Tag Archives: compendium

Improved notes for Polish towns

I mentioned back in August when I added more towns the the B&F Compendium of Jewish Genealogy (Over two hundred new Polish towns added to the compendium) that I had also turned on notes for towns. I had actually added some simple notes to many towns as I had added them last year, but never made them visible on the site.

With the new towns, which were predominately from the areas of Poland that had belonged to Germany before WWII, I found myself adding notes pointing that out and wanted the notes to be seen. In August that was the primary use of Notes, but there were other Notes, such as pointing out the previous name of a town, or explaining that the town name was very common in Poland.

Around the same time I turned on notes, Phyllis Kramer, VP of Education at JewishGen, commented on my page on Żmigród requesting that I differentiate between it and Nowy Żmigród. It turns out Nowy Żmigród before 1946 was also known simply as Żmigród. Adding to this confusion, many people find their town in the Compendium by going to the Alphabetical List of Polish Cities, and that list doesn’t show which region a town is in, and can be confusing if there are two towns with the same name.

At the time I added notes for Żmigród and Nowy Żmigród saying simply not to confuse them, but it started me thinking if there was more I could do for those situations where people were likely to get confused.

I spent a considerable amount of time going through all the notes I had created, and making sure if it referenced another town, that that other town had a corresponding note as well. I then added links to notes, so you can immediately link to another town if it is mentioned in a note.

Here’s an example of the former town of Zagórze, which has been part of Sosnowiec since 1975:

Notes for the town of Zagórze
Notes for the town of Zagórze circled in red

You’ll notice the note is shown below the town name and province, and above the map. I’ve circled it in red just to be clear. The note points out that this town no longer exists, that it is now part of Sosnowiec, and provides a link directly to the page about Sosnowiec.

Here’s another example, the city of Kraków, which lists the former towns of Podgórze and Kazimierz:

Note for Krakow
Note for Krakow

In case you’re wondering, the reason there are separate pages for these towns, even though they no longer exist, is that people may only know their relative came from one of these non-existent towns. Also, many of these now-non-existent towns have very specific genealogy resources online, and having the resources for Podgórze be separate from those of Kraków can be very useful for finding the right information.

Over 300 towns now have notes, many of them with links to other related towns. Thank you to Phyllis Kramer for her simple comment which led me to improve the notes for towns. If you visit a town page in the Compendium and think a clarifying note would be useful, please write a comment on the town page, or send me a message. It’s worth pointing out as well that I recently added another 150 or so towns to the site (in addition to the 200 added in August), so there are now over 1350 towns in the Compendium. These are towns that exist in what is today Poland – there are no pages for towns that are currently in other countries, even if they were once part of Poland. The new towns were added to help facilitate a new feature I will be adding to the site. More on that soon…

If you have other suggestions for improving the site, please send me a message, or add it to the How can this site be improved? page so others can discuss your proposed improvements.

The Encyclopedia is now the Compendium

B&F Compendium of Jewish Genealogy

In 1991 two pioneers of Jewish genealogy, Arthur Kurzweil and Miriam Weiner, published the first volume of what was supposed to be a continuing series, The Encyclopedia of Jewish Genealogy, Volume 1: Sources in the United States and Canada. I don’t know how long it was in print. I have never read the book, so I cannot even tell you what is inside it, but as it pre-dates the Internet (or at least the public Internet that we all know today), it presumably deals with the archives and resources available in North America that one needed to visit in person to do family research.

I actually own other books that both Arthur Kurzweil and Miriam Weiner have published separately. The fact that Arthur Kurzweil’s From Generation to Generation is still in print after being originally published in 1980 illustrates its importance. Amazon tells me I bought a copy in 2009. I own both of Miriam Weiner’s Jewish Roots books – Jewish Roots in Poland and Jewish Roots in Ukraine and Moldova. I probably bought Jewish Roots in Poland around the same time, as I recall Jewish Roots in Ukraine and Moldova was already out of print and hard to find, and I see I was looking for a copy in 2010. After posting to a local genealogy group here in Israel, a generous person who no longer wanted the book gave me her copy. Weiner’s Jewish Roots books formed the basis of her Routes to Roots archive database. She later added information on Lithuania and Belarus as well, although only online.

It was in fact when I was corresponding with Miriam Weiner about her Routes to Roots archive database, that she mentioned her and Arthur Kurzweil’s book as having the same name as my site.

My first response was, frankly, terror. Putting aside that I had not known about a book by two important Jewish genealogists of whom I have an incredible amount of respect, and that I had used more or less the same name for my site, the thought of changing over 17,000 web pages was more than I could think about. While there is something to be said that the name is fairly generic, and I had always prepended B&F before Encyclopedia of Jewish Genealogy, after a night’s sleep I realized I could figure out how to change the site and the name, and there was no reason to keep the name if there was even the slightest chance it might cause confusion.

It’s not like I make money from the site, or have any kind of advertising for it. I never sold t-shirts with the logo, or otherwise put the name into print. My goal has always been first and foremost to help people, and I don’t need to keep a specific name to help people.

There are actually a limited number of words in the English language that convey a similar meaning to encyclopedia. At first I thought of almanac, although it connotes a connection to the calendar. Last year I had originally wanted to use the archaic word cyclopedia, of which I own the Century Cyclopedia of Names, but I opted for encyclopedia as clearer, and now it would be too close. While dictionary is sometimes used outside its word-defining purpose, it seemed wrong to me. To me that left only compendium, which is a collection of things, and could cover the large collection of resources I have organized.

Interestingly enough the word compendium is used in the title of a book by another Jewish genealogy pioneer – Malcolm Stern’s 1960 book Americans of Jewish descent; a compendium of genealogy. Then again, his title has similarities to the earlier The Compendium of American Genealogy, First Families of America (1925–1942) by Frederick Adams Virkus. In any case, there are only so many words, and I think this is different enough to be okay.

I managed to find a way to automatically (automagically?) change the URLs of the site (more than 17,000 of them), and I tried my best to change references on the site from Encyclopedia to Compendium. I obviously can’t change links on other sites that link to my site, however, if someone goes to an old link, the site will automatically change it to the new link. If you end up going to a page only to get an error message, let me know.

Please enjoy the B&F Compendium of Jewish Genealogy.

When was the last time you updated your JGFF listings?

I’ve written before about the importance of using the JewishGen Family Finder (JGFF). I’ve even written about it on the JewishGen blog, see: JewishGen Basics: The JewishGen Family Finder (JGFF). The basic concept is that users add surname/town pairs to the database, and other users search for their surnames and towns, and can contact the other people researching the same names and towns. It can’t be understated how important the JGFF is for Jewish genealogy research, as a central point of connection for families that have become split up over the past century and more.

So it should come as no surprise that I made an effort to add links to JGFF on the towns in the B&F Compendium of Jewish Genealogy. When I launched it last year, the roughly one thousand Polish towns had links to their search results in the JGFF. I spent a lot of time verifying the links and making sure I only added links to towns that had listings. That, however, was a mistake.

The reason it was a mistake to only link to JGFF when there were listings, was that it could never be up to date, and if your family was from a town that had no results, you wouldn’t be aware of that fact. So now I link to all towns in the compendium. If you’re researching a town your family came from, and you click on the JGFF link and get no results, make sure to add your family!

Of the roughly thousand initial towns added to the compendium last year, only 59 had no listings in the JGFF. I know this because I had to add those 59 links to the compendium recently. Those towns were:

If you see towns where your family came from, then I strongly recommend adding your family to the JGFF listings for those towns. Keep in mind that you need to be logged in to JewishGen for the JGFF links to work. If you try to use them without being logged in, then you will be prompted to log in. If you need help figuring out how to enter your family and town information into JGFF, see my article on the JewishGen blog.

I don’t know exactly how many of the more than two hundreds Polish towns I added yesterday had listings in JGFF since I linked to all of them, but I would say that based on spot checks as I added them that roughly half of them had entries. Even so, keep in mind that even in the original towns there may only be a few entries. The 59 towns above were only the ones that had no entries, but there are many more that only have a handful of entries. Go add your surnames and ancestral towns to JGFF today (and as I explain in my original article – don’t do it anonymously).