in FEEFHS complemented my assignment of identifying records in the archives of Eastern Europe that were later acquired by the Family History Library. I consider these activities as one. What I learned at work was of great benefit to the genealogists, and what I learned from genealogists was a great benefit to my work."

"There are two great rewards from having served in FEEFHS and as acquisitions agent," Mehr indicates. "The first was to make a meaningful contribution to the knowledge of others. I had many experiences in East European Archives and in working with the records that prepared me to answer questions and direct people to the records they desired. I have probably lectured around a hundred times over two decades in the United States and Canada, sharing my knowledge. The second benefit was to make acquaintance with genealogists and archivists who love the records, the challenges of dealing with them, and discovering the information within them. There are many great and caring souls that preserve the records on the one hand, and that use the records on the other. Some of my greatest friends are those in genealogical and archival communities with whom I have shared many wonderful and rewarding experiences."

This year Mehr also retired as the Secretary of FEEFHS in order to serve a mission for the LDS church in Kyiv, Ukraine. He indicates he is excited to continue his experience in Eastern Europe. "My duty will be somewhat different, dealing with records of the LDS Church rather than those of other religions and institutions. But I will still be dealing with records that preserve the heritage of people for the benefit of this and future generations for at least the next 18 months.

Mehr will continue to serve as a member of the FEEFHS Board of Directors "in absentia" and hopefully return to the board as an active member upon his return to the United States.

Diane Afoumado, Chief, ITS assists patrons with research; photo used by permission

Thom Edlund, President of FEEFHS addresses participants at the 2013 conference

Joe Everett assists a participant at the 2013 workshop

Milan Pohontsch sports Wendish costume

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