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JewishGen Online Worldwide Burial Registry

JOWBR FAQ
Frequently Asked Questions and Answers

by Nolan Altman

The JewishGen Online Worldwide Burial Registry (JOWBR) aims to catalog data about Jewish cemeteries and burial records worldwide, from the earliest records to the present.
JOWBR is a searchable database of names and associated information, including photographs of gravestones.
As of June 2014, JOWBR contains more than two million burial records from 4,400 cemeteries in 85 countries.
Search JOWBR Data Inventory
Submitting Data Screencasts
Why JOWBR? FAQ
JOWBR Updates

  1. Introduction:
    1. What is JOWBR?
    2. What are the sources of information for the JOWBR database?
    3. Who submits information for the JOWBR database?
    4. How do I know if JOWBR includes records for a cemetery I'm interested in?
    5. What is the connection between JOWBR and the IAJGS Cemetery Project?
  2. Search Results:
    1. What information is available?
    2. Why isn't there information in all the fields?
    3. Are the records 100% accurate?
    4. How can I correct errors I find in the search results?
    5. How can I make additions to the search results?
    6. The date information includes time of day. Is that correct?
    7. My results included a photo of the headstone but I can't read Hebrew.  Where can I get more information on reading Jewish tombstones?
    8. When I got back my search results, I saw a little headstone icon under some names.  What does that mean?
    9. Where can I find basic information about the cemetery for any specific burial record?
  3. Searching the Database:
    1. Can I see all the records for a specific cemetery?
    2. What if my ancestors only used patronymic names?
    3. Are there any special considerations for Romanian records?
    4. Are there any special considerations for Sephardic records?
  4. Helping to Grow the JOWBR Database:
    1. How can I submit data for the JOWBR database?
    2. What information is submitted by a donor?
    3. Do I lose the rights to any of the information that I donate?
    4. Can I submit photos of headstones?
    5. Can I submit my family information to the database?
    6. What if the inscriptions on the headstones are in a language other than English?
    7. Can I help translate/transliterate headstone photos?


1.   General


1. a.   What is JOWBR?

The JewishGen Online Worldwide Burial Registry (JOWBR) is a searchable database of names and other identifying information from Jewish cemeteries and burial records worldwide, from the earliest records to the present.

JOWBR's aim is to catalog extant data from Jewish cemeteries and burial records worldwide.  JOWBR also includes records for Jewish burials from cemeteries that are not exclusively Jewish cemeteries.  Photographs of the gravestones (matzevot) are also included in this database, if submitted.



1. b.   What are the sources of information for the JOWBR database?

Burial information is principally accumulated from the following sources:
1) headstones, 2) cemetery registers, and 3) published historical material.



1. c.   Who submits information for the JOWBR database?

Volunteers like you!  We encourage all JewishGen users to help us grow the JOWBR database, by indexing the cemeteries or cemetery sections which include burials of interest.  We also are pleased to help local genealogical societies and other genealogical groups to establish cemetery indexing projects.

For more information, see Question 4: Helping to Grow the JOWBR Database.



1. d.   How do I know if JOWBR includes records for a cemetery I'm interested in?

JOWBR maintains an active inventory of the database's cemeteries and cemetery sections, at: http://www.jewishgen.org/databases/Cemetery/tree/CemList.htm.  The listings are arranged in a hierarchical folding tree menu – by country, then by region, then by city and finally, by specific cemetery or cemetery section.



1. e.   What is the connection between JOWBR and the IAJGS Cemetery Project?

The International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies (IAJGS) operates an International Jewish Cemetery Project.

The IAJGS' International Jewish Cemetery Project is designed to document Jewish burial sites worldwide.  Their website lists cemeteries and burial sites around the world — but not individual burial records.  If you are interested in seeing information about all "known" Jewish burial sites, please peruse the IAJGS' International Jewish Cemetery Project.

There is no formal connection between JewishGen's JOWBR database and the IAJGS' International Jewish Cemetery Project.



2.   Search Results


2. a.   What information is available?

As mentioned in Question 1.a, JOWBR collects data on burial records and cemeteries.

We have designed a standard "burial template" which includes the following burial data for each individual:
Plot Location, Surname, Given Name(s), Place of Birth, Date of Birth, Place of Death, Date of Death (English), Date of Death (Hebrew), Age at Death, Date of Burial, Hebrew Name, Spouse's Name, Father's Name, Mother's Name, Other Surnames and miscellaneous Comments.  However, please note that not all submissions include information for all of these fields.

The "cemetery information" template includes the following information for each cemetery:
Cemetery Name, Landsmanshaft / Section Name, Country, State, City, Street Address, Cemetery Description, and other miscellaneous Notes / Comments.



2. b.   Why isn't there information in all the fields?

The JOWBR database includes only the data that is submitted to us.  For example, if a volunteer is accumulating data from headstones, they are not likely to know places of birth or death, unless specifically inscribed on the stone.  Headstone inscriptions will also vary in date detail, ranging from a complete date (month / day / year) to only a stated age.  If the burial records are derived from registers, only names and date of death might be available.



2. c.   Are the records 100% accurate?

As explained in Question 2.b, JOWBR's data is submitted by volunteers.  Although we review the data for obvious errors, we do not check or verify the data.  There are many reasons why data may be in error: transliteration errors, errors on the headstone itself, errors recorded in a register, data entry errors when submitting the information to JOWBR, etc.



2. d.   How can I correct errors I find in the search results?

We are currently working on a mechanism to post corrections / adjustments to data within JOWBR's database.  At present, the only way to make a change is to completely delete a cemetery's data and then replace all the records with the adjusted data.  This process takes considerable human and processing resources, and given all the other work that is necessary within JewishGen, such replacements are typically given a lower priority.  However, significant numbers of additions, corrections or adjustments will be processed.



2. e.   How can I make additions to the search results?

Please see Question 2.d.  At present, only significant numbers of additions, corrections or adjustments will be processed.



2. f.   The date information includes time of day. Is that correct?

If your results show dates with times of day, most likely the data was formatted incorrectly.  Times of day are not entered with the dates in our database.  Within our Excel templates, we format dates as text and not as dates.  If the data are not formatted as text, the results will show a time of day.  Please let us know if you find incorrectly formatted results, and we will correct them.



2. g.   My results included a photo of the headstone, but I can't read Hebrew.  Where can I get more information on reading Jewish headstones?

JewishGen has an InfoFile entitled "Reading Hebrew Tombstones".  There are a number of other excellent sites that you can find with any popular search engines that will help you decode Hebrew headstones.  If you are still stumped, try posting your photo on JewishGen's ViewMate Project.



2. h.   When I got back my search results, I saw a little headstone icon under some names. What does that mean?

The headstone icon tells you that an actual headstone photo is available for viewing.  If you click on the link "View Full Burial Record", you will see all available fields, as well as the actual photograph of the headstone.  You can zoom and pan the headstone photograph using your mouse.



2. i.   Where can I find basic information about the cemetery for any specific burial record?

You can find basic information two ways. 1) Click on the hyperlink from the search results page.  You will see the name of the cemetery under the "View Full Burial Record" link.  2) You can also access the information from the full burial record screen.  Information available could include: cemetery name, section name, address, contact information, other description details, and possibly links to photos, maps or other descriptive documents.



3.   Searching the Database


3. a.  Can I see all the records for a specific cemetery?

No.  In an effort to deter data-mining, we do not allow searches that will return all the burial records for any given cemetery.  For small European cemeteries, where surnames might not be available (Hebrew names or only patronymic names), we are looking at mechanisms that may allow a review of all those records.



3. b.   What if my relatives only used patronymic names?

If your relatives used only patronymic names (i.e.: there is no surname on the tombstone – which is common for 19th-century East European tombstones), then you can search by given name (i.e.: first name).  JOWBR's search interface provides many options.  Try using the "Given Name of Deceased", "Given Name of Father", or "Hebrew Name" fields when doing your searches.  We tried to cover all the possibilities, but realize that if you are looking for "Moses ben Aaron", there will be quite a few hits!



3. c.   Are there any special considerations for Romanian records?

Romanian patronymics create an interesting problem for women's names.  Women's patronymics may refer to either their father or their husband.  Therefore, it is not clear from lists of names whether the patronymic reference should be entered in the "Father's Name" or "Spouse's Name" column.  We would therefore suggest that you try all possibilities when conducting your searches.



3. d.   Are there any special considerations for Sephardic records?

It is sometimes difficult to determine given and surnames, as many surnames are taken from the given names of ancestors.  For completeness, we suggest that you search names as both "Surname" and "Given Name".  Looking at a register listing of "Joseph Elias Ezra", it is not clear whether "Elias" is part of the surname (ELIAS EZRA) or a second given name (Joseph Elias).  Therefore, try searching each surname separately as well as combined.  It is also possible that a given name may be the same as the surname.  This complicates the matter when searching for names such as "Silas Isaac SILAS" or "Abraham Joseph ABRAHAM".



4.   Helping to Grow the JOWBR Database


4. a.   How can I submit data for the JOWBR database?

JewishGen would greatly appreciate your help in continuing to grow the JOWBR database.  Please see the page "Submitting Data to JOWBR" for complete information, including the Donor Agreement and Excel template for JOWBR data entry.  There you will also find detailed instructions on how to use the template, as well as information on photograph submission requirements.

You can also watch JewishGen's video screencast series, "How To Submit Data To JOWBR".

If you have any further questions, please contact Nolan Altman, JOWBR Coordinator.



4. b.   What information is submitted by a JOWBR donor?

Complete submissions must include a signed Donor Agreement and the Cemetery Information tab from the standard Excel spreadsheet.  We would appreciate if you could also complete the Burial Template to the best of your ability.  You can submit your Donor Agreement via email (jowbrsubmissions@lyris.jewishgen.org), fax (646.437.4328) or postal mail.  Spreadsheets should be submitted to <jowbrsubmissions@lyris.jewishgen.org>.

If you are submitting only photographs for transliteration, please send the signed Donor Agreement, the Cemetery Information tab, and a CD containing copies of your digital photo files to the JewishGen office.   JewishGen's mailing address is:

JewishGen, Inc.
36 Battery Place
New York, NY 10280
USA



4. c.   Do I lose the rights to any of the information that I donate?

Absolutely not.  The Donor retains all of their rights to their data.  All JewishGen Donor Agreements are non-exclusive.  The JOWBR Donor Agreement clearly states that:

“... the Donor hereby grants to JewishGen a non-exclusive perpetual right to use, publish or distribute the donated material.  This right gives JewishGen no rights to the underlying data or information, and JewishGen shall in no way amend or modify such data or information.  The non-exclusivity of such right means that the Donor retains all rights to such data or information and may use, publish or distribute such data or information in any way the Donor chooses.”

Our goal is to make JOWBR a central repository of Jewish burial records, not to replace or diminish the importance of any Donor's site or source.



4. d.   Can I submit photos of headstones?

Yes.  If you would like to take photographs of all of the tombstones in a cemetery or cemetery section, please see FAQ sections 4.a and 4.b.  See the JOWBR Photograph Guidelines.

If you are looking to add photos to existing JOWBR records, we will consider adding them, depending on the number of photos you can add; see FAQ sections 2.d and 2.e.



4. e.   Can I submit my family information to the database?

No.  JOWBR cannot accept individual family burial data.  Because of the database's design, JOWBR only accepts data from an entire cemetery or an entire landsmanschaft/organization plot within a larger cemetery.  Therefore, unless your family burials comprise the entirety of a distinct section, we ask that you submit all the burials for the cemeteries/sections which include your family burials.



4. f.   What if the inscriptions on the headstones are in a language other than English?

If you can take photographs of the headstones and submit them to us, we will try to find volunteers who are familiar with the language(s) used.  We have a devoted group of volunteers who have been transliterating headstones and completing the data spreadsheets to be incorporated into the JOWBR database.



4. g.   Can I help translate/transliterate headstone photos?

Yes.  We would greatly appreciate your help in transliterating or translating tombstones for the JOWBR database.  Please contact Nolan Altman with your availability and the languages you are familiar with.



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