In a previous post, we discussed some of the features available on JewishGen. Beyond those features, though, JewishGen’s All-Country databases have millions of indexed records that can be of significant help in tracing one’s family back several generations within Europe.
JewishGen volunteers have acquired millions of vital records, census records, and other documents of genealogical interest. As these records are indexed, they are organized into different All-Country databases, specific to the region covered by those records. Regions covered range from Eastern European countries (including Ukraine, Lithuania, Belarus, Hungary, Poland and others) to Western Europe (including Germany, France, the United Kingdom and others) and additional places such as the United States and South Africa. Each database contains indexes of records specific to that area and must be searched separately. A full list of available searchable databases (all of which can be searched with a free JewishGen account). Since borders often changed, make sure to search any All-Country database that could have been applicable to your ancestral town.
Various Special Interest Groups (SIGs) coordinate the process of obtaining and indexing records and then getting those indexes available for search on JewishGen. Each SIG operates a bit differently—some setting up projects by towns, others by district, and others having large projects covering the entire area of interest to a particular SIG. Each project within a SIG has different agreements with local archives, so while some indexed records are linked to an image showing the original record, others are not. Often indexed entries will reference a position on a FamilySearch microfilm where the original image can be found., while others will refer a researcher to a specific location in a European archive where the original record is located. It is always best to look at the original record, as often there is information beyond what is in the index.
The types of records in these databases span a wide range including vital records (birth, marriage, divorce and death), various types of census records, military records, lists of business owners, migration records and more. Each database gives a list of the document types that are included—and that is regularly updated as additional data sets are added.
JewishGen is always looking for people to lead additional projects, help with transcription of records, and for donations which are used to help various projects acquire records and sometimes pay for translation expertise. Generally donations above a certain amount entitle those donors to full transcriptions of records from the area of interest well before they are searchable on JewishGen. In addition, these full transcriptions are in Excel format which allow for searching and sorting functionality beyond what JewishGen’s search interface allows.
Indexed records are being added regularly, so if you can’t find records for your town of interest on JewishGen, check back—or better yet, volunteer to lead a project that will get those records and make them accessible to you and to others researching the same area. An example of a project I run, which obtained records for me and for many others researching the same area can be seen here [https://larasgenealogy.blogspot.com/2013/06/deciphering-history.html]. Even if you can’t read the original images, you can still coordinate the acquisition of documents; likely someone else researching the town will be able to help you with transcription from the original language to English.
While some of these records are available on Ancestry (due to an agreement made between JewishGen and Ancestry years ago), it’s important to realize that records obtained in the past decade or so by JewishGen are not available on Ancestry—and those older records on Ancestry often have additional information via JewishGen.