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

Gary Mokotoff, Editor

Volume 9, Number 27 | December 7, 2008

This edition is going to 8,224 subscribers

ITS Hires Archivist to Improve Indexing and Finding Aids
The International Tracing Service in Bad Arolsen, Germany, has hired an archivist to improve the indexing of their collection and create finding aids for historical research purposes. ITS stated that, until now, the Central Name Index had been the key to the documents at ITS. Due to ITS’s transformation into an academic archive, additional means of searching its inventory are needed in order to research locations, events and nationalities. In view of the massive number of documents, this will be a long-term project with interim results being made available. ITS also plans on collaborating with other institutions on the creation of directories, catalogues and finding aids.

ITS stated that improved indexing of the documents became an urgent task ever since the archive was opened up for historical research a year ago. Since then historians from memorial sites, universities, research institutions and museums, as well as jurists, archivists, genealogists and local historians have expressed interest in the documents. Approximately 1,300 visitors from 24 countries have visited the International Tracing Service since it opened to the public, including 330 researchers, 100 journalists and 290 victims of Nazi persecution and their family members. The first group to visit the facility was a group of genealogists who went to ITS last May. The trip was sponsored by Avotaynu. Of the total 11,300 inquiries from 77 countries that reached ITS over the past twelve months, approximately one quarter (2,920 enquiries) were made by scholars and journalists.

ITS’s total inventory comprises 26,000 meters of original documents from the Nazi era and immediate post-war period. Additional information can be found at

DNA Evidence Shows Many Spaniards Have Jewish and Muslim Ancestors
In an article written in the New York Times, a team of geneticists are claiming that 20 percent of the population of the Iberian Peninsula have Sephardic Jewish ancestry and 11 percent have Moorish ancestry. The article states that there is “explicit evidence of the mass conversions of Sephardic Jews and Muslims to Catholicism in the 15th and 16th centuries after Christian armies wrested Spain back from Muslim control.”

In 1492, Catholic Spain offered the Jews a proffered baptism—convert to Christianity or leave the country. Prior to then, the Jewish presence in Spain dated back to the time of the Roman Empire and probably earlier. The Spanish edict was followed, in 1497, by a comparable decree by the King of Portugal.

Many Jews accepted baptism but practiced Judaism in secret. They became known by a variety of names including Marranos, conversos, crypto-Jews and New Christians. If they were caught practicing Judaism by the Inquisition—or in many cases merely accused and convicted—they were often put to death. There is strong evidence that some of these crypto-Jews participated in the early colonization of the Western Hemisphere. Read the Nu? What’s New? article about the Melungeons at as an example. Also there is an article in Every Family Has a Story titled “The Jews of the Canary Islands.”

The Times article can be read at

New Book: Google Your Family Tree
Googling Your Family TreeMy friends will tell you that I rarely get excited about new things. The last time that happened was when a man named Stephen P. Morse claimed he had a better way to search the Ellis Island Database. When I saw how Morse accomplished his search, I got excited because I realized it not only solved the problem of the inadequate search engine, but it had relevance to many other Internet search applications.

Google Your Family Tree excites me because it has relevance to applications other than genealogy. A more appropriate title might have been “How to Use Google with Examples from Genealogy.” Whoever uses Google must get this book, whether you are a genealogist, a student with a homework assignment, or a cooking buff looking for a recipe.

Google has revolutionized information retrieval. Because just about everything and everyone is mentioned somehow on the Internet, this remarkable search engine is a boon to family history research. I have used it to find information about living persons, deceased persons of note, the history of my ancestral towns, the origin of the surname Mokotow and other data.

One might ask, “What is there to Google beyond learning how to use keywords?” Google Your Family Tree author Dan Lynch does use the first 28 pages to rigorously demonstrate how to select and apply keywords, but the next 296 pages teaches the reader about many of the other capabilities of Google including: Language Tools, Google Books, Google News Archives, Google Images and Videos, Google Alerts and Google Maps. At this point, we are only half done with the book. There are additional chapters on Blog Search, Google Earth, Google Notebook, Google Toolbar and Other Tips and Tricks.

The book is easy reading, because it is rich with sample screens from Google. Remarkably, I can find no other book that explains how to use Google. Google Your Family Tree is a must for every household, not merely for family history research, but for every family member who uses the Internet to glean information.

You can purchase Google Your Family Tree at Avotaynu’s web site for $34.95. For a limited time—through December 22—if you purchase a copy, we will include at no additional cost a Google Your Family Tree Quick Reference Card which normally sells for $6.95. Ordering information can be found at

Call for Papers for the 2009 Conference on Jewish Genealogy
Planners for the 29th International conference on Jewish Genealogy have opened a web site for the event at They have issued a Call for Papers from people who want to lecture at the conference. The conference is co-hosted by the International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies and the Jewish Genealogical Society of Greater Philadelphia. It will be held at the Sheraton Philadelphia City Center Hotel in Philadelphia,  August 2–7, 2009. The conference is the premier event of the Jewish genealogical year. In 2009 it is likely to attract more than 1,000 genealogists.

What’s New at the Morse Site?
Stephen P. Morse has added a portal to’s Canadian Passenger Records. Previously he included a portal to’s Canadian Border Crossing Records. Both are listed in the "Other Ports" section of his website at To read results requires a subscription to

You can now search from the Morse site certain old phone directories from Moscow and St Petersburg, as well as military records. The user keys in the Latin letters equivalent of the surname. Morse transliterates the surname into Cyrillic which the user then pastes onto the search form. The results are both in Cyrillic and a Latin alphabet transliteration. The function is identified at the Morse site as “Russian Phone Directory (English).”

JewishGen Discussion Groups
One of the principal lines of communication for Jewish family history research is the Discussion Groups located at the JewishGen site. The first such group on JewishGen is the main one simply named “JewishGen Discussion Group.” It has existed for more than 15 years. Here genealogists shared information, ideas, methods, tips, techniques, case studies and resources. As Jewish genealogical research on the Internet grew, and with the advent of Special Interest Groups that concentrate on particular areas on interest, focused Discussion Groups came into creation. There are now nearly 30 such groups. They are (alphabetically):
AustriaCzech, Belarus, DNA Testing, Early American, French, Galicia, GerSIG (German), H-SIG (Hungary), JCR-UK (United Kingdom), JRI-Poland, Latin America, Latvia, LitvakSIG (Lithuania), Rabbinic, Rom-SIG (Romania), Scandinavia, Sephardic, South Africa, Ukraine and Yiddish Theatre/Vaudeville. There are also a few town/region groups for Borislav, Drogobych, Sambor and Vicinity; Bialystok Region; Ciechanow; Courland Area; Danzig; Lodz Area; and Warszawa.

All the postings of the main JewishGen Discussion Group have been archived since 1993. They can be searched at The archives for the other groups, some as early as 1998, can be searched at
Only subscribers to the particular SIG lists can search that list's archives. Anyone can search the main JewishGen Discussion Group's archives.

The main JewishGen Discussion Group has more than 5,000 subscribers. The exact number is not known, because it is mirrored to the newsgroup soc.genealogy.jewish whose readership is unknown. Four of the special interest Discussion Groups have more than 2,000 subscribers: Belarus, Galicia, JRI-Poland and Ukraine.

You can subscribe to any of the Discussion Groups at Be sure to subscribe in Digest mode (the default mode). This mode will provide a single e-mail of all the messages of the day. Subscribing in Mail mode will provide an e-mail for every single posting.

Discounts on Avotaynu Products Through December 22
As a Chanukah gift, this year we are making a discount offer to all—Nu? What’s New? subscribers as well as AVOTAYNU subscribers.

Until the first day of Chanukah, December 22, we are offering all subscribers to AVOTAYNU or Nu? What’s New? a 10% discount on purchases of at least $50; 15% discount on purchases of at least $100 and 20% on purchases of $200 or more. It can include any products we sell—books, maps, CDs or video. When you place an order, just indicate in the comment section that you are an AVOTAYNU subscriber or Nu? What’s New? subscriber.

Buy Avotaynu Guide to Jewish Genealogy plus any book over $15 and receive a 15% discount on both. Buy three copies of Every Family Has a Story to give as gifts and receive a 15% discount.

The one exception is Googling Your Family Tree where the publisher requested that we not discount the book. Instead we are offering a free copy of the Googling Your Family Tree Quick Reference Guide.

The books we offer, shown by category, can be found at Our complete catalog can be found 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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