Lara’s genealogy obsession began when she was in middle school and read Alex Haley’s Roots. She found it fascinating reading how he was able to trace his family back generations—and she decided that she wanted to do that too. Thanks to her mother’s patience with chauffeuring Lara to the National Archives and local Family History Center, teenaged Lara was able to find census records and ship manifests via soundex indexes on microfilm. More than twenty-five years later, she’s still at it and is still amazed that many records that she found in the past after hours going through microfilm reels are now accessible with a quick internet search.
Lara volunteers significant amounts of time to JewishGen, where she leads JewishGen’s Subcarpathian Special Interest Group (SIG), is on the Board of Directors of its Ukraine SIG, is Town Leader for several of her ancestral towns, and has transcribed tens of thousands of vital and census records from Hebrew, Hungarian, Czech and Russian, all of which are now searchable on JewishGen. She is also president of the Jewish Genealogy Society of Maryland.
Lara regularly speaks at local and national venues on topics including Jewish genealogy, Eastern European genealogy, and genetic genealogy—particularly dealing with endogamy which makes Jewish genetic genealogy more of a challenge. (Her recent introductory talk to Jewish Genealogy at RootsTech can be seen here.)
Lara is an active blogger who tries to show the extent of resources available for Jewish genealogists in particular. She often posts documents about her family from various Eastern European archives, trying to dispel the myth that most Jewish documents were destroyed during wartime.