Wednesday, May 8, 2024

J-Roots Forums Are Back! An Incredible Russian Empire Resource

I've discussed J-Roots several times in the past, as it's a wonderful resource for those who are researching in the former Russian Empire (and somewhat in all of the former USSR).  This Ukraine-based service was set to read-only shortly after Russia's invasion of Ukraine.  A group of volunteers has been bringing it back up, starting with its forum feature.  So what are J-Roots' Forums and how can you use them?

Screenshot from J-Roots Forum Page

Sunday, May 5, 2024

Yom HaShoah 2024

Yom Hashoah (Holocaust Memorial Day) starts this evening.  For the past seven years, I have listed the names of the family members I've found who were murdered in the Holocaust.  In 2020, I listed 454 relatives.  In 2021, I listed 515.  In 2022, I listed 642.  In 2023, I listed 916.  And this year I list 990.

Every year, this list grows as I find new branches of my family--and then find that multiple members of those branches were killed between 1941 & 1945.  This year I found 74 more people--and many other relatives whose fates are as yet unclear.

Publishing this yearly list is my one small way to make sure they are all remembered--all 990 of those currently on this list.

Front Row L-R: Yosef Wollich, Mendel Chechman, Devorah Chechman; Back Row L-R: Sara Fine Wollich, Moshe Wollich, Chaike Chechman.  All were murdered in the Holocaust

Sunday, April 14, 2024

Indexed Records--Don't Stop, There's More!

(Note: While this post discusses documents from JewishGen's Ukraine RD, it applies to indexed documents from pretty much any platform.)

JewishGen has added hundreds of thousands of indexed records to its database in the past year, with much of that increase attributable to records from Ukraine being indexed.  And that's great.  (It also means you should be doing searches regularly, because of the scope and frequency of records being indexed and added to JewishGen.)  But don't just stop with the information from the index index--and I'll demonstrate why.

The Zubkis family seems to have been unusually mobile compared to other branches of my family.  So while I've been able to find records for Zubkis (and Zubkov and the like) relatives by manually reading through record books in towns where I know they lived, it also means that sometimes they surprise me by popping up in indexed records where I hadn't looked.  I regularly search for an exact match to z*bk* on JewishGen and then take a close look at the results.  Here's one such result:

Index to Zlata Zubko's 1841 Birth; JewishGen's Ukraine Database

Sunday, March 17, 2024

Soviet Records Via JDoc (Some Declassified!)

When I shared a recent post on Facebook, I was asked why there aren't more Soviet-era records available online on JewishGen and similar sites.  I believe much of the reason is that pre-Russian Revolution, records were kept by religion, so JewishGen has been able to concentrate on acquiring and indexing records that will be all (or predominantly) Jewish.  However, post-Revolution, all religions were kept together, so it's a much larger task to extract Jewish records, and it means searching entire towns, not just the Jews of an entire town.  But there are resources for Soviet-era records online (including many found via Архів and directly on local archive branch sites).  And there are also records on sites that are more specialized or obscure.  I recently found one such site with information on some of my relatives, so I'll share what I found and how you can see if there are records about your relatives or ancestral towns available there as well.

A page from an investigation into Alexander Lefand, suspected of Zionist activities; 1925-1926

Tuesday, March 12, 2024

Getting a GRIP on Ashkenazic Jewish Genealogy - Week-long Class

hereThis summer, I'm co-teaching a week-long intensive course on Ashkenazic Jewish Genealogy, along with Emily Garber and Janette Silverman at the Genealogical Research Institute of Pittsburgh.  This is your chance to spend a week learning how to further your Jewish genealogical research at a prestigious institute, being taught by three genealogists who have done significant amounts of in-depth personal and client research.  It won't be a relaxing week, but you'll be sure to learn a ton.
There are still seats remaining, so if you're interested, please register soon!  The course will be in-person in Pittsburgh from July 14-19, 2024.  And no, it will not be recorded.
So what would you learn in this course?

Sunday, March 10, 2024

Tolchinskys in 1920 Soviet Census--And How I Have It

My Tolchinsky great-great grandparents and their children had emigrated to America before the Russian Revolution.  But my great-great grandfather's siblings remained behind in what was then the Russian Empire, along with their families.  I've found bits and pieces of what happened to them later, but I'm always on the lookout for more.  This past week, I got some additional insight, using a strategy that I've mentioned before, but which is always worth a reminder.

1920 Soviet Census; Tolchinsky Family; Losinovka, Chernigov Guberniya

Sunday, January 28, 2024

Town-Focused Searches - New Research Pathways

More and more records are being indexed, which is wonderful.  But many are misindexed either because of poor handwriting or fading of originals or just poor indexing (often due to unfamiliarity with ethnic names by those indexing), which means that you might not find records that could be critical to your research.  Even if everything is indexed correctly, if your family has a common surname, it might be difficult to find your Cohen among all of the Cohen records you'll get with a typical search.  

In addition, not all fields are always indexed in some record sets, so there may be mention of your relatives in records that a simple search wouldn't find.  So how do you improve your chances of finding these records?  Especially if your family members are from smaller towns and villages, searching only by town can be critical.  I'll give examples of how to do this on Ancestry, but you can do similar searches in most of the other large record repositories. 

Edmund David Lebovitsch WWII Draft Registration