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A remarkable number of Jewish vital record registers of Poland have survived the ravages of time and the upheavals of history. Moreover, many of these registers -- generally covering the years 1808 to 1865, and in some cases beyond -- have been microfilmed, making the records accessible in Family History Centers of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) - Mormons. Miriam Weiner's Routes to Roots Foundation, Inc. website (http://www.rtrfoundation.org/search.php) presents an inventory of the surviving Jewish vital records of Poland and brings to light the millions of additional records not microfilmed by the LDS.
The goal of Jewish Records Indexing - Poland (JRI-Poland) is to create searchable on-line indices of Jewish records from current and former territories of Poland. Where such records are available, they may include towns that are now part of Lithuania, Ukraine and Belarus.
Founded 16 years ago, the project was an outgrowth of Stanley Diamond's need for broad-based access to the Jewish vital records of the former Lomza Gubernia for genetic research purposes. Steven Zedeck of Nashua, NH and Michael Tobias of Glasgow, Scotland not only had a deep interest in the records of this area, but also had the technical skills to bring the project to life. Diamond became Executive Director in January 1997. JRI-Poland is managed by a board of volunteers.
Michael Tobias, Stanley Diamond and Steve Zedeck
Indices in JRI-Poland come from two major sources: 1) Indexing LDS microfilmed records, comprising about 2,000 films from more than 500 towns and villages. 2) The JRI-Poland / Polish State Archives Project. While the LDS films contain approximately two million records, there are several million additional records in the Polish State Archives that were not filmed. Generally, these cover the last 25-35 years of the 19th century and the first decade of the 20th century, when many of our grandparents and great-grandparents lived in Poland. Only indices to vital records more than 100 years old may be made available online; some records for 1910 are already in the database. Registers containing records that are all more than 100 years old are available for transfer each year from town civil records offices (Urzad Stanu Cywilnego) to branches of the Polish State Archives.
To supplement information in vital records or substitute other sources for towns whose records are missing, JRI-Poland now includes a growing number of additional types of records. These range from 'Books of Residents,' census records, army draft list, indices to burials in cemeteries and gravestone files, Polish passports, ghetto death records, birth, marriage and death announcements in newspapers in Poland and court and legal announcements in official newspapers (Monitor Polski). Instructions about how to get further details or background information about each particular group of listings are at the bottom of the JRI-Poland search results.
The database is constantly growing and including data not yet posted to the website, there are now indices to more than four million records from more than 500 towns. Most of the work on the microfilmed records is done by volunteers organized into Shtetl CO-OPs; some of the difficult Cyrillic script entries (from the post-1867 Russian years' registers) are in the main transliterated by professionals whose work is funded by contributions from both individuals and groups of Jewish genealogists. Indexing of records in Poland is by Warsaw-based professionals, funded by researchers around the world.
JRI-Poland has been recognized by the international medical and scientific community because of the potential benefit of the database for Ashkenazic families trying to trace their medical histories, particularly those at increased risk for hereditary conditions and diseases. As a result of statistical analyses indicating a high incidence of medical and genetic abnormalities in individuals of Polish - Jewish descent, JRI - Poland is creating a finding aid for records in Polish Civil Records offices (Urz?d Stanu Cywilnego) to assist individuals who may need answers to medical-related questions or require bone marrow or other transplants for life-saving procedures. In this regard, JRI-Poland has received commendations from the Gift of Life Foundation and the National Marrow Donor Program. This data will also be useful to the scientific community in efforts to prevent the spread of known genetic traits and life-threatening diseases.
1. The Shtetl CO-OP initiative - indexing of records on microfilm
There are more than two million vital records in the LDS microfilms of Jewish registers. Although there have been remarkable efforts by volunteers around the world and generous contributions to support the work of professionals, the major part of the work to create indices of all the microfilmed 19th century Jewish vital records of Poland lies ahead. Approximately 1000 films have been indexed and hundreds more are in progress. However, there are hundreds of films yet to be indexed and for which volunteers are needed.
The indexing of microfilmed records is carried out by JRI-Poland Shtetl CO-OPs, typically made up of volunteers with a common interest in an ancestral town or area. There are now more than 200 Shtetl CO-OPs who have shared or are sharing the cost of copying index pages and entering indices into an Excel file.
The Shtetl CO-OP initiative, under the leadership of Associate Director and Shtetl CO-OP and Transliteration Coordinator, Hadassah Lipsius, emphasizes the value of cooperative research and sharing. A list of current Shtetl CO-OPs with their leaders is available on the JRI-Poland web site. Volunteers are needed for the indexing of records from microfilms of many other towns. Volunteers also create inventories of LDS microfilms in which the number of births, marriages and deaths by year in each film is recorded in table form. Inventories of each town's records are added to the JRI-Poland web site to guide researchers in locating their records.
2. The JRI-Poland/Polish State Archives Project - indexing records not on microfilm
Indexing is being done in Poland on an archive by archive basis. A volunteer "Archive Coordinator" takes responsibility for all the towns in a single archive and appoints "Town Leaders" to handle fundraising for the indexing of the records of each town. In most cases, Warsaw-based professionals do the data entry from photocopies of index pages purchased from the Polish State Archives. Where index pages do not exist, JRI-Poland hires professionals to index records directly from the record registers.
Initial indexing (up to currently available records) has been generally completed for virtually all branches of the Polish State Archives with the exception of those in the former Prussian and other Germanic areas. However, some data is now available from many of the latter towns and planning is underway to accelerate the indexing of records from this part of present day Poland. Volunteers are needed to assist current Archive Coordinators and/or head up indexing projects for other branches of the archives.
JRI-Poland has also indexed most of the 2,500 volumes of vital records from 88 towns in the East Galician area (now part of Ukraine) in the AGAD archives. The Archiwum Glówne Akt Dawnych (The Central Archives of Historical Records in Warsaw) holds many of the records for the areas of the former Lwów, Stanislawów, and Tarnopol wojewodztwa (now Lviv, Ivano Frankivsk, and Ternopil oblasts in Ukraine). The registers are mainly for the period from 1877-1905, when these areas were a part of the Austro-Hungarian province of Galicia. While the number of records in each volume varies widely, the overall total is estimated to exceed one million.
3. 1929 Polish Business Directory Project
A Town Index is now on line. Results are linked to Adobe PDF files with images of actual directory pages. The directory is now searchable by Optical Character Recognition (OCR) technology. The Polish Business Directory project is in association with JewishGen.
Records Indexed by the JRI-Poland/PSA Project
Researchers can order records indexed as part of the JRI-Poland/PSA Project directly from the Regional Archive where the records are maintained.
Records Indexed from LDS Microfilms (Shtetl CO-OP projects)
For more information on obtaining records indexed from LDS Microfilms, please refer to the Order FAQ and scroll down to "Obtaining Records Indexed from LDS Microfilms."
The JRI-Poland / Jewish Genealogical Society, Inc. (New York) (JGSNY) Project to index genealogical collections at the Jewish Historical Institute, Warsaw (JHI), in association with the Ronald S. Lauder Foundation Genealogy Project (RLF): Utilizing significant grant funds from the JGSNY, JRI-Poland indexed genealogical-related holdings at the JHI. Expanded indices to more than 23,000 Krakow banns and marriage records (from 1877 to 1939) were completed in April 2001. Additional JHI collections now in the JRI-Poland database include thousands of deaths in the Warsaw Ghetto, the Biala Podlaska 1939 Census, and the Aliyah Passport file. Researchers seeking to access names from the list of passport holders who went from Poland to Mandate Palestine in the 1930s must search the entire JRI-Poland database without limiting their search by geographic area in order to obtain search results.
Douglas E. Goldman Jewish Genealogy Center, Beth Hatefutsoth, Museum of the Jewish Diaspora, Tel Aviv: Goldman Center volunteers have created thousands of extracts of vital records of Warsaw, Bialystok, Bedzin, Kraków, Sandomierz, Golub Dobrzyn and Tarnów. Shtetl CO-OP volunteers did the data entry to make these records available on-line. Researchers may order photocopies of indexed records from the above-mentioned towns, as well as other microfilms held by the Goldman Center and indexed in the JRI-Poland database, from the Goldman Center.
Kielce-Radom Special Interest Group: Extracts of Jewish vital records for a number of towns have been published in the Kielce-Radom SIG Journal. The Journal ceased publication in 2005 and the full extracts published in the Journal are being integrated into the JRI-Poland database.
Warsaw, Lodz, Bedzin, Bielsko-Biala and Osweicim Cemeteries: JRI-Poland has entered into agreements to incorporate the indices to the burials in the JRI-Poland database. There are now more than 90,000 burials from the Warsaw Cemetery in the database.
The "step-by-step" guide for Shtetl CO-OP leaders and volunteers by Robinn Magid (Lublin Shtetl CO-OP leader) can be downloaded from the JRI-Poland web site. It includes standard format (templates) for the creation of a computer file with the indexed records. Completed files are reviewed by the JRI-Poland Transliteration Coordinator and the quality control team. Approved files are uploaded to the JRI-Poland database by co-founder and Database Manager, Michael Tobias.
For items 1 to 5, please contact Transliteration and Data Entry Coordinator, Hadassah Lipsius at ShtetlCOOP@jri-poland.org. Tax deductible contributions may be made online at: www.jri-poland.org/support.htm or may be sent to: JRI-Poland Treasurer, c/o Sheila Salo, 5607 Greenleaf Road, Cheverly, MD 20785 (firstname.lastname@example.org).
For items 1 - 3, please contact JRI-Poland Executive Director, Stanley Diamond at ExecutiveDirector@jripoland.org. Tax deductible contributions (item 4) may be made online at: www.jri-poland.org/support.htm or sent to: JRI-Poland Treasurer, Sheila Salo, 5607 Greenleaf Road, Cheverly, MD 20785 (email@example.com).
As part of a long-range strategy to ensure the strength and continuity of the indexing project in the service of researchers with an interest in Jewish records of Poland, JRI-Poland is instituting a number of initiatives. Planned infrastructure, communications, management controls and data processing systems improvement will enhance JRI-Poland's ability to administer the ever-growing database and improve coordination with both the large international volunteer network and the professionals assisting in Poland.
To support these long range initiatives, contributions are welcome to the JRI-Poland General Fund. Tax deductible contributions may be made online at: www.jri-poland.org/support.htm or sent to: JRI-Poland Treasurer, c/o Sheila Salo, 5607 Greenleaf Road, Cheverly, MD 20785 (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Other initiatives will be for special projects, particularly those relating to the important role JRI-Poland has played and will continue to play in providing a unique resource in the related fields of family history research and medical genetics.
JRI-Poland is an independent non-profit tax-exempt organization under Section 501(c)(3) of the U.S. Internal Revenue Code. While JRI-Poland is hosted by JewishGen, Jewish Records Indexing - Poland operations and fundraising are separate from all other organizations.
As JRI-Poland continues to grow, additional volunteers are needed for a range of responsibilities from indexing to administration. To participate, contact Stanley Diamond at ExecutiveDirector@jripoland.org.
Subscribers to the moderated JRI-Poland Discussion Group share information and participate in discussions relating to records as well as receive updates on the database contents and interrelated matters. Researchers with an interest in researching their Polish roots are encouraged to subscribe.
To subscribe to the Jewish Records Indexing - Poland mailing list, go to the WebForm on the JewishGen site (http://lyris.jewishgen.org/ListManager). The JRI-Poland website and database are hosted by JewishGen and this link may be used to manage subscriptions - i.e. to subscribe/unsubscribe, choose digest or single message mode.
The JRI-Poland project is built on a shared vision and partnering with individuals, archives, and independent organizations around the world. Every individual with an interest in the Jewish records of Poland can play a part.