Nu? What's New?
The E-zine of Jewish Genealogy From Avotaynu

Gary Mokotoff, Editor

Volume 8, Number 20 | October 28, 2007

Mathilde Tagger’s Databases Added to Sephardic Genealogy Website
Mathilde Tagger, award winning coauthor of the book, Guidebook for Sephardic and Oriental Genealogical Sources in Israel, and recipient of this year's Lifetime Achievement Award of the International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies, has placed the many Sephardic databases she has created over the years on the SephardicGen Resources website at The site was developed by Jeffrey S. Malka, author of yet another award-winning book, Sephardic Genealogy, which he describes as “the comprehensive website for Sephardic genealogy.” Both books were published by Avotaynu.

A special search engine was created at the site to help locate names of people and places in the many databases Tagger provided. The list of new databases (plus links to other databases of Sephardic Genealogy interest on the web) can be found at The search engine was developed with the help of Stephen P. Morse.

YIVO to Publish Encyclopedia of Jews in Eastern Europe
YIVO Institute will publish in 2008 a YIVO Encyclopedia of Jews in Eastern Europe. The Institute calls it the definitive reference work on all aspects of the history and culture of Jews in Eastern Europe from the beginnings of their settlement in the region to the present time. It is a multi-volume encyclopedia, comprising approximately 2 million words, more than 1,000 images and more than 100 maps. The editor-in-chief, Gershon David Hundert, is Leanor Segal Professor of Jewish Studies and Chair of the Department of Jewish Studies at McGill University. He has assembled an internationally recognized group of scholars to serve as editors and contributors. Alexander Beider, author of a number of books regarding Jewish surnames published by Avotaynu, wrote a section of the encyclopedia titled “Names and Naming.”

There already exists an Encyclopedia of Jewish Life Before and During the Holocaust. It is oriented toward providing the history of more than 6,000 Jewish communities in Europe. This new work is different in that it is oriented by topic. Examples of topics are: America, Assimilation, Cinema, Communism, Concert Music, Czechoslovakia, Frankism, Hasidism Overview, Hebrew Literature, Holocaust, Krymchaks, Lithuania, Multilingualism, Names & Naming, Newspapers and Periodicals, Pogroms, Poland before 1795, Poland since 1939, Rabbinic Literature before 1800, Russian Empire, Russian Literature, Sports Overview, USSR, Ukraine, Vilnius, Warsaw, Yiddish, YIVO, Zionism and Zionist Parties.

The work will be published by Yale University Press. The price has not been stated. Additional information, including the ability to view the sample topics shown above can be found at

Military Personnel Files Released by U.S. Government
The U.S. National Personnel Records Center (NPRC) for the first time will open all of the individual Official Military Personnel Files (OMPF) of those who served and were discharged, retired or died while in the service prior to 1946. Collectively, these files comprise more than six million records.

The contents of these files outline all elements of military service, including assignments, evaluations, awards and decorations, education and training, demographic information, some medical information and documented disciplinary actions. Some records also contain photographs of the individual and official correspondence concerning military service.

These files are open only to the veteran him/herself, if living, or next of kin, which can be father, mother, son, daughter, sister or brother. Interestingly a surviving spouse can gain access only if not remarried.

To obtain copies of records, customers may write to NPRC at 9700 Page Avenue, St. Louis, MO 63132, fax a request to 314-801-9195, or submit a request through or on a Standard Form 180.

Information about records available at NPRC is also posted on the National Personnel Records Center Homepage at

News from the SIGs
SIGs are Special Interest Groups primarily focusing on geographic areas of ancestry. You can subscribe to their Discussion Groups at A log in is required. You can link to the SIG home pages from There are also more than 80 Jewish Genealogical Societies throughout the world. A list of societies can be found at

Galicia SIG. All back issues of The Galitzianer, the newsletter of Gesher Galicia SIG is now available on CD with a full-word search engine. The CD, titles 14 Years of The Galitzianer, contains complete PDF files for all issues of The Galitzianer published between February 2001 and August 2007 and PDF files for all of the material available in electronic form from most of the remaining issues since Fall 1993 (the first issue published. The cost is $20 for Gesher Galicia members or $40 for non-members. Annual membership in the organization is as low as $25 (US/Canadian with electronic delivery of The Galitzianer). Ordering information can be found at Membership information can be found at

Hungary SIG. The All-Hungarian Database (AHD) has been updated with approximately 90,000 new vital records. It now contains nearly 700,000 records, including 100,000 birth, 35,000 death, and 12,500 marriage records. Among the new records are the vital records for Bercel, Chropo, Debrecen, Galszecs, Gyor, Homonna, Kiskunfelegyhaza, Kisvarda, Mandok, Nagykallo, Nyirbator, Nyirkarasz, Szinyer-Varalji, Tarcal, Tokaj, and Tolcsva. In addition, Budapest births through 1864 and the majority of births for Miskolchave also been completed.

Warszawa SIG. There is a database about the Warsaw ghetto that includes information regarding individuals. It is located at⟨=en. Click “Find in Database” to initiate a search. You can get an English translation of the entry by clicking “Show.” The site appears to be a work in progress. Not all search results are translated into English, and the sources seem to be a wide variety of archival documents, personal memoirs, books, historical studies and others. It is likely new information will be added to the site as it is compiled.

New Family History Book : The Plaut Family-Tracing the Legacy
Avotaynu has published yet another family history: The Plaut Family: Tracing the Legacy. It is the result of a 40-year effort by the late Elizabeth Strauss Plaut, wife of Rabbi W. Gunther Plaut, Rabbi Emeritus of Holy Blossom Temple in Toronto.

Beginning with her quest to find the roots of her husband’s branch of the family from Willingshausen, Germany—many years before genealogy became popular—Elizabeth Plaut discovered families in dozens of small villages in Germany. She tracked the relationships between more than 11,000 people and separated the branches according to the many cities where the families originated. Impressive in its scope and in Elizabeth Plaut’s meticulous commitment to detail, The Plaut Family: Tracing the Legacy will be of immense value to all those interested in knowing more about their roots.

The family trees are organized by town of ancestry, all in Germany: Bodenteich, Bovenden, Falkenberg, Frankershausen, Frielendorf, Geisa, Gudensberg, Guxhagen, Melsungen, Obervorschuetz, Ottrau, Rauschenberg, Reichensachsen, Rotenburg, Schmalkalden, Wehrda, Willingshausen.

Additional information about the book including a sample tree and index to all names that appear in the book can be found at

This book represents the fiftieth book published by Avotaynu since 1991. A list of all books still available can be found at

NARA and Mormon Church Sign Agreement to Digitize Documents

The U.S. National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) and FamilySearch, the genealogy acquisition arm of the Mormon Church, announced an agreement that will lead to the digitization of millions of historical documents over time. The bulk of the digital images and related indices will be freely accessible through and at the National Archives and its Regional Centers. Ultimately, the records digitized by FamilySearch will consist of court, military, land, and other government records that include information of genealogical significance for family historians.

The first fruit of this effort is a portion of a very large collection of Civil War records, already underway. In this pilot project, FamilySearch will digitize the first 3,150 Civil War widow pension application files (approximately 500,000 pages). After digitization, these historical documents will be indexed and posted online by with the indices also available free of charge on FamilySearch intends to do all 1,280,000 of these files over the coming years.

Fall Issue of AVOTAYNU
Production on the Fall issue of AVOTAYNU was suspended for two weeks while I went to Salt Lake City with 36 Jewish genealogists on my annual (15th) trip to do research at the Family History Library. We now know that the lead article of the Fall issue will be Kahlile Mehr’s report on the web sites of the national archives of Belarus, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Macedonia, Poland, Russia, Serbia/Montenegro, Slovakia, Slovenia and Ukraine. Mehr gives the URL for each archives and identifies what portion of each site would have relevant genealogical information.

This will be followed by Steve Morse’s article on “deep linking.” It describes how Morse is capable of getting into an existing web site and extract information in a better format than that which is available using the site’s search engine.

Tom Jones, who recently was elected a Fellow in the prestigious American Society of Genealogists, writes about “Postsecondary Study of Genealogy: Curriculum and Its Contexts.”

We usually have trouble gathering enough material for a page worth of Letters to the Editor (“From Our Mailbox”). This issue will have four pages with some interesting subjects including “Do You Tell Adopted Children?,” “Comments on People Who Do Not Know Their Parentage,” “Locating Hard-to-Find Library Holdings in Europe,” a reader’s commentary on an article in the Summer issue which postulated that a group of families with near-identical DNA might have had Levitic and/or Sephardic origins, and three other letters.

Just as Nu? What’s New? provides its readers with tidbits of information about the latest happenings that affect Jewish genealogical research, AVOTAYNU provides in-depth discussion of these topics of interest.

You can subscribe to AVOTAYNU at Subscriptions are on a calendar basis. Since we are halfway into the year, we offer a six-issue subscription to the journal—the Fall and Winter 2007 issues plus the four issues of 2008. Alternately, you can have a one-year subscription receiving the Spring and Summer 2007 issues immediately and Fall and Winter issues when they are published.

Second Notice: Human Interest Articles for Winter Issue of AVOTAYNU
The Winter issue of AVOTAYNU is our human interest issue. Many years ago, Sallyann Sack and I wanted to recognize that there is more to genealogy than ancestor hunting. There is the human side of genealogy. The emotional reactions of a genealogist to discoveries in his/her family's history can be both happy and upsetting. There is the pride a researcher feels in successfully breaking down a brick wall. The discovery of long-lost family or linking to the family tree of another genealogist can be exhilarating. Our solution was to reserve a portion of the Winter issue each year to articles about the human side of genealogy.

Articles should be submitted to AVOTAYNU editor, Sallyann Amdur Sack at by December 1.

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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