Volume 8, Number 11 | June 3, 2007
ITS Releases Official Statement About Release of Its Records to Public
Following numerous newspaper accounts about plans by the International Tracing Service to release its so-called “Nazi Secret Archives” to the public, ITS has posted an official announcement at its web site, http://www.icrc.org/web/eng/siteeng0.nsf/html/arolsen-news-150507. Titled “Rules of Access Established for International Tracing Service Files,” it does not provide very much insight into what will be the ultimate availability of the records at sites throughout the world. The news release states, “The members agreed on the procedure for transferring digital copies of documents, which enables the states concerned to easily store the data on their own computer systems and so afford researchers in those countries direct access to information.” It is unknown if this will allow Internet access at such web sites as those of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM) and Yad Vashem.
To gain greater insight into what the USHMM plans to do with the data once it is received from ITS, last week AVOTAYNU editor Sallyann Amdur Sack interviewed Paul Shapiro, Director of the Center for Advanced Holocaust Studies at USHMM. Shapiro is given credit for leading the drive to force ITS to make their records available to the public. Her interview with Shapiro will appear in the Summer issue of AVOTAYNU. You can subscribe to AVOTAYNU at http://www.avotaynu.com/journal.htm.
Canadian Passenger Lists To Be Indexed
Library and Archives Canada (LAC), a government agency, and Ancestry.ca, the Canadian subsidiary of Ancestry.com, have entered into a partnership to index and make available online the passenger lists of ship arrivals to Canada 1865–1935. The initial project will be the Quebec City passenger lists from 1870–1900, which comprise more than 750,000 names.
In addition to the Canadian passenger list collection, later this year Ancestry.ca and LAC will also make available border crossings records from the United States to Canada that took place between 1908 and 1935, as well as other Canadian immigration forms. These additions will add to Ancestry.ca's already expansive Canadian Border Crossing Collection, which already includes more than four million names of individuals who crossed the Canadian-U.S. border between 1895 and 1956.
Additional information can be found at the Dick Eastman Newsletter site at
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Plans to Implement Fee-for-Service Program
Seven years ago, Marian Smith, historian for the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) divulged, in the Summer 2000 issue of AVOTAYNU, a proposal to improve service for genealogists at INS through a fee-for-service program. Such a program was encouraged by the International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies (IAJGS) and other major genealogy organizations. The wheels of the government grind slowly, but sometime at the end of 2007 the program, called the Genealogy Program, will be implemented.
Details about the plan can be learned in one of three ways.
* Ave M. Sloan, Chief, Genealogy Section, USCIS, Historical Records and Genealogy Branch, along with Gil Jacobs, assistant to the director, Office of Records Services, USCIS, will explain the new service at the 27th IAJGS International Conference on Jewish Genealogy. Information about the conference can be found at http://slc2007.org.
* Read about it in the Summer issue of AVOTAYNU which will be published shortly after the conference. Information about subscribing to AVOTAYNU can be found at http://avotaynu.com/journal.
* Preview the original proposal at http://www.uscis.gov/propub/ProPubVAP.jsp?dockey=4f3fda84bdf53c4a620307605b319718.
Available records under this program will include Naturalization Certificate Files (C-Files) 1906–1956; Alien Registration Forms 1940–1944; Visa Files 1924–1944; Visa Records 1944–1951; Registry Files 1929–1944; Registry records 1944–1951; and Alien Files numbered below 8 million (contents prior to 1951).
Pronunciation Guides at Steve Lasky Site
Steve Lasky now has pronunciation guides for the Lithuanian, Magyar, Polish and Romanian languages at his site, http://www.museumoffamilyhistory.com. It includes tables illustrating the different consonants, vowels, diphthongs, etc. of each language and a person native to the language pronouncing town names. It is best to link to the pronunciation guides from the site map located at http://www.museumoffamilyhistory.com/sm.htm. Search for the word “pronunciation.”
System Developed to Link Page of Testimony Researchers
Logan Kleinwaks, who has developed a site that has Eastern European digitized city directories at http://www.kalter.org/search.php, has a new venture to link persons interested in specific Pages of Testimony (PoT). It is called ShoahConnect and is located at http://www.shoahconnect.org.
A user goes to the Pages of Testimony (PoT) site at yadvashem.org and flags all PoT of interest. If two of more people flag the same PoT, they all receive notice of the match. The mechanism is external to the Yad Vashem site; the potential matches are stored by ShoahConnect. It uses the Google Toolbar, which must be installed, to flag the PoT of interest. The fact that you are looking for people associated with a particular PoT is not noted at the Yad Vashem site (it would require the cooperation of Yad Vashem itself). It only creates a match if another person using the ShoahConnect system expresses interest in the same PoT. I tried the system by setting up two e-mail accounts that flagged the same PoT. Both e-mail accounts received notice of the match.
Ancestry.com Adds Military Records to Its Collection
Ancestry.com has added to its online collection U.S. military records featuring more than 90 million names that span more than four centuries of American history from the 1600s through Vietnam. Among the 700 databases and titles and 37 million images are:
* World War I and World War II draft registration cards
* Prisoner of war records from the War of 1812, Civil War, World War II, and Korea
* rolls (unit rosters) for the Marine Corps 1893–1958 and WWII U.S. Navy Aircraft Carrier Muster rolls, 1939–1949
* U.S. Military burial registers 1768–1921
* Casualty listings from WWI, WWII, Korea and Vietnam
To view the complete list of holdings, go to http://www.ancestry.com/military and view titles by war/conflict.
News from the SIGs
SIGs are Special Interest Groups primarily focusing on geographic areas of ancestry. You can subscribe to their Discussion Groups at http://lyris.jewishgen.org/ListManager. A log in is required. You can link the SIG home pages from http://www.jewishgen.org. There are also more than 80 Jewish Genealogical Societies throughout the world. A list of societies can be found at http://www.iajgs.org/Member-Index.htm.
Austria-Czech SIG. Berlin Address Books from 1799–1943 are available at http://adressbuch.zlb.de/. Once the home page has loaded, simply click on "Suche in den Berliner Adressbüchern" located toward the top of the page. Then select the year of interest to display the specific address book.
Belarus SIG. An article by Dr. Leonid Smilovitsky that “provides a vivid picture of the life
of Belarus Jews between the wars, under the Nazis and with the partisans during
World War 2" is available at the Belarus SIG site at
Holocaust: Up Close and Personal
Every once in a while there is an attempt to fathom the scope of the Holocaust in some symbolic way. There was the project of the school in Whitwell, Tennessee, that had their students collect six million paper clips so they could understand what six million means. There was the film of German Jews arriving at a registration center in Warsaw shortly before they were sent to their death at Treblinka. The mother feeding her young child was particularly poignant. It is located at http://www1.yadvashem.org/exhibitions/Katz/katz_first.htm
Now the Malines Center in Belgium has created a wall of photographs of 1200 people who were deported on Convoy 20 that left that city to Auschwitz. The presentation runs for more than 100 meters on a wall in Malines, five photographs high. The exhibition was photographed by Evelyne Haendel, a child survivor of the Holocaust. Photos can be seen at http://www.avotaynu.com/malines/
Evelyne will give two lectures at the annual conference in Salt Lake City; one on Belgian resources for refugees during the interwar period in Belgium and a second lecture about her perspective of her quest to find family which was published in the Winter 2005 issue of AVOTAYNU. Information about the conference can be found at http://www.slc2007.org.
New Portal for Ellis Island Database
There is a maxim in the public relations business that if there is nothing new to say, reannounce something. The Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation (SLEIF) and the Mormon Church have announced that there is a new portal to the Ellis Island Database at http://worldvitalrecords.com. Other portals to EIDB are those of SLEIF at http://ellisisland.org and the Stephen P. Morse One-Step site at http://stevemorse.org. The new site is not as good because it allows searching only by name.
World Vital Records, Inc. is the creation of Paul Allen, one of the founders of Ancestry.com. He left the organization some years ago and now has founded a competing fee-for-service company. The site is worth visiting, because it may have information not under the Ancestry.com umbrella.
The Ellis Island Database was created by the Mormon Church using 12,000 volunteers who devoted 5.6 million hours to the project. The Church then gave the index to SLEIF.
There is an unknown story about the creation of the Ellis Island Database worth relating. In the 1990s, when I heard that the Church planned to index the Ellis Island records, I went to see my friend at the Church who, at that time, was in charge of the project. It seemed unreasonable to me that they planned to pick up every data field on the ship’s manifests (Example: “Are you and anarchist?”), so I asked which data fields were going to be captured. Looking over the list, I noted that there were no plans to include Nationality and Race, something that would be very valuable to identify Jews and other ethic groups. Thinking for a generic justification to include these fields, I blurted out “You really should include Nationality and Race. It would be very valuable to historians. What if a historian wanted to study the pattern of Italian migration to the U.S.? Without the Nationality field, it would not be possible.” After a moment of thought, my friend said tongue-in-cheek, “Well I suppose they could capture all the names of people who ended in “O”!” A few weeks later, I received a phone call from him. He had discussed it with his associates and they decided to add Nationality and Race to the index.
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