Gary Mokotoff, EditorVolume 14, Number 12 | March 24, 2013
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.
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Federation of Genealogical Societies Again Proactive on Record Access Attacks
The Federation of Genealogical Societies has joined a coalition of interest groups who sent a letter to Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah asking him to take a leadership role on important issues involving technology, privacy and genealogy records access. These include:
• updating the laws and regulations governing the use of the Death Master File of the Social Security Administration and its commercially available Social Security Death Index; and
• updating the Electronic Communications Privacy Act
The coalition seeks changes to recent laws and policies which threaten access to records vital to the field of genealogy as well as “genealogists who work to identify military remains; who work with coroners’ offices and medical examiners; who are forensic genealogists or heir researchers; and those researching individual genetically inherited diseases.”
The list of coalition members includes:
• American Library Association
• Center for Democracy and Technology
• Center for Financial Privacy and Human Rights
• The Distributed Computing Industry Association (DCIA)
• Dick Eastman, Eastman's Online Genealogy Newsletter
• Electronic Frontier Foundation
• Liberty Coalition
• Records Preservation and Access Committee
• Thomas A. Schatz, President, Council for Citizens Against Government Waste
The announcement can be found at http://voice.fgs.org/. To follow the latest developments involving these issues, follow the Records Access and Preservation Committee blog at http://www.fgs.org/rpac/. Federation of Genealogical Societies is, as its name implies, a federation of hundreds of societies primarily in the United States. It is to American genealogical societies what the International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies is to Jewish genealogical societies.
Censorship Arrives at Libraries and Archives Canada
Eastman’s Online Genealogy Newsletter reports that Libraries and Archives Canada has created a new code of conduct that states their librarians and archivists who set foot in classrooms, attend conferences, or speak up at public meetings on their own time are engaging in “high risk” activities. Those who attend a genealogy conference on their own time must obtain permission from their managers in advance. The stated reason is to ensure there are no conflicts or “other risks to LAC.” The code, which stresses federal employees’ “duty of loyalty” to the “duly elected government,” also spells out how offenders can be reported. The new code of conduct only allows employees to engage in outside activities where "the subject of the activity is not related to the LAC’s mandate or activities."
Eastman notes it is ironic that an institution that is supposed to be dedicated to the preservation and sharing of information has created these rules. You can read Eastman’s full report at http://tinyurl.com/EastmanLAC.
ITS Starting Online Catalog To Their Collection
The International Tracing Service in Bad Arolsen, Germany, is starting to catalog their vast collection of information about individuals persecuted by the German Nazi regime. This shows they are beginning to focus on the needs of historians, having previously focusing primarily on the needs of individuals. ITS is creating finding aids or inventories that describe the content of each archival record group in their possession and also guide the user to the holdings, records and other units of the archives. To date 12 of their collections have been cataloged. A description of these finding aids can be found at http://www.its-arolsen.org/en/archives/finding-aids/index.html.
The system includes a search engine that I found difficult to use. Searching their Westerbork collection—Westerbork was a detention and deportation center located in The Netherlands—a key word such as “Amsterdam” produced no results. In frustration, I used the key word “Westerbork,” and received exactly what I wanted: a list of all the components of this collection. Some components were:
• Alphabetical list of Jews deported from Westerbork
• List of persons who were in camp Westerbork 12 April 1945
• Liberated and repatriated prisoners
A strategy for using the search engine, which appears to be the only way to access the inventories, is to use the name of the collection itself as the key word. If the result is too lengthy, go back and use the subcollection name as the search parameter. Currently, the catalog is only in German.
Boston Conference Will Feature SHARE Fair on First Day
A few years ago, an addition to the annual IAJGS International Conference on Jewish Genealogy, there was a fair on the first day where Birds of a Feather (BOF) and Special Interest Groups (SIG) could show their role in Jewish family history research. This year, it has been expanded to be a SHARE Fair, an acronym for SIGs and BOFs, Historical Societies, Archives, Repositories, Eminent Jewish Genealogical Societies. Twenty-one SIGs and nearly 30 BOFs will be participating in the conference. Those participating in the SHARE Fair are shown at http://www.iajgs2013.org/share_fair.cfm.
Other participants in the fair will be local genealogical and historical societies including the New England branch of the American Jewish Historical Society (AJHS), New England Historic Genealogical Society, Boston Public Library's Map Collection, Vilna Shul, City of Boston Archives, Jewish War Veterans, Documenting Old Maine Jewry, and the Jewish Genealogical Society of Connecticut partnering with the Godfrey Library. Some repository groups, like the AJHS, will make their normally restricted databases available in the Resource Room during the week for attendees to examine their holdings in detail.
This 33rd annual IAJGS International Conference on Jewish Genealogy will be held in Boston from August 4–9, at the Boston Park Plaza Hotel. More than 1,000 family researchers are expected to attend. There will be 250 lectures/programs on a wide range of topics. It also is a great place to network with the attendees and lecturers.
There is an early registration discount which expires on April 30th. For more information or to register, visit http://iajgs2013.org.
Co-hosts of the conference are the International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies and the Jewish Genealogical Society of Greater Boston.
Central Database of Shoah Victims' Names. Yad Vashem states the Central Database of Shoah Victims' Names now includes 4.2 million names. Yad Vashem, together with its partners, has collected and recorded here the names and biographical details of two-thirds of the six million Jews murdered by the Nazis and their accomplices. Two million more still remain unidentified. The database can be accessed at http://db.yadvashem.org/names/search.html?language=en.
New York Times article on family relationships. An article in the New York Times discusses a study which concludes that the more children know about their family’s history, the stronger their sense of control over their lives, the higher their self-esteem and the more successfully they believed their families functioned. The article is at http://tinyurl.com/NYTFamHistory.
Museum of the History of Polish Jews To Feature Ceiling of a Wooden Synagogue.
One of the pieces of Polish Jewish history destroyed in the Holocaust was the hundreds of wooden synagogues that dotted the landscape. Now the Museum of the History of Polish Jews, which opens on April 19 in Warsaw, will feature a replica of the ceiling of the wooden synagogue that once existed in Gwozdziec, today Hvizdets, Ukraine. These synagogues typically had very plain exteriors but elegant interiors as can be seen from the Gwozdiec ceiling shown at http://tinyurl.com/WoodenSynagogues. Examples of exteriors as well as the history of wooden synagogues can be found at http://www.zchor.org/verbin/verbin.htm.
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