Category Archives: This Site

More newspapers, Landsmanshaft cemetery sections, and convenience

This is a short update to describe some recent additions to the B&F Compendium of Jewish Genealogy.

First, following up my earlier addition of hundreds of newspaper archives, I’ve started to add more newspapers from other sites. Dan Oren, as promised, the Lubliner Togblat has been added, so brush up on your Yiddish.

Second, I’ve added links from the Cemetery Project of the Museum of Family History. The Musuem is a web site put together by Steven Lasky that has lots of great information. The Cemetery Project includes lists of surnames from different Landsmanshaft cemetery sections from the NY/NJ area, including information on the entrance gates to sections that have them (that usually have information on the people who ran the Landsmanshaft), as well as many Holocaust memorials put up by those societies.

In order to conserve space, I have put all the Musuem links into a single entry in the Diaspora section of the Polish town pages. If there are pages for the town for all three categories (Surnames, Society Gates, and Holocaust Memorial), then it would look something like this:

Musuem of Family History

You can see the links for all three pages for the town.

I’ve written about Landsmanshaftn cemetery sections before, such as in Learning about Landsmanshaftn and More on Landsmanshaftn, and for those who are not sure where their family came from before the US, figuring out if they were buried in a Landsmanshaft cemetery section can be an important clue.

Keep in mind they may have ended up in a section because their spouse was from that town, or because an ancestor further back was from that town, but in any case, it’s still very useful and the surname lists and lists of sections associated with each town on this site are very useful.

Lastly, you may have noticed the ‘New’ icons in the above screenshots. This is a new feature of the site that will show you if a link was added or updated in the last three months. I actually added this awhile back but there was a bug that didn’t always display it. It is now working, however, so if you go to any page on the site and see that icon, you know the resource was added to this site recently. This is convenient if you want to revisit the town page every few months, and see quickly if something new has been added.

B&F has a new server

The short version of what I’m about to write is that this web site is running on a new web server, which should mean the site will be running faster than ever before. If you see any problems on the site, please contact me so I can fix them. For those interested, I am including more details below.

I am grateful for all the users of this site, and hope everyone who has visited has benefited in some way when they’ve come to the site. This web site has been around since 2010, when it was originally launched as a Blogger site. Back in 2013 I moved the site to self-hosted WordPress, which allowed me to expand the site’s content and functionality, but also meant I had to maintain the site and had to deal with the fact that many other sites were running on the same server. My web host was actually great, and I continue to run other sites on the same host without any problems, but they had no good solution for moving this site to a bigger server when it needed it.

B&F Compendium of Jewish GenealogyWhen I created the B&F Compendium of Jewish Genealogy, I stretched the capacity of the server to its limits. The average WordPress site only has a few Pages (as opposed to Posts, of which there can be many), maybe a few dozen, but the Compendium uses over 25,000 Pages and is continuing to grow. Whether WordPress was the right platform to develop the Compendium on is a different question, but as I had it running in WordPress I had to find a way to increase the capacity of the server without breaking the bank (since this site is a labor of love, and I make no money from it).

For those who use WordPress, think about the fact that on the WordPress editor page, all Pages are loaded into a drop-down menu for selecting a parent page. Imagine now that you have 25,000 pages and that the menu is obviously part of the page that loads.

Amazon LighsailOver the past several months I’ve been working to move my site to a service operated by Amazon called Lightsail. Lightsail is essentially a simplified version of Amazon’s EC2 cloud computing service. You pay a set amount a month and get a VPS server that you control. For $5 a month you get a Linux server with 512MB of RAM and 20GB of storage, and the best part is that you can easily upgrade the server if you need more power. The $5/month is more than I paid before, but it’s still quite reasonable for the added power I get, and if I need to I can move to a more powerful server for simple increments in cost.

Migrating a web site to a new server is never easy, and not to be taken lightly. There are always unexpected problems, and my site had some fairly unique problems. One of the problems I ran into was that the database that holds all the information for the site was so large that it was difficult to even export to a format I could move to the new server. At first the exported database was over 300MB. I looked into the database and saw a lot of the records had to do with plug-ins I used. I had to disable those plug-ins, and remove their data from the database manually, which brought the size down to a still difficult 100MB. When I was finally able to export the database, I found it impossible to import to the new server. The web interface to the database, which was the easiest way to import the data, would run out of memory before completing the import. I tried uploading the file to the server directly and importing the data via the command line, but still had trouble.

Eventually I found a great little piece of code that helped me import the data by breaking it down into smaller chunks and importing it piece by piece (BigDump, which I recommend highly for those who need to import large databases). However, even with this new tool I ended up with an error message I didn’t understand. After asking for help online, I found out that the error was due to the original web site running on an older version of the database software (MySQL) and that the newer version didn’t allow a date field to be empty (set to 0 essentially). When you had a data field in the database that you didn’t have a value for, it was supposed to be set to Jan 1 1970 instead. Go figure, but I had 53 times in the database where I had a zeroed out date, and doing a find and replace in the database fixed the problem and the database finally imported.

Other problems were more mundane. As I tried different parts of the site, I noticed certain things didn’t work properly.

The contact form didn’t work, which it turns out was because the new server didn’t handle mail the same way as the old server. After re-configuring the mail, the contact form began to work.

The maps on the Compendium city pages were not being displayed because for some reason Google thought this was a different site. After setting up new credentials for the the Google Maps API, the maps began to work again as well.

The more insidious problems had to do with file and folder permissions. Having moved much of the files over from my old server, the file permissions on many things were wrong. Now I find file permissions in UNIX to be a form of the dark arts, but slowly I’ve been fixing the problems. I noticed, for example, that I couldn’t upload new images, which is because the server couldn’t create a new folder to upload images to for this month. Sure enough, it was a permissions problem. Upgrading plug-ins has also been difficult due to permission issues. This is probably an issue that will continue to cause issues for some time until I’ve worked out all the bugs.

For the last few days the site has been running completely on the new server. I imagine there will still be problems going forward, and I ask that if you run into anything you think is weird on the site, please please contact me and tell me what you saw. As with the above examples, the problems can be hard to predict, so if you see something odd, such as an error message, or even a missing image, don’t assume I already know about the problem. Please contact me and let me know, so I can fix it for everyone.

I’m sorry if you couldn’t comment in the past

Stop Spam

I see now that the software I use to prevent spammers might have been a little too aggressive in preventing users from commenting on this site. If you’ve had trouble commenting on this site in the past, I’m very sorry. I ask that you please try again, as I’ve tried to adjust the software. If you still have problems, please send me a note either by using the Contact form, or by e-mailing me at [email protected] Hopefully this will not be a problem in the future.

Philip

Starting to use Google+

I’ve been on Google+ as long as anyone, but I admit that at the beginning it didn’t seem very useful. Over time I started to notice, however, lots of discussions going on – particularly about genealogy. Then Google introduced Communities and real discussions started happening. I started to comment on other people’s questions, usually through the iPhone app which makes it easy, and realized that it holds some advantages over Facebook in fostering discussions.

I’ve had a Facebook Page for a long time, with over 2600 followers, and I answer questions there all the time, but it seemed time to get more involved in Google+.

As such, I’ve connected this blog directly to Google+, which should allow me to easily share posts there, and I have set up a Google+ Page for this blog that people can follow.

So if you use Google+, follow this blog’s page to keep updated, and to take part in discussions connected to the posts, and to ask your own questions. If you have suggestions on how to best use Google+, let me know in the comments below (or post on Google+).

Two years of Blood and Frogs

Thank you to Geneabloggers for pointing out it’s my second blogiversary today. Thank you also to Jim Sanders from Hidden Genealogy Nuggets for pointing out to me that they did so.

Blood and Frogs: Jewish Genealogy and More was started on November 25, 2010. It’s been a fun time, and I hope people have enjoyed what I’ve written and done here. If you’ve liked a specific article or site feature, please let me know in the comments.

In the past year I’ve also been working on two other sites, which unfortunately has lowered my output on this blog. I hope the usefulness of these two sites makes up for my lowered output on this blog.

The first, now almost a year old, is genealogy.org.il, the web site of the Israel Genealogy Research Association (IGRA). It has already been ranked one of the top 40 international (non-US) web sites by Family Tree Magazine. Watch genealogy.org.il in the coming weeks for the introduction of one of the most advanced record search engines of any genealogy site – to support the over 50 databases added to the site in the past year.

The second is not yet done, but will be launching soon. I will writing about it here when the new site is ready. It is a site built to focus research into the Jewish community of a single town, Kańczuga, Poland (from the former Austro-Hungarian district of Galicia). There have not been any Jews in Kańczuga since 1942 when the Nazis murdered the entire Jewish population there, but there are many descendants of Jewish people who lived there prior to the Holocaust, and this site will lead research into the community that existed there, and try to make connections between long-lost relatives whose families came from the town.

Thank you to all my readers, to my 2601 followers on Facebook, and to my 386 followers on Twitter.