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

Gary Mokotoff, Editor

Volume 9, Number 1 | January 6, 2008

Planned Trip to Bad Arolsen May 4–9
As a result of discussions with the directors of the International Tracing Service at Bad Arolsen, Germany, Avotaynu is sponsoring a trip of not more than 40 genealogists to do research at ITS during the week of May 4–9. It will provide hands on research at the archives with the assistance of trained ITS personnel.

The week will start on Sunday evening, May 4, with welcoming remarks by the ITS staff and a presentation on the resources at ITS and training on how to use the Central Names Index. From Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., attendees will use the Central Names Index under the guidance of members of the ITS staff. Specifically, because of the limited resources at ITS, 20 computer terminals will be set aside for trip attendees—two person sharing a terminal. Each terminal will have a member of the ITS staff assisting and guiding the registrants. When results require access to the case (T/D) files for further research, the files will be retrieved within a half day or less. Each evening, there will be a meeting of all registrants to discuss successes and failures of the day so that all can share the day’s results.

The cost will be approximately $1000 and includes six days lodging at the Welcome Hotel in Bad Arolsen, breakfast at the hotel, lunch at ITS, and shuttle service to/from the train station in Kassel, Germany. The price does not include such costs as plane fare to Frankfurt, Germany, train fare to Kassel (explicit instructions to getting to Kassel from the airport will be provided), dinners and other incidental costs. The cost is for single occupancy of the hotel room. The hotel wants an additional $75 per night for double occupancy. We are still discussing that matter with them.

Avotaynu will make no profit from this venture, but the costs for Sallyann and me to come to Bad Arolsen and direct the week of research are included in the price. It is our goal to determine whether it is possible to have regular visits by family historians with a planned program similar to what is described but without the guidance of Sallyann and myself. This pioneer trip will give the directors of ITS an understanding of how large a group of family historians they can accommodate on a regular basis.

It is expected that interest in such a trip will be high, so make a tentative commitment shortly. Send an e-mail to providing name/address/telephone number, number of rooms required and whether room will be single or double occupancy. Launches Powerful Search Engine
An Israeli company has developed a search engine that will identify which of 1,331 online genealogy databases have information about a given person or surname. The search engine at has a powerful spelling variant system. Another unusual feature is that it will tell you if any other patron has requested the identical search.

At the Home Page, key in a name or surname only, and you are presented with a list of possible spelling variants of the surname found in 1,131 online genealogical databases. You can select up to 10 variants. The search engine then displays which of the databases contain the selected surname with links to the databases. Some of the linked databases are fee-for-service sites. The Megadex (a trademarked name) search appears to be quite powerful. It not only displays phonetically similar surnames but also possible handwriting variants.

Searching for “Mokotoff,” the first selected names are

Note the second choice, “Mokoloff,” is not phonetically similar to “Mokotoff” but is similar in handwriting; the letter “t” could appear like an “l”. The site noted that a second person, from Argentina, searched the surname Mokotoff. I could find no way of determining who this person was or a method of communicating with the individual.

Call for Papers for 2008 Conference on Jewish Genealogy
The conference planners have issued a Call for Papers to be presented at the 28th International Conference on Jewish Genealogy to be held in Chicago from August 17–22, 2008. Deadline is January 15. Information can be found at the website All proposals must be submitted via an online process. Conference and hotel registration will begin about January 15. The International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies is co-sponsoring the event with the Jewish Genealogical Society of Illinois and the Illiana Jewish Genealogical Society.

New Latvian Internet Sites
Kahlile Mehr of the LDS Family History Department wrote an excellent article in the Fall issue of AVOTAYNU that identified all the Internet sites of the national archives of Eastern European countries. He now informs us that the State Archives of Latvia has placed online an index to their holdings with plans to digitize many of their documents and place them on the Internet. The index is located at The inventory is in Latvian, of course, so search for words such as “rabin” (rabbi) or “ebreju” (Jewish) or a specific town name. I got hits in the Database of the Central Fond Register. I could not access the Database of the State Archive of Latvia. The Raduraksti (Genealogy) collection currently has Protestant records only.

The Centre for Judaic Studies of the University of Latvia has developed a Holocaust database of Latvian Jews. It is located at On the Home Page, click on “Surnames” and then select a surname of interest. This brings up a search page where you must further qualify the search by Place of Residence. When results are found, the system displays the person’s name, date of birth and prewar residence. I did not fully understand how the search engine worked. After selecting the common Jewish surname, Kagan, and requesting people from Riga, the capital of Latvia, the system displayed 550 entries, many of which did not have the surname Kagan.

The Centre estimates that of the 94,000 Jews who lived in Latvia before the Holocaust, about 70,000 were killed.

AVOTAYNU on CD-ROM: Good News and Bad News
A very popular source of Jewish genealogical information is AVOTAYNU on CD-ROM which contains articles that have appeared in back issues of AVOTAYNU from 1985–2005. There are 81 issues of the publication comprising more than 2,300 pages—some four million words. It includes a full word search engine.

The good news is that an iMac owner recently purchased a copy and found that it works on an iMac in Windows compatibility mode. The bad news is that there appears to be problems running it using the new Microsoft Vista operating system. We are looking into a short-term solution to the Vista problem. The CD is updated every three years and a new edition will be available early next year. The problem will certainly be corrected for the new edition.

You can find additional information about AVOTAYNU on CD-ROM at

National Archives and Records Service of South Africa
The National Archives and Records Service of South Africa has placed on the Internet a number of indexes to government records at Called the National Automated Archival Information Retrieval System (NAAIRS), it can search a number of databases.

Databases include:
    Data of the South African Genealogical Society on gravestones
    Data of the Bureau of Heraldry on heraldic representations registered
    Cape Town Archives Repository
    National Registers of Manuscripts and Photographs; National Archives' cartographic material, library material and copies
    Pietermaritzburg Archives Repository
    National Register of Audio-Visual Material
    National Register of Oral Sources
    National Archives Repository (public records of central government since 1910)
    National Archives Repository (public records of former Transvaal province and its predecessors   as well as of magistrates and local authorities)
    Durban Archives Repository
    Port Elizabeth Archives Repository
    Cape Town Records Centre
    Free State Archives Repository

Apparently each database must be searched separately.

Currently there are more than six million records available on the system with about 250,000 records added every year. Each of these records refers to an individual archival unit, like a correspondence file. In the case of the National Register of Manuscripts (NAREM) however, each record refers to a collection or group of papers.

Russian Database of Military Personnel Lost in World War II
The Russian Defense Ministry has placed on the Internet a list of military personnel who were killed or disappeared during World War II. It is located at The site is entirely in Russian. Use one of the many online Russian translators if you are not familiar with the language. If you do not have a Cyrillic keyboard, use Steve Morse’s English to Russian transliteration program to create the Cyrillic characters. A successful search provides name, date of birth and death (sometimes only year) and, apparently, place of residence. I searched for the very common Russian-Jewish surname: Kagan. There were only 30 persons listed.

I did not report that on my trip to the International Tracing Service I found the first occurrence of a non-Jewish Mokotow among their records. A Vassilly Mokotow, Greek-Catholic, from a town near Kazakhstan, who died in a German forced labor camp. I am guessing he was a Russian prisoner of war. He appears in the Russian Defense Ministry list as do six other Mokotows. It is unlikely that these persons are descended from Jewish Mokotows. It is more likely that their surname is coincidental to mine.

Lyakhovichi Shtetl Site
Jewish genealogists whose ancestral town in Lyakhovichi, Belarus, have developed a very comprehensive website that demonstrates what can be done to document a town’s history. It could be used as a model for other shtetl site builders. It is located at The site contains:
    74 separate web pages
    37 pages with tables of extracted data
    40 maps
    600 images
    Name index of 19,000 names
    Patronymic Index
    Immigration Index
There are plans to post a 1784 Lithuanian Tax List and the 1834 and 1850 Russian Revisions (Census) Lists for Lyakhovichi early next year.

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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