I first met Banai in August 2009 at the International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies Conference in Philadelphia. I was struck immediately by her intensity and passion, her technical savvy, and the degree to which she was connected to other researchers and leaders at the conference. She was one of only a few attendees who “live-tweeted” from numerous conference sessions. I quietly hoped to one day recruit her as one of our providers, and was thrilled several months later to see that she had signed up.
From BanaiFeldstein‘s Profile
Banai specializes in Eastern European research — including Poland, Ukraine, Hungary, Lithuania, and Belarus– and in Jewish research. She’s the President of the Utah Jewish Genealogical Society and an APG member.
Nine Questions with Banai
1) How did you get started doing genealogy lookups/research?
I was living in Nashville when I had a relapse of the genealogy bug. A few years later, I wasn’t getting any web design clients, so I figured I could move to Salt Lake City and not get any web design clients there, but at least I could do more genealogy research. I also hoped to turn it into a business, which I have.
I’ve read many times that you should find something you love to do, then find a way to make money at it. I’ve always loved puzzles and detective work, and that’s what genealogy often is.
2) Do you have a genealogy “superpower”? If so, what is it?
I am really good with languages. Some clients ask for records in languages I haven’t worked in before, and I tell them so up front, but they trust that I can do the work anyways. I usually can. Dutch was tricky, but all the Eastern European languages I’ve found pretty easy.
3) Describe a tricky research problem you’re particularly proud of having solved?
My mother has told me numerous times that she had an older sister who was given up for adoption. Late last year, I found her birth record. We’re still in the middle of trying to find and contact her now.
4) What are the ideal elements you like to see in a well-formulated lookup request?
My favorite potential clients are the ones who provide me with specifics: locations, dates, religion. When they ask for something generic like “Polish research”, that doesn’t help. If I lived in Poland, maybe I could do something, but I need to know the exact location to know if I have access to any records. When they openly share their information, that’s the best query and gets the most thorough response as to whether or not I can help. Also, it’s good when they’re at least slightly organized. Figuring out what they’re asking and putting their family information in order takes extra time.
5) What’s the most interesting record source or repository you’ve utilized in your area?
There is nowhere else on Earth like the Family History Library.
6) What technical tools do you use to produce the digital images you provide to clients?
The FHL provides the equipment for me. I just need to bring along my flash drive.
If I have to order a record from an archive, then I use my trusty CanoScan LIDE, which I’ve had forever. This scanner has travelled all over with me, scanning photos and documents from relatives too. It’s one of those 1 inch tall scanners that fits right into my large laptop bag.
7) Any new lookups you’re considering offering?
Plenty. I can do almost anything at the FHL. It’s just a matter of entering it all into Genlighten.
8) What advice would you give to someone who wants to get started as a lookup provider?
They should be very familiar with the archive and the records that they want to provide. Know which record types and years are available, the hours of the facility, any costs involved, and be sure that they can get there often.
9) What other passions do you pursue when you’re not at the archives doing lookups?
I love improving my house. It was neglected for at least three owners and empty for two years before me, so it needs a lot of TLC. The current project is refinishing the hardwood floors.
I love ice skating and the Utah Olympic Oval is conveniently a few blocks from my house.
I also love to write. I’m the newsletter editor for the Utah Jewish Genealogical Society (as well as the president now), so I get some genealogy writing in there several times a year. I participate in National Novel Writing Month every November. And I just started a blog this year; I’m enjoying the extra writing.
Lookups BanaiFeldstein Offers
Jewish Polish Birth Records, 1830-1900
Jewish Polish Marriage Records, 1830-1900
Jewish Polish Death Records, 1830-1900
Jewish Polish Birth Records & Translation, 1830-1900
Jewish Polish Marriage Records & Translation, 1830-1900
Jewish Polish Death Records & Translation, 1830-1900