01 August 2010

Israel: Important new database projects

At the recent IAJGS conference in Los Angeles, the 2010 Stern Grant was awarded to the Israel Genealogical Society.

The grant will make possible the database of name changes as published, beginning in 1949, in the Yalkut Hapirsumim of the Israeli Government.

As data is extracted from each volume, it will be added to a database - open to public access - on the IGS website, and will provide help to those facing brick walls in Israeli research.

In another development, the IGS has launched the online beta site for the "19th Century Montefiore Censuses of the Jewish Population of Eretz Israel, Alexandria, Beirut and Sidon (Saida)."

It is particularly useful for those researching Sephardic families as records are difficult to find. A search for "Iran" produced 34 families. In contrast, a search for "Belarus" received 527 hits, with 40 listing Mogilev and 31 listing Mahilyow (current spelling) as place of birth. Some names seem familiar from my TALALAI research and I will check the names of wives and children in my own records. Perhaps some of my own "missing links" might be in this database!

According to the Montefiore Endowment:
The Montefiore Endowment commissioned the Israel Genealogical Society to transliterate the censuses into modern Hebrew and English scripts and to translate them.

Details include personal and family information, occupations and countries of origin. Less than 1% of the Jewish inhabitants at the time refused to participate on religious grounds, so the censuses are quite detailed. Other residents may not have been included for other reasons, such as personal or political. Read more about these censuses here at IGS.

The manuscripts are the property of the Montefiore Endowment and are in London,. Researchers may view them by appointment. Details are recorded in Hebrew in diverse scripts, many are very difficult to read, there is no index, and tracking of individuals is difficult.

The methodology of the project included:

-- Scanning the original manuscript pages and converting old but still usable microfiche images to PDF format
-- Transcribing the data into spreadsheets
-- Proof-reading and correcting
-- Pasting the different sections into a single spreadsheet for each census
-- Translating and/or transliterating the original Hebrew into the English/Latin alphabet
-- Final proof-reading
-- Converting the spreadsheet into a searchable database.
Since 2008, the IGS and its dedicated volunteers have been working on transcribing the censuses into a modern Hebrew font, to transliterate names and details into English

For the first time, the documents are now in the process of being made available in Hebrew and English with a dual-language search engine to help track individuals and families. Extended families are linked, and there are links to the digitized page.

The project includes five censuses of Eretz Israel (including Beirut and Sidon) and one of Alexandria. Currently, the 1839, 1840 (Alexandria) and 1855 are now online here

The 1849 census will be available in a few months.

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