Connecting your past to the present through genealogy
August 11, 2017
A beginner in the Jewish genealogy search, Jane Edelstein recently attended the International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies conference held in Orlando. This is the first article in a series about her experience finding her roots.
You didn't know your great-grandparents, and even thinking about Europe at the turn-of-the-century doesn't really sound appealing to you. So why should you spend at least a little bit of time, and seek out your Jewish ancestry?
"Jewish genealogy is not a hobby-it's a mission," noted Avraham Groll, director of JewishGen-a free website that helps people find their Jewish ancestors. JewishGen (at jewishgen.com) lists more than 21 million records, a Family Finder tool, hundreds of yizkor books and lots of other research." Best of all, it's easy to use for both young and old-regardless of ones computer expertise.
"The site is designed to help Jews connect-on whatever level they want," Groll continued. "Regarding ancestors in Europe, it tells not only who they were, but also how they lived. It's about identity and continuity-not just about history."
Learning about ones ancestors doesn't necessarily require a lot of time. "Someone who has just a small amount of time can just register on the site, go to the Family Finder, and easily search for family ancestors by either surname or town," Groll explains. A user doesn't even need to know the correct spelling of a name: JewishGen uses various forms of technology that allows searches based on sounds and/or phonetics.
In addition to Family Finder, some of JewishGen's other most popular databases include the Gazetteer, a database of the names of all towns in 54 countries in Europe, North Africa and the Middle East; and a worldwide Burial Registry, with more then three million burial records from 6,800 cemeteries.
Groll spoke to a group of some 50 people at the recent annual conference of the International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies. Overall, the conference drew hundreds of people-including many professional genealogists-to the conference at the Walt Disney World Swan Resort. Indeed, JewishGen was one of some 10 sponsors of the conference. Also present were the leading names in genealogical research: Ancestry, Family Search, Find my Past and My Heritage (headquartered in Israel).
More information on JewishGen may be found at jewishgen.com. More information on the local chapter of IAJGS may be found at jgsgo.org.