Jewish Genealogical Society of Illinois to host talk on family history stories from Zalman Usiskin

  • Zalman Usiskin has been interested in his family history since he was a teenager.Martin Fischer

    Zalman Usiskin has been interested in his family history since he was a teenager.Martin Fischer

Martin Fischer
Updated 8/14/2019 8:36 AM

Amateur genealogist Zalman Usiskin will share "More Stories about Things I've Learned from Doing Genealogy" at the Sunday, Aug. 25, 2019, meeting of the Jewish Genealogical Society of Illinois at Temple Beth-El, 3610 Dundee Road, Northbrook, Ill. His presentation starts at 2 p.m.

Sign-in, networking with others interested in Jewish genealogy, and access to the 800-volume JGSI research library and genealogy help desk staffed by family history mavens will be available starting at 12:30 p.m.


Usiskin has been interested in the genealogy of the various branches of his family since he was a teenager. Over the years, he has compiled family 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 the 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 has been a major speaker at national and international conferences. This will mark the fourth time that he has spoken at a JGSI meeting. In 2002, he spoke about writing and distributing a family tree book. In 2015, he described three examples of how people arranged genealogical information into coffee table books for distribution to relatives. Last December, he delivered a presentation called "Stories about Things I've Learned from Doing Genealogy."

Usiskin is a fine storyteller, and JGSI immediately invited him back when we heard that he had more stories to tell that offer research lessons or hints that might help others doing genealogy. In his new presentation, questions are raised and discussed: Who goes on a family tree? To what extent are family stories "cleansed"? How did a "black sheep" of the family turn out to be just the opposite? How did some Jews survive World War II in Europe and how might they be found even today? How did DNA help to find both biological parents of someone who was adopted? And he will explain how his wife's heritage can be traced back to Adam and Eve. (What? You are skeptical?)

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 40 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

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At each regular JGSI monthly meeting, a genealogy "help desk" will operate prior to the main program. Expert 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.

JGSI helps members collect, preserve and perpetuate records and history of their ancestors. It also serves as a resource for the worldwide community to research their Chicago-area Jewish roots.

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