21 August 2008

Chicago 2008: A new chapter, Part 2

(Continued from Part 1)

Said Cowan, some 9.3 million people have partial Jewish ancestry, without any religious or cultural connection. They don't know about Jewish resources to help their research. "A novice," she said, "can find Jewish ancestors using their memory, documents and resources like Ancestry and JewishGen."

She illustrated advanced search techniques. Searching for "Jewish" in Ancestry, produced 46,249 records in such groups as census and voter lists, while another 18,000 were in immigration databases. Other terms - such as Hebrew or Yiddish - will also produce many records.

Comparing the two entities: Ancestry has some 8.9 million records in such categories as Jewish names and Jewish databases - mostly American - while JewishGen has some 13 million records in databases and tools - mostly European.

The evening ended with numerous questions from the audience. Attendees were asked to submit written questions for the JewishGen presentation Wednesday evening.

A reception was held for JewishGen leaders, including SIG moderators, coordinators and others, with comments by Marwell and JewishGen managing director Warren Blatt. It was explained that the initial agreement is for five years and renewable. JewishGen has granted a license to Ancestry to use this data, according to Blatt.

According to individuals in attendance, the comment was made that JewishGen data remains the property of JewishGen and will be free on Ancestry. The last comment is important to donors of material as it was understood at the time of donation that the material would always be accessible without charge on JewishGen.

As to material donated by many individuals, JewishGen maintains that current donor agreements are sufficient and will not need to be revisited. What will be transferred - not sold - is most of the collections under the database section of the site.

The agreement does not include transfer to Ancestry of the Family Tree of the Jewish People, JewishGen Family Finder, yizkor (memorial) books or ShtetlLinks - No personal information on any registered user of JewishGen will be transferred or ever accessible, including discussion groups and those archives.

While the Ancestry press release says yizkor book data will be accessible, JewishGen leaders say it will not. Warren Blatt clarified that the bibliographic database and the necrology database are included in the licensing arrangement, but the translation texts of yizkor books will not be included.

To learn what will be included - a full list will be released soon - click here www.jewishgen.org/databases. Not included are the Family Finder, Family Tree of the Jewish People and the discussion group archives.

Some voiced the perception that Ancestry is linked to the LDS church, and that JewishGen data might be used for other purposes. The answer was that there is no danger of the church gaining access to JewishGen data, and that the parent company is a completely independent entity.

It was agreed that it was important to make sure JewishGenners understand the agreement: Ancestry and JewishGen are not merging, nor has Ancestry bought JewishGen, that JewishGen's website will remain "as is," and that JewishGen's data will remain free and accessible on Ancestry.

However, users performing a search may see links to Ancestry databases, and while JewishGen will remain free to users, some links may be to for-fee sections of Ancestry. Searchers of Ancestry will see backlinks to JewishGen for more information.

JewishGen will receive a percentage of any new subscriptions for Ancestry when users join through JewishGen.

Transfer of data to new servers will begin in September with integrated functionality available in October, although Ancestry says material will be there by the end of the year.

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