Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Dutch Jews Killed in the Holocaust

The Jews of the Netherlands were persecuted by the Nazis using the 
vast array of documents and records kept by the Dutch and Dutch Jews alike. Of the 140,000 recorded Jews living in the Netherlands 107,000 had been deported by Wars end. 30,000 Jews survived by hiding, escaping, or other means and only 5,000 of the deported Jews returned home.

You can find information on these people at the Joods Monument website. If you can research your lineage to Dutch Jews, Sephardic or Ashkenazi, I can almost guarantee you have relatives listed on the website. The basic information provided for each individual is their birth date, birth location, death date (sometimes deportation date which is the assumed death date), death location, and last recorded residence. As well there is very large community of people who add information to this website; things like pictures, documents, stories, if there are living relatives (they don’t give any info on living relatives), biographies, and links to other family members pages also on the website.

For an example we will use the profile of Leendert Nunes Vaz. He was born November 17th, 1906 in Amsterdam and died at the age of 38 on February 16th, 1945 at Westerbork. The left column shows the home address and lists everyone in the household. Right above Leendert’s name on the left you can see a blue bar. This blue bar is part of a color coded bar system the website uses to distinguish who was in the household. Tall blue bars are adult men; tall red bars are adult women. Half-length green bars are boys ages 6 to 21; half-length yellow bars are girls ages 6 to 21. Short light blue bars are boys 6 and under; short pink bars are girls 6 and under. A white bar indicates a member of the household survived the war and could still be alive.

For another example we will use the profile of Alida Lopes Dias. She was born in Amsterdam on Septermber 19th, 1929 and died at the age of 13 on June 11th, 1943 at Sobibor. We can see in her household she had an adult man (her father), an adult woman (her mother), a member who survived and could be living (a sibling), and a girl age 6 to 21 (Alida). Under the bars it says “Leendert Lopes Dias and his family” with a little i in a white box next the text. This is a link to information about the whole  household, with the i in a box indicating there is extra information on that page.

Underneath the link to the household information we see each family member listed (their name is a link to their page), their birth and death info, and their relationship to the head of household. Below that we see “One child living with it’s parent’s survived the war”. In the center column we see that she was on the children’s transport that went to Sobibor via Westerbork. It also lists where that information was obtained. In the right column we see a picture of Alida and underneath private collection. More than likely Alida’s surviving sibling sent this picture to the Joods Monument.

I suggest before you start searching the website to read the introduction, faq, and other subsequent pages to get a better feel for the website. They give a much better in-depth description of how the website works. Everything on the website is spelt the Dutch way; including Hebrew and Yiddish words. The search on the website is pretty straight-forward, just use keywords to narrow what you’re looking for if you are having trouble.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Friending My Sephardic Family; Using Facebook for Sephardic Genealogy

When I really started digging into my family genealogy I spent hours and hours online. In fact almost all of my research has been spent on the computer because of the massive amount of information on the internet. My first 'research' was finding trees built by distant relatives by googling family names and then putting them all into my own massive tree. I quickly found the website geni.com and used that as my main tree.

Most of these trees I found had been built from thousands of hours of research by older generations, usually on websites which dated to the late 90's and early 00's. I discovered that these trees had the names of many living relatives, some as close as 3rd cousins who I had never known about before. I started trying to find them by googling their names, searching the white pages online, and then by using Facebook.

I quickly found Facebook was an easy system to manipulate for my genealogy research. For all intents and purposes it has become something of a World Directory. It took patience but led to amazing discoveries, many which you can read in my previous post "Meeting Cousins". Here is how to manipulate Facebook to find living relatives and expand your tree.

The first step is to have a tree which has been traced back and then forward again. In other words, you need to have the names of living relatives who you are not in contact with. It is usually better to start with the people who will be easier to find. Here is some criteria to determine who will be easier to find;

1. Uncommon names - Either an uncommon surname or first name, especially a combination of both, helps narrow the search a lot.

2. Personal Info - The more information about the person and their immediate family you know the easier they will be to find. This can include age, location, education, and anything else people may list on their pages.

3. Bigger Families - By this I mean bigger immediate families, extending to their 1st and sometimes 2nd cousins. 

4. Millennial Generation a.k.a. Generation Y - Defined by William Strauss and Neil Howe as those born between 1982 and 2000, this generation is the one who Ive found uses Facebook most consistently across the world. 

Once you have a family of relatives you want to find it is now time to begin searching. Pick the name in the family member who meets the criteria best and type their name into the search bar. Make sure that the search only shows people. Now using the information you know about the person try to find someone who would be a match. If you aren't sure they are a match take a look at their profile.

If the profile is private then you are out of luck and will need to find another family member. The only other option is to message the person or friend them and explain you are searching for family. Be delicate with contacting people, it can sometimes come off creepy if handled badly. If they haven't made their profile private then you can look at their profile to try to determine if they are the person you are searching for.  One of the best ways to confirm and find more relatives at the same time is to search their friends list for their immediate family members. When you think you have found a match get in contact to confirm it. I would usually explain our exact relationship (basically the relationship path on geni.com) and then inform them about interesting information about our shared Tree. 

Once you have connected with your distant relatives there is a lot you can do. I just so happened to have pictures of my 3rd great grandparents which I was able to share with hundreds of relatives around the world who were also descendants. As well you can obtain priceless info from your distant relatives.  One thing I also did was create a group on Facebook for all the relatives to connect with one another, not just me. I also invited them to my tree on geni.com to help edit and make sure the tree was up to date. 

Another method of genealogy research with Facebook is using uncommon family surnames to search for living relatives from distant families not traced forward to current times. The double surnames in Sephardic families helps make this an easy tool for Sephardic Jews. I have even found groups dedicated to Sephardic families such as Lopes Dias, Mendes De Costa, Senior Coronel, and many more. While searching surnames on Facebook is much more of a shot in the dark it can have amazing benefits which can expand your tree further than you expected. Through these types of searches I was able to connect with many relatives who had been isolated by the Holocaust and find our blood lines to each other, sometimes having been the first blood relatives to contact them since the War.