Volume 6, Number 18 | December 18, 2005
Mormons Baptize Their Relatives As Well As Their Ancestors
For the past 20 years, I have encouraged Jewish genealogists to place a copy of their family history research with the Family History Library. I consider it the repository of the Family Tree of the Human Race. I have always cautioned that by doing so, if any of their relatives now or yet to be born converted to the Mormon faith, their research could be used to baptize their ancestors (my definition of "ancestors", that is, those from whom you are descended). Few have considered this an obstacle and they submitted their research to the Library.
During the negotiations between the Mormon and Jewish communities regarding practice of posthumous baptism, the Church disclosed that in the late 1940s they issued a directive to members of their faith that it was proper for them to baptize their relatives as well as their ancestors. Specifically, once a Mormon has gone back in time as far as possible, it was expected that s/he would then come forward and baptize all the deceased descendants of that most distant ancestor.
This came as a shock to the Jewish group because this practice has never appeared, to my knowledge, in public literature. Typical of the statements of the Church is the one at http://www.mormon.org/learn/0,8672,1300-1,00.html which states "In holy temples, members of the Church can perform these ordinances on behalf of their ancestors who have died." Note the absence of the word "relative." Further evidence that the Church distinguishes between "ancestors" (those from whom you are descended) and "relatives" (those who are descendants of an ancestor) is a statement at the Brigham Young University site http://261.byu.edu/templereadymain.html which describes the process of bringing names to the Temple to perform ordinances: "Everyone whose name you submit should be an ancestor or close relative."
This creates an interesting dilemma for Jewish genealogists who object to the Mormon practice of baptizing Jews. Many Jewish genealogists, including myself, have contributed their published family histories to the LDS (Mormon) Family History Library. The practice of baptizing any relative of a Mormon means the Church considers it entirely proper for some distantly related Mormon to use my genealogical research donated to the Family History Library to perform posthumous baptism on the more than 1,000 deceased persons on the Mokotow family tree.
A problem in theory only? Don't tell that to Judy Baston of California who found out a distantly related cousin posthumously baptized her mother. Jewish genealogists may want to consider this matter before they donate their family histories to the Library.
Wikipedias Now Exist for Many Countries
Wikipedias, online encyclopedias created by the collaborative effort of anyone who uses the Internet, now exist for most languages/countries. The wiki approach allows any user to add new information to the encyclopedia, either as an original article, an update to an existing article, or a correction to an article.
The official site for Wikipedias is http://www.wikipedia.org. From what is displayed initially on the web page, the user may conclude that there are Wikipedias only for Dutch, English, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Polish, Portuguese, Spanish and Swedish. Actually these are the versions that have the largest number of articles. Scroll down the screen and it becomes evident there are encyclopedias for nearly 100 languages/countries. The Hebrew version has more than 10,000 entries.
All Wikipedias are in native language so at least some knowledge of the language is required. If the language does not use the Roman alphabet, search criteria must be in the alphabet of the language. Correct diacritical marks are required (at least for the Polish language). The intent of Wikipedias is that they be an general encyclopedia in a specific language. For example, the Polish encyclopedia has an article about Jews, but not the Jews of Poland. Interestingly, in this article there is a link to the English-language Wikipedia where there is an article in English about the Jews of Poland. It is logical, however, that an encyclopedia written in Polish would emphasize aspects of the country of Poland. For example, I browsed the Polish version and found articles about my ancestral towns.
The Wikipedia fad extends beyond those for countries. One for genealogy, called the Encyclopedia of Genealogy, is located at http://www.eogen.com. If you see a topic that is not covered, just write an article yourself and add it to the database.
Article on DNA and Jewish History
A posting to the Jewishgen Discussion Group notes there is a comprehensive article on the state of DNA testing as it applies to the possible origins of the Jewish people at http://www.jogg.info/11/coffman.pdf (Adobe Acrobat Reader required to view). It appeared in the Summer 2005 issue of Journal of Genetic Genealogy entitled "A Mosaic of People: The Jewish Story and a Reassessment of the DNA Evidence."
The article is written in a manner that is simple to understand. If you find yourself drowning in a sea of technical terms such as haplotype, mitochondrial DNA and female-specific gene flow, then at least read the conclusion portion of the article which sums up the findings of research to date and recommends areas worth future study.
Jewish Newspapers Online
The feedback I received about Jewish newspapers online was meager. There are many indexes to Jewish newspapers available but apparently few that provide actual copies of the publication.
There is a German-Jewish newspaper collection at http://www.compactmemory.de. More than 50 German-language newspapers have been digitized. The site is entirely in German. If you are not familiar with the language, use an Internet translator such as http://babel.altavista.com to translate into your native language. The Babel site is capable of translating an entire Web page. There is a search engine at the CompactMemory site, but I could not get it to work properly. No matter what keyword was used, it always returned a result of "68,615 documents found."
Hebrew University offers online access to Historic Hebrew Newspapers from the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The following newspapers were available online:
Halevanon (1863-1886) 770 issues, approx. 7,200 pages.A description of the collection is located at http://jnul.huji.ac.il/dl/newspapers/eng.html.
Hamagid (1856-1903) 2265 issues, approx. 19,500 pages.
Havazelet (1863-1911) 1857 issues, approx. 14,200 pages.
Hazefirah (1862-1931) 8,600 issues, approx. 42,000 pages.
Hameliz (1860-1904) 5,600 issues, approx. 33,000 pages.
Using the Polish State Archives Online Catalog
The Polish State Archives has an online catalog of their holdings at http://baza.archiwa.gov.pl/sezam/iza.eng.php. It is possible to do surname and town name searches. The web pages are in English but the results are in Polish. If you have a reasonably unique surname, try using it as a keyword. Remarkably, their inventory includes my great-grandfather’s passport (or application) when he immigrated to the United States.
It is an excellent search engine. Each hit highlights the location of the keyword in the results. It also treats the keyword merely as a string of characters. This means that when searching for the surname "Mokotow," the results also included Mokotowski. This feature was a burden when I searched for anything Jewish by using the Polish word for "Jew": zyd. It produced results for any archival collection that had a word that included the consecutive letters z-y-d.
Try spelling variants of surnames. The Yiddish pronunciation of Mokotow is Monkotow. I have found some vital records spelled that way and the Archives had a record that included information about a woman named Fajga Monkotowicz.
Morse Site Can Overload Systems
Some of the portals Stephen P. Morse has at his site are superior only in that they provide filters to eliminate false positives. For example, his portal to the Illinois death records. The Illinois site allows searching by name and county only. Morse supplements this by optionally defining city, sex, year of death and age at death. Thus if you have a common name, you can eliminate false positives by supplying additional information.
Unknown to users, such a feature can have drastic consequences to some web sites. It happened with Morse's portal to the New York vital records indexes at http://www.italiangen.org. Prior to the Morse portal, it was possible to search, for example the New York death index, with no surname. It would provide the entire database as a result. With the Morse portal, this huge list could be filtered to exclude results by county, ranges of age, year of death and year of birth. The problem is that the ItalianGen site still had to do all the extraction, and with the popularity of the Morse site, the server was overburdened.
The society initially reacted in a number of ways. First they excluded access to their site from the Morse site. There is also evidence that certain major domains, like comcast.net, were excluded from accessing the site. Working with the Italian Genealogy Group, Morse limited the ways you could use the search engine from his site. For example, you now have to provide a minimum of two characters in the surname.
The Latest at the Stephen P. Morse One-Step Site
Subscribers to the Ancestry.com Public Records database will find a superior portal at the Morse One-Step site, http://stevemorse.org. The Public Records database uses as sources publicly available records from U.S. government agencies. It provides results that include the person's name, address (as stated in the government record), and sometimes phone number and names and ages of other members of the household.
Using the Morse portal it is possible to find all persons having a specific birthdate. Why search for persons with a specific birth date? Morse provides a valuable reason--locating women whose married surname is unknown. If you know the woman's birth date, searching with the Morse site for any person with a specific given name born on a specific date may provide you with the married name of the woman after analyzing the results. I tried it with my wife and it did not work, but when I tried my eldest daughter, all three hits were for her.
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