When the sun sets on Wednesday, September 4, Jews around the world will celebrate the new year 5774. Rosh Hashanah begins earlier than usual this year. Actually, it hasn't fallen this early on the secular calendar since 1899. To understand the Jewish calendar, there's no better place to go than Steve Morse's remarkable One-Step web sites.
Many genealogists are familiar with Morse's portals for searching large databases like the Ellis Island Foundation. If you're looking for passenger lists, naturalization papers, census returns, or vital records, Steve Morse's powerful tools help in countless ways. Making sense of calendars can be a challenge for historians and genealogists. The Jewish calendar has fascinated Steve all his life, as he explains here. You'll find out exactly how it got to be 5774 already.
So how did a computer engineer get into the family history business? Steve made his mark on the modern world by developing the 8086 processor for Intel in 1980. Two decades later, the combined efforts of the Ellis Island Foundation and the Family History Library in Salt Lake City led to the launch of an index to 22 million passenger arrival records spanning the peak years of immigration to the port of New York, 1892 to 1924.
It was a huge breakthrough for genealogists, but it wasn't perfect. The transcription was done by volunteers who were unfamiliar with the names and places represented in the records. The original search engine was clumsy and imprecise, and often failed to locate documents that had to be in the data set. Steve developed a series of algorithms that increased search success rates. Over time, he has improved the interface design and search options.
Morse's calendar tools aren't limited to the Jewish realm. He has devised utilities that convert dates from one time-reckoning system to another, ranging from the Islamic calendar to the Mayan. Other utilities anyone can use on www.stevemorse.org include calculating engines for zip codes, map coordinates, sunrise/sunset times, and much more.
In the spirit of the traditional Rosh Hashanah greeting ("May you be inscribed for a good year"), may you enjoy the limitless possibilities for discovery made available by the inimitable Steve Morse.
L’Shanah Tovah Joe! Your work with the Jewish Genealogical Society of Colorado (http://jgsco.org/) has helped lots of people too.
Todah rabbah, Laurie. Wishing you a sweet year.