Tag Archives: israel

The launch of the all new All Israel Database

It’s hard to believe it’s been less than a year since the launch of the Israel Genealogy Research Association (IGRA). Launched in January of this year, IGRA has achieved much, including having their website genealogy.org.il being ranked one of the top 40 International Genealogy web sites only 4 months after launching. Last week they reached a new milestone with the launch of their all new search engine for the All Israel Database, IGRA’s collection of 85 (and growing) Israel-related databases. I mentioned these databases about a month ago (when there were under 60 databases), and also mentioned a new search engine was in the works. Today that new search engine has launched:

IGRA’s All Israel Database search engine

The search engine was designed in conjunction with Brooke Schreier Ganz, based on her LeafSeek genealogy search engine. Brooke’s LeefSeek won 2nd place at the 2012 RootsTech Developer Challenge earlier this year, and IGRA worked with Brooke to enhance the engine to include such important features as the ability to search concurrently in both English and Hebrew. The search engine also supports phonetic searching, based on Beider-Morse Phonetic Matching (BMPM), allowing matches to be made to similar-sounding names, regardless of exact spelling.

The new search engine was developed through the hard work of IGRA volunteers, such as IGRA President Garri Regev, Database Coordinator Rose Feldman, Secretary Carol Hoffman, and website team-members Daniel Horowitz and myself, as well as many database volunteers who helped find, scan and transcribe the information in the 85 databases.

You may have seen an earlier version of Brooke’s search engine in use on the Gesher Galicia All Galicia Database, but this new search engine that we’ve designed is capable of searching in both English and Hebrew simultaneously, which is a major breakthrough and of course necessary for our Israel-focused databases.

I hope everyone reading this will stop and take a minute to check out the new All Israel Database and try it out. If you have any questions, please feel free to ask via the contact form on the web site, or in the comments below.

L’Shana Tova (from 1948)

As Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish new year) begins tonight, I wanted to take this opportunity to wish all my readers a happy and healthy new year, or more traditionally L’Shana Tova (for a good year).

I also wanted to share a great new years card I found when scanning a cousin’s photographs. The card was sent from a cousin who lived in Israel to a cousin who lived in Europe. The card was sent in 1948. Israel declared its independence on May 14, 1948, and Rosh Hashanah that year started the evening of October 3. This card, which depicts the moment of the Declaration of Independence with David Ben Gurion in the middle (under the portrait of Theodor Herzl), was probably a popular card that year.
Rosh Hashanah card from Israel in 1948
So to everyone who reads this blog, happy new year from Israel 64 years later.

Around the World in 40 Blogs

Family Tree Magazine  recently published  their list of the top 40 international (outside the United States) blogs, titled Around the World in 40 Blogs, and one of them is the Israel Genealogy Research Association (IGRA) site (genealogy.org.il):

As some of you may know, I built most of that site late last year and early this year for IGRA. It’s rewarding that something I spent so much time and effort on is being recognized. If you haven’t checked it out, or haven’t seen it recently, I recommend going to the site and seeing what’s there. There are videos and articles and dozens of searchable databases with information you cannot find anywhere else online.

Israel Through Photographs

A recent article in the recently-launched Times of Israel website covers, briefly, the story of Nadav Mann, who has been spending many years criss-crossing Israel to scan private collections of photographs from the early years of the State of Israel (and the years leading up to its foundation). This collection is incredibly important and offers a unique view of the growth of communities within pre-state Israel.

The article is written by Matti Friedman and is titled A lost world in black and white. The article includes a selection of the more than 100,000 photographs that Nadav Mann has collected over the years, but also helpfully links to a series of online albums [these now seem to be gone, sorry] that Nadav Mann has published via Google (which include thousands of photos, but certainly not all of them).

While the descriptions of the photos in the Google albums are all in Hebrew, just browsing through them without being able to read the captions is still incredibly powerful. Of course, if you find a photograph with someone you know, you should leave a comment on the photo – as not everyone in each photo is known, and you might be able to help improve the collection by pointing out who someone is in a photo.

An easier look in English at many of the photos can be found in Nadav Mann’s regular articles highlighting photos from his collection on Ynet’s English site (Ynet is the online publication of Israel’s largest newspaper, Yediot Achranot).

A few photos from the collection:
[UPDATE: Sorry, but it seems Nadav Mann has removed the photo albums he had posted online, and the photos in this article were from that album so are also now gone. Check out the article A lost world in black and white and Nadav Mann’s other articles in Ynet.]

Maccabi Girls Trip in 1930 in Poland
1936 Class Photo from Herzaliya Gymnasium
Building an irrigation system connect to the Yarmouk River in 1940
Kibbutz Dalia Dance Festival, during holiday of Shavuot in 1944

Researching people born in Israel, but who moved

I was reading Todd Knowles’ The Knowles Collection blog, where he discusses the recently introduced Brazil, Immigration Cards, 1900-1965 collection on the FamilySearch.org web site. He uses as an example the record of Esther Abraham Precher, who immigrated to Brazil in 1957:

1957 Brazil Immigration Card for Esther Abraham Precher

My grandmother’s brother spent some time in Brazil during WWII, and although he probably didn’t immigrate officially, I figured I would take a look. I didn’t find a record (although looking at the collection it looks like only half of the images are indexed so far), but looking at the record Todd Knowles had used as an example, I saw something very interesting. Her record shows she was born in Jerusalem. Why was a woman born in Jerusalem moving to Brazil in 1957?

Of course, I can’t be certain as to why she moved, but I can make an educated guess. If you look closer at the immigration card, you can see that she was born in 1898 in Jerusalem, but that her passport had recently been issued in Cairo. It would seem that while she was born in Jerusalem during the Ottoman period, she at some point (perhaps when she got married) moved to Egypt. Her immigration occurred just a few months after the 1956 Sinai War, where Egypt fought a war against Israel (along with Great Britain and France). While being Jewish in most Arab countries was difficult after Israel was founded, it was probably particularly dangerous to be in Egypt after they had just fought another war with Israel. Over half the Jewish population of Egypt were forced out of the country in this period, and were forced to leave all their asset behind. Even if she had wanted to go back to Israel where she was born, it probably was not possible given the political situation, so she probably went wherever she could get a visa for, which in this case was Brazil. Interestingly enough coming after my last article on Food as Genealogy – Iraqi Kubbe, this was much the same motivation for the many Iraqi Jews and Jews from all Arab countries that were forced to flee their homes for Israel, the United States or elsewhere. This was not a good time to be Jewish in any Arab country (and unfortunately the situation has not improved since – Egypt and Iraq both had flourishing Jewish communities dating back to the 2nd Temple period, and both have less than 100 Jews each today).

If you search for records in the Brazil collection, you would find there are actually 243 records that list a birthplace for the person as Israel. You could widen your search to all mentions of Israel in all databases on FamilySearch, and you’d find that there are 8728 records (as I write this article) which list Israel as a location in the record. Of course, if you were trying to find someone in a record that was created before the State of Israel came into being, it would not list Israel. You could therefore search for Palestine which was used as a place name by some (although people would also say Ottoman Empire, Ottoman Turkey or Turkish Empire), where you would find 13,892 records (as I write this). You could also search for specific cities, such as Jerusalem (5650 records), Tel Aviv (434 records) or Haifa (337 records). Some of the Jerusalem results will probably be records from other towns called Jerusalem (did you know there was a Jerusalem, Ohio?). Jaffa, for example, came back with over a million records, which doesn’t make much sense. If you search for Jaffa, Palestine, however, you get 9489 results which at first glance seem mostly Jewish.

Anyways, the Brazil Immigration Cards database is a very interesting collection for those with connection to Brazil, but for anyone who knows they had family in Israel at some point in the past but may have moved elsewhere, this is an interesting way to search for records that may help you in your research.