Volume 8, Number 12 | June 17, 2007
FamilyTreeDNA Creates “Jewish DNA Central”
FamilyTreeDNA has created “Jewish DNA Central” as a central repository where Jews can have their DNA sample matched against the thousands of samples already in the database. The company has reported that their Ashkenazic Jewish collection has grown so large that it has reached critical mass. According to Bennett Greenspan, president of the company, the “database is large enough that today nearly every Jewish male who submits his DNA to us for testing learns that he is an exact genetic match with at least one—and often several—other Jewish men whose DNA we have tested.”
Sallyann and Sack and I feel so strongly that Jews should deal with one and only one DNA matching service that the lead article in the Summer issue of AVOTAYNU reflects our thoughts. The editorial states, “Imagine if there were no JewishGen but instead twenty or more significant web sites for Jewish genealogy, each doing its own thing, each overlapping the other’s efforts.” This is the risk of what might happen if Jews use a multitude of DNA services.
Two DNA success stories appear in the Summer issue of AVOTAYNU. Read the one by Herbert Huebscher first if you are not familiar with DNA terminology. It has a plain-vanilla description of how DNA can be used to demonstrate kinship when records are not available. Huebscher used the FamilyTreeDNA service initially to determine if all Huebschers are related (they are not), but instead he found that he was closely related to other Jewish genealogists in the database. (The Mokotoff family is part of this group.) The second article is about a project of the International Institute for Jewish Genealogy to study the Sephardic gene pool. Both projects are using the FamilyTreeDNA service.
I used FamilyTreeDNA to determine if all persons named Tartasky are related. Comparing the DNA of my mother’s brother and a man named Tartasky showed no match, but interestingly, I found that I am closely related to a college friend whose family comes from a town less than 50km from my Tartasky ancestral town. This demonstrates yet another advantage of Jewish DNA Central—unanticipated successes. My uncle’s DNA is now part of a FamilyTreeDNA pool of samples that are close matches; all from the Belarus area.
You can read more about Jewish DNA Central at http://www.familytreedna.com/jgene.html.
Attention All Genealogists: Stop Work! Your Genealogy Has Been Done!
In what can only be described as an act of chutzpah, a 34-year old Israeli has formed a company that he claims will have mapped the entire Jewish population of the world by the end of this year, and the entire Western world in about two years. It will done from family trees that will be linked together with his patented algorithm that matches identical people on different trees. “The software that will do the linking uses a patented algorithm and knows that Bob and Robert, for example, are the same name,” says the news release.
Danny Rolls has formed a company called Famillion and claims to have raised millions of dollars for what appears to be a commercial venture. They have a web site at http://www.famillion.com which current is merely a home page.
The press release states, “Famillion's strength compared to other genealogy or family network sites is that once a user has posted his family tree, the Famillion technology can recognize genealogical matches between individuals and families, enabling it to be merged with other related trees.” Rolls is apparently unfamiliar with the fact that this technology has existed for years in the genealogy industry, at various levels of quality. Example: OneGreatFamily.com.
Rolls indicated he is not interested in venture capital money because he managed to convince a few millionaires to invest in his company. He expressed his expertise and interest in genealogical research by stating, “You can go back as far as you like and find relatives from 600-700 years ago. But it's the present that matters, not the past."
The full news release can be seen at
JewishGen USA Database Grows to 900,000 Records
The addition of two new Philadelphia-based databases containing more than 100,000 records has pushed the JewishGen USA Database to 900,000 records. The new databases are the Rosenbaum Bank Database and the Philadelphia “Jewish Exponent” Obituary Database.
Port cities on the east coast of the U.S. developed banks where recent immigrants could save money and arrange to purchase steamship tickets to bring their families to the U.S. Rosenbaum Bank was such an institution. This database contains information on 82,979 passengers for whom tickets were purchased between 1890 and 1934. Additional information can be found at http://www.jewishgen.org/databases/USA/PhilaRosenbaum.htm. The Philadelphia “Jewish Exponent” database consists of an index to 34,000 obituary notices that appeared in the publication. Additional information can be found at http://www.jewishgen.org/databases/USA/PhilaObits.htm. The two projects were done by members of the Jewish Genealogical Society of Greater Philadelphia.
Both databases can be searched at the JewishGen USA Database site: http://www.jewishgen.org/databases/USA . A list of all JewishGen's databases can be found at http://www.jewishgen.org/databases
ShoahConnect An Early Success
In the brief two weeks since the ShoahConnect service was announced by Logan Kleinwaks, more than 5,000 Pages of Testimony have been marked by more than 300 participants. The site now has a list of surnames with which Pages of Testimony users are associated. It is located at http://www.shoahconnect.org/surnames.php.
ShoahConnect permits users to go to the Pages of Testimony (PoT) site at yadvashem.org and flag all PoT of interest. If two or more people flag the same PoT, they 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.
Another ShtetLinks Site
A valuable component of JewishGen is their ShtetLinks collection. It links to sites, often on JewishGen itself, where individuals have created web pages with information about their ancestral town (shtetl). Unfortunately dealing with JewishGen can be a chore as I recently found out. First, in order to have your site accepted by JewishGen you must go through a series of approvals and signoffs. My proposed shtetl page consisted mostly of Holocaust-related material and JewishGen said that was unacceptable because Holocaust-related material can only be posted to the Yizkor Book Project. When I noted that this would reduce the shtetl page I created to not much more than the name of the town and a link to the Yizkor book Project, they were unsympathetic. ShtetLinks includes web pages outside the JewishGen realm. But there are considerations here too. They only update the page periodically and it would have taken me months to get my page listed. It still isn’t listed despite a recent update. There is a second consideration. If they do list your off-site link and sometime in the future someone creates a site within the JewishGen realm, they remove your link and place it somewhere within the on-site page.
So I chose another path—an alternate solution.
Shtetl Foundation—whose president is Yaffa Eliach, the noted author/lecturer—has its own link to shtetl sites. I submitted my link to the Shtetl Foundation one evening; the very next day I received an e-mail that had one sentence: “The deed is done.” No need to sign any documents stating that I would hold Shtetl Foundation harmless if the material I was submitting violated someone’s rights. No contract that gave Shtetl Foundation the non-exclusive licence to keep the link in perpetuity. Just a simple statement: “The deed is done.” Furthermore, when the Shtetl Foundation receives more than one site for a given shtetl, they merely create two links.
Interestingly, many of the links at Shtetl Foundation are JewishGen ShtetLinks sites. I tried one and got a message from JewishGen: “You are now leaving the JewishGen server and connecting to another site. JewishGen disclaims any responsibility for content, accuracy, or permission to use copyright protected material.”
If you have a web site that provides history of the Jews of the town, check to see if there is a link at http://shtetlfoundation.org/. At that home page, click the words “Find Your Shtetl.” If no link exists, submit it to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Online Information About Jewish Cemeteries Throughout the World
Chronicles the newsletter of the Jewish Genealogical Society of Greater Philadelphia published in their May issue a list of web sites that have information about Jewish cemeteries. The most comprehensive summary of Jewish cemeteries can be found at http://www.jewishgen.org/cemetery/. Other sites are:
* Reports and surveys of Jewish cemeteries, synagogues and monuments in Croatia, Czech republic, Poland, Slovenia and Ukraine by the U.S. Commission for the Preservation of America’s Heritage Abroad http://www.heritageabroad.gov/reports/
* Heritage Foundation for Preservation of Jewish Cemeteries http://www.hfpjc.org
* Foundation for the Preservation of Jewish Heritage in Poland http://fodz.pl/?d=1&1-en
* Poland Jewish Cemeteries Restoration Project http://pjcrp.org/menu_eng.html
Detailed Map of Contemporary Poland
There is an extremely detailed contemporary map of Poland at http://mapy.eholiday.pl/. Type the town name in the upper left-hand corner where there is a search box labeled "Miejscowosc;" then hit enter. The map includes street names even for many of the smaller towns. After the initial view of the town, click “Satelitarna” in the upper right hand corner and see a satellite map. Click on “Hybrydowa” and get the satellite map with the town names labeled.
Prague Conscription (Residence) Records Online
The Prague National Archive now has 467,866 entries in its online database of conscription records. Conscription records are residence permits issued at the Prague police headquarters for the Prague region. The entries include the name of the head of household, followed by the name of wife, children and other relatives with whom the family shared the residence. Besides the date of registration with the police, number of the house, and job of the man concerned, it may include year and place of birth, religion, and, in case of a married woman, her maiden name. The sheet may also contain entries concerning marriages and deaths.
The records are located at http://www.nacr.cz/english/conscriptions.aspx. There is a link at the bottom of the page to the index. If a name of interest is found, click the word “View” to see the actual document.
More Data Added to Museum of Family History Site
The last issue of Nu? What’s New? stated the Museum of Family History site now contains pronunciation guides for the Lithuanian, Magyar, Polish and Russian languages. It does not have a Russian but a Romanian pronunciation guide.
Steve Lasky, creator of the site, announced he has acquired information about 24,000 burials at Bayside Cemetery in New York City. The burial data generally contains the deceased's surname, given name, the name of the society who owns the plot, the society gate number (only about 14,000 of the burials have a town associated with the plot), date of burial (not date of death)and age at death. The data is not yet ready to be placed on the Internet, but you can send inquiries to Lasky at email@example.com.
The site is at http://www.museumoffamilyhistory.org.
Summer Issue of AVOTAYNU
Some of the hot items today in Jewish genealogical research are DNA testing, access to the records of the International Tracing Service, breaking down the brick wall of tracing Eastern European ancestry to the period before Jews acquired hereditary surnames, and Jewish genealogy ethics.
These topics are reflected in the Summer issue of AVOTAYNU that is scheduled go to the printer within the next two weeks. As noted above, the emergence of DNA testing as a tool for genealogists is the topic of three articles—an editorial, an Ashkenazic Jews’ success story and plans for a Sephardic gene pool. Three articles relate to the anticipated public access to the records of the International Tracing Service. Information as to when and how these records will be made available is so vague that AVOTAYNU editor Sallyann Sack went to the offices of Dr. Paul Shapiro of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum to discuss with him his perception of what the public can expect. The results of this meeting are published in the Summer issue. The other two articles describe how the microfilm copy at Yad Vashem of the International Tracing Service was used to verify information about Holocaust victims. Another article titled “Strategies for Assigning Surnames to Early JRI-Poland Records” is a success story in pushing Jewish ancestry back into 18th-century Eastern Europe, a period when Jews did not have hereditary surnames. “How Far Should a Genealogist Go” ponders the question of the responsibility of a genealogist to preserving the Jewish history and artefacts of ancestral towns.
Lesser-known subcultures of Jews are represented with articles about the Jews of Egypt and the Bene Israel of India. There are other articles about Jewish migration to Argentina, how to locate hard-to-find library holdings, rabbinic genealogy and the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service’s planned fee-for-service genealogy program.
All this plus the usual collection of book reviews, new finds from AVOTAYNU’s Contributing Editors, a summary of the newsletters of Jewish genealogical societies and our “Ask the Experts” column.
If you are not already an AVOTAYNU subscriber, you can do so at http://www.avotaynu.com/journal.htm
Belgian Deportation List Now on Internet
A list of more than 8,000 Jews who were rounded up on May 10, 1940, in Belgium and deported to the Saint Cyprien detention camp in southern France is now available on the Internet at http://resources.ushmm.org/Holocaust-Names/List-Catalog/display/details.php?type=nlcat&id=91565. Click the link that says “Prépablog.pdf.” The list is from the book, La liste de Saint-Cyprien, written by Marcel Bervoets. Additional information about the book can be found at http://www.alice-editions.be/catalogue.php?secteur_id=3&action=206&livre_id=360. It is difficult to buy the book, since the publisher, Alice-Editions does not sell to individuals. I found it on the French version of Amazon.com, http://amazon.fr. Search for the book by author.
Archaic Medical Terms Online
A list of several thousand archaic medical terms can be found on “Rudy's List of Archaic Medical Terms” at http://www.antiquusmorbus.com. The web site provides lists of medical terms, diseases, and causes of death in English, German, French, and 19 other languages. It also includes the medical terms in the original Latin terminology.
Pre-order Books If You Are Coming to the Conference
As of May 14, 2007, the U.S. postal system has revised its rates, eliminating surface mail to countries outside the U.S. This has resulted in a significant increase in postage rates; therefore, resulting in an increase in the postage rates Avotaynu must charge our non-U.S. customers. In addition, rates within the U.S. have increased.
In less than one month, the annual IAJGS conference will take place. As in previous years, Avotaynu will be one of the vendors. In most cases, we will be bringing only one sample copy of each of our books and taking orders which will be filled after the conference. It is strongly suggested that attendees (especially non-U.S. ones) who plan to purchase books order them ahead of time. You will be able to pick them up and avoid the shipping charges. Please place orders before July 6; that is the day we plan to ship our books to Salt Lake City.
Our completeoffering of books can be foudn at http://www.avotaynu.com/catalog.htm.
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