Volume 6, Number 13 | September 11, 2005
That is the amount of computer storage the Mormon Family and Church History Department (FCHD) says will be required for their planned digitized version of the 2.5 million rolls of microfilm in their possession. The rolls contain three billion frames of information about an estimated 12 billion people. If you are having trouble counting the zeros, the number is 19 quadrillon bytes.
This was just one of the many interesting comments made by David E. Rencher, Director of the Records and Information Division, and Jay L. Verkler, associate managing director of the Family and Church History Department, to the attendees of the just-concluded annual conference of the Federation of Genealogical Societies held in Salt Lake City.
Converting the microfilm to digital images will take six years to complete and there are plans to place all these records on the Internet for public use. Rencher also stated that the Church is requesting the worldwide genealogical community to help index the records which also will be placed on the Internet as a new product called the FamilySearch Index. The indexing software that was demonstrated at the conference is based on the software the Church currently uses in its Extraction Program in which individual Mormons, under the direction of the Church, gather names for Temple ordinances such as posthumous baptism. The worldwide indexing effort will be completely independent of the Extraction Program.
I saw the indexing software demonstrated last April at the meeting of Mormon officials and representatives of Jewish organizations who met in Salt Lake City to discuss a resolution to the continual problem of posthumous baptism of Jews. The software is excellent. It is designed so that "little old ladies from Provo, Utah" can enter data in a manner that minimizes the risk of error. All data will be entered twice by two separate persons and the results matched to confirm its accuracy.
The implication to genealogy is staggering. It means genealogists from their home PCs will have access to the entire Mormon microfilm collection. When fully indexed, it might even trivialize the record searching aspect of genealogy, because it will now be possible to search for information about people independent of location. Rencher noted in one of his talks that genealogy today is primarily oriented by location/person. That is, you cannot find a record unless you know where the event took place. Today, if you want to locate the birth record on an ancestor on a Mormon microfilm, the first question is "where was s/he born?" With FamilySearch Index, the question need not be answered. It will be possible to search by name independent of location.
Other Items Discussed
Virtual Societies. Rencher noted that it is becoming less important to belong to a society in your geographic area and more important to belong to a society in the area where your ancestors lived. This has been made possible because the Internet allows genealogists located in any geographic area to rapidly communicate with other researchers in other locations about matters of mutual interest. Virtual societies already exist in the Jewish genealogical community in the form of Special Interest Groups (SIGs) that focus on area of ancestry. There are currently 16 region-oriented SIGs that are associated with or are part of JewishGen--Austria-Czech, Belarus, Courland, Early American, French, Galicia, German, Hungary, Latvia, Litvak, Jewish Records Indexing-Poland, Romania, Scandinavia, Southern Africa, Ukraine and United Kingdom. Two additional SIGs--Sefard and Rabbinic--concern themselves with special interests independent of location. Links to these sites can be found at http://www.jewishgen.org.
Collaborative Genealogy. Verkler indicated that his department was working on an Internet-based system that will link family trees submitted to the system. Multiple submitters for the same data would then collaborate to resolve conflicts in information provided by each in the hopes of creating definitive information about the specific individual on a family tree. This concept was first introduced by OneGreatFamily.com a number of years ago.
The three presentations given by Rencher and Verkler are available in PDF format at http://www.familysearch.org. On this Home Page, in the lower left corner, click "FGS Conference" under "News & Events." All three presentations are worth viewing.
The test site for FamilySearch Indexing is at http://www.ldsindexing.org, but presently it is of little value to the public. Only the testers have access to the important portions of the site. For an example of how the extraction process works, see Rencher's presentation, "A Sneak Peek at the Near Future."
New Book: Shaltiel: One Family's Journey Through History
Yet another Jewish family that claims to trace its ancestry back to King David--the Shaltiel family--has been documented in a new book, Shaltiel: One Family's Journey Through History. The author is Moshe Shaltiel-Gracian who spent years of research in uncovering the history of the Shaltiel family. This included traveling to many countries including Spain, France, Israel, Greece, The Netherlands and the United States. Shaltiel notes in the book that he found ancestors almost everywhere--from Babylonian rulers to cousins of Charlemagne, Annie Oakley's husband, Holocaust survivors, an Israeli general and a deputy mayor of Chicago. All of his discoveries, he states, have been "woven together into a single tapestry that is vast, colorful and historic, presenting panorama of the Sephardic Diaspora and how the Shaltiel family participated in its history."
As an introductory offer, Avotaynu is making the new book available at a 25% discount. The book lists for $35.00, and until October 3, you can purchase it for $26.25. Ordering information and the complete Table of Contents can be found at http://www.avotaynu.com/books/shaltiel.htm
Last year, Avotaynu published another book about a family of Davidic descent, "The Lurie Legacy," by Neil Rosenstein. Information about his book can be found at http://www.avotaynu.com/books/lurie.htm.
Attention Genealogy Junkies in the Northeastern United States
Genealogy junkies who live in the northeastern portion of the United States should reserve the month of August 2006 for their genealogy fix. Two major conferences will be held at that time.
The 26th annual International Conference on Jewish Genealogy will be held in New York City from August 13-18. The event is sponsored by the International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies, the umbrella group of nearly 80 Jewish genealogical societies throughout the world. The conference hotel, the Marriott Marquis, is located in the center of the tourist district. In 1999, 1,200 people attended the New York conference. It is not unreasonable that more than 2,000 people will attend this time. Dr. Allen Weinstein, Archivist of the United States, will be the keynote speaker. The host society, Jewish Genealogical Society Inc, is the largest Jewish genealogical society in the world. Watch their web site, http://www.jgsny.org, for additional information as it develops.
The annual "Conference for the Nation's Genealogists" of the Federation of Genealogical Societies will be in Boston from August 30-September 2. FGS is the umbrella group of nearly 600 genealogical societies located in the U.S. and Canada. The conference will be in the Hynes Convention Center. The Boston Sheraton Hotel in the Back Bay area of Boston is the host hotel. New England Historic and Genealogical Society, the host society, is the largest genealogical society in the U.S.. It is anticipated that 3,000 people will attend that conference. It is unfortunate that few Jewish genealogists attend FGS conferences. They are of much value for lectures on subjects not covered as well at IAJGS conferences, such as methodology. There is a huge vendor exhibit hall that typically includes about 50 vendors (Avotaynu will be exhibiting in Boston). I met Neil Abelson of Long Island, New York, at the FGS conference in Salt Lake City. It was the first time he attended a national conference other than IAJGS conferences. He made the comment that I hear from most Jewish genealogists who attend an FGS conference for the first time; that he does not understand why so few Jews attend such a worthwhile event. Additional information can be found at http://www.fgs.org as it becomes available.
American Jewish Historical Society Adds to Online Databases
The American Jewish Historical Society (AJHS) plans to include American Jewish periodicals to its collection of online databases. The first available publication is the Society's own journal, "American Jewish History", for the years 1893-1978. Information about the planned collection is located at http://www.ajhs.org/reference/adaje.cfm
There are a number of online databases at the AJHS site http://www.cjh.org/academic/findingaids/AJHS/institutionlist.html. There is a database of Jewish men who answered questionnaires sent by the American Jewish Committee about their participation in World War I; Brooklyn Hebrew Orphan Asylum Records indexes of names found in ledgers from 1879-1925; Hebrew Orphan Asylum of the City of New York indexes of names recorded in a ledger titled "Index of Children, 1860-1900;" and Industrial Removal Office Records, 1899-1922. The Industrial Removal Office placed Jewish immigrants arriving and living in New York City into Jewish communities throughout the United States and Canada, finding them work and often providing loans for travel and board.
The American Jewish Historical Society is an institution whose mission includes the collection, preservation and dissemination of materials relating to American Jewish history.
Jewish Community of New Orleans
The Jewish Federation of New Orleans has placed on their web site a list of members of the Jewish community and where they are currently living. The list gives just a small taste of the massive disruption caused by Hurricane Katrina. Jewish members of the community are scattered all over the United States, most staying with relatives or friends. You can see the list at http://www.jewishnola.com/content_display.html?ArticleID=161865
A message posted to the Discussion Group of the Association of Professional Genealogists reported that the librarians of the New Orleans Public Library have determined the library suffered no flood damage. This includes the basement area where the Mormon Family and Church History Department was filming records.
Firm Measures Popularity of Genealogy
A marketing firm, IMedia Communications, did an analysis of the use of genealogy sites on the Internet. They claim that in June 2005, 11 million users visited sites in the Genealogy category. They included Ancestry sites (nine million visitors), MyFamily sites, (1.2 million visitors), Genealogy.com sites (1.1 million visitors), FamilySearch.com (508,000 visitors), and OneGreatFamily.com (468,000 visitors).
The company stated that genealogy sites have long been a favorite among older adults. In June, more than 3.3 million visitors to these sites were age 55 or older, making up 30 percent of the category's total visitors. Meanwhile, those age 65 and older were 48 percent more likely to visit genealogy sites than the average internet user.
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