Happy Passover

Friday night begins the holiday of Passover, or Pesach in Hebrew. Passover lasts for eight days, but like most Jewish holidays, it begin at sundown. No work is permitted on the first two days and the last two days of the holiday.

Passover commemorates the Exodus of Jews from Egypt. The first two nights involve the Seder, a family meal filled with rituals and the reading of the Haggadah. The Haggadah tells the story of the Exodus from Egypt and explains some of the practices and symbols of the holiday.

As with some other holidays, the observances in Israel differ from the rest of the world. In Israel, Passover only lasts for seven days, the Seder is only on the first night, and work is not permitted on the first and last days.

A significant observance of Passover involves avoiding Chametz, which is any leavened food, commemorating when the Jews left Egypt in a hurry and did not have time to let their bread rise. Chametz includes anything made from the five major grains of wheat, rye, barley, oat, and spelt. Ashkenazi Jews will also avoid rice, corn, peanuts, and legumes. Not only can Chametz not be eaten, it must not be owned or even fed to pets or other animals. Before Passover, Jews will dispose of their Chametz by cleaning the entire house of it. A formal search for Chametz will occur before the first Seder where any remaining Chametz is burned. One such tradition is to place pieces of bread to be found, which are then swept up with a feather, to ceremoniously finish cleaning the house.


Depending on their level of observance, some Jews will cover all kitchen surfaces and kasher all of their kitchen items, or have an entirely separate set of dishes, utensils, pots, and pans just for the holiday.

Since bread is not allowed, Jews will each Matzah, unleavened bread, made simply from flour and water and cooked very quickly.

Some of the information in this article was found at Judaism 101, where more details about the holiday can be found. For those interested, About.com has a list of Haggadahs (Haggadot in Hebrew) that are online and can be downloaded free.

1940 Census Complete at MyHeritage

If you’ve been trying to access the census at http://1940census.archives.gov/ and you’re still having trouble, so you’ve been waiting for another site to have the images you need, your wait is over.

This morning, MyHeritage announced that they have images for the entire 1940 US Census online now and are continuing to index. As of this article, it appears that Bristol County, Rhode Island is still the only index available, but the day is young.

WWII is Free on Fold3

Fold3, formerly known a Footnote, is offering all of their World War II content free for the month of April. You can search from their World War II page.

I did a search on just the surname Feldstein. The first page of results were all draft registration cards from the fourth registration, known as the “Old Man’s Draft”, because it targeted men who were aged 45-64 at the time. The second page produced many draft registrations and a few other things, including one for Mathausen Death Books.

The draft registrations may help in the search for 1940 census records, providing addresses from April 1942 of men born between 28 April 1877 and 16 February 1897.

1940 Census – First Index Online at MyHeritage

MyHeritage has just announced that they have two million 1940 US Census images online, and the first searchable index.

From their press release:

MyHeritage, the most popular family network on the web today, announced the availability of the first indexed records from the 1940 US Census, searchable for free by names, facts, and other criteria, on http://www.myheritage.com/1940census. In addition, MyHeritage has published two million images of the 1940 US Federal Census out of the total 3.8 million, with complete availability of all images expected in less than 24 hours.

The highly anticipated searchable indexed records and images are amongst the very first to appear on the Internet as millions of people rush to satisfy their curiosity and access one of the most significant and meaningful sets of historical records ever to be released. The first indexed records come from Bristol County in Rhode Island, with a deluge of additional records to be added by MyHeritage each day. The images currently available … cover all of New York, California, Texas, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Massachusetts, Maine, Michigan, New Jersey, Virginia, Rhode Island, Missouri, Wyoming, and Nevada. Images for additional states are added every hour.

MyHeritage is the only provider to make the 1940 US census searchable in 38 languages. … The census images are also currently available on the additional historical content sites owned by MyHeritage on http://worldvitalrecords.com/1940census/ and http://familylink.com/1940census/ – with initial searchable indexes expected to be live soon on these web sites, and to grow throughout 2012.

While genealogists around the world are searching for their relatives by using addresses to look up enumeration districts, then scanning through pages of records, previous US censuses have been indexed by several genealogy sites, including MyHeritage and WorldVitalRecords. MyHeritage is the first site to provide an online searchable name index of any 1940 US census records.

What this particular press release didn’t mention is the search technology available at MyHeritage. As records are indexed, they will automatically match up the names to the people found in users’ trees on their web site, alerting users to the census listings even before they may know the location has been indexed. The first states that MyHeritage made available for browsing on April 2nd were New York and Rhode Island.

More News for the 1940 Census

It seems that Feedburner didn’t send out the email this morning from the just-after-midnight blog post, so you’ll likely get two posts on April 3rd. Either way, the NARA site, though running through Amazon’s cloud server, is overloaded and causing great frustrations among genealogists.

NARA has the entire census online, but as already stated, the Amazon cloud is not handling the load very well this first morning.

As of this blog post, FamilySearch has Delaware available for browsing. That link will take you to their general 1940 page, so other states will show up in the same place eventually. No word yet on when the indexing will be ready to go, but it should be later today.

As posted earlier, Ancestry already has a couple of states and territories up. They have a status list of their progress, but it’s not quite correct.

The New York Public Library has put the 1940 telephone directories for New York City online.

The Online Historical Directories sites may also help you with directories for other locations.

And tooting my own horn a little, you can read about the first family members I found in the census over on my personal genealogy blog.

1940 Census Time

It is April 2nd and it’s Census Day!

At midnight, three companies picked up their copies of the census from NARA and are already busy uploading the files. As of 12:30am MDT, Ancestry.com has some images available for DC, Nevada, and it appears they have just begun to upload Maine. There will probably be more by the time you read this. No sightings yet on some of the other sites, but they will have some available later in the day.

At 8:30am Eastern Time (6:30am Mountain), there will be an opening event webcast from NARA on their 1940 census site. At 9am, all of the images for the entire country should be available at that site. NARA is not creating an index, so you will need ED numbers to find any records. Also keep in mind that their servers may not be able to handle the traffic, so have a little patience and check on the other major sites that are also hosting images to see if they have uploaded the locations you need: FamilySearch.org, Archives.com, findmypast.co.uk, Ancestry.com, and WorldVitalRecords.com. The images will be free on all of the sites.

In addition, Ancestry.com has made available one billion records from 1930-1950 on their web site until April 10th. Some of the records in this collection include the 1930 census, city directories, obituaries, birth indexes, marriage details, naturalization records, and more.

And don’t forget to sign up to index. Our group, UJGS, still has only one member.

FEEFHS in July in SLC

If you’re not planning to go to the IAJGS conference in Paris this year, you might consider attending the Federation of Eastern European Family History Societies (FEEFHS) conference/workshop at The Plaza Hotel in Salt Lake City, July 12-14.

They have a variety of sessions on Polish, Russian, German, and Jewish research in the mornings, followed by individual consultations in the afternoons.

More details can be found on the FEEFHS web site including a schedule, registration, and hotel information.

In fact, if you’re not planning to leave early for IAJGS, you could attend both. Our own Todd Knowles is scheduled to speak this year at both conferences.

Thanks to Louise Silver for bringing this to our attention.

The 1940 US Census in 4 Days

The 1940 US Census will be released to the public in four days, at 9am Eastern Time on April 2nd.

The National Archives (NARA) has an interesting video about preparing the census for its digital release. This will be the first census to be released digitally.

Connie Potter recently spoke at the NY Public Library about the census. She is featured in previous video. The Legal Genealogist, Judy G. Russell, provides us some interesting lessons from that presentation.

And don’t forget about the indexing collaboration between FamilySearch, Archives.com, and findmypast. The index created by these sites, and the thousands of genealogists volunteering, will remain free forever. From their 1940 Census site, you can learn more about the census and download the indexing software. Don’t forget to check out the blog while you’re there to learn all kinds of other things about the census and the decade.

If you weren’t already excited about the release of the 1940 US Census, hopefully you will be once you see what’s coming. We all have a lot of people to look for. The sooner the index is finished, the sooner we can all find them without searching for addresses. Please help with the indexing!

You can download the indexing software and get yourself set up and ready to go. To read about Banai’s personal experience with setting up the indexing software, you can visit her blog. She shared this post at our last meeting; it includes some screenshots.

The first screen will allow you either to log in or to register if you don’t have a FamilySearch account. After logging in, it will ask you to choose a country, LDS stake, or group. Utah Jewish Genealogical Society is now listed as a participating society, so please sign up with us to represent your society. If you’re already using the software, you can set or change your group from the top menus: Tools > Options > Edit My Preferences.

We hope you’ll help to index the 1940 US Census.

JRI-Poland Surname Distribution Mapper

Jewish Records Indexing -Poland (JRI-Poland) has introduced a new tool to their web site called the Surname Distribution Mapper.

[It is] designed to help genealogy researchers graphically understand where their family names first appeared in the 19th century records and visualize how the family spread throughout Poland into the first part of the 20th century.

Using modern mapping technology provided by Google Maps, the Surname Distribution Mapper allows users to graphically display their search results using a tree icon… By running the cursor over each tree icon, a user can view a popup window displaying the number of vital record entries found in various towns in the JRI-Poland database. Clicking on the balloon brings the user to the familiar JRI-Poland search results for detailed viewing of a town’s entries.

Additionally, and especially exciting for researchers, the Surname Distribution Mapper can display results for specific decades or in a “progressive mode,” where tree icons appear successively by decade to give the researcher an idea of the movement of their family around Poland and the Western Ukraine.

After reading the press release, I realized that there was more to this than I’d originally noticed. As before, from the JRI-Poland home page (link at the top of this post), you go to “Search the Database”. Near the top of that page, click on the text below “Surname Distribution Mapper”. Type in your surname and click on “Map”. Then be a little patient; it’s not instantaneous.

The results will be a map of Poland overlaid with trees, the sizes of the trees indicating the number of records for each location. It uses the Beider-Morse Phonetic Matching. For my own Mularzewicz family, this works great, as there are a few spelling variations in the records/transcriptions. Unfortunately, my Szleper name, while focused on Kalisz correctly, also focused on L’viv and the name Szlimper, which I consider a false match.

Mularzewicz Distribution

You can zoom into the map if the trees are too condensed. Moving your mouse over each tree will show a pop-up of the city/town name and the number of records with that name, including a link to see those hits in the usual table format of the site.

The feature I hadn’t noticed before is the “Time Period” menu just below where you enter the surname. You can choose one decade at a time to see where the name first appeared and then watch it spread out over time. It beings with “All” time as the default.

There are a couple of minor limitations. This is searching the JRI-Poland database, which anyone who has used it as much as I have knows that not every vital event was recorded. If an event was recorded in a different town from where it took place, it will show up where recorded, even if the JRI-Poland listing specifies the town name. For instance, many of those Lomza hits for Mularzewicz actually took place in Rutki, but because the two locations are relatively close, the mapping information is still useful.

The search includes all of the JRI-Poland data, including any census records, books of residents, or other material, along with the vital records of birth, marriage, and death.

The Surname Distribution Mapper is a useful addition to the JRI-Poland database. Instead of searching through the results for each gubernia, or trying to find the towns on the map to determine their proximity, this new tool shows where the surname can be found on the map for you. And the additional “progressive mode” helps you track the surname over time. Before now, I had no idea the first sighting of Mularzewicz in the records was in Sniadowo.

Stanley Diamond, the Executive Director of JRI-Poland, forwarded the press release to us. Any opinions expressed in this blog post are that of the author and not the society.