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

Volume 8, Number 4 | February 25, 2007

Canadian Immigrant Database Online 
Library and Archives Canada has made available online their Likacheff-Ragosine-Mathers collection (LI-RA-MA). This database contains documents created between 1898 and 1922 by the Russian consular offices located in Canada.

It consists of some 11,400 files on Jewish, Ukrainian and Finnish immigrants who came to Canada from the Russian Empire. Each file may contain passports, identity papers, questionnaires and other information. A total of 55,000 digitized images of these documents are online at the site.

The LI-RA-MA collection is located at http://www.collectionscanada.ca/archivianet/li-ra-ma/index-e.html. It is one of several launched recently as part of LAC's "Moving Here, Staying Here: The Canadian Immigrant Experience" project located at http://www.collectionscanada.ca/immigrants.


New Book: A Practical Guide to Jewish Cemeteries
Is it possible to write a book about cemeteries that is both informative and interesting to read? Nolan Menachemson of Australia created such a book and Avotaynu will be publishing the work, A Practical Guide to Jewish Cemeteries at the end of March.

The first chapter of Menachemson’s 256-page book, “A Brief History of Jewish Burial,” describes many of the customs associated with this ritual. Chapter two focuses on what genealogists want for their research: “How to Read a Jewish Gravestone.” Then the book gets interesting. Chapter Three deals with more than 25 different symbols that appear on tombstones. Examples: Bird, bookcase, broken branch, candle, deer, fish, etc. Each section of this chapter includes an example of the use of the symbol, its Jewish meaning, and often the significance of such symbolism in other religions.

Example: Candles, Broken and Shabbat. Candle symbols are found on the graves of Jewish women. The broken candle is usually found on the tombstone of a young woman and is a common motif in Jewish cemeteries in Poland. The Shabbat candle motif usually depicts women’s hands, which is unusual as Jewish law prohibits human imagery on Jewish graves. Isolated human images, such as hands, are used as a metaphor to represent the complete human body. (This is just the first few sentences of a full page devoted to this symbol.)
Other chapters that make the book interesting reading are devoted to:
    * The burial location of more than 100 famous Jews with biographies of the individuals
    * A chapter on preserving cemeteries
    * A descriptioargould21@aol.comn of famous Jewish cemeteries and the location of major Nazi concentration camps
    * A set of “Frequently Asked Questions” on such matters as Jewish cemetery architecture, prohibitions, burial organizations and much more
    * There is also a 820-year Hebrew year to secular year calendar converter (years 1200–2020).

The cost of the book is $39.00 plus shipping. There is a pre-publication discount offer to persons who subscribe to our quarterly journal, AVOTAYNU. Until April 1, AVOTAYNU subscribers can purchase the book for only $32.50, a 17% savings. When ordering the book, note in the comments section of the order that you are a subscriber. (We automatically check our records anyway and you will get the discount.) Additional information, including the complete Table of Contents and a sample chapter can be found at http://www.avotayn
u.com/books/Cemeteries.htm. To subscribe to AVOTAYNU, go to http://www.avotaynu.com/journal.htm.


European Researchers To Speak at Annual Conference
Five European researchers—from Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic and Germany—will be among the many lecturers at the 27th IAJGS International Conference on Jewish Genealogy to be held in Salt Lake City, July 15–20, 2007.

Hubert Steiner, of the Austrian State Archives, will explore the work of the Historians Commission in using the Archives material. The lecture title is "Nazi-Era and Post-War Records at the Austrian Federal Archives,"

Dr. Ingo Zechner, director of the Holocaust Victims’ Information and Support Center of the Jewish Community in Vienna will talk on "Rebuilding the Archive of the Jewish Community of Vienna." In 2000, community researchers found a vacant apartment filled with documents in cabinets and 800 cartons. The documents included 500,000 Holocaust-era pages of reports, letters, emigration and financial documents. He will address the challenge of rebuilding an archive, efforts to preserve, organize and categorize the materials.

Evelyne Haendel of Liege, Belgium, will lecture on “Resources in Belgium About Jewish Refugees” from the period before World War I to after World War II.

Julius Muller of Prague, Czech Republic, will lecture on "Jewish Census Records 1724-1811" and "Jewish Vital Records, 1788-2949, Bohemia and Moravia."

Gerhard Buck of Idstein, Germany, will lecture on “The Way Back to Jewish Ancestors in Germany in the 17th Century." He will demonstrate how to overcome research obstacles back to renewal of Jewish life after the Thirty Years' War in 1648.

Additional information about the annual conference, including registration and hotel information, can be found at http://www.slc2007.org.


News from the SIGs
SIGs are Special Interest Groups primarily focusing on geographic areas of ancestry. You can subscribe to their Discussion Groups at http://lyris.jewishgen.org/ListManager. A log in is required. You can link the SIG home pages from http://www.jewishgen.org. There are also more than 80 Jewish Genealogical Societies throughout the world. A list of societies can be found at http://www.iajgs.org/Member-Index.htm.

German SIG. The German parliament has passed a law that will relax access to civil records. Under the new provision, which will take affect in 2009, records will be transferred to public archives as follows:
    * Marriage and civil union records after 80 years
    * Birth records: after 110 years
    * Death records: after 30 years
There will no longer be a requirement that the researcher be a descendant of the individuals named on the records.

Romania SIG. Romania is one of the few countries in Central and Eastern Europe that has not been genealogy friendly. Persons visiting the country have had, for the most part, success in accessing regional archives, but successful attempts to get records by mail has been unheard of. Now Hilary Henkin of Atlanta, Georgia, claims such success. In yet another example of persistence and patience, she requested records form the Romanian National Archives in Bucharest and got no reply. She then sent a follow-up letter to the Romanian embassy in Washington, DC, and received a response that requested funds and gave additional instructions. Within two months she received copies of the records she requested. Another researcher, Beth Long, will be giving a lecture at the annual conference about her experiences researching, in person, eight of the 43 different archive branches of Romania.


Ancestry.co.uk Adds Data on World War I Veterans
The British sister site of Ancestry.com, Ancestry.co.uk, plans to have Service and Pension records on 2.5 million soldiers that fought in World War I. The project is expected to be completed by the end of 2008. Currently, only those persons whose surnames start with A or B are online.

I briefly looked at a few documents and feel that most researchers will find the records are of limited genealogical value. Most records do not give the person’s birth date; some do show age in years and months. Some documents have a home address, others have town of birth. Most documents have the regiment in which the soldier served. They are of historical value because they describe the person’s role in the World War I.

To access the database, go to http://ancestry.co.uk, request Exact Matches Only and the results will appear in the Military Records section. Ancestry.com and Ancestry.co.uk are fee-for-service sites.


March 15 Deadline for Resubscribing to AVOTAYNU at a Discount
If your subscription to AVOTAYNU expires with the Winter issue, there will be a yellow insert with the issue providing information on how to resubscribe. The insert notes that if you resubscribe by March 15, you can renew at a special discounted rate. If you are not already an AVOTAYNU subscriber and wish to subscribe, you can do so at http://www.avotaynu.com/journal.htm. There is a special five-issue offer that includes the Winter issue.


An Example of DNA Testing to Exclude Kinship
I have been cool to the use of DNA testing to prove kinship. This is because an exact match (12-marker test), by itself, merely demonstrates a 90% certainly of kinship within the past 400 years. I am unimpressed that you and I may have common kin with someone who lived centuries ago. Bennett Greenspan, president of FamilyTreeDNA notes, however, that other factors should be taken into account. For example, if two persons have the same surname and come from the same geographic area, the likelihood of kin in more recent generations is much greater.

DNA testing does, however, provide a valuable service to disprove kinship. I recently was the beneficiary (victim) of such a situation. Readers of this e-zine note that I frequently refer to the Tartasky family. Tartasky was my maternal grandfather’s surname. He was born in Volkovysk, Belrus, a city about 80 miles (130km) east of Bialystok, Poland. There were many Tartaskys in Bialystok, most in the building trades. My grandfather was apprenticed as a bricklayer in Bialystok, hence the hint that my family might be related to the Bialystok Tartaskys. The problem is that I have never found records of my grandfather’s family and therefore, could not link my family to the Bialystok Tartaskys.

Consequently, I had my uncle and a male descendant of the Bialystok Tartaskys participate in the 12-marker (minimal) test. The results are that we are not related.

But there was a serendipitous result of the test. About four years ago I reunited with a college friend with whom I had not communicated for more than 40 years. We linked up because his son is active in genealogy. When you participate in the FamilyTreeDNA testing, they send you a list of all persons for whom there is an exact match. It turns out that my Tartaskys are an exact match with my college friend’s paternal family. They come from Kobrin, which is only 60 miles (100km) south of Volkovysk. I have now ordered a more detailed 25-marker test for my uncle to see how close a match we are.

Help Grow the Shoah Victims’ Names Database
Yad Vashem wants volunteers who are willing to contact local institutions and individuals to grow the Shoah Victims Database whose principal documents are Pages of Testimony. With the aid of promotional materials Yad Vashem has developed, volunteers will reach out to survivors and their families and assist them in registering the names of Jews who they know were murdered in the Shoah. This will be done through synagogues, Holocaust centers, Jewish Community Centers, Jewish student organizations, senior centers and social service agencies. To volunteer send your name, address, phone number and e-mail address to names.outreach@yadvashem.org.il with the subject heading "Names Volunteer"

To submit a Page of Testimony, there is a link on the left portion of the screen from the Basic Search page at http://www.yadvashem.org/lwp/workplace/IY_HON_Welcome. Click the words “Submit Additional Names.”

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