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

Gary Mokotoff, Editor

Volume 9, Number 14 | June 1, 2008

ICRC Wants to End Its Role at International Tracing Service
The International Committee of the Red Cross, the organization that manages the International Tracing Service in Bad Arolsen, Germany, says that with the generation of Holocaust survivors dying out, the humanitarian mission of ITS is ending and will shift toward historic research. Being a humanitarian organization, ICRC wants to end its role as manager of ITS.

ITS is run by an 11-country commission that meets only once a year. The commission accepted ICRC’s report at its recent annual meeting, and a panel will report its conclusions at the next annual meeting in 2009.

A bit of education. There are two international organizations that use the term “Red Cross.” The title of the group one normally thinks of is the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent. It is located at Chemin des Crêts, 17; Geneva, Switzerland. This is the group that national Red Cross organizations belong to—the organization that barred Israel from membership for many years, because Israel refused to accept a cross or crescent as its symbol (Israel uses a red Jewish star). The matter was recently resolved by the IFRC creating a “neutral” symbol which Israel accepted in order to gain admission but never uses—it still uses the Red Star. For the history of the symbols controversy, see

The International Committee of the Red Cross is a separate entity. It is located at 19 avenue de la Paix in Geneva, Switzerland. ICRC’s states it is an “independent, neutral organization ensuring humanitarian protection and assistance for victims of war and armed violence.”

London Jewish Birth Records Indexed
Harold and Miriam Levin of Jerusalem have published a book that is an index to the birth records of the Great and Hambro Synagogues of London (1791–1885). It lists more than 7,000 births. The cost is £29, €37 or $58. Checks may be sent to the Lewins at POB 253, Jerusalem 91002.

These records were acquired in 1949 by the Mormon Church using the name of the Church’s acquisition arm, the Genealogical Society of Utah, under the pretext that they were to be used for record preservation. The microfilms were then used by the Church to posthumously baptize all those Jews whose births were recorded in the synagogue records. The microfilm numbers are:
    Great Synagogue Records: 94657–94666
    Hambro Records: 94667
    New Synagogue: 94668

JGSGB Database Identifies Jews Living in UK in 1851
The Jewish Genealogical Society of Great Britain has a searchable database of more than 20,000 Jews who were living in Great Britain in 1851. The source is primarily the 1851 census located at The database covers mainly England, Wales and Scotland with a few additions from Ireland, the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man. It is estimated that more than half the Jewish population at that time is represented. It is an ongoing project. Will Have a New Look, the online genealogy site of the Mormon Church, is developing a new search engine site at Some of the databases are of value in Jewish genealogical research. Examples are the 1880 and 1900 census and death certificates from Georgia, Ohio, Ontario, Philadelphia, Texas, Utah and Washington State. Also included is the Ellis Island Database, but since the Church was the original source of the database used by JewishGen and the Statue of Liberty - Ellis Island Organization, FamilySearch will produce the same results as the other two sites. There is also the Social Security Death Index which is available at a number of locations on the Internet.

Public Member Trees on
I just discovered a database at that I have found to be valuable in filling in data about more distant relatives for whom we tend to know less information. It is the Public Member Trees database. This database contains family trees submitted to Ancestry by users who have indicated that their tree can be viewed by all Ancestry members. I have used it to identify the names of the parents of people who married into my family as well as basic information about distant cousins. The database has the option for communicating with the submitter of the information.

Access to this database is automatic when you search for a given person or surname. On the results page, it is in the “Family Trees” section which is the last group of databases displayed.

Hindsight: A Dictionary of Jewish Surnames from the Russian Empire
When reading the Introductory portion of the original version of A Dictionary of Jewish Surname from the Russia Empire published in 1993, I realized there was a wealth of information about the surnames mentioned in that portion of the book that could not be gleaned from the Dictionary itself. Therefore, in the Revised Edition of the book, we have included an index to the more than 5,000 surnames cited in the Introductory portion. I know that those who have purchased the new book, when they receive their copy, will immediately go to the surnames of interest to see how the listing has been expanded. Be sure to also check the index to the surnames in the Introduction in volume one.

Here are some examples of the expanded information given in the Introductory portion of the book.

Consider a statement Dr. Beider makes in the section on Rabbinical Surnames:
The first bearers of rabbinical surnames appeared at different times in history. In the 14th century the names Treves, Mintz and Luria arose. The 15th century saw the appearance of Margolioth, Epstein, Auerbach, Horowitz, Landau and Bacharach. In the 16th century Jaffe, Rapoport, Lipschütz, Katzenellenbogen, Günzburg, Fränkel and Morawczyk came into existence. Heilprin, Teomim, Broda and Sack date from the 17th century.

There is an accompanying footnote:
Without knowing the exact age and status of these surnames, one can come to wrong conclusions. For example, Max Weinreich (1973:2:97, 1980:440–441) mentioned the large frequency in Eastern Europe of surnames like Spiro/Shapiro, Minz, Landau, Heilbronn/Halper(i)n, Katzenellenbogen, Epstein, Bachrach, all derived (or believed to be derived) from the names of towns located on or near the Rhine and Main river, to illustrate his idea about the Rhenish origins of Yiddish and Ashkenazic Jewry. Nathan Süsskind (1953:106) also erroneously stated that modern common Jewish family names derived from the names of German towns demonstrate the medieval migrations from these places. These arguments are anachronistic: the cited names mainly arose in Western Europe from one to three centuries after the Black Death. Their bearers belonged to famous rabbinical families whose members migrated eastward even later and joined the communities that were already established there for several centuries.

This item appears in the discussion of origin of Toponymic surnames:
There is no reason to call a man who lives in Slutsk by the name Slutskij (“of Slutsk” in Russian), since all people in this place are of Slutsk. A man who migrated from Slutsk to Minsk, however, might easily acquire the name Slutskij while in Minsk.

This item appears in the discussion of surnames derived from given names:
Surnames derived from feminine given names may or may not have special additional elements. Those used alone were very rare in the Russian Empire, except for Lithuania: Drazne, Fejgel’, Malka, Mer’yash, Rajkhel’, Revze, Rode, Tauba, Tsive and Zisle. The most frequently used elements that appeared in Jewish metronymic surnames are Slavic suffixes. Among these are:
1. in. Examples include Khanin, Rokhlin, Shifrin and Tsejtlin. In Ukrainian, the addition of this suffix may occur along with palatalization of a final stem consonant. Thus, the Jewish surname Soshchin is derived from the given name Soska; the nonpalatalized form is Soskin.

Dr. Beider then continues with a list of other surnames based on feminine given names with seven other suffixes (ovich, ov, its/ich, yuk/uk, chuk, skij, enko).

This is just a small portion of the 200-page Introduction much of which makes it fascinating reading.

Only 15 Days Left for Pre-publication Offer for A Dictionary of Jewish Surnames from the Russian Empire: Revised Edition
There are only 15 days left for AVOTAYNU subscribers to take advantage of a pre-publication offer to purchase A Dictionary of Jewish Surnames form the Russian Empire: Revised Edition at a discount. The offer ends June 15. In addition, there is an offer to all purchasers, whether an AVOTAYNU subscriber or not, to have their name and town of residence listed in the book as an advanced purchaser of the book.

If you are an AVOTAYNU subscriber, there is a special web site where you can order the book at the discount. It is located at Otherwise, order the book at If you do not like to order online, phone in your order to our office. The number is 1-800-AVOTAYNU (1-800-286-8296).

Both sites include sample pages from the original book published in 1993 and the planned book. They are presented for comparison purposes to demonstrate how the new version is a significant expansion of the original edition. The Table of Contents is also included.

Every Family Has a Story Pre-publication Purchases Have Been Shipped
We now have shipped copies of Every Family Has a Story to all persons who took advantage of the pre-publication discount. The initial reaction of the book is very favorable. One person commented, “It is so fascinating that I had to ration my reading and not read it all in one sitting!”

The book presents 72 short stories that appeared in our journal AVOTAYNU that describe how genealogical research affected the lives of the researchers and the people they discovered. Additional information about the book can be found at It includes an annotated Table of Contents and a sample story.

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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