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

Gary Mokotoff, Editor

Volume 9, Number 3 | January 28, 2008

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News About the International Tracing Service

Report on Trip to International Tracing Service May 4
Thirty-seven people have signed up for the Avotaynu-sponsored trip to the International Tracing Service in Bad Arolsen, Germany, from May 4–9. Currently there are five Australians, four Israelis, three British and a lot of Americans.

It promises to be an exciting group of people. Among those who indicated they plan to attend include:
  - Howard Margol, a past president of the International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies
  - Rieke Nash, president of the Australian Jewish Genealogical Society
  - Heidi Urich, president of the JGS of Greater Boston
  - Michael Goldstein, president of the Israel Genealogical Society
  - Martha LevZion, president Negev branch of the Israel Genealogical Society
  - Valery Bazarov, director of the Location and Family History Service of the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS)
  - Liz James, Committee of the Australian Genealogical Society-Vic. and Secretary of the Australian Historical Society-Vic.
  - Arline Sachs, producer of a local television program about Jewish genealogy in the Washington DC area that has recently featured ITS and an interview with Paul Shapiro
  - Schelly Dardashti, journalist who writes Tracing the Tribe-The Jewish Genealogy Blog

The purpose of this pioneering trip, in addition to providing an opportunity for engaging in personal research for those attending, is to:
  - evaluate the ITS collection regarding family history research
  - evaluate research at ITS compared to research at facilities like Yad Vashem and the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum who have digitized copies of much of the ITS collection with plans to have the entire collection by 2010.
  - the capacity of ITS to handle large groups of genealogists at one time

The trip has the cooperation of the staff of ITS. In addition to on-site research, plans call for educational programs by the ITS staff and after-hour social events. Information about the International Tracing Service can be found at their site:

Yad Vashem Now Offers Online Inquiries to ITS Records
In conjunction with its acquisition of the records of the International Tracing Service, Yad Vashem in Jerusalem has developed an online application form for people to make inquiries about the fate of persons caught up in the Holocaust. Yad Vashem will search not only the ITS records but other records in its vast collection, which, they claim includes 75 million pages of documentation, as well as photographs, testimonies, Pages of Testimony and more. People are also invited to come to their facilities and do onsite research.

The online application and downloadable form can be found at

Video of Arolsen Trip on the Internet
In mid-December, Sallyann Amdur Sack and I made a site visit to the International Tracing Service to determine the feasibility of bringing a large group to the research facility. Sallyann 
discusses what we found in a half-hour interview on "Tracing Your Family Roots," a Washington-area public access television station. Sallyann co-hosts the show with Arline Sachs. The interview can be found at

Gedenkbuch Online
The German Bundesarchiv has placed the Gedenkbuch online at It is a database of 150,000 German Jews murdered in the Holocaust, giving for each individual, when known, name (including maiden name of women), date/place of birth, place of residence (at time of deportation or death), date/place of death.

The site defaults to searching either the family name (Familienname) or given name (Vorname). Check off “Geburtsname” (birth name) to include the maiden names of women. Uncheck given name to exclude persons whose given name happens to be identical to the surname being searched. The search engine allows for wild card searches. Searching for “Moko*” produced all persons whose surname started with “Moko.” It is necessary to use the correct spelling in German. Umlauted vowels must be present. The surname “Haendel” produced only one result. The surname Händel produced an additional 17 results.

The site is only in German. I tried to use the translation program at to translate the web pages. It worked for the Home Page but failed with an error message when attempting to display the results.

It was the original version of the Gedenkbuch that sparked the Mormon/Jewish controversy when, in 1992, the Jewish genealogical community discovered that the 128,000 German Jews in the original edition of the Gedenkbuch were all posthumously baptized by the Mormon Church.

Registration for 2008 Chicago Conference Is Now Open
Conference and hotel registration for the 28th International Conference on Jewish Genealogy are now open. The conference will be held from August 17–22 at the Chicago Marriott Downtown. Reservations can be made at

Early-bird registration for the conference—through April 30—is $250; companion registration is $150. Hotel costs are $199 per night plus tax for single or double occupancy.

The annual conference is the premier event of the Jewish genealogical year. The event will include more than 100 lectures on a variety of subjects. The Jewish Special Interest Groups (SIGs) hold their meetings at that time. Luncheons provide for interaction with other researchers and additional lectures. A vendor exhibit hall will include a number of companies selling their products. (Avotaynu is a major exhibitor where we sell our books, maps and CDs.) The conference is also the best place to network with the hundreds of people who will attend.

JewishGen Class on "How to Make Shtetlinks Web Pages"
JewishGen will hold an on-line class on how to make ShtetLinks web pages beginning Sunday, February 24. The six-week course will show students how to create web pages with just a knowledge of a word processor such as Microsoft Word or WordPerfect. The fee for the course if $36. In the past, JewishGen has had online classes in Basic and Intermediate Jewish Genealogy. A full description, requirements and enrollment are located at

Another DNA Service Company
Anne Wojcicki, wife of Google co-founder, Sergey Brin, has formed a company to do DNA matching. The goal is to get 98 percent of the world to participate. There will undoubtedly be a slow start. You can order a kit at Internet site, for $999. Competitors are charging less than $200 for the service. Additional information is available at the site. Additional information about the launch can be found at

Some British Jewish Marriage Documents To Be Indexed
The Jewish Genealogical Society of Great Britain (JGSGB) and the United Synagogue have reached an agreement whereby JGSGB will index the synagogue’s Marriage Authorization documents, up to and including 1907. The content of the documents changed through the years, but they can include the names of bride and groom (both in English and Hebrew), current address and birth place of bride and groom, and date and place of marriage.

The total project will take many months, but to date more than 3,000 have been indexed. Hopefully they will be placed on the Internet shortly. Additional information can be found at

Will Great Britain Abandon Censuses?
There is a report that Great Britain is considering abandoning the taking of national censuses after the 2011 census. The rationalization is that the population has become so mobile that it is impossible to get an accurate count. A spokesperson for the Office for National Statistics said that a formal review would begin early next year. In the U.S. there has been talk of cutting costs for census taking by merely sampling the population rather than doing a complete census. Additional information about the British plans can be found at

Plan to Digitize all Dutch Jewish Gravestones
An Israeli organization, Akevoth, and the Nederlands-Israelitisch Kerkgenootschap (Organization of Jewish Communities in the Netherlands) have undertaken a joint venture to film all the Jewish tombstones in The Netherlands and place them on the Internet at The site is currently in Dutch; an English version is under construction.

German Genealogy Group Adds Index to 19th-Century New York Vital Records
The German Genealogy Group has added indexes to late 19th-century births, marriages and deaths for the Queens and Brooklyn sections of New York City. A complete list of vital record databases at their site can be found at

Winter Issue of AVOTAYNU
The Winter issue of AVOTAYNU will go to the printer this week. It is our annual “human interest” issue which relates stories uncovered by genealogists while they were doing research. One story describes how a genealogist proved a family legend that her ancestors met on the boat coming to the U.S. Initially she could not prove it because the man could not be found on the ship's manifest. Another describes a 40-year search for an aunt who came to the U.S. before the Holocaust. Other stories are titled “How Henry Stern Found Fred Hertz After 67 Years,” “Genealogy Changed My Life,” “New York Deli and DNA,” “My Faceless Grandfather” and “A Journey to Ukraine: A World That Was But Is No More.”

Regular articles focus on the International Tracing Service with a report  by Sallyann Sack on our visit in mid-December and a report on another visit to ITS by Carol Baird of California where she compares her recent experience with one she and her parents had in 1989. Another gives a description of the resources at the site. Anne Feder Lee, president of the International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies, writes about the research opportunities in Chicago, site of the annual conference.

All told there are 17 articles in this issue in addition to the usual book reviews, letters to the editor and the regular columns: “From Our Contributing Editors,” “U. S. Update” and “Ask the Experts.” You can subscribe to AVOTAYNU at

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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