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. 2, No. 25 - December 16, 2001
New Shareware Is 1910 New York City Census Finding Aid
In the last issue of Nu? What's New? I mentioned that Alex Calzareth has developed a set of rules for accessing the Ancestry.com 1910 census images for New York City given the information supplied by the Heritage Quest index to the census. Edward Rosenbaum, president of the Jewish Genealogical Society of Bergen County, New Jersey, is now offering shareware that computerizes the rules. It is located at http://erosenbaum.netfirms.com/1910census.shtml.
Using the software, you key in the microfilm/part/page/sheet values provided in the Heritage Quest database and then click "Display census page." The software retrieves the exact page on the Ancestry.com site that has the census image. The software is not perfect because missing pages or sheets throw off the calculation, but this is a situation where "close counts." I used it to retrieve four census pages. One was an exact hit and the other three were within two pages of the correct one. If you do not get the correct page, look at the page number stamped in the upper right hand corner of the "A" sheet of a census page and the adjust your search by the number of pages the result was skewed. It is all explained in the "Instructions" section of the software.
New York City World War II Draft Registrations
Volunteers at the New York regional branch of the National Archives have discovered a collection of World War II draft registrations from the fourth draft call in 1942. It was known as the Old Men's draft registration because it applied to men who were born in 1877-1897 (ages 45-65). The purpose of the draft call was to identify men who might have occupations vital to the war effort. The area covered by the records at the branch archives includes all boroughs of New York City, state of New Jersey and Puerto Rico. This age group is significant to Jewish genealogists because many of the registrants were immigrants who came to the U.S. in the early part of the 20th century and settled in New York.
The records for Manhattan are in alphabetical order; those for the other boroughs are in alphabetical order by draft board. The New Jersey records are alphabetical by county. There is now a volunteer effort to consolidate each borough into one alphabetical list.
Information to be found on the registration includes the person's birth date and place, potentially valuable for immigrant ancestors. In also includes address, next of kin and address, name and address of employer, and physical description. An example of the document, that of my mother's father, can be found at http://www.avotaynu.com/WWIIDraft.htm.
The LDS (Mormon) Family History Library is filming WWII draft registrations at the National Archive branches in Chicago for the mid-western states and in Philadelphia for East-Atlantic states. They have obtained permission to film the registrations in Boston for the New England states and are awaiting approval for filming the New York branch records.
Lucille Gudis will be giving a lecture at the New York Jewish Genealogical Society on December 23 about the records. See their site http://www.jgsny.org for further information.
Ancestry.com Announces World Family Tree
Ancestry.com has taken genealogical research to yet another level by integrating a genealogical software package with their online databases. Called World Family Tree, it provides a variation of the Ancestral Quest software package with the added feature that for every person displayed, WFT displays the number of family trees at the Ancestry.com site that -might- include the person and the number of records in their billion-plus database that -might- pertain to the individual.
The term -might- means that any person who meets the criteria given will be available from the databases. If your tree includes a Jacob Cohen with no other identifying information, the system will display information about any Jacob Cohen. If your tree includes the fact that your Jacob Cohen was born on 21 Jan 1888, the system will limit it to only those who birth date comes close to the date on your tree. There are other factors in the search algorithm that limit the number of hits identified.
When you retrieve, from the Ancestry.com tree database, information present on a tree, it displays, if known, the person's name, date/place of birth and death, names of spouse(s) and parents. You can browse up and down the tree by clicking on the name of spouse or parent.
This is a great boon for beginning genealogists because it might get them started in tracing their ancestry back a number of generations. The Ancestry database is limited in Jewish information, especially from Central and Eastern Europe.
It would be great if such a concept could be made available under the JewishGen umbrella. Picture all the family trees of the Family Tree of the Jewish People and all the databases of JewishGen and its affiliates such as the SIG databases--some four million records--being automatically accessible to your family tree. For each person on your tree it would show how many trees on FTJP and how many databases have information about each person.
WFT is a system for the new age of computers permanently connected to the Internet. If you do not have a cable modem, DSL service or some other high-speed Internet connection, it is necessary to dial the Internet to access the Ancestry.com databases. This is both time-consuming and suffers from a slow transfer rate. When I used the system with my cable-modem computer, the fact that the data was coming from the Internet was almost transparent to me. After keying in a new person on the tree, in less than five seconds my screen was updated with the statistics as to how many trees and records might contain information abut the individual.
An Example of Its Usage
The Ancestry database is rich with information about American families and their ancestors. I have a neighbor whose ancestry on both parents' sides dates their presence to American colonial times and earlier. The neighbor provided her ancestry to about 1800. From that I was able to identify, within the Ancestry database, more than 300 of her ancestors; on one line to 31 generations! On that line she is descended from Norman knights who conquered England as well as participated in the Crusades. A 10-greats-grandfather was burned at the stake by Mary, Queen of Scots, for promoting Protestantism. This neighbor is descended from William Brewster, one of the leaders of Plymouth colony who came to North America on the Mayflower. John D. Rockefeller is her tenth cousin four-times removed.
Free downloads of the World Family Tree software is available at http://aft.ancestry.com. All paying Ancestry.com subscribers automatically receive membership benefits to allow this functionality. Non-subscribers can avail themselves of the service for $19.95 a year.
Law to Give Access to Canadian Census Moves Forward
When it comes to records access, persistence pays. Statistics Canada, which has control over census records, ruled some time ago that the censuses of the 20th century would never be public because they claimed a commitment was made at the times of the censuses that the information would remain confidential forever. A group of Canadian historians and genealogists disagreed and pressed for legislation that would free these valuable records.
In a seesaw battle that made it appear as recently as a few weeks ago that the legislation would be permanently bottled up in committee, the Senate Standing Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology passed Bill S-12 - An Act to Amend the National Archives of Canada Act and Statistics Act.
The bill will now be referred back to the Senate in Report Stage and will receive more debate. If it passes the Senate it will then be referred to the House of Commons.
For further information see http://globalgenealogy.com/Census.
California Reigns in Access to Birth Records
I sometimes tell my friends from other countries that the United States is, in reality, fifty independent countries, who gave up a small number of rights to a federal government. No place is this more evident then in privacy issues. Each state creates its own laws as to when vital records can be publicly available. While most tend to go with the 100-year rule for births, release of death and marriage information can vary. The most liberal is Massachusetts where anyone can get a birth record, as Eileen Polakoff likes to put it, "the day after the birth." The most strict is Arizona where you cannot even get the death record of a parent without documentation that demonstrates kinship to the deceased.
The controversy about easy access to birth information flared up recently in California. This state not only gives you access to vital records, but they will sell you the database. Two organizations, RootsWeb and vitalsearch-ca.com, have placed them on the Web for easy access. Birth information publicly available includes exact date of birth, mother's maiden name and county of birth.
Governor Gray Davis recently halted the sale of California birth and death records that could be used by identity thieves. The Democratic governor put a 45-day freeze on the sales and asked the California Department of Health Services "to take a second look at whether it is legal to sell CD-ROMs that contain basic birth and death data on millions of Americans."
As a consequence, RootsWeb has removed access to its database, but the other company is still making it available at http://www.vitalsearch-ca.com.
More on the Polish Archives Database
Regarding the SEZAM database of the holdings of the Polish State Archives reported in the last issue of Nu? What's New?:
Warren Blatt of JewishGen notes that another good keyword to search for Jewish holdings is "bozniczego", a form of the Polish word for "synagogue". This search term yields an additional 112 fonds in the Polish archival collection.
Blatt also indicated that when searching by town name use the locative form of the town name. Many fonds contain the name of the town only in the locative case, a Polish declension used in certain grammatical situations. For example, searching for the town of "Losice" yielded 49 hits, while "Losicach" produced an additional 37. Searching for "Checiny" yielded no hits, while "Checinach" gave 14. Searching for "Bialystok" finds 105 fonds, while the locative form of the name, "Bialymstoku", displays 294
Both Warren and I have discovered that known fonds do not seem to appear in the SEZAM database. The problem may be more the requirement of knowing how to spell Polish words than the fact that the fonds are not documented. For example, I wanted to locate the Jewish vital records of Bialystok, which I know exist at the archives. Using "Bialystok" as a key word, I could not find them. Armed with the knowledge supplied by Blatt, I searched for "Bialymstoku" and found a sizeable 294 listings. Not being able to read Polish, I focused on the "Dates" column looking for a fond from the 19th century. I found Jewish vital records only because of Blatt's comment about the Polish word for synagogue. The entry in SEZAM is Akta stanu cywilnego Okregu Bozniczego w Bialymstoku ("Civil Record Documents of the Synagogue of Bialystok" (A Polish friend translated "bozniczego" as "Jewish community").
Another problem with the database was discovered. The archives claims you can use either the correct Polish spelling with diacritical marks or without the marks, yet searching for ydów (dot above Z, acute over the o) and Zydow (no diacritical marks) produced different results.
The conclusion is that a thorough knowledge of Polish is required to use this valuable database. It is located at http://www.archiwa.gov.pl/index.eng.html.
Polish Language Translator on the Internet
As if to come to the rescue of those wishing to use the Polish Archives web site, someone on the JRI-Poland Discussion Group noted a place on the Internet where you can translate Polish to English. It is at http://www.poltran.com. William "Fred" Hoffman of the Polish Genealogical Society of America told me a few years ago that Polish is a hard language to translate by computer and this Web site seems to confirm it.
I fed it "Akta stanu cywilnego Okregu Bozniczego w Bialymstoku" noted above and it translated it as "Records of (acts of) civil statuses of districts in Bialystok Bozniczego." Apparently the computer translator does not know the Polish word for "synagogue."
The Polish Archives site has an English version. Using the Polish version and passing it through the translator, the follow Polish:
Baza danych SEZAM, zgodnie z zaozeniami jej twórców ma suzyc do gromadzenia informacji o narodowym zasobie archiwalnym przechowywanym w róznych instytucjach.
Database SESAME, has to be as (to serve) stored according to its (her) foundation of framer for stockpiling of information of national archival stock in different institutions.
Polish Map Site
There is some encouraging news for genealogists with Polish roots. There is an excellent site at http://www.pilot.pl that provides detailed maps of Poland. Key in a town name, press the Enter key, and displayed is that portion of Poland containing the town. There are zoom in and out buttons. On the right side of the page are links to information about the history of the town, places to visit, schools, organizations, a list of printed maps and train schedules, etc. The site displays detailed maps of many towns.
At the lower left are buttons that allow display of information in Polish, English, German, French, Spanish, Russian and Ukrainian. However, only a limited amount of information is displayed in languages other than Polish. Most useful are translations of the links noted above, but the content of these links are always in Polish.
Vol. 2, No. 26 - December 30, 2001
This is the last edition of "Nu? What's New?" for the year. Happy New Year to all.
Hamburg Emigration Index Now Covers Nine Years
The Hamburg City Archives has expanded its index to emigrants who departed from the Port of Hamburg to the period 1890-1898; some 640,000 people. It covers both the direct and indirect passengers.
The index provides basic information about the emigrant: name, approximate age, and date of departure. For a fee, you can receive an abstract of the entire entry from the ship's manifest. The cost is $20 for 1-3 persons; $30 4-10 persons; $30 for 11-20 and $50 for 21-30. Because it is an abstract rather than the actual manifest, a family of three on a specific page would each have their own abstract and, therefore, would count as three persons if you requested information on all three.
The search engine includes wildcard ability to assist in handling spelling variants. An additional portion, 1899, should be added within the next 30 days.
Avotaynu sells a colorful book about the Hamburg emigration experience; a valuable edition 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. You can order the book at http://www.avotaynu.com/books/hamburg.htm.
1920 Census for Manhattan and Brooklyn Indexed
The 1920 census for Manhattan and Brooklyn has been indexed by Ancestry.com and is available on the Internet at http://www.ancestry.com/search/io/choosest.asp?lfl=bod&c=3. Information provided to help identify a specific person includes name, country or state of birth and age. The images are of very high quality using a gray-scale technique. You can zoom in/out on a given page and browse the page if a portion is not displayed. To save an image, click the "View Full Screen" button and then Save As a BMP file. Also included are indexes for Utah and Vermont.
Early News About the Toronto Conference
It is time to start planning to attend the 22nd International Conference on Jewish Genealogy that will be held on August 4-9, 2002, in Toronto. This year's host is the Jewish Genealogical Society of Canada (Toronto). Society president, Garry Stein, reports they have reserved the entire conference center at the Sheraton Centre Hotel. All events will be on the same level of the hotel.
Information about the conference, which is at http://www.jgstoronto.ca/Conferences2.html is still in its infancy, but check back periodically for updates. At the present time, there is a Call for Papers that has a deadline of Feb. 28, 2002.
1910 Census of Connecticut Finding Aid
Edward Rosenbaum has added the index to the State of Connecticut to his finding aid shareware that allows you to locate census images at the Ancestry.com site from indexes made available on CD-ROM by Heritage Quest. The shareware is located at http://erosenbaum.netfirms.com/1910census.shtml.
Emigration/Immigration Internet Sites
A message posted to one of the JewishGen Discussion Groups about the fact there are many sites on the Internet with immigration/emigration lists caused me to search for one site that might have links to all. Using the keywords "Hamburg", "Bremen", "Galveston" and "Finland", I located a site by Joe Beine, a professional genealogist. He has a web site called "German Roots: German Genealogy Resources" at http://home.att.net/~wee-monster/. It includes a section called "What Passenger Lists are Online?" at http://home.att.net/~wee-monster/onlinelists.html. The site has descriptions and links to other sites that include lists of immigration to Australia & New Zealand, Canada, and--within the United States--New England, New Orleans, New York, Pennsylvania, South Carolina/the Carolinas and Texas, Also emigration from Denmark, Finland, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, The Netherlands, Norway and Portugal
New York City Commissioner of Records Is a Genealogist
A professional genealogist, Brian G. Andersson, has been named Commissioner of the New York City Department of Records and Information Services by incoming mayor Michael Bloomberg. He had previously served as deputy commissioner under the Guiliani administration.
This is another example of a growing trend toward giving credibility to the profession of genealogy.
Family History Library Renovations Near Completion
Chad Milliner, a professional genealogist located in Salt Lake City, reported to the Association of Professional Genealogists Discussion Group that renovations at the Family History Library are nearing completion.
The microfilms on floor B1 have been arranged in numerical order, so all that is left to do is put the films on floor B2 back in order and place the new large numbers on all the boxes (all 2.3 million of them!). Remodeling is still occurring in staff areas, but that doesn't affect patrons.
All floors now have computers with Internet access and networked access to the weekly updated version of the FHL catalog and all of the FHL's CD-ROM products (third-party CD-ROMs still have to be used on designated machines that have the drivers loaded directly onto the hard drive). There are now tables on each floor with laptop power plugs. There are also Ethernet plugs at those tables, but use of those plugs won't be allowed until the Library figures out a way to protect its LAN from patron-introduced viruses and
The remodeling was painful, but the library is now a much better place in which to work, Milliner reports. The new chairs are much more comfortable, the microfilm reading areas are darker, and the library now even has an ATM. No need to write five dollar checks if you run out of cash! This ATM is operated by one of SLC's credit unions, and they do not impose a user fee, so the only fee would be what your financial institution imposes. The ATM is on the main floor by the photocopiers.
JRI-Poland Now has 1.5 Million Entries
Jewish Records Indexing - Poland reports they now have indexed more than 1.5 million records. The project's goal is to create a searchable on-line database of the indices of all 19th century Jewish records from current and former territories of Poland. Information about the project can be found at http://www.jewishgen.org/JRI-PL/jriintro.htm
Vol. 3, No. 1 - January 20, 2002
Bureaucrats Behaving Badly--Canadian Style
Apparently the forces of the dark side--those who oppose release of the 1911 Canadian census to the public--are starting to fight dirty. It is actually a good sign because it means there is genuine interest among Canadians to have the data released.
To determine what is the "true" public opinion on the subject, Statistics Canada, holder of the census and principal opponent to releasing the data, has contracted with an opinion research firm to conduct Town Meetings to glean public opinion. However, selected members of the public have apparently been invited to speak against release of the census. In addition some individuals seeking to participate in the various Town Hall meetings have been refused simply on the basis that they admitted belonging to an organization from which they were told someone else was already booked to make a presentation. Thus, admitting to being a member of genealogical society may exclude someone from expressing an opinion if a previous speaker is also a member of that same society, albeit possibly a different branch. Apparently Statistics Canada's form of democracy is that a specific view can be expressed by one and only one person.
Following each Town Hall meeting, Focus Groups conducted by the opinion research firm are being held to randomly sample Canadians on this issue. One person, who was randomly selected to join such a group, was asked to leave when the facilitator discovered she was a member of a genealogical society.
While the research firm claims genealogists have been included in the Focus Groups and those persons specifically selected to air their views at the Town Hall meetings are persons known to be involved in privacy issues and academic research.
In the United States, we have a expression for government officials that behave in this manner. We call them ex-officials.
This public-be-damned attitude is in stark contrast to the position taken by then newly appointed Archivist of the United States John W. Carlin when there was an outcry from historians and genealogists about his plans to streamline the U.S. National Archives system. Carlin personally traveled around the country--he did not hire an opinion research firm--and listened to the concerns of people opposed to his plans. He then came up with a modified plan that still achieved his goals, but kept the genealogists and historians happy.
In the United States, we have a expression for government officials who behave in this manner. We call them public servants.
British 1901 Census Database Becomes Too Popular
When the British Public Records Office made the 1901 Census available on the Internet at the beginning of this year, the predictable occurred; they were unable to meet the overwhelming international demand by genealogists. The PRO was forced to take down the site, which includes an everyname index and images, to allow enhancements to take place. The system was designed to handle upwards of one million users per day, but the actual number well exceeded this figure.
The online version of the census makes available personal information about 32 million people living in England and Wales at the turn of the century. It is located at http://www.pro.gov.uk/census. There are already plans to digitize the 1891 returns and make them available on a county by county basis starting with London. Plans call for the 1891 census project to be completed by Spring of 2003.
According to Laurence Harris, a member of the Jewish Genealogical Society of Great Britain, there is no charge to use the index, but to download a page image to your computer costs £0.75 per page. A view a transcribed detail for one person in a household costs £0.50. To view all transcribed details for the rest of the people in that household costs an additional £0.50. Apparently the payment mechanism is that you give a credit card number on the Internet and in response you are given a user name and password. You incur charges as you go but a session lasts only for a 48 hour time period (they may extend it to 96 hours). After the time period your credit card is charged for the amount of usage with a minimum of £5.00. You may go on and off the system any number of times during the time period.
One person who was able to squeak through the overloaded system was Neville Lamdan, the Israeli ambassador to the Holy See. He had the help of AVOTAYNU Contributing Editor for Scotland, Harvey Kaplan of Glasgow. Kaplan searched the index to the newly released 1901 Scottish Census and found Lamdan's great uncle, Jacob Elias Mandelson, who had arrived in Glasgow from the shtetl of Kletsk in Minsk guberniya in 1892. The census revealed that old habits die hard.
Mandelson and his wife had eight surviving children, four boys and four girls (the three youngest born in Glasgow). But the 1901 Census showed just six children - one boy (aged 18) and five girls (aged 15, 12, 9, 7 & 4). Somehow, Jacob Elias had spirited away his two oldest sons (then aged 23 and 20), and passed off his youngest son, Sam (aged 12), as a daughter under the false name of "Elizah". Why? Well, perhaps the Scottish census-takers were not particularly efficient. But, says Lamdan, one cannot dismiss the possibility that Jacob Elias looked at the Scottish census-takers in the same way as Jews used to regard them in Russia: government agents who were only interested in taxes and young males eligible for conscription to the Czar's army. A single son was not always called up, so Jewish parents tried to admit to one son only and hide or disguise the rest. Which is precisely what Jacob Elias did in his new environment in 1901!
Family Tree of the Jewish People Reaches 2 Million Entries
The JewishGen year-end 2001 report shows that the Family Tree of the Jewish People has reached more than 2 million entries. FTJP is a database of family trees submitted by Jewish genealogists throughout the world. It is a valuable tool in genealogical research because it helps to link researchers with common ancestral lines. If you have not yet submitted your family tree in GEDCOM format to FTJP, you can do so at http://www.jewishgen.org/gedcom. A very important part of genealogical research is networking with other genealogists. Adding your family tree to FTJP adds to this networking ability.
JewishGen now has nearly 6 million records in its many databases. Other large databases are JRI-Poland (1.5 million) which contains an index to Jewish vital records of Poland; All-Lithuania Database (282,000); All-Belarus Database (180,000); Yizkor Book Necrology Database (116,000); and JewishGen Family Finder (268,000).
The entire JewishGen umbrella received 4 million hits per month in 2001 with more than 10,000 user session per day. Just five years ago there were less than a half million hits per month and less that 1,000 user sessions per day. Such has been the growth of the Internet and Jewish genealogy.
All the statistics are available at http://www.jewishgen.org/JewishGen/factsheet.htm.
1929 Polish Business Directory Images Now Online
Jewish Records Indexing Project - Poland is undertaking a venture to create a database of some 750,000 people identified in the 1929 Polish Business Directory. They have completed Phase 1 of the project by indexing some 34,000 towns represented in the book and placing on the Web images of all 3,000 pages of the directory in PDF format. The data is located at http://www.jewishgen.org/jri-pl/bizdir/start.htm.
As is typical of Jewish genealogical efforts these days, the town index was an international effort, using volunteers from many countries: Australia, Canada, Israel, Japan, Poland, Sweden and the United States.
Jewish Genealogy Month 2002
The poster for Jewish Genealogy Month 2002 can be viewed at http://www.avotaynu.com/poster.htm. This year's theme is "From Generation to Generation" and is depicted on the poster as a family photo album. The Avotaynu-sponsored event corresponds to the Hebrew month of Nisan 5762--the Passover season. The poster will be distributed to every Jewish genealogical society in the world for use in promoting Jewish genealogy.
Some Jewish genealogical societies have already planned special events in conjunction with Jewish Genealogy Month which this year is March 14 - April 12.
On March 24, the Jewish Genealogy Society of Maryland, with co-sponsorship of the Jewish Museum of Maryland, is hosting Marian Smith, Historian of the Immigration and Naturalization Service. The society is also planning two genealogy workshops at the JCC in Owings Mills, Maryland, on March 14 and 21.
Following the extremely successful programming of last year, the Jewish Genealogical Society of Palm Beach County will again showcase Jewish Genealogy Month in conjunction with the Palm Beach County Library System. A series of lectures by members, reflecting the theme of "Bringing Back the Names: From Generation to Generation", have been planned at five branches. Showcases in each Library will be designed to feature genealogy in all phases and will contain documents, photographs and memorabilia contributed by members. The JGSPBC genealogy displays in the Wimberly Library at Florida Atlantic University have been in continuous use throughout this past year and will be redesigned with new material.
To help make the Sarasota, Florida, Jewish community aware of Jewish Genealogy Month, the JGS of Southwest Florida meeting on March 17 will be one of the opening day events of the Jewish community's planned "Festival of Jewish Living and Learning" to be held March 17-22. During this period, the Sarasota Jewish community will host a collaborative assembly of Jews from in and around the community for the purpose of Jewish study. The JGS of SW Florida March 17 meeting's guest speaker will be author-lecturer Sonia Pressman Fuentes who will speak about her summer 2001 visit to Piltz, Germany, her parents' birthplace.
Winter Issue of AVOTAYNU
The Winter issue of AVOTAYNU will be in the mail later this week. It is our annual human interest issue; filled with stories about the experiences of Jewish genealogists during their search for ancestors. There are articles about finding lost relatives in Russia and Argentina, and another on how lost relatives sometimes find you. There are also the all-too-common stories of hunting for information about relatives murdered in the Holocaust in an attempt to resurrect their memory.
On matters more directly related to research, Marian Smith, Historian of the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service shows how new laws of the late 19th and early 20th centuries affected federal record keeping and later genealogical research. Israel's Ambassador to the Holy See, Neville Lamdan--an avid genealogist--uses the Ellis Island Database to analyze migrations from two towns in Belarus. Peter Nash, a Holocaust survivor whose family fled to Shanghai, China, from Germany reports on Shanghai HIAS Lists. When the USSR overran Poland and Germany at the end of World War II, it confiscated many archival records of these countries. Edward Luft reports on German and Polish records in Moscow.
The lead story is by me; a prediction of how history will describe the first decade on the 21st century as it pertains to Jewish genealogy. In 1988, when I was president of the International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies, I made predictions such as the computerization of the Ellis Island records and the Pages of Testimony, and the growth of Jewish genealogical societies.
If you are not an AVOTAYNU subscriber, you can subscribe at http://www.avotaynu.com/journal.htm.
Will the Real Mark Ackerman Call Avotaynu
The project to create an index of all emigrants from the Port of Hamburg for the period 1850-1935 now has more than 1 million entries. Emigrant number 1,000,000 was Zelig Akermann of Bialystok, Poland, who came from Hamburg to New York on the SS Bluecher in 1902. The Hamburg City Archives is interested in locating descendants of Zelig and has asked Avotaynu for assistance.
To date, we have determined that Zelig changed his name to Saul Ackerman in the U.S. and had at least two children, Leon and Estelle. A person named Mark Ackerman posted a message to the Genealogy.com Ackerman Family Bulletin Board in June 2000 stating he was the grandson of Saul. Unfortunately, his e-mail, which had a Mexican address, is no longer valid.
If you are descended from Ackermans of Bialystok, please write me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Hamburg web site is at http://www.hamburg.de/fhh/behoerden/staatsarchiv/link_to_your_roots/english/index.htm. Avotaynu sells a colorful book about the Hamburg emigration experience; a valuable edition 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. You can order the book at http://www.avotaynu.com/books/hamburg.htm.
Vol. 3, No. 2 - February 10, 2002
Finding Aid Developed for 1930 U.S. Census
On April 1, 2002, the 1930 United States Census will become available to the public. Unfortunately few states are indexed by head of household as was true of the entire 1920 census. Without an index, it is necessary to know the street address where the person lived. If the address is known, the Enumeration District (ED) for that address must then be determined. There are some areas of the country that include indexes that provide the ED if the address is known. Undoubtedly, those families of interest to you will be included in neither finding aid.
Enter Stephen Morse, creator of the Ellis Island One-Step website. He teamed up with Joel Weintraub and Dave Kehs to develop a system for determining the ED for major cities that have neither index. It is located at http://home.pacbell.net/spmorse/census.
I tried the Morse site to determine the ED for my grandparents who lived in Manhattan on East Broadway between Clinton and Montgomery Streets. (If you do not know the exact location of a street address, use Mapquest.com to get the intersecting streets.) Reading the Frequently Asked Questions section of the site, I followed the directions given. I first narrowed the search by State (New York). I then narrowed the search to a City (Manhattan) then Selected a Street (E Broadway). This identified nine EDs intersected by East Broadway. I then Deselected East Broadway and Selected Clinton Street. Only two EDs from the East Broadway list matched the one for Clinton Street. EDs: ED 6 and 97. I then Deselected Clinton and selected Montgomery. Only ED 6 was common to the East Broadway and Clinton list.
I guess that means I will find my grandparent's family in ED 6. I will have to wait until April 1 to find out if the system works.
Czarist Edicts Regarding Jews Now on the Internet
Understanding the environment in which your ancestors lived is a necessity in more advanced genealogical research. That is why history is an important ancillary to genealogy. Readers of AVOTAYNU, or those interested in Eastern European Jewish history, know that Jews living in czarist Russia were subject to a series of edicts (ukase). Michael Steinore of California has placed on the Internet an English translation of some czarist decrees, condensed summaries of others, and a subject index to all Czarist decrees concerning Jews up to 1873. It is located at http://www.angelfire.com/ms2/belaroots/levanda.htm.
Some of the edicts identified at the site state:
* Public prayer and worship may only be held in the synagogues and houses of prayer. Jews holding divine worship in their houses without permission of the authorities will be punished by law.
* Robbery of articles used in public worship, and of effects appertaining to the synagogue, is not considered as sacrilege.
* Jews are declared to be aliens, whose social rights are regulated by special ordinances.
* Landed estates, including land which has been apportioned to peasants for their permanent use, can not be sold to Jews.
* In those places where trade guilds exist, plasterers, bricklayers, masons, quarrymen, carpenters, and paviors, as also servants, are exempt from belonging to such guilds, but not if they belong to the Jewish faith.
* A Jew is not eligible for the post of mayor.
* Jews may not serve in the Navy.
AOL Becomes a Sponsor of the Ellis Island Database
AOL has become a sponsor of the Ellis Island Database. The benefit to genealogists will be greater funding of the project which should provide additional capability of the system. The short-term disadvantage is that the technical staff was diverted from its routine upgrades of the system to support AOL coming on board. One of these upgrades is the completion of providing images of all the pages of ships manifests. A portion is still not accessible at the site. The technical staff still will make no commitment as to when these images will be available.
Another Company Offering DNA Testing
MyFamily.com and a genomics laboratory called Relative Genetics have entered a partnership to distribute the Ancestry GenetiKit(TM), billed as the most complete and extensive DNA test available. It can be ordered online for $219.00 at http://www.ancestry.com/genetics/main.htm. For a limited time, the cost is $197.95.
The home kit comes with a swab to collect a sample of cells from the inside the cheek, which is then returned to the laboratory where DNA testing is completed within a few weeks.
The Ancestry GenetiKit can be used to test for paternal-line relationships through a test known as the Surname Test or Y Chromosome Test. The Surname test analyzes twenty-three markers making it the highest resolution commercial Y-chromosome test in the world. These markers identify the provider's genetic identity inherited from his ancestors. Other tests available using the GenetiKit include the Mitochondrial DNA Native American Haplotype Test and Mitochondrial DNA Sequencing Test used for establishing maternal relationships.
JewishGen has an alliance with another DNA testing service. Information about it can be found at http://www.jewishgen.org/dna.
New York Times Backfile Available on the Internet
ProQuest, parent company of Heritage Quest, is offering a complete backfile of the New York Times (along with other newspapers) from the first issue in 1851 through 1998, more than 3.5 million pages. The company states that every page has been digitized, every word searchable, including the ads. Of key interest to genealoghists are all of the birth and marriage announcements and obituaries. The result of a successful search is a digital image of the actual page.
That is the good news. The bad news is that ProQuest does not offer this service to individuals, only to libraries. Check with libraries in your area to see if they already use ProQuest's services and encourage them to add the New York Times service. Librarians unfamiliar with ProQuest can obtain more information and free online trials by contacting ProQuest at 800-521-0600, ext. 3183 or 3452. The New York Times Backfile is just one of many databases the company offers.
Avotaynu Looking for Stories of ITS Failures
The International Tracing Service in Arolsen, Germany, has been a valuable asset to many who are searching for the fate of family members who were caught up in the Holocaust. Others have found frustration when inquiries were rejected, or when ITS could not find information. AVOTAYNU wants to hear from readers who have experienced this frustration. If you have received negative results from ITS and feel that there was a solution to your inquiry, or ITS just stated that they could not do it, or the information arrived far too late to be useful in finding living family, we want to hear from you.
For example, ITS does not allow generic searches such as a request for information about any persons with a given name from a given city. Such searches can be time consuming. Yet if the inquirer had access to the indexes to ITS records, the inquirer probably would be willing to devote the time to locating the information and then ask ITS for information about specific persons.
Tell us what you requested from ITS, when you requested it (year), what response you received and how you think your request could or should have been handled better. Write: SallyannSack@avotaynu.com.
Chaplain for the Olympics Is a Chabad Rabbi
Rabbi Benny Zippel of Salt Lake City is the Jewish chaplain for the Winter Olympics. Rabbi Zippel is part of the Chabad movement, a branch of Hasidic Jewry.
What is a Hasidic Jew doing in the land of the Mormons? The story I was told was that Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, the Lubovitcher Rebbe, observed that Utah was the only state in the United States that did not have a Chabad presence, so he dispatched Rabbi Zippel to Salt Lake City. An article about Salt Lake City Jews and Rabbi Zippel in particular can be found at http://www.jpost.com/Editions/2002/01/31/JewishWorld/JewishWorld.42658.html.
Chabad is a Hebrew acronym for the three intellectual faculties of chachmah (wisdom), binah (comprehension) and da'at (knowledge).
I'm Going to Hamburg
Well, to the average American, going to Hamburg, Germany, isn't exactly as exciting as going to Disneyworld, but to an American genealogist whose ancestors came through the port of Hamburg, perhaps it is more exciting.
As noted in the last issue of Nu? What's New?, Avotaynu was asked by the Hamburg City Archives to locate descendants of Zelig Akermann, the one millionth emigrant to be added to the Internet database being developed by the archives. Akermann came to New York on the SS Bluecher through the port of Hamburg in 1902. In exchange for the help, the city of Hamburg would invite one of the of the owners of Avotaynu to join the descendants of Zelig in a special ceremony in Hamburg. The ceremony will commemorate the millions of people who passed through the port of Hamburg from 1850-1935 on their way from Europe to other countries, primarily the United States.
The task was accomplished two weeks ago, in about 40 days. It is a classical study of 20th-century genealogical research methodology which will be described in the Spring issue of AVOTAYNU.
Vol. 3, No. 3 - February 24, 2002
Be Sure to Resubscribe to AVOTAYNU by February 28
If you are an AVOTAYNU subscriber and you received a notice that your subscription is up for renewal, be sure to resubscribe by February 28. It is the last day to take advantage of our discount offer.
Using Internet Search Engines for Genealogical Research
I have found that virtually anything you want to know, from recipes for salmon to the contemporary name a of formerly German town, can be found on the Internet. Today, Sunday, I received one of the thousands of genealogical inquiries sent to me each year. I do not have the time to answer most and usually respond by telling the inquirer to contact their local (Jewish) genealogical society. But this person was fortunate because I was up for the challenge of demonstrating that the Internet has "everything you would ever want to know about anything."
The inquiry stated: "We have met several times at the JGS and the Family History Fair. You offered to look up a city in Prussia for me in order to give me the present name of the town. I think the town would be in Poland today. I have recently found another town, so I would like to ask for the names of two towns: Weissenhohe, Prussia, and Zullichau, Prussia."
I have at my office an incredible name-change gazetteer published in 1931 that shows the names for towns lost by Germany as a result of World War I. It covers towns that were ceded to Czechoslovakia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Russia, Yugoslavia and other countries. Not having that resource handy at home, I went to the Google search engine at http://www.google.com.
I keyed in "Zullichau" and got many hits. The important one was http://www.kosbab.org/Miscellaneous/German-Polish%20localities.htm. It is a list of Polish names for German towns. It showed that Zullichau is today Sulechow, Poland. Weissenhohe was not on the list. Knowing that Weiss means "white" in German, I suspected that the Polish name would start with "Bial...". I found a site at http://www.posen-l.com/RschrDsply.php?Researcher=375 which stated Weissenhohe is Bialosliwie, Poland. This site was a genealogy site.
If you have a genealogical problem to solve whose answer might be found in some encyclopedia, use an Internet search engine. The Internet is the world's biggest encyclopedia.
The Melungeons: Do They Have Jewish Blood?
The Anglo-oriented perception of American history gives the impression that the United States was first settled by the English--in such places as Plymouth, Massachusetts, and Roanoke and Jamestown, Virginia. In reality, the earliest colonies (16th century) in the U.S. were Spanish (let's ignore Leif Erikson and the Vikings). These Spanish colonies did not survive but there is evidence that the remnants of some may have survived in a group of people called the Melungeons.
The Melungeons are darker-skinned people who have roots in the Appalachian mountains (Tennessee, Kentucky, Virginia). Their origin is not known. There are theories they have Indian blood, Portuguese, Turkish and, yes, even Jewish blood. It was the possibility that they may have Jewish blood that caused me to read a few years ago "The Melungeons: The Resurrection of a Proud People," by N. Brent Kennedy.
My conclusion from reading the book was that if the Melungeons are the descendants of the Spanish colony of Santa Elena which existed briefly (1566-1584) in what today is South Carolina, then they may indeed have Jewish blood. In Kennedy's book, he lists the names of some of the colonists of Santa Elena. The leader of the colony was a Spanish soldier named Juan Pardo. Pardo is a Spanish-Jewish name. Other colonists were named Braganza, Castillo, Chavez, Gallegos, Gomez, Lopez, Martin, Molina, Moreno, Navarro, Peres, Rivera and Zamora --all Spanish-Jewish names.
This is further evidence that many of the earliest Spanish American colonists were Crypto-Jews--people who were forced to convert to Christianity during the 15th century in Spain and Portugal but secretly practiced Judaism. The timing was perfect. The colonization of Spanish America started within a century of the conversion of these people. The colonies provided a remote place where they could secretly practice their Jewish religion and culture.
The whole matter of the Melungeons may be resolved in the next year or two because a DNA study has been undertaken to try to determine their heritage. More about the history of the Santa Elena colony can be found at http://www.cla.sc.edu/sciaa/staff/depratterc/newweb.htm. Information about the Melungeons can be found at http://www.geocities.com/BourbonStreet/Inn/1024/.
U.S. Civil War Soldiers/Sailors System on the Internet
The Civil War (1861-1865) is sometimes used as a dividing line in U.S. history. The term "ante bellum" (before the war) in the United States refers to before the Civil War. One of my roles as an active member of American genealogical organizations is to remind the major groups such as the Federation of Genealogical Societies and National Genealogical Society that there are many Americans whose ancestors came to the United States after the Civil War. I refer to us as "post-bellum genealogists."
For those few Jewish-Americans who have ante-bellum heritage, there is now on the Internet a list of the 5.3 million soldiers and sailors who fought in the Civil War both for the Union and the Confederacy. It is located at http://www.itd.nps.gov/cwss/. For each person, it shows the name, regiment, rank at start/end of enlistment.
The project is yet another example of what volunteering can do for genealogy. The data entry was done under the leadership of the Federation of Genealogical Societies by hundreds of volunteers.
Ancestry.com Adds 1920 Census Index for Chicago and Pennsylvania
Ancestry.com has updated its availability of the 1920 Federal Census on the Internet by adding indexes for Chicago and the State of Pennsylvania. Indexes for the 1920 census were previously available for New York State, Utah, Vermont, and Washington State.
Census indexes are also available and linked to images for the years 1790-1840 and much of 1850. In addition, Ancestry.com is creating a one-of-a-kind 1890 federal census substitute. The fragments of the 1890 U.S. Federal Census that survived the 1921 fire are online, with additional state and city directories to provide coverage for the lost 1890 census.
Information about the fee for service project is available at http://www.ancestry.com/
List of Austrian Holocaust Victims of the Web
The Dokumentationsarchiv des Osterreichischen Widerstandes (Austrian Resistance Archive) has posted a database of 62,000 Austrian Jews murdered in the Holocaust.
The site is located at http://www.doew.at. To access the database in English:
Click on the word "English" on the Home Page. In the next frame, click on "Project Registration by Name" online in the upper right corner.
In addition to the person's name, it provides birth date, deportation place and, in some cases, death date.
The organization is also selling a CD-ROM for a cost of 24 Euros (about $21) that contains:
* The entire database
* a narrative that gives an overview of the Shoah of Austrian Jewry covering topics like 1938 (from "Anschluss" to November pogrom), Jews as victims of Nazi euthanasia, small transports to concentration camps (1943-1945), flight, emigration and death;
* Approximately 900 photos, including about 350 Gestapo photos published for the first time.
Finding Aid for 1930 U.S. Census--An Update
In the last issue of Nu? What's New? I gave an example of how to use the 1930 Census Enumeration District (ED) finding aid developed by Stephen Morse and associates located at http://home.pacbell.net/spmorse/census. The article ended with that statement "I guess that means I will find my grandparent's family in ED 6. I will have to wait until April 1 to find out if the system works."
I didn't have to wait that long. Joel Weintraub, one of Morse's associates, was able to give me the boundaries of ED 6, and indeed my grandparents did live there. This demonstrates the accuracy of the finding aid.
Jewish Genealogy Month Poster in the Mail
Copies of the Jewish Genealogy Month poster have been mailed to all Jewish genealogical societies throughout the world. Jewish Genealogy month was created by Avotaynu four years ago as a method of promoting family history research to the worldwide Jewish community. Many societies place the poster in local synagogues and other Jewish institutions. Some now hold regular lectures and beginners workshops as part of Jewish Genealogy Month. This year's poster, as well as those published in previous years, can be seen at http://www.avotaynu.com/poster.htm.
Vol. 3, No. 4 - March 10, 2002
Changing Your E-mail Address?
If you are changing your e-mail address, please update the information at http://www.avotaynu.com/nuwhatsnew.htm. Do not e-mail us to request the change.
England and Wales Plans New Policies on Vital Records
People in England and Wales will be able to register births and deaths online, by phone, as well as in person, according to a plan to be implemented by the National Statistics office. They also intend to make the use of such documents paperless by allowing access to the documents online. Some restrictions on privacy matters will also be implemented.
Regarding the balance between privacy and public access, the government will use the 100-year rule. Records of persons born more than 100 years ago will have full public access. For those born within the past 100 years, there will be public access but certain information will be confidential, namely, address, occupation and cause of death. The principal concern seems to be to limit commercial exploitation of these contemporary records.
Information that will remain publicly available for birth records includes name, date and place of birth, sex, names of parents and father's place of birth. For death records, name of decedent, date and place of death, sex, maiden name for married women, date and place of birth. Marriages will show date of marriage; name, age and marital status of both the bride and groom; and name of the groom's father and whether deceased.
Plans call for online access to contemporary records by government agencies as well as other interested institutions. For example, when applying for a passport or driver's license, the individual will authorize the government service to have access to an electronic version of his/her birth record, eliminating the need to get a certified paper copy of the record. Death information will be retrievable by insurance companies when processing a death claim. The intent is to create a paperless environment where certified printed copies of such records will be unnecessary.
The British government is encouraging non-profit organizations to undertake projects to make historic (over 100 years old) records available electronically. The government plans to gradually computerize records that are less than 100 years old.
It is expected that the system will be in operation by 2004. Additional information can be found at http://www.statistics.gov.uk/registration/whitepaper/default.asp
Registration Open for 22nd International Conference on Jewish Genealogy
You can now register for the 22nd International Conference on Jewish Genealogy. This year's conference will be at the Sheraton Centre in Toronto from August 4-9.
As expected, the host society, the Jewish Genealogical Society of Canada (Toronto) is promising "exciting innovations in programming, tours, vendors and other facets of the annual conference." The principal advantages to attending the annual conference are the high quality lectures (usually more than 100) presented by experts in Jewish genealogy who come from all over the world and the opportunity to network with hundreds of other genealogists. The host group expects close to 1,000 people to attend this year.
Registration forms can be downloaded from the conference site at http://www.jgstoronto2002.ca/downloads.
As Canadians like to remind their American neighbors to the south, things are cheaper in Canada than the U.S. My personal experience is that the prices are almost identical, but because each American dollar gets you about 1.50 Canadian dollars it is a fifty percent bonus.
Room rates at the conference hotel are CAN$253 per day, double occupancy, which is equivalent to about US$160.
Ancestry.com 1920 Census Index Now Includes Three More States
Ancestry.com has added to its site indexes to the 1920 census for the States of New Hampshire, New Jersey and New Mexico. Previously they made available indexes for Chicago, New York State, Pennsylvania, Utah, Vermont and Washington State. Information about the index is available at http://www.ancestry.com.
Plan to Build Replica of Zabludow Wooden Synagogue
A project is planned to build a replica of the wooden synagogue that once stood in Zabludow, Poland, at the open-air portion of the Museum of the Podlaskie Region in Bialystok. Information about the project can be found at http://www.synagogue.usr.pl/synagoga_en.html
More than 1,000 wooden synagogues existed in Eastern Europe. Almost all were destroyed during the Holocaust. They were not merely buildings made of wood. Many were magnificent structures with a distinctive exterior design and elaborately decorated interior. Many were built with the exterior boards erected vertically as a symbolic representation to the tabernacle the Jews had erected in the desert during their exodus from Egypt--"And thou shall make the boards for the tabernacle of acacia wood standing up." (Exodus 26:15). In 1959, a book titled "Wooden Synagogues" was published in Poland that included numerous photos taken in the 1920s of the exterior and interior of 70 wooden synagogues. It is now out of print.
Avotaynu sells an excellent video documentary titled The Lost Wooden Synagogues of Eastern Europe. For more information see http://www.avotaynu.com/books/synagogues.htm. Avotaynu also sells JPEG images of the postcard collection of Tomasz Wisniewski. It includes a number of pictures of these magnificent structures. We have extracted the images from the collection, and they now can be viewed as a group at http://www.avotaynu.com/synagogues/. The complete postcard collection can be seen at http://www.avotaynu.com/postcards.
Winners of AVOTAYNU Resubscription Contest
As part of the susbcription renewal process for AVOTAYNU, we offered prizes to those persons who renewed early. Persons listed below should e-mail Avotaynu at email@example.com to claim their prize. The winners are:
* First prize was your choice of any one of the three works of Alexander Beider: A Dictionary of Ashkenazic Given Names, A Dictionary of Jewish Surnames from the Russian Empire or A Dictionary of Jewish Surnames from the Kingdom of Poland. Winner: Alvin Holtzman of Wilmette, Illinois, who renewed for three years.
* Two second prizes were your choice of the books Following the Paper Trail: A Multilingual Translation Guide, Finding Your Jewish Roots in Galicia: A Resource Guide or Russian-Jewish Given Names: Their Origins and Variants. Winners were: Mark Goldberg of West Bloomfield, Michigan (renewed for one year), and Kevin Ossey of Greensboro, North Carolina (renewed for three years).
* Three third prizes: Your subscription to AVOTAYNU will be extended for an additional year. Winners: Jan Burns of Los Angeles, California (renewed for two years) Connie Sherts of Raleigh, North Carolina (renewed for two years); and Chava Agmon of Tel Aviv, Israel (renewed for three years).
Vol. 3, No. 5 - March 24, 2002
International Conference on Jewish Genealogy Web Site Now in Operation
Just about everything you would ever want to know about the 22nd IAJGS International Conference on Jewish Genealogy is now online at http://www.jgstoronto2002.ca. The conference will be held at the Sheraton Centre in Toronto, Canada, August 4-9. The Home Page has links to:
* About Toronto
* Hotel Info
Just a glance at the list of planned lecturers indicates the conference will follow the tradition of being bigger and better than its predecessors. International lecturers include:
* Alexander Beider, author of landmark books on Jewish names published by Avotaynu and considered by many the leading authority on the subject.
* Olga Muzychuk, Director of the Central State Historical Archives of Ukraine
* Oleg Perzashkevich, Historian from Belarus
* Yale Reisner, Director of The Ronald S. Lauder Foundation Genealogy Project at the Jewish Historical Institute of Poland in Warsaw
* Batya Untershatz, former Director of the Bureau for Search for Missing Relatives at the Jewish Agency in Jerusalem
The most unusual non-North American speaker is Shi Lei, a descendant of Kaifeng Chinese Jews, who currently is studying at Bar Ilan University in Israel. These lecturers are in addition to the complement of U.S. and Canadian experts who will speak at the conference.
Attending the annual conference is a -must- for anyone--beginner to expert--who is seriously committed to Jewish family history research.
* There will be more than 100 lectures on the complete spectrum of Jewish genealogical research. When the program is finalized, it is likely that you will find there are so many lectures of interest, it will be necessary to choose between lectures being given at the same time. (I assume most lectures will be taped as has been true at previous conferences.)
* You will have the opportunity to meet the experts on Jewish genealogy face-to-face and discuss your research with them. Breakfast sessions are planned with selected experts.
* The Special Interest Groups--groups organized primarily by region of ancestry--hold meetings and/or luncheons at the conference. This is an opportunity to find out what is the latest in record acquisition in your ancestral lands.
* There is the opportunity to network with hundreds of other Jewish genealogists.
At present, registration is only by postal mail, but online registration is planned.
Ancestry.com to Publish 1930 Census Records Within Hours of Official Government Release
At 12:00 midnight on April 1, the U.S. National Archives will release the 1930 census to the public. If you read the hype from Ancestry.com, at 12:01 a.m., the company plans to start placing images of the census on the Internet. Specifically, they state that "within hours" after the microfilm is released from the National Archives, they will begin to make the census available.
The company states they will publish additional images online every day and expects to have the project completed within three months. In order to make it easier to locate individuals in this very valuable census, Ancestry.com has also announced an aggressive plan to create and release indexes for the census. These indexes should be available online by the end of the year, they claim. In the interim, Stephen Morse and his associates have created a finding aid that permits you to determine the Enumeration District if you know the exact street address. Once you know the ED, you can go to the Ancestry site to retrieve the page. The Morse site is located at http://home.pacbell.net/spmorse/census.
The census images are a fee-for-service product. To subscribe to Ancestry.com's census collection, go to:
Ancestry.com Marketeers: Use Your Calculators
Some Ancestry.com hype gets past the corporate mathematicians. The company recently announced plans to make available online images of historical newspapers. The news announcement stated "we will start with 100,000 newspaper pages and add 1,000 pages per working day to keep the collection growing. With over 50 million pages slated to be posted, we will soon have the largest collection of historical newspapers ever assembled."
Someone in Ancestry.com marketing forget to use their calculator. At the rate of 1,000 pages per day, it will take more than 137 years to complete the project. Information about the project can be found at
New Database of Jews Deported from France
An important book for Holocaust research is Memorial to the Jews Deported from France (Klarsfeld, Serge. New York: Beate Klarsfeld Foundation, 1983). It lists more than 70,000 Jews deported from France, mostly to Auschwitz. If the person was immediately gassed upon arrival at Auschwitz (most were), a death date can be assumed from the arrival date at Auschwitz. Each entry shows the person's name; and date, town and country of birth. The U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum has now placed a similar database on the Internet at http://www.ushmm.org/uia-cgi/uia_form/frdeport. It seems to have been developed independent of the Klarsfeld work because it also includes maiden names of women. The Internet site notes that "the original French deportation lists, on which this list is based in part, are held by the Centre de Documentation Juive Contemporaine in Paris, France." At present, the USHMM database contains fewer names than the Klarsfeld book. About 20-30 persons on the Mokotow family tree are included in the book. I could find only one at the USHMM database.
Everyone Should Be Part of the Bone Marrow Pool
About ten years ago, I met Jay Feinberg, a remarkable young man, then in his early twenties. He was dying of leukemia and his only chance of survival depended upon a bone marrow transplant. He, his family and friends developed their own bone marrow foundation, and collected samples from tens of thousands of potential donors. Through this program, Jay managed to save a number of lives but it appeared it would not include his own. Then, after about three years, the doctors told him he would have to take the closest match available, a poor choice, or he would die.
Then, a circumstance occurred that one would think could only have been written by a Hollywood screen writer. While Jay was at a Seattle hospital preparing for the last-hope attempt to save his life, there was a final marrow donor drive for him. With the final donor test kit, a 14-year old girl was found who was a much closer match and his life was saved.
Jay had made the promise during his ordeal that if he ever survived, he would devote his life to helping other leukemia victims find donors. He formed the Gift of Life Bone Marrow Registry, an organization dedicated to increasing the representation of the Jewish people in the international donor pool. When I joined the Registry shortly after I met Jay, it was necessary to give a blood sample. Now registration is done by mail because only a cheek swab is necessary.
All the searches for a bone marrow match are heart-rendering stories. The one that triggered Jay contacting me I have posted to http://www.avotaynu.com/ruthiesstory.htm.
You can find information about the Registry at http://www.giftoflife.org. To register online click "Online Donor Registration" at the lower right part of the Home Page. Needless to say, typing your sample and maintaining the marrow database costs money. If you also want to contribute money to the Foundation, you can do so online or by mail by following the Foundation Support button on the Home Page.
As the Talmud says, "He who saves one life, it is as if he had saved the entire world."
Consolidated Jewish Surname Index
Have you used Avotaynu's Consolidated Jewish Surname Index? CJSI is a database of databases. It is an index to 31 different sources of information about (mostly) Jewish surnames. Rather than searching the indexes to each source separately to see if there is information relevant to your research, CJSI indicates which databases contain surnames of interest to you. Links are provided to other Web sites that either have the databases or information about how to access the data. Most of the sources that are not online are published in books or on microfiche. In combination, all 31 sources represent more than 2 million records for approximately 370,000 unique surnames.
CJSI has some special features to enhance it usefulness. The index is presented in Daitch-Mokotoff soundex order rather than alphabetically. This means that many spelling variants of a surname appear on consecutive lines. CJSI is browseable like a telephone book. It does not merely provide you with a list of surnames that match the soundex code. Keying in a given surname places you at a certain point in the database. You can then search up and down the database beyond the limits of the soundex code. This allows you also to review surnames that are small variations of the one being searched. Finally, an advanced search feature allows you to mix exact matching and soundexing of the letters of the surname lowering the incidence of false positives (the procedure is described at the Internet site).
The database is located at http://www.avotaynu.com/csi/csi-home.html
Vol. 3, No. 6 - April 7, 2002
A Case Study in 20th-Century Research
On May 1, I travel to Hamburg to participate in a ceremony honoring the one-millionth person to be added to the Hamburg Emigration database: Zelig Akermann of Bialystok, Poland, who arrived at Ellis Island in 1902. Present will be three descendants of Zelig (he changed his name in the U.S. to Saul Ackerman). My participation is a reward for finding the descendants in about 40 days from the start of the project.
How I located the descendants--one lives in Mexico--is a classical study in 20th-century genealogical research methodology, the use of the Internet for genealogical research, and what I call "shot gun" research. The Spring issue of AVOTAYNU, which will go to the printer in about 10 days, will feature how the task was accomplished. In the article, I not only educate the reader by describing the paths that lead to success but also include the blind alleys.
To solve the problem involved using 16 Internet sites, a CD-based database, microfilm collections, a few books, a trip to a cemetery, and other resources. These are all described in detail.
You can subscribe to AVOTAYNU at http://www.avotaynu.com/journal.htm.
"Rabbinic Genealogy Bibliography" Has Wider Value
Rav-SIG has published a "Rabbinic Genealogy Bibliography" that identifies more than 300 resources for rabbinic genealogical research. The list may be of value to even those families that do not have a known rabbinic heritage. The list includes bibliographies such as Bibliography of South African Jewry; and general histories such as Di Geshikhte fun di Iden in Letland (The History of the Jews in Letland). The encyclopedias that are identified cover the full spectrum of Jewish material, not just rabbinic history. Regional books cover Austria, Belarus, Galicia/Ukraine, Germany, Hungary, Israel, Italy, Latvia/Estonia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Russia Czech/Slovak Republics, South Africa and the United States.
Categories include bibliographical dictionaries, Hassidic rabbis, biographies, family genealogies, Sephardi and Mizrahi resources, regions and countries, periodicals, audiotapes, and CD-ROMs. Indexes by author and by names of rabbis found in the bibliography are also provided.
The site is at http://www.jewishgen.org/Rabbinic/infofiles/biblio.htm.
1911 Encyclopedia Britannica on Internet
The 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica has been scanned and placed on the Internet at http://www.1911encyclopedia.org. Old encyclopedias can be valuable in research because they give a perspective on history as it existed in its time period; in this case, 91 years ago. Biographies are presented for persons important in 1911, who do not appear in today's editions or appear in a condensed form. There is a huge biography of Arthur James Balfour, the English statesman who, six years later, as British Foreign Secretary, would state in a letter to Lord Rothschild "His Majesty's Government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavours to facilitate the achievement of this object, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country." It became known as the Balfour Declaration.
There are numerous scanning errors in the Internet version but the material is decipherable. The site's sponsors recognize this problem and indicate that they decided it was of value to pre-release the information available as-is and will now go through a process of correcting the problems.
Ancestry.com Starts Making 1930 Census Available
As promised, Ancestry.com has started making images of the U.S. 1930 census available online just days after its release. The first state to be completed was one of the smaller ones--Delaware--which was made available within days of the release of the census. By time of this publication, Sunday, April 7, Utah was added to the site. There is a complete description of the content of each census entry. It is located at http://ancestry.com/
1901 British Census Still Not Available Online
It is now more than three months since the 1901 British Census was placed online and then almost immediately removed due to the unanticipated demand that overloaded the system. The Public Records Office has stated they are testing technical enhancements that will increase bandwidth, add additional hardware, and improve load balancing. They are also adding firewalls to protect the 1901 Census Online site and to avoid impact on other sites. They still have not made a commitment as to when the database will be returned to Internet access. PRO does state that once the testing is complete their aim is to make the online service available first at designated service centers in England and Wales to confirm that all the technical enhancements function satisfactorily. Only then will the service be relaunched onto the Internet.
A statement about the status of the 1901 British census can be found at http://www.pro.gov.uk/about/access/statement.htm
Hotel Reservations at Toronto Conference
If you are planning to arrive early to the 22nd International Conference on Jewish Genealogy and had difficulty making reservations at the Sheraton Centre on Friday and Saturday nights, the matter has been resolved by the conference committee. Additional rooms have been reserved. The conference will be held from Sunday, August 4, to Friday, August 9 in Toronto. Make your reservations early. It is not unreasonable that as many as 1,000 people will attend the event. Additional information can be found at http://www.jgstoronto2002.ca
Happy Birthday JewishGen Family Finder
One of the most popular Jewish genealogical databases, the JewishGen Family Finder, is 20 years old! On April 1, 1982, the New York-based Jewish Genealogical Society published a 37-page typewritten "Roster of JGS Members with Ancestral Surnames" showing surnames and towns being researched by 83 members of the society. At that time I was on the Board of Directors of the society and in the computer software business. Realizing the value to the entire Jewish genealogical community, I computerized the list and expanded it by permitting contributions from any person who was researching his Jewish ancestry, even though not a member of the New York group. I named it the "Family Finder". Daniel Schlyter of the LDS (Mormon) Family History Library suggested expanding the name to "Jewish Genealogical Family Finder". Using my company's resources, I promoted and maintained JGFF but kept it under the auspices of the Jewish Genealogical Society, Inc. from 1982 until 1996. In the pre-Internet days, copies of JGFF were distributed to the various Jewish genealogical societies throughout the world semi-annually as a computer printout. Later, it was also made available to the public on microfiche by Avotaynu.
I dropped out of the project in 1994. In 1996 the New York group was no longer interested in maintaining it, so ownership of the JGFF was transferred to JewishGen in order to make the data more widely available. It was renamed the JewishGen Family Finder. In the first 14 years of its existence (1982-1996), JGFF grew to more than 3,000 contributors. In the six years JGFF has been sponsored by JewishGen (1996-present), the number of contributors has grown from 3,000 to more than 65,000 contributors. There are now 77,000 unique surnames from 20,000 towns in 97 countries. Poland has the largest number of entries with more than 54,000. Malta is identified by only one contributor.
The database receives close to 1.5 million visits a year. It is located at http://www.jewishgen.org/jgff.
Family Tree Debuts on the History Channel
With little advanced publicity (or, more properly, I saw none) a two-hour documentary on genealogy, titled Family Tree, premiered on U.S. television on the History Channel last night (Saturday, April 6). It was sponsored by Genealogy.com, whose services were interlaced with the documentary itself. That this well-watched television channel was willing to devote two hours to the topic of genealogy demonstrates how much the curiosity of the American public has been piqued about our beloved hobby.
The documentary started quite well. It traced the ancestry of Hollywood actor William Baldwin (brother of the better-known Alec) back to 17th-century America. The work was done by a professional genealogist, June DeLalio--a Certified Genealogist--who was featured heavily in this portion. This lent credibility to the fact that genealogical research consists primarily of locating documents of your ancestors. The segment implied that perhaps you too could trace your ancestry the way she was able to trace the Baldwin family. This portion was followed by a discussion of names, both given and surnames--how they got started and how they evolved.
From this point on, it was downhill as the documentary was more glitzy than a serious discussion about how to trace one's family history. If you were writing a film documentary about the ancestors of Americans, what would you include? African-American genealogy, of course; Ellis Island genealogy, of course; and, of course, don't forget the Native Americans. There is nothing wrong with including these topics. It was in the presentation that the documentary failed.
For African-Americans, it would have been valuable to show this segment of the population that it might be possible to trace one's ancestry, even slave ancestry, through scant records and oral history. There was one such portion of the documentary. But the majority of the Africa-American segment devoted its time to: Alex Haley's "research" (which has since been debunked); that the third president of the U.S., Thomas Jefferson, may have sired African-Americans through a liaison with one of his female slaves (DNA testing has demonstrated that some member of Jefferson's family was the ancestor of these Americans, likely, Thomas, but not provable through documentation); and the claim of some people that the first president of the United States, George Washington, sired a son named West Ford through one of his female slaves. In is generally accepted that George Washington was sterile--he had no legitimate children yet his wife had given birth during her first marriage. Historical evidence leans heavily toward the concept that West Ford was the son of a brother of George.
The Ellis Island portion had a number of misstatements. A spokesman for the Ellis Island Commission stated that most people who had their name changed in America did not have it done at Ellis Island--implying that perhaps some did. He added that most of them changed their names when they became naturalized--equally untrue. It was also stated that prior to the online index to the Ellis Island records there was no name index (hmmmm, what have I been using on microfilm for the past 20 years) and that the EIDB was the result of the collaboration between the Ellis Island Commission and Genealogy.com who went to the Mormons to get the work done. The fact is that the Mormons started the project on their own in the mid-1990s, before there ever was a Genealogy.com, and in their usually gracious manner, offered their multi-million hour volunteer work to the Commission with little credit or fanfare. But, alas, even the Mormon hierarchy interviewed for the documentary misstated a bit by claiming that the data was not merely keyed, but keyed in three times and then matched to reduce the risk of errors. Many of those descended from Jewish immigrants will tell you that it is inconceivable that such a process occurred with their ancestor's Ellis Island records.
From this point the documentary devoted itself to the quest of Randall Wallace, the screenwriter for the film Bravehart, to prove he was descended from William Wallace, the original Scottish Bravehart. You learned a bit about Randall's genealogical pursuit and how to do Scottish research, but the narrator devoted more time to the life of Bravehart and described, step by step, his death through torture.
On to Queen Victoria, the women who passed on the hemophilia gene to her descendants (Narrator: a significant cause of the downfall of Czar Nicholas of Russia was that his son had hemophilia). The Native American portion inferred that a major motivation for today's Indians to prove they are descended from ancient Native Americans is monetary, such as their right to build gambling casinos. To show that genealogy can be done for this group, they used the San Gabriel Indians who can trace their ancestry through baptism records located at the San Gabriel mission in California. The implication was that is how you do Native American genealogy--through baptism records.
The documentary concluded with DNA research. The comments by the scientist from Brigham Young University were accurate as to the potential of DNA when he described how it will be possible to group people by DNA matching. But the comment by the Genealogy.com spokesman was quite remarkable. He said that some day genealogical research will not be done by looking at records, but instead will be accomplished by drawing a sample of blood and submitting it to a laboratory and getting in return "your finished genealogy" (his words). As to me, I won't need DNA testing to do my genealogy. I finished my genealogy three years ago.
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