Desktop: Family links

Once, you had to rely solely on the personal histories of those from the "old country" to find out anything about your family or community history.

family tree 88 (photo credit:)
family tree 88
(photo credit: )
It's just a bit after Tisha Be'av, and as always at this time of year, our collective mind is filled with thoughts of the past - and how that past got us to the present in which we find ourselves. Unfortunately, whether it's because of Holocaust, Inquisition, Cossack rioting or one of the other myriad tortures imposed on the Jewish people, our present is often about change - of residence, legacy, family history and even surname. In many instances, those changes have been so severe as to break the fragile link between past and present - so that for many Jews, history begins just a few generations ago, with little known about what came before. Once, you had to rely solely on the personal histories of those from the "old country" to find out anything about your family or community history. Thanks to the Internet, though, you have access to a lot more information - both personal and official, as large organizations open up their databases, letting you browse their resources so you can build a family history, either using a program like Legacy (http://www.legacyfamilytree.com/) or more informally. A good place to start searching for family info is JewishGen (http://www.jewishgen.org), "The Home of Jewish Genealogy," which has dozens of databases and information sources, like ShtetLinks, with general informally on Jewish communities in Europe, the Yizkor Book Project, which digitizes and posts the content of synagogue Yizkor books, and ViewMate, where you can post photos or letters for others to identify. Among the dozens of sources JewishGen links to are government databases from many countries in Europe, as well as the US and Israel. JewishGen also allows you to connect with others who may know something about your family's history; enter your name into the JewishGen Family Finder search and click on the results to contact others with names similar to the one you researched. For those whose recent ancestors entered the US via Ellis Island, JewishGen also has a link to the recently opened Ellis Island Database, where you can search for immigrants to the US by country of origin, year entered into the US and even name of ship and manifests for ships the person traveled on. Thanks to JewishGen and the databases it links to, there's a greater chance to link up your family - as it journeyed from the Old World to the New. www.newzgeek.com