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

Volume 7, Number 7 | May 14, 2006

German Bundesarchiv Updates Gedenkbuch
The German archives has published a new edition of the Gedenkbuch, a memorial book to the German Jews murdered in the Holocaust. The original book, published in 1986, included more than 128,000 names. The new edition, published in four volumes, contains 150,000 names. The first book was published by the then West German archives and did not include names of Jews from cities in East Germany. This is the principal source of the additional names.

Information that appeared in the first edition included the person's name (including maiden name for married women), place of last residence, date of birth, date of death and place of death. Many Jews were forced to leave their homes prior to deportation, and consequently "place of last residence" was not necessarily where they lived, but was, instead, last location. Place of death usually was place to which they were deported and not necessarily the actual place of death. In some cases, this column shows circumstance of death, such as "suicide", rather than place of death.

In 1987, when I was still in the computer software business, I acquired the computer tape from which the Gedenkbuch was created. I was amazed to find that the data included place of birth as well as place of last residence. Place of birth was never included in the book version. I also created for my own personal use a second entry for married women that alphabetized them by maiden name. If you have been unable to locate entries for married women in your family because their married name is unknown to you, write to me at info@avotaynu.com, and I will try to locate the name. Provide name of the woman and approximate year of birth.

I also did an analysis of the number of German Jews murdered in the Holocaust by year of birth. The bar graph can be seen at http://www.avotaynu.com/graph.htm.

In the new version, in addition to the alphabetical list for Germany, the register contains a complete list of the mass "deportations" from pre-war Germany, Austria and three parts of the modern Czech Republic, the Sudetenland, Bohemia and Moravia.

The archives said it was able to expand the register after finding new documents following German reunification in 1990. Survivors, relatives and private historians also assisted in the research. The archives is working to compile a complete list of all Jews living in Germany, 1933-1945.


American Jewish Committee Online Archives Includes Jewish Yearbooks
The archives of the American Jewish Committee (AJC) has a large number of historical books, documents, and audio and visual recordings online at their website at http://www.ajcarchives.org. The entire website is worth browsing. It is divided into five parts:
  * Timeline. Historical documents of the AJC throughout the decades of the 20th century
  * AJC Radio. Historical radio broadcasts, such as the first Jewish religious service broadcast from Germany since the rise of Hitler. (1944)
  * Historic Films and TV Shows.
  * American Jewish Year Books from 1899-2005.
  * William E. Wiener Oral History. Selected recordings of 12 noted Jews, such as comedian George Burns, Golda Meir, actress Molly Picon and others.

Of primary interest to genealogists is the Year Book collection. American Jewish Year Books have been published since 1898, initially by the Jewish Publication Society of America, then starting in 1908, as a joint effort of the Society and AJC with the Society as the publisher. In 1950, AJC became a co-publisher and in 1994, AJC became the sole publisher.

It is difficult to describe the contents of AJYB because it varied as the years passed. Essentially, its purpose was to document the year's events relating to Jewish matters primarily in the U.S. but often included other countries. The editions invariably include directories of organizations and periodicals, obituaries, calendars and worldwide Jewish population estimates. Early volumes carried lists of synagogues and local Jewish organizations, with names of officers. An index to Volumes 1-50 (1899-1949) http://www.ajcarchives.org/AJC_DATA/Files/Index__1899_1949.pdf

Many of the documents in the AJC Archives collection can be searched using a full word index provided. If you find a document of value, you can locate the exact location of the words by clicking the binoculars icon which then allows you to search the actual text.


Complete IAJGS Conference Program Now Online
The complete schedule for the 26th IAJGS International Conference on Jewish Genealogy to be held at the New York Marriott Marquis Hotel, August 13-18, is now on-line. All lectures, computer courses, meetings, birds of a feather, local trips, etc., are now identified by day and time. They can be viewed at http://www.jgsny2006.org. The deadline for early registration is May 15. Early registration is $215. Thereafter, it will be $250. A daily rate of $75 per day is available, but it does not include the conference syllabus.

Recent announcements about special events at the conference include a Repository Fair on the event's opening day. Conference-goers can meet representatives of these remarkable repositories located in New York of interest to Jewish genealogists. The respositories are one of the reasons that New York conferences have always been the best attended of the annual events. Participating organizations include: American Jewish Historical Society, American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee Archives, American Sephardi Federation, Brooklyn Public Library - Brooklyn Collection, Center for Jewish History Genealogy Institute, Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, Jewish Theological Seminary of America Library, Leo Baeck Institute, Municipal Archives, National Archives, New York City Board of Elections - Manhattan, New York County Clerk - Division of Old Records, New York Public Library Map Division, Queens Library - Long Island Division, Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives, Yeshiva University Museum, YIVO Archives and the YIVO Library.

All conference details, including events and hotel registration, are located at http://www.jgsny2006.org.


IAJGS Conference in 2008 Will Be in Chicago
The International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies has announced that the annual International Conference on Jewish Genealogy will be held in Chicago in 2008. Dates and place have not been determined. The 2007 conference will be in Salt Lake City from July 15-20.


Cemeteries Starting To Place Databases Online
A number of Jewish cemeteries now have their databases online.

Two New York cemeteries, Mount Carmel and Mount Hebron, are examples and Stephen P. Morse has created a portal to these sites at http://stevemorse.org. As is typical of functions at the Morse site, it provides greater functionality than at the host site. The Mount Carmel Cemetery site is http://www.mountcarmelcemetery.com and for Mount Hebron it is http://www.mounthebroncemetery.com.

The New Mt. Sinai Cemetery in St. Louis, Missouri, has an alphabetical listing in PDF format for all burials from 1850 through October 2004. It is located at http://www.newmtsinaicemetery.org/page6.html

There is a listing by photo of every Jewish burial in Zimbabwe at http://www.zjc.org.il. You can access the cemetery photos by using the Quickjump feature in the lower left part of the screen, but instant access to the tombstones with a given surname can be gotten by keying the name into the Quick Search box. The site is actually a tribute to the Jewish community of Zimbabwe developed by David Bloom of Israel and supported by a number of volunteers.


Ancestry.com Adds a Catalog Feature
With more than 25,000 databases now online, Ancestry.com has added a searchable catalog. It is possible to search by title and/or keyword to narrow a search or focus on a particular record type. Additionally, searches can be limited to a particular time period or geographic region. There is even an option to search by the date that the database was last updated to see what are the new additions. Using the keyword "Jewish," I located 10 books in their online collection about Jews.

The catalog can be found at http://www.ancestry.com/search/rectype/alldblist.aspx. The company claims they now have nearly 6 billion records online.


Census Browser at Morse Site
Stephen P. Morse has added a "census browser" for any of the U.S. censuses 1790-1930. After selecting a particular census, you specify the U.S. National Archives microfilm number and the film can be browsed online. A subscription to the Ancestry.com census database is required to use the feature. The Morse site is located at http://stevemorse.org.


Featured Book: History of the Jews in Russia and Poland
Understanding the environment in which our ancestors lived is important background to genealogical research. That is why, in 2000, Avotaynu republished History of the Jews in Russia and Poland by the great historian, Simon Dubnow. It covers the history of the Jews of Eastern Europe from Roman times to the time of the book's publication in the 1910s, with particular emphasis on the two centuries that preceded its publication.

I read the book some years ago in the hope that I would be able to discover 18th-century sources of information about the Jews of my ancestral country of Poland. It was by reading this history that I discovered the 1764 census of the Jews of Poland. (It did not help my Mokotoff research.)

I have mixed feelings about this book. It taught me that history is not the recording of the past but a historian's perception of what occurred in the past. When you read the Dubnow work, you get the impression that Jewish life in Eastern Europe was one of constant persecution by the Christian majority. To confirm my theory, I once opened it to an arbitrary page and found, as I suspected, that the page described some horrific event in Eastern European Jewish history. I then advanced 20-30 pages and, again, the text on the page described yet another incident of persecution against the Jews. I continued this process a number of times, each page confirming my conclusion.

Some months after reading the Dubnow book, still being interested in knowing more about the history of the Jews of Poland, I read Bernard D. Weinryb's The Jews of Poland. Weinryb takes a more middle-of-the-road position that, while it is true that there were numerous instances where Jews were victims of persecution by the Christian majority, they must have lived in a basically viable environment, because in the five centuries before the Holocaust, they flourished. This position was supported by Alexander Beider in his book on Ashkenazic given names where he notes that Jews gave their children Christian given names demonstrating rapport with their immediate Christian neighbors. (Never again will there be a Jewish child be named Adolph or Bogdan.)

Dubnow's view was understandable when you consider it was formulated during a period of time when there were major pogroms in czarist Russia. These not only were devastating but reminded people of the time of previous persecutions of Jews in the area.

I commented about both historians' perspective of history when I reviewed in AVOTAYNU some years ago, Jews in Poland: A Documentary History, by Iwo Cyprian Pogonowski. This book, in my mind, completed a trilogy, because it was Pogonowski's view that Polish Christians and Jews lived in harmony for centuries and that Polish Christians were always helpful to their Jewish neighbors, especially during the Holocaust period! Readers who have a copy of AVOTAYNU on CD-ROM can find the review in the Winter 1993 issue on page 69.

Despite my reservations about the Dubnow work, it is important reading for any genealogist with roots in czarist Russia. You can purchase the book online at http://www.avotaynu.com/books/dubnow.htm. Additional information as well as the book's Table of Contents can be also be viewed at the site.


Followup: Online U.S. Birth/Death Certificates
In the last issue of Nu? What's New? I noted that Missouri has placed actual death certificates online. Readers have informed me that this is also true for West Virginia which has birth, death and marriage records online at http://www.wvculture.org/vrr/va_select.aspx. They do not cover every county for every time period. Also Arizona has online birth certificates, 1887-1930, and death certificates, 1878-1955. See http://genealogy.az.gov/


Followup: Yet Another Computer Pioneer
In the last issue of Nu? What's New? I noted that a number of genealogists were involved in the birth of the computer industry: Stephen P. Morse as the designer of the PC; Werner Frank, as the inventor of the term "database"; and myself as developer of early IBM systems software. Michael Bernet, a person who is familiar to those who subscribe to the JewishGen Discussion Group, wrote to me and stated that in 1968-69 he worked on one of the earliest time-sharing systems. The idea that two or more applications could run simultaneously on one computer was a new concept at that time.


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