Nu? What's New?
Nu? What's New is a bi-weekly Internet magazine published by Avotaynu providing information of interest to persons tracing their Jewish family history.
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Vol. 4, No. 6 - April 13, 2003
Major Fire at Kamianets-Podilsky Archives
Fire destroyed major fonds (record groups) in a warehouse of the Kamianets-Podilsky State/City Archives in Ukraine on Thursday, April 10. The archives held the records of the area that comprised Podolia guberniya during czarist times--an area with a large Jewish population at the beginning of the 20th century.
Five of the most valuable fonds were severely damaged: f.226, Podolia State Chamber (Kazennaia Palata) (1796-1919); f.228, Office of Governor of Podolia (1795-1917); f. 112, Office for Peasant Affairs of Podolia Guberniya (1861-1919); f. 678, Kamianets city office (1875-1920); f. 249, Office of Military Governor (1795-1845). These historical fonds (about 100,000 files) cover the history of Podolia guberniya from the end of the 18th century through the beginning of the 20th century. They are believed to include revision lists and some Jewish metrical records.
In addition to those documents that were completely destroyed, many unique historical documents were water-damaged. Since the fire, hundreds of people--local archivists, cadets, policeman, fireman, other municipal personnel, students, and ordinary people--have been working around the clock to save whatever is possible. So far, about two tons of archival materials have been evacuated from the destroyed warehouse.
The cause of the fire is under investigation. Fortunately, no one was injured.
Miriam Weiner of Routes to Roots, whose ancestors came from Sudilkov, told me, "What few documents survived the Holocaust for Sudilkov were in this archive. I feel like a family member has died."
MyFamily.com Acquires Genealogy.com
Will the Bill Gates of genealogy please stand up! American genealogy on the Internet is now a monopoly. Number 1--MyFamily.com--has acquired number 2--Genealogy.com. Only Heritage Quest, a subsidiary of ProQuest, remains as a major player in the competition for providing American genealogy services on the Internet. But Heritage Quest follows the ProQuest model of offering its online products to institutions and libraries, not to individuals.
In their news release, MyFamily.com stated, "Genealogy.com joins the MyFamily network of websites--Ancestry.com, MyFamily.com, and RootsWeb.com--giving customers a full complement of Internet services focused on connecting families with their histories and one another. Combined, the network of websites receives over 10 million unique visitors each month and has more than one million paid subscriptions."
I have always admired the senior management of MyFamily.com. They are driven to give the consumer the best and the most for fairly reasonable prices. In only six months they were able to get the entire 1930 census with an every-name index online. Their grey-scale images are superior to the black/white images of Genealogy.com.
But when you are a monopoly, there is no need to be first with the most. What would be the motivation to get the 1930 census out in record time if you are the only company in the business? What if the financial backers of MyFamily.com do not like their profit margins? Who is the competitor that will offer the consumer comparable products and services at a lower price? What if service deteriorates. Who will the consumer switch to?
Steven Spielberg Develops Online Films of Jewish Life
The Steven Spielberg Jewish Film Archive has begun a major project to make films of Jewish life of the past available on the Internet. Over the next five years, approximately 100 films per year will be added until more than 500 films will be viewable. The site is located at http://spielbergfilmarchive.org.il/kv/index.htm
There are films of pre-Holocaust Jewish life in Bialystok, Krakow, Lviv, Vilna, and Warsaw. There are numerous music clips--Ashkenazic, Hassidic, North African, Sephardic, Yemenite and others. Major film categories are Jewish Communities, Holocaust, Pre-State (of Israel), State of Israel and Hebrew University of Jerusalem. These are not short film clips. Most are 10 minutes or more.
I had great difficulty getting the films to work. Very specific software is required which includes Internet Explorer 6, Windows Media Player 7, and Flash player.After confirming that all this software was installed, I still could not get it to work after many attempts. On a hunch, I disabled my firewall (Norton Personal Firewall). Only then did it work. There is a troubleshooting page at http://www.spielbergfilmarchive.org.il/virtualcine/ecinematroubleshooting.htm
Last Chance: Deadline for Genealogical Resources in New York Offer
April 15 is the deadline for subscribers to our journal, AVOTAYNU, to purchase Genealogical Resources in New York at the special discount price of $42.50. Thereafter the regular price is $49.95. You can order it at the Avotaynu web site, http://www.avotaynu.com/books/NewYork.htm. The site includes the complete Table of Contents. The new book provides detailed information about more than 80 repositories in New York City and the state capital, Albany. It is published by the New York-based Jewish Genealogical Society, Inc.
Sample Chapter of Avotaynu Guide to Jewish Genealogy Available on Internet
A sample chapter of the planned Avotaynu Guide to Jewish Genealogy is available on the Internet. This chapter describes Jewish genealogical research in New Zealand and is one of the smaller chapters in Part IV of the book. It is six pages in length. The largest chapter will be Poland which, it is estimated, will be more than 50 pages.
Each chapter by country typically includes:
* History of the Jews of the country
* Record types available
* Records access
* Address of repositories and other institutions
* Internet resources
Any person pre-ordering Avotaynu Guide to Jewish Genealogy will have his/her name, as well as city and state residences, appear in the book on an advanced subscriber list. The name will appear exactly as it is on the order form. Consequently, a married woman who uses her maiden name in genealogical research should include it with the order.
The estimated book size is 800 pages. The cost is $85.00 plus shipping. Until May 15, there is a pre-publication price of $75.00 plus shipping to subscribers to our journal AVOTAYNU. You can become a subscriber now and order the book at the reduced rate.
Information about the book, including a link to the sample chapter, can be found at http://www.avotaynu.com/books/guide.htm
Spring Issue of AVOTAYNU
The Spring issue of AVOTAYNU will go to the printer this week. There are 16 articles in the issue in addition to the regular columns--Book Reviews, Ask the Experts, From Our Contributing Editors, U.S. Update, and From Our Mailbox.
Jewish genealogical research in Lithuania, Moldova, Poland, Ukraine and Scotland are featured. As noted in the last edition of Nu? What's New? the lead articles discuss the future of JewishGen now that it is a part of the Museum of Jewish Heritage.
You can subscribe to AVOTAYNU at http://www.avotaynu.com/journal.htm. If you were a 2002 subscriber and have not yet renewed, you can do so at this site.
ProQuest Genealogy Databases
One of the senior technicians at Heritage Quest, a subsidiary of ProQuest, is a friend of mine. He gave me the opportunity to look at the ProQuest online genealogy databases for 60 days and I have the following observations to make.
ProQuest identifies three of their many services as being of interest to genealogists: Digital Sanborn Maps, 1867-1970; HeritageQuest Online; and ProQuest Historical Newspapers.
Digital Sanborn Maps, 1867-1970
There are more than 660,000 detailed maps of some 12,000 American towns in the United States for selected time periods. They were originally created by the Sanborn Map Company for fire insurance purposes. I have heard of these maps before and have never understood their genealogical value. Now, having viewed these maps, I still do not understand their genealogical value. Their interest may be merely that they are detailed maps showing the exact building where an ancestor lived in a given year.
This database consists of a number of resources, some of which may be of value to the Jewish genealogist. First, there are census images and indexes for the years 1790, 1800, 1810, 1870, 1890 (what exists of it) and 1910. Of particular interest to Jewish genealogists is the 1910 census. Heritage Quest has had a number of CDs available that index states of the 1910 census including New York and Connecticut. The online version includes all states plus the actual page images. Searching is very basic. There are no soundex or wildcard searches. You can search only by surname, given name and state. The CDs have more powerful searching capabilities and the New York City, New York State and Connecticut CDs can be purchased from Avotaynu at http://www.avotaynu.com/catalog.htm.
The other portion of HeritageQuest Online is a search for people, places or publications from various sources collected by ProQuest. Searching for the names Mokotoff and Tartasky in the people search yielded no results. Searching for Jacob Cohen generated 121 hits. Examining the sources for the 121 hits demonstrates that the vast majority of sources for this database are pre-20th century, making it less valuable for most Jewish-Americans. Yet some of the Jacob Cohen sources were Jewish. Examples are: "The Sentinel Presents 100 Years of Chicago Jewry", "Inventory of the Church and Synagogue Archives of Mississippi", "Jewish merchants in colonial Rhode Island." There were 4,716 documents that included the keyword "Jews." The People Search facility allows you to search by name, place and/or key words. There is a Place Search ability. Every evidence is that it is no different from the Person Search. Using the Place Search page, I only keyed in the name of a person and got the same results as the People Search. Finally there is a Book Search facility. The source may be the very same books that are the sources for the people and place searches. It is difficult to determine the book collection's value to the Jewish genealogist. The site lists, in alphabetical order, the 1,061 books for which it has images. I skipped to those titles that started with "Jew..." and found at least two that might be of interest to genealogists; a 1923 "Jewish Community Blue Book of Detroit" and a 1924 "Jewish Community Blue Book of Newark (New Jersey)." The Newark book provided descriptions of Jewish organizations and biographies of leaders of the Jewish community of that time. There is no key word search, so it was not possible to find a book title that had the word "Jewish" imbedded in it.
Is HeritageQuest Online of value to the Jewish genealogist? Probably of some value, but it would take digging to uncover useful information. It would appear that its principal value are the 20th-century city directories.
Historical Newspaper Collection
The final database ProQuest considers of value to genealogists can be quite useful. It is their Historical Newspaper collection. To date they have full-word indexed The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, and Christian Science Monitor. To Jewish genealogists, the most valuable portion is The New York Times index (1857-current). There were 131 hits on the name Mokotoff, the earliest being 1915 when a woman named Pesa Mokotoff of Europe was trying to locate her son Charles who immigrated to the U.S. (Both are known to me). I know a good number of Jewish genealogists that have used the New York Times index, and they have praised it for its usefulness in their research. An article appeared in the Summer 2002 issue of AVOTAYNU about one such success ("Using the New York Times Backfile"). An example from my own research is a branch of the Tartasky family-the Gershon and Esther Tartasky family. I have been unable to locate living relatives because I do not know the married names of the female children and I believe the male children Americanized their names. The obituary notice of Gershon (Americanized to Harris) in the 10 March 1948 issue of the New York Times gave the married name of the daughters and the Americanized names of the sons (Tarson and Tartaz). There is one major fault to the design of the Historical Newspaper collection. The location of the search word in the document is not highlighted. Many of the hits on the Mokotoff surname were for classified ads and business dealings (bankruptcies, law suits, etc.) It would have been painfully time consuming to go through the entire document, often nearly a full page of the Times, to locate the entry. Even obituaries, clearly documents of great genealogical significance, require slow, careful scanning to locate the search word. The obituary column of 30 May 1966 included a Mokotoff. Only by careful analysis did I find it under the obituary notice of Henry Fried, my mother's brother. She is mentioned as one of the surviving family members.
Are these ProQuest services valuable to Jewish genealogists? Without a doubt. This is especially true of the Historical Newspaper collection and the 1910 census. The People search may be of some value, especially for the possibility of finding basic information about early ancestors in the early 20th century and for the few researchers whose Jewish ancestors came to the U.S. before 1881.
ProQuest services cannot be purchased by individuals. They are only available thorough libraries and other institutions. Determine if there is a library in your area that subscribes to these ProQuest services. If not, you might be able to encourage them to sign up.
Vol. 4, No. 7 - April 27, 2003
Hamburg Emigration Site Adds Additional Years
The Hamburg Emigration Index database is now complete for the years 1890-1902. It is located at http://www.hamburg.de/fhh/behoerden/staatsarchiv/link_to_your_roots/english/index.htm.
The index provides basic information about the emigrant: name, country/state of origin, approximate age, and destination. For a fee, you can receive an abstract of the entire entry from the ship's manifest. The cost for an abstract has been lowered to $20 for 1-3 persons; $30 4-10 persons; $40 for 11-20; $50 for 21-30 persons. Payment can be made with MasterCard, EuroCard or Visa. Because it is an abstract rather than the actual manifest, each member of a family of three on a specific page would have his/her own abstract. Therefore, they would count as three persons if you requested information about all three.
Avotaynu sells a colorful book about the Hamburg emigration experience; it can be a valuable addition to your genealogical book collection. Portions of the book can be found at http://www.hamburg.de/fhh/behoerden/senatskanzlei/internetausstellungen/emigration/englisch/emigration_index.htm. The book can be ordered at http://www.avotaynu.com/books/hamburg.htm.
Comments on Previous Nu? What's New? Articles
In Nu? What's New? Vol. 4, No. 5, there was mention that Avotaynu's latest book, Sephardic Genealogy, won the 2002 Best Reference Book Award of the Association of Jewish Libraries. The headline read: Sephardic Genealogy Wins ALA Judaica Reference Award. The headline should have read Sephardic Genealogy Wins AJL Judaica Reference Award. "ALA" is the abbreviation of the American Library Association, a different organization.
In the last issue of Nu? What's New? in conjunction with genealogical databases made available by ProQuest, I commented that I could not understand the value of Sanborn maps to genealogists. I received a number of responses opposing my view. One, sent to me by Donn Devine, a Certified Genealogist, seemed to summarize the comments of all. He stated:
"Their genealogical value--assuming genealogy includes family history as well as relationships--is in giving a spacial dimension to addresses of residents, community institutions and employers--information usually available only in text from census schedules and city directories.
"Often the Sanborn maps are the only surviving record of the kind of housing our ancestors enjoyed or suffered. It's one thing to find a family of husband, wife and seven children as the only household in an urban dwelling unit. It's quite another to find they lived in a row house of frame construction, two rooms deep and two stories high, on a block not served by a public water system--typical 'mill housing' in many urban areas."
Head of Romanian Archives to Attend Annual Conference
Dr. Corneliu Lungu, Director of the Romanian National Archives, will be among the speakers at the 23rd International Conference on Jewish Genealogy to be held in Washington, D.C., from July 20-25. He joins a number of other archivists including John Carlin, Archivist of the United States, the keynote speaker; Kinga Frojimovics, former director of the Hungarian Jewish archives; Olga Muzychuk, director of the Central State Historical Archives of Ukraine; and George Bolotenko of the National Archives of Canada;
A Romanian track has been created for Thursday, July 24. In addition to the lecture by Dr. Lungu, Ladislau Gyémánt and Stuart Tower will lecture that day. Gyémánt is deputy dean of the Faculty of European Studies of Babe-Bolyai University in Cluj, Romania, and AVOTAYNU Contributing Editor for Romania. Tower is author of "The Wayfarers–The Story of the Fusgeyers of Romania."
The conference web site is http://www.jewishgen.org/dc2003/ There is a conference day planner identifying all the lectures including titles and speakers, luncheons, Special Interest Group and Birds-of-a-Feather meetings. The site includes a registration form that can be downloaded and then mailed or faxed to the conference planners.
The conference is sponsored by the International Association of Jewish Genealogical societies, a confederation of more than 70 Jewish genealogical societies throughout the world, and hosted by the Jewish Genealogy Society of Greater Washington. It is anticipated than more than 1,200 people will attend the gathering.
Unusual Avotaynu Web Pages
I had reason to go into the Nu? What's New? archives to retrieve information for this edition and realized that the Avotaynu website has some unusual pages that are not publicized except for a mention in a specific edition of this e-zine. Some of these sites might be of interest to current readers.
On November 9, 1938, Kristallnacht, riots in Germany destroyed synagogues and Jewish property. This presented a problem to the German insurance industry who faced millions of dollars worth of claims because of the destruction. At a meeting held three days later, on November 12, chaired by Field Marshall Goering and attended by such Nazi notables as Goebbels and Heydrich, the matter was discussed with a representative of the insurance industry. This website reprints a transcript of a portion of the meeting.
Polish nobility records of the 18th century contain information about the population on their lands, including Jews. Since Jewish records of this time period are scant, these documents may be the only source of information about 18th-century Jewish ancestors. They include censuses and lists of Jews who lived on the nobles' lands and in their towns. This website shows all known holdings of the private archives of Polish magnates.
A description of the invention of the soundex system and an explanation of the Daitch-Mokotoff Soundex System.
The history of the controversy between the Jewish community and the Mormon Church regarding posthumous baptism of Jews has been the subject of much misinformation in the press. This article, published in the Summer 1995 issue of AVOTAYNU, was titled "The Mormon/Jewish Controversy: What Really Happened""
A list of 50,000 Viennese Jews who, in 1938, were forced by the Austrian government to declare their assets, which were subsequently seized. It gives their names and birth dates. The list was provided by Avotaynu as a public service to assist people who thought they were heirs to the Austrian government's plans to provide a form of restitution for the seized assets. This list was indexed by all major Internet search engines which caused Avotaynu to receive inquiries from a number of people throughout the world who were unaware that they might be entitled to the restitution.
Current floor plan of the Family History Library in Salt Lake City.
I receive numerous inquiries from people who want to locate documentation about the fate of family and friends who were caught up in the Holocaust. Key portions of the book "How to Document Victims and Locate Survivors of the Holocaust" are available at this site.
For the past five years, Avotaynu has sponsored Jewish Genealogy Month. This site displays the five posters we have commissioned in conjunction with the commemoration.
Avotaynu's reaction to September 11, 2001.
Avotaynu Guide to Jewish Genealogy to Include Illustrations from 1901-1906 Jewish Encyclopedia
Avotaynu's books are mostly reference works. One challenge we have is how to illustrate these books. For Where Once We Walked we selected pictures of Jewish life in Eastern Europe before the Holocaust; one picture for every letter of the alphabet. They came primarily from the photo archives of YIVO Institute. For Alexander Beider's dictionaries of Jewish surnames we continued the theme selecting famous Jewish personages from the region the book represented, one for each letter of the alphabet. Again, the source of the photographs was YIVO's collection. More than 17,000 photographs from the YIVO collection can be found at http://yivo1000towns.cjh.org
In choosing pictures for our forthcoming Avotaynu Guide to Jewish Genealogy, we decided to use illustrations from the 1901-1906 Jewish Encyclopedia for a pictorial theme. In many chapters of The Guide there will be illustrations from the beginning of the 20th century taken from the encyclopedia as well as pictures of genealogically significant documents. The encyclopedia can be found on the Internet with a full-word search engine at http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com.
We have extended to May 15 the deadline to be included as an advanced subscriber to Avotaynu Guide to Jewish Genealogy. Anybody ordering the book by the deadline will have their name and current town of residence included in a special section. You can order the book at http://www.avotaynu.com/books/guide.htm. The site includes a complete Table of Contents as well as a sample chapter.
Vol. 4, No. 8 - May 11, 2003
The Problem That Won't Go Away: First American Jewish Families Used for Posthumous Baptisms
It has been discovered that yet another major Jewish work has been used by the Mormon Church for posthumous baptisms. Most deceased persons identified in Rabbi Malcolm H. Stern's book, First American Jewish Families--some 30,000 persons--have been discovered in the International Genealogical Index (IGI). The IGI is a database of some 250 million people for whom some Mormon ordinance, usually posthumous baptism, has been performed. First American Jewish Families identifies more than 35,000 people who are descendants of the earliest Jewish immigrants to the United States. Rabbi Stern is considered by many to the father of contemporary Jewish genealogy.
Recently, Chaim Freedman of Israel, who was born in Australia, discovered that many of the most distinguished Australian rabbis and Jewish leaders of the past were listed in the IGI, indicating that posthumous baptisms were performed on them. He also discovered that birth records from London's Hambro synagogue were used for the Mormon ritual.
The evidence is that these ordinances were performed prior to the 1995 agreement between the Mormon Church and major Jewish organizations at which time the Church agreed to discontinue baptism of deceased Jews. Information regarding this agreement can be found at http://www.jewishgen.org/infofiles/ldsagree.html. The events that lead up to the agreement can be found at http://www.avotaynu.com/mormon.htm
I recently read a biography of Alma Rosé, the Jewish woman who was conductor of the women's orchestra at Auschwitz. (She died in the camp.) Last night, I searched the IGI and found her name--twice. So is her mother Justine Mahler Rosenblum, the sister of the noted Austrian-Jewish composer, Gustav Mahler, who is also in the IGI. Either Alma Rosé was posthumously baptized after 1995 or her baptism was in violation of the 95-year rule the Church has established which states you cannot posthumously baptize a person who was born within the past 95 years without permission of living members of the immediate family.
The IGI can be searched at http://www.familysearch.org/Eng/Search/frameset_search.asp Then click on the words "International Genealogical Index" on the left part of the screen to limit the search to the IGI only.
Two Important Deadlines on May 15
May 15 is the deadline for two important activities in 2003.
* Inclusion in the Advanced Subscriber List for the to-be-published Avotaynu Guide to Jewish Genealogy.
* Early registration for the 23rd International Conference on Jewish Genealogy.
If you wish to be listed as an Advanced Subscriber to the book Avotaynu Guide to Jewish Genealogy, you must order the book by May 15. More than 350 people already have accepted the offer. If you are an advanced subscriber, we will include your name and town of residence in a special appendix to the book. Married women are urged to include their maiden name when ordering the book.
Avotaynu Guide to Jewish Genealogy is being written by 66 experts on Jewish genealogy. It will consist of more than 100 chapters covering the complete spectrum of Jewish genealogical research (estimated size is 800 pages). By listing advanced subscribers in the book, Avotaynu is mirroring the tradition of Hebrew Subscription Lists, which was used in the 19th and early 20th centuries as a means of raising funds to publish scholarly Jewish works.
The cost of the book is $85.00. We are offering a pre-publication price of $75.00 to subscribers to our journal, AVOTAYNU. You can sign up for the book at http://www.avotaynu.com/books/guide.htm. We will not process your credit card information until the book is ready to be shipped. This web site includes the complete Table of Contents showing the broad scope of The Guide.
Become a part of Jewish history. Order Avotaynu Guide to Jewish Genealogy now and have your name listed in "The Guide" as a pre-subscriber.
If you are planning to attend the 23rd International Conference on Jewish Genealogy to be held in Washington, D.C. from July 20-25, 2003, you are not alone. It is anticipated that more than 1,000 people will attend. If you do not register by May 15, you are foolish. On May 16, registration jumps from $185 to $215. Also, be sure to make your hotel reservation now, because it is not uncommon for the conference hotel to be fully booked early. You can register online at http://www.jewishgen.org/dc2003/registration.html. Hotel information is also available at the site.
The annual International Conference on Jewish Genealogy is the premier event of the year for Jewish genealogy. It is the opportunity to network with other researchers and to attend lectures from 8:00 a.m. until 4:45 p.m. with the evening devoted to either genealogy-relevant tours or additional lectures.
John Carlin, Archivist of the United States is the keynote speaker at the Opening Session. Hadassah Lieberman, wife of Senator Joe Lieberman, is the speaker at the banquet.
Article on Using the Google Search Engine for Genealogy
The Internet is one big encyclopedia if you know how to find the information being sought. This is especially true of genealogical research. What databases are on the web relating to my family history research? How do I order records from the British Public Records office? Is there any information on my ancestral towns?
One of the best search engines is Google at http://www.google.com. Using a search engine is a skill. Often you must judiciously choose key words to assure that sites of interest to you appear on the first page of the search results.
Kimberly Powell, a professional genealogist and member of the Association of Professional Genealogists has written on article on how to use the Google search engine. It is located at http://genealogy.about.com/library/weekly/aa052902a.htm
AVOTAYNU on CD-ROM Has Been Updated
Since 1996, Avotaynu has made all back issues of AVOTAYNU: The International Review of Jewish Genealogy available on CD-ROM. The CD is updated every three years. We have just released the 2003 version of AVOTAYNU on CD-ROM which includes all issues of the journal through the last issue of 2002.
The CD contains all articles Avotaynu has published from its first issue in 1985 to the last issue of 2002. There are more than 2.5 million words, some 2,600 pages all accessible with a full-word search engine. Key in a town name, a surname, or a topic and the search engine will identify every article that contains the keyword(s). You can then print out the article. Cost is $99.95 + shipping with purchasers of the 1996 or 1999 version of the CD-ROM getting a deep upgrade discount. The upgrade price is only $29.95 plus shipping. Upgrading requires returning the previous CD. More information can be found at http://www.avotaynu.com/journal.htm#avcdrom.
There are some important differences between this version and the previous 1999 version. Because of the ease at which CDs can be duplicated, the new version requires online registration. The registration process freezes the application to only one computer. There is no Mac version; the cost to implement it exceeded the number of sales we had in the past three years.
Lithuania Discovers Its Jewish Past and Future
Before the Holocaust, 250,000 Jews lived in Lithuania. Today there are only about 5,000. Vilnius (Vilna, in Yiddish), the capital of Lithuania, was known among Jews as the Jerusalem of Lithuania. Today, there is a resurgence of interest in Lithuanian Jewry past and future.
The municipality of Vilnius is planning to restore parts of the Old Town of Vilnius. (See http://www.vilnius.lt/new/en/gidas.php?&open=16&id=116). This includes a portion of the Jewish ghetto that existed before the Holocaust including the Great Synagogue and its environment and representative elements of the ghetto on various streets of the Old Town.
There is a Yiddish Institute at Vilnius University that is part of its Department of History. It has a web site at http://www.yiddishvilnius.com The Institute offers courses in Yiddish, Yiddish Folklore, Introduction to Ashkenazic Civilization, East European Jewish History and Culture, Lithuanian Jewry in the 20th Century, Holocaust Education, and History of Modern Anti-Semitism.
The Vilna Gaon Jewish State Museum in Vilnius, Lithuania, now has a web site. It is located at http://www.jmuseum.lt/ It is one of the most impressive looking web sites I have seen. It also has excellent content. After viewing the introductory page, you are brought to a page that provides a history of the Vilna Gaon (Eliyahu ben Solomon Zalman [1720-1797]). The text is in Lithuanian. In the upper right corner of the screen is a button that says "EN". Click it to get the English version of this site. Sections of the site, some of which are under construction, include history, fonds (collections), expositions, exhibitions, departments, photo gallery, projects, and news.
Pictures of the Fire at the Kamenets Podilskiy Archives
Routes to Roots Foundation has published on the Internet pictures of the fire that destroyed important record groups at the Kamenets Podilskiy archive in Ukraine as reported in the last issue of "Nu? What's New?". The site also includes updated information about the extent of damage done at the facility. Go to http://www.rtrfoundation.org and click the link that flashes "News Alert."
Vol. 4, No. 9 - May 25, 2003
There is little news that has come across my desk in the past two weeks. Most of the items below are more feature articles than news material. I will be attending the National Genealogical Society conference in Pittsburgh this week and hopefully will return with some interesting items. Avotaynu offices will be closed the week of May 26 - May 30.
Listings in the Advanced Subscriber List of The Guide
If you have already ordered Avotaynu Guide to Jewish Genealogy your name will be included in an Advanced Subscriber List to be published in the book. Married women might consider including their maiden name as part of listing (Ruth Auerbach Mokotoff, instead of Ruth Mokotoff). If you did not provide this information when you placed your order and wish to do so, send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org to have the information added.
Avotaynu Guide to Jewish Genealogy consists of more than 100 chapters covering the complete spectrum of Jewish genealogical research (estimated size is 800 pages). Additional information, including the Table of Contents, as well as a sample chapter, can be found at http://www.avotaynu.com/books/guide.htm.
On Privacy and Security
We live in a time when access to government records is becoming increasingly more difficult. The excuses given for closing access to these records are usually twofold: privacy and/or security. What right do I have to acquire the death record of another person is the claim? We must combat terrorists by eliminating their ability to steal a person's identity.
I define privacy laws as the attempt to keep from the public information that can be acquired anyway by some means. I define security as the mechanism that inconveniences the honest and allows the dishonest to get through. There are always cracks in the dike of privacy and security laws. That is why there are successful thieves and terrorists. Do locks on doors keep out burglars?
There are many ways our privacy is invaded already. Consider the following:
1. Newspapers. What is a newspaper? It is an institution dedicated to making public the private lives of people. They call it "news," but this news is published without your permission. What is worse is that newspapers often publish only half the story. We have all seen news items about a person's arrest for driving while intoxicated. Do you ever recall seeing news about the trial that found a person innocent of driving while intoxicated?
2. Internet. The Internet has taken lack of privacy to its ultimate level. Your private life is being distributed worldwide. The driving-while-intoxicated article in your local newspaper is now on the newspaper's web site giving access to the entire world. If you are fortunate enough to have a reasonably unique name, as I have, you have done generic searches of the Internet using your surname. That is how I discovered that a distant cousin living in Melbourne, Australia, is only a fair bowler. His average is 163 in his bowling league according to the Interent site. My cousin, a cardiologist who lives 1,000 miles from me, was once sued for malpractice. It was on an Internet list of all doctors in that geographic area that were sued for malpractice. The implication was that readers should proceed with caution if planning to use the doctor. I do not know the outcome of the case; it was not published on the Internet.
3. All public records. Why are court trials public? Why are real estate transactions public? Why are probate records public? They all make available information about our private lives. I never knew how rich my next door neighbor was until I had access to the public real estate records at the county clerk's office. It showed me that he owns three houses in town. Hasn't his privacy been invaded by giving the public access to real estate records?
There also is the mother's-maiden-name controversy. If you publish information about living people, thieves will steal their identity. If you know a person's mother's maiden name, you will gain access to private information. The most "private" information I have ever received by disclosing my mother's maiden name is the balance on a credit card bill. If any company ever disclosed something I considered truly private, I would change companies.
For every good that we create to advance our quality of life, there are people who will abuse the system. We cannot run our society by creating laws that restrict people's activities because of the actions of a few. We must take into account the value public access to private information benefits us. Otherwise ban newspapers, ban the Internet, ban public records.
Why do I bring up this subject? Increasingly it is becoming more difficult to do genealogical research because public access to records is being shut down on the grounds of privacy and/or security.
Genealogy does good for our society. It unites families. In order to accomplish this task, access to records must be permitted. Most people want to be united with family. That is why a favorite news feature is a Holocaust survivor finding lost kin, or an adopted child locating birth family.
There are those who claim you should not publish vital information about living persons without their permission. I have been researching the Mokotow family for 24 years. I have distributed to the family a family tree that includes information about living persons: their names, birth dates and place of residence. They are also aware that this information is on the Internet (in a manner that it cannot be indexed by a search engine). I have never received a complaint from any member of the family that I was releasing information about their private lives. In fact, exactly the opposite. The most common complaint is that I left out information from the family tree.
I receive Jewish New Year cards from all over the world from Mokotow relatives I did not know before my involvement in family history. Most of these people are only distantly related to me: fourth and fifth cousins. For many years, the Mokotows of Israel got together every year for a Chanukah party to celebrate the family. Most did not know they were related to each other until my genealogical research disclosed this relationship. The greater good is that I united the Mokotow family worldwide. The downside is that I disclosed information about living people.
As a professional genealogist, I have brought joy into peoples' lives by giving them information gained by access to records about their families. For example, I recently helped an adopted person in his quest to locate his birth mother's family. How he discovered her surname I must keep secret because some bureaucrat would close up that leak in the privacy rules ("privacy is the attempt to keep from the public information that can be acquired anyway by some means"). Given her surname, plus seemingly non-private information provided by the adoption agency, I was able to locate the family in the 1930 census. I then was able to identify one of her brothers in the Social Security Death index. My client is now seeking that person's death record so he can determine where he is buried which should lead to next of kin. This quest would not have been achieved without access to records such as the 1930 census, the Social Security Death Index and death records. These very same records could be used for identity theft and invasion of privacy.
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.
Fortunately organized genealogy is doing something about this problem. In the U.S. there is a Records Access & Preservation Committee of the Federation of Genealogical Societies and National Genealogical Society. It has successfully fought or modified legislation in various states that tried to limit access to records important to genealogists. Information about the group can be found at http://www.fgs.org/rpa. In Canada there is an ongoing battle between genealogists/historians and the Canadian government who wants to prevent access to census data on the invented claim that 90 years ago the informants were promised privacy in perpetuity. Information about this effort can be found at http://globalgenealogy.com/census. In Australia a group of genealogists and historians are moving toward eliminating the destruction of the national censuses. Since 1828, all Australian censuses have been destroyed once summary information was gleaned from them by the government. What a great tragedy to the recorded history of Australia.
The Nigerian E-mail Scam with a Genealogical Twist
A common scam on the Internet is e-mail received from someone in Nigeria claiming they have millions of dollars in a bank that is inaccessible without your participation. In return for participation, you get a share of the millions. Although it seems incredible to me that someone would not see it as a scam, there have been people who have taken such offers. In one instance, an American was murdered when he went to Nigeria to participate in the offering.
The latest variant of this scam has a genealogical twist. Below are excerpts from e-mail received by one genealogist.
I am Barrister Williams, a solicitor at law. I am the personal attorney to Mr. Mark Barnett, a national of your country, who used to work with Shell-development Company in Nigeria. On the 21st of April 1999, my client, his wife and their three children were involved in a car accident and lost their lives. Since then I have made several enquiries to your embassy to locate any of my clients extended relatives this has proved unsuccessful. I am contacting you to assist in repatriating the money and property left behind by my client valued at about $17.8 million. Since I have been unsuccessful in locating the relatives for over 3 years now, I seek your consent to present you as the next of kin of the deceased since you have the same last name, so that the proceeds of this account valued at $17.8 million dollars can be paid to you and then you and me can share the money. 60% to me 35% to you and 5% for expenses.
Tomasz Wisniewski Offering Tour/Photo Services
Tomasz Wisniewski of Bialystok, Poland, has left the journalism business and is now devoting his full time to his real loves: tour guiding, photography and other genealogy-related pursuits. Contact him directly for more particulars about his various services.
Tomy, as he is known to his genealogy friends, concentrates primarily in the Bialystok/Lomza/Suwalki area, but can easily assist people in any part of Poland and is willing to discuss his abilities to take extended trips to Lithuania and Belarus.
All of the activities described below Tomy has performed in the past and can give references.
Tour Guide. If you are planning to visit the Bialystok/Lomza/Suwalki region of Poland for genealogical research and/or touring, Tomy has successfully performed these tasks for many other people. He has an entire list of happy clients on his web site at http://www.kolodno-holiday.com/references.html
He is quite capable of handling tours to other parts of Poland, even if your plans include additional trips to Lithuania or Belarus. He does not recommend using his services if you are going exclusively to those countries.
Place to rent. Staying in Bialystok for a while? Tomy can rent you a two-room apartment in the heart of Bialystok or a gorgeous small home in Kolodno just 20 km outside of the city. You can see pictures of the house at http://www.kolodno-holiday.com
Photo essay. Tomy is not a professional photographer, but his work is of professional quality. He will go into a town, locate sites of interest including Jewish sites, photograph them and prepare a photo report of what he found. Images can be provided on CD-ROM. He completed such a project for me for the town of Jalowka, Poland. Example of his photographic skills can be seen at http://www.kolodno-holiday.com/gallery.html. Americans will find some remarkable pictures of the World Trade Center before 9-11 in the "USA Impressions" section.
Postcards. Tomy claims he has the largest collection of old postcards of Eastern Europe in the hands of any private collector. They are Jewish, Christian and secular postcards. When I asked him for a list of towns represented, he stated it was too large--"in the thousands." Avotaynu sells computer images of about 1,300 of the cards in his collection for only $2.50 each. They can be viewed at http://www.avotaynu.com/postcards. The actual cards in his vast collection are for sale, but they are substantially more expensive. Some are extremely rare and cost as much as $200 each. He also has more than 500 old military maps of parts of Eastern Europe which can be useful to locate old cemeteries, synagogues and churches.
Genealogical search services. Not really his "thing," but he has done research for me and others at the Bialystok Regional State Archives and it was quality, comprehensive work. This was done before JRI-Poland indexed the Bialystok records. When I matched their index against what he had done for me a few years earlier, he had not missed a record.
His e-mail address is email@example.com
Beshert - Pre-ordained - Destined to Be
My maternal grandfather's last name was Tartasky. All Tartaskys from Bialystok are related to me.
Four years ago, I started the quest to document all Tartaskys from Bialystok. One strategy was to capture all Ellis Island arrival records. A family that has eluded me is that of Gershon Tartasky. His family arrived on October 4, 1907: Esther, Beile, Bima, Golda, and Yudel. I was able to find them in the 1920 census with Americanized names: Harry, Esther, Bella, Benjamin, Gertrude and Julius. There was also an American-born son, Louis. In the 1930 census he was Harris Tartasky. My search for his descendants hit a brick wall because I suspected that his sons changed their surname and I did not know the married names of his daughters.
Progress was made only a few months ago when I found Gershon/Harry/Harris' obituary in the online "New York Times" index. It gave the names of all his children including the married names of his daughters. His son Louis changed his name to Tartaz, and his sons Julius and Benjamin changed their name to Tarson. I found Benjamin in the Social Security Death Index, but have yet to follow through to get his death record, which would lead to his gravesite which hopefully would lead to his living kin.
Last weekend was the unveiling of my wife's aunt's tombstone at Cedar Lawn cemetery in Paramus, New Jersey, one of the more than 50 Jewish cemeteries in the Greater New York area. It is a huge cemetery with possibly 50-100,000 graves. I don't know if it is human nature for people to glance at neighboring tombstones or just the compulsive act of genealogists, but I did look at nearby tombstones. One tombstone, no more than 50 feet from where my wife's aunt is buried, said "Tarson."
My first reaction was "why is that name familiar to me?" Then I recalled the "New York Times" obituary. I glanced at the name of the man buried there. It was a Benjamin Tarson, and the Hebrew inscription said "Benyomin bar Gershon." His wife, Sonia is buried next to him, and a man buried in the same plot has the last name of Praskin. Reading his Hebrew inscription demonstrated that his father's name was the same as that of Sonia's father, leading to the conclusion they were brother and sister. Not only do I now have a link to the living descendants to this branch of the Tartasky family, I also know the maiden name of Benjamin Tarson's wife--Praskin.
Vol. 4, No. 10 - June 8, 2003
Mark Your Calendar - Next Year in Jerusalem
The 24th International Conference on Jewish Genealogy will be held at the Renaissance Hotel in Jerusalem, Israel, from July 11-16, 2004.
The Israel Genealogical Society (IGS), the host organization, soon will provide a web site that will give additional information about the conference. Despite the fact that plans are still in its infancy, a number of projects have already begun. IGS members are spending time at different research sites and archives to prepare indices that will be made available at the conference. They include:
* Memorials of Vanished Communities Project. This project will document the many monuments erected throughout Israel that memorialize the Jewish communities destroyed during the Shoah. It is the first comprehensive effort to establish a catalog (pictures, lists of victims) of these memorials in Israel.
* Index of the Montefiore 1875 census. This is the last of the six censuses that were conducted in Eretz Israel and Egypt at the request of Sir Moses Montefiore. The original censuses are kept at the British Museum in London, and microfilmed copies are available at the Jewish National University Library in Jerusalem. The 1875 census gives us the best snapshot of who lived in Eretz Israel before the start of the Zionist movement. It includes Ashkenazim (Kollelim), Sephardim and Oriental Jews as well.
* Helkat Hamehokek Database. Helkat Hamehokek (The Legislator's Land Plot) is a set of booklets published in Hebrew in 1906 listing the names of the Jews buried in the Mount of Olives cemetery since 1668. It provides a wealth of genealogical information, including the father's name, place of origin, death date and the location of the tombstone. The symbolic importance of this very old cemetery is well known: many Jews wished to be buried there, facing the Temple Mount, near the place where the Messiah is supposed to come and bring them back to life.
* Indexing of Paul Jacobi's Archives. The late Israeli genealogist Dr. Paul Jacobi, a former member of the Israel Genealogical Society, wrote some 150 manuscript monographs that summarize his many years of research in European Jewish genealogy. Each monograph covers the history of a given family over many generations. It is a treasure of information for genealogists. The Jacobi family donated the monographs to the Jewish National University Library (JNUL) archives. The index identifies all individuals mentioned in the monographs, thus making consultation of the Jacobi Archives quick and productive.
Coincident with the event, Yad Vashem, the Martyrs and Heroes Remembrance Authority, will be celebrating its 50th anniversary since its founding in 1954. In 2004, they will open the new 3,500 sq. meter Historical Museum and the Hall of Names. Yad Vashem is now digitizing portions of its collection; their library and archives represent the world's largest documentation of the Shoah. Conference participants will be offered unique hours to research at Yad Vashem, as well as a special happening at the Valley of the Communities.
The Renaissance Hotel is centrally located near major archives such as the Central Zionist Archives, Jewish National and University Library, and the Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) Archives.
The official language of the conference will be English, with partial simultaneous translation to Hebrew.
Dictionary of Surnames Currently Used in Poland
In the early 1990s, a Polish professor compiled from official government records a list of every surname then used in Poland along with the number of individuals bearing the surname. It was published in a 10-volume set of books. It is now online at http://www.herby.com.pl/herby/indexslo.html.
If you believe there is a remnant of your family left in Poland, or have an unusual surname that permits a generic search, it might be worthwhile to use the database. If there is a hit, you are given the surname, each province in which the name appeared, and the total number of persons with the surname in the particular province.
I used it when the database first came out in book form. There was one person named Mokotowski in Poland in the Gdansk area and one named Mokotowicz in the Lomza area. An inquiry to the Lomza city hall could not locate the Mokotowicz, but the sister of a Polish-American friend still lived in Gdansk and she contacted the Mokotowski. She found out that he was a Polish Catholic whose real name was Germanic. He hated his father for physically abusing his mother, and he was taunted by his classmates as a child for having a German name. In his 20s, he changed his name to Mokotowski because of its association with the Polish capital of Warsaw. (Mokotów, once a village south of Warsaw, is now the southern section of the city.) He was unaware that Mokotowski was a uniquely Jewish surname. I wrote an article in the Winter 1998 issue of AVOTAYNU titled "The Last Mokotowski in Poland" that related the incident.
Read a description of the database on JewishGen at http://www.jewishgen.org/jri-pl/slownik.htm before using it. You will be navigated through the Polish descriptions at the search site and given insight as to how it was compiled and its potential shortcomings.
More Canada-to-U.S. Border Crossings Filmed
Another group of records involving immigrants crossing the border from Canada into the U.S. has been microfilmed by the U.S. National Archives. Called "Manifests of Alien Arrivals at Buffalo, Lewiston, Niagara Falls, and Rochester, New York, 1902-1954," it documents more than one million alien arrivals during that period. They primarily consist of aliens returning from a visit abroad, although there are a large number of aliens apparently entering the U.S. for the first time.
The contents of each index card is as extensive as a ship's manifest. Information includes the person's name, age, sex, marital status, place of birth, physical description, occupation, citizenship (nationality), race, ability to read and write and in what language, place of last permanent residence, port and date of arrival, destination, purpose for entering U.S., intention of becoming a U.S. citizen or of returning to country of previous residence, head tax status, and previous citizenships. It also includes the name and address of the alien`s nearest relative or friend in the country from which he or she came.
Copies are available at National Archives locations in Washington, D.C.; Pittsfield, Massachusetts; and New York City. Additional information can be found at http://www.archives.gov/research_room/genealogy/immigrant_arrivals/northern_ny_state_arrivals.html The site includes sample cards from the collection.
Gleanings from the NGS Conference
The annual conference of the National Genealogical Society was held in Pittsburgh from May 28-31. Here are some items gleaned from the conference.
The next major update to the LDS (Mormon) Family History Catalog will be to its Internet version. This should occur within the next few months. The catalog describes the vast holdings of the Family History Library in Salt Lake City and is made available to the public in other formats in addition to the online version. There is the in-house version at the Library itself which is updated regularly (usually more than once a month). A CD-ROM version was last updated in April 2002. Both the in-house and CD-ROM versions have key word search capability. The Family History Department is considering adding key word search capability to the online version too.
A German company has created a graphical family tree (known as a drop chart) which is the best I have seen to date. Such family trees are essential ingredients to a family reunion. This new version is prepared in color, with photographs of each individual (if provided). Making it unique is an index integrated into the tree that has vital information about the people on the tree. Examples exist at the company's Internet site http://www.fampres.de. The site is currently in German only, with plans to have an English version. The cost is $65 for each of the first two meters (about 3 feet) and $45.50 for each additional meter.
In one of the earliest editions of Nu? What's New?--Vol. 1 No. 11--I referred to "the ultimate step in placing family trees on the Internet." It was a project called "One Great Family" located at http://www.onegreatfamily.com. Rather than publish individual family trees, the system links all the trees by their common elements. The submitters can collaborate and reduce all the information to a single record containing all that is known about the matched individual. If there is contrary evidence, all information can be retained by the collaborators. The company reports they now have 52 million names in their database and receives nearly 400,000 visit a month. Think of the value if such a concept is implemented for the Family Tree of the Jewish People on JewishGen at http://www.jewishgen.org/gedcom/. Instead of having five records submitted by five researchers for one individual as is currently the case, there would be one record for the individual; the result of the collaboration of the five researchers. It would truly be a Family Tree of the Jewish People rather than a set of individual family trees.
One of the tragedies of amateur genealogy is that many researchers do not document well. They accumulate information but do not cite sources. As the years progress there is pressure to document properly because (1) circumstances arise where conflicting information is found, and the researcher cannot remember the source of the original information or (2) there are plans to publish a family history and citing sources is an important part of the book. The proper way to document towns within the United States is by town name/county/state. Comparable rules exist for all countries. Yes, if a town is merely identified as "Brooklyn" it is highly probable it is "Brooklyn, Kings, New York," but, in fact, there are 35 towns in the U.S. called "Brooklyn;" three in New York State. A company has developed a documentation aid on CD-ROM that validates town names in the U.S. and can even add counties to a genealogical database. Information can be found at http://www.uscitiesgalore.com.
There are standards in documenting genealogical evidence. The book that defines this standard is called "Evidence!" Additional information about the book can be found at http://www.avotaynu.com/bookhow2.htm#evidence
Online Exhibit of Jews of Lithuania at the Beginning of the 20th Century
There is now an online exhibit of pictures of Lithuanian Jewry at www.archyvai.lt/struktura/paroda/paroda.htm. Avotaynu sells a number of computer images of Lithuanian Jewry gleaned mostly from turn-of-the-20th-century postcards at http://www.avotaynu.com/postcards. It is part of a collection of more than 1,300 images from the Tomasz Wisniewski collection and includes towns from Algeria, Austria, Belarus, Belgium, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, England, Estonia, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iraq, Israel (Palestine), Italy, Latvia, Libya, Lithuania, The Netherlands, Poland, Romania, Russia, Slovak Republic, Spain, Trieste, Tunisia, Ukraine, United States and Yugoslavia
Little Old Ladies in Tennis Sneakers?
The stereotype of the amateur genealogist is sometimes described as a "little old lady in tennis sneakers." Avotaynu has known for some time that its customers do not meet this profile. The stereotypical Jewish genealogist is a professional or business executive with advanced degrees.
Proof of this profile of the Jewish genealogist is the biography section of our next major work, Avotaynu Guide to Jewish Genealogy. It is now complete and the background of the authors of The Guide is quite impressive. Of the 66 persons who contributed chapters to the book, 5 are medical doctors, 2 are lawyers, and 12 have PhDs in various fields. There is one rabbi. There are some professionals in genealogy-related fields including 4 archivists and 4 librarians.
June 15 is the deadline for subscribers to our journal, AVOTAYNU, to receive a pre-publication discount on the book. Additional information about "Avotaynu Guide to American Jewish Genealogy," including a complete Table of Contents and sample chapter, can be found at http://www.avotaynu.com/books/guide.htm.
Genealogical Resources in New York
Newly published Genealogical Resources in New York has been received from the printer. We have shipped copies of the book to all persons who ordered it through Avotaynu. The new book provides detailed information about more than 80 repositories in New York City and the state capital, Albany. Information about the book can be found at http://www.avotaynu.com/books/newyork.htm. The site includes the complete Table of Contents.
Vol. 4, No. 11 - June 22, 2003
eGenConference: A Review
With much fanfare, the first genealogy conference on the Internet began on June 10. It is located at http://www.familyhistoryradio.com. The concept was touted as a substitute for attending a live conference such as the International Conference on Jewish Genealogy to be held in Washington from July 20-25, or the recently held National Genealogical Society conference in Pittsburgh. The eGenConference's sponsor, FamilyHistoryRadio.com, claims it is "Genealogy Research in the Digital Millennium, Finding Your Ancestors Without Leaving Home." The notion is of potential value. Why spend hundreds of dollars attending a genealogy conference if the experience can be simulated online. The registration fee is only $69.95. Attending a live conference costs hundreds of dollars; perhaps in excess of $1,000 when you consider transportation and hotel expense.
While the concept of an Internet-based conference has merit, the actual implementation in this first conference is seriously wanting. There are only 43 lectures; conventional conferences offer more than 100. The lecturers at the eGenConference may be competent but they do not include the speakers normally found on the regular national lecture circuit, undoubtedly because the conference planners are paying their lecturers little. FamilyHistoryRadio is a Utah-based organization and most of the speakers appear to be Mormon. This is based on the fact that many include the certification "Accredited Genealogist," a certification created by the Mormon Church as a means of showing proficiency in genealogical research. Most national lecturers, and professional genealogists in general, receive certification through the Board for Certification of Genealogists.
The method of presentation differs from conventional conferences. You cannot see the speaker. An Internet-based lecture provides the voice of the speaker, a slide show and a handout in the form of a downloadable PDF file. There is no way to interact with the speaker, although it is my understanding that you can communicate after-the-fact by e-mail. There is a sample lecture you can link to from the home page titled "Setting Up Your Filing System." The information provided in the lecture is terrible. It proposes that you file your documents in file folders whose sole identification is a consecutive number equal to the Family Group Record Number of the Legacy software system. The weaknesses of such an approach are too numerous to describe here. Nearly half of the downloaded handout material was an advertisement to buy products. In fairness to the speaker, the title for the conference is "Setting Up Your Legacy Filing System."
Most disappointing of all is the so-called vendor Exhibit Hall. It is nothing more than a link to the vendor's regular Internet site.
This does not mean that the concept of an eGenConference is bad. It is this particular implementation that is wanting. Let's chalk it up to getting used to a new concept; hopefully the implementors will learn greatly from this first attempt. Here are some ways of improving the concept.
Add video to each lecture. It creates a more realistic environment. I recall when New York mayor Rudy Guiliani spoke to the United Nations after 9/11. I was anxious to hear his entire speech, not see excerpts on television or read it in its entirety in The New York Times. I wanted to live the experience of seeing him talk to the General Assembly. Fortunately, one of the online news media had his complete speech which included a film of him giving the speech. Watching the film display on my PC and hearing his voice made me feel that I was living the experience of being at the U.N. The eGenConference implementors should do the same; make it feel as if the registrant was sitting in the audience when the speaker gave the presentation.
Provide a question-and-answer session after the talk. This provides interaction between the audience and the speaker. Quite often the information imparted during the Q&A session is a valuable adjunct to the lecture itself. The eGenConference should include a Chat session to simulate the Q&A period. It would require that the lecture be presented at a specific time, but it could work in the following manner. Those persons who attend the initial offering of the lecture can participate in the Chat session. Those that view the lecture after the initial presentation can retrieve a copy of the Chat session after it occurred.
Pay more money and you will get better quality lecturers. A speaker at the National Genealogical Society conference gets paid an honorarium, travel expenses, hotel accommodations and a per diem that is about equivalent to $700 for the first lecture and $150 for each additional lecture. FamilyHistoryRadio offered me $100 for a lecture. No wonder they did not attract speakers.
As to the Exhibit Hall, the onus was on the exhibitor to make it more than a link to their website, and apparently none of them cared to devote the energy to doing so. Exhibitors spend thousands of dollars to ship displays to conferences and have them attended by employees. At a minimum, the eGenConference should provide a Chat facility for each vendor and require the vendor to have the Chat service manned so that conference attendees, even if they merely visit the vendors regular Internet site, can have questions answered interactively by a company representative.
There is likely a place for an eGenConference in the resources available for genealogy education. It will never replace the excitement and interaction that exists at a live conference. But for $69.95 versus $1000 it has its place; a quarter of a loaf can be better than none.
New Online Indexes
The Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit has made available a burial index to 64,000 Jews who died between the mid 1800s and 1999. It is at http://www.thisisfederation.org/cemetery/default.asp. Information includes name, cemetery, grave location and date of death.
There is now a Connecticut Death Index, 1949-2001, online at Ancestry.com http://www.gale.ancestry.com/search/rectype/inddbs/4124a.htm. This is a fee-for-service site.
Another Ancestry.com database is an index to 52,647 persons who arrived in New York City during 1891 who listed their country of citizenship as Austria, Poland, or Galicia. This is the year immediately preceding the opening of Ellis Island as an immigrant port of entry. The site is located at http://www.ancestry.com/search/rectype/inddbs/7171.htm
MyFamily.com Abandons Free Use of Its Site
As of June 23, there will be a fee to use any resources of MyFamily.com and its subsidiary Ancestry.com. Most significant is that the company previously provided free web sites for people to create their own family web site. It will now cost $30 per year to use the service with an introductory price of $9.95 for the first year.
Index to Articles Appearing in AVOTAYNU Updated
There is now an 18-year index to articles that have appeared in our flagship quarterly journal: AVOTAYNU (1985-2002). It is located at http://www.avotaynu.com/indexsum.htm. The index is organized by topic. Reflecting changing interests, there are four new topical sections: Croatia, DNA, Slovenia and Venezuela.
Since its inception 18 years ago, AVOTAYNU has published more than 2,600 articles of interest to Jewish genealogists. The 68-page quarterly also includes columns such as "Ask the Experts" and "U.S. Update," a digest of articles that appeared in publications of the Jewish genealogical societies and special interest groups. All these articles are now available on CD-ROM with a full-word search engine. Cost is $99.95 plus shipping. Ordering information can be found at http://www.avotaynu.com/journal.htm#avcdrom. You can subscribe to the publication at http://www.avotaynu.com/journal.htm. A year's subscription costs $35.00 ($43.00 outside North America).
Book Signings by Avotaynu Authors at the Annual Conference
Fourteen authors will be autographing books they wrote at the Avotaynu booth in the vendor's area during the 23rd International Conference on Jewish Genealogy. If you have already purchased a book written by one of the authors, bring it to the conference and get it autographed. If you plan to buy the book at the conference, we suggest you reserve a copy by ordering it on the Internet at the Avotaynu site http://www.avotaynu.com/catalog.htm or by calling 1-800-AVOTAYNU (286-8296). If ordering on the Internet, note in the Special Instructions/Comments section of the order form that the book will be picked up at the conference. You will be charged when the book is delivered.
As many as 30 of the 66 authors of Avotaynu Guide to Jewish Genealogy are attending the conference. They will be available at noon on Wednesday of the conference outside the vendor area to discuss their efforts in this magnum opus. If the book is not ready by the time of the conference, purchasers will be able to walk away with a signed bookplate.
Signings are scheduled for Monday-Thursday at 9-9:30, 10:30-11:00, 12:15-1:15 and 3:00-3:30. The specific times are as follows:
Monday 9:00-9:30. Michael Meshenberg. Author of Documents of Our Ancestors, a book that contains samples of documents that recorded our U.S. ancestors and information on how to order the documents.
Monday 10:30-11:00. Barbara Krasner-Khait, author of Discovering Your Jewish Roots, a beginners guide to Jewish genealogical research.
Monday 12:15-1:15. Jeffrey Malka, author of Sephardic Genealogy, winner of the "Best Reference Book of the Year" award of the Association of Jewish Libraries.
Monday 3:00-3:30. Sharon DiBartolo Carmack, author of Discovering Your Female Ancestors and a new book being rushed to the conference: "You Can Write Your Family History." Carmack is considered one of the best author/lecturers in American genealogy (and I agree).
Monday 3:00-3:30. Suzan Wynne, author of Finding Your Jewish Roots in Galicia: A Resource Guide.
Tuesday 9:00-9:30. Warren Blatt & Gary Mokotoff, authors of Getting Started in Jewish Genealogy, a primer on Jewish genealogical research. More than 1,500 copies sold.
Tuesday 10:30-11:00. Melody Amsel, author of Between Galicia and Hungary: The Jews of Stropkov. A yizkor book about this Slovakian town published in both Hebrew and English.
Tuesday 12:15-1:15. Dr. Alexander Beider, author of A Dictionary of Jewish Surnames from the Russian Empire, A Dictionary of Jewish Surnames from the Kingdom of Poland, A Dictionary of Ashkenazic Given Names, and the soon-to-be published A Dictionary of Jewish Surnames from Galicia. Dr. Beider is considered by many to be the world's authority on Jewish names of Eastern Europe.
Tuesday 3:00-3:30. Harry Boonin. The Jewish Quarter of Philadelphia.
Wednesday 12:15-1:15. Meet the authors of Avotaynu Guide to Jewish Genealogy
Wednesday 3:00-3:30. Boris Feldblyum, author of Russian-Jewish Given Names. A comprehensive collection of Jewish given names from czarist Russia.
Thursday 9:00-9:30. Professor Ladislau Gyemant of Cluj, Romania, author of Jews of Transylvania in the Age of Emancipation: 1790-1867."The book discusses the history of the Jews in this area.
Thursday 10:30-11:00. Edward David Luft, coauthor of Library Resources for Germany-Jewish Genealogy
Thursday 12:15-1:15. Sallyann Amdur Sack and Gary Mokotoff, authors of Where Once We Walked, Avotaynu Guide to Jewish Genealogy, and co-publishers of AVOTAYNU, the International Review of Jewish Genealogy. Sack is also author of A Guide to Jewish Genealogical Resources in Israel and Jewish Vital Records, Revision Lists and Other Jewish Holdings in the Lithuanian Archives. Mokotoff is author of How to Document Victims and Locate Survivors of the Holocaust, and coauthor of Getting Started in Jewish Genealogy which he will be signing with Warren Blatt on Monday at 9:00-9:30.
Thursday 3:00-3:30. Lawrence Tapper, author of A Biographical Dictionary of Canadian Jewry: 1909-1914.
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