It is Tuesday morning at 7.00 a.m. and I am in a meeting already. This meeting is about planning for next year’s conference in Salt Lake City. There are lots of things to do in planning any conference and there are about 17 people present. All have different tasks allocated and we are going to talk through what we have to do. Many similar meetings happen at each conference as often it is the only time all of the people can be in the same place at the same time.
Yesterday’s activities after my last posting included a meeting with JewishGen to discuss how things were going with JCR-UK, the United Kingdom SIG – www.jewishgen.org/JCR-UK/ Things are working well with JCR-UK and new data is being added all the time. If you haven’t checked the records there take a look or if you haven’t visited for a while take another look.
Speaking of taking another look, I went to a talk on Jewish Records on Ancestry given by Crista Cowan (also known as the Barefoot Genealogist, a world-renowned blogger). What I found interesting was not necessarily the records but the information that is available on Ancestry to help people learn about particular aspects as genealogy and family history. There is the Ancestry Wiki, which contains thousands of pages on every aspect of researching, including histories of places and countries. The wiki can be found under the Learning Center on the Ancestry home page. There are also collaborative volunteer transcription projects such as the World Memory Project, which is aiming to transcribe and index all of the records of the US Holocaust Memorial Museum. The USHMM records will not be fully available to view due to sensitivities over the information but anyone wanting to see the full record will be able to request a copy from the USHMM, who will mail it out for free.
An underused resource is the State and Country pages. These list the databases specific for each place and again historical information. Ancestry has a similar name and place matching system to JewishGen’s Family Finder (JGFF), which is worth exploring to increase your chances of finding relatives.
Ancestry’s main Jewish records and information are on www.ancestry.com/jewish. This is a “landing page” for all things Jewish on Ancestry. 80% of Ancestry’s Jewish records are free to access, with many coming from JewishGen. There is the JewishGen “Shtetl Seeker” duplicated on the Ancestry site as well. However, there are more records than just from JewishGen. One very useful service is the First Name Variations database. This is a way of finding out what a name used in one country such as the UK or USA might have been in say Lithuania. The example used was Rebecca in the USA and variatons in Lithuania. There were hundreds of different possible names, including Beila, Bela, Brindle, Rela, Rifke and so on and so on. This is a very useful tool for finding records in the “old” country. People anglicized their names from the original one they used and this tool is really good.
One very important message that Crista gave was don’t just rely on indexes but look at the original records and understand the information that is contained with in them. Get the record, look at it, see who else is mentioned, etc. The record can often contain the key to a locked door, remember that.
Now off again to join the conference proper. This morning I will be helping on the JewishGen table in the Resource Room, then going to a talk on UK records being given by JGSGB member Jeanette Rosenberg and I have to be there! Jeanette is my wife!!