British Library digitizes 300 years worth of newspaper archives, brings 65 million articles online

Click here to read the entire article.

Social Security Administration Extends FOIA Restriction to 100 Years

Posted by: Jan Meisels Allen

A recent blog posting by Megan Smolenyak Smolenyak's includes a letter from the Social Security Administration (SSA) regarding obtaining Social Security Applications (SSA-5). The letter states the Administration has extended the restriction to 100 years from date of birth of the applicant, therefore, one would only be able to obtain records in an unaltered state (includes parents names) for those born prior to 1912.

After reading Megan’s posting it was found on the SSA website that this went into effect on July 27, 2011 see: scroll down to “I” under “extreme age requirements": where it states: “Under this policy, we assume that a person is alive unless their birth date exceeds 120 years or we have proof of the person’s death... We normally do not assume that an individual is deceased without proof of death (e.g., death certificate, obituary, newspaper article, or police report)….However, for extreme age cases we can release an SS-5, in its entirety, including the parents’ names of the number holder (NH), in response to a request in the following instances:
• the NH’s birth date exceeds 100 years and we have proof of the NH’s death; or
• the NH’s birth date exceeds 120 years and no proof of death exists.”

To our knowledge there was no public comment period for this new Administration determination.

This policy is to "protect" the parents’ names of the SSA-5 applicant. If the person who is applying for the Social Security Administration application can prove the applicant is deceased, and their birth date exceeds 100 years, they will be able to order the SS-5 without redaction of that information.

To read Megan's blog, and view the letter to her from the Social Security Administration go to: There is no rationale included with the letter, other than it is policy, signed by the acting executive director of privacy and disclosure. The letter's author stated this was a final decision, but can be reviewed by a district federal court or mediation with the office of Government Information Services.

Jan Meisels Allen
IAJGS Vice President
Chairperson, IAJGS Public Records Access Monitoring Committee

US Senator Calls For Removal of All Social Security Numbers From Genealogy Websites Posting SSDI

Posted by: Jan Meisels Allen

On November 13 I posted to this blog about protected state death records being removed from the Social Security Death Index (SSDI) effective November 1. Additionally, Congressman Sam Johnson (R-TX) would be calling for hearings on removal of SSN’s sometime in 2012. Now we have learned that the there is a movement to remove all Social Security numbers from all genealogy web sites as a US Senator believes having them posted on the Internet are a cause of identity theft. (The precipitating issue is the same- a deceased child's identity was stolen- they are two different deceased children involved).

There are many newspaper articles on computer hacking into government and financial services organizations where Social Security Numbers (SSN) are stolen—there have not been any known reports that theft occurred due stealing SSN’s from genealogy websites that post the SSDI. A recent news article where theft of computer tapes with 4.9 million Tricare beneficiaries SSN, birth dates, phone numbers etc. have been stolen is another proof that there is a different source, than genealogy sites of SSN used for identity theft

Original url:

Thanks to Rand Fishbein, a member of JGS Greater Washington and a member of the JewishGen Board of Governors, who shared a letter, addressed to "Dear Colleagues" by US Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) encouraging Members (of Congress) to support an initiative to end the posting on genealogy websites of Social Security numbers belonging to deceased individuals. Quoting Rand: "The Senator believes that such postings contribute to identity theft and are an unwelcome infringement on the privacy rights of citizens. Needless to say, if this effort succeeds, it is sure to have a significant impact on the family history research community. “Senator Brown serves as the Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Social Security. Paragraph 7 below shows the lack of understanding of what genealogists require and why! As the letter is not posted to an accessible website I am copying it below: (I purposely did not mention the name of the constituent) [Note: the Death Master File is the basis of the Social Security Death Index]

Sherrod Brown
US Senate

November 14, 2011

"Dear Colleague:

I encourage you to join me in writing letters to genealogy websites urging them to remove and no longer post the Social Security numbers of deceased individuals.

Earlier this year, I learned of the plight of my constituent, XXXX. In the wake of her three-month old daughter’s death, XXXX discovered that her daughter's Social Security number was posted on various genealogy websites and that her daughter's Social Security number had been fraudulently used on an IRS Tax return filing.

In response to XXX situation, I sent letters to the Social Security Administration (SSA), the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), and the Chief Executive Officer of I encouraged the FTC and SSA to investigate the practices of websites like, and asked the FTC to work with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to ensure victims of this
type of tax fraud are provided with a prompt remedy.

Social Security numbers of deceased individuals are available to the public through the Death Master File (DMF), which contains information on more than 82 million deceased individuals. The SSA created the DMF as the result of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit where the court held that, based on the Privacy Act, an individual's privacy rights are extinguished at
death and required the SSA to release the Social Security number, surname, and date of death of deceased individuals.

The SSA provides the data that compromises the DMF to the Department of Commerce's National Technical Information Service (NTIS), which sells the data to various entities such as Federal, state and local governments; financial, investigative, credit reporting, and medical research organizations; and public customers--including genealogy websites.

Many DMF purchasers use the data to prevent fraud by updating financial information and freezing deceased persons' accounts. But, DMF data can also be used for fraudulent purposes. We are all aware that identity theft is growing problem, and posting such personally identifiable information on publicly available genealogy websites is an easy mark for criminals.

Genealogy websites are not violating the law in posting Social Security numbers, but genealogical research must be balanced against the need to protect individuals and families from identity theft and fraud. Given the breadth of information available on these websites--full names, birth dates and death dates--Social Security numbers provide little additional benefit to family history researchers.

Please join me in the effort to educate genealogy websites about the unintended consequences of making Social Security numbers readily available to the public. Letters will be sent to the following companies due to their disclosure of Social Security numbers on their websites:;';,,,,

If you would like to sign onto the letters or have any questions, please contact Erin Richardson in Senator Brown's office at 202-224-2315 or

Sherrod Brown
Unites States Senator"

Accompanying this was a model letter to asking them to remove and no longer post Social Security numbers on their website as it leads to identity theft.

The IAJGS is taking these recent access issues very seriously. When there is more information on either of the proposed hearings --House Ways and Means and Senate Appropriations it will be posted.

Jan Meisels Allen
IAJGS Vice President
Chairperson, IAJGS Public Records Access Monitoring Committee

After 66 Years, Holocaust Survivor Reunites With Family That Saved Her

This Thanksgiving weekend, a Holocaust survivor can offer thanks to the family who helped her hide from the Nazis during World War II.

Click here for the entire article from CBS News.

World’s oldest known Holocaust survivor, born in Prague, turns 108

Seventy years ago this week, the Nazis began deporting Czech Jews to the garrison town of Terezín (Theresienstadt) in nothern Bohemia; the oldest known survivor of that Gestapo “show camp” — and of the Holocaust — this Friday marks her 108th birthday.

Click here for the entire article.

Technical Difficulties-Resolved

The JewishGen site is currently experiencing technical difficulties. We are working to resolve this issue quickly and appreciate your patience and understanding.

Update: This issue has been resolved.

Odessa KehilaLink Update

The 1899 and 1914 Odessa directories are now online at the Odessa KehilaLink site.

Click here to access and to view more information.

Announcements: JGS of Cleveland

The Jewish Genealogy Society of Cleveland is having two programs in December.  The first is a joint program with Anshe Chesed Fairmount Temple on Friday, December 2 at 6:15 pm.  This program requires an RSVP to Julie Moss, Librarian at Fairmount Temple, at or 216-464-1330.

The second program is our regular monthly meeting and will be on Sunday, December 4th at 1:00 PM at the Park Synagogue East [please note the day, time and location].

Details for both programs can be found by clicking here.

Ken Bravo
Kenneth A. Bravo, President

New Project: Stowbtsy, Belarus Yizkor Book

Project Synopsis

This project is being initiated in order to fund the translation of the one volume, 537 page Yizkor book. Entitled “Memorial volume of Steibtz-Swerznie and the neighboring villages Rubezhevitz, Derevna, Nalibok” (published 1964 in Tel Aviv, Israel). The online translation will appear at:

Key Audiences

Jewish genealogists seeking to trace their roots in Steibtz or the vicinity constitute the primary audience for the material. However, the material has the potential to be of broader appeal to scholars interested in the region or specializing in Jewish history and society.

Project Importance

The prayer of Yizkor, or “May He Remember”, is recited in the Synagogue not only as a memorial to the deceased, but also as a rededication to the spiritual heritage of one's ancestors. Thus, after World War II, émigrés and Holocaust survivors authored Yizkor books in order to remember the towns whose Jewish populations were destroyed in the Holocaust. Yizkor books contain narratives of the history of the town, details of daily life and residents, religious and political figures and movements, religious and secular education, and stories of the major intellectual and Zionist movements of the 20th century. Many Yizkor books contain maps, photographs and illustrations and are unique sources of information of once vibrant towns, primarily in central and Eastern Europe. Stories of survival contain names of Righteous Persons yet to be documented. The necrologies and lists of residents are of tremendous genealogical value, as often the names of individuals who were taken to extermination camps or shot in the forests are not recorded elsewhere. Usually written in Hebrew and/or Yiddish, these important books are not accessible to most users, who cannot read these languages. Yizkor books were printed in limited runs as the authors then felt that only the survivors or descendants from that particular town would be interested. Some of these Yizkor books are rare and difficult to obtain. The translation and on-line publication of Yizkor books into English unlocks all of this information to researchers all over the world. The JewishGen Yizkor Book Project received the award in 2002 for outstanding contribution to Jewish genealogy by the International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies.

Stowbtsy, Belarus is located in Eastern Europe 45 miles Southwest of Minsk on the Neman River at 53.29 North latitude and 26.44 East longitude. Other names are Stolpce (Polish) and Steibtz (Yiddish). The region was part of Poland until 1793 when it became part of the Russian Empire. Following the Russo-Polish War in 1919 Stowbtsy again became part of Poland. In 1939 Stowbtsy became part of the USSR. The area was occupied by Germany from 1941 to 1944. After WWII Stowbtsy remained part of the USSR until 1991 when Belarus declared its sovereignty and independence. Jews began to settle there during the end of the 16th century Jewish merchants of Stowbtsy are referred to in legal archives of Minsk (1678) and in the supreme tribunal of Lithuania (1704) as traders in salt and salted fish. During the 18th Century Jews there engaged in the export of agricultural products, such as flax, and lumber, which were floated down the Niemen River to Konigsberg in East Prussia. Imported products were salt, spices, and cloths. The Jewish population numbered 259 in 1811, 1,315 in 1847, and 2,409 in 1897, which was 64% of the total population. In the second half of the 19th century, the Jews developed the timber trade, and in the 20th century founded sawmills, which employed some Jewish workers. Zionist activity commenced in the beginning of the 20th century. A Bund group was organized in Stowbtsy in 1905-06. In the same period Jewish youth and workers in Stowbtsy organized self-defense against pogroms by the population of the neighboring villages.

During World War I about half of the Jews of Stowbtsy left the city. Those remaining suffered severely from the struggle for control of the area between the Red Army and those who opposed it during the civil war in 1919-20. In 1921 Stowbtsy was incorporated within Poland as a border town. There were then 1,428 Jewish inhabitants (48% of the total population). The Jewish economy was severely affected as a result of the city being cut off from its previous markets, the hostile attitude of the anti-Semitic government, and organized Polish competition.

Holocaust Period. After the outbreak of World War ll, during the period of Soviet rule in Stowbtsy (1939-41), the Jewish community institutions were disbanded and all Jewish political activities were prohibited. In the spring of1941 Jewish youth were mobilized in the Soviet Army, and later fought against Germany. After the outbreak of war between Germany and the Soviet Union (June 22, 1941), groups of Jewish youth attempted to reach the Soviet interior, but were prevented by the Soviets. At the beginning of the German occupation there were more than 3,000 Jews in the town. As early as July 1941 about 80 of them were executed. A ghetto was established at the end of 1941. In February of1942, hundreds of Jews were murdered at the local Jewish cemetery. In the spring of 1942 an underground resistance group was organized in the ghetto, and attempts were made to acquire arms. On May 15, 1942, the first group left the ghetto for the forests to make contact with the partisans. In September 1942 most of the Jewish population was killed, with about 500 skilled workers remaining in the ghetto. Some were sent to the camps at Baranovichi and Minsk. A few Jewish groups escaped to the forests, joined the partisans, and carried out important combat operations against the Germans and their collaborators. Reference Cited “Encyclopedia Judaica”, Volume 15. “Stolbtsy” Stokes, Rose Pastor, pp.411-412. New York: Macmillan, 1972.

Project Description

As funds become available, all Hebrew and Yiddish pages will be translated. To accomplish that JewishGen will hire a professional translator. The project coordinator will select the order in which the chapters will be translated and will work closely with the translator to ensure a grammatically correct and idiomatic translation. Specific tasks the project coordinator will perform include proofreading, editing, and preparing the work for submission to the Yizkor Book Project.

Estimated Cost. $12,000. To contribute, please click here.

[USA] Social Security Death Index No Longer Contains Protected State Death Records

Posted by: Jan Meisels Allen

Most genealogists doing US research rely on the Social Security Death Index (SSDI). The death master file (DMF) is developed by the National Technical Information Service (NTIS)
(, which has been notified by the Social Security Administration (SSA) of an important change in the Death Master File data. NTIS, a cost-recovery government agency, disseminates the DMF data on behalf of SSA. As stated on their website, use of the SSDI actually "prevents" identity theft.

"Protected" state records, are to the best of our current information, those states that have waiting periods to access death records. In other words, if a state has a waiting period for public access to death records, such as 25, 50, 75, 100 or more years, they are considered "protected".

SSA receives death information from sources in addition to states supplying death records,such as funeral homes, financial institutions, family and others. Only the information provided by protected state death records are being removed and future information from protected state death records will not be added.

Effective November 1, 2011 the DMF data that NTIS receives from SSA will no longer contain protected state death records. The historical Public DMF contains 89 million records. SSA will remove approximately 4.2 million records from this file and add about 1 million fewer records annually. (

The rationale as stated by SSA is the following:Section 205(r) of the Act prohibits SSA from disclosing state death records SSA receives through its contracts with the states, except in limited circumstances.
(Section 205r link -

Per the article noted at the end of this paragraph, Congressman Sam Johnson of Texas (R)called for a hearing on how a dead child's SSN was stolen which was the impetus for the withdrawal of many protected state death records.

As soon as we know details about such a hearing details will be posted.

Congressman Johnson chairs the very influential House Ways and Means Committee on Social Security. It oversees the Social Security Administration. Chairman Johnson has already held a field hearing in Texas, on child identity theft and Social Security in September

Jan Meisels Allen
IAJGS Vice President
IAJGS Chairperson, Public Records Access Monitoring Committee

109 Years of American Jewish History Goes Digital

Posted by: Jan Meisels Allen

The Journal of Jewish Communal Service (JJCS) ( is now available in digital form on the Web thanks to the work of the Berman Jewish Policy Archive at NYU's Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service.

The JJCS collection spans from 1902 to the most recent issues of the Journal, providing a window into American Jewish organizational life with unprecedented breadth and depth. The Journal of Jewish Communal Service was established by the National Conference of Jewish Charities, forerunner of the Jewish Communal Service Association.

The reader is also able to download the publication . There are over 4100 articles on this site
original url:

Jan Meisels Allen
IAJGS Vice President
Chairperson, IAJGS Public Records Access Monitoring Committee

Pennsylvania SB 361 Scheduled for a vote in House Health Committee November 15

Posted by: Jan Meisels Allen

I have previously written about Pennsylvania SB 361 which would open access to birth and death records after 105 and 50 years respectively. After that time period the records would be kept by the state archives. The bill passed the Senate unanimously and is scheduled to have its first hearing in the House Health Committee on November 15.

For those who do research in Pennsylvania this bill would enable the public to access birth and death records after a specified time (see above) making access to records easier. Currently, Pennsylvania birth and death records are restricted and a limitation is placed on whom may access them--genealogists are not included. The state began requiring birth and death records in 1906. Information is from .
Marriage records are kept by the individual counties, therefore, are not included in this bill.
It won't be the first time a bill was passed by one body unanimously only to have it die in committee in the other.

IAJGS sent letters to each member of the House Health Committee in early October asking them to hold a hearing and pass the bill. To read the bill go to:
original url:

Jan Meisels Allen
IAJGS Vice President
Chairperson, IAJGS Public Records Access Monitoring Committee

Fold3 WWII Collection Free Through November 20

Posted by: Jan Meisels Allen

Fold3, formerly, is offering their WWII collection free, through November 20 in recognition of Veteran's Day. You will find records, documents, stories, and photos, plus you have the opportunity to add your own.
Go to: You may access Fold3's holocaust collection, also free at You may have to register with your name and e-mail to access either of these

Jan Meisels Allen
IAJGS Vice President
Chairperson, IAJGS Public Records Access Monitoring Committee

Rovno Jews Remember Massacre

Seventy years have passed since the horrific days in the beginning of November, 1941, when 17,500 innocent people were murdered. On November 6, the Jewish community of Rovno gathered to commemorate this horrific occurrence.

Click here for the entire article.

55 Jewish partisans honored for ‘extraordinary measures’ in resisting Nazis

Allen Small, 83, and Leon Bakst, 86, hugged each other so tight, Small said, “I couldn’t let go.”
Their embrace at a synagogue on Manhattan's Upper East Side was 65 years in the making.
Small and Bakst grew up a few houses apart in Ivye, Belarus, attending the same school and synagogue before reality turned black, back when their names were Avraham Schmulewitz and Leibel Bakst, and Ivye belonged to Poland and the Nazis had not yet invaded. They last saw each another in 1946 at a displaced persons camp in Munich.
Click here to read the entire article from the JTA.

Hidden Treasures of Cairo Genizah

High-Tech Science Pieces Together Ancient Scraps of Jewish Life

Click here for the entire article from the Forward. 

100-year-old Yiddish letters discovered

In her quest to find her roots, North York resident Debbie Rose found a trove of hundred-year-old Yiddish letters that hold a world long gone.

Click here for the entire article from the Toronto Sun.

Jewish settlers may have arrived in 1565

Conventional history is that the first Jews to come to the later-to-be United States arrived in the first week of September in 1654 in New Amsterdam, the town that the British renamed New York. The 23 Sephardic Jews who landed were fleeing persecution that stemmed back more than 150 years to the Spanish Inquisition.

But the group that has dubbed itself The St. Augustine Jewish Historical Society is exploring the possibility that the first Jews to settle in the United States arrived in St. Augustine during the first weeks of September 1565. In other words, they arrived with Pedro Menendez de Aviles, who established St. Augustine.

Click here to read the entire article.

What Do a Bunch of Old Jews Know About Living Forever?

Irving Kahn is about to celebrate his 106th birthday. He still goes to work every day. Scientists are studying him and several hundred other Ashkenazim to find out what keeps them going. And going. And going. The secrets of the alter kockers.

Click here to read the entire article from New York Magazine.

Wimpels Made Simple

A German Jewish Tradition Has Been Almost Lost

Click here to read the entire article from the Forward. 

World Memory Project unveils first searchable collections

Press Release from Ancestry and the USHMM:

The first collections of records made searchable through the project are now available to the public. The records contain information on displaced Jewish orphans in Germany; Czech Jews deported to the Terezin concentration camp and camps in occupied Poland; and French victims of Nazi persecution. 

This means that information on 30,000 individual victims of the Holocaust and Nazi persecution is now more accessible to victims' families and survivors seeking to discover missing chapters of their history, learn the truth about the fate of their relatives, and honor those who were lost.

These records are available here:

Announcement: JGS of Greater Miami

JGS of Greater Miami will be meeting Sunday, November 6, 2011 10:00am at the Greater Miami Jewish Federation (4200 Biscayne Boulevard, Miami, FL).

Try not to miss this showing of a special documentary "The Forgotten Ellis Island." The meeting's program will be about Early European Immigration and how the immigrants were cared for on Ellis Island. This will be followed by "How To Do Immigration and Naturalization Research." This is the first of a series of "How To" meeting program that will be our focus for the coming year.

There will be a gift packet of pertinent material for members and anyone who decides to become a member at the meeting. Some of the material came from THE SAVE ELLIS ISLAND ORGANIZATION and the rest of the packet is a compendium of "How To" information from different sources, which should be helpful to genealogists wherever they are in their research. Non-members will receive hand-outs but not the packet.

Guests and their friends are always welcome. There is no admission fee. Come and enjoy the morning of genealogy with your fellow researchers. This should be a very informative session. We look forward to seeing you there to share this with us and for us to share with you.

Joan Parker, President
JGS of Greater Miami, Inc.

JewishGen used in Family Connection

To discover his family history and find relatives, Stuart used a variety of programs including Family Tree Maker,, Jewish Genealogy (ED - and

Click here to read the entire article.

Last East London Jewish Hospital Demolished

The Jewish Maternity Hospital operated between 1911 and 1947 and had an attached midwifery school. It was built as a two-story building containing three maternity wards, an operating theater and several annexes and offices. Of its 12 beds, 4 were reserved for patients who could not pay for medical care. The building quickly became too small, and eventually additional wings were added on. The hospital also added on many other services, including pre-natal and post-natal care clinics.

Click here to read the entire article from the Forward.

'Sholem' documentary is full of Jewish history

In 1859, the man who would become known as the Jewish Mark Twain was born Solomon Rabinovich near Kiev in what was then the Russia pale, a zone set aside for second-class Jews. In his shtetl, young Solomon was relatively prosperous and educated, and after he eloped with the daughter of a Russian landowner, he inherited enough money to invest in schemes. One was a literary journal in Yiddish, the folkloric language in which poor Jews communicated.
Under the pen-name Sholem Aleichem (the Yiddish equivalent of "Hello, how are you?"), he wrote hundreds of stories about Russian Jews, who yearned for a better life in a rapidly changing world. Like his creation Tevye the Milkman, Rabinowich had many daughters and was caught between the rural past and an urban revolutionary future.
Click here to read the entire article.

Kaliningrad Jews battle circus over restoring synagogue

Jews in the Russian city of Kaliningrad want to reconstruct a grand synagogue on the same spot where it stood before the Nazis destroyed it, but first they have to evict the current tenants: the local circus.

Click here to read the entire article from the Jerusalem Post.

In the News: Bringing lost letters back to life

“I had some interest in genealogical research,” Debbie recalls, “but I never imagined what was possible. I started with JewishGen, and then went on I filled in a little green leaf with the bit of information I had, I clicked, and within a minute my grandfather’s death certificate popped up. I was blown away. What else can I find on my grandparents, I wondered.

Click here to read the entire article.

Poland has largest gathering of rabbis since WWII

By VANESSA GERA, from the Associated Press
WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Dozens of rabbis from across Europe have gathered in Warsaw for the largest meeting of Jewish religious leaders in Poland since the community was virtually wiped out during World War II.
Click here to read the entire article.