Wednesday, June 16, 2010

An Untapped Genealogical Resource: Pre-War Gravestone Photos from Europe

One of the resources for genealogical discovery not often thought about, I don't think, are old pre-war photographs or films, e.g. where names of Jewish businesses are displayed on various signs, or where there are photographs of pre-war matzevot (gravestones) from Europe are displayed. The latter, of course, is intriguing as many of these matzevot that we can see now online no longer exist, having been destroyed at sometime from then until now.

For instance, in my latest display of Lodz Ghetto Cemetery data I have displayed at least two photos of the cemetery grounds where one can distinguish the names inscribed on at least two matzevot, one for a Sura Goldkrantz and the other for a Rivka Leah Borenstein (Borenstejn perhaps in Polish). The first photo can be found at; the Borenstein gravestone photo can be found above or at There are photos like these that are found on a number of sites, e.g. the US Holocaust Memorial Museum (, not to mention others. It might be a good project--that shouldn't take that long at all--for someone to do a limited search on such sites and find such matzevot photos, and where there are names inscribed that are legible, to make a list of them, i.e. at least the name of the deceased and the town in which the cemetery is located. Then you can post them for all of us to see. Of course, you're welcome to send this list to me and I will make the list available to all online.

Of course there are many matzevot still extant within the many cemeteries of Europe, and many photos have been taken of them and put online. Many, however, are broken, missing or otherwise eroded to the point of being indistiguishable. Surely, though, there are photos online or elsewhere of matzevot that are no longer extant, that can be of genealogical value to those who are researchers of particular surnames or towns.

Just an idea for a project that sounds interesting to me. What do you think?

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