JewishGen Discussion Group #JewishGen The CIA's CREST database goes online for the first time -- eleven million records #general
The CIA's CREST database has just gone online for free public access.
While most of these eleven million records have been declassified for
years, they were previously only available to researchers who used the
computers onsite at the National Archives (NARA II) in College Park,
Maryland. They are now searchable in the CIA's online "Electronic
While the text of the files is basically searchable, the OCR on the
text is not great, owing to the mixed quality of the original copies,
many of which were typewritten, copied several times and redacted, and
Besides doing a search on surnames, you might be able to find some
information about your ancestral shtetls and towns in this database.
There appears to have been a CIA survey done of most towns in Ukraine
and Poland and Lithuania in the 1950's, maybe other USSR-occupied
areas too, and those reports are in this database.
For example, here is the CIA's 1954 survey of "Nadvornaya", which was
the then-contemporary Russian/USSR name for what we would call
Nadvirna (Ukrainian) or Nadworna (Polish):
As you can see, there are lots of details included about the town and
its inhabitants and its buildings.
Make sure to search for your town name using alternate spellings,
concentrating on the Russian/Soviet versions in use in the 1950's.
Even countries sometimes have alternate spellings in these documents,
i.e. Rumania instead of Romania.
I also found that there are some phonebooks in this record collection,
although it's very hard to find them with the search tool.
Here's a 1958 phonebook for several major cities in the Czech Republic
And here's a 1957-1958 phonebook for Lodz Voivodeship, USSR, which is
And here's the 1955 phonebook for Leipzig, then in East Germany:
And here's the 1966 phonebook for Kalinin, which is today known as
Tver, Russia, about 110 miles northwest of Moscow:
(Note: searching the CREST database on the phrase "telephone
directory" seems to work better at unearthing these gems than
searching on the word "phonebook", but you will also get many false
hits for the CIA's own internal telephone directories.)
There are also a number of reports about Nazi concentration camps,
Soviet labor camps and gulags, and more Cold War era military
documentation than you can believe.
- Brooke Schreier Ganz
Mill Valley, California