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

Gary Mokotoff, Editor

Volume 10, Number 4 | March 1, 2009

This edition is going to 8,331 subscribers

French Priest To Be Keynote Speaker at Annual Conference
Father Patrick Desbois, the French priest who has been crisscrossing the Ukrainian countryside in an effort to locate every mass grave and site where Jews were murdered during the Holocaust, will be the keynote speaker at the opening session of the 29th International Conference on Jewish Genealogy to be held this summer in Philadelphia.

Father Desbois is president of the Yahad–In Unum Association, an organization “having the goal to increase knowledge and cooperation between Catholics and Jews.” (“Yahad” and “In Unim” both mean "together” in Hebrew and Latin.) To date, they have identified 800 of an estimated 2,000 such locations. The organization was founded in 2004 by Cardinal Jean-Marie Lustiger, then archbishop of Paris. Cardinal Lustiger was born Jewish. At 13 years old he converted to the Roman Catholic faith. Father Desbois is author of the recently published Holocaust by Bullets: A Priest’s Journey to Uncover the Truth Behind the Murder of 1.5 Million Jews.

Head of Romanian Archives to Attend Conference
The Romanian Special Interest Group announced that Dr. Dorin Dobrincu, the new Director-General of the Romanian National Archives, has accepted the offer of Rom-SIG to come to this year's conference and speak on the Jewish holdings in the Romanian archives.

Conference Discussion Group Now Available
For the past few years, the conference organizers have established a Discussion Group where persons planning to attend can post messages. It is also one of the lines of communication where the organizers provide information on the latest conference developments. To subscribe to the Discussion Group, go to the conference web site, http:// www.philly2009.org. Click the “Conference Discussion Group” button on the left side and follow the directions on the next page.

IIJG Web Site Shows Progress of the Institution
Barely a month after announcing its prestigious Advisory Board (Nu?  What’s New?, January 26, 2009), the International Institute for Jewish Genealogy has taken another step forward by significantly updating its web site at http://iijg.org. With the interests of Jewish genealogists in mind, the site now describes the Institute’s activities on both the research and teaching fronts. There are descriptions of the nine research projects the IIJG has under way, together with progress reports on most of them. To display a detailed description of each of the projects, click on the “Projects,” “Standards” and “Resources” links at the IIJG site.

Promoting the teaching of Jewish genealogy at the university level is making progress. Prof. Aaron Demsky, Prof. (emeritus) of Bible at Bar Ilan University and an expert in Jewish onomastics, is heading the working group. They recently sent out letters to universities throughout the world that are known to have Jewish studies programs to determine their interest in integrating family history into their curriculum.

On a personal note, my “A Proposed Standard for Names, Dates and Places in a Genealogical Database”, which was published in the Fall issue of AVOTAYNU, can be found at the IIJG site at http://www.iijg.org/home/lists/AVOTAYNU_XXIV_3.pdf. Readers’ comments would be appreciated. The standard is a working document. Send comments to garymokotoff@avotaynu.com.

Library and Archives Canada Has 1891 Census Online
Library and Archives of Canada has placed the 1891 census of Canada online at
http://www.collectionscanada.gc.ca/databases/census-1891/index-e.html. The site includes an index as well as the actual images. This census is also available at Ancestry.ca by paid subscription.

MyHeritage.com Search Engine Updated
{This message is mostly a repeat of an item posted to Nu? What’s New? in its January 6, 2008 edition. It has been updated with the latest MyHeritage.com news release. The site is of such potential benefit, it is worth repeating.)

An Israeli company has developed a search engine that will identify which of 1,526 online genealogy databases have information about a given person or surname. The search engine at http://MyHeritage.com has a powerful spelling variant system. Another unusual feature is that it will indicate if any other patron has requested the identical search.

At the Home Page, key in a name or surname only, and you are presented with a list of possible spelling variants of the surname found in 1,131 online genealogical databases. You can select up to 10 variants. The search engine then displays which of the databases contain the selected surname with links to the databases. Some of the linked databases are fee-for-service sites. The Megadex (a trademarked name) search appears to be quite powerful. It not only displays phonetically similar surnames but also possible handwriting variants.

Searching for “Mokotoff,” the first selected names are

Note the second choice, “Mokoloff,” is not phonetically similar to “Mokotoff” but is similar in handwriting; the letter “t” could appear like an “l”. The site noted that a second person, from Argentina, searched the surname Mokotoff. I could find no way of determining who this person was or a method of communicating with the individual.

The following announcement was written by MyHeritage:
The updated “MyHeritage Research” now queries around 12 billion names in 1,526 genealogy databases from across the internet

New Zealand Vital Records Online
An index to New Zealand birth, marriage and death historical records are now online at http://bdmhistoricalrecords.identityservices.govt.nz/Home/. It provides:
    • Births that occurred at least 100 years ago
    • Stillbirths that occurred at least 50 years ago
    • Marriages and eventually Civil Unions that occurred 80 years ago
    • Deaths that occurred at least 50 years ago or the deceased's date of birth was at least 80 years ago.

The December 23, 2007, edition of Nu? What’s New? reported that there were attempts in the New Zealand legislature to limit access to vital records, but the final law was amended to allow access to the above categories.

To use the site, you must minimally provide family name and a search-from date. The latter requirement is unnecessary. Searching for any person named Levy who was born after July 4, 1776, produced an error message that “Search From Date must be greater than 31/12/1839.” Searching again with a start date of 01/01/1840 produced the births of all persons named Levy.

The site provides the ability to order by credit card a certificate of the birth, marriage or death.

Winter Issue of AVOTAYNU
The Winter issue of AVOTAYNU will go to the printer this week. It is extra large—84 pages—because it is the annual issue where we publish stories about the human side of family history research. One of the strange aspects of publishing AVOTAYNU for 25 years is that quite often an issue has an unintentional theme. The theme for the latest batch of human interest stories is that of previously unknown siblings. One remarkable story is by a South African who discovered late in life that he had a half-brother living in Latvia. It was a family secret that his mother had an out-of-wedlock child with a Latvian Christian when she was very young. For this affair, his mother was sent to South Africa. The banishment was fortuitous because had the author’s mother remained in Latvia she would undoubtedly have been murdered during the Holocaust as were her parents and two sisters. Why his half-brother survived the Holocaust and the author’s meeting the family of his half-brother make up the balance of the story.

There are a number of good articles about family history research. Randy Daitch wrote the lead article about “Finding People on the Web.” Even veteran genealogists must give it a thorough reading even though some of the sites may be familiar. I use PeopleFinders.com to locate people in the U.S. and, in the past, have paid that company a nominal fee to get the address and phone number of people found. Daitch notes you can get this information for free at People-Data.com.

There are three articles in the category “if I can do it, so can you.” My contribution is “Five Steps to Publishing a Family History,” and Bill Gladstone proves it can be done with his article “Publish or Perish: How I Got the Rubinoff-Naftolin Family Saga into Print.” Finally, Eileen Polakoff, who with Randy Daitch writes the “Ask the Experts” column, responds to the simple request “My grandfather had three brothers...How can I learn about my great-uncles and/or their descendants?” Polakoff spends three pages in the issue showing that having a professional genealogist on your side, like Daitch and Polakoff, can reap many rewards.

All told there are 19 articles in the issue plus the regular columns, “From Our Contributing Editors,” “U.S. Update,” “Book Reviews” and “From Our Mailbox.” If your subscription expires with the Winter issue, there will be a renewal notice with the issue with discounts for early resubscribing. If you are not a subscriber, Avotaynu has a special five-issue offer—the Winter issue plus all four issues of 2009. It can be found at http://www.avotaynu.com/journal.htm.

Theme For AVOTAYNU Spring Issue: “Getting Around Brick Walls”
Jewish genealogy has matured to the point that a number of us undoubtedly have had the experience of getting around genealogical brick walls. AVOTAYNU would like to publish such success stories in its Spring issue as a way of educating others on techniques for family history research. Submit stories to editor Sallyann Sack at sallyannsack@avotaynu.com. Include illustrations, if appropriate, with the article. An article should be at least 1,000 words (one page of AVOTAYNU has approximately 1,000 words.) Read AVOTAYNU Style Policies at http://www.avotaynu.com/Style.pdf before submitting the article.

Ancestry.com Provides Surname Statistics
It won’t help in your research, but Ancestry.com has a site where they will provide statistics about a given surname. Included are the surname’s meaning and history (not always provided), frequency of the name by state for the U.S. and by county for England/Wales and Scotland, immigrant countries of origin, years of immigration, ports of departure, life expectancy (based on people with the same surname in the Social Security Death Index), occupations and Civil War Service (both sides).

The numbers presented have little scientific basis—they claim there are no Cohens in New Mexico—but it is an interesting form of amusement. Initiate a surname search at http://learn.ancestry.com/Home/HMLND.aspx in the section “Facts about Your Surname”

We Are In the Internet Age
For those of us who are in the 50-years-or-older category, here is a good example of how the Internet Age has taken over our society. My daughter, who is pregnant, went over to her computer one morning recently and found it was at a web site about baby names. Her husband said he did not do it, so she questioned her seven-year-old twin daughters. Yes, they were the ones. They had typed in the URL for Google, keyed in the search words “baby names” and were looking for a name for their sister-to-be.

Nu? What's New is published biweekly by Avotaynu, Inc.
Copyright 2009, Avotaynu, Inc. All rights reserved

To be added or removed from this mailing list, go to the Internet site
http://www.avotaynu.com/nuwhatsnew.htm. To change your e-mail address, go to the same site and remove the old address and add the new address.

Back issues of
Nu? What's New? are available at http://www.avotaynu.com/nu.htm

To subscribe to AVOTAYNU, The International Review of Jewish Genealogy, go to

To order books from our catalog, go to

To contact us by postal mail, write: Avotaynu, Inc.; 155 N. Washington Ave.; Bergenfield, NJ 07621