Genealogy and Escape Rooms

Updated: Jul 30, 2019

Any genealogist researching their family history essentially becomes a detective, only without the official title. They must research, analyze that information, and search for clues hidden in seemingly inconsequential places. Answered questions only open up the possibility for yet more questions to be asked because the web of ancestry grows larger and more obscure the father back one goes.

Arthur Kurzweil in his book “From Generation to Generation”, which is a guide to tracing one's Jewish genealogy and family history, also transcribes his personal experience. Although he was just an ordinary man with no prior experience in genealogy at that point, he was compelled to probe, scrutinize, analyze and follow leads and clues, assuming the role of an amateur detective.

His journey begins with him discovering a picture of his great grandfather, his namesake, in a book about his father's hometown of Dobromil. He went on to hunt through phonebooks until he found the phone number of one of the people who had assembled the book. This person, Mr. Frucht, happened to have known his grandfather and further stoked his interest in his family history. The author began to enthusiastically contact members of his family, gathering more and more information and contacts. After much work he was able to put together an enormous family tree.

He discovered family living in Israel, and even a cousin still living in Poland! To further add to the family tree he took to searching for and calling up anyone who shared his last name Kurzweil. He also began to search through public records including death certificates and immigration records which lead him to establish that his great grandparents were in fact first cousins. Through his extensive investigation and attention to detail when searching for Kurzweil family, he got in touch with a Kurzweil family unrelated to him, that were living in Israel. Months later he received a letter from a man in California. With the information he provided in his letter, Arthur Kurzweil realized that the man from California was related to the family in Israel, and told him the exciting news.

Yielding all this valuable information about the Kurzweil side of his family took an enormous amount of research. It required him to pursue all sorts of sources, records, and clues to unlock the larger story. Genealogy indeed challenges a person to think and act like a detective.

Playing Escape Rooms is Detective Work Too

While developing the concept of our escape room, we were struck to what extent the guests are required to think and act like a detectives. An escape room is a game in which players must solve a series of puzzles and riddles using clues, hints, and strategy to complete the objectives at hand in a set time limit.

When a person finds himself in an escape room he must immediately search for a clue with which to begin. The pressure mounts as whichever puzzle he chooses to investigate first must be used to lead him onward in his search.

Arthur Kurzweil was not just content with the original picture he found of his great grandfather, but rather went on to the phone numbers of the people who made it and continued further and further from there.

Next in the escape room, the player must share his findings with his team members for they are dependent on one another's information, and everyone has something valuable to contribute in their frantic race against the clock.

Through being attentive to the small yet perhaps critical details combined with information collection and dissemination, riddles are unraveled and puzzles are solved leading to more important clues and larger enigmas. The players must continue the pattern of investigating, cracking puzzles, and sharing their findings until they complete their mission moments before their time is up, full of ecstatic adrenaline.

Arthur Kurzweil too, collected and shared his findings with his family members, soliciting their valuable memories, input, and revelations, all helping to complete his goal of uncovering and forming his family tree. At One Before Escape we aim to get you to experience the fusion of genealogy and an escape room: finding clues and connections to bring out the ultimate detective of Jewish past in you.

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