Schelly Talalay Dardashti

Expert Author

A native New Yorker based in Tel Aviv, Schelly Dardashti focuses on Jewish genealogy as a journalist, researcher, blogger, online instructor and international speaker at Jewish and general genealogy societies and conferences in the US, Canada, UK, Israel, Hong Kong, Australia and Spain.

For more than 20 years, her research interests have covered Belarus (TALALAY), Spain (TALALYA, TALALLA), Galicia/Ukraine (FINK), Lithuania (BANK) and Iran (DARDASHTI). She is the administrator or co-administrator for three DNA projects at FamilyTreeDNA.com, including the IberianAshkenaz DNA Project.

The former genealogy columnist for the Jerusalem Post (It's All Relative, 1999-2005), her credits also include The Forward, JTA, YNetNews, Reform Judaism, Outreach, Avotaynu, NGS Quarterly and many Jewish and general publications. She authors three blogs: "Tracing the Tribe: The Jewish Genealogy Blog" (since 2006) http://tracingthetribe.blogspot.com , the "MyHeritage Genealogy Blog" (since 2007) http://genblog.myheritage.com, and the International Jewish Graveyard Rabbit (currently on hiatus)

Favorite Genealogy Quote

"You live as long as you are remembered."

1. What are your specific genealogical interests (i.e. medieval history, African American genealogy, etc)?

Jewish genealogy's ever-expanding accessible resources, strong volunteer-driven research community - and new tools such as DNA genetic genealogy - contribute to make this one of the most active ethnic categories, covering Ashkenazi Eastern European, Sephardic/Iberian and Mizrahi/Eastern Jews.

2. What got you into genealogy?

I was a happy needlepointer until our daughter brought home a Hebrew school one-page form to complete. She was to write the English and Hebrew names for herself, her parents, grandparents and great-grandparents. That weekend, my husband's large Persian family was celebrating a lifecycle event. We came home with several hundred small cocktail napkins covered with names, dates and notes elicited from relatives. When we put that into shape, along with hours of interviews, she said, "Now we have to do your family." That was much harder as there were few people to ask. Despite research difficulties, we've gone back to about 1700 in Iran utilizing the photographic memories of now-deceased family elders . The Belarus side also goes back to about 1700, utilizing archival documents and interviews.

3. Most surprising genealogical find:

Probable confirmation, via archival documents from Spain (dated 1353, 1396 and other index mentions) and DNA testing, of our family's Sephardic background - although everyone believed we were Yiddish-speaking Ashkenazi Jews from Belarus.

4. If you could find the family history of any historical great, who would it be and why?

Since a time machine is needed for this one, I leave it to future generations to discover the accurate documented descent of famous medieval rabbi Rashi or of King David. Both men's unbroken lines of descent are lost in time; only fragments and family stories indicate whether a family descends from one or another. Some families claim descent from Rashi's son; scholars believe he had only daughters. Many families claim descent from King David; some have participated in DNA testing. Since only family stories exist, no one knows which DNA is real! Finding information for either individual would set the record straight for many families, confirming or disproving family myths.

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