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

Gary Mokotoff, Editor

Volume 9, Number 5 | March 2, 2008

Deadline for Every Family Has a Story Discount Approaches
Avotaynu’s new book Every Family Has a Story has gone to the printer. It should be mailed to pre-publication subscribers in the middle of April. The deadline for purchasing the book at the pre-publication discounted price is March 3. This offer is available to subscribers to our quarterly journal, AVOTAYNU, not to persons who only subscribe to Nu? What’s New?.

The book consists of 72 articles previously published in AVOTAYNU that focus on the human side of genealogy—how genealogists have been personally affected by their research and how the research of genealogists has affected others.

Nu? What’s New? readers might be interested in knowing how the book came about. Invariably, in social conversation with friends, I would discuss genealogy and often told stories of how genealogy impacted people’s lives, the researcher and/or the people they discovered. A friend of my wife once commented that these stories were so remarkable I ought to put them in a book. To test her sincerity, I sent her a number of stories—all of which appear in Every Family—and it further reinforced her belief that the stories were worth retelling in book form.

To give you the flavor of the types of stories that appear in the book, in the last issue of “Nu? What’s New?” I mentioned stories of
   * a woman who was adopted shortly after birth who discovered her birth family had seven natural siblings,
   * how a Hidden Child of the Holocaust, whose parents were murdered at Auschwitz and was alone in the world, found family with the help of the Jewish genealogy community
   * the quest to find a woman who wrote a pre-Holocaust diary when she was a teenager
   * the origins of the Sean Ferguson legend.

Other articles include:
   * the story of cousin Max who was married six times; four times consecutive, twice concurrently
   * the tale of the Jewish gaucho (not every immigrant who came to the New World became a tailor)
   * how to find the right mate; an analysis of the compatibility between genealogical research and married life
   * tales of Christians who have discovered (or knew) they were crypto-Jews; 500 years ago their ancestors converted to Christianity to avoid the Spanish and Portuguese Inquisition but secretly practice Judaism to this day
   * tracking down relatives who fought in the U.S. Civil War
   * a delightful spoof of Jewish surnames by a 19th-century historian

In all there are 72 stories.

Holocaust-related articles were deliberately placed at the end of the book, because it is all too easy to find human-interest stories of genealogists who discovered how the Holocaust impacted their families. There are only nine of 72 articles in the Holocaust section, but the word “Holocaust” appears in 22 of the articles throughout the book. This section actually ends on a positive note: an example of how genealogists and local citizens in Eastern Europe are joining forces to memorialize the Jews murdered in the Holocaust.

The regular price of Every Family Has a Story is $37.00 plus shipping. It has 304 pages and can be ordered at For subscribers to AVOTAYNU only, the cost until March 3 is $29.95 plus shipping. AVOTAYNU subscribers should order the book at If you are not a subscriber, you can become one at Become a subscriber and take advantage of the discount. Phone orders from within the U.S. and Canada are accepted at 1-800-AVOTAYNU (286-8296).

The complete Table of Contents can be found at

A sample story is at A Worthwhile Investment
One of the frustrations I find as my family’s historian is that living members of the family do not always cooperate in providing information about their immediate family. My family tree is full of missing birth dates and surnames of spouses. If this missing information is for Americans, there is a potential solution to the problem, Subscribe to, a site that provides, for a fee, information about living and recently deceased people from public records available in the United States. Included—if available—is birth date, all known addresses, telephone numbers and names of persons associated with the individual. When people have a common name, you can limit the number of hits by identifying the state where the person resides or any portion of a birth date. Example: Only Sarah Cohens now living in New York who were born in 1925.

You can often distinguish the names of spouses because information is provided about associated persons including their age. As an example, if you are seeking information about a person named Gary Mokotoff (age 70) and the persons associated with him are Ruth Mokotoff (age 70), Gregory Mokotoff (age 35), Alexis Mokotoff (age 40), Jessica Lynn Gollin (age 38) and Sylvia M Lazar (age 92). Based on ages, one can assume that Ruth is his wife; Gregory, Alexis, Jessica (note married name) are his children; and Sylvia Lazar might be his mother or mother-in-law.

The information has to be used with caution. If you continue to pursue the Mokotoff family and now search for Jessica Gollin, the information provided is full of errors as to age of the individuals. This is also true of the identification of my son’s wife.

Addresses are not as valuable, because the information shows all known addresses. For my son, it shows all eight locations where he has lived since he left the nest 16 years ago. There is no way to identify the current address. If you subscribe to the service, the addresses shown do not include the street number. Only if you click on the name of the person and browse to the bottom of the subsequent page do you get the street numbers. I do not know why this extra awkward step is required. charges $39.95 for one month’s access to the data. One month should be more than enough time to fill in your family tree with the information they provide. is not a unique service. There are others such as (seems to provide less information for free), (seems to be a clone of and I am sure there are others.

I do not know of any comparable service for other countries possibly due to stricter privacy laws.

International Conference of Jewish Genealogy Now Has a Discussion Group
To keep up to date on the latest developments on the International Conference on Jewish Genealogy—whether you have registered already or are contemplating registering—join the conference’s Discussion Group at The Discussion Group system is courtesy of JewishGen.

Additional information about the conference, to be held in Chicago from August 17–22, can be found at

First National Conference of Australian Jewish Genealogy Societies
What do you do if the annual International Conference on Jewish Genealogy is 10,000 miles away? Answer: Come anyway, but also run a more local conference. That is what the Australian Jewish Genealogical Society decided to do. On Sunday and Monday, October 26–27, 2008, the First National Conference of Australian Jewish Genealogy Societies will be held in Canberra. After the conference, on Tuesday/Wednesday, October 28–29, there will be opportunities to visit the National Archives, National Library and to experience a guided tour of the Australian War Memorial.

There are societies in Canberra, Sydney, Darwin, Brisbane, Melbourne, Perth and Adelaide. For further information visit

Database of German Address Books, 1699
An index to German address books from 1699–1958 is located at Only a limited number of years are covered for a limited number of towns. For example, for Berlin the years 1801, 1823 and 1825 are available. The index can be searched by last name, first name, place name and/or occupation. A list of all books in the system can be displayed by town, title or year.

Los Angeles City Directories Online
Los Angeles street address directories from 1929–1987 have been placed online by the Los Angeles Public Library at There are 18 directories for the period. You can search by person’s name (including surname only) or name of business. The directories I searched were all “reverse directories,” that is, they are organized by street address not alphabetically by person. This has the advantage that when you locate a person, you can determine who were the neighbors. When you perform a search, the system displays the first occurrence of the name and indicates how many hits there were. It was not obvious to me how to browse to the next hit. There is a Help section to the site that explains how the system works.

Complaint Filed in UK About DNA Testing
Privacy International, has filed a complaint with the UK Information Commissioner's Office against regarding the company’s DNA services. Privacy International is a human rights group that serves as a watchdog on surveillance and privacy invasions by governments and corporations.

It is wonderful that groups such as PI exist to protect us from ourselves. Given that’s service is voluntary—in fact costs the consumer money—it would seem to be more appropriate for PI to alert consumers about what they perceive as risks rather than try to shut down the service. fully discloses what it will do with the results of the tests at;jsessionid=778470CE3FA01BDAC60683FDFADB1862. Additional information about the controversy can be found at

Dictionary of Jewish Surnames from the Russian Empire: Revised Edition
It is our goal to publish the revised edition of A Dictionary of Jewish Surnames from the Russian Empire in time for the annual International conference on Jewish Genealogy which will be held in Chicago this August. The author, Dr. Alexander Beider, recently gave me the 200-page introductory portion of the book for final editing. He has completed a one-and-a-half-year effort to proofread the more than 70,000 entries in the dictionary, but has not delivered the dictionary portion to me just yet. He recently discovered lists of Soviet Jewish refugees in Tashkent (Uzbekistan) during the World War II and wants to include these lists.

Avotaynu’s challenge is how to publish this enormous work. Its three major sections: Introduction, Dictionary and Soundex Index will exceed 1,000 pages. It will be published either in two volumes or as one two-inch-thick (5 cm) single volume.

March 31 Deadline for Resubscribing to AVOTAYNU at a Discount
The Winter issue of AVOTAYNU is in the mail. It is our annual human interest issue and contains, in addition to the regular research articles, stories about how genealogy affected people’s lives.

If your subscription expires with the issue, there is a yellow insert providing information on how to resubscribe. The insert notes that if you resubscribe by March 31, you can renew at a special discounted rate. Renew for three years and enjoy a 20% discount over the annual subscription price. If you are not already an AVOTAYNU subscriber and wish to subscribe, you can do so at There is a special five-issue offer that includes the Winter issue.

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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