Gary Mokotoff, Editor
Volume 13, Number 23 | June 3, 2012
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.
Not that much news this week.
American Chosen New Director of International Tracing Service
Rebecca Boehling will become the new director of the International Tracing Service (ITS) in Bad Arolsen, Germany, on January 1 of next year. She is currently Director of the Dresher Center for the Humanities at the University of Maryland Baltimore County (UMBC) which promotes interdisciplinary research in the humanities. She is also Professor for History and Affiliate Professor both for Jewish Studies and Gender and Women’s Studies.
A replacement of the ITS director is required since the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) will withdraw from management of the institution at the end of 2012. The present ITS Director and ICRC delegate, Jean-Luc Blondel, will return to Switzerland and continue to work for the ICRC. The German Federal Archives will become the new institutional partner for the ITS.
Professor Boehling was appointed unanimously by the eleven-member state International Commission which supervises the work of the ITS at its annual meeting in Paris last week. She is an expert in the history of the Holocaust, World War II and the early postwar period in Germany. She served for several years on the Historical Advisory Panel to the U.S. Government’s Interagency Working Group for the Implementation of the 1998 Nazi War Crimes and Japanese Imperial Government Records Federal Disclosure Act, tasked to declassify material related to WWII war crimes.
The complete announcement can be found at http://tinyurl.com/ITS-Boehling.
1940 Census Update
Both FamilySearch and MyHeritage.com have placed indexes for Rhode Island on their websites. MyHeritage.com has also made available a partial index of New York including most (all?) of Bronx county.
Doing British Research
The British government has developed a website, Directgov, that provides information on a host of services provided by various departments of the government. One department, the General Register Office (GRO) holds birth, adoption, marriage, civil partnership and death records. It has developed a website to assist persons doing family history research located at http://tinyurl.com/GRO-FamilyHistory.
• First steps in researching your family history
• Researching family history using official records
• Using the General Register Office to research family history
There is also a link to order birth, marriage and death certificates online. GRO seems to have loose privacy rules. You apparently can get anyone’s birth record if you know the exact date and place of birth and names of parents including birth surname of mother. Similarly, for death certificates, exact date of death and last place of residence must be provided. Marriage certificates require date/place of marriage and names of the fathers of the bride and groom.
Ancestry.com has an index to births, marriages and deaths for England and Wales for 1837–2005. The index does not give the exact date of the event, but the quarter of year in which it occurred. The indexes are at http://www.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?sourceid=20623&dbid=8964.
Complete Jewish Holdings of Latvian State Historical Archives at Latvia-SIG Website
A complete inventory of Jewish records held at the Latvian State Historical Archives can now be found at http://www.jewishgen.org/Latvia/holdingsAtLSHA.html.
Networking as a Genealogical Resource
Ava Cohn is a professional genealogist who specializes in photograph identification—determining who are the people in a photograph and what other information can be gleaned from the document (when taken, where, etc.). One of her success stories has been posted to the MyHeritage blog at http://tinyurl.com/Cohn-MyHeritage. It describes how she determined the identity of a man in soldier’s uniform.
What impressed me about the article was that her initial attempts to solve the problem involved contacting other experts who might help her. Networking is one of the least discussed resources in family history research. If someone approached you indicating they planned to start researching their family history and asked what resources were available, you would probably mention JewishGen databases, Avotaynu publications and Ancestry.com, but it is unlikely that you would mention that they should get involved in networking with other genealogists.
Networking involves meeting other researchers to determine their genealogical interests and making them aware of your interests with the purpose of sharing information. I receive many inquiries from people who are having problems tracing their family history. Quite often I do not help them but instead point them to a person or organization that might help. I tell people that the definition of an expert is someone who knows who to call.
Consider including any of these networking functions to make contact with other people researching Jewish family history. Pick those that your time and budget will allow:
• Subscribe to JewishGen Discussion Groups. Post problems in your research that need solving and read the solutions of other researcher’s problems.
• Join a Jewish Genealogical Society if there is one near you and attend their meetings. You will meet experts in your geographic area who may be able to overcome brick walls in your research.
• Attend the annual International Conference on Jewish Genealogy. Meet eyeball-to-eyeball people with similar interests.
• Volunteer for indexing projects that directly relate to your research. Here too, you will come in contact with people with similar research interests.
The conclusion of Cohn’s success story can be found on Cohn’s website at
Subscribers to “Back Issues of AVOTAYNU Online” will find an excellent article by Cohn published in 2010 about her specialty, photo interpretation, at http://tinyurl.com/AvaCohn-AVOTAYNU.
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