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

Volume 8, Number17 | Septeember 9, 2007

Lots of little stuff.

Happy (Jewish) New Year to All
Avotaynu has created a Rosh Hashanah e-card for all Nu? What’s New? subscribers. View it at,80047,1147482,1147483 and is a fee-for-service Internet site that can search 2,762 U.S. periodicals from 725 cities primarily for the years 1759–1923. There is a minimum charge of $24.95 for a seven-day pass. A subset of this company’s service is a Holocaust archives located at This service is free of charge. It demonstrates that they have digitized and indexed some newspapers past 1923.

The so-called Holocaust archives appears to be nothing more than the search engine that unconditionally adds the word “Nazi” to any search request. Searching for ancestral towns located articles primarily about the battles of World War II in these towns. I then added the word “Jews” to the search and got more meaningful results. In one case, an article was located in The Berkshire Eagle of Pittsfield, Massachusetts, of September 11, 1971, about a Holocaust survivor from one of my ancestral towns. His name was not in the Social Security Death Index, implying he was still alive. A search of an online telephone book, located his address and telephone number.

I found difficult to use, so please do not e-mail me if you have trouble navigating the site. The search engine is slow and the presence of the word “Done” in the lower left corner of the screen implied the search was done with no results. but the progress bar at the bottom of the screen showed work was in progress. It typically takes 30–60 seconds to retrieve results. The site uses popups, so a popup blocker in your browser may give the illusion that there was no results.

Hamburg Emigration Exhibit Now Open
BallinStadt, the Hamburg, Germany, tourist attraction located on the site where more than five million people emigrated from Europe is now open. It not only includes exhibits showing the emigrant experience but it also includes a Family Research Center, jointly established with, where visitors researching their family history can find professional assistance. It is also possible to make copies of the passenger emigration lists.

The 7-acre BallinStadt is named for Albert Ballin, who was a General Director of the HAPAG shipping line. Between 1901 and 1907, Ballin, who was Jewish, had a city constructed specially for emigrants which, in addition to sleeping and dining facilities, also offered businesses, churches, a synagogue, shops, a hairdresser and a music pavilion. He is also given credit for inventing the concept of cruising. In order to make better use of his ships during the winter months, he organized cruises to warmer destinations with the sole purpose of traveling in a relaxed atmosphere.

Additional information about BallinStadt can be found at There are some excellent articles at the site including the history of Hamburg as an emigration port, the cause of the massive European emigration, and a description of the new Hamburg Family History Center. There is a booklet that includes numerous photographs of the Port of Hamburg emigration facility. The booklet is on the Internet at

German Government Honors Arthur S. Obermayer
The Federal Republic of Germany has given its Order of Merit to Arthur S. Obermayer of West Newton, Massachusetts, in recognition of his merits in fostering German-Jewish-American relations. The award is the highest tribute the country can pay to individuals, whether German or foreign.

Obermayer, an avid genealogist, established a Jewish museum in his ancestral town of Creglingen, Germany. He is best known for founding the Obermayer German Jewish History Awards which, since 2000, honor the volunteer efforts of non-Jewish Germans, whose work ensures that the lives, culture and contributions of Jews in these German communities will never be forgotten. Lars Menk, author of A Dictionary of German Jewish Surnames, published by Avotaynu received the award in 2007. Information about this award can be found at

Chicago (Cook County) Vital Records To Go Online
The Cook County (Chicago) Clerk has announced plans to place online its vital records—some 24 million records—by January 2008. Documents available online will be birth certificates that are at least 75 years old, marriage certificates more than 50 years old, and death certificates more than 20 years old. Once a record is found, the user can pay a fee to download it. A full story can be found at,1,531448.story?ctrack=1&cset=true

Following the Paper Trail Now In Softcover
One of the most successful books Avotaynu has published is Following the Paper Trail: A Multilingual Translation Guide—and for good reason. The book gets to the heart of translating records for 13 languages: Czech, French, German, Hungarian, Italian, Latin, Lithuanian, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Russian, Spanish and Swedish. It accomplishes this task by using as illustrations the types of records encountered by genealogists, such as birth, marriage and death records; passports; and other documents. Each chapter is devoted to a different language. Included is a list of the most common words that appear in these documents and a chart that displays the alphabet of the language. I use the Russian alphabet chart constantly to help me decipher documents written in Cyrillic.

We ran out of stock of the hardcover edition and decided to reprint it in softcover. Alas, the price has not been lowered, because costs have increased in the past 13 years since we published the original version. But it still is a bargain at $29.00. Ordering information plus the complete Table of Contents can be found at

Israeli Unclaimed Asset Accounts
The Company for Location and Restitution of Holocaust Victims’ Assets has developed an Internet site that identifies more than 7,000 assets located in Israel—bank accounts or property—that remain unclaimed. The site, located at, states the assets were previously owned by Holocaust victims.

Jewish Personal Names: Their Origin, Derivation and Diminutive Forms
Last Chance at a Reduced Price

September 16, 2007, is the last day you can buy Jewish Personal Names: Their Origin, Derivation and Diminutive Forms by the late Rabbi Shmuel Gorr at the special discount price of $9.95 plus shipping. The book shows the roots of more than 1,200 Jewish given names including Yiddish/Hebrew variants of each root name with their English transliteration. Footnotes explain how these variants were derived. The regular price is $15.00. Additional information, as well as ordering information, can be found at At the site is a sample page from the book and a list of all given names identified in the book.

Some Miscellaneous Observations
1. The last edition of Nu? What’s New? included information about the concept of creating a universal calendar where any day, year after year, would always be the same day of the week. It requires that certain weeks be eight days rather than seven to correct the fact that the solar year is no a multiple of seven days. It has been pointed out that such a calendar would be unacceptable to Jews (and Muslims) because it would destroy the concept that the Sabbath is the seventh day.

2. It has been expressed many times that there had to be intermarriage of distant relatives in every family because without intermarriage, a mere 20 generations (about 500 years) produces more than a million ancestors. Go much beyond 20 generations and you exceed the population of the Earth at that time.

3. Dick Eastman’s Online Newsletter notes another interesting fact: It is likely that we all do not have an equal number of male and female ancestors. This is because sometime in the past an ancestor married twice producing two sets of half-siblings. When descendants of these half-siblings marry, they produce an unequal number of male and female ancestors. Consider a trivial (incestuous) example. A man has children by one woman. The woman dies and the man remarries and has children by the second woman. A child of Woman1 marries a child of Woman2 and they have a child. This child has two grandmothers but only one grandfather.

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 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 Click the words “Submit Additional Names.”

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