Category Archives: Uncategorized

The problem of borders…

One of the problems one runs into when researching their family, particularly those researching family from continental Europe and farther east, is how often the borders changed. The video below is a great visualization of that problem – it shows the borders of Europe over the past thousand years.

I don’t know who put together the original video, and exactly where the data came from, but it’s a very impressive video. I do know that the years being shown at the bottom were added later by someone else, so they probably don’t match up exactly to the map changes, but you can take them as an estimate.

One very interesting thing to watch in the video (it helps to focus on one area when you watch) is Poland. A little before half-way through when the years shown are in the late 1500s Poland is massive. It later disappears completely, later emerging again in a much smaller form.

So what do you think? Learn anything that can help your family research?

Routes to Roots, improved

I’m going to start with a digression. I’m not sure if you can digress before you have a main topic, but here we go.

In the past, when one did research into their Jewish relatives from Eastern Europe, the assumption was sometimes that there were no records that survived the Holocaust. This is not just a baseless assumption – I’ve personally been told many times by archivists in Eastern European countries that “All Jewish records were destroyed in the war.” When receiving such responses I sometimes wonder which of the following possibilities is the actual case:

  • The Jewish records were, actually, destroyed (it did happen sometimes).
  • The archivist knows exactly what records exists, but doesn’t care to tell you about them.
  • The archivist doesn’t differentiate between Jews and non-Jews, and even though records were kept separately in the past, does not index them separately and thus is just saying there are no separate Jewish records (or a previous archivist did this, probably during the communist period, and this archivist doesn’t know the difference).
  • The archivist is ignorant of what Jewish records exist.
Really only the first two possibilities are likely. It’s not likely that different collections would or even could be mixed together (certainly an archivist would realize the documents come from different collections), and it’s not likely an archivist would not know of the contents of their archive. Obviously sometimes it’s true, the records were destroyed, and the archivist is telling you what happened. Sometimes, however, archivists seem disinclined to lift a finger to help you, for whatever reason it might be (laziness? antisemitism?) which you can decide on your own.

So how do you know what records exist for the town you’re researching? For records in (or in what once was) Poland, you can try searching JRI-Poland to see if they have indexed records for your town. There is actually a list of towns on the JRI-Poland web site, and if you follow the link to the town page you can find out many of the records that have been indexed for that town. Some records may not be listed, however, so it’s always a good idea to contact the town administrator and ask if there are other records as well (which might cost money).

One of the most important sites for Jewish genealogists is The Miriam Weiner Routes to Roots Foundation (RTR) site. Miriam Weiner has worked to inventory the Jewish holdings of archives across Poland, Ukraine, Belarus, Lithuania and Moldova (and some in Romania). This information was originally published in two books covering Poland, and Ukraine and Moldova, which are now largely out of date, but the information is updated and expanded on the web site. Whenever new Jewish records from specific towns are located, they are added to this database.

In other words, if you want to see if birth records exist from your ancestral town, you search for the town, and can see what records are known to exist for that town. The records that exist may be in the local archive, might be in an archive in a country that used to be the same country as where your town is (such as the L’viv, Ukraine archives for records of towns in Poland), or could be in archives like CAHJP in Jerusalem.

For example, see the records available for Kanczuga, Poland (9 records groups), Odessa, Ukraine (16 records groups), and Krakow, Poland (30 record groups – including one from CAHJP).

I’m happy to see that the site has been improved, and it is now easier to get to the search interface.

In addition to the archival catalog, RTR has recently started added it’s own name databases.

1929 Pulawy Taxpayer List

When name databases exist for a town, there will be a link at the top of the town archival holdings page. The following name databases were added as the first batch last month:

I’ve linked directly to the database search pages for each database.

This is an interesting development for RTR, and it will be interesting to see how these new databases develop. Hopefully they will add a single search interface for all the name databases in the future.

It’s always exciting to see new databases made available for Jewish genealogy. The previously mentioned JewishGen Memorial Plaques Database and four new databases in IGRA’s All Israel Database, as well as eight new databases added to Gesher Galicia’s All Galicia Database (I hope to post about this in the future), and these new databases from RTR all contribute greatly to Jewish genealogy. Certainly an exciting time to be involved in Jewish genealogy.

Genealogy Software for the Mac

This week I’m attending the IAJGS Conference on Jewish Genealogy in Boston. Last night I attended the Mac BOF (Birds-Of-a-Feather) meeting. It was packed from one of the room to the other, thanks to the hard work of Doris Loeb Nabel and other volunteers.

I first attended a Mac BOF meeting back in 2011 in DC. Like two years ago, both Duff Wilson from Ancestry and Daniel Horowitz from MyHeritage spoke briefly about their future Mac offerings. Both, by the way, are planning new Mac offerings by the end of the calendar year. Ancestry is planning a new Mac version of FTM that is closer in feature-parity to the Windows version than previous versions. Wilson also noted that the price of the Mac version, which is currently higher than the Windows version, would likely come into line with the Windows version. MyHeritage is working on the first Mac version of FTB, which will also not have all the features of their Windows version. MyHeritage wants to get a version out, but doesn’t want to wait until all the features they have built over the years in their Windows version, have been coded for the Mac. Hopefully both companies will bring their Mac version into sync with their Windows versions over time.

One of the things I noticed at the meeting was that many of the people did not know about all the Mac genealogy software available. Most knew about Reunion, and Family Tree Maker, but many did not know about others. I thought it would be useful to take a quick look at the genealogy applications available for Mac. Most of these I’ve discussed in the past to differing degrees, but this is probably the first time I’ve listed them all together. The list consists of most Mac genealogy software (in alphabetical order) that have been updated in the past year (and I’ll point out a few that have not been recently updated recently at the end). If I miss any that you use, post in the comments.



Not a traditional genealogy program based on people – Evidentia is based on recording sources and building a case to prove claims. Costs $24.99 on the web site (although currently on sale, 20% off through August at $21.25).


A very powerful genealogy program, GEDitCOM II‘s main drawback is its antiquated interface. GEDitCOM II has a few power features that no other genealogy program has, such as scripting with Applescript, Python or Ruby, and outputting a book in LaTeX format. These are not features most genealogists will ever use, but for some advanced users, these features definitely set it apart. Costs $64.99 on the web site.


GRAMPS is a free and open-source genealogy application originally developed for Linux, but now also available for Windows and Mac. I’ve discussed GRAMPS in the past (here and here), and now there’s a new version out, version 4. Free from the web site.


Developed in France, Heredis is popular in Europe and is available for both Mac and Windows. I’ve mentioned Heredis in the past but have not done a full review. Two interesting features Heredis has are its illustrated charts and book publishing. Free companion app for iPhone. Available on the web site, and via the Mac App Store, for $59.99.


Recently updated to version 7, MacFamilyTree has a very modern user interface, and lots of options for charts and reports, and can integrate with FamilySearch family trees (the only Mac software that can that I am aware of). Syncs with MobileFamilyTree, a paid app, on iPhone and iPad. Normally costs $59.99 on the Mac App Store (only), but currently on sale for 50% off for a few more days (until Aug 11).



Reunion is a very popular genealogy program for the Mac, with advanced reporting and charting capabilities. Relatively easy navigation through your tree. A very active support forum. Paid separate companion apps for iPhone and iPad. Costs $99 on their web site, and from some retailers including Amazon.

There are also some other genealogy programs like iFamily for Leopard, myBlood, ohmiGene, and PA Writer II. Not all of these are updated frequently, and I’m not as familiar with them. I also took a look at the various genealogy applications available through the Mac App Store back in February. This includes a few I don’t mention here, including the app Memory Miner, which is not strictly speaking a genealogy program, but a ‘digital storytelling’ application, and can import GEDCOMs to help assign names to people.

What program do you use? What do you like about it? What don’t you like about it. Have you been thinking about using one of these programs, but not started?