Sunday, August 31, 2008

Genealogy Resources - WorldCat

There are many resources online that are valuable to genealogists who are seeking their family history. 

As we continue to update our blog, we intend to place links to these resources on the right hand side of this page under the 'Genealogy Resources' heading. If you know of any interesting sites that will be helpful to other genealogists, please leave us a note in the comments section or contact us by  

In the meantime, did you ever spend a whole afternoon driving around to different libraries in search of a particular book? We found this great website called WorldCat that allows you to “search the collections of libraries in your community and thousands more around the world.” 

Click here for more information and best of luck with your research!

What is the JewishGen Family Finder (JGFF)?

The JewishGen Family Finder (JGFF) is a compilation of surnames and towns currently being researched by over 80,000 Jewish genealogists worldwide.  It contains over 400,000 entries: 100,000 ancestral surnames and 18,000 town names, and is indexed and cross-referenced by both surname and town name.  

(The JGFF was created in 1982 by Gary Mokotoff, and is now maintained by JewishGen.) 

Researchers should check the JGFF for genealogists with similar research interests, and can then contact them for an exchange of information.  The JGFF is a networking tool, which is updated daily online. All genealogists are encouraged to participate in the JGFF. 

For more information, please view the frequently asked questions page here.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Comment Rules

We have learned a lot about blogs over the past week and we plan on sharing our thoughts with you. First and foremost, however, we needed to draft rules for the comments section. Please click here to view the comment rules.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Our New Logo - Important Letter

A Letter from David G. Marwell

Director, Museum of Jewish Heritage – A Living Memorial to the Holocaust

Dear Friends,

The new JewishGen logo has faced an onslaught of criticism, and although I believe it may be an example of not seeing the forest through the tree (one very specific purple tree), I want to make sure that I address this issue with all seriousness.

I think it is fair to say that I am surprised at the level of rancor and discontent that has been generated by the new JewishGen logo. I believe in discourse and discussion, and I know that people react to artistic representations in very subjective and personal ways – some are fans of Picasso, some are not – but for this discourse to reach such a level of vitriol may be a symptom of something else going on within the community – something that must be repaired.

I can well understand that the disdain for the logo is in some measure a general expression of frustration that JewishGen users are feeling. But I feel I must correct some of the absolutely false interpretations of the logo, its meaning, and the process that led to its creation.

The first issue I want to address is the conspiratorial suggestion that the logo was somehow created with the Ancestry agreement in mind. There are those that suggest that we intentionally aligned the new design to complement the Ancestry logo, with the implication that its introduction heralded a complete takeover of JewishGen by Ancestry in the future. Nothing could be further from the truth. The professional designer who worked on the new logo had no knowledge of the Ancestry agreement. There was absolutely no intention to echo, allude to, or reference Ancestry in any way.

The second issue I want to address is the idea that the logo was created in a vacuum and forced upon the JewishGen community. Again, absolutely false. One reason that JewishGen became affiliated with the Museum in 2003 was to take advantage of the professional resources of the Museum, including branding, research, and design. The staff and leadership of JewishGen made the decision to embark on market research to determine how JewishGen is perceived, define its strengths and weaknesses, and identify how JewishGen wants to be perceived in the future. The goal of the exercise was to create a planning document that would be the basis not just for the logo, but for strategic thinking for the future. Because this research was based on comprehensive individual interviews, we had to limit the number of stakeholders. After consultation with Warren, we settled on a group of 12 individuals, composed of SIG VPs, staff, and leadership. Detailed interviews were then conducted.

The final results of this process are a long way off, but the interviews revealed some prevailing themes: At its foundation, JewishGen represents community, connections, family history, depth, breadth and a global network of resources. Across the board, the strengths of JewishGen are its data, its volunteers and contributors, and its worldwide network of researchers and resources. Volunteers research the data, post the data, and share the data to create a worldwide community. While the site is for everyone, JewishGen’s Jewish roots are clearly important. Respondents wanted JewishGen to convey a modern and contemporary feel, bringing the identity into the 21st century, reflecting its relationship with the Museum. Our challenge was how to convey these positive attributes clearly, succinctly, and attractively.

Based on the market research we collected, we asked the designer to create four logos with variations. We presented these designs to the 12 interviewees and additional staff. The logo that was chosen was far and away the most successful version. It portrays six leaves, representative of individuals as well as groups when arrayed as they are here. The six leaves are indicative of the six points of a Star of David without being an overt depiction. The veins of the leaves make the leaves richer and create a visual connection with family trees and family history, again in an abstract representation. The typeface, Gotham, is a sans serif font that is open, accessible, friendly and modern. The identity colors of blue and green create a feeling of global connection (connecting JewishGen users beyond countries and oceans).

We showed the “winning” logo to the group of twelve; ten liked it, and the remaining two did not. Based on these results, we felt confident that we had designed a logo that both represented JewishGen and would have resonance with the public.

Although the poll on the Blog might suggest that we were wrong, I want to caution that it was most unscientific, and we regret the manner in which it was introduced. First, the poll itself implied that one could vote for the logo, not merely register an opinion about it. Second, the choices offered were limited and suggestive. Third, the interpretation of the logo as presented on the Blog was a personal one and did not represent the intention of the design (for instance, there was no specific intent to refer to the six million victims of the Holocaust in the design).

Logo criticism has probably been around since the first hieroglyphics appeared on cave walls. IBM, the London 2012 Olympics, and UPS have all incurred the public’s wrath when venturing to create a new look or brand. JewishGen is an organization of passionate users, and that passion is not limited to Jewish genealogy.

I have read your postings about this logo and, in the future, where it is possible, we will approach communication issues differently. In the meantime, I hope to work with you to mend the feelings of distrust and betrayal that have surfaced in this discussion.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

New book on Belzec

As mentioned previously (here), JewishGen is pleased to announce a new book in its Publish on Demand series, along with an easy method of ordering all the books in this series.

The new book is "Belzec: Stepping Stone to Genocide" by Robin O'Neil.
This is an expanded and newly-edited version of the book that is on JewishGen's Yizkor Book site. The book will be sold for $49.95; however, for the first 30 days, the book will be sold at an introductory price of $44.95. All Publish on Demand books can be ordered online via the museum bookstore.



About Belzec

Belzec was the prototype death camp, the precursor of Sobibor and Treblinka. Secretly commissioned by the highest authority of the Nazi state, it acted outside the law of civil and military conventions of the time. Robin O'Neil takes the reader step by step into the background of the "Final Solution" and gives eyewitness testimony as the mass graves were located and recorded.

Remember that the introductory price is available only through September 15, 2008.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Additions to Holocaust Database

17 new datafiles have been added to JewishGen's Holocaust Database. You can view the complete list of databases here. The list below will soon be updated to include links directly to specific databases.
  • Krakow Transport List (6,701)
  • French Prisoners in Stutthof (237)
  • Ahlem Hospital Survivors (243)
  • Sarajevo Survivors Who Went to Palestine, December 1948 (1,553)
  • Daugavpils (Dvinsk) Ghetto List 05-Dec-1941 (962)
  • Rochlitz Hungarian Women (197)
  • Lódz Ghetto Work Identification Cards (2,195)
  • Passports of German Jews (500)
  • Mszana Dolna, Poland 15-Jun-1942 Census (1,036)
  • Natzweiler-Struthof Camp (33,722)
  • Teis-Dambovita Camp Prisoners 1 October 1941 (1,234)
  • Zagreb Survivor Lists (1,201)
  • Natzweiler Medical Experiments (86)
  • Danzig and Polish Nationals Who Were Refugees in Mauritius (340)
  • S.S. Astir Passenger Manifest (184)
  • Bucharest Students (1,376 records)
  • Auschwitz-Buchenwald Transport -- 22-Jan-1945 and 26-Jan-1945 (4,359)
It is not possible to list all the volunteers, JewishGen staff, SIG members, and members of other organizations who have contributed to the Holocaust Database. We are grateful for their efforts. However, we cannot fail to mention Michael Tobias and Warren Blatt, without whose help this database would not be online.

Orhei, Moldova cemetery

The Orhei cemetery project has been completed; therefore, no additional funds are needed and the fundraising project has been removed from the JewishGen-erosity page. That is good news! Donors were very generous and prompt in submitting their financial contributions to the project and JOWBR now contains over 3400 burials from Orhei. Sincere thanks to all the contributors to the Orhei project who made it possible.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

JewishGen.org and Ancestry.com - Weekend Update

The offices of JewishGen are closed, but we are hard at work reviewing and responding to each and every question that is submitted to us. Please be patient as we work to provide you with as much information as possible. Updates and further information will continue to be posted right here on the blog.
Have a great day!

Intermediate Genealogy Course

(posted by Phyllis Kramer)
The Intermediate JewishGen Genealogy class will begin September 1, 2008. The course consists of 8 downloadable PDF lessons, provided online twice weekly and individualized help through an online forum where you can post your family information and get suggestions and answers to your questions.

For those researchers who feel competent in the Basic Course topics of U.S. Census and Vital Records, JewishGen Research and Ellis Island, you might prefer the Intermediate Course which will cover advanced U.S. topics including Naturalization, FIOA, NARA, Passports, State and Land Records, Mormon microfilms, Death Records and Internet Searching.

For additional information, and to enroll, please go to the JewishGen Education Page at http://www.jewishgen.org/education.

Send questions to jewishgen-education@lyris.jewishgen.org.

Hope to see you in the class!!


Phyllis Kramer
phylliskramer1@att.net
VP, Education, JewishGen, Inc.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

JewishGen.org and Ancestry.com – An Exciting Opportunity (II)

Of course, the underlying reasons for the agreement were the subject of much concern. In an effort to alleviate any fears, Dr. Marwell made the following important points:
  1. JewishGen will remain faithful to the idea that all JewishGen records will remain free, and freely accessible.
  2. This agreement was necessary to ensure that JewishGen is technologically stable, and able to provide a stable and robust user experience.
  3. The improved functionality of JewishGen (as a result of this agreement) will allow JewishGen to not only acquire more data, but to make it available more quickly to the Jewish public.
  4. Our driving force is to serve the public (which will never change).
Perhaps most importantly, Dr. Marwell explained that this deal offered JewishGen a way to survive as a unique organization serving the Jewish genealogical community.

While this deal will not “pay the bills” it will allow us to focus our attention on JewishGen projects (instead of investing a significant amount of time to technical infrastructure), which will (hopefully) encourage more people to donate to our worthy cause.

In the end, Dr. Marwell explained his belief that this deal represents a Win/Win/Win situation for all. It is a win for JewishGen, a win for Ancestry, and most importantly, it is a win for the incredibly dedicated volunteers and people who comprise the Jewish genealogical community. Specifically:


  1. JewishGen remains an independent 501 (c) 3 organization that remain reliant on the generosity of its donors
  2. JewishGen will retain its management structure and continue to rely on volunteer for their effort and contributions, in both time and funds.
  3. JewishGen will continue to provide the Jewish genealogical community with unique tools that will not be found on any other website, and will continue to host other organizations such as JRI-Poland, Litvak SIG and others.
  4. All data will remain free and freely accessible on JewishGen and Ancestry
  5. Ancestry will provide us with a much needed service.

JewishGen.org and Ancestry.com – An Exciting Opportunity (I)

After Warren Blatt (Managing Director of JewishGen) finished the first part of his presentation at the JewishGen session, he introduced Dr. David Marwell, Director of the Museum of Jewish Heritage, to offer some commentary and explanation about the exciting new agreement between JewishGen.org and Ancestry.com.

Dr. Marwell reiterated many of the same points that he spoke about the previous night at the Ancestry session. Interrupted by frequent laughter and applause, Dr. Marwell stressed that the negotiations between JewishGen.org and Ancestry.com were marked by goodwill and mutual respect.

Here is Dr. Marwell’s basic summation of this exciting new agreement:

  1. All JewishGen data (included in this agreement) will be freely available on Ancestry (in addition to JewishGen).
  2. Ancestry will provide “pipe and power” which translates into improved bandwidth and technical infrastructure, leading to a more stable and robust user experience.
  3. JewishGen will receive a percentage of the revenue that Ancestry derives from its subscriptions (in addition to the percentage of revenue that JewishGen receives from those who subscribe to Ancestry as a result of attending this conference).
  4. Ancestry will provide JewishGen with a number of consulting hours to improve our site and the overall user experience.
  5. JewishGen will consult with Ancestry and help them understand our community in order to develop tools that will be more helpful for Jewish genealogical research.
  6. JewishGen appreciates that JRI-Poland and Litvak SIG have permitted us to include their databases in this new and exciting agreement.
More to follow...

IAJGS – The JewishGen Presentation

Perhaps the most talked about topic at this years conference (beside for the new logo, that is:)) has been the new cooperative agreement between JewishGen.org and Ancestry.com.

It is an agreement that has elicited much passion and spirited dialogue among many of the conference participants. We are certain that all members of the JewishGen family would like to participate in the discussion, and we hope that this blog will serve as an appropriate medium to facilitate that communication.

Please look for new blog posts soon with specific Q/A’s about the new deal, which will give everyone the opportunity to respond and leave comments and questions in the comments field.

Back to last night's event...

In an effort to be as transparent and helpful as possible, a good portion of last night’s JewishGen presentation focused on the new agreement with Ancestry, though there was much talk and excitement generated about many of the new JewishGen projects and development initiatives.

After Jackye Sullins from Ancestry.com made the initial introductions, Warren Blatt, managing director of JewishGen, took the microphone and proceeded to offer a presentation that was constantly interrupted by applause and laughter.

Warren began the evening by unveiling – officially - the new JewishGen logo and identifying the key staff and volunteers. After a few good jokes, including one about Hillary Clinton being the VP of JewishGen, he got down to business.

Saving the best for last (by that I mean the new agreement), he first highlighted some of the major new projects and features that JewishGen has worked on this past year. After Warren was finished, Michael Tobias provided a clear and concise demonstration of how the new features worked, allowing people to try out the new features as soon as the JewishGen session was over (which judging by the feedback I received this morning at the JewishGen booth, many people did!)

As an update on some of the key JewishGen projects:
  • JOWBR – has now well over 1 million records
  • Holocaust Database – with the addition of over 50,000 new records, the Holocaust Database now has over 2 million records
  • Yizkor Books – These are some of the best ways to learn about Jewish communities in the old country. This year has seen many new Yizkor books translated as well as new initiatives launched to translate new ones.
  • Yizkor Books Necrology – An exciting initiative to index a list of names that appear throughout the Yizkor books.
  • Publish on Demand – We now how 4 books available for purchase (with more on the way) at the museum’s bookstore, and they can be ordered by clicking here.
  • Education – 9 classes were taught to over 600 students brining in over $13,000 for JewishGen
  • ShtetLinks – Susana Leistner Bloch (a newly appointed VP) has nurtured this project to include well over 324 town websites
  • ViewMate – despite a recent hacking attack, many major improvements have been made to this incredibly valuable feature which permits researchers to ask for help in translating documents and pictures.
Stay tuned for the more updates, which will offer further details about new JewishGen projects and the exciting new agreement between JewishGen.org and Ancestry.com

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

IAJGS Jewish Genealogy Conference – Everyone Has A Story To Tell

As expected, we received allot of feedback regarding the JewishGen agreement with Ancestry. Due to the large volume of questions, it will be impossible to respond to each one publicly tonight during the JewishGen session, however we will address each question right here on the blog. 

A special post will be designated for people to submit their questions (they may use their name or submit anonymously), and each question or comment will be addressed by Warren Blatt, Managing Director of JewishGen, and/or Dr. David Marwell, Director of the Museum of Jewish Heritage.
 
Until then, however, let me tell you a little bit about the day so far.
One of the early highlights of the day was when Howard Margol (of Litvak SIG fame), was kind enough to stop by and share with us some of his amazing stories and experiences. Of particular interest was an incident that took place after the end of WWII, when Howard was still in the US Army.

It was after the camps were liberated that his unit received orders, directly from Washington DC, to take a group of Jews and bring them to a luxurious resort in the Swiss Austrian Alps, where they would receive some much needed rest and relaxation in the lap of luxury.

They were travelling to the resort when suddenly all of the trucks stopped and the Jews got out of the vehicles, refusing to go any further. Howard understood that the Jews would not travel on Shabbat, and would therefore not travel after sundown on Friday night until sundown the following evening. 
This event made an everlasting impact upon Howard, as he has never forgotten the significance of this first act of religion practiced openly and freely by concentration camp survivors.

After Howard left, we were fortunate to meet two separate people who had stories about the Jews who escaped to Sosua during WWII (the subject of the museum’s recent exhibit). One person was very familiar with Sosua, as his uncle was born there and still lives there. Another person told us that travel guides in the Dominican Republic will often credit Jews who lived in Sosua during WWII with organizing the meat industry on the island. This led to an interesting discussion as to why General Rafael Trujillo actually let the Jews into the country to begin with, but that is for another time.

We met another individual who currently lives in Australia and escaped from Germany during the holocaust via Shanghai.  

Such are the people who I have been privileged to meet with and converse these during this conference.

The last hour or so at the booth was markedly quieter than it has been the past few days, and it afforded me the opportunity to see some of the other exhibitors at the conference. 

Some of the notable exhibits included Family Tree DNA and the DNA Shoah Project, two organizations that provide many different opportunities and approaches to genealogical research. In addition, Gary Mokotoff from Avotaynu was there, among a number of other organizations, which provide some very interesting resources for those seriously researching their family history.

As I closed the booth for the evening, I did so with the awareness that the night is just beginning. At 8:30 this evening we will have the much anticipated JewishGen presentation, followed by a Q/A period. There is still much that will happen tonight, so stay tuned for all the details!

In the meantime, please enjoy these pictures from the conference today, and don’t forget to check back later tonight and submit your questions and comments about the exciting new agreement between JewishGen and Ancestry.


JewishGen.org and Ancestry.com

We are pleased to announce that JewishGen.org, the premier resource for Jewish genealogy, and Ancestry.com, the largest online resource for family history information, have entered into a cooperative agreement.
Further details will be forthcoming and you will all have the opportunity to express your opinions. Questions and concerns will be addressed tonight at the JewishGen session, and also right here on the blog, where we will all be able to discuss the significance of this new agreement. 
In the meantime, please read this brief fact sheet that offers the basic details of this new and exciting agreement.
Terms of the agreement:
  • JewishGen will make some of its databases available on the Ancestry website.
  • Ancestry will provide hardware and network support for the JewishGen website.
Benefits of the agreement:
  • JewishGen will be able to provide more robust and functional resources to genealogists throughout the world.
  • Specific and immediate improvements will be seen in the speed of the website, along with greater accessibility when searching databases.
  • More people will be exposed to Jewish genealogy and have access to a greater range of resources to assist in researching family history.
  • JewishGen’s comprehensive records and information, contributed by volunteers from around the world, will continue to remain freely available on JewishGen.org.
Details of the agreement:
  • JewishGen remains an independent non-profit organization, affiliated with the Musuem of Jewish Heritage – A Living Memorial to the Holocaust.
  • There will be no change to the JewishGen management team, structure or affiliation with the museum.
  • This new agreement, combined with the generosity of our donors throughout the world, will allow us to continue offering all of JewishGen’s extensive resources for no charge.
  • Privacy of personal information for JewishGen users is of key importance to us. 
    • Information about JewishGen registrants will not be shared.
  • Personal information stored on JewishGen, such as data entered into the JGFF and Family Tree of the Jewish People, will not be shared.
  • JewishGen will continue to independently administer the JewishGen website, mailing lists and affiliates.

IAJGS Jewish Genealogy Conference – Trader Joe's, Bad Jokes and "It Stinks!"

For some reason the exhibition hall only opened at 12:00PM today, so it gave me the opportunity to do a little sightseeing. Where would a tourist from New York go for a few hours in Chicago? Well of course I had to make my way over to Trader Joe's. Did you know that they also have Trader Joe's in Chicago? What a concept!
After I picked up some healthy, (yes, Kosher) bagels, I headed back to the hotel to setup the exhibit. Of course, no sooner had the first crowds of people begun to make their way over to JewishGen Headquarters (aka The JewishGen Booth), did my trusty computer go dark. No matter how much I tried, I simply could not get the computer to turn on. So I hopped in a cab to the nearest electronic store, and asked if the person behind the counter could help me. I explained that I was at conference, my computer was not working and that this was not a great situation.
The person looked at my computer, took out the battery, put back the battery and just like that it was fixed! Don’t ask me how, but it was. In keeping with Chicago hospitality, the person refused to accept payment. I thanked him profusely and remarked that perhaps this was providence because I work on "Battery Place" and all that I needed was to have the "Battery placed" in the computer. He did not laugh.
Back at the JewishGen booth, I quickly fired up the computer and met many new and interesting people throughout the day. One person made a specific point of thanking me for JewishGen, explaining that it had literally been a “savior” for him in his research. I thanked him and explained that true thanks should go to Warren Blatt, the new managing Director and all of the staff and volunteers who have, over the years, made JewishGen into what it has become.
I also had the opportunity to meet with many of the volunteer coordinators, and it was truly an honor to meet the people who have devoted so much of their time over the past decades to a concept in which they truly believe.
To end off on a humorous note: One of the JewishGen key and valuable volunteers was at the booth and I inquired if he liked the new JewishGen brochure. The person responded that “it stinks.” A little surprised I said “excuse me?” The person said: “Next time print the brochures a few weeks before the conference, so it will not stink like a newly published brochure.” I smiled and put the brochure back in the container.
There is more news, and that will come soon.
In the meantime, please enjoy these pictures of Trader Joe’s, the Chicago Tribune building, and more scene’s from the conference.


Our New Logo

Of the many advantages associated with attending a major conference such as the IAJGS Jewish Genealogy Conference, is the ability to interact on a first hand basis with the people who have helped make JewishGen into what it is today.
Specifically, I have also been able to hear people’s reactions to the new JewishGen logo, and I am happy to report that the reviews have been mostly positive, exciting and upbeat. 
If you analyze the logo, you will notice a “Magen David” surrounding the middle of the logo. The logo also contains six leaves which reference the leaves of a genealogy tree branch. The point of each of the six leaves represents the 6 million Jews who were murdered during the holocaust. The star in the middle extends outwards representing Jewish renewal throughout the world. Finally, the color scheme of blue and green was chosen to convey the global nature of JewishGen’s active network of volunteers who make JewishGen possible to begin with.
What do you think? 
Express your thoughts in the comment section below and then submit your vote on the top right hand part of this page.
Stay tuned for more stories and pictures from the conference.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

IAJGS Jewish Genealogy Conference – One Big Discussion Group

Slowly and groggily I awoke early Sunday morning and made my way to LaGuardia airport. I would be flying to Chicago in advance of my attendance at the IAJGS Jewish Genealogy conference. Who would have thought that I would arrive at the airport at 5:36AM, yet not check my bags until 7:00AM?

As I was commiserating with the rest of my “line mates” upon the terrible misfortune of waiting in such a long line at such an early hour, it suddenly occurred to me that so many of our ancestors – many of whom have only been discovered as a result of JewishGen – would have been happy to simply make it to these shores alive, counting whatever personal belongings that remained as a blessing. It was with this thought that I traveled to Chicago.

I finally made it to the hotel, and soon found myself involved in talking to a multitude of people who all shared the same goal of researching genealogy. Hailing from all regions of the world, including Israel, Germany and even right here in the ‘windy city’ (aka Chicago), conference attendees have gathered here to participate in this conference and help other researchers in their quest to discover their family roots. It is truly amazing to be part of a group of people whose sole purpose is to perform research on their family while helping others research their family as well.

Being here reminds me of the JewishGen Discussion groups (expertly run by Dick Plotz) which provide thousands of researchers throughout the world the opportunity to connect, ask questions, exchange information and learn from others. The only difference is that in this case people can offer blistering criticism without any moderation! (Note: Compliments are also accepted, in fact preferred!)

Being that the participants are so motivated to “help and be helped,” the conference schedule itself has been jam packed. Beginning at 7:00AM until the late hours of the evening, approximately 700 people are participating in classes, speeches and workshops that shed light and offer assistance on genealogy research. As I have spent most of my time in the JewishGen booth, I have had the fortunate and fascinating opportunity to talk with many of the conference participants – many of whom have been kind enough to share some of their, often personal, stories with me.

While often humorous, these people shared with me the stories of how they put in an overwhelming amount of work into preserving our heritage. Specifically, they explained how valuable JewishGen has been in assisting in this research.

One woman explained to me that she had traveled to Eastern Europe some twenty years ago in search of her relatives. She had no idea where to begin and spent years searching, with varying degrees of success and failure. Then, a couple of years ago, she registered on JewishGen’s Family Finder (JGFF) and she received an email from a person who said that their grandfather’s were brothers. Overnight, after years of searching, she had discovered her cousins!

At the JewishGen booth (or the “JewishGen conference headquarters,” as we like to call it), we have displayed a number of books. Among them is “Dominican Haven” which accompanied the museum’s recent exhibit about the Jews who were able to escape to Sosua during WWII.

A particular couple stopped by the booth and picked up the book. I immediately used the opportunity to let them know that not only are we offering free shipping to all conference participants, but we are also offering a 10% discount on all books.

After I saw that I had not yet scared them away, I began explaining how Jews first came to the town called Sosua in the Dominican Republic. They immediately stopped me and began to look excitedly at the pictures in the book, for their very close friend was born in Sosua during the war. In fact, this friend recently made a wedding and decided to hold the wedding in Sosua! This couple told me that they traveled to Sosua for the wedding and that it was an incredibly emotional experience. Unfortunately they were not able to gain entrance into the Shul, but I was able to show them a picture of the Shul in the book, as well as a picture of the Menorah which was on display at the Museum.

Another woman, who happened to be a first time conference attendee, was so excited when she finally came over to the JewishGen table late this afternoon. After spending a day immersed in lectures and workshops she flatly declared “wow, everyone here is as enthusiastic about genealogy as I am!” Someone else remarked: “Now I understand why JewishGen is always slow, because everyone is always on it!” (Note: Stay tuned for marked and significant website improvements!)

A book which elicited much emotion was the recently published “Belzec” book. From the jacket cover: “On a conveyor belt, thousands of Jews entered into the camp and after just two hours, they lay dead in the Belzec pits, their property sorted and the killing ground tidied to await their next arrival. Over a period of just nine months, when Belzec was operational, Galician Jewry was totally decimated: 500,000 lay buried in the 33 mass graves.”

But for many, the day was one of optimism and hope. Perhaps the greatest line of the day was: “I am sorry, but I will be unable to join you tonight because I am having dinner with family I have not yet met.”

All this within the first 24 hours!

There are many more stories to tell, but the hour is late (or early depending on your perspective) and there will be many more people to meet and share experiences with tomorrow.

In the meantime, please enjoy these pictures from the conference (stay tuned for more) and be sure to stop by and say hello at the JewishGen booth. We would love to see you.

Ps. Don’t forget to leave your stories and experiences in the comments section below. You can sign your names or choose to be anonymous, there is no preference.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Yizkor Book - Belchatow, Poland

by: Roni Seibel Liebowitz

I am pleased to announce that another chapter of the Belchatow (Poland) Yizkor Book has been translated and is online on the Yizkor Book website. This chapter is on pages 218-245, title: "Once There was a Shtetl."

These books contain wonderful stories about the town and the lives of the Jewish people who once lived there.

I would like to extend special thanks to:
  • Sharon and Samuel Shattan and Shmuel Shottan for donating the section translated by Dr. Khane-Feygl (Anita) Turtletaub.

  • Jack and Jules Freeman for making possible the section translated by Gloria Berkenstadt Freund.

  • Gloria Berkenstadt Freund for editing this translation

  • Lance Ackerfeld for formatting and uploading this and other Belchatow chapters onto the website

  • Joyce Field for all her help as Coordinator of the JewishGen (Poland)Yizkor Book project.

Shabat Shalom,

Roni
(Click here for the Belchatow ShtetLink Page)

Yizkor Book Project Report - July 2008

During July 2008 the Yizkor Book Project added two new books, four new entries, and 13 updates. All of this month's additions have been flagged here to make it easy for researchers to find them. In addition, all translations are categorized by regions, communities, miscellaneous, and other languages.

There is also a Yizkor Book Database, a master bibliographic database of most published yizkor books and other books written about particular towns or areas.


New Books:
  • Rymanow, Poland: necrology donated by Yad Vashem
  • Telsiai, Lithuania: necrology donated by Yad Vashem
New Entries:


Updates:


  • Bedzin, Poland
  • Bialystok, Poland
  • Brzeziny, Poland
  • Dabrowa Gornicza, Poland
  • Dusetos, Lithuania
  • Dalusz, Ukraine
  • Pinsk, Belarus
  • Radzyn Podlaski, Poland
  • Rokiskis, Lithuania
  • Sanok, Poland
  • Svencionys, Lithuania
  • The Last of the Freiburgs
  • Vas, Hungary
As always, it is impossible to properly express our praise and gratiutude to all the donors, volunteers and  project coordinators of yizkor book translations and Yizkor Books Projects - without whom this would not be possible. If you appreciate the results of the work by these volunteers, please help them by donating to the projects listed here as well as to the JewishGen General Fund, listed here.


Please contact me personally if you would like to start a new translation project or donate funds for the translation of an article of your ancestral town in the Pinkas HaKehillot volumes.

Shabat Shalom,

Joyce

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

DNA Testing: A New Tool in Genealogy




As many of you know, JewishGen has a long standing partnership with Family Tree DNA, and DNATraits to enhance Jewish Genealogy research.

Family Tree DNA offers a revolutionary strategy for advancing your genealogy research, while DNATraits offers the world's most comprehensive Ashkenazi-inherited disease panel, at a fraction of prices found elsewhere. Click the links above for more information about these services.

On the same topic, the following article was recently published in Chicago (home of the upcoming IAJGS conference) which should prove interesting and motivating for those who have been unsure about taking the test up to this point.

A cheek swab solved a mystery for a man whose only known background was in the southern United States.

Jack Kane, a Wisconsin computer programmer, completed a DNA test two years ago. His father, Gordon, was abandoned as a toddler in a New York City office building in 1926 and later adopted. Gordon Kane, now 82, had no information about his biological family until Jack made a strong match with Karsen two months ago.

Karsen and the younger Kane are likely cousins, but testing can’t determine how many generations back the connection was made.

While Gordon Kane's family had guessed from his appearance that he was of Jewish background, he was “really astounded” when he heard the news of the match, according to his son.

“It gives me more of a sense of completion,” Jack Kane said. “My mother’s from the South, and we know our heritage very well…But with my dad, it was always kind of a black hole. It gave me a sense of clarity, to say, ‘Yes, that’s the part of the world I’m from.’”

Genealogy research has become popular in recent years as online services and the digitization of immigration and other records have made searching easier. According to the Pew Internet and American Life Project, in 2006 a quarter of Internet users had researched their genealogy or family history online.

The hobby is particularly growing among those with Jewish roots; the database at the popular Jewishgen.org is searched more than 40,000 times per month. (Medill)

Click here to read the entire article

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

ShtetLinks - July 2008

We are pleased to announce that a number of new web pages have been added to JewishGen ShtetLinks. Thank you to those who created these pages, which will serve as a perpetual memorial to those who once lived in the "shtetle" and also a valuable resource for their descendants.

Braslaw (Breslev. Breslauja), Belarus
Created by Eilat Gordin Levitan and Kevin Lo

Chervonograd (Krystynopol, Krasnipali) (G), Ukraine
Created by Byron Hapner

Dolginovo (Dolhinow), Belarus
Created by Eilat Gordin Levitan and Kevin Lo

Klyucharki (Varkulcsa, Klucsarka, Klecharkis), Ukraine
Created by Marshall Katz

Kormend, Hungary
Created by Judy Petersen

Krasilov (Krasyliv), Ukraine
Created by Barry E Chernick

Leipalingis (Leipun, Lejpuny), Lithuania
Created by Dorothy Leivers

Shchirets (Szczerzec) (G), Ukraine
Created by Sondra (Sandi) Goldsmith

Vishnevo ( Vishnova, Wiszniew)
Created by Eilat Gordin Levitan and Kevin Lo

Zidikai, ( Zhidik, Zidiku), Lithuania
Created by Miki Lentin
Web Design by ShtetLinks volunteer Sam Glaser

Zolotyy Potik (Potok Zloty), Ukraine
Created by Susana Leistner Bloch
Webmaster: Edward Rosenbaum

If you would like to setup a ShtetLinks webpage for your ancestral shtetl, please contact us at: shtetl-help@jewishgen.org.

Sincerely,

Susana Leistner Bloch, Project Coordinator
Barbara Ellman, Technical Coordinator

ADOPT A SHTETL!

Some of our shtetlpages were created by people who are no longer able to maintain them. We thank them for their past efforts and wish them luck on their future endeavors, and we hope that someone else will "adopt them."

We are therefore pleased to announce that one of these shtetlach was recently "adopted":

Kaunas (Kovno), Lithuania
Shtetlpage adopted by Eilat Gordin Levitan
Webmaster: Kevin Lo

If you wish to adopt an existing "orphaned" shtetlpage, please contact us at:shtetl-help@jewishgen.org.

Focus on China

While the world's eyes are trained on Beijing for the Summer Olympics, which start Friday, Shanghai's Jewish history has been spotlighted recently as well.

Many of the refugees reached Shanghai through the heroic efforts of Ho Fengshan, a Chinese diplomat in Vienna who issued thousands of visas to Austrian Jews. Ho was honored with a special tribute in June.


He came to be known as the "Chinese Schindler," in reference to the German industrialist who saved Jews. Oskar Schindler's life became the story of an Academy Award-winning film, "Schindler's List," by Steven Spielberg.


The consulate and 27 Israeli companies joined to raise approximately $87,000 for Gutman's project detailing Shanghai's Jewish past.


The first step was completed in June, a renovation of the Hongkou Elders’ Activity Center in Huoshan Park, around the corner from the site of the former Ohel Moshe synagogue, now the Shanghai Jewish Refugees Museum.


The funds also were used to set up a database, to be housed at the refugees museum, of names and addresses of Shanghai's Jewish residents. Gutman wants the database to be interactive and eventually include multimedia and information on the whereabouts of descendants.


“Here, after the war, Jews spread all over and there is nothing left, no community, no archives,” Gutman lamented.


Click here for the full article