Family Tree of Jewish Ostrów Mazowiecka
on the eve of the Holocaust
A very special project involving the Ostrow Mazowiecka Research Family was introduced at the OMRF meeting on August 12, 2006 at Ben's Deli in New York. It's not often that we have the opportunity to become part of a groundbreaking project but we Ostrova researchers are in that position today.
The Initial Project
The International Institute for Jewish Genealogy (IIJG) in Jerusalem has selected our town for a pilot project in its efforts to create a family tree for every Holocaust victim memorialized with a Page of Testimony (PoT) at Yad Vashem. In the spirit of "Am Yisrael Chai", where possible, the goal will be to bring the family tree down to the present, identifying living individuals who are related to these victims. By concentrating on one town and merging and clustering these trees it is hoped that it will be possible to virtually recreate the Jewish population and its webs of kinship on the eve of the Shoah (1939).
The International Institute for Jewish Genealogy (IIJG) is a nonprofit, academic research institute associated with the Jewish National and University Library in Jerusalem. See articles in Avotaynu, Vol. XXII, Summer 2006, "Reconstituting the Destroyed Communities of Europe", Vol. XX, Fall 2004, "The Next Step; Jewish Genealogy Goes Academic" and Vol. XXI, Winter 2005, "International Institute for Jewish Genealogy Opens it Doors."
The Institute is proposing to undertake a pilot study in association with JRI-Poland, the Ostrow Mazowiecka Research Family and Yad Vashem. This is a first step in what is conceived as a massive long-term Holocaust-related genealogical study. The goal is to test the possibility of reconstructing - from a genealogical point of view - a Jewish community that was wiped out during the Holocaust. Ostrow Mazowiecka has been selected because of the massive amount of data that we have - likely the most complete information on the Jewish population of any Eastern European town. For information click here. Be sure to go to the bottom of the page and click where indicated for a progress report.
The Long-Term Project
The IIJG conceives of this as a large project extending over many years, requiring appropriate funding, and also necessitating active approval and participation by Yad Vashem. The fundraising will be handled by the Institute. A computer program will be developed to identify individuals whose family names are spelled differently in different records. Yad Vashem, in conjunction with other Holocaust-involved institutions, has done considerable research in this area, as has JRI-Poland. Both will be consulted on this subject.
Two other computer programs will be necessary, one to create family trees from the data within the Yad Vashem database itself, and another to merge the family trees of OMRF researchers. Although as much as possible will be computerized, individual human input will be an important part of the process and each Ostrow Mazowiecka researcher can play a role.
Ostrow Mazowiecka Resources
Our town was selected as the pilot community because of the many resources available for the Jewish population.
Some resources are currently included in the JRI-Poland database and others were created by the OMRF and not yet published. They include:
1. Books of Residence (house by house census of town's inhabitants) 2. Vital Records (1808-1905, and some later records) 3. Marriage Supplements (1826-1890) 4. Population Movement Register 5. Yizkor book 6. Pages of Testimony 7. Existing family trees 8. Cemetery sections for largest communities of émigrés (New York and Chicago) 9. Survivor Testimonies; Yad Vashem, USHMM, Jewish Historical Institute 10. Survivor Lists; Jewish Historical Institute 11. Miscellaneous: Lists of Shanghai Jews, Monitor Polski court announcements, unpublished court records, draft evaders, etc.
To bring the trees down to the present, other large databases might prove useful, specifically, the Hamburg Emigration Index and Database, the Ellis Island database, the U.S. Social Security Death Index and others. In the months to come, the IIJG will flesh out the initial steps. But one thing we know for sure and that is that EACH ONE of our family trees will be needed
Organizations and Agreements
A three way agreement has been developed with the OMRF, the IIJG and Jewish Records Indexing -Poland.
Key to this agreement is that the privacy of those individuals in the family trees submitted to this project by OMRF members will be fully protected, and that the IIJG will share any final compilation with the OMRF.
What you can do immediately
If you have postponed filing Pages of Testimony at Yad Vashem for members of your family, please give yourself a deadline and get this done. Since the Pages of Testimony and Yizkor Book list are the starting points in identifying those murdered in the Shoah, we want to make it as complete as possible as soon as possible.