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

Volume 7, Number 17 | October 29, 2006

Problems Receiving Nu? What's New?
The Internet apparently hiccupped with the last edition of Nu? What's New? A number of subscribers claimed they did not receive the last (October 8) edition which had as a lead article "What Is the Profile of a Genealogist." It described a number of surveys about the habits of genealogists. If you did not receive the issue it can be found at http://www.avotaynu.com/nu/v07n16.htm.

In addition, some people complained they received notification that they were deleted from the mailing list without their request. Most of them were Israelis. I maintain an archives of subscribers, so I placed back on the list anyone who received the last issue and is not on the current list. If you legitimately unsubscribed and receive this issue, my apologies. You can unsubscribe at http://www.avotaynu.com/nuwhatsnew.htm.

Links to all back issues of Nu? What's Nu? can be found at http://www.avotaynu.com/nu.htm. There is a search engine on that page that allows searching back issues. This e-zine has been published for more than six years and contains a wealth of genealogy news.


Canadian Passenger Lists 1865-1922 Now Online
Library and Archives Canada has placed online passenger lists for the period 1865-1922. The site includes images only; there is no index to individual passengers. A description of the record collection can be found at http://www.collectionscanada.ca/archivianet/passenger/001045-130-e.html. For a specific search, click the "Search" button in the top left portion of the screen. It also can be reached at http://www.collectionscanada.ca/archivianet/passenger/001045-100.01-e.php.

The lists include the City of Québec and Montréal; Halifax, Nova Scotia; Saint John, New Brunswick; North Sydney, Nova Scotia; Vancouver, British Columbia; and Victoria, British Columbia. Information about passengers includes name, age, sex, profession or occupation, country of birth and destination.

The site allows searches by name of ship, year of arrival, port of arrival, shipping line, port of departure, date of departure and/or date of arrival. For example, it is possible to select a list of all ships that arrived in Quebec in June 1903.

I found the quality of the digitizing on the few pages I looked at to be quite poor compared to American lists. The manifests were kept in bound volumes and copied directly from the volumes rather than breaking them apart.

Library and Archives Canada (LAC) holds the Canadian immigration records for the years 1865 to 1935. The post-1922 lists are not online, but a list of microfilm numbers for this period can be found at http://www.collectionscanada.ca/genealogy/022-908.003.02-e.html


Mormons Plan Substantial Improvements to FamilySearch.org
The Mormon Church has plans to make major improvements to their primary genealogy site, FamilySearch.org. The current site contains the catalog of the Family History Library and databases that identify individuals including Ancestral File, Pedigree Resource File, Social Security Death Index and certain census and vital records indexes. It also includes the International Genealogical Index, which is their religious index that identifies people to whom Mormon rituals, such as posthumous baptism, have been performed.

Future plans call for the ability to post family trees to the site. As described, it appears to be similar to OneGreatFamily.com which permits family trees to be merged and independent people to post information to a tree if they disagree with its content. For example, there may be a question as to the birth date of a person. Information about OneGreatFamily appeared in the Vol. 1, No. 11, June 25, 2000, of Nu? What's New? in an article titled "The Next Step in Linking Family Trees." It is located at http://www.avotaynu.com/nu2.htm#V01N11

More significantly, the Church plans to work with volunteers worldwide to help index records in their possession. Previously such projects were only done by Mormon volunteers. Many state and local genealogical societies are expected to participate. Curt Witcher of the Allen County (Indiana) Public Library with the Indiana Genealogical Society is one of two people overseeing volunteers who are indexing all Indiana marriage records from 1820 to 1957 from the digitized images in possession of the Church.

Additional information about the Church's plans can be found in a news article that appeared in the Salt Lake City Deseret News at http://deseretnews.com/dn/view/0,1249,650194998,00.html


The Importance of Special Interest Groups
There is an aspect of Jewish genealogy, Special Interest Groups (SIGs), that I have avoided covering in Nu? What's New? on the grounds that anyone doing Jewish research is aware of them, and announcement of their activities in this e-zine would be duplicate effort. I now realize this is wrong, because many people doing Jewish research are not aware of SIGs. In fact, I am amazed how many people who have corresponded with me were not aware of Jewish genealogical societies or JewishGen.

Special Interest Groups are societies whose members have ancestors from the same geographic area. The Internet made them popular and allowed them to become a significant force in Jewish genealogy. They are Internet-based and include members from all over the world. There are currently 16 region-oriented SIGs that are associated with or are part of JewishGen--Austria-Czech, Belarus, Courland, Early American, French, Galicia, German, Hungary, Latvia, Litvak, Jewish Records Indexing-Poland, Romania, Scandinavia, Southern Africa, Ukraine and United Kingdom. Two additional SIGs--Sefard and Rabbinic--concern themselves with special interests independent of location. There are also some town- or area-specific SIGs including Lodz, Bialystok, Warsaw and Danzig/Gdansk. Links to these sites can be found at http://www.jewishgen.org/JewishGen/sigs.htm.

SIGs have online Discussion Groups (bulletin boards) where they make announcements of interest to their members or members can post queries about their specific research.

Starting with the next edition of Nu? What's New? I will cover their principal announcements in summary form. Typical will be some of the events that occurred within the past few days.
    * Galicia: The SIG has published a list of 1917 Jewish householders from Belz who claimed damages to their homes during WWI
    * Latvia SIG: There is an Estonian Jewish history website at http://eja.pri.ee/
    * JRI-Poland: For the town of Nowy Sacz, they have now indexed 6200 birth and marriage records. Births: 1854, 1878-1880, 1890-1892, 1894-1905; Marriages: 1882, 1903-1905
    * Ukraine: The Bessarabia Vital Records database now contains an index to more than 53,800 births, 14,200 marriages/divorces and 26,300 deaths from Kishinev and Kaushany, Moldova.


Denial of U.S. Citizenship
I just completed my fourteenth annual trip to Salt Lake City and the Family History Library with a group of Jewish genealogical researchers. This year 35 people were in the group. One of the researchers posed a question that was never asked before. Her ancestor was denied citizenship in his petition for naturalization, and she wanted to know what were grounds for denial.

I posed the question to Marian Smith, historian for the Citizenship and Immigrations Services, and she said the most common reasons were:
    * Lack of residence--not here the required 5 years
    * Unable to speak English adequately
    * Lack of moral character
Married woman (1907-1922)


New Software: Map My Family Tree
Progeny Genealogy has developed a fascinating software package that maps all the places in your family tree database onto a map of the world. The places can be anywhere in the world. Called "Map My Family Tree," the system reads trees directly from nine popular genealogical software systems, including Family Tree Maker and Personal Ancestral File, or it can read from a GEDCOM file for those systems they do not support.

I used the system and found it quite exciting. The software absorbed 4,404 place names in my GEDCOM database in less than a minute and placed them on a map of the world. Because I conscientiously maintain the accuracy of place names, there were only 11 rejected names. Three of the rejected place names demonstrated a possible weakness in the system for Jewish genealogists. Sadly, the place of death for too many of our relatives are names of concentration/extermination camps. The rejected names were Bergen Belsen, Warsaw ghetto and Holocaust. My family tree includes other camps, such as Auschwitz, Sobibor, Treblinka, Majdanek, Belzec and Theresienstadt, and all were properly identified. (Some of the camps, such as Treblinka, are actually town names.) For these few exceptions, the system has the ability to add town names with their latitude/longitude.

Those of us who felt it was unnecessary to include county/province for a place name are presented with a list of "Ambiguous" names. If your tree refers to Portsmouth, England, is it the one in Hampshire or Lancastershire. All can be resolved by clicking on the town name, being presented with the alternatives and selecting the proper town.

The listing of towns is organized by country. Click on a country name, and a map of the country is shown with all towns in the database identified. Click on a town within the country, and all events in the town are displayed.

There are too many features to describe here. Additional features are described at http://www.avotaynu.com/books/mapmytree.htm. My conclusion is that the system is very well thought out.

The cost of the software is $39.95 and is available from Avotaynu at the website named above. It runs on Windows 2000 or XP.


Benjamin Meed Dies
One of the great figures of the American Holocaust Survivor Movement died last Wednesday (October 25, 2006). Benjamin Meed, president of the American Gathering of Jewish Holocaust Survivors, was 88 years old.

I had the privilege of knowing Meed for more than 20 years. In the late 80s and early 90s, I was a volunteer for his organization and developed the software and maintained the National Registry of Jewish Holocaust Survivors before it was transferred to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum.

Ben Meed was one of the most fascinating persons I have ever met; probably Number One. He was a person who, in his position, had absolutely no power, yet, by sheer charisma, he moved mountains. Typical was an incident that involved the United Nations and the government of Poland. In the late 1980s, the Polish government had a traveling exhibit about the horrors of Auschwitz. When the exhibit came to New York City, it was supposed to be displayed in the lobby of the United Nations building. Meed went to the U.N. building to examine the exhibit and found something missing--no mention of Jews and seemingly no pictures of Jews. What the Polish government had done was to take stock pictures of the arrival of Jews at Auschwitz and remove the Jewish stars from the clothing of the arrivals. Meed went to the Secretariat of the United Nations, and the outcome of the meeting was that the U.N. told Poland they could not hold the exhibition without the approval of Benjamin Meed. Before the exhibit was open to the public, the stars went back, and there was mention of Jews in the printed portion of the exhibit. That was Benjamin Meed. The United Nations could have told him to go away, but he managed to convince them through sheer charisma.

Another Ben Meed story. The name of his organization, American Gathering of Jewish Holocaust Survivors, derives from the fact that when Ben returned from the first World Gathering of Holocaust Survivors in 1982, he decided to make it a regular event in the U.S. His first Gathering was in Washington, DC, in 1983. Ben went to the owners of one of the large stadiums in Washington, the Capital Center, and said he wanted to use it for the event. The owners said it was very expensive. Ben, who planned not to charge survivors for attending the event, said he would personally guarantee the payment. He then told the owners the purpose of the event. By the end of the conversation, the owners told Meed they would make the facility available for free, but he still would have to pay for the union labor costs. The event was held, and a few days later he received a call from the stadium owners. They had been told by the union workers that they were so moved by the event, they decided to work for free.

I first met Meed through my involvement in genealogy. In 1983, I mentioned to Miriam Weiner my never-ending quest to find information about persons named Mokotoff. She told me she had just found out about Ben's organization and suggested I write to him. His response was that they had no information about Holocaust survivors named Mokotow, but was I related to Holocaust survivor friends of his that lived in Australia who were from Warsaw (I was). He also commented that my stationery indicated I was in the computer business, and he was having great difficulty establishing a computerized registry of Holocaust survivors. Would I be willing to come to his office and talk to him? Miriam encouraged me to see Ben and said she wanted to come along. The way I describe going to Ben Meed's office is that when you leave there, you leave either without your wallet or without your heart. I hung on to my wallet and volunteered to establish the National Registry of Jewish Holocaust Survivors. Miriam took a job with the organization and eventually became its executive director.

I personally think Ben was very influential in shaping the views of presidents of the United States toward the problems of world Jewry and the importance of Israel to the Jewish people. He invited them to many of his major events and they usually came. They walked into these events with the smile of a politician who was forced to come because their advisors said it was politically necessary. When you looked at the expression on their faces after hearing the speeches about the devastation to the families of Holocaust survivors, they understood a bit more about the horror of the event.

Benjamin Meed was born Benyomin Miedzyrzecki in 1918 in Warsaw. He was one of four children. During World War II he was part of the Warsaw Ghetto Resistance Movement. During this period he assumed the Polish name of Czeslaw Pankiewicz. During the Warsaw Ghetto Resistance era, he met a woman named Fayge Peltel who was operating under the assumed name Bronislawa Wa(n)chalska and was known by the nickname "Vladka." The two married after the war and immigrated to the United States. Vladka was as popular among Holocaust survivors as Ben. She wrote a first-person account of her involvement in the ghetto years titled On the Both Sides of the Wall.

Another Ben Meed story. Ben once told me "you are looking at a dead man." He then related this story. During the German occupation of Warsaw, in an attempt to dupe Jews into leaving Warsaw, the Germans announced they were selling exit visas out of Poland. Ben bought such a visa and planned to flee the conflict. His brother Mordechai convinced Ben to give him the visa because Ben was active in the Jewish resistance movement, his brother said, and he had a better chance of surviving. When the Germans told the Jews to go to the Hotel Polski on a certain day, his brother went in his place using Ben's name. After all the Jews arrived, the Germans placed them in trucks and deported them to a concentration camp. His brother subsequently died. Because it was Ben's name on the Hotel Polski list, he stated "You are looking at a dead man."

I recall in my youth that after World War II many Jews who came to the United States were identified as "refugees." Benjamin Meed helped change the term to "Holocaust survivors."

A final Ben Meed story. After the focus of the Holocaust survivor movement shifted to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, Ben commuted regularly to Washington from New York. On one such flight, he found himself sitting next to Henry Kissinger. Ben, of course, struck up a conversation. "You are a Holocaust survivor," Meed told Kissinger. "No, I'm not," Kissinger replied. "My family left Germany in the 1930s." Meed then questioned "If you had stayed in Germany, what would have happened to you?" Kissinger responded, "I certainly would have died." Meed said, "Then you are a Holocaust survivor." Kissinger pondered for a while and finally stated, "Then I suppose I am a Holocaust survivor." You would think that would end the story, but some months later there was a fund-raising event for some Jewish organization. I think it was Israel Bonds; one of those events where you pay $500 a plate for dinner to hear a famous person. Ben Meed was on the organizing committee. Henry Kissinger was the guest speaker.

Such was Benjamin Meed a/k/a Czeslaw Pankiewicz a/k/a Benyomin Miedzyrzecki.


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