Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Meet: John Newmark, Author of Arnevet Beth Olam - St. Louis


The eighteenth in a series
featuring a member of
The Graveyard Rabbit Association

I’ve been asked to describe my interest in genealogy and how I became a Graveyard Rabbit a couple weeks early, however, the timing is appropriate.

I’ve always enjoyed puzzles. My favorite magazine as a youth was GAMES, and my favorite puzzle was the Logic Puzzle, where you would be given 20 statements, and from those 20 statements you had to match five people with five cars, five professions, and five ice cream flavors. My second favorite was the crossword puzzle, but the crossword puzzle often required knowledge I didn’t have as a kid; I knew if I couldn’t solve the logic puzzle it was my own fault.
Also when I was a kid I was taught by my older siblings that you had to hold your breath while passing by a cemetery in the car. I knew where my paternal great grandparents were buried, but the family didn’t visit the graves on a regular basis.

All four sets of my paternal second great grandparents arrived in St.Louis between 1880 and 1910, so I grew up with many cousins and other relations, many of whom I had no idea how we were related. I am horrible with remembering names, and I always got lost when all the relationships were explained to me. Today I know I have a verbal learning style. That is, if I write something down, or repeat it over and over, I will remember it. But I could listen to my family repeat the information to me over and over, and I would keep forgetting what they had said.

My great grandfather, Barney Newmark, often claimed he was born on March 17, 1886 in Dublin, Ireland. However, he was actually born in Warsaw, Poland. (And there is some question as to the accuracy of the date.) He spent fourteen years in London, England, from age 7-21, before coming to America, but he likely never set foot in Ireland. Still, every St. Patrick’s Day, the family would talk about our "Irish roots", and Barney’s blarney.

I also told the tale to some of my friends, and in late March or early April of 2007, one of these friends sent me the 1920 census page they had found on HeritageQuest, which contained Barney and his family. I had no idea about the genealogical treasure trove available online, but I quickly found out. And as I began organizing and writing down all the information, a funny thing happened. Some of you may have predicted this a couple paragraphs ago. A verbal learner, I was able to remember it, and able to comprehend the relationships that had eluded me for decades.

I had been blogging since 2002, but my new genealogy research began to take over my blog to the point I decided it deserved a separate home. When The Association of Graveyard Rabbits was announced, I immediately decided I wanted to join. By this time I had learned that there were eight Jewish cemeteries in St. Louis, and I had relatives in most of them, though I had only visited three. Long quitted of the superstition of holding my breath, I am fascinated by the history on the tombstones.

Since I wanted to focus the blog on the Jewish cemeteries of St.Louis, I decided to translate the name “Graveyard Rabbit” into Hebrew, and chose “Arnevet Beth Olam”. Beth Olam literally means House of Eternity, but it is commonly used for cemeteries. Unfortunately, my hopes for the blog haven’t materialized, and there has been a dearth of posts. My original intention required actively visiting the cemeteries, and I am unable to visit the cemeteries during the week due to my work hours, and all of the cemeteries are closed on Saturday for the Sabbath, leaving Sundays. And even when the weather cooperates, my life hasn’t been. But I have decided even if I don’t get to the cemeteries as quickly as I hoped, I can find out more about the cemeteries through online and library research, and I will continue sharing what I find.

TransylvanianDutch Genealogy
Arnevet Beth Olam – St. Louis
I am also on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter (as TransDutch)

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