The NorthEast Ohio Computer-Aided Genealogy Society



A Summary of Events and Topics of Interest to Online Genealogists


Vol. 13 No. 3--July 1, 2008


compiled by Luther Olson



NorthEast Ohio Computer-Aided Genealogy [NEOCAG] serves Eastern Cuyahoga,

Lake, Geauga, Ashtabula, Portage & Summit Counties.


Regular meetings 2nd Saturday of each month


St. Bartholomew Episcopal Church

435 S.O.M. Road, Mayfield Village, OH.


Jerry Kliot—President




> News and Views

> Borders(R) To Open New Concept Store at Southbury Plaza in Southbury, Conn.

> Family History Library Catalog online at FamilySearch.

> Google Tries To Scan Copies Of All The World's Books

> One Laptop Per Child Embraces Windows XP

> Catholic Churches Told To Keep Records From FamilySearch Digitizers

> LDS Genealogy Work Progresses Despite Catholic Church Edict

> Geni Enables Genealogy Community to Build Family Trees From GEDCOM files/ Bids to Become #1 Family Networking Site

> All Good Things Come To An End As Fred Reboots

> “Find A Grave” Provides More Than 16 Million Grave Records

> Source For Reading Jewish tombstones

> The Jewish Calendar

> Some Hebrew Phrases

> Hebrew Abbreviations on Tombstones:

> 50 Most Popular Genealogy Websites from ProGenealogists

> The Surprises and Rewards of Writing a Family History




> News and Views


> Borders(R) To Open New Concept Store at Southbury Plaza in Southbury, Conn.


Press Release Source: Borders, Inc. Yahoo News

Friday May 23, 8:00 am ET


 ANN ARBOR, Mich., May 23 /PRNewswire/ -- Borders made national headlines in February when it launched its first-ever concept store in Ann Arbor, Mich. The breakthrough retail concept represents a significant enhancement over existing Borders stores inside and out and fulfills the company's mission to be a headquarters for knowledge and entertainment. The store blends digital and Internet options with a fresh new look, enriching in-store services, and a number of exciting features to create a uniquely satisfying customer shopping experience. 


"The opening of our initial concept store in Ann Arbor generated tremendous media attention including major stories in national newspapers and on television. We've brought a fresh new look and an exciting interactive dimension to the store with a Digital Center where customers can do everything from mix and make their own custom CDs, download books and music, publish their own books, explore their family history, and create photo books-all without being computer experts because we have trained people there to help every step of the way," he said.


Dramatically distinctive against the neutral backdrop of the store is a new Digital Center marked by a three-dimensional, 12-foot fixture and sign package. Within the Digital Center there are multiple computer kiosks and stations dedicated to unique new services including music and book downloading as well as mixing and making custom CDs through "Borders Digital Music," which features millions of titles to choose from. Customers interested in tracing their roots can access "Borders Genealogy Services" provided by, and because many Borders customers are authors looking to publish their own work, the Digital Center also includes "Borders Personal Publishing" powered by Some customer-written books may eventually be sold in Borders stores and select customer authors could even host in-store signings. Photos are important to many Borders customers who can use "Borders Custom Photo Books" for special projects featuring family and friends.


Throughout the Digital Center, there are seats at the various computer stations where customers are encouraged to sit and take their time working on their projects. Importantly, Borders knows that not all customers are computer experts, so the company is staffing the Digital Center with trained, dedicated personnel ready to guide customers of any technical level through the process to achieve their project goals.


  For example, in the Travel Destination, customers can not only choose from thousands of book titles, but will also find related items such as maps, GPS navigation systems, the Reader Digital Book from Sony®, and portable DVD players that customers can use on their travels. Within the section, there is an interactive computer kiosk where customers can research, plan, and even book a trip in the store. 


About Borders, Inc.


Borders is a subsidiary of Borders Group, Inc., (NYSE: BGP - News) a $3.8 billion global retailer of books, music, movies, periodicals and gift and stationery items with over 30,000 employees and more than 1,100 stores worldwide primarily operating under the Borders® and Waldenbooks® brand names. For more information, visit .


> Family History Library Catalog Online At FamilySearch


By Kimberly Powell,

Kimberly's Genealogy Blog, Guide to Genealogy since 2000,

Thursday May 15, 2008


I've always been a huge fan of the Family History Library Catalog online at - a finding aid to over 2 million rolls of microfilm and hundreds of thousands of books, maps, and other printed sources relating to family history from more than 100 countries. As useful as it is, however, there are so many online genealogists who either don't know it exists or how to use it effectively. That's why the announcement this week of a new "Web 2.0" version of the Family History Library Catalog is so exciting!


As announced at the National Genealogical Society conference this past week, and are partnering to publish the Family History Library Catalog as an interactive online tool. New functionality and enhancements to the catalog will make it searchable by major online search engines (meaning many more genealogists will discover and use this valuable resource) and will allow users to annotate item descriptions to make them more useful. This could mean anything from adding better record descriptions, tips for searching and using the record, or links to an online digitized or transcribed version of the record. will also be adding links to the online source for each record, when available, whether it's on; on other genealogical sites such as,,,, USGenWeb and WorldGenWeb; or on government, archival or library sites. Users will also be able to add or suggest a new source, and rate or review a source based on its usefulness.


New search functionality will also be added to the catalog, with guided searches to help beginners identify what they want to learn about their families, point them to relevant records, help them obtain and search the records, and assist them with applying the new information to their family history research. Users will also be able to browse the catalog as usual, with extra enhancements such as the ability to sort results by popularity, relevance, most used, etc.


For more details, check out CEO Paul Allen's great blog post on his exciting plans for the new Family History Library Catalog 2.0.




For the last four years I have been sending information on Google’s incredible project of digitizing the entire contents of five major libraries. The objective is to give the contents of these major academic centers to those from third world countries or other areas of the earth where there is no access to the knowledge that we take for granted. It appears that the project has been moving forward better than expected. We now read that the original target of five libraries is now expanded to ALL the libraries.  BRAVO to Google.


The follow-up to this info came a few months when we were informed of the project to build low cost laptops called XO that would cost perhaps $100, or even be given free to impoverished families. That project has also been moving along rapidly—with the major problem of deciding which OS to install.


I have to admit that I’m not a big fan of Microsoft, but assuming it will work (not always assured with MS software), we must also give major KUDOS to MS for making available a special version of XP. So-BRAVO also to Microsoft.


I hope you will read these next two articles…..LO




> Google Tries To Scan Copies Of All The World's Books


Associated Press by Natasha Robinson

Sunday, May 04, 2008


Ann Arbor, Mich. — In a dimly lit back room on the second level of the University of Michigan library’s book-shelving department, Courtney Mitchel helped a giant desktop machine digest a rare, centuries-old Bible.


Mitchel is among hundreds of librarians from Minnesota to England making digital versions of the most fragile of the books to be included in Google Inc.’s Book Search, a portal that will eventually lead users to all the estimated 50 million to 100 million books in the world.


The manual scanning — at up to 600 pages a day — is much slower than Google’s regular process.  “It’s monotonous,” the 24-year-old said. “But it’s still something that I’m learning about — how to interact with really old materials and working with digital imaging, which is relevant to art history.”


The tight binding on the early- 16th-century polyglot Bible made it hard to expose the portions toward the book’s middle as Mitchel spread each pair of pages for the scanner. Librarians believe it is the oldest Bible in the world with Arabic type.


Google, the Internet’s leader in search and advertising, says the process it developed and is using for scanning most of the books in Book Search is proprietary. Employees will not discuss it except to say it is faster than what Mitchel is doing and it’s not destructive.


Many libraries began digitizing books a decade ago to preserve them. Funding from Google allows the 28 libraries it’s working with to cut their digitizing costs because they don’t have to pay for scanning the books Google wants to include in Book Search.


Through Book Search, users can track down a book on any topic they’re interested in and read a small portion. If the book’s not protected by copyright, users can download the whole thing. If it is, or if they want to read an original, they can use Book Search to find copies to buy or borrow.


More than 1 million rare or fragile books have been digitized through the Google-Michigan partnership since it began in 2004, with an estimated 6 million to go.


Book Search has the support of many publishers, authors and librarians, including Cambridge University Press and Wisdom Publications. But some publishers and authors have sued, claiming the service violates their copyrights. Google says Book Search is aboveboard because Web surfers can retrieve only snippets of copyrighted material.


Brewster Kahle, founder and digital librarian of the Internet Archive at the Open Content Alliance, said Google may be trying to “lock up the public domain” by making proprietary copies of works whose copyrights have expired. Kahle said there’s a value in the project, in preserving material and enabling broad access to it. But he questioned whether Google will share the works it digitizes with other search engines.


In the room where Mitchel and colleague Chava Israel, an artist, work, the temperature is always in the 60s. Each technician has a slightly angled table with a flexible middle that cradles books and holds them still while two overhead cameras photograph the pages.


Sometimes the women play music or listen to news online, but they often work in silence, except for the clicks of their computers and scanners.


Mitchel glides in a rolling chair forth and back between scanner and computer, computer and scanner, turning page upon page and clicking her mouse to shoot each pair. Once the images reach the computer, the women use the book scanning software Omniscan from Germany’s Zeutschel GmbH to clean them up.


A final click of the mouse sends each digitized book to Google for optical character recognition processing, which makes the text searchable. Google then returns a copy of the images and data to the library and posts another to the Web.




> One Laptop Per Child Embraces Windows XP


Mark Long,

Yahoo! NewsYahoo! 

Fri May 16, 11:44 AM ET


One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) has entered into an agreement with Microsoft governing the installation of Windows XP on the nonprofit organization's low-cost XO laptops for use by impoverished children around the world.


The partners, which are scheduled to begin conducting pilot programs in emerging markets next month, expect the Windows-powered XO laptop to be ready for full-scale deployment in August or September, said James Utzschneider, manager of Microsoft's developing-markets unit.


"Initially it will only be available in emerging-market countries where governments or NGOs are subsidizing the purchase of a large number of PCs for students," Utzschneider said. "But there is the possibility of making this available for other customers through a broader set of channels at a later point in time."


Opening the Door


Microsoft announced last month that it would extend the life of Windows XP through the development of an abbreviated version to meet the needs of an emerging new class of mobile-computing devices known as ultra-low-cost PCs (ULCPC), which typically have smaller screen sizes and lower-powered processors than more expensive laptops. The XO laptop, in particular, posed a number of technical constraints that took a year for Microsoft to overcome.


"Windows was too big to fit on the 1GB non-flash module on the motherboard, so we are using a 2GB SD memory card," explained Bohdan Raciborski, group program manager for Microsoft. "So we had to first create a BIOS, because at that time there were no PC BIOSs that supported SD cards."


In a 2GB volume, Raciborski noted, it becomes possible have a complete Windows and Office experience running on the XO laptop. Moreover, it takes about 50 seconds for Windows XP to boot up on the XO, he said.


"We haven't modified Windows or Office in any way -- we haven't removed any components to have them run on this hardware," Raciborski said. "You can do almost anything that a student or teacher would want to do."


The Ultimate Goal


Many members of the open-source Linux community will no doubt be less than thrilled to learn that OLPC is partnering with Microsoft and embracing Windows. However, the new partners point out that some XO customers and partners worldwide have been requesting Windows support.


"Windows support on the XO device means that our students and educators will now have access to more than computer-assisted learning experiences," said Andreas Gonzalez Deaz, governor of Cundinamarca, Colombia. "This will also develop marketable technology skills, which can lead to jobs and opportunities."


Microsoft also believes that having Windows XP on the XO will improve the chances of users getting help should the device experience a technical problem or be in need of an upgrade. "There are hundreds of millions of Windows machines out there in the world today, which means there are thousands and thousands of people who know how to deploy, support, fix and upgrade them," Utzschneider explained.


The ultimate goal, the two organizations say, is to build a version of the XO laptop by 2010 that can host both Windows XP and Linux. "Future plans for a dual-boot version of the XO laptop" will enhance OLPC's ability "to use technology to transform education by bringing connectivity and constructionist learning to the poorest children throughout the world," said OLPC founder and Chairman Nicholas Negroponte.




> Catholic Churches Told To Keep Records From FamilySearch Digitizers


Genealogy Insider by Diane Haddad

Family Tree Insider

Wednesday, May 07, 2008


You may already have heard the Catholic News Service reports that the Vatican has directed Catholic dioceses throughout the world not to allow FamilySearch to digitize or index parish registers.


Father James Massa, executive director of the US bishops' Secretariat of Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs, told the Catholic News Service that the directive, issued in an April 5 letter from the Vatican Congregation for Clergy, aims to prevent Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) members, or Mormons, from using the records to baptize the dead.


The LDS Church operates the FamilySearch genealogy Web site.


The letter reads in part, "The congregation requests that the conference notifies each diocesan bishop in order to ensure that such a detrimental practice is not permitted in his territory, due to the confidentiality of the faithful and so as not to cooperate with the erroneous practices of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints."


Posthumous baptism by proxy is central to the LDS faith: Mormons can offer baptism to their ancestors so families can be united in the afterlife. That’s why the LDS Church digitizes and microfilms records. Generally, FamilySearch negotiates contracts with churches to film their records.


The LDS Church makes the records available to members of all religions for use in genealogical research. And microfilmed Catholic Church registers are the major resource for finding ancestors in Europe before civil (government) registration began, usually during the 1800s.


Jewish groups also have criticized posthumous baptism, especially for Holocaust victims. The LDS Church agreed in 1995 to stop the practice of baptizing Holocaust victims, but some say it continues.


What do you think of the Vatican's directive? Click Comments to post here, or post to our Hot Topics Forum.




> LDS Genealogy Work Progresses Despite Catholic Church Edict


By Lacie Hales - 10 Jun 2008

BYU NewsNet


A misunderstanding about an order from the Catholic Church preventing the release of records to a third party won't slow down genealogy work.


The Catholic Church will still release records to people trying to do their own family's genealogy, whether they belong to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints or not, as long as they have a legitimate need for the records.


The Catholic Church has policies already in place to keep sacramental records private, said Colleen Gudreau, a spokeswoman for the Salt Lake Diocese. A recent letter from Catholic Church officials in Rome to dioceses around the world was primarily a reminder to catholic bishops of their responsibility with those records, she said.


"It's partially a misunderstanding," she said. "The [Catholic] Church will still provide information to people with a legitimate need."


Gudreau said she recognized that the LDS Church has done great service in some communities when they put documents on microfiche. However, she said most government documents are public records while sacramental records are not.


"It was clarification of canon law to safeguard private records," she said.


The LDS Church wasn't too concerned about the recent order from the Vatican.


"It's a Catholic issue," said Scott Trotter, spokesman for the LDS Church. "We're leaving it to them."


Howard Bybee, the family history librarian at the BYU Family History Center, didn't have much to say about the Catholic Church's letter.


"We don't know what the effect will be," he said.


The LDS Church has a program where genealogists will take records and photograph them for microfilm or microfiche, giving a copy to the organization and keeping one for their records, Bybee said.


Despite the misunderstanding, work seems to be going on as usual in the library.


Library patrons Kenneth and Stanley Butler have been reading Danish records on microfilm at the BYU Family History Library for the last two years, and have reached an exciting point in their research. The two brothers made a goal to make a submission of names to an LDS temple for posthumous ordinance work, which they met on May 23.


"We've found enough names to create a ward," Stanley said.


The Butler brothers are not the only ones taking advantage of the many resources available at the BYU Library.


The wide variety of patrons includes people from surrounding neighborhoods, and all of the wards on campus. The library even had some high school students come in last semester and spend two weeks doing research full time, he said.


BYU's library was the first Family History Center for the LDS Church, Bybee said. It is still one of the largest libraries for the church, he said. However, the family history program has grown drastically, allowing the church to build centers all over the world.


Bybee said he tries to have the latest technology available to help researchers.


"But we still have the antiquated stuff," he said.


The library has more than 180,000 rolls of microfilm, as well as maps and archives of newspapers, and even personal papers of individuals that have been donated or published, Bybee said.


In addition to this, many governments are starting to put records online, Bybee said.


"It helps a lot. You don't have to travel there. You can get them online," he said.


Bybee said he realizes "not everyone can do genealogy at a peak level." But he said everyone can do something.


Some of the students taking his advice are called as their ward family history co-chairs. Emily Mecham of the BYU 66th ward is taking a family history class at BYU as well as serving in that calling.


"Before that, it was something in the back of my mind," Mecham said. "I wanted to get involved, but didn't know how until I got called."


So much information is available that it can be overwhelming, Mecham said.


"I don't have much practice doing research," she said.


The missionaries serving in the library are helpful if you have questions, Mecham said. She has gone in with questions, and they have spent an hour going over basics and helping her find the information, she said.


"I wish we could all believe we can do family history," Mecham said. "There's always time to do something."




> Geni Enables Genealogy Community to Build Family Trees From GEDCOM Files/Bids to Become #1 Family Networking Site


Geni, Inc

JoAnne Rockower



Los Angeles, Calif. (PRWEB-Yahoo) May 12, 2008 --


Top rated genealogy and family networking site announced today that genealogists can now import their family history into Geni using the popular GEDCOM format. The launch of this features makes it easy to move their research into Geni to easily share it with their family.


Geni (, the popular social network with a genealogy twist, today gave genealogists the ability to upload their family history from other programs to the Geni site using the industry standard GEDCOM file format. GEDCOM is an acronym for GEnealogical Data COMmunication and is used to exchange data between genealogy applications.


David Sacks, CEO of Geni, stated, "Genealogists have been asking for the ability to import their GEDCOM files to Geni and now they can." He added "Genealogists who have extensive files representing years of research have been waiting for this feature to launch. Now they don't need to duplicate the work they had done previously." He continued, "Sharing their research with their family in a simple-to-understand Geni tree encourages others in the family to join in the fun and collaboratively build a scrapbook of the family for future generations."


Since Geni's launch in January 2007 as a simple tool to create a family tree, Geni has continued adding features and enhancements. Among these additions are enhanced privacy settings, unlimited photo sharing and tagging, birthday reminders, personal and family timelines, family discussion, virtual gifts, map and calendar.


Geni was a winner of the 2007 Webware 100 Awards, which named it one of the top 100 sites on the internet and one of the top 10 reference sites. It is by far the youngest site to receive this honor. It was nominated again in 2008 in the social (networking) category.


About is a privately held company headquartered in Los Angeles, California. Geni was founded by former executives and early employees of PayPal, Yahoo! Groups, Ebay, and Tribe. It is backed by venture capital firms Founders Fund and Charles River Ventures. For more information visit the company's web site at



> All Good Things Come To An End As Fred Reboots


(My final Windows Secrets column prompts some reflection and summation. Thirty years after getting my first PC, it's time for me to hang up my mouse. A look back at how it all began)


By Fred Langa

Windows Secrets Newsletter • Issue 151 • 2008-05-01 •


I got my first real, non-kit personal computer almost exactly 30 years ago. I wrote software for that little beast and started a small company with a friend to market the programs we wrote. I also wrote magazine articles about the historic first crop of small PCs, including one of the very first type-and-run programs (in BASIC) to appear in a noncomputing magazine. I've been writing about PCs ever since.


Thirty years is a very long time in the computer industry, or in a human life, and it's time for me to try something else. In short, it's time to say good-bye.


In preparing to wrap up my work for Windows Secrets, I was asked by editorial director Brian Livingston a question that was as profound as it was simple: "What have you learned from the computing industry over the last three decades?"


Here are my short-form answers:


Don't sweat the small stuff


For example, we all know someone who obsesses over CPU clock speeds, GPU texture fill rates, broadband RWIN size, or some other performance variable as if it held the key to computing happiness. The fact is, most computer users don't notice performance differences until they're in the range of 15% to 20% below "normal."


People who use their PCs a lot and are well-accustomed to how their systems work are a bit more sensitive to performance, but even they don't normally notice differences until the slowdown is greater than 10%. Computer pros and some very well-attuned individuals may notice speed drops of around 10%, but almost everyone needs a stopwatch to discern performance changes in the single-digit-percentage range. So why obsess over small differences that will most likely go unnoticed anyway?


Note that this doesn't apply just to CPUs and GPUs. It also affects operating systems, hardware name brands, and even non-tech issues in life. Most small differences just don't matter and aren't worth getting worked up about.


The grass isn't really greener in the next yard


All software has bugs and vulnerabilities. All hardware contains design flaws and can fail. Anyone who tries to tell you otherwise is nuts. For example, you'll hear people claim that there's a far smaller incidence of malicious hacking in the Linux and Apple worlds, and it's true — up to a point. But there are far, far fewer target systems in those worlds. With most of the planet's crackers trying to subvert Windows, is it really a huge surprise that more flaws are found in Windows than in other OSes?


This isn't to say that Windows has been a paragon of security; heck no. But to flip it the other way and say "Linux doesn't have many bugs" or "Macs don't get hacked" is just plain silly. Nothing is perfect, and you'll be happier with your PC — and with your life — if you simply deal with the flaws you encounter and move on. Perfection doesn't exist.


There's no such thing as a magic bullet


This is a close relative of the greener-grass myth. By the time you can buy a PC that's twice as fast as the PC you have today, the software you'll want to run will need twice today's power. In fact, there's no single thing — no new operating system, CPU, graphics card, etc. — you can change that will suddenly make all of your computing problems go away. Sad to say, your PC will always run slower than you want it to.


Hang on to your sense of wonder


There's something in human nature that allows us to become accustomed to even the most remarkable things. For example, my current PC clocks almost 2,000 times faster than my very first PC, and it has over 4,000 times as much RAM; yet in inflation-adjusted dollars it cost literally about one-tenth of that first system!


Is there anything else in our lives that even comes close to that kind of improvement? If you can manage not to get jaded about the many wonders in the world of computing or in our wider daily lives, you'll enjoy yourself that much more.


Remember your humanity


Alas, the world of high tech isn't immune to some of humankind's baser impulses. For example, consider Apple's elitist marketing. A PC is a tool, not a lifestyle, but Apple embraces the dark side and tries to sell its PCs by appealing to vanity and narcissism, implying that owning an Apple makes you smarter, cooler, and just plain better than those sorry-assed PC people.


Yes, it's a small thing, but the world has enough divisive issues in it without Apple marketers trying to invent silly new ones. It's just a computer, Apple! How about thinking really "different" and coming up with ads that don't promote snobbery and elitism?


Apple execs aren't the only tech snobs


This is a corollary to the above item. Apple's leaders just happen to be the worst offenders in the computer industry, and that's why I'm singling them out here. But I personally boycott any products whose main sales pitch is based on making one group of people think that they're inherently better than others. If you're as bothered by such ugly marketing ploys as I am, perhaps you'll consider a similar personal boycott.


Reboot from time to time


A full reboot is a chance to shut down, cool off, clean out, and start fresh without carrying along needless baggage from previous operations. Windows, Mac, Linux, and most personal electronics devices all can benefit from a periodic full shutdown and restart. And, you know, so can your real, human life.


And that's what I'm about to do: reboot my life. I'm not sure what comes next, but part of the fun will be in finding out. (If you'd like to come along for the ride, check out my free non-computer-related blog.)


Although I'm stepping back from day-to-day computer writing, I'll still be reading Windows Secrets so I can stay on top of the essential information I need to keep my own PCs humming smoothly. I'll be a reader here, right beside you, for a long time to come.


But for now, let's see how this reboot thing works: Ctrl+Alt+Del . . .


Fred Langa is editor-at-large of the Windows Secrets Newsletter. He was editor of Byte magazine (1987 to 1991) and editorial director of CMP Media (1991 to 1996), overseeing Windows Magazine and others. He edited the LangaList e-mail newsletter from 1997 to 2006, when it merged with Windows Secrets.




> “Find A Grave” Provides More Than 16 Million Grave Records


Franklin Reid

Volume 1, Issue 47 WorldVitalRecords,  August 13, 2007


Provo, UT-- Find A Grave Provides More Than 16 Million Grave Records to Search one of the largest collections of online burial information now at It announced its partnership with on August 8th, bringing more than 16 million grave records free to access online at


"Find A Grave is excited to bring our database of 16 million burial records to the growing World Vital Records' community. We believe that the more accessible this information can be made, the more it will help people make meaningful family connections," said Jim Tipton, CEO, Find A Grave. Find A Grave has grown over the past 12 years with more than 200,000 individuals contributing valuable information such as lists of cemeteries, names, photographs, and additional burial information.


"Find A Grave started out as a hobby for Jim Tipton, which has become one of the most popular places on the Web to upload tombstone inscriptions. I'm thrilled with this partnership and with the success he has had in helping millions of people find the burial places of their loved ones," said Paul Allen, CEO, Genealogy expert, Leland Meitzler, also applauded the new partnership.


"Find A Grave is growing rapidly. The growth on that site is absolutely unbelievable because there are volunteers everywhere contributing to it. People have figured out this is the easiest place online to put their burial information," said Leland Meitzler, Managing Director, Everton Publishers. is excited to be working with Find A Grave because of the great value the cemetery records will bring to its members. “Cemetery records are critical for genealogy. The bottom line is that in many cases, the cemetery is the only place you will find a record of some folks. For some babies a cemetery is the only place where something was recorded that they actually lived,” Meitzler said. “Infant mortality was rampant, even in the U.S., just a few decades ago. In my own case, I have a number of children’s death records, and the only place I found them was in the cemetery.”


Individuals who wish to search for burial information should go to, click on View All Databases, and then click on Find A Grave database under birth, marriage, and death records.




> Source for reading Jewish tombstones


Posted by: "freid05"  

PAF Listserve     Tue Jan 29, 2008


This is for those of you PAF (and other) users who may need to do some Jewish cemetery research by looking at tombstones. You may have been put off by the Hebrew characters, which to most of us are unreadable.


I recently found a site that is just what we need. It's called Reading Hebrew tombstones and is fount at:


It tells us how to translate the symbols into English and also to calculate the number symbols into a year of birth or death. Recommended.




> Reading Hebrew Tombstones


Jewish tombstones with Hebrew inscriptions have an added value to genealogists, in that they not only show the date of death and sometimes the age or date of birth, but they also include the given name of the deceased's father. This permits you to go back one more generation.


Here are a few helpful pointers if you cannot read Hebrew.


At the top of most Jewish tombstones is the abbreviation , which stands for po nikbar or po nitman, meaning "here lies".


At the end of many Hebrew tombstone inscriptions you will find the abbreviation , which is an abbreviation of a verse from the Bible, the first book of Samuel, 25:29, "May his soul be bound up in the bond of eternal life".


If any Hebrew characters at all are written on a tombstone, they are most likely to be the person's Hebrew name. A Hebrew name always includes a patronymic, the person's father's given name. This is a unique feature of Jewish tombstones, and a great boon to Jewish genealogy. The Hebrew word , ben, means "son of", as in "Yaakov ben Yitzhak", meaning "Yaakov the son of Yitzhak".   , bat, means "daughter of". On tombstones these words will often appear as , an abbreviation for ben reb, meaning "son (or daughter) of the worthy", followed by the father's given name. The word reb is a simple honorific, a title of respect — it does not mean Rabbi.


> The Jewish Calendar


Dates are written in Hebrew according to the Jewish calendar. This calendar, which starts its "year one" with the Creation of the World, was probably designed by the patriarch Hillel II in the fourth century. He calculated the age of the world by computing the literal ages of biblical characters and other events in the Bible, and came up with a calendar that begins 3760 years before the Christian calendar.


The letters of the Hebrew Alphabet each have a numerical value, specified in the accompanying chart. When a Hebrew date is written, you must figure out the numerical value of each letter and then add them up. This is the date according to the Jewish calendar, not the calendar we use in every day life, known as the Gregorian calendar (also referred to as the Common Era, civil or Christian calendar). In September 1999, for example, the Jewish year was 5759. Given a Hebrew date, you need to do only a little bit of math to change the Hebrew year into a secular year.


Often a Hebrew date after the year 5000 on the Jewish calendar will leave off five thousand. For example, the Hebrew year 5680 will be written as 680 rather than 5680. To compute the civil (Gregorian) year, simply add the number 1240 to the shortened Hebrew year.


Here's one example: If the year is written as , the letter  is 400, the letter  is 200,  is 80, and  is 3.   400 + 200 + 80 + 3 = 683.   The 5000 is usually left off, so the actual year would be 5683.   By using our formula, 683 plus 1240 is 1923. That is the civil year.


The Hebrew year begins on Rosh Hashanah, which occurs on the Gregorian calendar in September or October. Therefore, the dates listed for the months of Tishri, Heshvan, Kislev and sometimes Tevet must be read as applying to the preceding year of the civil calendar.


The complete transposition of a Hebrew date to a Gregorian date uses a very complex formula. It is easiest to simply refer to one of the published or online reference works, such as: The Comprehensive Hebrew Calendar, 5703-5860, 1943-2100 by Arthur Spier (Jerusalem, New York: Feldheim Publishers, 1981); or 150 Year Calendar by Rabbi Moses Greenfield (Brooklyn: Hotsaat Ateret, 1987). Most synagogues and Jewish libraries possess one of these works. Another alternative is to use one of several computer programs: CALCONV, JCAL, LUACH (shareware); Zmanim, HaYom, Itim (; or JewishGen's online JOS calculator ( These programs can convert Hebrew to Gregorian dates and vice versa, as well as display calendars and Yahrzeit dates for any year.


For more information about the Jewish calendar, see the JewishGen InfoFile Introduction to the Jewish Calendar.


> Some Hebrew Phrases


In addition to names and dates, here are the common Hebrew words which appear on tombstones:


Here lies po nikbar 


 Son of ben 

Daughter of bat 

Title, i.e. "Mr." reb, rav      

Son/Daughter of the honored ben reb 


 The Levite ha-levi 

The Cohen ha-kohen 

The Rabbi ha-rav 


 Dear, Beloved (masc.) ha-yakar 

Dear, Beloved (fem.) ha-y'karah 


 Father av 

My father avi 

Our father avinu 

Mother eem 

My mother eemi 

Our mother emanu 

My husband baali 

My wife ishti 

Brother akh 

My brother akhi 

Our brother akhinu 

Sister akhot 

Aunt dodah 

Uncle dod 


 Man ish 

Woman ishah 

Woman (unmarried) b'tulah 

Woman (married) = "Mrs." marat 

Old (masc., fem.) zakain, z'kaina       

Child (masc., fem.) yeled, yaldah      

Young man/woman bakhur, bakhurah      


 Died (masc., fem.) niftar, nifterah      

Born (masc., fem.) nolad, noldah      


 Year, Years shanah, shanim      

Day, Days yom, yamim      

Month khodesh 

First of the month rosh khodesh    



> Hebrew Abbreviations on Tombstones


Copyright ©1996, 2001 by Warren Blatt.

 JewishGen InfoFile Index  56, 106213


There are many different Hebrew abbreviations that are found in tombstone inscriptions and Hebrew literature. Abbreviations are usually indicated by a quote mark or an apostrophe. Often, the apostrophe is used to abbreviate a single word, whereas the quote mark indicates an abbreviated phrase. For more information, see the following works:


"Hebrew Abbreviations for Genealogists", by Edmund U. Cohler, Ph.D., in Mass-Pocha (Newsletter of the Jewish Genealogical Society of Greater Boston). Part I: IV,1 (Winter 1994/95), pages 4-7.   Part II: IV,2 (Spring 1995), pages 14-18.   Part III: IV, 3 (Summer 1995), pages 16-17.


Hüttenmeister, Frowald Gil. Abkurzungsverzeichnis hebraischer Grabinschriften. (Frankfurt am Main: Gesellschaft zur Forderung Judaistischer Studien in Frankfurt am Main [Society for Furthering Judaic Studies in Frankfurt am Main], 1996). 349 pages. {Frankfurter judaistische Studien, Volume 11. In Hebrew and German. Hebrew title: Otsar rashe tevot ve-kitsurim be-matsvot bate ha-almin}. ISBN #3-922056-08-3.


Symbols on Tombstones:


In addition to the inscription, symbols on the tombstone can be clues. Two hands, with four fingers each divided into two sets of two fingers, is the symbol of a priestly blessing — this signifies a Kohen, a descendant of Aaron. A pitcher signifies a Levite — the Levites were responsible for cleaning the hands of the Temple priest in ancient days. A candle or candelabra often is used on the tombstone of a woman; and the six-pointed Star of David on that of a man. A tombstone with the motif of a broken branch or tree stump often signifies someone who died young.




Kurzweil, Arthur. From Generation to Generation: How to Trace Your Jewish Genealogy and Personal History. (New York: HarperCollins, 1994). Chapter 9, pages 342-358.

DOROT, The Journal of the Jewish Genealogical Society (New York):

- XI, 2 (Winter 1989-90), pp 2-3: "Getting the Most Out of Your Cemetery Visit".

- XI, 4 (Summer 1990), pg 16; and XII, 1 (Autumn 1990), pg 8: "Tools of the Trade".

Krajewska, Monika. A Tribe of Stones: Jewish Cemeteries in Poland. (Warsaw: Polish Scientific Publishers, 1993). 242 pages, mostly illustrations.

Rath, Gideon. "Hebrew Tombstone Inscriptions and Dates", in Chronicles (Newsletter of the Jewish Genealogical Society of Philadelphia), Vol. 5, No. 1 (Spring 1986), pages 1-4.

Schafer, Louis. Tombstones of Your Ancestors. (Heritage Books, 1991). {160 pages, paperback. Doesn't deal specifically with Jewish tombstones}.

Schwartzman, Arnold. Graven images: Graphic Motifs of the Jewish Gravestone. (New York: H.N. Abrams, 1993). 144 pages.

Strangstad, Lynette. A Graveyard Preservation Primer. (Nashville, Tenn.: Association for Gravestone Studies, 1988, 1995). 126 pages.

Association for Gravestone Studies, 278 Main Street, Suite 207, Greenfield, MA 01301.   (413) 772-0836.   Produces a quarterly newsletter, Markers, and access to a lending library.

Caplan, Judith Shulamit Langer-Surnamer. "Tombstone Translation Topics: How to Decipher and Read a Hebrew Tombstone". In: 19th Annual Conference on Jewish Genealogy: Syllabus. (New York: Jewish Genealogical Society, 1999), pages 217-221.   Also In Jewish Genealogy Yearbook 2000 (20th International Conference on Jewish Genealogy, Salt Lake City, IAJGS, 2000), Section 1, pages 80-84.




International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies (IAJGS) Cemetery Project:

JewishGen Online Worldwide Burial Registry (JOWBR):

Jewish Cemeteries in the New York Metropolitan Area (JGSNY): List of Cemeteries, Directions, Burial Societies.



> 50 Most Popular Genealogy Websites from ProGenealogists

UpFront with NGS--The Online Newsletter of the National Genealogical Society
Salt Lake City, Utah
Volume 8, Number 5-1 May 2008

Editor's note: ProGenealogists issued the following release last month. It seems many genealogists have benefited from the websites they list. If some are not familiar to you, maybe the link in this article to the list of winning sites will pose an opportunity for you to expand the horizons of your web genealogy research.
ProGenealogists, Inc. released today the results of a study that identifies, for the first time, the 50 most popular genealogy websites.
The popularity of genealogy on the Internet has long been established, but for the first time, it's possible to say which of the thousands of genealogy sites are the most popular in this growing field. The list uses a "places rated" approach to average the website traffic rankings from four major web analytics companies.
The top two websites actually tied for first place and are well-known to web genealogists: and its sister site, Third place, however, is the somewhat lesser known whose popularity is attributed to its many users in Europe and Israel. Next is, with, provided by the LDS Church, rounding out the top five.
"The importance of this list for genealogists cannot be underestimated," said Natalie Cottrill, ProGenealogists's President and CEO. "If a site is popular, as measured by actual traffic, it must be providing useful information, and genealogists are always seeking more sites to help with their research. Everyone will find sites on this list they have never heard of, or visited. We are very pleased to make this information available for free to the entire genealogical community."
The rankings are the result of research conducted over the past three months by ProGenealogists's Vice-President of Marketing, Kory L. Meyerink, who is also an adjunct professor of family history at Brigham Young University. "Only full-fledged genealogy websites could be considered for this ranking, due to the way the web analytics companies conduct their research," Meyerink commented. "Individual pages on a government website cannot be ranked independent of that government site's own traffic. The same is the case for genealogical pages that are part of a larger, non-genealogical website." Sites of only passing interest to genealogists, such as the meaning surnames or promoting coats-of-arms, were also excluded.
Bryce Barnett, Operations Manager for ProGenealogists, remarked, "The findings of this study are fascinating. Nine of the 50 sites are subscription sites, illustrating that genealogists understand the value of paying for information. Indeed, half of the sites are primarily data-oriented sites. Another quarter are sites that provide links to genealogical data."
ProGenealogists has posted the list at, notified the 50 websites, and provided an award icon they can display on their website. A detailed article, exploring the methodology and numbers behind this ground-breaking study is planned for a pending issue of Digital Genealogist, the popular Internet magazine,
ProGenealogists, a privately held Utah corporation, is one of the nation's premier genealogical research firms, with offices in Salt Lake City, and Sandy, Utah. Founded in 1998, it brings together many of the nation's best genealogists in an environment fostering high quality, scholarly genealogical research. ProGenealogists's own website has been nationally recognized for the design, layout and quality of its content by USAToday, "Yahoo Internet Life" Magazine, Family Tree Magazine, and "The Internet Scout Report" sponsored by the National Science Foundation and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.
For more information regarding ProGenealogists, Inc., visit their website at or call toll-free 800-596-3230.



> The Surprises and Rewards of Writing a Family History

          by Lynda Childers Suffridge, NGS Vice President


UpFront with NGS--The Online Newsletter of the National Genealogical Society
Volume 8, Number 5-1 May 2008

Through the years as a student of genealogy at IGHR, NIGR, NGS, and FGS conferences, and state and local conferences, I had repeatedly heard, "you need to write and submit for publication your family story." Researching is so much fun, but writing doesn't come easy for many of us. In fact, I think it is just plain painful! After more years than I want to admit, I finally began writing short family stories for publication in several county histories, trying very hard to be accurate and as thorough as the space limitations allowed. However, space did not allow footnoting in any of these articles, and only minimal references could be listed at the end.
In 2006, I enrolled in Carolyn Earle Billingsley's Genealogy and Southern History class at the University of Arkansas, Little Rock. The term paper assignment for the class was to select one family line, research the family, and write their story in NGSQ style, complete with all citations. The assignment included placing the family into the proper historical context. That is, how did historical events affect this family?
I chose to write about my mother's ancestors who migrated from Alabama to Arkansas in the 1850s. A poem written for a 1932 family reunion provided clues for determining "The Descendants of Reuben Searcy and Isabella McDonald." In the process of compiling the information, I was surprised to realize all I had learned about the family. I also realized there were bits and pieces missing that needed further research. At our instructor's insistence, I entered the article in the Arkansas Genealogical Society Family History Writing Contest. A few months later I received a letter announcing that my article had been selected the 2007 AGS Family History Writing Contest Winner, and the article was published, with some fine editing by Susan Boyle, in the December 2007 issue of The Arkansas Family Historian.
Honored and excited about seeing the story in print, I purchased extra copies of the quarterly and mailed them to my Searcy relatives -especially the ones who had shared so much information with me. Sometimes relatives have things they forget about or don't think are important, even though they have shared many stories and photographs about the family. Seeing the story in print, the FIRST BIG SURPRISE came when my mother's first cousin, Anna Lee Smith Garner, showed me the John Reuben Searcy Family Bible. This was a Bible neither my mother nor I knew existed before the article was published. The Bible records contain the marriage date for John Reuben Searcy to Mary Elizabeth Collins. This is a marriage date I did not have because the marriage book for Drew County, where their marriage would have been recorded, is missing pages for the time period. The Bible also contained death information on children who died young that was not found anywhere else. The SECOND BIG SURPRISE was when she gave me the Bible with the encouragement and blessing of her four children!
To explain how much I treasure this gift, tornado warnings were issued this week in my area, and I took the Bible, my laptop, and my son's dog that I was keeping for a few days to the bathroom to wait out the storm. Fortunately, the storm passed over without damage in my area. I can't say the same for other parts of Arkansas.
The third BIG SURPRISE was receiving a letter informing me that the article had won the Arkansas Historical Association Walter L Brown Best Family History in a Local Journal Award. AGS president Gloria Futrell had submitted The Arkansas Family Historian in the AHA competition.
Don 't wait to write about your family until you find everything! The rewards of writing a family history are many. For starters, when you begin writing, you immediately discover information you did not realize you already had as well as information you are missing. Another reason to publish your story is, if a tornado, fire, or flood destroys your home and you lose all those file cabinets and notebooks full of family documents you've spent years researching, your story is recorded, and you haven't lost the information you worked so hard to collect. An unexpected reward may come when relatives read the story you have written; they may decide you are worthy of receiving family treasures you didn't even know existed!




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