Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Tuesday's Tip ~ Using JewishGen's ViewMate

I recently learned of another great feature at JewishGen, a wonderful online research for Jewish Genealogy. From JewishGen's ViewMate page:
ViewMate allows JewishGen participants to post photographs and documents online, and request help in translating or identifying information.
Here you can submit:
  • Photos: for identification of people, clothing, buildings, scenes, objects, artifacts, etc.
  • Letters, documents, book pages, maps, etc. for analysis or translation.
This past month, I posted photographs of gravestones with quite a bit of Hebrew on them. I shared these images at JewishGen's ViewMate to see what translations might be provided by volunteers. I thought it might be helpful to share my experience.

First of all, you have to have an account with JewishGen. It is free to have an account, and a donation gives you additional search features and access to additional databases. There is no cost to use ViewMate. You can reach the ViewMate page via the link above, or under "Research" on the home page.

The Image Gallery shows the current images that people are asking questions about. This can give you an idea of what you might want to ask and you can see if there are any questions that you can answer.

The Instructions are a good place to start. Read through them carefully in order to get the best results to your query.

Upload Your Image - I would strongly suggest reading through the instructions and the FAQs before uploading your image. See below for my thoughts on this process.

Help! is how you can contact the folks at JewishGen if you want to offer a suggestion, share a success story, or ask for additional help.

The FAQs offer additional details on how to prepare your images for uploading, as well as how to manage your images after they have been uploaded.

Archived Images show older images that are no longer on the "active" list for replies. Your image remains in the Image Gallery for one week, after which it goes into the Archived Images.

My ViewMate is your home page, were you will see your ViewMate Postings. Below is what mine looked like last week when I was looking for translations for the Hebrew on the Handler gravestones.

This screen offers a few additional options in the left menu to view your postings depending what their status is.


More details on uploading your images

You can upload a maximum of five files in a seven-day period. When you upload a file, first you will see a small image of it which you can click on to see in full size. If the image looks readable, you click the Acceptable button.

Next is a screen that asks for additional information about the image. At the very least, you need to select the category of the image, (I show a screen shot of the categories at the left), and ask a question (which is the last item on this page). The remaining items are optional: a family surname, country, town, and date of image, if known.

The section where you can ask a question offers you up to 1,000 characters, so you can offer a bit of an explanation if you think it might help a volunteer with a translation or interpretation. For example, if you want the translation on the back of a photograph, indicate what the photograph is of (e.g. a wedding couple). Then click on "Add to submission list" but don't worry if you realize you want to ask the question differently; you have a chance to edit later.

You will be brought back to the My ViewMate Image Uploads List where you can see what your submission will look like. It is from here that you can edit it or remove it. You are reminded that you can submit no more than five images a week, but it looks like you can upload as many as you like, then submit them later.

At the right of each image is the Submit link. After you click on this link, you will see a message that your file was successfully submitted. However, it will be a day or two until your submission appears in the Image Gallery. You will get an email once it has been posted.

You will then get an email each time a volunteer has posted a response to your query with a link to your ViewMate page. You can click on the View Responses link to see what others say. After a week, the image is closed to additional responses, or you can close it before then.

I was lucky - volunteers saw the images of the gravestones in the Image Gallery and offered translations and additional information about the Hebrew. However if you participate in JewishGen mailing lists, you can share that you have made a posting and notify others (who might not look at ViewMate very often) to take a look.

If you use ViewMate, let me know in the comments if you have had success.


  1. Have not seen this yet at JewGen . Thanks for tip !


    1. You're welcome. This feature does seem somewhat hidden, so I thought I'd shine a little light on it for my readers.

      Thanks for reading and commenting.