15 August 2016

IAJGS 2016, Day 5

On Thursday, the fifth day of the conference, I started my day with the Bloggers' Breakfast, a variation of an informal event I have organizing at IAJGS for the last several years. We met at 6:30 A.M. (that's dedication for you!) at one of the hotel restaurants. Our banquet speaker for this evening, Judy Russell - a prolific blogger -  joined us. Unfortunately, as usual, I forgot to take a photo before a couple of our group left. So, the following photo misses Lara Diamond and Janice Seller. The rest of us, however, were sated and celebrated: (l-r) Banai Feldstein, Emily Garber, Judy Russell, Steve Jaron, and Mary-Jane Roth.

Once the regular day began, I took in a talk about digital resources available via the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and then prepped and delivered my third and last talk at his year's IAJGS.

Megan Lewis - "Using USHMM digital resources in your research or to plan a research trip"

Megan Lewis is Reference Librarian at USHMM. The museum's mission is to advance and disseminate knowledge about the unprecedented tragedy of the Holocaust and to preserve the memory of those who suffered.

USHMM has been digitizing as many records as possible, improving cataloging, recataloging previously acquired collections, and developing its Collections Search page as the access portal and delivery system for materials.

Right now they have 14,642 items in their collection and 463 of them online.
Their finding aids cover 1629 collections. Most of their photograph collections are not online due to the fact that they lack permissions. As far as oral histories, they have (with the Shoah Foundation) 10,088 online. Oral history transcriptions online total 2303.

One may search USHMM catalogue at http://collections.ushmm.org
There is a geographical thesaurus that works with with Soundex so one need not worry about exact spelling for place names. For individual's names, however, there is no built-in Soundex. But, one may search names without regard to diacritical marks (e.g., accents).

Results of Google searches access USHMM finding aids and oral histories.

USHMM is concentrating on digitizing as many rare books as they can and hope to have 10% digitized by end of September 2016. OCRed. The books will be accessible via Internet Archive in the collection called "USHMM Rare Book Collection." Those accessing the digitized books will be able to search them via optical character recognition (OCR) technology.

There are three electronic indices of note:
  • Holocaust Survivors and Victims Database;
  • World Memory Project (a partnership with Ancestry); and
  • JewishGen Holocaust Database
The International Tracing Service in Germany is still scanning records (150 million pages) for delivery to the USHMM and the ten other over-seeing countries- closed archives for many years. 11 countries oversee ITS now each have copies of records. Individual case files are still being scanned.

In addition to their other collection and cataloguing efforts, the USHMM is collection information in Ukraine on pogroms in 1919-1920 and the 1930s. In addition, they are working with Father Patrick Desbois, who has been research in villages and collecting testimonies from witnesses to World War II atrocities.

USHMM is building a new, additional 100,000 square-foot collections center that will have a state-of-the-art conservation laboratory in Maryland. It will include a reading room for visitors, but procedures for access have not yet been defined. The new building will open next Spring.

If one is planning a visit, one does not need an appointment to do research at museum, although Megan Lewis does recommend it.

Emily Garber - "Learning Our Craft: Online Opportunities for Improving Our Research Skills"

My talk started with the premise that we should aim to be improved genealogists by the time we return to the IAJGS conference in 2017.

There are definitely options with our local Jewish genealogical societies, as well as with societies that specialize in areas where our ancestors once lived. In addition, we should broaden our perspective and learn from those who may be dealing with genealogical challenges in non-Jewish settings. We can always learn from the challenges that others face. But, the main theme in this talk was online options for education.

There's so much to learn. I believe there are three main areas on which we should concentrate. We need to improve our knowledge of :
  • the context of our ancestors' Jewish lives by learning more about political and social history, religion, tradition and languages;
  • computer skills. If we don't have them, we need to learn them. If we have them, we need to improve them. And then, 
  • we need to embrace the skills non-Jewish genealogists have developed as they attack difficult problems (such as burned courthouses in the Southern USA and lack of surnames among those with slave ancestors). We may be able to learn and share techniques and methodologies developed in the most difficult of research challenges.
To do all this we should, of course be aware of Cyndi's List, wikis and other guides to genealogy. JewishGen features many InfoFiles on numerous Jewish genealogy subjects.

Among the other topics discussed:
FaceBook, Google+, and message boards;
Videos - FamilySearch, JGSLI and YouTube;
Virtual conferences;
Online courses and certificate programs.

My goal was to not only tell those in attendance about worthwhile websites, blogs, and podcats, but also give them the tools to find them themselves.

We ended by walking through training objectives and developing a training plan.

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