Saturday, April 6, 2013

The Federation of East European Family History Societies

I have found that there are many of the people I talk to who trace their ancestry to Eastern Europe and uniformly, there is a lack of English language resources for researching Eastern European ancestors. Additionally, few of the records have made their way into the online digitization efforts. For example, looking in the FamilySearch.org list in the Historical Record Collections, there are no records listed, as yet, for Albania, only one collection for Armenia, and nothing for Bulgaria. Of course, access to these countries and many others has been severely limited but the availability of the records is a huge challenge. 

The Federation of East European Family History Societies (FEEFHS) was organized in 1992 as an international organization to promote genealogical research in Eastern and Central Europe without any ethnic, religious, or social distinctions. They focus on the following countries: Albania, Armenia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Kosovo, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Macedonia, Moldova, Montenegro, Norway, Poland, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, and Ukraine.

This is a huge and varied collection of countries with very little in common other than their geographic proximity. Quoting from the FEEEFHS website:
The Federation of East European Family History Societies (FEEFHS) was organized in 1992 as an international organization to promote genealogical research in Eastern and Central Europe without any ethnic, religious, or social distinctions. 
FEEFHS provides a forum for individuals and societies focused on specific countries and ethnic groups to exchange information they have in common with others, and to be updated on developments in the field of East European genealogy in general. While FEEFHS primarily serves the interests of North Americans in tracing their lineages back to a European homeland, it welcomes members from all countries. UNITY - HARMONY - DIVERSITY is our motto. We welcome and encourage co-operation among all societies and individuals, regardless of present or past strife in the homelands of Central and Eastern Europe.
The FEEEFHS will be having its the 20th Annual Eastern European Research Workshop in the Plaza Hotel in Salt Lake City, Utah, August 6 through 10, 2013. Click here for information: Workshop Information, Online Registration, and Blog. Just a note, I couldn't find anyway to subscribe to their blog via RSS feed.

3 comments:

  1. There are no digitized collections for Romania either. Even the collections of older records for Hungary and Austria (which once included portions of today's Romania, among others) omit records from outside today's borders. When FamilySearch announced the digitization priorities a few years ago, the smaller countries of eastern Europe were nowhere on the list.

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  2. There are many more English-language resources for Eastern European research than people seem to think. Some are listed on FEEFHS, while many others are not. It just takes some searching. Even though my specialty is in Latvian genealogy, and my website reflects that (and is listed on FEEFHS), I also follow many bloggers who post guides, tips and resources for Poland, Germany, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Ukraine and so on.

    The records themselves will still be in the original languages, but that shouldn't scare people off. Armed with a genealogical wordlist and some patience, one can find many amazing things. Also important to know is that while the languages used in these countries may vary, the languages in the old records vary less - with many countries having been either under the Russian or German or Austro-Hungarian empires, most records will be in one of those languages rather than the local languages. For example, not speaking Latvian is not much of an impediment to doing pre-First World War research, since most of those records are in Russian or German. It is only after the First World War that Latvian makes a substantial appearance.

    Listings on FamilySearch are also a poor reflection on digitized Eastern European resources. Many Eastern European archives have been digitizing their material themselves, and posting it on their own websites, rather than going through organizations like the Family History Library. Particularly exemplary in this category is Saaga, the Estonian Historical Archives' offering, which greatly surpasses the Estonian collections held by the Family History Library, let alone what is available online through FamilySearch. Then there is my most-used tool, Raduraksti, from the Latvian State Historical Archives. Not as extensive as Saaga, but they are working on it. Latvia doesn't have any records listed on FamilySearch.

    Now, of course, not all countries have embraced the digital world of archival records, but the number is growing daily, and the information is out there should you choose to look.

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  3. Just for clarification: The countries covered on the FEEFHS website are related to four geographical areas of interest--The German Empire, the Russian Empire, the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and the Ottoman Empire. There are a handful of other countries that were affected by these empires briefly and are therefore included on the website.

    This is my second year as conference administrator; my husband and I have just recently volunteered to help with the website administration as well. I would welcome any input about record resources that should be listed on the site, and any volunteers that would like to help me keep the resources for any particular country up to date. For many years FEEFHS has been considered one of the best web resources for researchers in this area. I wish to help them maintain as current a listing as possible.

    Sorry James that you couldn't find an RSS feed on the blog. Much of what you see on the feefhsworkshop.org site has only been put up in the past month. It will eventually all be merged under feefhs.org, but for now, it was easier to get the workshop information built separately. I have added that widget now. We also have subscription links for both societies and individuals who might wish to stay in touch with FEEFHS in the future. Unlike the workshop blog, I'm hoping that information disseminated in that way will have a broader appeal including updates on records and resources as they become available.

    For now, I would invite anyone interested in the workshop to read more at feefhsworkshop.org or email me directly - conference@feehfs.org. If your organization would like the press release or a PDF or jpg of our invitation, please let me know.

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