Online gene pool to help unlock the past

By Leon Symons, December 11, 2008

Millions of records from 14 countries were placed online this week as a result of a major link-up between two genealogical websites.

The new records potentially contain information about a host of British personalities who are either Jewish or have Jewish ancestry. They include David Beckham, Rachel Stevens, Sacha Baron Cohen, Ben Elton, Stephen Fry, Esther Rantzen, Matt Lucas and many others.

Under an agreement between and JewishGen, historical records will be made available free on the ancestry site from the Holocaust database (including wartime records of displaced persons, refugees, ghetto and transmigration records), Schindler’s List, memorial books from Holocaust survivors, registers of births, marriages and deaths from 14 countries, and information from the ShtetlSeeker website, which gives locations and spellings of historic Jewish villages in Europe.

There will also be 150,000 records from the American Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) never previously published.

Lawrence Harris, chairman of the Jewish Genealogical Society of Great Britain, welcomed the move as a significant benefit.

“Our members will be very pleased because this will give them an alternative way of searching that may be slightly easier and could give them a different set of results.

“It will also help them choose the right tools and how to use them. In turn, we will make that help available to the general public as we are happy to answer general inquiries,” said Mr Harris. “The new material released is also welcome.”

Jewish family history researchers will now be able to search JewishGen’s 300-plus historical records. In addition, they will be able to utilise more than seven billion names and 25,000 historical records on the ancestry site. The newly released records from the JDC relate to the thousands of Jews the organisation helped to escape from the Nazis and then resettled around the world. They also refer to those who made their homes in Israel from the end of the 19th century.

JewishGen managing director Warren Blatt said: “This partnership between JewishGen and demonstrates a commitment both to preserving Jewish heritage and providing the public with unprecedented access to those records. The impact on the genealogy community will be significant. Not only will they now have the use of powerful search tools, they will also be able to find everything in one location.”

Last updated: 1:36pm, December 11 2008