The MyHeritage Interview Series:  Genealogist Schelly Talalay Dardashti

The MyHeritage Interview Series: Genealogist Schelly Talalay Dardashti


Politicians, stay-at-home dads, academics or businesswomen…they all know the value of family and the joys of staying in touch with them. But what is on their family photo’s? How often do they call their mother and what celebrity do they secretly admire? Get ready to find out through the MyHeritage interview series!

This week, we are talking to Schelly Talalay Dardashti. A journalist, she is the historian for both her Talalay family and her husband’s Dardashti family, a well-known genealogist and author/editor of the MyHeritage genealogy blog.

Schelly writes two widely-known genealogy blogs: Tracing the Tribe and one focusing on international Jewish cemeteries. She also teaches Jewish genealogy online. Read what she answered to our nine family questions:

What is on your favourite family photo?

“While we have many contemporary photos, our most precious ones are of relatives who are no longer with us.

Click to view photo in full size
PHOTO: Schelly’s great-great-grandparents: Menahem Mendl ben HaRav Leib Talalay and Kreine Mushe Iasin/Jassen, who lived in Mogilev, Belarus. Photo of a c1880s painting

I have one of my great-great-grandfather, taken in Lithuania, and another of a great-great-grandfather on the other side of the family in Belarus. For my husband’s side, we have a photo of his great-grandparents in Teheran, Iran.These are my favourite photos. My husband has his favourites and our daughter her own. However, as the family historian for most lines of my family, these oldest photos are the most precious.”

What is your favourite holiday and how does your family celebrate it?

“Our favourite family holiday is Passover or Pesach, and we celebrate it according to my husband’s Persian family traditions, which means at least one big dinner for up to 50 or 60 people. We make a special fruit, nut and wine mixture – halek – that we eat all week on matzoh, and use in pastries and as a cake filling. The Persian Jewish Passover customs are very different than those of Eastern European Ashkenazi Jews. We eat rice during the holiday, they don’t, and that’s just the start! Many customs are different for this holiday, including the songs and melodies, food traditions, visiting relatives on the holiday and celebrating the end of the week-long holiday.”

How often do you speak with your immediate family?

“I speak frequently with my sister and daughter in New York and maintain email contact with many other relatives.”

How international is your family?

“We have relatives in Israel, Iran, Norway, Australia, Germany, Canada, the US, South Africa, Belarus, Lithuania, Latvia, Russia.”

Are you interested in genealogy and if so why?

“I have been a genealogist and family historian since 1990, when our daughter brought home a Hebrew School homework assignment. Together, we worked for many months on the Dardashti family history and then we began researching the Talalay history.

It is a way of connecting the past and the future through the present. Today’s generations learn about their ancestors, how they lived and can transmit this important information, family traditions and history to future generations. If we do not record this essential data today, it will be lost forever.

There is an African proverb that says: “When an old person dies, it is as if a library has burned down.” We each need to speak to our parents, grandparents, elder relatives and record what they know about their own ancestors and preserve this for the future. If no one asks the questions, the answers will die with the individual.”

How do you think technology impacts family?

“Thanks to technology, the world is getting much smaller. We can contact relatives around the world, no matter where they live, and share what we each know, collaborating on the larger picture. We can do this through text, audio or visual techniques: email, webcam, Skype and social networking sites. Technological advances have made it possible to continually develop resources enabling us to find “lost” family branches as well as completely new family branches.”

How does your family use the internet, what do they use it for?

“What don’t we use it for is the better question! My husband uses it mainly for reading international news sources, while I monopolize the computer for work, writing, blogging, research.”

Click to view photo in full size
PHOTO: Descendants of six Talalay branches met a few years ago for a first-time reunion in Israel.

What MyHeritage feature do you like most?

“The family website is important, as well as the one-click search for checking some 1,400 genealogical resources, but the most exciting is the new Photo Tagging feature. All of us have shoeboxes full of old unlabelled photographs. This feature may help to identify the unlabelled photos in our shoebox with those in our cousins’ shoeboxes. One of us may know the names of a few of those people, and by comparing photos, we will be able to identify more unknown images to benefit the family project.”

What famous person would you like to have in your family and why?

“Personally, I think that our own relatives are much more important and certainly more interesting than any celebrities.”

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