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

Volume 7, Number 2 | March 5, 2006

Comcast Blocked Last Issue of Nu? What's New?
If your Internet Service Provider is, you did not receive the last issue of Nu? What's New? The problem should be resolved with this issue. The previous issue can be found at

German Government Blocks Public Access to ITS Records
It is remarkable how many groups have the best interest of the Jews at heart. The Mormon Church wants to save the souls of dead Jews by posthumously baptizing them into the Mormon Church. Now the German government is protecting the privacy of Holocaust survivors by refusing to allow public access to the vast collection of the International Tracing Service (ITS) located in Arolsen, Germany.

According to Peter Landé, a volunteer at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, at a recent meeting of representatives of the 11 countries that comprise the ITS oversight committee, Germany stood alone in continuing to block any action to open the ITS records to the public. The German representative cited German archival law, which Landé noted is irrelevant since ITS material is not subject to German law. European countries and the United States strongly objected to the German position. Although 10 of the 11 countries at the meeting favored opening the records, nothing happened since the tradition is unanimity although the agreement itself does not provide for it, according to Landé.

The holdings of the International Tracing Service are one of the most valuable sources of information about the fate of people, both victims and survivors, caught up in the Holocaust. Their records place an individual at a specific place and time during the Holocaust period. They claim to have 40 million such pieces of information. Their sources, to name a few, are deportation lists, concentration camp death lists, ghetto records and post-war refugee records.

Currently the only way to access the information is to make an inquiry to ITS who will research their collection and provide you with results, usually in about a year. ITS refuses to process inquiries unless adequate information is given about an individual. They also will not accept generic inquires such as all persons named "Mokotow." If there was public access to their files, individuals, who have the patience to spend hours searching the ITS records, could determine if they have information about the fate of a loved one.

The value of such easy public access to Holocaust-related records was clearly demonstrated when Yad Vashem placed on the Internet their 3-million document Pages of Testimony. At that time genealogists were able to memorialize family members who died in the Holocaust by adding them to their family trees, many Jews were able to determine the fate of relatives, and there were even cases of uniting family members who thought the other was dead. Public access to the Arolsen records would produce comparable results.

The site for the organization is located at

Innovation at the Annual Conference of Jewish Genealogy
Every annual International Conference on Jewish Genealogy tries to do just a little better than its predecessors. With this year's conference being the 26th annual event, one would think the planners would run out of ideas.

But this year's conference, to be held August 13-18 at the Marriott Marquis Hotel in New York, will have a first-ever dedicated computer lab with some 20 programs. To help the attendees learn the necessary skills and techniques, there will be workshops which will include finding people on the Internet, creating One-Step search tools, PowerPoint and Excel for genealogists, creating genealogical web sites, introductions to basic skills as well as country resources. I will be giving a workshop on using the Consolidated Jewish Surname Index located at and Pages of Testimony located at

The regular program will have an international collection of presenters. You can see the genesis of the complete program at Some of the categories and number of presentations (many presentations cover multiple categories) include Baltic States (5), Belarus (3), Computer Training Workshops (19), Eastern/Central Europe (25), Israel (5), DNA & Genetics (5), Holocaust research (19), Immigration/Naturalization/Migration (12), Jewish History/Sociology (34), Methodology (60), Metro NY City/State (10), Non-European Research (3), Poland (15), Rabbinical (2), Repositories (27), Russia and FSU (3), Sephardic Research (7), Technology/Internet Resources (29), US/North America (18), Western European Research (6) and Genetics & DNA (5). Keynote speaker for the conference is Allen Weinstein, Archivist of the United States.

A preliminary list of speakers for the conference can be accessed by using the Conference Program link on the home page at Registration and hotel information is also available at the site.

Jewish Genealogy Month 2006
Once again, Avotaynu is sponsoring Jewish Genealogy Month. This year it is March 30-April 28, 2006, which corresponds to the Hebrew month of Nisan 5766--the Passover season. In association with this event, Avotaynu has created a poster, copies of which will be distributed free of charge to each of the approximately 80 Jewish genealogical societies throughout the world. Societies are encouraged to post them in synagogues and other Jewish institutions in their area and to include the address and phone number of the local society so that residents can contact them for information. Some societies have indicated they are planning events is conjunction with Jewish Genealogy Month.

This year's theme is "I will dwell in the House of the Lord forever," which was motivated by the Mormon/Jewish controversy of the posthumous baptism of Jews. It is the Mormon belief that anyone who does not accept baptism into the Mormon Church cannot live in the presence of God after death. Avotaynu co-owner Sallyann Sack and I were reminded that Psalm 23, which is recited at every Jewish funeral, includes a statement that expresses the Jewish belief that we all dwell in the House of the Lord forever. The poster depicts a Jewish marriage ceremony with ancestors viewing the ceremony on one side and future descendants on the other.

The 2006 poster, as well as all its predecessors, are displayed at

Two Avotaynu Books Win Awards
Two books recently published by Avotaynu have received awards.

The Association of Jewish Libraries has given A Dictionary of German Jewish Surnames honorable mention in its annual "Reference Book of the Year" award. This is the fourth time in 15 years that Avotaynu books have been recognized in this category. In notifying Avotaynu of the award, Elliot H. Gertel of AJL stated, "You should be very proud of this [award] and your high quality and meticulously researched publications which have set the standard for the field of Jewish genealogy and lead to such awards."

The 824-page book, written by Lars Menk of Berlin, Germany, identifies more than 13,000 German-Jewish surnames from 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

The Jewish Book Council has announced that Avotaynu Guide to Jewish Genealogy was a runner-up in their annual National Jewish Book Awards competition in the Reference Book category. The definitive guide to Jewish genealogical research, The Guide is written by more than 60 authors, all experts in their own field. Its more than 100 chapters cover all important aspects of the rich body of information available to do Jewish genealogical research. Each chapter in "Researching by Country of Ancestry" typically has (1) history of the Jewish presence in the country, (2) what records are available, (3) how to access records, (4) address of repositories and other institutions, (4) bibliography, and (5) Internet addresses. The review in an American Library Association publication stated "...a beginning and advanced guide for anyone seriously researching Jewish family heritage."

Sample pages from the book, its table of contents, and ordering information can be found at

Montreal Directories Online
City directories of Montreal from 1842-1940 are now online at The website is in French but the directories were published in English. From the early 1920s the directories include sections in French.

The directories include alphabetical directories of individuals and businesses, a street directory, and some classified advertisements. Some of these directories include a summary of conditions of the times, not only of the city, but also of Canada in general, and give information regarding who is holding various public offices - civic, federal and provincial.

U.S. National Archives Starts Pilot Project to Digitize Films
The U.S. National Archives and Google have announced a joint effort to make holdings of the National Archives available online free of charge. This non-exclusive agreement will enable people to access a diverse collection of historic movies, documentaries and other films from the National Archives via Google Video at The initial offerings include:
      * The earliest film preserved in the National Archives--a Spanish dance from 1894 at
     * A representative selection of U.S. government newsreels, documenting World War II, 1941-45 at
     * A sampling of documentaries produced by NASA on the history of the spaceflight program at
     * Motion picture films, primarily from the 1930s, that document the history and establishment of a nationwide system of national and state parks at

Winter Issue of AVOTAYNU in the Mail
The Winter issue of AVOTAYNU was mailed out late last week. If your subscription expired with this issue, there will be a yellow renewal insert with the issue. There is a discount for renewing by March 31. You can subscribe to AVOTAYNU at

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