Gary Mokotoff, Editor
Volume 12, Number 21 | May 22, 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.
100,000 Photos of Tombstones in Polish Jewish Cemeteries
For a number of years http://cemetery.jewish.org.pl has been growing their database of tombstones in the Warsaw Jewish cemetery. I recently visited the site and discovered they now have tombstones from other towns in the Mazovian region of Poland. In addition to Warsaw, they have photographed and placed on their site tombstones from Blonie, Brok, Gabin, Garwolin, Gora Kalwaria, Grodzisk Mazowiecki, Karczew, Laskarzew, Losice, Minsk Mazowiecki, Mszczonow, Nowy Dwor Mazowiecki, Okuniew, Otwock, Piaseczno, Plock, Pruszkow, Przytyki Strzegowo, Radom, Siedlce, Sierpc, Sochaczew, Szydlowiec, Warszawa, Wegrow, Wiskitki, Wysokie Mazowieckie, Wyszkow, Zelechow and Zyrardow, There is a surname-only search engine.
According to the group, they photographed all recognizable tombstones in these towns. There are a total of 86,475 photographs, but many feature double or triple graves. Those tombstones that do not have surnames will be added to the site in about a month when they will permit browsing of tombstones by cemetery. They also plan to improve the search engine.
The project was possible due to a grant from the Polish Ministry of Culture and the support of Emile Karafiol, the Jewish Community of Warsaw, and Mel and Deana Fishman of Thornhill, Ontario, Canada.
ITS Wants To Return Personal Belongings
The International Tracing Service in Bad Arolsen, Germany, has in its possession 2,900 personal items of people who were interned mostly in Neuengammer and Dachau. They have listed on their website the names and birth dates of the persons whose property they have in the hopes that the property can be returned to the owner or a family member. To access the list requires registration and review by ITS. For a description of the collection and to start the registration process, go to
http://www.its-arolsen.org/en/archives/effects/index.html. Click the word “Registration” on the left side of the page. The registration form asks whether you are a survivor or relative and what names are of interest. I had little difficulty getting a password even though the surname I provided (Mokotow) was not on the list. Looking through the list I found that, based on the names, few people appeared to be Jewish.
Holocaust Property Claims Site
There is yet another site that lists people whose descendants may have claims for property taken during the Holocaust period. It is called Project Heart and was developed by the Jewish Agency for Israel (JAFI) and funded by the Government of Israel. The search engine for the site is located at http://www.heartwebsite.org/ArchivalResearch.aspx. Search results show person’s name; city, district and country where property is located; and date-of-birth related information. Clicking on the icon to the left of the entry will reveal, when available, street address, name of father, profession and nature of the property. The document necessary to make a claim can be downloaded from the site.
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 to the SIG home pages from http://www.jewishgen.org/JewishGen/sigs.htm. There are also more than 80 Jewish Genealogical Societies throughout the world. A list of societies can be found at http://www.iajgs.org/members/members.html.
Hungary. The All-Hungarian Database recently had an addition of approximately 150,000 records, which now brings the total number of vital records (births, marriages and deaths) to more than a half million, and the total database, which also includes census and other types of records, to more than 1.1 million records. The database is located at http://www.jewishgen.org/databases/Hungary. It includes a list of the component databases. The Hungarian SIG recently signed an agreement with FamilySearch to index more vital records. The results of this project will be placed on both FamilySearch and JewishGen.
Austria-Czech. The Moravian State Archives is starting to place digitized records on its site at http://www.mza.cz/digitalizovane-fondy-a-pomucky.php. Use of the site requires a simple registration. If you are of Moravian ancestry, browse the entire site (http://www.mza.cz/) for possible additional useful information.
South Africa. The South Africa National Archives responded to an inquiry by a researcher that due to lack of capacity and high volume of inquiries, they are unable to make copies of documents for researchers. They advised that a professional researcher be hired to go to the archives to do the copying/research.
Choosing a Web Browser
With more and more European archives placing valuable data online, and many of these websites being only in their native language, web browsers that can translate from the archives’ native language to your native language are becoming more important. I find Google’s Chrome browser best for this application. Most browsers have add-ons that will translate web pages. To my knowledge only Chrome senses the language of the web page and asks if you want it translated. For example, visiting the Moravian archive site described above, Chrome stated, “This page is in Czech. Do you want to translate it?” You can download Google Chrome at http://www.google.com/chrome.
Avotaynu Catalog In Mail
Our annual catalog, which lists more than 70 books and maps we sell, is in the mail. It features two of our more popular books: Handbook of Ashkenazic Give Names and Their Variants and Getting Started in Jewish Genealogy: 2011 Edition.
Handbook of Ashkenazic Given Names and Their Variants provides information about more than 15,000 given names that are derived from 735 root names. It has a masculine and feminine section each of which is alphabetical by the root name. Each root name shows its etymology, history of the name and (what I find most interesting) a tree-like structure of all the name variants that shows exactly how they were derived from the root name.
The book is only $29.00 plus shipping, 232 pages and softcover. It can be ordered at http://www.avotaynu.com/books/Handbook.htm. The site includes, as an example, the entry for the feminine given name Yentl. There is also a complete list of the 15,000 names.
Getting Started in Jewish Genealogy: 2011 Edition is not a beginner’s guide but a getting started guide meant to convince the reader that tracing one’s Jewish ancestry can be done. A beginner’s guide to Jewish genealogy would undoubtedly take many more pages and cost much more.
It is only 96 pages so it makes quick reading and is rich in illustrations—41 in all. The resources described are primarily Internet resources such as JewishGen, Morse One-Step site, FamilySearch, Ancestry.com and other sites. It alerts the readers to what types of documents of their ancestors will aid in their research—such records as birth, marriage, death, immigration, census and naturalization records. Special focus is given to two problems often uttered by neophyte Jewish genealogists: (1) My name was changed at Ellis Island and (2) I do not know the town my family came from.
Additional information, including the Table of Contents, can be found at http://www.avotaynu.com/books/GettingStarted.htm.
International Conference on Jewish Genealogy News
Conference co-chairs Marlene Katz Bishow, Victor Cohen and Susan Isman recently were interviewed on the local (Washington area) cable TV show "Tracing Your Family Roots" chatting with host Arline Sachs about the program, hotel, food and technology for the forthcoming conference. It can be viewed at http://dc2011.org/index.php/press/dc2011-on-tv. Sachs and AVOTAYNU editor Sallyann Sack-Pikus have been doing "Tracing Your Family Roots" for more than 14 years. Many of these interviews can been seen at their website http://tracingroots.nova.org. It is worth browsing the site to look for interviews that might extend your knowledge of family history research. There is a talk on what you should do before attending a conference.
Not all the events and networking at the conference will focus on family history research. It will also be possible to attend entertainment and film programs.
• The play “The Moscows of Nantucket” will be presented on Monday.
• Davi Walders and Douglas Wolters will be performing “Honoring Women’s Resistance to Voice & Music.”
• Judith Cohen will perform “Ballads and Diasporas in Sephardic and B’nai Anusim” and in a separate program “Songs of Sephardim and Portuguese Crypto-Jews.”
• The conference’s film screening throughout the week will consist of a variety of Judaic-oriented films, some of them award-winning.
• The gala banquet on Thursday night will feature the Robyn Helzner Trio performing Jewish music from the five corners of the Jewish world in Hebrew, Yiddish, Ladino, Russian, and English.
The conference website at http://dc2011.org is now well established. It provides information about registration, program, hotel accommodations, getting around Washington, Washington-area research and other components.
The 31st IAJGS International conference on Jewish Genealogy is being held from Sunday, August 14 to Friday, August 19 at the Grand Hyatt Washington hotel. It reality there are preconference events on Friday and Saturday August 12–13. See the program for full details.
Museum of Family History Site Has New York City Synagogues
The virtual Museum of Family History site at http://museumoffamilyhistory.com now has a list of more than 800 synagogues in the New York City borough of Manhattan. Some of the synagogues are still active, but most are defunct. The list is provided alphabetically by street name. Many of the old synagogues of New York were founded by Jews who came from the same European town and named their synagogue after the town. The site shows the name of the town where applicable. Two synagogues with the same name may actually be the same synagogue which was located in two different places at different time periods.
There are five lists: Manhattan, Manhattan (Lower East Side only), Brooklyn, Bronx, Queens and Staten Island. Link to the lists at http://www.museumoffamilyhistory.com/erc-syn-nyc.htm. At the very bottom of the page are links to each list.
In 2009, Avotaynu published a book “The Lost Synagogues of Brooklyn” which provided a history and photographs of synagogues that no longer exist as synagogues and today are mostly churches. The author, Ellen Levitt, limited the list—91 in all—to those synagogues where the building still exists. Information about the book can be found at http://www.avotaynu.com/books/LostSynagogues.htm.
This year, hopefully in time for the annual conference, Avotaynu will publish Levitt’s second work “The Lost Synagogues of The Bronx and Queens” that will include information about 59 Bronx and 27 Queens synagogues that no longer are used as synagogues.
Back Issues of Cleveland Jewish News Online
The Cleveland Jewish News has placed online all back issues of the newspaper which was founded in 1964. The archives appears to be free to subscribers of the print edition of the publication. Otherwise the cost is $4.95 for one day, $9.95 for a month and higher prices for longer time periods. Ethan Starr reports that the search capabilities are fairly flexible, with the ability to search with wildcards, Boolean operators, and soundex. The archives is located at https://subscribe.clevelandjewishnews.com. There is a search engine on the home page that will provide results at no charge for editions published since 2001.
A Political Statement
Barack Obama is the latest U.S. president to suggest that Israel should pull back to the pre-1967 borders. I am in total agreement with him. Israel should pull back to the pre-1967 borders as soon as the United States gives Texas back to Mexico and the Dakotas back to the Indians.
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