Judaica Europeana: Online access to 10 collections

A two-year project has been launched to digitize, for online access, Jewish culture collections at 10 European institutions.

The European Commission provided $2 million for Judaica Europeana‘s $4.13 million project, which will digitize 10,500 photos, 1,500 postcards and 7,150 recordings, along with several million pages from books, newspapers, archives and press clippings, from the project’s partner libraries, archives and museums. It is part of a larger EC project to digitize general cultural resources.

The project will be headed by the European Association for Jewish Culture and the Judaica Collection of Frankfurt’s Goethe University Library. Other partners are:

= European Association for Jewish Culture Judaica Collection, Johann Wolfgang Goethe University Library, Frankfurt am Main
= Alliance Israélite Universelle, Paris
= The Jewish Museum of Greece, Athens
= Hungarian Jewish Archives, Budapest
= Ministero per i Beni e le Attività Culturali – Ministry for Cultural Heritage and Activities, Rome
= Amitié, Bologna
= The Emanuel Ringelblum Jewish Historical Institute, Warsaw
= Jewish Museum London
= The British Library, London
= MAKASH Advancing CMC Applications in Education, Culture and Science
= The Central Zionist Archives at the World Zionist Organization
= Paris Yiddish Centre – Medem Library

Judaica Europeana (JE) will also work on other digital collections for comprehensive coverage of Jewish life in European cities.

An aim of the project is to demonstrate how the addition of Judaica content leads to improved use in discovery, delivery, and cultural heritage resource integration for multilingual multicultural use by scholars, cultural heritage professionals, educators and students, cultural tourists and the general public.

Upcoming Judaica Europeana (JE) Events:

15 March 2010, Berlin:
Digital Access to Jewish Heritage Collections: JE and MICHAEL

14 April 2010, Jerusalem:
JE Seminar, Israel Association of Judaica Librarians
21-23 April 2010, Florence:

JE: Applying Semantic Web Technologies to access European Jewish

3 May 2010, Tel Aviv:
The European Digital Library: Europeana and JE
25-29 July 2010, Ravenna:

Judaica Partners presentations on urban Jewish studies and Judaica

30 July 2010, University of Bologna, Ravenna Campus:
The JE Digital Humanities Workshop

For more information, see the website above.

Historic Map Works: Digital map database

Historic Map Works was formed to create a historic digital map database of North America and the world, and it claims to draw on the largest physical collection of American property atlases.

Adding to its own own atlas collections, the Maine company has also incorporated scans of antique map collections from the Osher Map Library and Smith Center for Cartographic Education (University of Southern Maine). Combining the collections provides data covering several centuries.

Included maps come from US property atlases, antiquarian, nautical, birds-eye views, special collections (celestial, portraits and more), directories and other text documents. Currently, there are more than 1,181,308 individual images. For more information on the maps, click here.

You can also find 4,623 antiquarian international maps from 1,433 atlases. click here for a list of maps by country.

There are two ways to access Historic Map Works. Individual subscribers can view it here, while the Library Edition is distributed by ProQuest to public libraries and universities.

If you are a member (registration is free), view images in limited formats, but you must have credits deposited to your account to download a PDF, JPG, rotate, crop or print images. Enhanced access is via credits (credit card/PayPal) for pay-by-visit or via subscription ($29.99 per month for limited premium features; $249.99 for an annual subscription for full premium features, including built in credits for specific functions).

I found it to be a rather confusing system, although the annual subscription seems to offer the best deal. it is still rather expensive if you are looking for maps, for example, covering only one country. If your public library has the ProQuest Library Edition, that’s a much better way to access these resources.

According to the site, members can track ancestors to their homes; see the roads they traveled, and the names of their neighbors. Multiple layers allow members to see an area change over time, and the site’s Geocode feature allows comparison of historical and modern maps.

Maps are scanned at high-resolution, uploaded and cataloged for viewing, and geocoded to allow address searches on a modern map. Linking historic images with such data allows researchers to search by modern day address or coordinates. Viewers can also browse by geographic location, keywords, town names, mapmakers or by year.

The company also offers archival prints of the maps and giftware, so think gifts.

DNA: Was Columbus Jewish?

Every year, the theories get pulled out of the closet around the Columbus Day holiday.

So far, DNA is inconclusive. They say that although they’ve tested Colons, Columbuses and others bearing what might be the same name, results are inconclusive.

Of course, to a genealogist interested in genetic DNA testing, why didn’t they just test their findings against the largest DNA comparative database at FamilyTreeDNA. Exact matches might exist in that database, and comparing genetic matches and known family history might provide some additional answers.

According to American researchers, says the Telegraph – the mystery over his origins has finally been solved. According to a linguistics specialist, it shows that he was from the Kingdom of Aragon in northeast Spain and his mother tongue was Catalan.

Of course, there is also a related Telegraph story claim that the explorer was really a Scotsman named Pedro Scotto.

While some believe he was the son of a weaver born in Genoa, other countries claiming him at one time or another have been Greece, Catalonia, Portugal, Corsica, France and even Poland. He may have been Jewish – there are too many coincidences here (the many Conversos on his voyages, the connection with Tisha b’Av, and the strange graphic he signed his name with).

To see the Columbus’ crew list for the Nina, the Pinta and the Santa Maria, click here at JewByte and read an article which gathers many clues for the various theories. There’s a link to the crew list, and almost every name on that list can be found as a documented Jewish surname in Sangre Judia, by Pere Bonnin. [NOTE: I checked]

Back to the Telegraph. Georgetown University (Washington DC) linguistics professor Estelle Irizarry published new findings following detailed study of Columbus’ handwritten documents.

She concluded he was a Catalan-speaker man from the Kingdom of Aragon. [NOTE: Where, of course, many Jews lived pre-Inquisition.]

Irizarry’s just-published book “The DNA of the Writings of Columbus” explains that Castilian Spanish was not his first language and Aragon-region origins can be seen in his grammar and sentence construction.

About the DNA testing done several years ago, there are no conclusive results so far.

Scientists took samples from the Seville tomb of Columbus and from bones of his brother and son and compared them to hundreds of people across Europe who were swabbed and who bore modern-variants of Columbus’ surname.

Scientists had hoped to establish a common ancestor using standard Y-chromosome tests but they have yet to find a link.

So why don’t they just compare it to the big database at FamilyTreeDNA and see who the genetic material’s signature does match?

Genetic genealogy is what we use when the papertrail runs cold, when surnames are changed or unknown, or before surnames were required. By limiting the testing to those with similar names, the scientists have lost out on a huge pool of people among which some interesting results might be seen. A genetic match is a genetic match, despite the surname.

Some interesting ideas – read the complete article and related stories – but it could have been taken much further along.

DNA: Tracking Jewish glassmakers

A new FamilyTreeDNA project will track glassmaking families.

Judy Simon says she has created this project because:

Glassmaking was one of the few artisan professions where Jewish artisans were not forced to convert to Christianity and join guilds in order to continue to work as glassmakers.

As a result, many of the Jewish glassmaking families retained their Jewish identity for centuries in Christian Europe.

I thought it would be interesting to see if we can trace the Y-DNA of males who know their ancestors were in glassmaking, as well as males with any of the surnames associated with glassmaking.

Glassmaking has been a Jewish art from its Mesopotamian beginnings. According to historian Samuel Kurinsky, the spread of the craft was parallel to and coincident with the Jewish diaspora.

Scholars have traced the industry over 2,000 years as it spread from the Near East to the Ottoman Empire and Europe.

Since the glassmaking secrets were kept in the family for many centuries, there were relatively few families involved in glassmaking over the years as compared with other trades.

Surnames (most of these date back to Altari and Lorrainer glassmakers) associated with glassmaking over the centuries include:


Variants were adopted in English-speaking countries (e.g., BIGO -> BAGG, THIETRY -> TITTERY).

For more information, click on the Glassmaking Families DNA Project.

Consider joining the project if your paternal ancestors were in the glassmaking business or if your surname or variation is listed.

Questions? Contact Judy Simon, who is also co-administrator of the IberianAshkenaz Project.

European Day of Jewish Culture marked

Twenty European countries marked the 10th European Day of Jewish Culture dedicated to its rich Jewish heritage.

Participating countries this year included Belgium, Britain, Bulgaria, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and Ukraine.

In Italy, nearly 60 cities and towns opened their synagogues, community centers and other Jewish sites for shows, concerts, exhibits, conferences and other events related to Italy’s Jewish history. The main site was in Trani, in southern Puglia. A Jewish community still exists there five centuries after the expulsion of Jews from Naples.

In Turkey, the Jewish community even hosted an iftar (a fast-breaking dinner held during Ramadan) as one of the events.

In Bulgaria, the Shalom organization held an open house at the Jewish Community Center in Sofia, a few days before the 100th anniversary of the city’s main synagogue consecration.

B’nai B’rith initiated, in 1996, the European Day of Jewish Culture. The annual event attracts some 200,000 people across Europe each year for diverse events.

Music: Jewish Sound Archives news

Housed at Florida Atlantic University (Florida), the Jewish Sound Archives has just sent out its newsletter.

Among the topics:

– Jack Saul’s record collection

Jack Saul (Cleveland, Ohio) played a major role in that city’s music community, but was very well known as a record collector. His collection grew until his home was crammed with recordings, filling the basement, dining room, hallways and other rooms. No one has ever tried to count them, but JSA founder/director Nathan Tinanoff estimates there are some 150,000 recordings.

At 86, Saul died May 1, with his wife Hinda, and children Marlene, Howard and Ken. Just a few months earlier, during a February visit to JSA, he told his family that the archives would be a good place for the collection’s Judaica section.

About one third of Saul’s collection will go to FAU libraries. Some 6,000 recordings (about 12%) is going to the JSA, and includes Jewish performers, composers, conductors and Jewish content. About 85% will be used to create a vintage 78rpm collection at the FAU Libraries and the rest will be added to the library’s jazz collection.

According to Tinanoff, this is the largest single donation of Judaica records the archives has received, and is one of the finest private US collections.

Tracing the Tribe’s food for thought: Do you own some sort of collection with a Judaic focus? Do you know an older relative who might have amassed a collection? What will happen to those collections? Have you or they made provisions of the disposition of those collections to archives, libraries, universities, historical societies or other locations? Do your families know of your wishes? Perhaps it’s time to start thinking of what will happen to your collections?

– Recordings sought

JSA is looking for recordings featuring Marvin Hamlish, Stephen Sondheim, Burt Bacharach and Aaron Copeland. The archives wants recordings by all Jewish performers, composers and conductors for its collection. It also wants to expand its Sephardic and European record collections.

– JSA Home Page

The archives’ home page allows visitors to access more than 7,000 songs by more than 40 performers and performance groups.

Cick PERFORMERS tab for collections by specific performers.
Click RECORD LABELS tab for collections by recording label producers.
Click COLLECTIONS tab for a drop-down list of specific genres, ranging from Cantorial to Yiddish, and available recordings within the genre or language.

Happy listening!