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

Volume 7, Number 6 | April 23, 2006

USCIS To Provide Fee-for-Service Genealogy Program
After years of prodding by the genealogical community, it appears the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS-formerly called the Immigration and Naturalization Service) will provide a method for expediting inquiries from genealogists for records of their ancestors. There is a notice in the Federal Register to establish a Genealogy Program to process requests for historical records of deceased persons.

USCIS claims it receives 10,000 requests a year for the current service which is provided free under the Freedom of Information Act. Because of lack of manpower and facilities, it can take more than a year for a request to be processed. The genealogical community suggested that USCIS provide an alternate fee-for-service method to expedite requests. Such a service was started a few years ago by the Social Security Administration to process requests of their historical records.

Under the proposed rules, genealogical inquiries will no longer be free of charge. If a request is made under the Freedom of Information Act and USCIS determines it is a genealogical inquiry, the request will be returned to the sender who will be asked to resubmit using the Genealogy Program.

The following record groups will be part of the Genealogy Program:
  * Naturalization Certificate Files (C-Files), which are records from September 27, 1906 to April 1, 1956, relating to U.S. naturalizations and the issuance of evidence of naturalization or citizenship.
  * Forms AR-2, which are Alien Registration Forms on microfilm that were completed by all aliens age 14 and older who resided in or entered the United States between August 1, 1940, and March 31, 1944. These forms contain identification information, as well as information regarding the alien's employment and arrival to the United States.
  * Visa Files, which are records from July 1, 1924, to March 31, 1944 containing the arrival information of immigrants admitted for permanent residence from July 1, 1924 to March 31, 1944, under the Immigration Act of 1924.
  * Registry Files, which are records from March 2, 1929, to March 31, 1944, containing arrival information of immigrants who entered the United States prior to July 1, 1924, and for whom no arrival records could later be found.
  * A-Files, which are case files on individuals containing all immigration records created or consolidated from April 1, 1944, to the present. Only files containing documents dated prior to May 1, 1951, will be available.

Submitters will have to show proof of death of the individual such as a death certificate or obituary notice. If the year of birth was more than 100 years ago, no proof of death will be required. These records often include information about the children of the individual, and these children may still be living; therefore, USCIS states that "the Genealogy Program will not release personal information concerning a subject's children."

USCIS envisions the service to be in two stages. Initially the submitter would request an index search to determine what information is available. Then there would be a request for the actual documents.

USCIS has budgeted about $1 million per year for the service, and they expect such a level of expense could handle the anticipated 25,000 inquiries per year. This would make break even $40 per inquiry; however, the agency already has in its budget the cost of processing current inquiries. In the Federal Register the agency is recommending that the cost for an index search and for requests for an actual document be between $16-45 for each file of microfilm being searched and $26-55 for retrieval of textual files.

Interested persons can comment on the proposed regulation. Information on how to respond to the proposal, as well as a 12-page description of the new plan, is located at the Federal Register site http://a257.g.akamaitech.net/7/257/2422/01jan20061800/edocket.access.gpo.gov/2006/pdf/E6-5947.pdf


Missouri Places Death Certificates Online
The Missouri State Archives has placed death certificates from 1910-1920 online. This is the first government agency, to my knowledge, to place actual vital records online. Many have indexes available. Hopefully this will be a growing trend.

The Missouri Death Certificate Database is located at http://www.sos.mo.gov/archives/resources/deathcertificates/. It also includes an index from 1910-1955. Photocopies can be requested for those death records that are not available online.


New At the Stephen P. Morse Site
The following features have been added to the Stephen P. Morse site located at http://stevemorse.org.
  - Translating (not just transliterating) Hebrew to English and English to Hebrew
  - Transliterating Greek to English and English to Greek
  - Virtual keyboard to type accented characters in any Latin-based alphabet
  - Interface with the Tel Aviv Chevra Kadisha Online Death Index. This index was reported in the previous edition of Nu? What's New?

It is remarkable how many genealogists were involved in the computer revolution:
  - Stephen P. Morse was the creator of the PC. He designed the 8086 microprocessor chip which was the progenitor of the modern PC. He has placed on his web site the 8086 Primer which he wrote in 1980.
  - Werner Frank was one of the founders of Informatics, which in the 1960s coined the term "database" that was associated with their software system "Mark IV". Frank is a Coordinator of the German Special Interest Group of JewishGen. He also is the author of Legacy: The Saga of a German-Jewish Family Across Time and Circumstance published by Avotaynu.
  - In the early 1960s, I was involved in developing the systems software IBM delivered with their first business computer: the IBM 1401.


IAJGS Conference To Include a Computer Learning Center
The planners of the 26th International Conference on Jewish Genealogy have announced that Ancestry.com will sponsor a computer classroom to be called the Ancestry.com Learning Center. They will also provide free access to their online databases both at the Learning Center and the conference Resource Room.

The Ancestry.com Learning Center will be used for hands-on classes on a variety of computer-related subjects. Suzanne Russo Adams, of Ancestry's Professional Services Desk, will teach a class on Ancestry use at the Center. I will be giving a hands-on session on using Yad Vashem's Shoah Victims Database of Yad Vashem and Avotaynu's Consolidated Jewish Surname Index. Other experts will offer classes in introductory and advanced skills for the 21st-century Jewish genealogist.

The conference runs for 5 1/2 days, making it the longest genealogy event in North America, offering more than 180 program sessions in 23 topic categories, more than 30 meetings and luncheons for focused geographical and topical special interest groups. The Conference is from August 13-18 at the New York Marriott Marquis Hotel. Additional information can be found at http://www.jgsny2006.org.


Online Course on Jewish Genealogy
Schelly Talalay Dardashti and Micha Reisel will be offering a course on Jewish Internet Research at the MyFamily.com website. It begins on May 4. The four-week class, includes a detailed syllabus, two lessons to download each week, two online class chats per week, a dedicated website and message board. The class fee ($29.95) includes access to www.ancestry.com databases so students can research family records. This class covers information on many websites and databases covering the Holocaust, Ancestry.com, JewishGen, Jewish Records Indexing - JRI Poland, Sephardic genealogy, archives, museums, general and Jewish sites and many more resources. Additional information is available at http://www.myfamily.com/isapi.dll?c=home&htx=training%2FOnlineClass&class=3&school=GEN. Dardashti and Reisel also teach a Basic Jewish Research at MyFamily.com that provides the essential tools to begin a family history project. Students in both classes have made great strides in discovering family information and continue to work together on mutual interests long after each class ends.


Family Tree DNA Reduces Prices for DNA Testing
Increased interest in using DNA testing for genealogy has allowed Family Tree DNA to reduce prices on their DNA testing. A 12-marker Y-DNA test is now $149. Previously it was $159.

Family Tree DNA claims they now have more than 58,000 records in their database of Y-DNA results. They also have more than 2,900 Surname Projects, which include over 45,000 surnames. Their site is located at http://www.familytreedna.com.


More Evidence of Rabbinic Pedigrees
Chaim Freedman continues to find secular records that confirm traditions of rabbinic pedigrees. He recently found in the 1816 revision list (census) for Zemaiciu Naumiestis, Lithuania, entries that demonstrate the tradition that the Kamay and Finkel families of that area are descended from Avraham Ragoler, the brother of the Vilna Gaon. Freedman is the author of Eliyahu's Branches: The Descendants of the Vilna Gaon and His Family published by Avotaynu.


New Book: History of the Jews of Schneidemühl: 1641 to the Holocaust
More and more genealogists are taking their desire to publish a family history book one level higher by publishing a town history book. This is especially true if there is no yizkor (Holocaust memorial) book for the town. In 2002, Avotaynu published Between Galicia and Hungary: The Jews of Stropkov by Melody Amsel. Now Avotaynu is publishing Jews of Schneidemühl: 1641 to the Holocaust by Peter Cullman. (Schneidemühl, is Piła, Poland, today.)

Cullman spent fifteen years compiling a history of town. The result is a portrayal not only of the Jewish minority, but also the community in which it resided. The book begins by describing the slow growth of this tiny Polish town and the arrival of Jews in the 16th century. The reader is provided a detailed account of the changing nature of this community against a background of the major European historical events to the Holocaust.

As a result of his painstaking research, the author was able to trace the fate of most members of the Jewish community as it existed in the 1930s, many of whom would emigrate in time and others who ultimately perished in the Holocaust. What is unusual in the book are the detailed person-by-person chronologies of many as they were deported, sent to various towns, labor camps and hospices, and their ultimate fate. An annotated Jewish burial register, 1854-1940, lists the names of more than 900 persons. Today, nothing remains of Jewish Schneidemühl, but the book brings to life what once was a small but vibrant and notable Jewish community.

The book is 408 pages, hardcover and costs $46.00 plus shipping. Ordering information plus the complete Table of Contents can be found at http://www.avotaynu.com/books/cullman.htm.


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