A valuable resource for beginning family history research is the reference book entitled Where Once We Walked: A Guide to the Jewish Communities Destroyed in the Holocaust, by Gary Mokotoff and Sallyann Amdur Sack (Revised ed. Teaneck, NJ: Avotaynu, 2002; USHMM Library Call Number: Ref DS135 .E83 M65 2002). This massive work documents more than 21,000 towns in Central and Eastern Europe where Jews lived before the Holocaust. It pinpoints each town’s location by providing the exact latitude and longitude of the town and its direction and distance from the closest major city. It also provides Jewish population figures from before the Holocaust. Finally, for those who want more information about the Jewish history of the towns, each entry includes citations to other sources that reference that town.
A typical entry looks like this:
The capitalized abbreviations are codes which refer to reference sources for additional information on that particular town. A key to these codes appears at the front of the book and includes a brief description of the work cited. For example, the key indicates that "EDRD" refers to the following work:
The bibliographic information is followed by a description of the work:
Similar citations and descriptions are provided next to each abbreviation in the key.
Be warned that the value of information in each citation varies widely from one work to another or from one town to another. Information may range from a simple mention of a town to a full description of its fate. Therefore, much leg-work is often needed to secure the necessary information.
NOTE: While the Library holds many of the resources cited in Where Once We Walked, it does not hold all of them. Check with the Reference staff or search the Library catalog to determine our relevant holdings.
Because of the numerous changes to town names, and because of the varieties of spellings for each town name, Where Once We Walked also includes more than 15,000 alternate names by which the localities were known. These include Yiddish names, names under former political systems, and synonyms. This work also provides a unique index to town names using the Daitch-Mokotoff Soundex System, which allows the researcher to locate a town's entry based on how it sounds rather than how it is spelled. You might also want to consult The JewishGen ShtetlSeeker for help in determining the spelling of a town's name and its location.