Family artifacts can reveal fascinating clues about an ancestor or can raise intriguing questions. Emily Sper, a Newton-based author-illustrator, recently noticed red yarn on the back of a photo of her great grandmother Rebecca Handler.









“The photo was passed down to my grandmother, then aunt, then me. While I know some people believe red yarn wards off evil, it never occurred to me that anyone in my family would have done this.”

“In puzzling over the red yarn, I remembered my cousin put yarn on my Aunt Mim’s things to identify which were going to West Hartford, Buffalo, or Massachusetts. But my cousin told me she hadn’t used red yarn, the strands were shorter, and photos were packed in cartons so didn’t get tagged.

Whether or not my grandmother and aunt believed the yarn might ward off evil, it seems they weren’t taking any chances. Like my grandmother and aunt, in case it works, I’m leaving the red yarn where it is!

And, maybe the kitten tangling with red yarn at the beginning of my book Follow the Yarn will help ward off anything less than 5 star reviews.”


Emily Sper is the author-illustrator of two new children’s books, Follow the Yarn: A Book of Colors and What On Earth Can We Do? Earlier books include Hanukkah: A Counting Book in English, Hebrew, and Yiddish, The Passover Seder, The Kids’ Fun Book of Jewish Time, and 52 Flower Mandalas: An Adult Coloring Book (with David J. Bookbinder).  


Have you hit a brick wall in your family research or are you puzzled about the origin of an heirloom or old photo ?  The Jewish Genealogical Society of Greater Boston  is dedicated to helping people discover and research their Jewish family history.

On October 16, JGSGB is hosting a Beginner’s Workshop, a buffet lunch, and Nolan Altman speaking on “The Genealogical Value of Jewish Burial Records.

JGSGB welcomes beginners and has expert members with a broad range of skills in various research techniques who are happy to help others. For information on programs and event, special interest groups, expert help, and membership go to