Ukraine SIG Digital Documents Acquisition Project

Project Leader

Ronald D. Doctor Ukraine SIG Coordinator

JewishGen Liaison/Advisor

Avraham Groll

Project Synopsis

The JewishGen Ukraine SIG is acquiring digital images of town and district-based documents from the LDS Family History Library (“FHL”) in Salt Lake City, and from the Central Archives for the History of the Jewish People (“CAHJP”) at Hebrew University in Jerusalem.

This Fundraising Project will pay for renting FHL microfilms, using the microfilm scanners at the FHL and its branch FamilySearch Centers (“FSC”), and for costs associated with acquiring digital images of documents from the Central Archives. The funds also will be used to pay for professional translators, if necessary.

The documents include vital records, revision lists (censuses), family lists, kahal documents and other similar materials. Jewish vital records on microfilm are available for 79 towns in Ukraine SIG's geographical area; family lists are available for 15 towns (including 4 towns for which vital records are not available); and revision lists for 158 districts are on microfilm. (Some of the revision lists do not include Jewish records and some are for Ukraine towns that are not included in Ukraine SIG's geographic area). In the first phase of the Project, volunteers will arrange for rental of the FHL microfilms and will make digital copies of the images at FSCs which have scanners.

Key Audience

The key audience for these projects is researchers who trace their Jewish ancestors to the towns covered by the microfilms and other records.

Project Importance

It has been difficult to obtain vital records, revision lists (censuses), family lists and other Jewish documents from archives in Ukraine. Individual researchers have obtained records for their families, but whole sets of town-based records are scarce. Now, there are two, more accessible sources of complete record sets: the LDS Family History Library (FHL) and the Central Archives for the History of the Jewish People (CAHJP). Obtaining records from these sources will greatly enhance research possibilities for those searching for traces of their Jewish ancestors in Ukraine.

Project Description

The FHL has Jewish vital records and family list microfilms for 83 towns and districts within the JewishGen Ukraine SIG's geographic area, plus revision lists and community records for about 158 districts. Within the past few years, the FHL and its associated FamilySearch Centers (FSCs) have installed microfilm scanners, which can be used to convert microfilm images to several useful digital image formats. Our volunteers will rent microfilms from the FHL and will use the FHL/FSC scanners to obtain digitized images of vital records, revision lists, and other relevant documents. After acquisition, we will initiate individual translation projects. The translations (but not the images) will be posted in the JewishGen Ukraine Database, and possibly other locations.

The Central Archives (CAHJP) is accelerating document acquisition from archives in Eastern Europe, especially Poland and Ukraine. The JewishGen Ukraine SIG has an arrangement with the Director of the Central Archives to obtain digitized images of the records they obtain at a discounted price (see the “Estimated Cost” section of this proposal, below). This agreement stems from cooperative activities between the Kremenets District Research Group and the Central Archives over the past five years. In addition, the CAHJP has agreed to accept our requests for records from towns outside the Kremenets District.

The project will be carried out in several overlapping phases:

  1. Identifying appropriate scanning resources, costs, and volunteers
  2. Document acquisition: scanning FHL microfilms, and digital images of CAHJP documents
  3. Translation / transliteration,
  4. Processing for posting in the JewishGen Ukraine Database and other places.

We will start by acquiring digital images of vital records and family lists from FHL microfilms, because we know which microfilms include specifically Jewish records. When this part of the Project is well underway, we will then begin working on revision lists. Volunteers for the JewishGen Ukraine SIG will rent and scan the microfilms at the Family History Library, at FHCs and at other places that have appropriate microfilm scanners and access to FHL microfilms. Concurrently, we will begin acquiring digital images of records from the CAHJP for selected towns. As we identify microfilms that contain revision lists with entries for Jews, we will add those to the digitization queue.

This Fundraising project will pay for microfilm rental, scanner use at the FHL, FSCs, and other locations, and for acquisition of record images from the Central Archives. Translation activities will begin as record images become available. We will start the translations with volunteers. However, it is likely that we will not be able to recruit sufficient numbers of volunteers with requisite dual-language skills (handwritten 19th-century Russian and Hebrew/Yiddish). If that is the case, the proceeds from this Fundraising Project will be used to pay for professional translators, but only as funds become available. See the next section for rough cost estimates.

An Excel spreadsheet attached to this message displays the vital records microfilms that are part of this project. The spreadsheet has three worksheets showing towns and FHL Microfilm numbers: (1) Microfilm numbers for each town sorted by district name, (2) Town names for each microfilm number, sorted by microfilm number, and (3) a list of towns organized by district and province. The first worksheet also has data showing the number of JGFF researchers for each town, the number of microfilm reels for each town, and the years those microfilm reels cover.

Estimated Cost

Estimated costs per FHL microfilm reel are:

  FHC Microfilm rental: Extended Rental $18.75 per reel
  FHC Scanner rental: 10 hours at $2.00 per hour
(assuming 100 frames per hour and 1,000 frames per reel)
$20.00 per reel
  TOTAL COST per reel for FHL acquisitions $38.75 per reel

In some cases, volunteers will be able to complete scanning for a microfilm reel within the initial rental period (6 weeks). In those cases, film rental cost will be $7.50 instead of $18.75. Nevertheless we have presented potential maximum costs for film rental.

Depending on where the microfilm reels are scanned, scanning may be free, or it may cost $0.10 (or more) per frame scanned, or it may cost as much as $2.00 per hour for scanner rental. We have assumed the latter for the cost per reel estimated above. Some reels will cost more to scan because they may have as many as 2,000 images on a reel. Most reels will cost less because they have fewer images than we have assumed for this cost estimate, or because there are no scanner rental fees (e.g. at the Center for Jewish History).

We have identified approximately 250 microfilm reels containing Jewish vital records and family lists. With the assumed unit costs calculated above, this means that the maximum total dataset acquisition cost will be approximately $9,700 for the FHL vital record and family list data.

In addition, the Central Archives will charge us $0.20 per frame for records they obtain from Ukraine Archives. Assuming 200 reels (equivalent), each with 1,000 frames, our acquisition costs there will be about $40,000.

Out total estimated acquisition costs for vital records and family list microfilms are:

  Acquisition of 250 LDS digitized reels $9,700
  Acquisition of 200 CAHJP digitized reels (equivalent) $40,000
  TOTAL COST estimated for digitized records acquisitions $49,700

Translation costs cannot be estimated with any precision at this time. Costs will depend on negotiations with potential translators who must be able to translate handwritten 19th-century Russian and Hebrew/Yiddish. We have a starting basis for negotiations using other translation projects and, especially the Ostrog and Kremenets District translation projects, which are ongoing.

These acquisition costs are manageable since they will be spread over almost 100 towns and over a period of about 5 years. We will follow a modified JRI-Poland model to provide donation incentives. Initial acquisition and translation priorities will be set according to the number of JGFF researchers identified for each town, the number of towns on each microfilm, and whether or not sufficient funds have been raised to pay for acquisition and translation.


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Updated 24 Mar 2013 by LA