Volume 5, Number 20 | November 18, 2004
Help Test the Central Database of Shoah Victims' Names
On Monday, November 22, Yad Vashem will make available to the public their Central Database of Shoah Victims' Names. It provides information about more than three million Jews murdered in the Holocaust. Central to the database are more than two million Pages of Testimony (PoT) submitted primarily by relatives to memorialize members of their family.
Yad Vashem would like the genealogical community to preview the system so they can get an increased level of volume testing of the system. Yad Vashem stated it will be available at their home page, http://www.yadvashem.org, sometime Thursday evening, Israel time, November 18. Go to the site and search for the names that are important for your genealogical research.
Some people have experienced problems using the database due to conflicts with firewall software. The Ad Blocking feature of Norton Personal Firewall apparently prevents the results of a search from being displayed. If you have difficulty with the system, temporarily turn off your firewall to determine if the problem goes away. If it does, bring up portions of the firewall until you determine which function is preventing proper access to the site.
Persons who used the system when it was available briefly after the annual conference on Jewish genealogy in 2003 will find the functionality little changed. Most of the external changes in the past year have been cosmetic; ways to make the system easier to understand by non-researchers. The powerful and comprehensive search facilities are all still there.
There are two search facilities: the basic search that appears on the initial screen and an advanced search. The basic search permits the user to search by last name, first name and place. The advanced search allows access to most fields on the Page of Testimony including last name, first name, father's first name, mother's first name, date of birth (approx), place of birth, place of residence, spouse's first name, profession, date of death (approx), place of death, submitter's first and last name.
Most fields may be searched by Exact Spelling, Fuzzy, Synonym or Soundex. Fuzzy search is an algorithm which assumes the search information is only close to correct. For example, searching for “Sarah” also will produce results for “Sarha.” The Synonym feature is very powerful. Yad Vashem has compiled a list of both last and first names and determined which are synonyms of the other. This feature is especially useful for given names. In one example, searching for a person whose name was Rose, identified women whose given names were Raizel, Reize, Riscl, Raizela, Royze, Roza, Roze and Ruza.
The last name search automatically includes searching for maiden name. Thus a search for anyone named "Mokotoff" includes among the results married women whose information on the Page of Testimony indicated their maiden name was "Mokotoff." My family tree includes a number of female Holocaust victims whose married names were unknown to me. Locating the PoT of a woman who was born a Mokotoff not only provided me with her married name but invariably the name of the husband.
You can even search by submitter name. In the past 15 years I have submitted scores of PoT but lost control of which family members I had identified as Holocaust victims. Using this feature, I was able to determine that I had submitted 77 documents. There is provision at the site to add new Pages of Testimony.
The database currently consists of the Pages of Testimony plus name lists from France (Klarsfeld deportation lists), Germany (Gedenkbuch), Greece, Hungary (Nevek project), Luxembourg, The Netherlands, Slovakia, Yugoslavia, and Mauthausen and Theresienstadt concentration camps. Pages of Testimony are one of the most important collections for Holocaust genealogical research. For those not familiar with Pages of Testimony, a description can be found at http://www.avotaynu.com/holocaust/pages.htm. More names will be added to the Central Database of Shoah Victims' Names as they become available.
Once there is public access, anticipate many success stories in the news media about families discovering surviving members. I personally had two experiences in this area. I discovered that the family of a grand-aunt whom I thought were all murdered in the Holocaust actually had a surviving daughter who went to Israel after World War II. In a second situation, while researching an estate case of a Holocaust survivor who died without leaving a will, I discovered she had a cousin living in Israel who thought she had died during the Holocaust because he submitted a Page of Testimony for her. Evidently, neither knew the other had survived the Holocaust.
For more than 50 years, Yad Vashem has served as the world's center for remembrance of Jewish victims of the Holocaust and education about the Shoah. The Central Database of Shoah Victims' Names is yet another example of this institution's role in memorializing the millions of women, men, and children who perished, this time with a searchable database. Using the latest technology and a team of experts in geography, linguistics, and data systems, Yad Vashem will continue to offer the most comprehensive accounting of the lives and deaths of millions of Holocaust victims, while seeking to collect those as yet unaccounted for.
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