May I Introduce To You . . . Smadar Belkind Gerson

Smadar Belkind Gerson

I have the pleasure of introducing you to Smadar Belkind Gerson and her blog, Past-Present-Future, described as, “. . . Past-Present-Future is a family history blog which explores my genealogy journey, one ancestor at a time. The blog is a conversation about how exploring our past, connects us to the present and affects our future. By sharing my own research strive to provide useful tips to fellow genealogist.”

A Little About Smadar

“I was born on a Kibbutz (communal community) in Israel which my grandparents founded, to an Israeli father and American mother. Not long after, my parents moved to a suburb of Tel-Aviv called Kiron. I spent a very happy childhood in this wonderful small town. When I was almost fourteen, my family moved to the Boston area, which is where I’ve been living pretty much ever since with the exception of a thirteen year stint in Cuernavaca, Mexico. I guess you can call me a wandering Jew, as I have immigrated several times in my not so long life, following the footsteps of the ancestors I investigate.

My career life has also been quite a mixed bag. I studied medicine, but never practiced, choosing family over residency. Much later, I founded and managed a small boutique real estate company in Mexico. My husband and I also owned a cultural center and art studio. Four years ago we returned to the Boston due to the drug war, which sadly raged on the streets of our previously quaint and peaceful Mexican town. Uprooting the family was not easy, but turned out to be a blessing. We’ve all enjoyed being back in Boston and my boys (I have three) have particularly loved being here for both the Stanley Cup and the World Series win. We live on the Boston Marathon route, and like everyone in Boston, have been very moved by last year’s bombing. This town embraces our family with open arms and is truly Boston Strong.”

How Smadar Got Interested in Genealogy

“My genealogy journey began about six years ago. I am not one of those people who collected family stories since childhood. I always enjoyed hearing about the family, but I would categorize my interest as average at best. Everything changed when I began working on a Bar Mitzvah project with my oldest son. I suggested he do a ‘roots’ investigation and he liked the idea. A Bar Mitzvah is about becoming a Jewish adult. I felt that gaining an understanding into family history is part of what becoming an adult member of the community and the family is all about. His Bar Mitzvah theme was an ecologic ‘green’ Bar Mitzvah, and therefore a family tree fit very nicely. After all, trees are very green!

For the roots project my son interviewed his grandparents and created a family tree. The interviews were both fascinating and fun, but the tree was more of a challenge. We decided to create an online tree, rather than trying to fit all the information onto a large sheet of paper, chose a website and planted an online family tree. At the heart of the tree was the Bar Mitzvah boy. We worked our way up the generations and invited Bar Mitzvah guests to join the tree. This was my first foray into Genealogy.

Having a child reach Bar Mitzvah age, is a very powerful experience, not only for the child but for the parents as well. This rite of passage, impelled me to reflect about our family traditions passed on for generations. Interestingly, my son, completed the Bar Mitzvah and rarely looked back on this project. The opposite happened to me. As soon as things died down and the guests departed, I found time on my hands to study the family tree. I notice that the tree was almost taking a life of it’s own as family members were joining and adding more relatives as well as photographs, documents and stories. Two interesting aspects of the online drew my attention. The first, was connecting to long lost cousins I did not know existed. The second, the huge gaps in the tree, complete branches which were truncated or bare.

At first it resembled working in the dark. I had no idea what I was doing, and was learning by trial and error. I failed to document any information and hence, I have had to retrace much of that initial work. I was living in Mexico at the time, without access to archives and repositories. Thank God for the internet! Almost all my work was online.

The more I knew and understood about the tree, the more questions I had and the more I wanted to know. And that is how I became hooked onto Genealogy!”

Smadar’s Thoughts on Blogging

“About a year after I began my genealogy research, I came across my great-grandmother, Minnie Crane’s journal. It was a goldmine of family history and I ended up turning it into a memoir called Stored Treasures. I loved writing the book and wanted to do more writing. My mom, who happens to be a social networking guru (with more than 10,000 followers on twitter), suggested I start a blog. I was reluctant at first, but took her advice and started following other genealogy blogs, to explore what genealogy blogs can do. I stumbled onto GeneaBloggers and realized it was an incredibly active and supportive community, so eventually I decided to give it a try.

Past-Present-Future was born, January 1st of 2012. I’ve been writing pretty regularly ever since, with the exception of a four month sabbatical I just took while I was taking the Boston University Genealogical Research course this past term.

At first, I thought the blog was going to be mostly a way to better communicate with my family. I’m blessed with a large extended family, many of whom I met through my genealogy work. They are interested in the research and are true collaborators in this project. What surprised me is that the large majority of my readers are not family, but fellow genealogist. When I realized that, the nature of my blog changed a bit, and rather than just write about my ancestors I tried to include tips for fellow researchers. It’s become a conversation between myself and my readers, many of whom are more experienced researchers than me, and often help me break through a difficult genealogical question.”

Smadar’s Tips for New Bloggers

  • Know your audience.
  • Have a conversation. Ask questions so your records have a chance to respond and give you comments.
  • Follow and contribute comments to other blogs.
  • Write regularly.

Smadar’s Favorite Blog Posts

“This is a tough question, because I am proud of many posts. If I had to choose one, I think it would have to be one of my earliest posts (it’s actually my third post ever): A Photo Worth A Thousand Words. By far, this has been the most popular post on my blog. Even though I wrote it over two years ago, it still gets many new hits every week. The photo of my Kranowitz great-grandparents from Belarus around 1920 is truly striking and probably the reason many readers are drawn to this post. Personally, I love this post, because the story of my relationship with the photo, and how it affected my genealogy journey is very close to my heart.”

Smadar’s Time with the Ancestors

“That depends on who you ask. If you ask my husband or my kids they are bound to say: ‘way too much time!’ If you ask me, I’ll tell you: ‘not enough!’ I guess it also depends on what else I have going on. I try to balance my days with working on my research, studying to improve my skills, blogging and volunteering (indexing Polish records for JRI-Poland (Jewish Records Indexing-Poland) and translating Yizkor Books (Holocaust memorial books) from Hebrew to English.”

Smadar’s Favorite Ancestor

“Another great question. The answer has to be William Bloomfield. William was my maternal great-grandfather. He died before my mother was born. Before I began to research his life story, I knew nothing more than his name. William exemplifies how different aspects of genealogy work can bring back a long lost ancestor. I have now amassed huge amounts of information about this ancestor, thanks in part to his wife’s journal which as I mentioned, I turned into a book. William was Minnie Crane’s first love, and I think I fell in love with him myself when I read about their beautiful romance for the first time. My long lost Bloomfield cousins get almost as much credit as Minnie, for giving me William Bloomfield. The Bloomfield’s, were not in fact lost, they were lost to me. I stumbled upon them thanks to another distant cousin whom I found on Ancestry. Together we have researched our common history, shared photos, document’s and held two family reunions. Another side of William, was unearthed by my own research, which includes not only visiting online databases, but also a road trips to ancestral towns in New Hampshire and Vermont. Finally, sharing this work on the blog, has led to some incredible collaboration with fellow genealogist who offered advice and helped bring down brick walls.

Yes. I admit it. I’m in love with William Bloomfield.  I’m grateful for the sacrifices he made for his family and while striving for a better life. In addition, I’m thankful for what he taught me about myself and about doing genealogical research.”

How Genealogy Has Improved Smadar’s Life

“It may sound cliché, but genealogy has changed my life. It has given me a completely different perspective about who I am and where I came from. It has not only taught me about the past, but also taken over my present and is helping to shape my future as I strive toward becoming a professional genealogist.”

What Smadar Loves Most About Genealogy

“I love the process, the challenge and the learning. I love solving the puzzle. I love that it’s never ending. I love that it’s personal yet universal.”

Smadar’s Time Capsule Message

“A really good, well documented family tree.” 

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Please take a moment to head on over to Smadar’s blog. Leave her a comment letting her know you stopped by. Welcome Smadar, it’s great to have you here!

© 2014, copyright Gini Webb

Gini Webb lives in San Diego, California and manages her own blog, Ginisology, while also researching her own German heritage, retired, enjoying life with wonderful husband Steve and visiting with her grandchildren! Are you a genealogy blogger who would like to be interviewed for the “May I Introduce To You . . .” series? If so, contact Gini Webb via e-mail.

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