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

Gary Mokotoff, Editor

Volume 9, Number 19 | August 10, 2008

JOWBR Now Includes More Than One Million Burials
The JewishGen Online Worldwide Burial Registry (JOWBR) has recently uploaded tens of thousands of new records that now makes the searchable database contain more than one million burials in nearly 2,000 cemeteries and landsmanschaft plots throughout the world. Recent additions have been made for Canada, Hungary, Romania and the United States. Almost 9,300 photos of matzevot (tombstones) have also been added to the database.

JewishGen also added to the JOWBR search engine the ability to search and filter by name of the town of burial. This feature allows the searcher to view all burials in a particular tow
n, as well as filter searches by location. A complete list of cemeteries can be found at The database search engine is located As is true of almost all JewishGen projects, the JOWBR database is accomplished by volunteers who donate records of tombstone extractions and photos to JOWBR. Information about JOWBR and how to volunteer can be found at Plans Digitization of a Number of Non-American Records Groups is currently in the process of digitizing a number of non-American record collections that can be valuable to Jewish genealogical research. They include Canadian Passenger Lists and Inbound UK Passenger Lists. Plans call for these projects to be completed within the year. The projects include:

Canadian Passenger Lists (1865–1935). 8 million names of immigrants and other travelers arriving to Quebec and other major ports.

Inbound UK Passenger Lists (1878-1960). 20 million names of passengers traveling to the UK.

Paris Vital Records (1798–1902). 12 million names found in original parish and civil records dating from the 1700s through the early 20th century.

Bremen Ships Content (1815–1917). A detailed collection of more than 20,000 birth, death, desertions, and passenger registrations, which complements the existing Bremen content in the U.S. passenger list collection.

British Army Service Records (1914–1920). Service records for more than 1.2 million British soldiers who fought in WWI.
Stored Program Accounting and Calculating Equipmen
Deutsche Telecom (1881–1981). An estimated 70 million names contained in German phone books.

Australian Free Settlers Collection (1826–1922). 9 million names of free settlers and travelers to Australia.

Como Italian Tribunals (1866–1936). 10 million names in Civil Registration Records from the province of Como.

The complete announcement, including a list of planned American digitization projects can be found at

Especially Canadians Take Note: Order Books for Conference
Avotaynu will be selling more than 60 books and map sets at the annual International Conference on Jewish Genealogy being held in Chicago this year. For the most part, we will have only one copy of each book and will ship to you, free of charge within the U.S., any book you purchase. If you plan to buy books and prefer taking them with you, e-mail us at; we will bring an extra copy and reserve it for you. If you live outside the U.S., send your order now to the above e-mail address. We will reserve copies of the books you wish. You will save time and shipping costs by taking the books with you. This is especially true of orders for Canada. Because of a change in postal rates it actually costs us more to ship to Canada than to European countries.

A complete list of our products can be found at

New Genealogy Software: Modern Genealogy
A new genealogy software system will be available by the end of the year called “Modern Genealogy.” The company is offering a beta-test version by the end of the summer. The system has the potential of being superior to existing popular systems such as Family Tree Maker (FTM) and The Master Genealogist (TMG) because it is new and may have a new approach to what is needed in a genealogy software system. The existing systems have grown in capability, but they are built on an architecture that is more than 10 years old. You can sign up for the beta-test software at A description of Modern Genealogy features that its authors claim make it bigger and better can be found at

Museum of Family History Adds Search Engine
Steven Lasky’s Museum of Family History web site now has a search engine. The site, which has much potential information of interest to Jewish genealogists, has grown so large that the search engine is a welcome addition. It is located at To gain an understanding of the complete extent of the Museum of Family History, it is best to read the Site Map located at

A recent addition to the site is an interview with the manager of Mt. Judah Cemetery in Ridgewood, New York. It provides insight into one cemetery manager’s views of society plots at Jewish cemeteries, caring for cemetery grounds and graves, what motivates a cemetery to place their burial information online and other topics. The interview is located at

New Beider Book to Ship Soon
We have received advanced copies of Alexander Beider’s new work A Dictionary of Jewish Surnames from the Russian Empire: Revised Edition. Shipments to advanceds subscribers to the book will be some time this month. It will probably be his last surnames book and is a tribute to his contribution to Jewish onomastics over the past 15 years. The book is 1,040 pages and weighs nearly six pounds (2,6 kg). Its 200-page introduction to the dictionary portion will be the definitive description of the origin and evolution of Jewish surnames in Eastern Europe for decades to come. You can view information about the book, including a sample page, at

Second Trip to Bad Arolsen
Rose Lehrer Cohen of Israel is planning to take a second group of genealogists to the International Tracing Service (ITS) in Bad Arolsen, Germany, from December 8–12, 2008. Cohen was one of the persons who participated in the first group trip sponsored by Avotaynu that occurred this past May. The group is limited to 10 persons. Cohen can be contacted at

Hopefully other people or organizations will be encouraged to organize trips to this valuable Holocaust-related archives. I will be giving a lecture about the ITS record holdings and the May trip at the 28th International conference on Jewish Genealogy being held next week in Chicago. If you have not registered for the conference and live in the Chicago area, register for a least one of the days to get a flavor for why this annual event is important for your family history research. The lectures and networking with hundreds of other Jewish genealogists can be found nowhere else during the year. Additional information can be found at

Panoramic Views of Synagogues
It was reported on the German SIG Digest that there are panoramic views of about 60 synagogue interiors from a number of countries at They are not still photographs but have the ability to provide a 360̊ view of the building.

Maps of Poland, Past and Present
A company called “Polart: Poland by Mail” sells inexpensive contemporary and pre-1939 maps of cities in Poland. Some of the pre-1939 maps are for cities no longer in Poland. The site is located at Pre-1939 maps include: Gdansk, Krakow, Krolewiec, Lomza, Luniniec. Lwow, Minsk, Mokotow, Nowogrodek, Pinsk, Poland Physical Map 1939, Poznan, Praga, Sarny, Stanislawow, Warszawa, Wilno and Zoliborz

Assimilation and Name Changes
There is a delightful article that appeared in the New York Times on August 1 written by a Mexican-American about the name changes among his family and friends due to the urge to be an “American.” It reminded me of the process the Jewish immigrants of the early 20th century went through. Then they gave their children names like Peaches Rosenblatt. Now it is being replaced by Ashley Sánchez. You can read it at

Varda Books – Caveat Emptor
In the past few editions of Nu? What’s New? I have alerted readers to the business practices of My complaints about are not so much how they are treating Avotaynu, but how they are treating their customers by accepting orders for books published by Avotaynu and then making no attempt to fill these orders.

Now I have another company to alert readers to named Varda Books who also does business as (or at least both have the same owner). I raise the issue now because they will be selling their CDs at the annual Jewish genealogy conference in Chicago. What I have to say is all documented in my e-mail archives.

Publishers Row approached Avotaynu in 2006 asking if we would be interested in promoting a CD they have titled Judaic Scholar Digital Reference Library. It seemed the type of item of interest to genealogists so we accepted the deal and promoted the CD at a significant discount in the November 19, 2006, issue of Nu? What’s New? In addition, Publishers Row asked us to create an e-book version of Getting Started in Jewish Genealogy which they sold from their web site. We would receive a royalty.

Some months after the promotion, Avotaynu did not receive their commission on the sales so an e-mail was sent. We received the money about 30 days later, but they withheld 10% of the money to cover the possibility of customer refunds. About seven months later, in July 2007, I realized Avotaynu never got its remaining 10% so an e-mail was sent to them and after numerous exchanges, Varda Books a/k/a said they would pay us in October 2007. October came and still no money, so additional e-mails were sent and finally we got paid.

As to royalties on Getting Started in Jewish Genealogy, we never received any, even though there were known sales. So throughout late 2007 and early 2008, I pressed Alexander Gendler, owner of Varda Books, for an accounting. Finally in February 11, 2008, I received a two-sentence e-mail from Gendler: “Go f*** yourself. You'll get whatever you are owed, if anything.”

Again, I am less concerned with how Gendler treated Avotaynu (I have ways of handling the matter) but how he treated Avotaynu customers. I did receive some complaints of defective CDs when the Judaic Scholar CD collection was sold but assumed the complaints were resolved. Last week I went into my e-mail archives and contacted one of the complainants. This was the response I received:

“I finally reported Alexander Gendler to the BBB (Better Business Bureau), and he gave several different stories each time that he was asked by them, making up stuff as he went along....He stated that if we returned the disks he would refund the money. This I did in June, and I have not heard anything since.”

I would be interested in receiving e-mail from other Nu? What’s New” readers who had a similar experience with Varda Books. Just reply to this e-mail.

When visiting the Varda Books booth at the conference, caveat emptor.

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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