Letter from the Belarus SIG Coordinator
The Belarus SIG has come a long way in a very short period of time thanks to the hard work of many volunteers. It is difficult for me to believe that from an informal exploratory meeting of approximately twenty people at the Summer Seminar in Los Angeles on July 14, 1998, we have grown to 363 members with an active Belarus Discussion Group, Belarus SIG web site, on-going research projects, and now our first issue of the Belarus SIG On-line Newsletter. All of this in less than four months!
The Belarus SIG - A New Model For Special Interest Groups
In setting up the structure of the Belarus SIG, we have forged a new model for Jewish genealogical special interest groups with the help of JewishGen, Inc. We have no fixed dues structure and only ask that our members contribute time and or funds to support research projects related to Belarus. For US taxpayers financial donations are tax deductible. Through JewishGen-erosity, Susan King has provided us with ability to collect and disburse funds for our research projects without the need to have a SIG treasurer and separate SIG bank account. JewishGen has also provided the technical support and listserver for our discussion group, web site and now our newsletter. We are indeed grateful to Susan King, Carol Skydell, Warren Blatt, Michael Tobias, Bernie Kouchel, Joyce Field, and the rest of the JewishGen support team.
Most of the other SIGs produce printed newsletters which require the expense of printing and mailing. To eliminate these administrative expenses as well as the volunteer effort to distribute hard copy newsletters, the Belarus SIG has embarked on a new course - an on-line newsletter. We are indeed fortunate to have Bryan Polikoff from the United Kingdom and Elsebeth Paikin from Denmark heading up our newsletter. They have been working closely with Risa Heywood, our Belarus SIG webmaster, to make this first on-line newsletter one that will set the standard for others to emulate.
Thanks To All The Volunteers
We have had many members of the SIG come forward to volunteer in various capacities. I have already mentioned Bryan, Elsebeth and Risa as well as the JewishGen support team, but there are many others who are working behind the scenes to make this SIG a successful venture that will help us all in our mutual interest in researching our family roots in Belarus. I am reluctant to list all the volunteers for fear of omitting someone. If I do so please forgive me. Sandra Grabosky has been reviewing the JewishGen Family Finder and some of the other discussion groups recruiting new members. Joel Spector has been working on a database of shtetls, uzeds, gubernii, and references to source publications with articles about the shtetls. Roberta Solit who has visited the Library of Congress and made copies of the Vsia Rosiia for the translation group. Vitaly Charny has provided a surname database of the Minsk vital records. We are waiting to get this file on the web site in a searchable database. And lest I forget, a special thanks to all the people below who are working on various projects.
Status of Projects
1903 Vsia Rosiia (Russian Business Directory) - Tom Gartman and his team of volunteer translators (Ira Leibowitz, Mark Grekin, Mike Mogilevsky, Adrienne Narrows, Jane Rollins, and Bert Lazerow) have completed work on the Minsk Gubernia pages. Tom is trying to obtain some data that was unreadable on the hard copies because of the poor quality of the microfilm. Once this is complete, the database will be submitted to Michael Tobias who will convert it to a searchable database on the web site. Tom and his team have started work on transliterating the Mogilev gubernia pages from the Russian Business Directory.
Minsk Uzed (District) Economic History Survey - This project is estimated to cost $500 and donations for this project are close to the target. Thanks to those of you who have made a financial commitment to this project. I have authorized Oleg Perzashkevich to begin work.
Minsk Yizkor Book Translation - I have found a volunteer without any connections to Belarus to translate/transliterate the table of contents and the name indices of both volumes. She has started work on this task. Once completed, the results of this effort will be made available on the SIG web site.
Translation of the Mogilev Vital Records - We are looking for someone to take on the job of coordinating and organizing this project. It will require assembling a team of people who can make hard copies of the LDS microfilms, translate the records and enter the data into an Excel spread sheet. We have a number of members who have volunteered to help with the translations. If you are willing to take on the challenge, please contact me by private e-mail: David M. Fox
Mogilev Birth Index - Bella Nayyer has translated an index of male birth records that was found on one of the LDS microfilms. We are indeed grateful for Bella's effort. There are some limitations with the index. First, female births are not included. Second, it lists the name (first, surname, and sometime the patronymic) of father, not the child. Third, the index does not include all the years for which microfilm birth records are available. I am waiting to convert Bella's word-processing file into an Excel spreadsheet. When completed, this index will be placed on the web site.
Translation of the 1834 Borisov Revision List - Mike Levine is the project leader of this effort. Work is progressing.
Translation of Senno 1861-64 Birth Records - Bernard Dickman has provided hard copy from the microfilm. We need a volunteer to take charge of this project.
Translation and Indexing of Minsk Gubernia Revision Lists - Vitaly Charny has started work on this project with the 1811 Revision (census) List.
The Belarus SIG is up and running, but we have a long way to go. The future success of this SIG is dependent on the continued participation of our members. If you think something needs doing, volunteer to head up a team to do it or it will never get done.
Hopefully some of you have taken the web page construction course being offered on JewishGen. The skills gained in the course should enable you to develop ShtetLink pages and perhaps offer assistance to our webmaster, Risa Heywood. When you attend your local Jewish Genealogy Society meeting, it would be beneficial for you to talk up the SIG and solicit new members. Speaking of members, some people in your societies may not have e-mail or web access and may have research interests in Belarus. If you know of these people, encourage them to get "on-line". Until they do so, offer to share the information you gain from the discussion group, web page, and newsletter. You may even want to print out copies of this newsletter to share with them. In closing I would again like to thank all of you who have contributed to the SIG.
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