Dear Fellow Researcher of Jewish Genealogy,
Debate is a good thing, when done with an open-mind and good intentions.
I have been reading the on-going dialog regarding collaborative
genealogy in Avoytaynu, GENI, extracts >from the IAJGS conventions and my
own conversations with colleagues. I would propose to take the idea in a
different direction as well.
I find it interesting that most of the guides for beginners recommend a
first step of speaking to all living relatives. I find it interesting,
since while it is very important, it creates a problem. Novice
genealogists do not understand the importance of sourcing all facts.
After speaking to all living relatives, it is usually impossible at a
future point(sometimes years) to remember exactly "who told you what".
It is also unlikely that in the initial conversations you will ask those
relatives how *they* know the details they present. If we want to see a
more mature generation of genealogists, we need to at least offer the
focus. Of course there will always be those that just enjoy the thrill
of the hobby and have no interest in anything other than adding names.
That is fine; to each his own. But for those asking for guidance, a
comprehensive approach should start with the knowledge and importance of
the proper sourcing of all data. I personally found "Evidence! Citation
& Analysis for the Family Historianâ?? by Elizabeth Shown Mills, to be
an excellent resource.
I would like to propose the formation of a local group in Brooklyn for
the following purposes:
1. A website containing a sourced tree of our ancestral history,
starting with Adam
2. A database of the researchers of significant personalities in our
history, to facilitate collaboration and review of that information.
3. Frequent group meetings to present and discuss the data being
recorded in the collaborative tree and the adherence to standards
I can attest to the benefits of feedback >from several dedicated
researchers which actually resulted in the REMOVAL of several branches
from my tree of the Bnei Yissoschur, Reb Hersh Mylech SPIRA (1783-1841). This was accomplished by the sharing of vital records that
disproved some of the immediate family's claims of descent. Instead of
just deleting the family, they were added as a footnote, noting that
while there may still be truth in their claim, their line of descent was
not as they presented.
Overall, I hope that this effort will lead to
- A point of reference for new researchers.
- Encouragement of more researchers to publish their material, either
publicly (even online) or privately.
- A greater effort on the part of our community to create and uphold
unified standards for data input unique to the field of Jewish
genealogy. This will hopefully enable and ease the sharing of data
between different platforms and software products.
- A consolidated tree that researchers can contribute to (where only
properly sourced material would be accepted).
- Tolerance and documentation of alternate opinions, traditions and
conclusions of underlying data.
For those that are interested, I would propose an initial meeting in my
Succah during the intermediate days (Chol HaMoed) of Succos, in the
Midwood section of Flatbush. Please contact me directly via email if you
are interested, or know of someone that I should reach out to. I do
recognize that there are some serious researchers in the more religious
segments of Brooklyn that have limited/no access to email. I would like
to include them if possible as I think diversity will lead to a better
result for all, so also please let me know of anyone you believe I
should contact myself.
Wishing you all success in all your endeavors and a Shana Tova,
(September 6, 2015)