Nu? What's New?
The E-zine of Jewish Genealogy
Gary Mokotoff, Editor

Volume 6, Number 7 | May 22, 2005

Canadian Census Law May Pass Soon
For more than five years, Canadian historians and genealogists have tried to get Parliament to enact a law that would give public access to future census data. Recently Bill S-18 passed the Senate. The bill now must pass the House of Commons before it adjourns for the summer.

The bill recently survived a no-confidence vote in the House where the budget was passed by a tie-breaking vote of the Speaker of the House. Had the budget not passed, an election would have been called, canceling all pending legislation. This means the entire process would have to restart after the election including reintroduction and repassage by the Senate.

If S-18 becomes law, information in the 1911 census will be released immediately and other 20th-century censuses will be released 92 years after they were taken. However, effective with the 2006 census, persons participating in the census must indicate they want the information they provide made available 92 years later. Failure to so indicate would keep the information private forever. This concept for the 2006 census and beyond was recently put into law in Australia which had similar problems with release of their census data.

Meanwhile, the Canadian Information Commissioner has filed legal actions called "Applications for Review" against Statistics Canada, holder of the Canadian censuses, for refusal to provide access to historic census records. These Applications were brought on behalf of individuals who submitted complaints after Statistics Canada refused access to records, specifically the 1911 national census.

Accessing Abandoned Web Pages
Have you ever suffered the frustration of using an Internet search engine to locate a web site only to discover that the web site has been taken down. Google, for example, has a cache feature, which allows you to retrieve a web page for a limited amount of time after it has been removed. But there is a web site that has been archiving sites for years. Jeffrey Malka, author of Sephardic Genealogy published by Avotaynu, made me aware of the site. It is called WayBackMachine and is located at Go to that site and search for old versions of JewishGen (, and it will display what JewishGen looked like on November 6, 1996. JewishGen has come a long way since then. Interestingly, our Avotaynu web site at has not changed much stylistically since the oldest version displayed on WayBackMachine from July 10, 1997. We are in the process of a major overhaul of the Home Page.

Morse Improves on Social Security Death Index Search
What has Stephen P. Morse been doing for the past few months? He has not improved his web site for some time. It now contains more than 70 features that provide superior portals to important genealogical databases as well as useful tools. If you follow many of the Jewish genealogical discussion groups, you know the answer is that he has been doing a lot of lecturing.

There appears to be a lull in Morse's lecture circuit because he has now come up with a "RootsWebPlus" access to the Social Security Death Index. The SSDI is a database of nearly 75 million Americans; almost all who have died since 1962.

The major American genealogy site, RootsWeb, located at, includes free access to the SSDI and a powerful search engine. The Morse site, located at, now has added some additional capability to the already powerful RootsWeb search engine, most of which filter out false positives. They are:
- ability to provide as little as a single character for first or last name
- search on range of birth or death years
- search on age
- ability to specify foreign last residence
- ability to specify day of month for death (RootsWeb allows it for birth)

Finally, the Morse portal allows the user to specify how many hits to be displayed per page.

California Birth Index 1905-1995 has added California Birth Index 1905-1995 to its fee-for-service collection at This database is an index to over 24.5 million births occurring in California between 1905 and 1995. Information contained in this index includes: name, gender, birth date, birth county and mother's maiden name.

A free site of this data can be found at At one time the State provided such an index, but it was pulled off-line because of California legislation protecting privacy. Apparently it is available again to the public.

Online Database of Persons Interned in Soviet Gulags
There is now an online database at of some 1.5 million people, about 20,000 identified as Jewish, who were interned and died in Soviet gulags form 1935-1955. Apparently it also includes persons executed in Moscow. There are introductions at the site in Russian, German and English, but currently the search engine and resulting information is only in Russian.

Included for each person is last name, first name, patronymic, year of birth, place of birth, nationality (Jewish is a nationality), education, party membership, profession and place of work, place of residence, date of arrest, arrest charge, date of decision, decision agency, law under which convicted, sentence, date of execution, place of execution, date of exoneration, exonerating agency, basis of exoneration and source of information.

For those who do not have Russian keyboards, the Stephen P. Morse site provides character for character transliteration of Roman alphabet letters into Cyrillic. The Morse site is at

Annual Jewish Genealogy Trip to Salt Lake City
For the thirteenth consecutive year, veteran professional genealogist Eileen Polakoff and I will be offering a research trip to the LDS (Mormon) Family History Library in Salt Lake City from October 27-November 3, 2005. To date, more than 300 Jewish genealogists from the U.S., Canada, South America and Europe have taken advantage of this program.

The program offers genealogists the opportunity to spend an entire week of research at the Library under the guidance and assistance of professional genealogists who have made more than two dozen trips to Salt Lake City. The program includes a specially arranged three-hour class on the day of arrival introducing the participants to the facilities and resources of the Family History Library, a mid-week informal group discussion of progress and problem-solving, and daily access to trip leaders from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. at the Library for on-site assistance and personal consultations. For those new to genealogy, a beginners workshop on the first morning of the trip introduces them to the wonderful world of Hamburg immigration lists, U.S. passenger arrival lists, naturalization records and census records.

Additional information, including a picture of the attendees of 2004, is available at

Spring Issue of AVOTAYNU
The Spring issue of AVOTAYNU will be mailed out next week. There are two very interesting articles about Jewish surnames; one by Alexander Beider and the other by Lars Menk.

Last summer at the Jerusalem conference, Beider spoke about his new book on Jewish surnames in Galicia. After his talk, some skeptics wondered just how Beider, originally trained as a mathematician, discovers the meanings and origins of Jewish surnames from Eastern Europe. AVOTAYNU editor, Sallyann Amdur Sack, posed the question to him, and he responded with an explication of his methodology. The monograph-sized article in the Spring issue of AVOTAYNU makes demanding reading; those who devote the required time and concentration will gain gratifying new understanding and knowledge--and an appreciation of the gifts this remarkable man has given us.

Lars Menk is not yet a genealogical household name, but he will be soon. Inspired by Beider's work, Menk was determined to produce a similar book for German Jews; Avotaynu has just published the result--A Dictionary of German-Jewish Surnames. In the Spring issue, we reproduce a section of the book on the history of Jewish name-taking in Germany. Peak Jewish emigration from German-speaking lands to places outside Europe occurred during the mid-19th century, a time when many countries (the United States, for one) tended not to ask newcomers many personal questions. Typical American immigration manifests and/or naturalization applications of this period simply record areas such as "Bavaria" or "Alsace" for place of birth. Paradoxically, Jews whose families came from Germany, that country known as the paragon of record keeping, often have more trouble locating an ancestral home than do Jews with roots in Eastern Europe. Menk carefully has located the first occurrences of Jewish family names in the various villages and small towns where most Jews lived prior to emigration, a feature that provides valuable clues to an ancestral place of residence. Information about the book can be found at

Among the other articles in the Spring issue are:
- Russian Exit Passports: Documentation of Emigrants from the Russian Empire
- Major Sephardic Internet Site: Les Fleurs de l'Orient
- The State of Organized Jewish Genealogy
- New Acquisitions at U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum
- Our Visit to Karpata-Rus
- Genealogy in Israel, March 2005
- Escape into Spain: Hispanic Way Station on the Road to Freedom
- Looking for a Book or Periodical Article Online at a Library Research Facility

You can subscribe to AVOTAYNU for 2005 at

A Dictionary of German-Jewish Surnames To Be Shipped
We have received advance copies of A Dictionary of German-Jewish Surnames. Our warehouse will be shipping copies of the newly published book to advance purchasers starting next week.

The 824-page book identifies more than 13,000 German-Jewish surnames from the pre-World War I Germany. From Baden-Württemberg in the south to Schleswig-Holstein in the north. From Westfalen in the west to East Prussia in the east. In addition to providing the etymology and variants of each name, it identifies when and where in Germany the name appeared. Sample pages from the book, its table of contents, and ordering information can be found at

Nu? What's New is published biweekly by Avotaynu, Inc.
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