All posts by Philip

1,000,000 database records passed at IGRA

I’m proud to announce that the Israel Genealogy Research Association (IGRA) has recently passed a million records in its All Israel Database. IGRA has been working on building this database for five and half years, and it’s an incredible accomplishment to have reached a million records in that time. We’re proud to make these records available to researchers across the globe (you just need to register for free on the site).

While I am currently the elected President of IGRA, I completely credit this accomplishment to our database volunteers who have worked hard and consistently for years to reach this stage. Under the leadership of Rosie Feldman, and with the help of Daniel Horowitz and Carol Hoffman, a team of dozens of volunteers have helped scan and index over three hundred data sources adding up to more than one million records.

Some recent databases that have been added, or added to, include Petach Tikva Marriages and Divorce 1928-1931, Jerusalem Marriages 1931-1940, British Mandate Marriage and Divorce Certificates, Teacher’s Union Members 1941, Israeli Name Changes 1954, Operation On Eagle’s Wings Immigrants 1949 (from Yemen), Israel Telephone Directory 1963, and Tombstones of the Jewish Cemetery of Salonica, Greece.

Archivist Award 2016
Archivist Award
These databases come from our close collaboration with more than thirty archives, both in Israel and abroad. Some of the archives we work with include the Israel State Archives, the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC), the Tel Aviv Municipal Archives, the Petach Tivka History Archives, and the Jerusalem Municipal Archives. Our work was recognized by the Association of Israeli Archivists last year when they presented us with an award in appreciation for our work with their member archives.

IGRA’s All Israel Database is the only major online genealogy database that is completely bi-lingual, being searchable in both Hebrew and English. IGRA works very hard to insure that databases that originate in Hebrew are searchable in English, and databases that originate in English are searchable in Hebrew. Our bi-lingual database has been made possible with the help of Brooke Schreier Ganz and her LeafSeek platform. Brooke may be better known these days as the head of Reclaim the Records, or her board role at Gesher Galicia, but she is also critical to our success here at IGRA and we are very grateful to all her hard work.

Indexing a million records is no easy task, and part of the problem is just coordinating all the work, and making sure the work assigned to people gets completed. To that end, we have been looking for many years for an online tool, similar to those used by Ancestry and FamilySearch for their volunteer indexing efforts. Recently we worked with Banai Feldstein, to insure our requirements were considered as she developed her Crowd-Sourced Indexing (CSI) tool. While other groups are currently using her great indexing tool as well, a quick look at the rankings of top indexers using her platform show they are all indexing IGRA records. Many thanks to Banai for developing the tool that helped push us past the million record mark earlier, and which will enable us to get the next million that much faster.

So thank you again to everyone who has made this milestone possible. If you want to help get the next million records online, please sign up at Crowd-Sourced Indexing, and check out the data we’re currently indexing. As of this writing we’re currently indexing the 1963 Telephone Directory in English, as well as a 1939 Petah Tikva Voters List and a 1936 Tel Aviv Voters List in Hebrew. Check back often as we have many other projects in the queue that get posted as soon as we complete what’s online (see the list of 30 completed indexing projects on the site).

Lastly, if you’re going to be at the IAJGS International Conference on Jewish Genealogy next month in Orlando, be sure to stop by the Share Fair on Sunday, July 23 between 12:30pm and 4pm (Swan Foyer), or the Israel Research BOF meeting on Monday, July 24 between 3:30pm and 4:45pm (Pelican 2), to meet IGRA volunteers and find out more about the work we do and the databases we are working on.

A year on from introducing the B&F Compendium of Jewish Genealogy

The B&F Encyclopedia of Jewish Genealogy just passed 13,000 resources. As I added a bit over a hundred new resources last night, I realized that I had launched the encyclopedia just about a year ago. Today I looked up the first article I posted to introduce the encyclopedia, Introducing the B&F Encyclopedia of Jewish Genealogy, and I saw it was posted exactly a year ago today.

For those unfamiliar with the encyclopedia, it is a guide to Jewish genealogy resources online, covering over 200 countries, over 80 regions (in Canada, Poland, UK and US), and in Poland roughly 1,000 towns. At launch, the resources for those 1,000 Polish towns added up to over 10,000 resources, while the country and region-level resources added up to about 1,200 resources. As of last night, we passed 13,000 total resources, so an increase of nearly 2,000 resources since last year. For more information on the encyclopedia and how it works, see About the Encyclopedia.

There’s still a lot that can be added to the encyclopedia. Adding the city-level resources to more countries is a huge task. Historical regions is another area where I want to expand into, grouping together resources for former territories such as Galicia, Courland, and the Pale of Settlement. Another area I want to expand into is non-geographic topics, such as names, rabbinical genealogy, Sephardi genealogy, etc. Available time is my scarcest resource, however. The same month I launched the encyclopedia I was elected President of the Israel Genealogy Research Association, and I started a new job as well. Add to that four children under the age of ten, and it’s amazing I’ve managed to update the site at all.

Overall though, I’m proud of what I managed to put together and what I’ve been able to add over the past year. It’s a great starting point for those looking for Jewish genealogy resources, and makes it easy to see at a glance what is available for the area from which one’s family originated. I use it myself whenever I am researching a particular location, and thousands of others are using it every month.

If you have suggestions for new resources, please send them to me. The best way to do so is to go to the topic you want to add a resource to, and click on the Add a Resource link at the bottom of the page. If you have a suggestion for ways to improve the site, please post a comment on the Improve the Site page.

Lastly, if you’re reading this now, go to the main page and click on some random countries and see what Jewish genealogy resource are available. Visit sites you’ve never seen before. Maybe you’ll be inspired to create new resources for areas that you know about, so you can share your knowledge with other researchers around the world.

Stolpersteine in memory of Mindel and Aron Salzman

A couple of months ago I wrote about how, after someone contacted me about installing Stolpersteine memorial blocks for cousins of mine, I had done further research into what happened to them during the Holocaust (Tracking down a couple that disappeared during the Holocaust).

Those Stolpersteine (stumbling blocks) have now been installed in the sidewalk near where the couple, Mindel and Aron Salzman, lived in Cologne, Germany. Someone photographed the installation ceremony and posted the photos to Wikipedia, which can be viewed in a kind of album there.

Below are a few photos from that album:

By Geolina163Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, Link
By Geolina163Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, Link
By Geolina163Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, Link
By Geolina163Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, Link

Lastly, it’s worth pointing out two things that seem to be wrong (or at least not clear) in the information in Mindel’s Stolperstein.

It says that she was deported to Bentschen/Zbaszyn as part of the Polenaktion, the first deportation of Jews from Germany to Poland, which took place in October 1938. While there is clear evidence that Aron was part of that deportation (see my previous article on this couple), there does not seem to be clear evidence that Mindel was part of that deportation as well.

Second, it says both were killed in ‘Occupied Poland’. I don’t know when Aron died, but I do know that while Mindel was killed during the war, she was in fact killed after the occupation of Poland ended (although perhaps one might argue it was then occupied by the Soviet Union instead). As described in my previous article, she was murdered along with a dozen other Jews participating in a Passover Seder in her birth town of Kańczuga, after having come out of hiding during the war.

The first is unproven, and the second is a technicality, so maybe I’m being too critical.

Overall, I’m happy to see these memorial blocks put into place.