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

Gary Mokotoff, Editor

Volume 10, Number 9 | May 11, 2009

This edition is going to 8,412 subscribers

ITS Plans Program to Preserve Original Documents
It is not uncommon for archives who have digitized or microfilmed documents to throw away the originals as an economic measure. This has at least one disadvantage, namely, the historian is at the mercy of the quality of the copying of the original documents.

Apparently the International Tracing Service in Bad Arolsen, Germany, considers their collection of such historical importance that they have undertaken a program to conserve, this year alone, 400,000 of the 30 million original documents in their possession. Among the original documents to be preserved this year are individual files from the Buchenwald concentration camp such as prisoners’ registration cards and personal property cards; lists from the concentration camps Neuengamme, Natzweiler and Mauthausen; and Gestapo cards from Koblenz and Frankfurt am Main.

In addition, facsimiles of their most historical documents are being used for visitor tours. These include the original Schindler’s List, a transportation card listing Anne Frank, and a Gestapo card for Konrad Adenauer.

Udo Jost, chief archivist at ITS, stated that the documents have been at the facility’s archives for at least 60 years. The quality of paper declined drastically near the end of WWII, so the documents are extremely acidic and thus decay faster. In 2001, the ITS conducted a damage analysis. A priority list was compiled and the documents have been conserved step-by-step ever since. The analysis revealed an urgent need for action in the case of 4.3 million documents from concentration camps, ghettos, and Gestapo prisons. The German federal government currently subsidises this effort with 250,000 euros per annum.

Additional information can be found at

New Book: Lost Synagogues of Brooklyn
Jewish life in Brownsville, East New York, Flatbush-East Flatbush, Bedford-Stuyvesant, and other nearby areas of Brooklyn through the 1950s was a lively, rich, and varied environment. During the next few decades it dissipated greatly. As Jews moved to other areas, they left behind their synagogues. Avotaynu’s latest book, The Lost Synagogues of Brooklyn, is a photographic essay of these ex-shuls; it tells what happened to them and how they appear today. Many became churches whose facades still have Jewish symbols.

The book offers photographs, interviews and analyses on 91 of these former Jewish houses of worship. Some have been faithfully preserved while others are in disrepair. Described in the book are memories of Jews who belonged to these old congregations as well as the Christians who now fill the pews. This is supported by extensive research and stirring stories.

Author Ellen Levitt is a life-long Brooklynite who has delved into a subject dear to her. Some of the photographs featured in this book were part of her photography exhibit at the Brooklyn Historical Society, which ran from November 2006 through February 2007. She also lectured on this subject to the Society. The exhibit and lecture were the genesis for The Lost Synagogues of Brooklyn.

Additional information as well as the Table of Contents and a sample page can be found at

British Newspapers 1800–1900 Online
The British Library has placed online digitized versions of 49 19th-century British newspapers at with an every-word index. It is a fee-for-service site, but it is possible to do searches free of charge. A 24-hour pass costs £6.99. Additional information can be found at

List of British Seamen Now Online
Was you ancestor a British seaman? Lists and an index to 270,000 merchant seafarers on British ships from 1860–1913 is now available at The site is a fee-for-service site, but it is possible to search at no charge. Has German Phone Books has added phone directories (1915–1981) for certain cities of Germany. They are Berlin, Hamburg, Munich, Frankfurt am Main and Leipzig. Additional information is at

Searching By Given Name
Those readers who subscribe to may not be aware that it is possible to search their databases by given name only. I recently put it to good use when I was looking for the Ellis Island record of a man whose came to the U.S. with the surname Weskobojnik. Searching for many spelling variants of the surname yielded no results. (Using the Morse site to search the Ellis Island Database—EIDB—was fruitless too.) Fortunately, I was able to get the naturalization record for the person. It included the Certificate of Arrival which indicated his name was Srolik Weskobojnik. Certificate of Arrival documents were used by the U.S. government to confirm a person arrived in the U.S. legally. A government employee went to the ship’s manifest to confirm his arrival and wrote down the name as it appeared on the manifest. Clearly this person was more skilled at reading the handwriting than the person who extracted the record. Knowing the year of arrival and the person’s name as it appeared on the Certificate of Arrival, I searched for any person named Srolik who arrived in 1911 and came up with only one hit; Srolik Westerback, the person I was searching for. I subsequently found he was listed in the EIDB as Srolik Webobojuik.

I prefer finding the person in the database because the image of the ship’s manifest is superior to the EIDB.

Another trick. If you find a person in the EIDB but cannot find him/her in the database, undoubtedly the name was indexed improperly. Pick any other person on the page where the spelling of the name is obvious, and search for that person to retrieve the page.

News from
FamilySearch, the genealogy arm of the Mormon Church, has added a number of databases that might be of value to Jewish genealogists. The records described below can be accessed at To limit the search to a specific record group, at that web page, click on the correct continent and the locate the record group from the resultant list.

Alabama death index 1908–1974 has been added.

A number of record groups—without indexes—have been added including:
   • 1892 New York census for selected counties. The only county of New York City included in the collection is Brooklyn (Kings County)
   • 4 million Rio De Janeiro, Brazil, civil registration records (1889–2006) organized by municipality.

JRI-Poland Now Has 3.5 Million Records Indexed
Jewish Records Indexing-Poland project—now in its 14th year—has indexed more than 3.5 million records from 500 towns. Located at, it is an index primarily of birth, marriage, and death records.

Spring Issue of AVOTAYNU
The Spring issue of AVOTAYNU will go to the printer this week. If you have not renewed your subscription for 2009, in North America can call 1-800-AVOTAYNU (286-8296) to resubscribe. Do it promptly; our offices will be closed from Friday, May 15 through Friday, May 22.

The issue includes 15 articles on a variety of subjects plus the regular columns, “From Our Contributing Editors,” “U.S. Update,” “Book Reviews” and “From Our Mailbox.” In the area of expanding one’s knowledge of how to do family history research, I found particularly interesting “Just How Were Passenger Manifests Created?” and an article about a large number of directories—other than city directories—that are available that provide clues to one’s ancestors. I enjoy articles about the history of Jews in the less commonplace areas of the globe. This issue has an article about the Jews of Rhodes and the successful quest for ancestors in Syria, Baghdad, and Calcutta which took the author’s family back to 1600.

The complete Table of Contents can be found at If you are not an AVOTAYNU subscriber you can do so at

Mormon/Jewish Controversy: The Problem That Won’t Go Away
President Obama’s Mother Posthumously Baptized
The continual practice by Mormons of posthumously baptizing Holocaust victims made the headlines once again in an indirect way. It was discovered that President Barack Obama’s mother was posthumously baptized by the Mormon Church in June 2008. The response of the Church to the matter was identical to what their response was when they were informed that thousands of Holocaust victims are—to this day—being posthumously baptized, namely, it is counter to Church policy for a Church member to submit names for baptism for persons to whom they are not related.

A few years ago the Church added a famous-people filter to the procedure for submitting names for temple ordinances. Adolph Hitler can no longer be rebaptized because he is on the famous-people list. Apparently President Obama’s mother wasn’t famous enough and passed the screening system. Other people not on the famous-people list and, therefore, still in the International Genealogical Index are a number of well-known gay men including Harvey Milk, Oscar Wilde (posthumously baptized ten times) and Alan Turing.

Winners of AVOTAYNU Resubscribe Contest
All persons whose AVOTAYNU subscription expired with the last issue of 2008 were extended a carrot to resubscribe. There would be a drawing of all resubscribers and the three winners would be awarded any book Avotaynu publishes. The winners were all Americans this year: Michael Brenner of Las Vegas, Nevada; Carol Cohen of Dallas, Texas; and Harry Cornbleet of Saratoga, California.

Attention Snowbird AVOTAYNU Subscribers
The Spring issue of AVOTAYNU will be mailed in about two weeks. Please be sure we have your correct address. The post office seldom forwards the journal since it is not sent first-class mail. Please advise us each time you change your residence so you receive AVOTAYNU in a timely manner.

Contribute to the Success of the International Institute for Jewish Genealogy
Help support a dynamic institution that in its brief existence already has been the catalyst for such benefits to Jewish genealogy as the Beider-Morse Phonetic Matching System,  Sephardic DNA and Migration project, inventorying the Paul Jacobi Collection of 400 prominent Ashkenazic lineages, the Proposed Standard for Names, Dates and Places in a Genealogical Database, and a system for Integrating Genealogical Datasets.

Visit the IIJG website at and read about these developments, as well as  ongoing and proposed projects.

Make your tax-deductible contribution by credit card or PayPal at Click the Donate link. If you prefer, mail it to the Friends of the International Institute for Jewish Genealogy, 155 N. Washington Ave., Bergenfield, NJ 07621. Make the check payable to “Friends of the International Institute for Jewish Genealogy.” Donations are tax deductible for U.S. taxpayers.

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