Revitalizing JewishGen Ukraine SIG
General Meeting at the IAJGS Conference, 15 August 2011
This is a slightly modified version of the presentation I gave at the Ukraine Special Interest Group General Meeting on 15 August 2011, at the Annual Conference of the International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies in Washington, D.C. It has been modified for posting on the Ukraine SIG Website.
Beginning now, we are going to change the way our SIG operates. We will be more active in seeking out records, translating them, processing them and making them available to you. To achieve this objective, I will propose some changes in the way the SIG works and in how the SIG is governed, but first let me describe the territory that JewishGen has assigned to us.
What Territories does Ukraine SIG Cover?
Our territory covers these nine guberniyas of the former Russian Empire: Chernigov, Ekaterinoslav, Kharkov, Kherson, Kyiv, Podolia, Poltava, Taurida, and Volhynia.
(Click on map for a larger view)
As you know, national boundaries in this part of the world have shifted from time-to-time. As a result, JewishGen has assigned some areas that are in modern Ukraine to other SIGs. This includes a large swath of western Ukraine which JewishGen’s Database Sharing Committee has assigned to Gesher Galicia, Hungary SIG and Romania SIG.
- Sub-Carpathia (Hungary SIG)
- Western Ukraine lands that were in Galicia during Interwar period (Gesher Galicia)
- Most of Bukovina (Romania SIG)
(For an explanation of these assignments, see http://www.jewishgen.org/projects/desc/ShtetlMaster Regions.html )
This means that we cannot initiate projects that include towns within these areas. Although we cannot initiate projects for these areas, JewishGen includes in our Ukraine Database any data generated by other SIGs for towns that currently are in Ukraine. In addition, we will work cooperatively with other SIGs on data generating projects that include these areas.
Components of the SIG
Our SIG has four ways of interacting with you: personal communications between the Coordinator, Board Members and researchers; our website; discussion list; and the JewishGen Ukraine Database (previously called the All-Ukraine Database). Our Website and Discussion List are the primary ways we can communicate with each other. The Discussion List currently has more than 2,600 registrants. Chuck Weinstein, Linda Cantor, and Freya Maslov are moderators of the List. Hilary Henkin is our webmaster. They will continue in those roles.
The JewishGen Ukraine Database ( http://www.jewishgen.org/databases/ukraine ) is a master index to all data that we and others generate to help you do your research. The Ukraine SIG “Board” is new. In the past, we had an Advisory Committee, but over the years this committee fell into disuse. As part of our revitalization, I’m appointing a Board to help govern the SIG and manage our projects. This Board will be a “working Board”. Each member will have a specific assignment and responsibility. We’ll discuss the Board and its functions below.
Besides our SIG, JewishGen provides these resources to help you research your ancestors from Ukraine.
- 62 Shtetlinks websites (renamed Kehila Links at the IAJGS Conference)
- 220 Yizkor Books for 187 towns
- Yizkor Book Master Name Index (YBMNI) *
- 63 towns in Necrology database *
- About 60 Cemeteries in JOWBR *
- Holocaust database *
- Family Tree of the Jewish People (FTJP) * and JewishGen Family Finder (JGFF) *
(Items followed by * are included in JewishGen Ukraine DB)
Shtetlinks focus on particular towns, and sometimes regions. Sixty-two of us have created Shtetlinks websites for our Ukraine towns. We have packed these web pages with data and names, yet most of these names have not found their way into the JewishGen Ukraine Database. One project the SIG can initiate quickly is to work with Shtetlinks web page owners to incorporate their data in the master database.
Yizkor Book translations also contain many names. JewishGen recognized this a couple of years ago and created the Yizkor Book Master Name Index (YBMNI). It includes names from the few books that have indexes. However, most of the translated Yizkor Books are not indexed. Our SIG can change this by helping Yizkor Book Translation Project Leaders create name and place indexes for their books. To get some idea of the value of this effort, consider that the Hebrew portion of the book Pinkas Kremenets has more than 1,500 name entries in its index. If other translated books are similar we should be able to extract several hundred thousand names from them.
These are only two easily accessible resources that can quickly improve our research base. I’ll discuss others later in this presentation.
For many reasons, our SIG has not actively pursued the many sources of data that are readily available. It is time to change that. It is time to revitalize our SIG. Our Mission for the next two years is to revitalize Ukraine SIG so that it becomes a useful resource for Jewish family history researchers.
- Form a new, “worker” Board
- Develop and implement a new research plan
- Improve communications
- Redirect focus from Guberniyas to Districts and Towns?
- “Democratize” the SIG?
I have begun appointing a new Board for Ukraine SIG. In addition to their decision-making roles, each Board member will have a particular job that helps the SIG achieve its Objective and fulfill its Mission. I hope to announce the members of the Board and their areas of responsibility within the next few weeks. Please let me know if you are interested in serving on the Board.
I mentioned earlier that in the past we had an Advisory Committee. Each member of that Committee was a Guberniya Coordinator, responsible for developing data sources for his/her Guberniya. However, I wonder if that is an effective model for the new Board. It seems to me that almost all the data that are available, are specific to towns or Uyezds (districts), not Guberniyas. So, perhaps we should have a town or district focus, something like JRI-Poland has. Perhaps each Board member’s responsibilities should focus on specific Projects, rather than Guberniyas. Or, perhaps each Board member should have a “functional” role like Towns Director or Projects Director. In the discussion period after this presentation, I would like to hear your thoughts about this, and we’ll continue the Discussion during our Open Board Meeting tomorrow.
Listening to you and communicating with you frequently is important. We must improve communication between the SIG leadership and those who are researching ancestors and towns in Ukraine. We will use the Discussion List, e-mail, and the annual IAJGS Conference to do this.