Gary Mokotoff, EditorVolume 12, Number 40 | October 8, 2011
Every government puts value on preserving its history. That is why we have national archives. Genealogy preserves history; the history of a family. It cannot be done without access to records, just as historians cannot preserve a nation's history without access to records. It is a greater good than the right to privacy. It is a greater good than the risk of identity theft.
Past issues of Nu? What's New? are archived at http://www.avotaynu.com/nu.htm
FamilySearch Location Search Has Problems
I really have not used the new FamilySearch to any great extent. I am underwhelmed with its design whenever I do utilize it. For example, when using the “not Exact” option to search for “David Mokotoff” the FamilySearch system concludes that David Sokolow (and 12 others) is a closer match than Dave Mokotoff.
Until recently, I avoided the new Locality Catalog finding that the old version located at http://www.familysearch.org/eng/Library/FHLC/frameset_fhlc.asp is excellent and has satisfied my needs for the past 30 years. Recognizing they will eventually pull the plug on the old version, I played with the new one. It has lots of problems.
I searched for “Warsaw” and got the correct result that there are a lot of towns named Warsaw, including those in Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Missouri, New York and other locations. Selecting “Poland, Warszawa, Warsaw,” the results were that the Family History Library has no records! This result is accurate. There is no such town as Warsaw in the voivodship of Warszawa in the country of Poland. The name of the city is Warszawa. Changing the search to “Poland, Warszawa, Warszawa” produced many results, but the neophyte researcher or even a veteran might conclude there were no records for the capital of Poland since the search option suggested by FamilySearch is for “Poland, Warszawa, Warsaw.”
Is Warsaw an exception? No. It appears that all towns with English-language spellings different from the native language have this problem. According to the Location Search at FamilySearch.org, the Library does not have any records for Brussels, Bucharest, Moscow and Prague. In fact, forget about finding records for Belgian towns. Most have both a Flemish and French name. For example, the Family History Library has no records for Antwerp, Bruxelles, Malines and Tirlemont. They do have records for Antwerpen, Brussel (note absence of the “s”), Mechelen and Tienen.
I am not done. Don’t expect to find records for town names that exist in a large number of places in the world. The old Place Search identifies 23 towns named Springfield, and an additional 17 named Springfield Township. The new FamilySearch displays only the first 10. The others are left off.
The search page is dressed up with a beautiful silhouette of a mountain scene. There is only one problem. If there are more than six towns with the name being searched, the results appear behind the mountain instead of in front of it! See http://avotaynu.com/mountains.htm.
There are some who will say the system is still in Beta test. I have participated in a number of Beta tests including the Shoah Victims’ Name database. They usually last 1–2 months, not 1–2 years. My experience is that the problems uncovered are invariably obscure ones discovered only when a large number of people rigorously check out the system. It is the job of the IT team to check out the basic functionality of a system before turning it over for Beta testing. It should not be left to Beta testers to discover data is hidden behind mountains. That is the job of the IT team.
Lithuanian Government Shows Greater Signs of Cooperation in Holocaust-Related Matters
There are more and more signs that the Lithuanian governments—national and local—are cooperating to memorialize the Holocaust and make available records that will provide a better understanding of what happened during that period.
Yad Vashem recently signed an agreement with the Lithuanian National Archives to allow copying of documents related to the Holocaust period. A similar agreement will be signed by the national archives of Ukraine and Belarus. Yad Vashem Chairman Avner Shalev noted, “In many cases the documentation of the murder of the Jews in these areas is actually found in the municipal bureaucratic correspondence, ranging from that of the local villages to the state level. Acquiring this material will help enhance research into the Holocaust in the areas of the [Former Soviet Union], as well as assist the recovery of names of Jews murdered in these areas.” The complete story can be found at http://tinyurl.com/4ypgz3k.
Memorials to Jews are sprouting up throughout Lithuania. Last month, the town of Kedainiai unveiled a planned memorial at a mass grave that contains the remains of 2076 victims. The opening part of the ceremony can be seen at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FDCWs_k_ksE.
As noted in the last edition of Nu? What’s New? a Lithuanian Jewish Heritage Project is working with the Lithuanian government to restore Jewish cemeteries in that country. They plan to map and index cemeteries; add plantings to the property; recover, clean and reset fallen tombstones; and erect commemorative monuments. Annual upkeep of the cemetery by local residents will create community involvement over the years. Additional information about the group is at http://ljhp.wordpress.com.
At the individual level, Lithuanian historians are documenting the cooperation and participation of Lithuanian Christians in the murder of their Jewish neighbors. Last year, Avotaynu published Jews of the Kaisiadorys Region of Lithuania which describes participation in this region located between Vilnius and Kaunas. Information about the book is at http://www.avotaynu.com/books/Kaisiadorys.htm.
Be wary of the website at http://internationalarchives.org. They claim to have one billion records from Australia, Canada, UK and US. After providing a search, they will only show the results if you subscribe to their service—not necessarily unusual for fee-based service sites. The problem is I searched for a gibberish name—Arthur Qwertyu—and they claimed to have records that I could only see if I paid the fee. Google the keyword “Internationalarchives.org” to read a list of complaints about the site.
Ancestry.com Offering Free Access to Selected Collections
If you have not heard about it already, Ancestry.com is offering free access to selected collections through October 15. Also they are holding a daily drawing for prizes. Each day since October 1, an additional collection has been added to the free offering. They now include such groups as World War I Draft Registrations and the California Marriage Index (1960–1985). The promotion ends on October 15. Complete information can be found at http://tinyurl.com/3ovwwgd.
Who Do You Think You Are? Identifies Participants in 2012 Season
Entertainment Weekly reports that Marissa Tomei, Martin Sheen and Blair Underwood will be participants in the American version of Who Do You Think You Are? in the 2012 season. Additional information is at http://tinyurl.com/3uessb5.
Russia Opens Jewish History Museum
Jan Meisels Allen reports that Russia has opened a Jewish History in Russia Museum. There is a YouTube presentation with English subtitles at http://tinyurl.com/3ecbbck.
Lackawanna County (Pennsylvania) Records Online
Dick Eastman reports that millions of records for Lackawanna County (Pennsylvania) are now online at http://www.lackawannacounty.org. The principal city in the county is Scranton. These are digital images of will and probate records from 1878 to the “ present, marriage applications from 1885 to the present, and Orphan’s Court Division records from 1938 to the present. In addition, the Clerk of Judicial Records’ dockets for both Civil and Family Court Divisions, with the exception of juvenile records, will be available from 1995 to the present. In-house scanned images of documents filed in the two divisions from 2003 to the present – again with the exception of juvenile records - will also be available. Additional information is available at http://www.lackawannacounty.org/ViewEventDetails.aspx?EventID=1412.
FamilySearch Additions for the Week
Below are the only additions of images and/or indexes to FamilySearch that I have concluded may be of interest to Jewish genealogists. The complete list can be found at https://familysearch.org/node/1358.
To search indexes, use the search engine at https://www.familysearch.org. To view images, go to the same web page and then click the appropriate “Browse by Location.” Narrow it down to the country or state and then click the appropriate record collection.
Indexes and Images
U.S., North Carolina, Estate Files, 1663–1917 Added to existing collection
U.S., Arkansas, Sebastian County Births and Deaths, 1877–1963 New index
U.S., Indiana, Marriages, 1811–1959 Added records
Belgium Civil Registration, 1795–1920 Added to existing collection
Czech Republic, Land Records 1450–1850 Added to existing collection
Philippines, Civil Registration, 1945–1980 Added to existing collection
U.S., Oregon, Columbia County Records, 1854–1958 New image collection
U.S., Utah, Probate Records, 1851–1961 0 23,527 New image collection
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