Billie Tekel Elias
Genealogy has been my avocation since I was a teenager. My own family tree, started decades ago as notations on scotch-taped bits of paper, has since grown into a digital display of over 800 names and includes many photographs from a century ago. I have researched a couple dozen of the most interesting characters, including a family of Caucasian Jews born in Asia in the late 19th/early 20th centuries. Interestingly, in these types of endeavors, one clue leads to the next, and before long I was seeking out records on ancestry.com, Ellis Island’s website and other digital sources. I am equally comfortable in the dusty rooms of municipal archives, county clerk’s offices and genealogy institutes.
Although I trained as an engineer, I have many other interests which come into play when I’m doing my genealogical detective work. I’m fascinated by languages, photography, art and architecture, conservation of ephemera, music, dance. Because I have conducted business in and visited many countries I have become familiar with various penmanship styles. I regularly find errors in digital catalogs that resulted from someone misreading a handwritten entry and incorrectly transliterating it into text. As a “visual” person I’m able to look at a photo of a young person and match it to a photo from another period in their life. I am also a perceptive and clever sleuth, who notices things in photographs like jewelry, clothing styles and house addresses and relates them back (through city directories or other media) to a place or time. My analytical background gives me a methodical approach to doing research, and my stick-to-itiveness won’t allow me to stop until the puzzle is complete.