Volume 5, Number 22 | December 12, 2004
Help Grow the Shoah Victims' Name Database
The six million Jews murdered in the Holocaust were more than a mere statistic. They were individuals and the Yad Vashem Central Database of Shoah Victims' Names demonstrates that fact. Each Page of Testimony represents one life. It ties the victim to a family: a spouse, a father, a mother and sometimes children. It links the person to the living remnant of the family through the submitter of the Page of Testimony, invariably a relative.
It is time for the genealogical community to add to the database all the missing names that appear on our family trees. Over the years, I have submitted 82 Pages of Testimony, but there are now nearly 300 Holocaust victims on my family tree. A check of the Shoah Victims' Names Database demonstrated that very few of the persons I have not submitted have Pages of Testimony. I have a data entry task to do over the next few months. We all do.
To submit a Page of Testimony, there is a link on the left portion of the screen from the Basic Search page. The exact web page is http://www.yadvashem.org/wps/portal/!ut/p/_s.7_0_A/7_0_9M. Submit them through this web site rather than through the paper form. There is already a backlog of thousands of written Pages of Testimony that must be keyed into the database by the Yad Vashem staff. Performing the data entry yourself will speed up the process.
------------------One of the more emotional aspects of the Shoah database is the pictures of people on the Basic Search page and the underlying story behind the pictures that can be read by clicking on the image. It puts a face behind the Page of Testimony. To a certain extent, the 2 million Pages of testimony are just 2 million pieces of paper. Adding pictures to the documents of the members of your family humanizes them.
To submit pictures, bring up the initial web page for an individual and click the link that says "Attach Image or Documentation." It must be done through this process because the submission screen includes the victim's record number; therefore the image can be automatically linked to the Page of Testimony.
If you have yet to use the Central Database of Shoah Victims' Names it is linked to from Yad Vashem's home page at http://www.yadvashem.org.
Israel Genealogical Society Helping to Locate Page of Testimony Submitters
Pages of Testimony include the name and address of the submitters, most of whom lived in Israel when the document was given to Yad Vashem. Many Pages of Testimony were submitted in the 1950s, and the submitter has either moved within Israel or is now deceased.
In an attempt to link genealogists with the family of the submitters, the Israel Genealogical Society has set up a process whereby they will help in locating the family. They have established a location to make an inquiry at their web site, http://www.isragen.org.il. On their home page, on the left portion of the screen under "Projects," click the link to "Search for Submitters of Pages of Testimony in Israel". This leads to a page that gives instructions on how to make a request. IGS then plans to make the Israeli public aware of this project and hopefully family members will go to the site and subsequently contact the requester.
The site already has more than 100 listings and the society has been successful in locating family for about 25 requests. The list is a PDF file located at http://www.isragen.org.il/NROS/Research/VY-search-Israel.pdf.
Antwerp Creates Web Site for History of the Red Star Line
If your family left Europe through Antwerp and used the Red Star Line, there is now a history of that steamship company at http://www.redstarlinememorial.be. It was developed by the Antwerp Tourism Office. There is no index to passengers who left the port, but the web site does link to a number of other Internet locations that contain such information. There are plans to develop a "Museum on the River" in Antwerp to be opened in 2008 that depicts the emigrant experience. The shipping company brought millions of emigrants to the United States.
Canadian Researchers Try the Legal Route to Access Census Records
A number of Canadian genealogists and historians have filed formal complaints against the Commissioner of Statistics for his failure to make available records of the 1911 census which they claim should be available to the public based on Canada's Access to Information Act.
The Canadian Information Commissioner's office has acknowledged receipt of the complaints and is undertaking an investigation. The Information Commissioner investigates complaints from people who believe they have been denied rights under the Access to Information Act -- Canada's freedom of information legislation. An independent ombudsman appointed by Parliament, the Information Commissioner has strong investigative powers. He mediates between dissatisfied applicants and government institutions.
The commissioner can not order a complaint resolved in a particular way, but instead relies on persuasion to solve disputes, asking for a Federal Court review only if he believes an individual has been improperly denied access and a negotiated solution has proved impossible.
The Information Commissioner web site at http://www.infocom.gc.ca will eventually have a section titled "Litigation" that will contain information concerning the various stages of the proceeding, including the commissioner's representations and affidavit and documentary evidence.
Information about the controversy about public access to 20th century Canadian censuses can be found at http://www.globalgenealogy.com/Census.
Steve Morse Solves the Last-Name Only Restriction of EIDB
In the last issue of "Nu? What's New?" we reported that the Statue of Liberty/Ellis Island Foundation added a restriction to the search of their database in that they no longer permit searches by surname only. This impacted the Stephen P. Morse portal to the database which relies on the SLEIF search engine. The ever-creative Morse now reports to "Nu? What's New?" that he has created a work-around, and you can search the database by surname-only from his site which is at http://www.stevemorse.org.
Jewish Presence in Post-Expulsion Spanish Colonies
One aspect of Jewish history that may never be fully understood is the tremendous influence Spanish Jews had in the early colonization of the Western Hemisphere. In 1492, Spanish Jews were given the choice of converting to the Roman Catholic faith or leaving the country. As is generally well known, many converted but secretly continued to practice Judaism. The risk of being caught and the possible grave consequences (including being burned at the stake) caused many to flee over the next hundred years to the just-developing colonies in the New World.
Some fled to Recife, Brazil, a Dutch colony. When the colony was captured by the Portuguese, they fled by ship and settled in Dutch colony of Nieuw Amsterdam. They became the first Jews to settle New York exactly 350 years ago. Others followed Cortez' conquest of Mexico and settled in today's northern Mexico and southwestern United States. A Spanish colony named Santa Elena, that briefly existed in the 16th century in what is today the state of South Carolina, included many colonists with Jewish surnames. The captain of the colony was Juan Pardo--Pardo is a Jewish surname. Spanish crypto-Jews almost certainly settled Cuba, Puerto Rico and the Canary Islands.
Now DNA evidence is being used to confirm the presence of Jews in the Spanish colonies. The best-studied group are Catholics of New Mexico who believe they have Jewish heritage. Recently, a priest, Father William Sanchez of Albuquerque, New Mexico, suspected he was of Jewish heritage and had his DNA tested. The results showed he had the Cohanic trait; that he was descended from the Jewish priestly class. His family had a tradition of spinning tops on Christmas and shunning pork.
An article appeared in the Los Angeles Times about Father Sanchez and other modern-day Catholics of Jewish heritage. It is located at http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/la-na-heritage5dec05,1,3173654.story. The newspaper requires a somewhat lengthy sign-in to access the article.
Now Shipping A Dictionary of Jewish Surnames from Galicia
A Dictionary of Jewish Surnames from Galicia is now in print. Copies will be mailed later this week to person's who pre-ordered the book. It provides information about some 25,000 different surnames used by Jews in Galicia. For each name, the author, Alexander Beider, describes the districts within Galicia where the surname appeared, the origin of the meaning of the name (etymology), and the variants found.
The Introductory portion of the book follows Dr. Beider's scholarly style in analyzing the origin and evolution of Jewish surnames from that region. This includes a history of Jewish names in Galicia, basic etymological analysis, spelling and variation of surnames and analysis of surnames in various provinces of eastern Europe. An extensive bibliography is provided.
Additional information about the book can be found at http://www.avotaynu.com/books/djsg.htm. This includes a complete list of surnames and a sample page from the book.
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