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

Gary Mokotoff, Editor

Volume 9, Number 15 | June 15, 2008

Beider and Morse Create a New Indexing System  
Alexander Beider and Stephen P. Morse have collaborated to create a new indexing system based on phonetics. I predict it will eventually replace the Daitch-Mokotoff (D-M) Soundex System for large Internet databases. The system is the first significant improvement in indexing genealogical databases since D-M was created 23 years ago. It is also worth noting that it is the first tangible benefit to the genealogical community from a project initiated by the International Institute for Jewish Genealogy.

The Daitch-Mokotoff Soundex System was created in the pre-Internet, pre-PC era and, consequently, is geared for humans to encode. The Beider/Morse system, which they have dubbed the Beider-Morse Phonetic Matching System (BMPM) takes advantage of the fact that computer-based indexing schemes can be more complex, because it is a computer doing the analysis. The BMPM system considers the way a name is pronounced and matches it with other surnames that are phonetically similar. The scheme tries to be language specific by attempting to determine what is the language of the surname. This is necessary, because a given surname may be pronounced differently in different languages. For example, the surname Mokotów, which is a Polish name, is pronounced Mu-ku-toof. As an American name it likely would be pronounce Moh-koh-tau.

A major disadvantage of the Daitch-Mokotoff Soundex System is that it creates many false positives. False positives are results that clearly do not match the name you are searching. Searching for the surname “Beider” in “A Dictionary of Jewish Surnames from the Russian Empire” produces eight results using BMPM: Bader, Bajder, Beder, Bèder, Bejder, Bider, Bojder and Bujder. Using D-M, there are 52 results, including such clearly false positives as Bodryj, Fetter, Peter, Vbedro and Vyadra.

I recognized this disadvantage to D-M many years ago and added an implementation feature that overrides the D-M soundexing scheme. It has been implemented in most JewishGen databases (notable exception Family Tree of the Jewish People) and Avotaynu’s Consolidated Jewish Surname Index. If you place the initial letter or letters of the search parameter in brackets, then the actual letter(s) must appear and not its soundex alternative. When searching JewishGen databases for the surname Mokotow, I always search for “[M]okotow.” This eliminates all names that start with “N” which has the same D-M value as “M.”

A system that reduces the number of false positives may also produce a number of false negatives, that is, legitimate results that are not fou
nd. At present, BMPM has this problem. For example, “Finkelstein” produces four results. “Finklestein” produces none. But this system is only a few months old, and as it matures the authors will undoubtedly improve the upon it.

BMPM came about as the result of a project of the International Institute for Jewish Genealogy called “Reconstituting the Destroyed Jewish Communities of Eastern Europe.” This project hopes to recreate the familial relationships of pre-Holocaust Jewish communities from surviving records. The project had the need to be able to recognize that two different records pertain to the same person even though the name are spelled differently in the records. Hence, the need for a matching system. Beider and Morse took on the task to look for an alternate scheme to the Daitch-Mokotoff Soundex System, and the Beider-Morse Phonetic Matching System is the result.

Try out the new Beider-Morse Phonetic Matching System at The site allows you to search four major surname books published by Avotaynu.
    • A Dictionary of Jewish Surnames from the Kingdom of Poland
    • A Dictionary of Jewish Surnames from Galicia
    • A Dictionary of Jewish Surnames from the Russian Empire: Revised Edition
    • A Dictionary of German Jewish Surnames
When searching for a surname, the site produces results in both the Beider-Morse Phonetic Matching System and the Daitch-Mokotoff Soundex System.

Deadline Approaches To Be an Advanced Subscriber to Beider Book  
Today, Sunday, June 15, is the last day for you to be included in history; to be listed as an advanced subscriber to Alexander Beider’s A Dictionary of Jewish Surnames from the Russian Empire: Revised Edition. Because it is already June 16 in certain parts of the world, we are extending the deadline for 24 hours. At 11:59 p.m., Monday, June 16, New York time, the offer will be withdrawn.

The book provides information about more than 74,000 surnames primarily from the Pale of Settlement. Included are:
    • surname
    • in which districts of the Russian Empire the surname appeared
    • the etymology (derivation) of the name
    • all known variants.
The book includes a 200-page introduction that describes the origin and evolution of Jewish surnames in the Russian Empire.

If you subscribe to our journal, AVOTAYNU, there is a special web site where you can order the book at a 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.

Preview of the 74,000 Surnames
As described above, Alexander Beider and Stephen P. Morse have developed a new method for indexing databases. Morse has placed on his site all the surnames of Beider’s three major works:
    • A Dictionary of Jewish Surnames from the Kingdom of Poland
    • A Dictionary of Jewish Surnames from Galicia

    • A Dictionary of Jewish Surnames from the Russian Empire: Revised Edition
plus the surname book of Lars Menk:
    • A Dictionary of German Jewish Surnames

Go to and simultaneously search all four books for surnames of interest.

Yad Vashem Places Photo Archives Online  
Yad Vashem has added a searchable photo archives of some 130,000 images to its web site at Some are pictures of individuals submitted by family.

Sadly, the search facility is poorly designed. I had great difficulty navigating through the archives. This was not true of Yad Vashem’s Shoah Victims database which functioned almost flawlessly when it was made available in November 2004.

I searched for the name “Mokotow” in the photo archives, and it displayed three photographs of a Mokotow family known to me. These were submitted by a Holocaust survivor living in Tel Aviv. When I clicked on the third image, it displayed an enlarged version of the picture. I then clicked on the first thumbnail picture, and it still displayed the enlarged version of the third image. I could find no way to get an enlarged version of the first picture other than going back to the Yad Vashem Home Page and starting all over again.

After viewing an enlarged version of a picture, I clicked the back button and searched for a different surname. The resulting page was the one that displayed the previous enlarged version. There is an Advanced Search feature that I never got to work. On the Advanced Search feature page there is the option to do a Basic Search, but it does not work.

Hopefully these problems will be cleaned up in the near future. The site was valuable to me personally, because the third Mokotow picture was previously unknown to me. It was of a father, his two daughters, son-in-law and grandchild. All were gassed to death at Treblinka. You can see the picture at

The web site provides the facility to donate pictures to the project, but Yad Vashem recommends that if they are pictures of Holocaust victims, they should be sent to the Shoah Victims project to be attached to the Page of Testimony for the victim. There are plans to include the Shoah Victims Names photographs in the photo archives project eventually.

Index to 48,000 Australian Jewish Burials
The Australian Jewish Historical Society has placed an index  to 48,000 Jewish burials at Information includes date, name, age (if given), tombstone inscription, Hebrew name (if given), cemetery and plot location. The site does not specify whether the date is date of burial or date of death. In one case of a Mokotow family member, the inscription included date of birth and names of children and grandchildren. Has Historical Newspapers  
A company called is offering a subscription service to access back issues of more than 2,400 historical U.S. newspapers. Their database also includes:
    • more than 27 million obituaries published since 1977
    • 11,700 books, pamphlets and printed items including genealogies, biographies, funeral sermons, local histories, cards, charts and more—all published in the U.S. prior to 1900
    • Historical documents 1789–1980
    • Social Security Death Index

Although those accessed are American newspapers, you can find descriptions of European events. Also, although it was intended to be used to locate information about individuals, placing a town name in the “Last name” field will uncover information about the town. As an example, searching for “Grojec,” a town in Poland, produced 42 results. A headline in the July 21, 1915, Kansas City Star stated “Slavs Lose Many Towns: Radom, Ostrolenka, Blonie and Grojec Fall to Germans. Great Teutonic Offensive.” The March 11, 1943, issue of the Dallas Morning News stated, “Germans Continue Executions in Poland.”

You can search the site at A limited amount of information is provided free of charge. For example, in obituaries, provided are the name of the deceased, date of publication, U.S. state in which it was published and name of newspaper. There is an introductory offer of a one-month subscription for $9.95.

Meanwhile, is offering free access to its newspaper collection through June 19. This is located at

Susan E. King to Be Feted at Annual Conference  
Susan E. King, founder of JewishGen, will be honored at the opening reception of 28th International Conference on Jewish Genealogy to be held in Chicago from August 17–22. The reception is being jointly sponsored by the International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies and JewishGen. King recently retired as Managing Director of JewishGen.

There are two web sites which can give you insight into King’s tremendous accomplishment in growing JewishGen. An article written in 2004 about the early history of JewishGen can be found at Also, there is a site that displays early versions of web sites. Go to In the field “The Wayback Machine,” type “” In the results display, click “Nov 08, 1996" and you will view what the JewishGen Home Page looked like 12 years ago.

Information about the annual conference can be found at

JewishGen Offering Basic Genealogy Course Again  
JewishGen is once again offering a Basic Genealogy Course. The course consists of eight lessons provided online twice weekly. Topics include genealogy formats, trees, organizing and tracking information, interviewing, Jewish naming conventions, U.S. vital records, U.S. Census, Ellis Island passenger manifests, and the JewishGen website and databases. The course also includes computer hints and tips on how to best use your computer and browse the Internet. All classes offer individualized help through an online Forum where you can post your family information and photographs and get suggestions and answers to your questions.

Tuition for “Basic Genealogy” is $50, If you qualify for JewishGen’s Value Added Services by virtue of a $100 annual donation, you can enroll at no additional charge. (To do so, do not enroll, but instead, send a note with your JewishGen ID to and you will receive instructions for the waiver.)

To enroll and pay online, go to and select the Basic Jewish Genealogy Course (registration is limited to 60 students and will close when the class is filled). Previous classes sold out early.

New FamilySearch Site Adds Philadelphia Marriages (1885–1951)  
The new FamilySearch web site located at now has images of a Philadelphia marriage index. Each element of the index shows the person’s name, sex, surname of spouse, year of marriage and certificate number.

There are numerous other databases at the site, only some of interest to persons with Jewish ancestry. Among those of value are the 1900 U.S. census, Ellis Island Index and vital records indexes for selected states. Visit the site for a complete list of record groups.

FamilySearch is the genealogy and religious ordinance web site of the Mormon Church.

Additional Functionality at Morse One-Step Site  
In addition to the Beider-Morse Phonetic Matching capability, Stephen P. Morse has added other functions to his One-Step site at has collections of naturalization records for several states. There are currently about two million records in this collection. Morse states he has built a superior search facility at his One-Step site that provides more flexible searches through these records. This new form appears in the Vital Records section of the site.

The Morse site now has a search facility for the Port of New Orleans in its “Other Ports” section.

The One-Step site has had a Jewish Calendar Converter for some time. Now two more calendar converters were added to the One-Step site—one for the French Revolutionary calendar and another for the Muslim Calendar. The French Revolutionary calendar is unique in that it takes decimalization to the extreme, and the Muslim calendar is purely lunar with no synchronization to the seasons.

Finally, there is the facility to transliterate Arabic into English in the “Dealing with Characters in Foreign Alphabets” portion of the site. Already existing are transliterations between Hebrew and English, Cyrillic and English, and Greek and English.

Avotaynu Summer/Fall 2008 Catalog  
Avotaynu will mail out its Summer/Fall catalog in a few weeks. It describes the more than 60 books and maps we sell. If you wish to be added to the mailing list, go to You are already on the mailing list if you are an AVOTAYNU subscriber or bought books from us through the mail in the past four years.

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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